In honor of today being my twenty-first birthday (and one year since I arrived in London for my semester abroad, but who’s counting?), I thought I’d revisit my life with a film that came out in each of the 21 years. Obviously, the older films will entail memories of watching them several years after their release, while the more recent ones may have a first-time viewing story behind them. Let’s see how this goes!
Two friends and I had a wonderfully bizarre viewing of this when we were 16, assigning characters the names of people we knew and changing around song lyrics. It was the last day of our junior year, so we could allow such zaniness. Let’s just say that I haven’t been able to look at John Smith the same way ever since.
I had to watch this for a film class and it was far from my favorite. When it comes to movies about extreme subjects such as drugs, I’m quite a sissy and I obviously have a hard time relating to the characters. One particular scene made me ridiculously nauseous – anyone who’s seen this movie probably knows which scene I mean.
I grew up loving this film, but because of our history teacher father, we always knew about the historical inaccuracies and the sad truth of the Romanov story. Regardless, this is still one of my favorite films today. The animation remains gorgeous and I love the music.
1998: The Prince of Egypt
It’s middle school story time! Because who doesn’t like to revisit their awkwardest, most angst-ridden days? My elementary school used to put on an annual show celebrating Black History Month, and because I was not a dancer / peppy / one to flow with the crowd, I was almost never involved. My one claim to fame was in fifth grade, writing and hosting a ‘fashion show’ segment highlighting prominent African Americans. My self-consciousness and hatred of being on stage must have skyrocketed in the following year, because I wasn’t involved in sixth grade and was one of the few girls not to be. During one of these unproductive times when the majority of the class was in rehearsals and the teachers had to find something to do with the rest of us, we watched The Prince of Egypt. I don’t think I’ve seen the film since, but this film definitely leaves an enormous impression.
1999: Muppets from Space
This is the first film I remember seeing at a movie theater, and I specifically remember having a conversation with my dad afterwards about how I preferred Muppet Treasure Island (I may have had a little crush on Jim Hawkins).
2000: The Tigger Movie
After Muppets from Space, this is the earliest film I remember seeing in the theater. We owned a VHS tape of The Search for Christopher Robin, which made me sob as a child (clearly, I was very deep). I feel like this movie must have made me cry when I first saw it. Something about these woodland creatures being upset made my younger self inconsolable.
2001: Max Keeble’s Big Move
Yeah…um, I promise my taste in film is far from that of a prepubescent boy now. But look! Pre-Drake and Josh Josh! Paolo from The Princess Diaries! Lizzie McGuire’s dad!
2002: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Fun fact: CoS was not the only first Harry Potter film I watched, but the first Harry Potter thing in general that I consumed. I was very anti-Harry Potter when its hype first started, because I was convinced they were “boy books.” I think I was about eight or nine when I gave the second movie a chance (don’t ask me why it wasn’t the first) and then started reading the books soon after. I think the third film was either coming out or still pretty new by the time I started the series, because I remember watching a press thing on TV that the Trio actors did, and Emma Watson said that PoA was a big deal because Hermione was in jeans. The first two films give me such feels, and they’re just so sweet and perfect and warm.
2003: Mona Lisa Smile
I like to call this movie the female Dead Poets Society (one of my favorite films, but it wasn’t made in my lifetime). Last semester, I overheard some girls talking about watching this in class and being surprised that they got so into it. Although it’s a typical story you can find in the 1950s, I think it’s the cast that really makes this movie great. What with Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, and Julia Stiles, it’s basically a dream casting for the early 2000s, and Once Upon a Time fans will love seeing baby-faced Ginnifer Goodwin.
2004: Shaun of the Dead
So, I’m not a zombie person at all. When I had to watch this for my British film class my sophomore year of college, I was skeptical, but was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. As with any British films, a lot of familiar actors pop up, and the film overall is really quite clever.
2005: Nanny McPhee
Give me a story about a big family’s pastoral life, and I’m all over it. Emma Thompson can do no wrong in my book, and, although I’ve only seen it once, the sequel to Nanny McPhee is very good as well, which is a testament to how great of a screenwriter she is. If you want a very Nanny McPhee vibe in the form of a book, I highly recommend Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life.
2006: The Holiday
I have a set of go-to movies I always watch in the week leading up to Christmas, and The Holiday is one of them. Yes, it’s your typical rom com, but I feel that this one is just a little different. Yes, you got your romance with Cameron Diaz and Jude Law’s characters (a storyline I love), but then you’ve got Kate Winslet tossing aside the loser guy she’s pined over for years and helping an old Hollywood legend accept the recognition he deserves (her weird romance with Jack Black isn’t really necessary, but I get it, Nancy Meyers, it’s like a requirement with you for all romances to end happily).
One summer in high school, a friend and I proceeded to check out several movies (a weird modge-podge of ’80s films, obscure indies, and even one of Ellen DeGeneres’s stand-up routines) out of her local library and attempted to watch all of them over the course of our sleepover that night. We did leave a few of the films untouched, but Persepolis was definitely the most unique movie we had picked up. Five years later, I still am meaning to read the graphic novels that this film is based on, because I feel that I would appreciate the story and its historical context even more now.
2008: Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
I was a huge fan of the American Girl books growing up, and the TV movies based off the Molly, Felicity, and Samantha stories were great for any fan of the books. I think the Kit Kittredge theatrical feature film is often forgotten, and I suppose it did have a pretty quiet run in cinemas. However, freaking Roger Ebert gave it 3.5 out of 4 stars, so you just know that it had to have done something great. I saw this in theaters one slow summer day with my mom and sisters and really enjoyed it. Look at how legit this cast is!
2009: The Time Traveler’s Wife
I think I read this book in my first or second year of high school (maybe even eighth grade?), when I was probably a little too young for some of its adult content. Yet, I remember absolutely devouring the book and loving it, and then vowed to never watch the film because I didn’t want to see the story ruined by it. However, on my Norwegian Air flight home from London (far less sketchy than it sounds), the pretty great selection of free TV shows and movies included The Time Traveler’s Wife. Out of the three movies I started on my seven-and-a-half hour flight, this was the only one I finished before resorting to random episodes of The Middle and How I Met Your Mother. My suspicions about the movie were proven right – it just jumped around too quickly, and didn’t capture the storyline in a way that made you care about the characters. But in my book, any Rachel McAdams film is never too bad to watch (although Wedding Crashers, one of the other films I gave up watching on the flight, probably isn’t great to watch in a public place if you feel self-conscious about strangers watching you watch sexy scenes…).
2010: Alice in Wonderland
I’m a movie purist, so I usually avoid remakes or retellings like the plague (don’t even breathe a mention of Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka to me). But, I saw this version of Alice in Wonderland in ninth grade with the people who would become my core group of friends for those four years. I was a lonely kid in middle school, and something as simple as going to the movies with other kids was a huge deal to me at the time. I’m still close friends with some of the people I was with that day, and seeing this movie play on TV just makes me smile.
2011: Midnight in Paris
I try not to think about the Woody Allen / “art vs. the artist” struggle too much because of my love for this film. I saw it the summer it came out, when I was nearly 16 and my appreciation for more serious and artistic films began to develop. Out of Woody Allen’s films, I’ve only seen Annie Hall, which I didn’t really enjoy, and his recent films just seem so obnoxiously Allen-esque that I don’t think I can ever watch them comfortably. So, I’m glad I first saw Midnight in Paris at a point when I was still oblivious to Allen’s past and before the most recent Ronan Farrow episode. Even a messed up director can’t divert me away from this film’s gorgeous music, scenery, and storyline.
2012: Frances Ha
This had a theatrical release in 2013, but hit festivals in 2012. I watched Frances Ha this summer on Netflix and instantly fell in love with it. This trailer makes it seem pretty incoherent and weird, but it’s actually a funny and relatable coming-of-age story that’s beautifully filmed. It’s definitely one of my favorite films I watched this year.
2013: About Time
Ignore the fact that this is yet another Rachel McAdams film – more importantly, this is a Richard Curtis film. I adore this man as a filmmaker and his movies are my go-to cures for an off mood. Up until I saw About Time when I was 18 or 19, Notting Hill was my favorite Curtis screenplay, but this one is now my solid favorite.
When looking over Wikipedia’s list of 2014 films, I was surprised at how limited the options felt to me. Even without Boyhood’s unique quality of being filmed with the same actors over 12 years, it’s no wonder the film won so many accolades. It’s a beautiful story, and I think people specifically my age would really love it – Mason’s timeline was fairly close to matching my actual age in those years. Simple things like Harry Potter nods and toys seen made the earlier years really feel like a time capsule of my own childhood.
My London roommates and I had a tradition of using discount apps to go to the cinema together about once a month. Suffragette was one of our last films together, and what stuck with us the most were the facts at the end of the movie sharing just how recently some countries gave women the right to vote. Women in Switzerland didn’t have the right until 1971! Carey Mulligan appeared on Colbert to promote this film, and Colbert mentioned that his only exposure to the suffragette movement is through Mrs. Banks’ storyline in Mary Poppins. It really is a historical movement that is brushed over a bit, and the film does a good job of showing just how extreme the fight to vote was.
2016: My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
I watched this on a flight coming home from an internship conference in Denver this summer. I like to watch light, fluffy things on planes, so I started my four-hour flight with When Harry Met Sally, and then went for this one – the ultimate “I’d check it out of the library but wouldn’t pay to see it” film. It was really cute, and having basically all of the original cast in it really concocts a family atmosphere onscreen.
What about you? What are some movies that represent your life?