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What are the top 5 movies that have changed your life? I am not looking for your favorite or most entertaining, more...

Updated on July 15, 2008

This is a great question. In thinking about this question, I realize that the movies that have affected me the most are the movies that I saw as a child. These are movies that challenged my assumptions about the world and really made me think.

The movies that have affected me the most are the following:

1) Roots (1977)

Without a doubt, this movie had the most impact on me of any movie that I have ever seen. I only watched it once but each of its scenes still sticks in my mind. Like Randy Newman's song "Sail Away" which is about the slave ships, Roots for me growing up in the 70's taught me the importance of judging people solely by their character. It reinforced my respect and awe for Martin Luther King and to this day has affected me when I look into the state of the world. If not for seeing Roots, I probably would not have read the Autobiography of Malcom X (also written by Alex Haley) which also greatly affected me.

In the same theme, I was also greatly impacted by Ron Howard's Glory, Denzel Washington in Malcolm X, and Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple.

2) I Will Fight No More Forever (1975)

This is a movie that I saw in Junior High. It tells the story of Chief Joseph. In school, we had learned about Squanto and Pocahontus. During the 70s, we played Cowboy and Indians and watched John Wayne movies. This was a movie that showed me a different side to native Americans. It was the first movie that opened my eyes to terrible massacres that occurred in the US. That genocide could occur in America was unthinkable to me. That there was such great strategist and great humanitarians as Chief Joseph was a tremendous consolation.

After watching this movie, I began to read up on the story of Native Americans. Like Roots, it taught me to question the hard realities which make up this world. That all human beings of all ethnicities have an equal share of greatness. Prejudice, sexism, and discrimination play a terrible role in preventing this greatness from coming to fruition.

3) The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

I watched this movie in junior high. I had never heard of the dust bowl. I had never thought that farmers and poor people could be so mistreated. Henry Fonda really captured something universal in his portrayal of Tom Joad.

I only saw this movie once but again, I still think about Henry Fonda's speech at the end. Other movies that had a similar affect on me were Gandhi with Ben Kingsley, It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Mr. Deeds Goes To Town with Gary Cooper.

4) The Sword in the Stone (1963)

This is a funny one. I'm not sure why I was so impacted by this film. This was the first time that I was introduced to the story of King Arthur and it led me to a fascination with history and with fantasy. My oldest son's name is Arthur and I wonder if this choice was not impacted by my great love for this film and for the book The Once and Future King.

In high school, I was also strongly affected by the movie Excalibur, Bed Knobs and Broomsticks, the Rats of NIMH, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and the Disney movie Robin Hood. These movies taught me that there is always hope and it can come from the least likely of places. As long as we have faith in ourselves and stay focused on our vision for the future, anything is possible.

5) Twelve O'Clock High (1949)

This is a Gregory Peck, World War II movie. The story is that a airforce base during World War II has low morale. This gets changed when Gregory Peck enters the picture.

This movie taught me about the change that can come about from a great leader and from someone who builds a team out of the people involved. I had seen this theme in other movies. This is the one that brought it home.

Other movies that affected me in the same line were the Bad News Bears with Walter Mathau and Tatum O'Neal, the Sting where Paul Newman teaches Robert Redford about the subtleties of a great plan, Patton, George C. Scott, plays one of the most amazing dramatic roles of all time, Macarthur with Gregory Peck, and High Noon with Gary Cooper.

All of these movies had a great effect on me but Twelve O'Clock High is the one with the biggest.

Thanks very much for your question!


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