10 Life-Changing Films

by Sting Lacson

(Edited by Chonx Tibajia.
Published in the Philippine STAR, p. Q-2, 10 Oct 2010.)

Change starts with inspiration─so what if it hits us while we're slouched comfortably at a movie theater, fingers stained orange from cheddar-flavored popcorn? I have been asked to come up with a list of ten films that inspire change, all for the greater glory of mankind. This forced me to think then if I should enumerate the standard, feel-good, awe-inspiring movies that will make you want to change the world after watching it. There are lots of those, of course, like Schindler's List, or Gandhi. But then these are films about people who caused change. However inspiring I'm sure they were, the films themselves did not really inspire the change. What I am looking for is the cinematic equivalent of Noli Me Tangere, a film that has actually caused change, and not simply a film about causing change.

There are some films that I would want to include here, but although they have caused change, those changes were not for the greater good. One example is The Godfather, a case of life imitating art imitating life. Modern day mob practices were actually inspired by this movie, with several high-profile mob bosses claiming to be huge fans of The Godfather. But since it’s about organized crime, which is a bad thing, it does not make it to this list.

Bagets (1984)
The list would not be complete without at least one Filipino film. Fresh from the shackles of martial law, Philippine cinema finally gives the Filipino youth a chance to stretch their legs. Bagets gave birth to the matinee idols of the eighties, influencing everything from fashion to speech, and it has actually succeeded in making youth-oriented movies very popular at the box office, unlike the serious adult-oriented films of the seventies.

Top Gun (1986)
During Top Gun's theatrical run, recruitment booths were placed outside the cinemas by the Navy, hoping to recruit the adrenaline-charged guys coming out of the theaters. The result: the highest number of recruits in decades. No film has ever inspired people to fly jets more than Top Gun.

Dead Poets Society (1989)
The theme of this film is not in itself original: the whole teacher-student inspiration thing began with Stand and Deliver a year earlier, and was echoed in Dangerous Minds six years later, and most recently by Coach Carter in 2005.However, Dead Poets Society will always be remembered for two words: carpe diem. Seize the day. Those words have been repeated countless times and have been made to apply to equally countless situations─and not just because it's in Latin.

Jurassic Park (1993)
Let's put it this way: Before Jurassic Park, filmmakers used Stan Winston animatronics or Jim Henson's puppets to create movie monsters. Jurassic Park itself also used animatronics, but at the same time tested the waters of computer-generated images. And after the obvious success, computer-generated imagery has become the most important innovation in cinematic history since the introduction of color. In fact, it has even acquired its own acronym: C.G.I. When something gets its own acronym, you know it's important.

Toy Story (1995)
Pixar Animation Studios will go down in history as the pioneer and trailblazer of computer animation. Purists used to be hesitant about using computers, saying it will never capture the soul of traditional hand-drawn cell animation. But director John Lasseter was himself a traditional animator who embraced this new medium. Fifteen years (and several Oscars later), computer animation has practically killed cell-animated films at the box office.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Never mind that the rest of the world knows this as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Although the movie version came four years after the book, Sorcerer's Stone has undoubtedly added to the already-solid fan base of the books. Although it is the Harry Potter books that are credited for making children re-discover the joys of reading, it is the first Harry Potter film that has made even the not-so-young ones pick up books and start flipping pages. And that is the reason why now, almost a decade later, we have more fans than ever before eagerly anticipating the first part of the conclusion of the Harry Potter saga.

The Passion of the Christ (2004)
There are no hard statistics to prove it, but I am pretty sure that after seeing this film, Catholic Sunday masses experienced a sudden influx of worshippers similar to what Whoopi Goldberg did in Sister Act. But this film was able to convert a huge chunk of the cast and crew to Catholicism. While filming. I know of no other film that has inspired change even before they began post-production.

300 (2006)
You can describe this movie using a single three-letter word: ABS. Now everyone, please be honest, after watching this movie, after seeing the brave Spartan warriors die a gallant death, did you not start doing sit-ups secretly in your room?

The Cove (2009)
This film will not leave you unaffected after watching it. You'll either 1) abstain from eating dolphins for the rest of your life, 2) start worshipping dolphins by buying all kinds of dolphin merchandise, 3) buy tickets to Bohol to swim with the dolphins, or 4) join groups like Greenpeace or the World Wide Fund and devote your life to protecting dolphins. And changing one single viewer is a step closer to changing (or completely eradicating) the practice of slaughtering dolphins. And no, dolphins are not just gay sharks.

Avatar (2009)
Although not the first film made in Real D 3D, Avatar definitely brought Real D away from the art film market (like U2 3D) and the kiddie market (like Spy Kids 3D) and brought it to a whole new level. Aside from developing new 3D optic technology, director James Cameron has inspired filmmakers after him to not be afraid of creating movies especially for 3D without worrying about production costs.

Sting Lacson writes for Da Couch Tomato (dacouchtomato.blogspot.com).

Sting Lacson

A writer. By degree and by profession. Also strongly advocates ten-finger typing to all writers because that's what you do for a living, so be efficient at it.

My Literary Side

"The Words come from the Divine; from the Muse the Idea. The Poet merely transcribes." ┼Old Sumerian proverb

(Kidding, I made that up. LOL)