Top 10 films that warped my brain as a hormonal teenage dirtbag

by Ashley Naftule

Over the last week there’s been a meme spreading around on Facebook about the “Top 10 albums that made an impression on you as a teenager.” I think a more honest title for most of the lists I’ve seen are “Top 10 albums that you want people to think you listened to as a teenager: (AKA “Fuck off, Mark, I know you didn’t listen to Neutral Milk Hotel in high school – you were playing “Freak On A Leash” just like the rest of us”).

While I didn’t end up posting my list (because, to be frank, my musical tastes in high school were HORRIFIC), it did make me think about putting together a related list of the films that had the biggest effect on me as a young, hormone-crazed, D20-throwing, angst-ridden nerd. So I present to you my list of the “Top 10 films that made an impression on me as a teenager.” Feel free to share yours in the comments… if you dare.

The Royal Tenenbaums

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Still my favorite Wes Anderson joint, all these years later. Also the #2 film I saw the most in theaters (#1 will appear later in the list). While it was playing at my local Harkins, I popped in and watched it 8 times before it left the big screen. I was transfixed by its dollhouse-like qualities: I had never seen a film that was so artfully crafted in every tiny detail before. And yet, despite that artificial quality of everything being immaculately designed and arranged, it felt vividly real and raw and true to life. The Tenenbaum kids reminded me of people I grew up with; Royal himself looked and sounded like my father; and it was hard not to see myself in Owen Wilson’s Eli Cash, at an age where I was desperate to ingratiate myself and be accepted by anyone.

Scream

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It’s easy to look down on “Scream” in retrospect. The lackluster sequels, giving Kevin Williamson a career*, ushering in an era of self-aware and snarky horror. It doesn’t change the fact, though, that “Scream” remains a well-crafted and fun horror movie. Watching it now, I find its humor and playfulness refreshing, when so many modern horror movies are lost up their own misery-porn asses.

*I’ll give K.W. this: His script for “The Faculty” is pretty clever. “The Faculty” remains the best thing Robert Rodriguez ever made, and I will fight anyone, anywhere, who disagrees with me.

Waking Life

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Watching this film inspired me to read the Situationists, got me into learning about lucid dreaming, and fueled my interest in exploring the rest of Richard Linklater’s filmography. It also scared the shit out of me (pro tip: don’t watch this movie at 4am while you’re sleep-deprived). Watch this movie and you’ll never look at light switches the same way again.

The Star Wars Prequels

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I learned a lot from the Star Wars prequels. Vital life lessons like:

  • Your heroes will fail you
  • Life is full of crushing disappointments
  • Not even Sam Jackson can make this shit look good

I will admit that I’ve warmed up to the Prequels over time, and not just as a plentiful source of hilarious memes. They’re extremely problematic movies, but each of them has sections that are inspired and almost (almost!) redeem the cringeworthy parts of the prequel saga.

Give the Chin Beard this much credit: unlike Abrams’ “The Force Awakens”, he actually took some risks with these movies. Did most of them pay off? HELL NO. But it’s hard to fault the goofy bastard for trying.

A Clockwork Orange

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When I was 14, I barely paid any attention to movies. I would go to the movies, of course, to kill time and to watch blockbusters and what not. Taking film seriously as a form of art, though? Not so much. That changed when I spent a week visiting my older brother Greg in San Francisco. Stuck in his apartment while he was at work, he left me a stack of VHS tapes to watch to kill time. “A Clockwork Orange” (and the next two films on this list) was in that stack, and watching it was an enlightening, bludgeoning experience.

I know what you’re thinking: how cliche, right? What maladjusted, arty teen DOESN’T have a love for “A Clockwork Orange”? It’s as standard issue a “rebel” interest as reading Vonnegut or Chuck Palahniuk. But I’d be lying if I didn’t have it on here.

Do The Right Thing

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I’m not going to say that “Do The Right Thing” singlehandedly altered how I viewed race, white privilege, and social justice… but it was the first movie I had ever seen that really made me question my unexamined attitudes and the world I came up in. The fact that it was also an incredible movie, full of stellar performances, whip-smart dialogue, and cinematography that oozed sweat and blistering heat was an added bonus.

Goodfellas

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The last of the “San Francisco” tapes. What can I say about “Goodfellas” that already hasn’t been written about ad nauseam?

The Fifth Element

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I watched “The Fifth Element” 16 times when it was in American theaters. 16 times. And when I went to visit family in France and found out it was playing at a nearby theater in Arcachon, I went and saw it TWICE in French. I could go on for pages about how baffling and goofy and fantastic a film it is, but I’ll save that for a future blog.

Secretary

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Yeah… let’s just say I learned some surprising things about myself after watching this movie for the first time.

Pretty Much Every Kevin Smith Movie

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Look: I was a fat white cis male nerd in high school. Of course I was a Kevin Smith fan. And while I haven’t watched any of his recent films or felt any desire to rewatch his Jersey flicks, the other night I was at a bar where “Clerks 2” was playing and I gotta admit- It made me feel all warm and tingly inside. Like bumping into an old friend, having a few drinks, and promising each other to stay in touch even though we both know that we won’t.

Added bonus: I forgot Rosario Dawson was in “Clerks 2”. *swoon*

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