Top 10 Films…cinema firsts

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As reaches its first birthday I thought I’d look at my own cinema firsts. I grew up in a world dominated by television, and cinema was an inevitable attraction every time I’d plant myself in front of our small TV set after school.

I have fond memories of watching Jaws during the summer holidays with my Grandma. I wouldn’t dare watch it alone of course! And I have frightening memories of sleepless nights when I began to watch the horror films my Mum used to keep in a cupboard that I couldn’t reach until I was about ten years old. As soon as I could get in, there was no stopping me – The Omen, An American Werewolf In London, Hellraiser, Candyman…I was addicted to scaring myself silly.

Apart from horror – a genre that tangibly brought cinema to life – I remember endlessly watching Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music, and Grease. I would never say musicals are a favoured type of film for me but as a kid I used to watch a lot of them. Perhaps it was because back in those days we watched films as a family.

That’s certainly something that changes as you grew older – films become less of a family experience and more of a personal one. I got a television and VHS player (later a DVD player) in my bedroom and started to experience all manner of cinema all on my lonesome.

I think it’s cyclical though. You go through a period in teenager life where you regress to the confines of your bedroom and plaster it in pop culture posters of heroes and heroines, cocooning yourself in the world you want to be part of. Later, when you’ve finally had that first kiss, moved in with the girlfriend (or boyfriend), got married, had kids, you’re back in the family room watching singing animated animals with sons and daughters.

It’s all part of growing up. And, of course, the magic of cinema. Here’s my top 10 cinema firsts:

1. First Film (The Sound of Music)

sound of music, musical, film,

There are several films that could have been my first. In trying to work out what film I saw first I decided it was probably one showing on television and therefore had to have been released in cinemas a few years before. It probably wasn’t black and white and would have been one that my mum or grandma would have watched with me. Therefore, I can only guess that my first film was The Sound of Music, one of my grandma’s favourites. To say my future film tastes were influenced by the film would be stretching the truth – horror, science-fiction, comedy – not usually associated with The Sound of Music. But I remember being endeared to the story, the songs, the sense of adventure and life, and the happy ending. I did love that movie back in those days, and I still love the film today.

2. First visit to the cinema (An American Tail, Summer 1987)

an american tail, film, animated,

My first visit to the cinema is still one that I remember with vivid, almost magical memories. It was in the summer of 1987, it was in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, and I would have been four years old. The film was the animated adventure An American Tail and to this day I remember the little hero’s name Fievel Mousekewitz because for some reason I thought it was the coolest name back in those days.

The cinema has since been turned into a nightclub and bar but I do recall queuing down the street to get into the screening. There were only two screens back in the days before the UK had heard of a multiplex. When we got inside it was all magic – the ticket booth, the smell of popcorn, the huge film posters. I have never seen anything like it. And when we got inside and the film started I had never “heard” anything like it – surround sound! It was a wonderful experience and one that set in stone my love of cinema for ever more.

3. First film purchase (The Wizard of Oz on VHS)

wizard of oz, film, musical, fantasy,

Its testament to the greatness of The Wizard of Oz that as a kid who wouldn’t have watched a black and white movie had you strapped me to a chair and pinned my eyes open, I still loved this tale of imagination and adventure. That it turns to colour is a big part of what kept me glued to the screen. I can only imagine my mum telling me that “it’ll become colour in just a minute, wait and see”. But The Wizard of Oz was both fun and frightening – the Wicked Witch is probably my first introduction to a horror character and the first that gave me a few nightmares.

4. First crush (Kelly LeBrock in Weird Science)

weird science, film kelly lebrock,

Who couldn’t fall in love with this beautiful older brunette who lived to please the every whim and sordid fantasy of two teenage boys. Unfortunately, when I first saw the film, and had I had a similar miracle woman befriend me, I would have lived out such fantasies as playing football with her in the back garden, street games with the other kids in the neighbourhood, and probably watching movies. A kiss was about as far as it got when it came to the opposite sex. Other than that, girls were these annoying entities that played with dolls and plaited each other’s hair. They didn’t get up to any of the cool stuff us guys did like falling out of trees and getting concussion biking into the curb.

5. First film I saw with friends (Nine Months)

nine months, hugh grant, film,

Yep, the first film I saw with friends instead of being chaperoned by my mum was the Hugh Grant/Julianne Moore film about pregnancy Nine Months. I was 12 at the time and saw the film with my next door neighbour. I remember his older sister had just got her first car and drove us to the cinema. I enjoyed the film and even though it gets critically trashed it’ll always hold a special place in my heart. Jeff Goldblum is as good as ever.

6. First sex scene (Basic Instinct)

basic instinct, sex, sharon stone naked,

Growing older has its benefits! I don’t recall seeing much sex on-screen during my early childhood. Of course, if I had I wouldn’t know what was going on. I did catch a few horror films that weren’t made for impressionable young eyes but the sex was kept to a minimum. For example, the shower scene in An American Werewolf In London: I think I just thought they were taking a shower together, after all, you get naked to take a shower so it was all above board! That there’s some kissing (“ewww!”) in bed afterwards was just…well…kissing!

The film that really showed me how it was done (or not done depending on the way you look at it) was Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct. Think I saw it around the age of 11 when my best friend at the time borrowed the VHS tape from a film collector (this was the way we used to watch lots of horror films behind our parent’s backs). Sharon Stone holds a special place in my heart – she was the first woman I saw naked!

7. First horror film (An American Werewolf In London)

an american werewolf in london, film, horror, john landis,

Although I had seen Jaws before I saw John Landis’ classic werewolf movie, An American Werewolf In London was the first film that truly scared me. What the film did was give tangible evidence of the power of cinema – I was convinced these nightmarish monsters of the night were real and would come and get me while I slept. It was at once scary but also exhilarating when I look back. I’ll never get that feeling again, a bit like that magical belief in Santa coming down the chimney on Christmas Eve.

8. First favourite film (Aliens)

aliens, sigourney weaver, james cameron, science fiction, horror, action,

Another film that gave me sleepless night was James Cameron’s Aliens. I saw the film as seven year old when it was screened on television. Fell in love with the film immediately. I remember recalling after my first viewing that it seemed to all pass by in a blur – it was one of the most fast-paced, chaotic, and stylish films I had ever seen. I have since seen the film more times than any other and it remains one of my favourite films of all time.

9. First time I walked out of the cinema – (never happened but nearly did during The Perfect Storm)

the perfect storm, bad film,

The only film I’ve ever considered walking out of because it was boring me into an early grave was Wolfgang Petersen’s The Perfect Storm. I spent what seemed like five hours waiting for the big wave that the trailer so proudly promoted. That was the only thing keeping me my seat. By the time the end came I wondered the point of it all was. Terrible film.

10. First film to leave a lasting impression (Jaws)

jaws, steven spielberg, film,

Jaws was one of the first films that I remember watching over and over again. It was a film everyone in the family loved – an asset of its blockbuster credentials. I don’t think I saw the uncut version of the film until my teens as the version we had was recorded off TV but it didn’t matter – all the great moments were there, as were the best lines. Today, the film is still one of my favourites. It’s a true classic from a director who at the time utilised his raw passion for cinema to make a film that seems timeless.

Written and compiled by Daniel Stephens

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    Here’s mine:

    First film at Cinema – Chariots Of Fire. I didn’t understand it.

    First Film Purchase – Letterbox “Speed” VHS.

    First Sex Scene – um…..

    First Crush – Jennifer Connolley in Labyrinth. Admit it, you did too.

    First Favourite Film – Aladdin, although Raiders and The Last Starfighter would be up there too.

    First Cinema Walk-out – Well, I haven’t left the cinema early either Dan, but I seriously consiered it twice; once for Men in Black (yeah, go figure) and the other for The Avengers (with Ralph and Uma).

    First Film I Screamed out Loud In – Twister. The bit where the wall of the barn flies out at Bill and Helen. I even ducked in my seat. Special mentions to Scream and Jurassic Park 2.

    First Sex Scene – er…….

    First Most Awesome Cinema Moment – When the entire audience clapped and cheered as Will Smith bitch-slapped that alien in ID4.

    First Film I Saw More Than Twice in Cinema – Starship Troopers. 5 times in cinema, and currently at 100+ views on VHS, DVD and BluRay.

    First Sex Scene – Screw it. It was Basic Instinct too. I went in to bat for Showgirls at the time too, but Basic Instint just can’t be beat. Pun intended.

  2. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    Great stuff Rodney!

    Yes – in regards to Jennifer Connolly! But I think I saw Weird Science first but you’re spot on with Connolyy in Labyrinth. I remember that film being quite scary as a kid – those talking hands were freakish!

    The Last Starfight – one of those Star Wars knock-offs that is actually really quite good, especially for kids.

    I remember when VHS started selling letterboxed versions of films. I was dead against them thinking was losing picture information not gaining it. Plus, on my little square TV, the picture was a lote smaller. How times have changed!

    I would love to have seen Scream in the cinema but when it came out I was too young to see it.

    Speaking of Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone is still a stunner 20 years after the infamous interrogation scene! 😉

  3. Avatar
    Novroz Reply

    This is interesting, here’s mine:

    First film at Cinema – Superman 2

    First Film Purchase – The Matrix, the original one..I’m an Indonesian and most Indonesians buy pirate VCD/DVD, including me. I only bought original stuff when I really like it.

    First Crush – Keanu Reeves, he is still my crush but he hass been pushed to second position by Cillian Murphy

    First Film I saw with friend – terminator 2

    First Sex Scene – Hmmm…Ghost, I think … Can’t really remember.

    First Horror Film – Some Indonessian movie, I can’t remember the title anymore.

    First favorite Film – Terminator

    First Cinema Walk-out – Never did it because I am very picky to go to cinema.

    First Film I Screamed out Loud In – Never scream because I enjoy watching other people scream.

    First Most Awesome Cinema Moment – When everyone scream watching Jelankung (Indonesian horror movie)… I laugh so hard because it feel like riding roller coaster than watching horror movie. I avoi watching any horror in cinema ever since because it only makes me laugh instead of creaming.

    First Film I Saw More Than Twice in Cinema – The Matrix.

    Dan, I mix your list with Rodney’s 🙂

  4. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    “Dan, I mix your list with Rodney’s” – typical, Rodney has the most commented post on the site, now he’s hijacking my own articles! 😉

    Thanks for posting your firsts! Ghost I think would have been one of the first sex scenes I saw too – but the whole pot-making and that song seems to cloud over any bedroom antics! I like the film but I only start liking the film from the minute Patrick Swayze turns into a ghost (and Whoopi Goldberg enters the arena).

  5. Avatar
    rtm Reply

    What a cool idea for a 1st birthday, Dan! I think one of my first films was Sound of Music also, but the one I first saw in the cinema is Superman: The Movie. Hence, that was my first fave movie and first crush is Christopher Reeve 😀 Can’t remember what the other ones would be, gotta think about ’em a bit.

  6. Avatar
    Goregirl Reply

    Another great idea for a list! So many of my memories revolve around film. We watched tons of movies growing up and went to the theatre and/or the Drive-In at least once a week from a young age. The family movie nights at theatres pretty much ended in our house when VCR’s came out though. Then we only seen films at the theatre with friends.

    Godzilla was my first film, but Sound Of Music, and Wizard of Oz were probably pretty close to being the first. All three were movies I watched on TV though.

    My parents use to take us to the drive-in, and let us loose in the playground and eat popcorn in our pajamas but we were expected to be asleep when the movie came on. JAWS was the first film I stayed awake for and I loved it so much that I went as a shark for Halloween. JAWS was freaking huge back then and even inspired a very bad and very cheesy medly which I had on 45. It was supposed to be an interview with the shark and he would answer back with brief snippets of popular songs from the time. One of the sharks answers was a line from Midnight Blue…”Wouldn’t you give a hand to a friend”. Yike! I think there was even a christmas version, went something like this…

    “God bless you merry gentlemen you’re not so merry now, the sea sign told you not to swim, but you swam anyhow. You laughed Ha. Ha. Well I’m not scared and now you’re tiding of blood and gore, blood and gore.” All set to popular Xmas songs of course. I think I’m going to have to try to find this on line somewhere!

    First crush…Harrison Ford (I was a kid in the 70’s what can I say? Star Wars rocked my world back then).

    And I have never walked out of a film.

    First film I bought was a VHS copy of The Shining. Many, many, many more would follow.

  7. Avatar
    amy Reply

    I’ll trackback with my answers xD Man, some of these are tough to think about, my answers are going to need a lot of explanation~~~

  8. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    Just call me MISTER hijacker. LOL!!!!!

  9. Avatar
    Aiden R. Reply

    HOLY crap, man. As much as I’d love to complement you on your choices and contribute my own Top Ten for these fine categories, I have only one thing to say:

    That is the craziest/funniest/unexpected/flat-out fucking best picture you could have put up for Basic Instinct. Michael Douglas, man. The milk has gone dry.

  10. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    LOL @ Aiden!!! That’s a great line!!

  11. Pingback: – A Blog by Amy Wong. » Blog Archive » Cinema Firsts for Top 10 Films

  12. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Aiden: Haha! 🙂

    …I was trying to strike a balance between being a bit risque and flat out naughtiness. This pic did the job I think. If you’re six and you see this image you’re only going to think she’s got a pain in her chest and the man is kissing it better.

  13. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @rtm: Superman was one of the first films I remember us having on VHS. It’s still my favourite comic-book movie.

    @Goregirl: That’s a great story about Jaws. I’d love to hear that!

    Sound of Music and Wizard of Oz have to be two of the best family movies…parents seem to automatically show them to kids – I guess the songs and, even more likely, the pretty colours of Wizard of Oz easily entrance kids.

    I think one of my main reasons for not walking out of a film is that I’d be more annoyed at spending all that money on extortionate ticket prices! But The Perfect Storm was the closest I’ve ever got. 🙂

  14. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Rodney: The ASHES rivalry is about to kick in! 🙂

  15. Avatar
    Luke Reply

    Oh my god, Perfect Storm! What a totally over-hyped, crazy mess of a movie… I totally missed the part where there was a story included with the incessant wave effects…

  16. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    @Dan: ohhh yeaaaaaaahhhhhh!!! Bring it!!!

    @Luke: I agree, Perfect Storm did seem to be more about the effects than the story….

  17. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    Re: The Perfect Storm – and after what seems like hours and hours of boredom, the film has that rubbish downer ending. I realise it’s based on a tragic true story but so was Alive and whole heap of others and they all were a) interesting, and b) offered some light at the end of the tunnel.

  18. Avatar
    mark Reply

    Back in mid 1990 one of our local cinemas showed a 3.5 hour version of Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev. No intermission. I almost walked out, really wanted to, but I persevered. The next day I was sitting with a bunch of artists in their studio smoking pot telling them about the film, at which point I realised it was one of the greatest things I’d ever seen (I now own the DVD with the extra doo-dads … it is an extroadinary film – the most powerful reffirmation of the human spirit I think I’ve seen on celluloid).

    A few years later I almost gave up on Bresson’s Lancelot of the Lake (being shown on a 16mm print at our library). Sat through it. On reflection (sans any stimulants) I realised that it too was a masterpiece, although for very different reasons. I’m not a Bresson fan normally, and everyone goes on about his austerity, but I thought Lancelot… was a comedy. I don’t think it was an accident that the Python boys pretty much paid homage to it in the Holy Grail.

    I also would have wave walked out on Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain in late 1984 if it hadn’t been on a double bill with El Topo. That would have been a mistake as well – not because I particularly liked the film (or the director’s work for that matter), but the ending was fascinating. An almost three hour film filled with heavy fisted cross cultural iconic/spiritual symbolism that ends with the director basically telling the audience that it has completely wasted its time (the final shot where the camera pulls out to reveal the lights and crew is a classic). Now that takes balls.

    Fell asleep during the re-issue of Visconti’s The Leopard (also in 1984, because I was drunk – don’t try it); but I did walk out of Inserts, the mid 70s movie where Richard Dreyfuss plays a porno director in 1930s Hollywood.

    Kind of regret that now, so I guess the moral of this rant is DON’T WALK OUT.

    Having said that, the arrival of video changed the rules of the game a bit. Took me a few attempts to finally get through 12 Monkeys (which I now love), as with Bergman’s The Serpent’s Egg, which I now believe to be one of his best films. Haven’t seen either of these on the screen.

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