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Top 10 Films That Changed My Life

Updated on January 18, 2020
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Nathan is a film critic and aspiring author with a true passion for the film industry & hopes his writings will help launch his careers.

Prologue

In everyone's life, there's those films that impact you and, in many ways, change your life forever. In the following article, I list the ten films that impacted me the most and had the most influence on my life, whether that be a point of view or a call to action or the spark of a lifelong interest.

#1: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Noomi Rapace)

I'm not sure if I could even count the ways this film impacted me. Lisbeth Salander is the ultimate outcast, keeping close only a few friends and an occasional girlfriend. The psychology of her mind is fascinating, but that's an article for another time (although the film did spark my interest in psychology).

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo exposed men of power for what they are: users and abusers and the wrong kind of control freaks. It showed what not only Swedish women are subjected to, but also what most women regardless of their country of origin are subjected to. There are scenes that are difficult to watch and that's largely in part of the emotional weight that is carried throughout the film.

While we don't see much of Lisbeth's past until the sequels, we see enough to understand that she's had a rough life and she feels like the whole world is against her. There are so many people out there that sadly feel this way. No matter how few or how many people around them show them that they are loved, there's that one bad day that haunts them for a lifetime and drives them to seclusion.

So how did this film impact me the most? The simple answer is Lisbeth. Her need for privacy, her longing for freedom, her thirst for the truth, her drive for justice... all of these elements had a part in changing my point of view on things and making me a more aware and sympathetic person altogether.

#2: Good Will Hunting

Of all the people that made me smile when I felt hopeless, of all the people that helped me through the hard times, Robin Williams stands tall as the greatest of them all. His film Good Will Hunting embodied so many incredible life lessons and gave me a better understanding of life, love, and what truly matters in the long run.

In the film, Will Hunting is a genius in all aspects of the word but he also came from an abusive home. There's no doubt that his mind is broken and is in need of guidance. Enter Sean, a psychiatrist that is in many ways broken as well. As Sean begins to unravel Will's mind, Will unravels Sean's heart.

The fact that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote this brilliant film as young as they were is astounding. The level of intellect it takes to grasp the meaning of life, to understand and philosophize with the greatest minds takes a skill that very few have. Good Will Hunting impacted me in a way I didn't expect. It gave me a better understanding of what it means to love and what it takes to not only accept others but to also accept yourself.This film also in a way dealt with a form of mental illness, that being depression and self-loathing. In that area, it helped me understand that, as a person that lives with mental illness myself, I am capable of being loved even when I don't think I am.

#3 - Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

What didn't Star Wars teach us? For 40+ years, this incredible saga has given us hope, adventure, and spectacular stories that also doubles as lessons for our own lives. In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke is directed to Dagobah in order to train under Jedi Master Yoda. Luke is at a place in his life where he doesn't know what his place in the galaxy is supposed to be. He wants to be a Jedi, just like Obi-Wan and his father Anakin. On the other hand, he wants to rush back and help his friends. He's conflicted, also being targeted by Darth Sidious. It seems that he's being pulled in three different directions. But which choice is correct? It's when Luke begins training with Yoda that the philosophy and wisdom behind his words start to make sense of life's obstacles.

This film (and the rest of the expansive saga) impacted me with its brilliant philosophizing and beautiful parallels. It taught me that no obstacle is forever and that faith is the best defense.

#4: Jaws

What's scarier than what you can't see? Jaws plays on the fear of the unknown, making it one of the most thrilling horror films around even after 40+ years. Other shark attack films have tried to recreate the dread and fear that Jaws did. Some came close but none have succeeded.

You can probably guess how this film impacted me. If you guessed fear or curiosity, you'd be right. I'm still to this day afraid of swimming in the ocean but at the same time I'm absolutely fascinated by it. What truly lies in the depths? We know more about space than we do the oceans of our world...and I think that's the scariest fact of all.

#5: Titanic

Titanic is a wonderfully made historical drama that retells the tragic story of one of the worst disasters in history. Due to a combination of bad leadership and chaotic panic, out of 2,200 people only 700 survived. The film does take a small liberty with Jack and Rose's love story, but who's to say there weren't star-crossed lovers onboard? I like to think there were. Otherwise, where's the hope for the world?

The film impacted me in several different ways. It showed me that it's okay to feel lost and it's okay to admit that you feel stuck because that's most likely the moment your life will be changed forever. Love can be hiding around the next corner but there's no point in looking for or expecting it. Jack was happy and content just living life day to day even though he was poor and had no idea where his next meal would be coming from. I know I should appreciate each day like Jack did because you never know when your time will be up. Even when you think you don't matter, you do to someone whether you realize it or not.

Discretion Advised: Strong Language

#6: Fahrenheit 911

What an eye-opening experience. There are some out there who would like you to believe Michael Moore is a falsity, that he is nothing more than a fraudulent conspiracy theorist. But it's difficult to argue with footage placed directly in front of your eyes. It may be difficult to accept the truth but Moore unsympathetically gets the truth out of people, whether it be good truths or bad truths.

Fahrenheit 9/11 deals with the confidential truth behind the attacks of September 11. These truths expose the Bush family, the bin Laden family, and Republicans and Democrats alike. Moore doesn't hold back or show bias, he just lets the footage and details speak the truth for him.

This film impacted me by making me look further into things. It helped me improve my research skills and lit a fire under my curious nature. It made me realize that the people America has been bombing weren't all the enemy, There were people, families over there just like us here. What gives America the right to kill civilians that had nothing to do with the attacks or were even against their rulers? Much of the footage is heartbreaking and will leave a mark on your mind forever. It certainly did mine.

#7: The Matrix

What is reality? How can we decipher our brain's electrical signals to prove what's real and what isn't? Are we really living the life we think we are? Or are we just suppressed and limited so that we don't ask questions or challenge what we think we know?

The Matrix broke ground in the sci-fi genre, pushing boundaries and sparking philosophical and psychological debate for years to come. But how exactly did it impact me? Why does this film mean so much to me?

The Matrix truly changed my life. It changed how I look at things, how I think, and how I perceive "the news". Are we really being told the truth? Or is the news, the "outbreaks", and the media all carefully planned lies? The Matrix opened my mind and helped me find the answers to questions I'd never considered asking before.

#8: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade follows archaeologist Indiana Jones as he and his father hunts down the mother of all artifacts: the Holy Grail. The chemistry between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery was excellent. You'd actually believe they really were father and son if you didn't know any better. There was just enough comedy to keep the tone lighthearted but not so much that it became parodical. It was a great balance of adventure and fun and it was a huge influence on my life.

The film awoke in me my desire for travel and my longing for more in life. Humanity was not meant to be strapped to a desk, drowning in bills. I want to explore, to see new things, to discover and experience, and it all began with this film.

Little did I know, this film would also become an anchor for me when I began having a troubled relationship with my father. Seeing Indiana, my hero at the time, reconnect with his own father after several years gave me hope that someday maybe my dad and I will be on better terms.

#9: Batman Forever

What's Batman Forever doing on this list? And how did it have an impact on me? The simple answer is that this was the first superhero film I ever saw. This is the film that launched a love that's never died. Sure, it's a bit campy and sure there are things that could have been better. But you know what? I don't care. This film has sentimental value to me. It has nostalgia and it has influenced my life since the day I first saw it. Because of BF, I began collecting comics. Through BF, I found both the Batman and Spider-Man animated series. My love for superheroes just kept growing from there and now I'm the nerd of all nerds and proud of it. You just never know what will change your life.

#10: Girl, Interrupted

Girl, Interrupted is definitely one of the most important and impactful films on this list. For a long time I didn't fully understand what mental illness was or even how broad it was. This film broke it down for me, showed it to me for what it really is and didn't hold back. Because of this film, I have a much better understanding of what people with mental illnesses experience and oftentimes suffer through. As someone who struggles with it myself and also knows many people who suffer with a condition themselves, I can now sympathize and empathize a bit easier. I can reach out and try to help. I can offer support and understanding. Maybe just maybe because of this film, the sufferers have found some sort of peace in realizing they aren't alone.

Epilogue

There are tons of films that have impacted my life so picking the top 10 wasn't easy. But now it's your turn. In the comments, tell me the films that impacted your life or changed you in some way, whether for good or for bad. I love to hear about other people's experiences and look forward to hearing from you!

© 2018 Nathan Jasper

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