5 Films That Changed My Life
Updated: May 29
Welcome to Reservoirblogs,
Since I last posted on here I have finished my first year at University, which has been really great! I could probably write a post all about all the amazing things I’ve learnt and experiences I have had over the last academic year, but I'll save that for another time maybe. I have also spent a lot of time decluttering my home and stripping my life back to simple but nourishing things like growing my own vegetables, practising yoga and sunbathing on my balcony with a good book. But of course, I have also been watching a lot of films. Extending on my last post where I mentioned that me and my boyfriend have been trying to watch all the classic films we’ve never seen or that we have seen but want to watch again, we have now each compiled a list of those films and put both lists into a pot, from which we pick a film every night. It’s really interesting doing that with another person because I think our film recommendations, especially the more niche or unusual ones, say a lot about a person.
Today, I’ve been thinking about the way films can really impact people and even shape their identities to some extent. Then I started thinking about what films have had a lasting impact on me, and changed my life for the better. So I have come up with a short list of 5 films that I think had a positive and lasting impact on me as a person and that I think you should watch if you haven’t already, to see if they affect you in a similar way.
It's A Wonderful Life
(Frank Capra, 1946)
This might seem like a cheesy and predictable choice, but thats because this film resonates so much with so many people. While this is definitely a Christmas film, it can be watched the whole year round, since its narrative is not seasonally specific and the moral of the story is long-lasting. 3 things I learnt from watching this film were:
Friendship is the most valuable currency. Appreciate the people in your life and realise that they appreciate you, even when you can’t see it clearly, because in the end “no man is a failure who has friends”.
When things get tough, you must never give up, because you are more valuable and important than you believe. - “Strange isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
Just because you never accomplish all the things you set out to do when you are young, does not mean you are a failure. Your dreams will change. Your life will take you down paths you didn’t expect, and thats okay. It’s okay to never leave the small town you were born in, it doesn’t make your life less valuable that someone who has travelled the whole world. Even if your life doesn’t end up being what you expected, it is still important and it is still wonderful.
(Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
I recently studied this in a popular cinema module at university and which was really fascinating and seeing it for the first time in its original Japanese form made me love it even more. Each time I have watched this film (and I have watched it A LOT) I take something new away from it. However, the first time I saw it I was a small child, snuggled up with my best friend, eating ice cream on her couch. The film blew me away. As a child with a wild imagination, I found so much fun in the fantasy of it all and the compelling visuals. Moreover, as one of the first films I remember watching with a young female heroine / protagonist, Spirited Away taught me a lot about growing up, the importance of culture and authenticity and opening my eyes to the wider world. For me, like many others I assume, Spirited Away was the gateway film which introduced me to anime and while anime is becoming more integrated into the mainstream of media culture, I don’t think I would have ever bothered to interact with it, had I never seen Spirited Away.
LOTR (Particularly Return of the King)
(Peter Jackson, 2003) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5X-hFf6Bwo
I adore the LOTR trilogy for a whole host of reasons, not least because I grew up with it. The scenery, dialogue, costumes and especially the soundtrack of the shire make me feel all warm and nostalgic whenever I watch / listen to them. The indisputable fact that LOTR is Sam’s story reminds me often that it’s not about Kings or magic or wizards or Frodo or a powerful ring. Much more simply than that, LOTR is a story about the evil forces of greed and selfishness against the purity of enduring friendship and selflessness. It’s a story about a ‘nobody’ going on an adventure that no one expects him to survive, where he accomplishes things that nobody would believe and achieves a victory that no one credits him for. Throughout everything though, Sam remains humble, and as the story comes to a close, Sam returns to his family in the shire and says “well, im back.” And thats it. LOTR taught me that the biggest victories in life are humble and silent and not always credited, but more so, all the wildest adventures in the world do not compare to home.
Another reason that I love Return of the King is for one particular scene that has stuck with me my entire life. Eowyn destroying the Witch King of Angmar on the battle field is ICONIC. It is the first time I remember being absolutely gobsmacked and inspired by a woman on screen. I love it so much in fact, that I have had the words “I am no man” tattooed in elvish along my arm.
Here's a link to the scene for reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNL9oljAFqM
(Frank Coraci, 2006)
This might seem like a weird one, especially seeing as I have never exactly been an Adam Sandler fan - his films are very hit and miss for me. However, this film is, in my opinion, by far his greatest work. I watched this when I was about 7 or 8 and although I found it very entertaining, it was also extremely heavy. I’ve watched it many times since and every time I feel kind of like im suffocating? Do you know what I mean? The film acts as a commentary on the way technology can ruin lives, and it kind of reminds me of people filming and documenting moments on technology rather than actually living through them, which is sad. It reminds me not to wish my life away or try to skip through to every big achievement or ‘good bit’, because life is everything that happens in between; the little arguments, the events you’re forced to attend, the late nights at work - that’s all life. And by the end of the film, all Sandler’s character wants to do is go back and actually live through them. Not to mention, I blubber like a baby in the scene where his father visits him at the office. That scene is haunting and acts as a strong reminder to step back and re-evaluate what is important to us every now and then and to treasure every moment with the people we love.
(Bong Joon-Ho, 2017)
Ah yes, from the brilliant mind of Bong Joon-Ho. I love this film but it absolutely breaks my heart.
I remember when it was released on Netflix in 2017 and never getting round to watching it. It wasn't until last summer when I was actively searching for films and documentaries to educate myself on the animal agriculture industry, that it kept popping up on recommendations and I watched it. That summer I watched a lot of vegan documentaries from Forks Over Knives (Lee Fulkerson, 2011) to Cowspiracy (Kip Anderson & Keegan Kuhn, 2014) and of course the haunting Earthlings (Shaun Monson, 2005) documentary, but when someone asks for a film to help change their perspective on the food industry and ethical living, I would recommend this film. Okja is so pure and and compassionate. You can argue with a documentary and call it biased or propaganda, but its hard to argue with a story about a little girl who just wants to save her best friend. The narrative carefully blends the fantasy of the intelligent and loving ‘super-pig' with the unfortunately very real processes involved with animal agriculture, including artificial insemination (rape), animal testing in labs (torture) and the slaughterhouses (murder). Okja is also one of the very few fiction films to bring me to tears. It’s very moving, very timely and very important, so go watch it!
I could probably make a part two of this list because I think movies in general have had a huge impact on me as an individual, in many different ways. But for now, I will leave it here.
I hope you are taking care of yourself and others.
Thank you for reading,