Everyone has their own views on nostalgia. This week young boys will get a chance to indulge their love of Pac-Man, The Iron Giant, and whatever else was once considered “for boys only” with Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One. But the Dames decided to flip the switch, and showcase what movies make them nostalgic. Steve, if you use these for Ready Player Two you better give us some royalties!
So based on the other lists on here I feel like Tess Weinhouse in Drop Dead Gorgeous: “I didn’t understand the assignment.” When I Hear “nostalgic films” I think of films that remind me of my own childhood, that aren’t necessarily good but that I grew up with. In the spirit of Steven Spielberg, who just threw in everything that might remind you of your childhood I’m gonna throw in a couple films that make me nostalgic about the past AND that are nostalgic towards a particular past.
When I think of movies I consumed as a kid, I always think of this SNL sketch turned feature. Superstar is probably the best of this subgenre – though I do hold a soft spot for Coneheads (1993). Molly Shannon’s movie-obsessed Mary Katherine Gallagher was an extreme take on my own love for movies. It has classic film star Glynis Johns in it (though I had no idea who she was at the time). “Supermodel Documentary Hour” is something I did a lot as a kid – but with movies – and I feel Molly Shannon just knew my brain. And it has lines that I still quote to this day: “Go drink a bottle of yourself.”
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
In my defense, Karen picked this before I did so bias didn’t rule my decision. Funny story, I saw a preview for this and my mother rented it for me from Blockbuster (yes, those were the days) with no knowledge of what it was. To hear her tell it, she assumed it was some PG-13 comedy starring Lisa Kudrow. How bad could it be? After i started quoting things my mom figured she should probably watch it. We all love it in my house, but my mom will tell you she should have watched it before hand.
Regardless, Romy and Michele is the high school reunion movie I modeled my own reunion on. Mind you, I didn’t go to my reunion last year so my dreams stay forever in my head. Romy and Michele are the best friends you identify with. I can tell you I was definitely a Romy, but I wanted to be Michele. The costumes are FANTASTIC! I had this soundtrack play on a loop alongside the Selena soundtrack. And if you want to see where my Justin Theroux love came from….exhibit A.
Never Been Kissed (1999)
I’m pretty sure I laid out all my reasons to include this movie the last time it popped up. Regardless, if I could go back in time and relive high school I’d be way cooler.
My Girl (1991)
If we’re diving into the nostalgic well, we gotta talk about My Girl. My Girl is set in the Nixon-era and is a fairly positive look at those times. But, outside of that, it’s the movie that shaped every single facet of my personality. My mother still jokingly refers to me as Vada at home. I can recite this whole movie if I tried. It’s funny, it’s poignant, it’s sweet, it stars Kristen’s first ever celebrity love, Griffin Dunne. It’s the quintessential nostalgic movie for me and I’ll fight anyone who says different!
I may have the last name Lopez (and, before you make the joke, no, I’m not related to Jennifer), but I grew up essentially seeing myself as white. I went to a family reunion in the late ’90s with the Lopez side of my family and we all watched this film. I’d never heard of Selena before, but I found myself obsessed with this movie and, dare I say, embracing the Latino half of me that was always there.
Selena is a fantastic movie music, and Jennifer Lopez is just spellbinding. What made Selena stand out for me wasn’t just the cumbia music, but the emphasis on family. It wasn’t a “Behind the Music” story of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. It’s a genuinely affecting feature about a promising career cut short. I still cry during the last 15 minutes. Now I just want to listen to the soundtrack and do the washing machine!
There are a couple of ways to approach nostalgia when it comes to film. There are those favorites that make me feel nostalgic for days gone by, whether I got to experience them or not. Movies like It’s a Wonderful Life, The Goonies, Top Gun, and Jaws, for example. They are very much of their time, capturing the moment in culture, pop culture, etc. And there are period films which look back on other times with levels of fondness or, sometimes, condemnation. For this week’s 5, since we’ll be talking about Ready Player One, I decided to go with films where nostalgia is sort of the point.
The Wedding Singer (1998)
It seemed like 1998 was a little early to be making nostalgia films about 1985, but it turned out to be just perfect. In a weird way, Adam Sandler leads sort of a love letter to the ’80s. This was only the second feature by director Frank Coraci and the third from screenwriter Tim Herlihy, but they got it right. The entire cast was perfect, nailing every reference from Flock of Seagulls to the Wall Street boom exactly right. The funniest part, to me, is that I grew up with every song in this movie. (Okay, maybe I didn’t grow up with Rapper’s Delight, but all the rest, yeah.) And yet, when I hear “You Spin Me Round,” I don’t think of dance parties in my kitchen when I was 8. I think of Robbie Hart getting an entire wedding party up on its feet.
Midnight in Paris (2011)
Separating the art from the artist here, okay? This movie is ALL ABOUT nostalgia. It’s all about wanting to go back to the best times. For Owen Wilson’s Gil, that’s Paris in the 1920’s. For Marion Cotillard’s Adriana, that’s La Belle Epoque of the late 1800s to pre-WWI. Everyone views a time gone by as the best and this film captures it beautifully. And also made me realize I never knew I needed Tom Hiddleston as F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Stand By Me (1986)
This is a movie that will always hold a special place in my heart. Rob Reiner adapts Stephen King’s tale of four boys who go on a journey that changes them. While most of the film simply follows the boys and their story, this is a nostalgic film because it is told from the perspective of one of them, all grown up, looking back on this time that profoundly impacted his life. Richard Dreyfuss plays the adult version of one of the boys, but the film stars an incredible cast that includes Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, and Kiefer Sutherland, all in the beginning of their careers. And it’s a dang good story. It’s nothing like King’s horror tales. This is one of the first coming-of-age films I ever watched and it’s still great.
Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion (1997)
The only reason I went to my 10th high school reunion is because Romy and Michele convinced me it would be fun and not horrible. It wasn’t horrible, but I certainly didn’t end the night by flying off in some rich dude’s helicopter. Or hanging out with a cowboy that looked like Justin Theroux. But this movie is hilarious and endearing. Mira Sorvina and Lisa Kudrow are so much fun, and it is a little satisfying to see the jerks from high school end up not really going anywhere in life. Yeah, so this movie plays up every high school reunion stereotype imaginable, and it works!
Back to the Future (1985)
Another quintessential 80s movie that totally fits the bill for nostalgia. In this case, it’s ’50s nostalgia. Although, watching Marty McFly try to navigate his parents’ high school experience without the comforts of modern day 1985 makes us all a little nostalgic for the ’80s too. There’s so much to love about this movie. The way it lovingly mocks the idea of the 50s as this sort of idyllic time where the only trouble was a mean bully who could be thwarted with a truckload of manure. It’s fun and charming, and one of the most rewatchable movies to come from that decade.
One of the things with nostalgia is that it’s really more about a feeling. It’s a time that never existed, or that existed in a perfect form in your imagination. Nostalgia, to me, is something that affected me, a moment in time that I can still recall, or a moment that changed me. So for my list, I’m going for films that harken back to those warm fuzzies of my past.
A Night at the Opera (1935)
This might be because this was the first Marx Brothers film I ever saw, but there’s something so deliriously charming about A Night at the Opera. Every time I see it, I recall sitting on the floor of my parents’ bedroom, making bead necklaces (yes, I did that), and quoting the “Sanity Clause” sketch to myself as it played on the screen. Quotes from it still pop up in everyday conversation – “Hey, you big bully, what’s the idea of hitting that little bully?”– and the moment when a classical overture segues into “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” never fails to knock me into fits of laughter. It’s also the reason why I should probably never go to an opera.
A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
I used to be able to quote the entirety of A Hard Day’s Night from beginning to end. It still reminds me of how special The Beatles have been in my life – when I couldn’t get into the big boy bands of my adolescence, they tapped into something quirky and off-beat and a touch sarcastic that still appeals to me. They made me fall in love with the music and culture of the 1960s, and A Hard Day’s Night introduced me to British film in the most spectacular manner. I’m still a little bit in love with John Lennon.
Mister Jerico (1970)
This falls into more recent nostalgia (and a good candidate for a future What I Did For Love column). It’s the most late-60s/early-70s movie ever made, with Patrick Macnee playing a jewel thief out to fleece millionaire Herbert Lom. Why does it make me nostalgic? Well, there’s the clothing, which is just all kinds of special – Macnee looks like the ’70s threw up all over him – and there’s the more recent sensation of seeing an actor I really love outside of the role I love him in. It’s a ridiculous slice of the period, and I adore every minute of it.
A Shot in the Dark (1964)
There may be a pattern to my nostalgia. The ’60s were a period of film for which I have a strong affinity, mostly because the films present a world that seems way less problematic than it actually was. But A Shot in the Dark introduced me to Peter Sellers, to whom I have an attachment, Blake Edwards, and, once again, something quintessentially 1960s. So while I get that there are issues with lionizing a time period that was really crappy for women, minorities, and…everyone except white dudes (but even they had a tough time, what with Vietnam and all), I like to hang on to the very good things about the period. And Inspector Clouseau was a very good thing.
Psycho is Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, but its importance to me extends beyond that. I recall, vividly, the first time I saw it, and how intensely it affected me. I’d been a Hitchcock fan before, but I was shaking when I finished Psycho. It was fascinating, yes, and violent, and disturbing, and it was the moment that I decided I wanted to study film. I wanted to understand Psycho, the director who made it, the reasons why it worked so goddamn perfectly. It made me love film in a deeper, more profound way than any film before it. And, amazingly, it still affects me like that. I never finish it without giggling – not because I think it’s funny, but because it is so unique, despite all the imitators, and so goddamn perfect.
Little Women (1994)
I dove into my unabashed love for this movie in last week’s top 5. I saw the movie when it first came to theaters in 1994 and it changed me. While I enjoyed other movies, this is the first time I was a fan. I read the books, I watched more of the movies, I followed the actors. Years later, I stumbled onto Newsies and Swing Kids because I watched Christian Bale in Little Women.
Radioland Murders (1994)
I actually can’t remember when I first discovered Radioland Murders. The movie has just always been in my life.
With more experienced eyes, it becomes clear that the movie is little more than a remake of Abbott and Costello’s Who Done It. However, the 1930s set murder mystery is a little gem in its own right. It’s a charming period picture, featuring some of the best 1990s character actors doing what they do best. And Mary Stuart Masterson is absolutely delightful as secretary turned investigator Penny. Experienced viewers will recognize fun cameos by George Burns, Rosemary Clooney and Billy Barty. There is absolutely no reason this little movie has the reputation it does.
The movie is a relative blip on Sylvester Stallone’s filmography. The gangster comedy hit theaters in 1991 and featured the actor as “Snaps” Provolone, a 1930s gangster attempting to go straight. However, his accountant, his daughter and a chaeuffeur eventually throw a normal day into chaos.
This movie is the first VHS my family bought. I was six at the time. I watched it regularly, transfixed by the fabulous period costumes, a desire to be Marissa Tomei, and a surprisingly early crush on Vincent Spano… period clothes… what can I say? The movie still stands as one of my all-time favorites.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
I remember watching this classic comedy before I was likely old enough to understand it. In fact, I spent many a night acting out the “Bridge of Death” sequence. I was a stellar “Old Man in Scene 24”.
The classic comedy is the first feature venture from the legendary British comedians after the end of the conclusion of their series. The film is a classic venture and still goes down as one of the greatest comedies ever made. Whether it is the French taunting, the Castle Anthrax, or the Bridge of Death, there is something for everyone.
My history with this movie goes back almost thirty years, before I can even remember. According to my beloved family, the 1962 John Wayne movie served as an effective babysitter when they needed to keep a diaper clad yours truly entertained. Is there any wonder why I turned out the way I did?
The film follows John Wayne as he leads a crew of multi-cultural misfits into the African landscape to wrangle up wild animals for zoos and circuses. While it was probably the animals which served as the initial draw, I grew to love the shooting style and the adorable cast. The movie was directed by Howard Hawks, who brings a phenomenal eye for not only the well crafted action, but likable characters well.