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Films that defined me

It’s the $1 million question among movie addicts everywhere: What films ignited this zealotry for cinema? What films left lasting impressions on the kid who grew into a full-blown cinefile? Marc at Go, See, Talk! has challenged his circle of bloggers to pose these tough questions and devise a list of films that defined us, that turned us from kids who made mud puddles outside into kids who couldn’t wait to pop a tape into the VCR (for all the spring chickens out there, VHS existed before Blu-rays and — gasp! — DVDs).

If you’re hankering to know which films defined M. Carter @ the Movies, read on. (Something tells me no one will be terribly surprised by my choices.) For the complete list of participating bloggers, visit Go, See, Talk!, or click on the graphic above.



“First Blood” (1982) — If “Drop Dead Fred” sealed my fate as a slightly warped, left-of-center lover of comedies with a razor-sharp edge, it was Stallone’s “First Blood” that stoked the fires of interest in watching things go KAZOWWEE! and burly do-gooders go positively medieval (not in the Tarantino sense of the word) on bad guys. With “First Blood,” Sly Stallone satisfied both requirements with room to spare. The explosions and shootouts and action — plus the unstoppable force of John Rambo — stunned Young Me; later, Adult Me came to appreciate the secondary story about the harsh, degrading and unfair treatment of Vietnam vets just struggling to re-enter the world of the living.



“Blazing Saddles (1974) — There’s a certain joy that comes with watching movies your parents don’t know you’re watching that makes a kid feel invincible. And so it was with “Blazing Saddles,” which I caught on cable a few times before my parents introduced me (officially) to the wacko freaky genius that is Mel Brooks. The “too much beans” scene alone could send a malleable young soul into hysterics; throw in the sight gags and the pratfalls, the endlessly quotable dialogue and the outrageous characters (like the hypersexed Teutonic Titwillow, or the mumblingly moronic Gov. William J. Lepetomane) and you’ve got yourself a classic even an preteen can appreciate.


Dark Comedy

“Drop Dead Fred” (1991) — Of all the oddball films that littered my childhood, it’s “Drop Dead Fred” that made me the morbid, gallows-humor-loving film fan that I am today. Billing “Drop Dead Fred” was a bold move on New Line Cinema’s part, since movies involving fair amounts of profanity, pre-Farrelly Brothers grossout gags, out-there costumes and very clear episodes of serious emotional abuse aren’t the usual fixins for the warm fuzzies. In fact, “Drop Dead Fred” may be one of the best examples of a movie about kids that’s directed at adults, and a fine specimen of a dark comedy because of the fearless approach director Ate de Jong takes toward comedy. Jong’s film is trying, but there’s something strangely uplifting about its conclusion that renders it timeless.



“The Land Before Time” (1988) — This forgotten gem of love, loss and enduring friendship among a clan of young dinosaurs had some hefty industry talents attached (James Horner, Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas included) that played my heartstrings, while the big-scale Pizza Hut marketing campaign no doubt tugged at mom and dad’s wallets. The original film (forget about the 17 low-quality sequels) has everything fans of weepies could want: family tragedies, natural disasters, suspense, a sob-worthy death scene … not to mention the fact that the main characters (including an evil T-rex!) are dinosaurs. For a pre-Pixar kid film, that’s quite an accomplishment.



“Return to Oz” (1985) — Anyone who argues that “Return to Oz,” besides being a bastardization of the Judy Garland classic, is not a horror film must have missed the part with Princess Mombie, who keeps GLASS CABINETS full of TALKING DECAPITATED HEADS in her palace. Mombie and The Wheelies caused me countless hours in lost sleep, with the mental hospital scenes — storms and restraints and Thorazine, oh my! — providing ample fodder for future psychoses. “Return to Oz” is kiddie horror straight up, and even years later the trippy effects combined with the lavish costumes and sets continue to look startling and innovative. And terrifying. Did I mention that already?

20 Responses

  1. Wow, great pick with Land Before Time, great memories with that one. Would have thrown First Blood on mine if I had seen it younger, ’cause that really is one of the best action movies ever made, right after T2 of course. Solid list, M. So Solid.

  2. I have a vague recollection of “Land Before time” being good, although not sure I ever saw the entire movie. It was almost like the dress rehearsal for the dinosaur craze 5 years later with Jurassic park.

  3. Holy shit – RETURN TO OZ!! I’d almost forgotten about that, but growing up I must have watched it as many times as the Judy Garland classic. And now that i think back on it – you’re right, that movie is chock full of heebie-jeebie moments. I get the willies at the movies nowadays simply by the music getting creepy…how did I ever endure this??

  4. Oh my goodness these are such awesome choices. I adored Drop Dead Fred and Return to Oz (still do) for their sort of edgy, dark sides that really appealed to me a kid when I was sick of saccharine animation. And Mel Brooks was very important on the development of my sense of humor- Blazing Saddles is my favorite, but Men in Tights is the first one I saw so that was my pick.

    You’re cool.

  5. Where all the white women at?

  6. Mer you make me smile throwing Land Before Time on here. Now that’s one that really defined my childhood. But since I was more concerned going for PG-13 and R rated films that defined my tastes you pulled a great one from the “way back machine”

    And kinda figured “First Blood” and “Fred” would be here…thanks for participating Mer:)

    P.S. “I, flyed??”…”No, you falled”

  7. I love Drop Dead Fred. It doesn’t hold up particularly well but was the funniest movie I’d ever seen at the time.

  8. This is like the sweetest list I’ve seen so far!
    Check your Facebook e-mail M.

  9. Really interesting choices! Especially Blazing Saddles, which doesn’t get enough list-time 🙂 Mel Brooks has that kind of comedy that is accessible, but still clever – A difficult line to tread!

  10. Wow, I easily could have included Return to Oz and Land Before Time. I used to watch both of those non-stop when I was a kid. Excellent picks!

  11. I love LOVE LOVE that you have The Land Before Time on here, and dig the fact that Return To Oz under horror. How could it be anywhere else? That movie is bat shit crazy! I loved Fairuza Balk in it, and loved hard darkly insane it was.

    Of course you have Drop Dead Fred. If they really go through with the remake I think you and I should start a protest group.

    And Blazing Saddles was no surprise. It’s another one that is trademark Meredith to me. 🙂

  12. I’ve been trying to get people to call me Freddy Mercury, but people keep calling me Drop Dead Fred!

    You can always count on M to get the Blazing Saddles reference in. 😀

    Has been cool seeing what films got people ticking and how overlaps have lead to certain people having similar tastes.

  13. Return to Oz still freaks me out, and I’m 23 haha.

  14. I remember Return to Oz giving me nightmares as a young kid – I had difficulty even watching the opening, from what I can recall.

    • @ Aiden — I saw “First Blood” when I was probably a little to young to understand everything that was going on, but it made an impression.

      @ Alex — “Drop Dead Fred” and “Return to Oz” really are just about the darkest “kid films” I can think of. I mean, movies about emotional abuse? And a talking pumpkin and references to electroshock therapy?

      @ Mad Hatter — Apparently “Return to Oz” warped many of us.

      @ Marc + Heather — “Land Before Time” is an unchallenged classic, and it kills me that so many cheap sequels were made. The “flyed/falled” quote is quite poetic.

      @ Jonathan + Darren — Mombie and The Wheelies are fodder for infinite therapy sessions.

  15. I think that if I did a “films that define me” post – that would give everyone a very good look into my psyche – which is a dangerous place.

  16. What a great concept for a column. I’m totally stealing it! Me and my brother have to do this.

  17. Drop Dead Fred is a fave of mine from my childhood. I loved that and Little Monsters with Fred Savage, both had that same kind of vibe.

    I totally agree with you, Return To Oz was so dark it can definitely be considered that category.

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