The Delorean & The Diminishing Returns of Future Decades Past
23rd April 2018
THE LIST ...
A couple of months back, my kids became curious about the Delorean. Originally after me getting excited about purchasing the Back To The Future DLC pack for myself in Rocket League, but then once again after it appeared in the Ready Player One film trailer that we were going to see at the weekend. The Delorean had caught their imaginations. Why was this cool looking car with upward opening doors popping up everywhere? Rather than try to tell them about it ... I showed them. After all, the Delorean is something you simply have to see and hear in action in order to appreciate its full magic.
Happy to say, that the good old 1985 magic hadn't gotten a day old. 30 years may have gone by, but it felt just as fresh as it did back in 1985. So funny. So entertaining. So much character. Having the Delorean turbo boost back into my life at 88 miles per hour 30 years later, and loving rewatching every glorious second of Back To The Future again with my kids for the first time, as if no time had passed whatsoever, left me with the the sudden urge ... to compile a list. You'd never guess I was a middle aged British man would you?
But it is a good list. A great list. A list that needs to be written down and documented online for nobody to read. It's that good. And I don't even like lists. Crazy, I know, but what can I say ... I like to live dangerously. I told you I was British.
A list of what I feel to be the most inspirational films to me personally, in my lifetime. And by that, I mean films that completely blew me away watching for the first time during the 1980's, 1990's, 2000's, and 2010's.
And when I say films that blew me away, I mean films that gave me that feeling of raw fresh newness. That feeling that what I had just seen was so refreshingly brilliant, that almost immediately, I wanted to watch it again. Films that left me thinking, or laughing, about them for a long time afterwards ... in some cases decades. Not to mention the mind blowingly phenomenal soundtracks that go hand in hand with so many of them. Some of those themes still raise the hairs on the back of my neck upon hearing them even today ... not to mention put a gulp at the back of my throat and a tear in my eye! Powerful stuff.
These are the most special films to me. The films that made me feel, and have stayed with me long after watching them, and in the best of ways. As such, they have almost certainly influenced me in some way throughout my life, even if just at the very least, as a measuring stick of how a certain type of film should make me feel.
Something that became noticeable compiling the list, is that the most influential film era in my life was easily when I was a child and a teenager. Whether that's true of most people or not I can't say. But what I can say is, that for me, it was the VHS era. And this probably had a lot to do with it. Particularly in the 80's, where not only were other technologies either non existent or very basic by today's standards (and I missed out at least 10 other very's there for the sake of brevity), but equally as significant was the fact that much fewer blockbuster films were actually released back then, and accessibility to the ones that were, was certainly less.
There were two options for watching films. It was either the cinema or the single family tv, with it's 4 channels and attached VHS player rented from Radio Rentals. That was it. Phones, computers, games consoles, they were all there in a rudimentary form, but none could play a video file of any kind. In fact, even the concept of a video being in a 'file' rather than on a video tape reel, was completely impossible for us to fathom back then. It would have completely blew our 80's minds and left us drooling vegetables if we were to get a glimpse what the present day has become. It was inconceivable at the time. Phones were just for talking to people, computers were just expensive typewriters for typing text documents to print, and games consoles were just for playing games with blocky graphics and insanely hard difficulty levels. None were mobile. None had internet. If you wanted porn, you had to either undress your sisters Barbie's or look at the underwear section in your mum's Grattan Catalogue.
Basically, a good film had more of a command over your free time back then, than it does nowadays. The quality of competition for your time was much less than it is now. All these factors combined had the net result of fewer films being watched many more times, over and over, up and down the land, week in week out. Which had the added social effect that you could then talk about them with virtually anyone in that era, as nearly everyone had not only seen them, but knew them inside out too. There was a social common ground created by film.
Then, as my teenage years and the 90's came around, there was also the thriving video shop scene, where you could hang out with your friends on a Saturday afternoon, browsing a huge selection of films, from old classics to new releases, and decide, or argue, as a group which film you were going to watch that night at the sleep over where someone would no doubt get their eyebrow shaved off for a laugh. If you were prepared to leave the house and travel for your dedication in film, you were spoilt for choice, and not just from new releases, but also by films from the past, that you had now come of age to see. It was a wonderful time. Everything felt new. There was even a Street Fighter 2 arcade machine in there if you had some spare 20p's for a bit of 1 on 1 competitive action as a means of a decider. "Hadouken, Hadouken, wath, wath, wathuket ... Shoryuken! You Win!" ...
This phenomena of how film affected society socially, hasn't just been lost over the decades ... It's been totally killed off. Never mind 'Video Killed the Radio Star' ... internet killed the video store.
Video shops are all but extinct now. Now, they exist only as niche, hobbyist novelty shops. I doubt any could turnover a healthy profit these days. Or any profit at all in fact. In a market flooded with what you could argue, has way too much choice and way too much availability, although the huge array of portable devices and streaming services available these days do make it much easier to watch stuff, they also make it much harder to find the real gems, and even harder still to find people that have actually watched the same stuff as you. Try to exchange banter on something you enjoyed watching these days, and you quickly find that you're both just exchanging abruptly ended comments on things that the other person hasn't even heard of, let alone seen. The conversation falls flat pretty damn quickly.
You mention Predator, Terminator 2, Star Wars, The Goonies, Aliens, or any film of the like, on the other hand, to anyone who was actually there in the 80's and 90's ... and you'll probably be chatting for ages! It seems the facility of choice has been abused these days in the digital age. There is just too much choice and availability. Nowadays, families are all watching totally different things alone, rather than the same things together. The social common ground has been lost. You can't talk about what you've seen anymore as you've all seen different things!
Long gone are the childhood days of continuously rewatching your favourite film on VHS as your parents argued in the kitchen. Long gone are the teenage days of film sleep overs at your mates houses as their parents argued in the kitchen. Long gone are the days of watching films that were way too old for your age. No 18 can ever possibly live up to seeing Predator or Robocop for the first time on a dodgy pirate VHS, at an age when the number on the film rating was significantly higher than the cumulative sum of the pube count of everyone watching. Those were the days ... Or were they just my days?
I'm not saying that's a bad thing. Just pointing out how things change. Leg warmers, ghetto blasters, filofaxes, and soda streams have been replaced with skinny jeans, iPhones, laptops, and Starbucks. And likewise, films place in society has changed a lot over the past 30 years too. The way they are shot, marketed, and consumed is totally different these days. And there's more things competing for your free time, for the attention of young minds in particular. And I've no doubt it will change just as much over the next 30 years again. Advances in technology will see to that. But I'm a realist. It's important to embrace that. It's good to retain an appreciation and a love of the past of course: It holds your good memories. But it's even more important to stay current ... After all, when do you think those good memories are first created? Times change. That's just a fact you have to embrace. Nobody can live in the past.
Truth is, the perception of the quality of a film is so often relevant to the time in your life that you saw it. They're all connected in your head in ways they won't be to someone watching films of yesteryear for the first time today. So that many a great film has not made my personal list, is not an indication of lesser quality of those emitted at all, rather this list is what stood out from the crowd to me the most, and stayed with me as my years passed. So I guess that makes it more a reflection of me, than of anything else? I'll let you decide.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, films are amazing. My relationship with them has been up and down over the years due to changes in society and my own personal changing circumstance, but they are experiences that persist and continue to give throughout your life. I can sit there and think about a film from 25 to 30 year ago for instance, and great feelings are unlocked my mind, as scenes and soundtracks start dancing around my synapses. All that time has passed, and yet all it takes is the simple recollection of snippets of a film to invoke a genuine mix of feelings and emotions from all those years ago. That's pretty amazing stuff.
So not only are films a great source of entertainment in the present you can share with others, like music and computer games, they also create a link back to the past and the times in your life gone by. A trail of breadcrumbs scattered around your brains neurons, laying out your own personal passage through time, just waiting to be fired on remembering a film. Often, you don't just remember the films, you remember who you saw them with and what you were up to at the time. They are an instant gateway back to memories and feelings buried deep in your mind that you may have otherwise forgot you had experienced. They are priceless. And it's wonderful when you find a like mind that experienced those films in a similar fashion to you at the time. You find you have shared memories of a time with people you've never even met before until now. And that's just magical. That is film.
And that's why I've compiled this list to cover the most inspirational films to me relative to the decades of my own life. Of course, I'll continue to add to this list as more decades pass. After all, I'm hoping I still have 3 or 4 decades left where I'm still able to visit a cinema? There must at least be some films in those years that still make the list? But, I expect the addition in each decade from here on to be small. Due to the way life works and the fact I'm already 40, the bulk of inspiration is already here I should imagine, and has been for some considerable time. Something I only actually realised as I started writing this down. Does that make this some form of mid life crisis therapy? Who gives a shit? ... It was fun to do.
So whether perusing the list will provide you with an orgasmic neuronal nostalgia blast that will have your synapses dancing like it's 1989, like me, or just a list of digital links to the past, like my kids, either way ... Enjoy!
Click film titles for video snippets
1. Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
2. Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
3. Star Wars Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi
4. Indiana Jones and The Raiders of The Lost Ark
5. Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom
6. Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade
7. Superman (1978), II, III
8. The Transformers: The Movie
9. Smokey and the Bandit I(1977), II, III
12. Back to the Future
13. The Goonies
14. The Karate Kid
15. The Naked Gun
17. Top Gun
19. Jaws (1975)
22. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
23. Die Hard (1989)
24. Alien (1979), Aliens (1986)
25. The Terminator (1984), Terminator II
26. The Fly (1986)
27. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978)
28. The Duel (1971)
29. Rocky I(1976), II(1978), III(1982), IV(1985)
30. The Shawshank Redemption
31. The Usual Suspects
34. The Lion King
35. Jurassic Park
37. Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery
38. The Matrix
39. American Pie
40. Harry Potter Series
41. Lord Of The Rings Trilogy
43. Shaun Of The Dead
46. The Dark Knight
48. The Dark Knight Rises
49. Guardians Of The Galaxy
(first film I took both my kids to the cinema to see. Aged 5 and 3. :P)
51. Jumanji (2017)
52. Wonder Woman (2017)
53. Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
54. Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Endgame (2019)