This article is about nostalgia. About the time in our lives we look back on fondly. For some of us, it’s the old sandbox days when you could sit around building entire sand kingdoms or fling sand into the neighbor girl’s eyes and not fear any of those tacky phrases like “What have you done to my daughter?!” or “I’m calling the police.”
She took my shovel without asking, Officer. She’s a menace to society. I was doing you a favor. Image via Victor/Flickr
But how can we take that nostalgia and make it work for us in the present day? Movies leave a huge impression upon us as kids. While we aren’t always certain why some movies stick with us (my cousin’s favorite movie as a kid was “Independence Day”–according to her mother, she liked the colors when the White House exploded) we can remember images and feelings that they left with frightening precision.
However, there are some things that are lost on us as a child–for example, the implications of the White House blowing up–that can actually be useful lessons later in life, such as in your 20s: when you’re struggling to keep your head above water while the world throws you new and terrible things to deal with every day. Here are six such movies from your childhood that will prove useful to revisit.
#6 The Princess Bride
As A Kid….
What isn’t there to love about “The Princess Bride” as a kid? You’ve got grandpa Peter Faulk reading Fred Savage a story about a faraway kingdom, a love story and lots of adventure.
“The Princess Bride” brought a soon-to-be Princess and her true love together past the obstacles of time, space and evil forces working against them; and reminded kids everywhere that the great stories of old will never lose their value, even if they aren’t quite what you expect.
In Your 20s…
A harsh reality of growing up is that loss and severe pain and impossible obstacles are real things you will struggle with every day. The Princess Bride is all about people regaining what they’ve lost against impossible obstacles and severe pain in order to make it to their happy ending. The way they accomplish this? Determination. Determination is something all of us lonely, struggling twenty-somethings could use: as the lessons it imparts are invaluable. Don’t give up on your relationships, don’t give up on yourself, and most importantly, don’t give up on finding the man with six fingers who murdered your father in front of you.
Pictured: Determination. Image via JaBles D/Flickr
#5 Almost Famous
As A Kid….
This movie is a fairy-tale in its own right, though entirely different from “The Princess Bride.” William Miller, a kid just like you or me (or Fred Savage) gets the chance of a lifetime: reviewing rock band Black Sabbath on assignment for a big time rock journalist that sends him on the ride of a lifetime, traveling with a small time band, falling in love, and finding himself.
This movie is a tough one to watch as a kid because it contains some very mature themes. You most likely watched it in at least Middle School, and, regardless of how much you protested that you were grown up enough to do what you wanted, you probably realize now that you were nowhere near the maturity level you claimed to be.
In Your 20s….
One of the major themes of “Almost Famous” is that people grow and change, and the paths of life separate us from those we once considered closest to us. And that’s okay.
After high school, chances are you started to notice you weren’t as close with your friends anymore. In fact, you lose some friends altogether for various reasons; they move away, they start hanging out with a totally different group of people, or they just stop talking to you for no reason. And while it’s never easy to say goodbye to them (or not say anything, in the case of the latter), it always ends up being just fine.
William’s adventure teaches him that sometimes love isn’t enough to hold two people together, and that might be better for both people. It’s okay to have your own path through life. And it’s okay for someone else to have a different path. And no matter how much it hurts, things will be okay in the end.
And damn, was it good while it lasted.
4. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
As A Kid…
Explosions. Guns. Dude made of the freakiest liquid metal shit who had knives for arms. Chances are when you watched this (probably with that kid down the street your parents didn’t want you hanging out with) you retained that this movie was about three things:
1. The end of the world.
2. Badass robots.
Awwww yeah. Image via JD Hancock/Flickr
In Your 20s…
While fire is cool and everything, what is this movie really about? Having re-watched this movie recently myself, I was surprised at the end when I was moved to tears as John says goodbye to his badass metal friend, just before he sinks below the lava and gives him the iconic thumbs-up. Why is that?
It’s because the story of “Terminator 2” is about John Connor. It’s about a kid who has no real home or family or direction who finally finds his place in the world. What starts out as a rough-around-the-edges, criminal-record holding little shit turns into someone who understands how to stay sane in the face of humanity’s doom.
Now, our situation in the real world is a little bit less life or death, but still, we, as new adults, crave a way to face the world that makes all the terrible shit okay. The Terminator was John’s way to learn that skill, and by losing him, he (and we, the audience) realizes that he’s on his own now. The world is crazy and we need a way to make it make sense. John Connor faces the same struggle and we relate to that on such a deep level that it moves us to tears.
3. The Breakfast Club
As A Kid…
What a fun movie to see as a kid. These kids start off hating each other, and then slowly but surely become great friends and do some really fun and crazy stuff. The dances in particular stand out as things me and my friends did over and over and over again at sleepovers. And this movie was easy to connect to because you were watching kids on screen, and you related to their struggle and wanted to experience something similar. At the end of the movie you were completely satisfied, and it left you thinking about how to make friends with the jerk-ass jock you sat next to in Math class.
In Your 20s…
Teenagerdom has past. High school doesn’t really seem like a big deal anymore, right? And the things we used to care about have been replaced by bills, dating and moving up at work. But this movie is a little different than the others. When you were watching this movie in your younger years, you understood it. Fully and completely. You connected with it so deeply that it left you thinking. And now those days have passed you by. Which is why you should absolutely go back and watch this movie again.
You cannot forget what you went through in high school. I know I certainly wish I could–it was painful as all hell, it made me miserable, and the worst part is: now it feels like all of that pain and strife was over NOTHING. This movie is a healthy kick in the ass to remind you that teenagers struggle daily with their own problems, some of which are so personal and damaging that they cause psychological problems that take YEARS of therapy to get out. You cannot forget that you survived. And if someday you have children, they will face it too–and you will be more equipped to help them out if they need it.
Why do you think “Don’t You Forget About Me” was the theme song?
2. The Muppet Movie
As A Kid…
The Muppets are pretty much amazing. Everything they do is hilarious. Kermit and Fozzy drive cross-country to Los Angeles in order to break into the world of showbiz, taking along with them several other muppets who share his ambition, all while being pursued by a crazed and scary restaurateur (Charles Durning) who is obsessed with turning Kermit into frogs legs. The movie brings in the wacky humor of the Muppets and crosses it with the idea of adventure, making for a fantastically satisfying comedic heartwarmer. It’s hard NOT to love “The Muppet Movie.”
Plus, didn’t you just want to go with them?
In Your 20s…
For one thing, the Muppets pretty much keep being hilarious forever. Their humor is not exclusively for children; it is one of the rare instances where the humor is both clever AND wacky, therefore making it suitable for children and adults. What struck me, however, upon my re-watch of the film, is why Kermit chooses to pursue a career in show business. His exact reasoning: he cannot dream of a better career than making people happy every day.
We want our careers for whatever reasons. We want money; we want prestige; we love it too much to do anything else. And all that is fine, don’t get me wrong–but Kermit’s reasoning combines loving what he does with a pure selfless want to make others happy consistently. Even when fighting against the crazy frog-leg man, Kermit appeals to his hopes and dreams and puts the focus on others rather than himself.
This is a deep lesson to take from a frog puppet, but I wonder if the reason Kermit is so perpetually happy is because he makes his life less about himself and more about the other people in it. And if we all did that, not only would the world become a better place and yada yada yada, it would take a WHOLE lot of pressure off of ourselves and therefore make us more relaxed.
And besides, you might get free cake. Image via Frank Kovalchek
1. E.T.–The Extra Terrestrial
As A Kid…
E.T. makes you think of so many little images. E.T. dressed as a girl. The light-up finger. Drew Barrymore as a kid. The story of the little alien who crashed on earth and was taken in by lonely little Elliot (Henry Thomas) tugged at your heartstrings and made you laugh, cry, and most importantly, crave Reese’s Pieces.
Scrumptious. And the Reese’s Pieces are pretty good too.
In Your 20s…
E.T. is truly one of the most touching, heart-tugging, beautiful stories ever told on screen. Little Elliot’s plight is one that we college graduates face every day: where do we belong in the world? And who will be there with us? Elliot and E.T. form one of the most powerful relationships ever seen, to the point where E.T.’s health and well being literally become dependent on Elliot, and vice-versa. And we, as lonely 20-somethings, long for that every day.
What E.T. teaches us though is that all relationships are EXTREMELY important; throughout the movie, Elliot’s relationships with his brother, sister and mother become stronger and more full, and when E.T. leaves, he leaves Elliot with an important message: “I’ll be right here,” touching his head with his finger.
This is important to us because we have to know that even when we lose somebody from our lives, they live on in our heads, our hearts and our relationships with other people. E.T. left his mark on Elliot’s life just as Elliot left his on E.T., and the two of them have been changed for the better because of that.
Pictured: Elliot and E.T. Image via The Western Sky/Flickr
So, go on and give those movies another watch. I can’t say you’ll pick up entirely on everything I’m trying to get at–movies and our personal tastes are of course very subjective–but if there’s an overarching theme I got from all of them, it’s that the problems I face every day are very human. They are very normal. And it is okay to struggle with them. And we are never alone in our struggles, no matter how much we think we are. And if there’s anything you get from this article, it’s that you are not alone.