I'm not sure anyone can truly narrow down their "favorite" movies. Or maybe only a dull person could, someone who never has moods and is always the same will perhaps not change his mind about which films are his favorite. Whenever I'm asked, there are a few that immediately spring to mind. But there are others that I have to dig deeper for.
When someone asks me what my favorite film is, I answer without hesitation: Young Sherlock Holmes. This is the movie that had the largest impact on my childhood, so I think that's a fair answer. Alongside it, I might mention the Indiana Jones films which also had a huge impact on me. The Secret of NIMH and The Last Unicorn and Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal and The Neverending Story . . . I watched Clue whenever we had a rainy night . . . I remember being enamored of Annie for a while . . . Watching Summer Magic over and over one summer when it aired constantly on the Disney Channel . . . Quoting Monty Python and the Holy Grail . . . Watching The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock a lot, too . . . And The Point. I used to write in my school notebooks, "A point in every direction is the same as no point at all."
But these are all movies from when I was young ("young" being relative). In high school, I fell in love with Jurassic Park, to the point that my classmates gave me all JP stuff for my birthday. As an undergrad, I was blown away by The Matrix.
So how do you define a "favorite"? I suppose that's what it comes down to. Is it a movie you watch over and over again and always enjoy? Is it a movie that made a difference in your world somehow?
I'm asking because tonight I showed my oldest son The Prestige, which I had forgotten how much I liked. I wouldn't hesitate to call it a favorite. Certainly I think it's my favorite Christopher Nolan movie. I never fail to be wowed by it, even though I know, so to speak, how the trick is done. What I mean is, I never get tired of the story.
Is that the key to a favorite? Loving the story beyond its years? Then some of my other favorites would be Now, Voyager and The Innocents. My Fair Lady remains my favorite musical. Oh, and Rope. I do love Rope. Easily my favorite Hitchcock film.
These are just the ones I can think of right now. On a different day, at a different time, the answers could change based on my mood and what comes to mind. Are there any that never change? If so, is that how I know they're my favorites? Because I always name them, no matter what? Well then, Young Sherlock Holmes still tops the list. It will forever be the one that comes to mind first. And the Indiana Jones movies, though which one I like most will fluctuate. (I don't count Crystal Skull. I pretend it never happened.)
I can trace a path through my life as it was impacted by movies. The ones I would see and then my friends and I would act out. The ones my family and I would quote. I remember seeing Ghostbusters and being too afraid to walk home from my friend's house down the street because that movie really bothered me. I remember collecting the Dick Tracy trading cards after that movie came out.
But then I wonder at which point the impact began to fade. Film school? When I was subjected to so many movies I could no longer feel them? Oh, but that's where I saw Now, Voyager and Rope and so many other movies that I'll remember even if I didn't love them.
I do love a lot of movies, but are they favorites? V for Vendetta is a fantastic film that I'll watch almost whenever I come across it, but I don't think it's a favorite. Maybe "favorite" films have to connect in a way that is unable to be articulated. But it does leave me to wonder why I can truly enjoy some movies without feeling that connection. What forges that bond?
This post is just a lot of me musing and rambling. Trying to suss out which films are truly my favorites. I don't think there's a firm answer. But after re-watching The Prestige tonight, I know it's on the list. And that makes me feel good. Because it means that my list didn't stop when I was young. It means it's still possible for me to have new favorites ("new" also being relative). That gives me hope. Because I've liked a lot of movies, but I can't remember the last time anything I saw became a favorite. I hope it happens again soon.