One question I seem to always ask people I meet is “What’s your favorite movie?” It’s a good way for me to break the ice, and it also gives me an idea of what kind of person I’m dealing with. A favorite movie can say a lot about a person. Sometimes their answer doesn’t surprise me (“Oh, my favorite movie is The Notebook”! exclaimed the wide-eyed, bubbly 16-year-old, or “My favorite movie is Citizen Kane,” said the hipster film student), and sometimes I’m caught completely off-guard (“Oh, my favorite movie is Citizen Kane!” exclaimed the wide-eyed, bubbly 16-year-old, or “My favorite movie is The Notebook,” said the hipster film student).
However, when you really think about it, the question “What is your favorite movie?” is a completely ridiculous question. So ridiculous, in fact, that it could almost be called ridonkulous. Because of all the awesome movies that we all see in our lifetime, who can honestly pick out the ONE and say, “Yep, that’s it. MY FAVORITE.”
It’s the Sophie’s Choice of all Sophie’s Choices.
In my 33 years of life thus far, I’ve had many “favorite” movies. Every time I say such-and-such is my “favorite movie”, another one comes along a few months later to take over that title. Over the past few years I’ve seen less and less movies, so my so-called current favorite is still probably my favorite, but I’m sure sometime down the road I’ll see the one that’ll knock ol’ Frodo right off that pedestal.
My first official favorite movie was probably The Wizard of Oz way back when I was a tiny kid, as I’m sure it was for a lot of other tiny kids. I was never scared of the witch or the monkeys (I never understood why other kids were) because I was too much in awe of Dorothy and how awesome she was. The whole movie was awesome – it still is – and to say it’s not still one of my favorites would be a total lie.
I used the term “favorite” extremely loosely when I was a kid, applying it to such movies as Meet Me in St. Louis (because, duh, Judy Garland), Back to the Future (because, duh, Michael J. Fox), and Unconquered (because, duh, um…because…you know…being captured by Indians was totally romantic back then?)
Then there was also that period of about a week when Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was my favorite movie. For reals. I thought it was the best movie in the world. And then the week ended and I probably went back to thinking the best movie was Cocktail even though I hadn’t even seen it (because I was ten years old). All I knew was that it starred Tom Cruise, and Tom Cruise was “the cutest guy in the world”, especially in the commercials for Cocktail.
I probably didn’t truly mean the word “favorite” until the summer of 1991 when I saw Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and decided after the opening credits (oh my God THE MUSIC!!!!) that this was indeed the best movie ever made and that nothing in this entire world would ever come close to the awesomeness that was Kevin Costner with a bow and arrow.
I’m serious. This was probably the first time of my life that a single movie gave me THE FEELS. I loved it with every fiber of my 12-year-old being. Did I care that Kevin Costner couldn’t do an English accent to save his life? Absolutely not. Did I care that there were no cute guys in the movie except for maybe that Wolf kid who was trying to escape after he stole something of Robin’s? Hell no. All I cared about was the fact that Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman were the most heroic guys ever, the music was amazeballs (seriously, guys…Bryan Adams + Michael Kamen = (“Everything I Do) I Do it For You” = SQUEEEEEE), and I suddenly wanted outrageously curly hair just like Maid Marian.
God, I loved that movie.
And then I saw Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Unlike Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which I loved EVERYTHING about, there was only one thing I liked about Terminator 2, and his name was Edward Furlong (read all about it here). Yes, looking back now I see that the movie is truly awesome and completely revolutionary for its time (Stan Winston and his brilliant liquid metal!), but to a 13-year-old girl who’s in love with a 14-year-old boy with a sk8r boi haircut, well, nothing else matters (see here).
Terminator 2: Judgment Day was my new favorite movie!
And then I saw freaking Newsies.
I won’t go on and on about how much Newsies changed my life – you can read all about that in this fine post – but it did manage to dance all over Robin of Locksley’s mullet and kick him back to Sherwood AND melt all that liquid metal into oblivion, thus becoming “MY FAVORITE MOVIE OF ALL TIME”. It was like a combination of my two previous faves: take the EVERYTHING about Robin Hood, add in a super cute boy (make that many cute boys), and you get Newsies (sort of).
For much of 1992, I sort of flip-flopped between Newsies and Terminator 2 as my favorite movie (and Far and Away for a couple of weeks in between because, duh, Irish Tom Cruise). If you were to ask me at the time what the official word was, I probably would have said T2 only because I owned the movie and got to watch it on a regular basis (and when I say “regular”, I mean “every night”). Once I was able to actually own Newsies (trust me, back in the day it was pretty much impossible to own movies the way it is today), it quickly moved back to the number one position.
Until I saw The Power of One!
Yes, it’s a very odd movie to declare as a favorite – I’m sure most people out there haven’t even heard of it. It came out in 1992 and stars Stephen Dorff, who pretty much became my Christian Bale fill-in when I wasn’t watching Newsies. It takes place in South Africa after the end of WWII and it’s about an English boy who goes to school in Johannesburg and takes up boxing and they talk about Apartheid and…well…to be honest, I don’t really know what the hell it’s about. All I knew was that there were cute boys in it.
If you haven’t noticed, cute boys were my main priority when I was a young teen.
My whole The Power of One fetish lasted a few months, then it was back to Newsies, and then it was Swing Kids for a little bit, then Newsies again, and then I sort of stopped keeping track.
When I got into high school I started branching out and watching all sorts of different types of movies, though not seeing one I could truly call my “favorite”. I just sort of liked everything. It wasn’t until college when I was suddenly meeting new people when I had to pick a favorite again. Because when you ask the question, “What’s your favorite movie?” the likely thing is that they’re going to ask you the same thing in return. By then I had outgrown my T2 and Newsies phases, and I felt kind of weird telling them that movies like Star Wars were among my favorites (I wasn’t comfortable with my geek status back then), so I told everyone my favorite movie was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
It wasn’t a total lie. As far as comedies go, Ferris is definitely at the top (because, duh, “Danke Schoen”). I held up the whole Ferris front during all four years of college, and even moved out to CA with the intention of telling fellow industry colleagues (because I was totally going to be working in the movie biz, ya’ll) that the John Hughes classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was my favorite movie of all time.
AND THEN I SAW MOULIN ROUGE!!!!!
Yep, this was it. This was the one that CHANGED EVERYTHING back in 2001. Nothing – not Munchkins, outlaws, T-1000s, newsboys, parade floats – NOTHING came close to everything that Moulin Rouge was when I saw it nine times in the theater. I hadn’t felt that way about any movie ever in my life! The songs! The costumes! The dancing! EWAN MCGREGOR SINGING ELTON JOHN! My life was totally complete at that point. If I never saw another movie again in my life, I would be happy forever.
Well, then I saw this little teeny movie about Hobbits and Elves and Dwarves and Wizards and Orlando Bloom and holy crap Howard Shore’s score and Orlando Bloom and Middle Earth and Galadriel and New Zealand and did I mention Orlando Bloom?
Yeah, The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring came along at the end of 2001 and my whole entire world flipped upside down. I pretty much forgot about every other movie I had seen up until that moment. SHIZ GOT REAL when I saw Fellowship. Seeing it 13 times in the theater wasn’t enough. Waiting for the sequels was the worst torture anyone could throw down upon me. This movie became not just MY FAVORITE MOVIE OF ALL TIME, but a way of life. This is what changed everything.
And guess what? Eleven years later, Fellowship of the Ring is still my favorite movie. Lots of others have come close: the two other LOTR movies (obviously). Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Pan’s Labyrinth. Inception. Every Harry Potter movie. They’ve all made huge impressions on me and made me remember why I love movies so much. But they’re not Fellowship of the Ring.
And all the movies from my past that were once my favorite movies? Well, I can still consider them “favorites” of mine. They’ve all taken a part in shaping who I am today, and I’ll never forget that. I know I’m not the only one who once declared that Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was the best movie ever made, and I take comfort in that. And I know I’m not the only one who loved Newsies simply because it had dancing boys in it.
The challenge is still out there to the movie who can usurp it, but until that day comes, my answer to the ridiculous question “What’s your favorite movie?” is still Fellowship of the Ring.