I was introduced to the world of film at an early age. Something was always on a screen at home in my early years. I was born in 1990, and was first taken to the cinema before I was three years old. My poor parents had to sit down and watch the same few films (on VHS – ahh the 90s) or on TV with me time and time again. But they also made me aware of some cinematic delights that have stayed with me into adulthood.
What follows is a list that looks back on the films that played a key part in my formative years, why they were (and still are) so important to me, and how they changed the way I see movies and the wider world even today.
JURASSIC PARK (1993)
Like a lot of little boys I loved dinosaurs! I could pronounce much longer and more complicated words than I should by all rights have been able to while so young simply by identifying the prehistoric blighters. Spielberg’s dino-park-gone-wrong masterpiece still fills me with awe and wonder, and will always hold a very special place in my heart as the first film I was taken to see on the big screen. JURASSIC PARK is still in my Top 10.
THE LAND BEFORE TIME (1988)
Dinosaurs again, what can I say? This was the film I tended to make babysitters watch with me.
MARY POPPINS (1964)
Not the coolest film on the list, but Disney’s Julie Andrews musical was always on when I was growing up. My strongest memories attached to MARY POPPINS are not of the film itself (as much as I enjoy it), but of my Mum singing the songs to send me to sleep at night. Oh, and I began chalk drawing on the pavement outside too, all because of Dick Van Dyke.
STAR WARS/THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK/RETURN OF THE JEDI (1977/1980/1983)
I first saw Star Wars when the Special Edition was released in cinemas in 1997. From there, I caught up on Empire and Jedi through the magic of the local library’s VHS rental service. I was hooked on George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away from the off, was bought loads of the Hasbro toys, and would take part in new adventures of the imagination (with a home-made lightsaber!). THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is still in my Top 10.
Pretty much any Disney animated film could have been on the list (I watched them non-stop), but DUMBO was one of the first I saw, and probably the one I watched the most in my early years. I loved the story, and the characters, and was blissfully unaware of the racist overtones!
THE LION KING (1994)
I saw this in the cinema too, and loved the music and animation. My favourite character was, and remains Jeremy Irons’ flamboyant, Machiavellian Scar, and I still know all the words to “Be Prepared”.
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993)
I probably should have found this stop motion favourite of Goths more disturbing as a child (maybe I’m just weird). I did find some elements scary, but I’d watch it again and again for Mr Selick’s animation, Mr Elfman’s songs and Mr Burton’s unique visual style. It remains one of my favourite Christmas movies.
HOME ALONE/HOME ALONE 2: LOST IN NEW YORK (1990/1992)
Thanks, I think, to my Dad, I love slapstick. You don’t get much better slapstick for children than the first two Home Alone films (no, the straight-to-video ones with another kid don’t count). They still makes me squeal with laughter to this day, and the burglars Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) are still one of my favourite film double-acts. And despite what some might think, I maintain that HOME ALONE 2 is nearly as good as the first one.
OLIVER! is still one of my favourite musicals (with parents like mine, you pretty much have to have favourite musicals). I love the songs, the look and the scale of the thing, and Ron Moody’s Fagin is a force of nature. Mum even tied together a string of handkerchiefs for me so I could recreate the pickpocketing scene! I’ll still watch it whenever it’s on TV in the afternoon.
THE PAGEMASTER (1994)
It probably says something that this one film on the list (along with THE LAND BEFORE TIME) that I haven’t revisited in adulthood. I’m probably remembering it somewhat rosily, but I found it a magical little film as a child – weird and creepy with impressive animation.
So there you have it – my childhood film experience was composed of dinosaurs, Disney, Star Wars, slapstick and sing-alongs! I was, admittedly, a strange child, but the first part of my life was a joy thanks to the magic of cinema. My thanks go out to my tolerant parents for watching animation, effects extravaganzas and people falling over on a loop. What movies made your childhood? SSP