/Film Does The #FilmStruck4: Here Are The Four Movies That Define Us

If you follow filmmakers and film critics on social media, you've probably already encountered the #FilmStruck4. Initiated by Filmstruck, the streaming service dedicated to classic and arthouse films, the hashtag challenges you to pick the four films that "define" you. And now everyone is chiming in.

So the /Film staff decided to participate as well, but do so on a slightly larger scale. We have all come together to share the four movies that "define" us. Specifically, we're sharing the four movies that define our taste and love of cinema, not necessarily our favorite movies of all time (we've got that covered elsewhere).

What four films define you? Definitely chime in with a comment after you check out our selections!

Ethan Anderton

The Empire Strikes Back

Not only is this my favorite Star Wars movie of all time, it's one of my favorite movies ever. My fandom for Star Wars began when I was a kid and has lasted well into my adult years. It's ebbed and flowed with the quality of the movies and TV shows that have poured from Lucasfilm, but my love for the original trilogy has always been consistent. I remember bringing my VHS copies of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi with me to the houses of my friends and family.

But it was always The Empire Strikes Back that I wanted to watch the most. My favorite childhood memory to this day is when my parents got me and 10 of my friends out of school early on the exact day of my birthday to see the first showing of The Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition (the movie that's probably tainted the least by George Lucas' "enhancements" to the original trilogy). It's a comfort movie, it's exactly what blockbuster sequels should aspire to be, and it's always inspired my continued love for cinema.


It can be extremely difficult to blend high concepts and comedy, but Ghostbusters was one of the first movies to bring expert comedians together for a movie that had such an intriguing premise and do so in such an immensely satisfying way. Ghostbusters shaped my comedy tastes and also my penchant for injecting humor into even the most tense situations. I'm the smartass that I am today thanks to the sarcasm of Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman influencing me as a child. And I also still like a little comedy in my blockbusters thanks to the seamless mix of genres in Ghostbusters.

Almost Famous

The early '00s saw me enter high school and thus my taste in movies started to evolve. Almost Famous was one of the first movies to instill a newfound passion for filmmaking in my very soul. Even though Almost Famous is about a young aspiring rock journalist, I found myself dreaming of how cool it would be to have that kind of job in the film industry. Being behind the scenes of movies, watching my favorite directors work, talking to the very people who made my life magical with their movies. As my career as an entertainment news reporter/blogger became a surprising reality, this movie came to mean even more to me, and it's a milestone movie that has defined both my career and my life.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

While Almost Famous opened up my mind to filmmaking in new ways, it was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that started to spark my interest in new kinds of movies. Because this was a Focus Features movie, the trailers that played before Eternal Sunshine were all for indie movies that I suddenly felt an inherent desire to see. This turning point is what got me to start exploring films outside of my comfort zone and truly immerse myself in any and every kind of movie.

Furthermore, on an even more personal note, the hopeless romantic core at the center of this movie has been integral in helping me sort through the complications of relationships and emotions. We've all either been Joel or Clementine or we've dated Joel or Clementine, and director Michel Gondry crafted a genuine presentation of these relationships. The premise also allows a unique perspective where we can look at ourselves and our relationships and experience them in a new light, learning something about ourselves and the people we love. For me, few movies have ever come close to being as emotionally impacting and meaningful as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Hoai-Tran Bui

Spirited Away

Spirited Away was the first movie that got me to think critically about movies. Before, they were little more than passing distractions, but little 10-year-old me could have written essays about Spirited Away. The wild, surreal visuals drew me in, but the profoundly relatable story about a young, lost, scared girl made me stay. That and No-Face, a ghostly, creepy character the likes of which I'd never seen before. I think it was No-Face that would change my life — his existence and his strange arc from ally to villain deeply saddened me in a way I couldn't at first explain. There was a lot I couldn't easily explain about Spirited Away, which is why I think it left such a heavy impact on me. I couldn't stop thinking about it — about its multifaceted characters, its bombastic action scenes, its tender moments in the spaces in-between. It was a movie that confounded me and compelled me. Which is why I treasure it as one of the most formative movies in my childhood.

Roman Holiday

I received a box set of Audrey Hepburn movies for my 12th birthday, as many girls do. She's the actress who adorns many a college girl's wall, and whose misattributed quotes are pasted onto that one still from Breakfast at Tiffany's. She's an icon that I honestly found myself drawn to as a kid — girls like pretty things! But in that box set, which contained Breakfast at Tiffany's, My Fair Lady, and Roman Holiday, I found myself truly disliking her most famous film (Mr. Yunioshi, hey!) and getting drawn to her first Oscar-nominated role: Roman Holiday. It's a simple Classic Hollywood romantic-comedy: boy meets girl, girl happens to be a princess on the run, boy happens to be a deceitful journalist looking for a scoop. It's a zany, typically screwball comedy, but with a sad undercurrent of inevitability underneath: at some point, Hepburn's princess will have to end her day off and she and Gregory Peck will go their separate ways. It's cemented in the final scene, when Gregory Peck slowly walks away from the press conference, his footsteps echoing in the empty hall as no one chases after him. That scene is what cements Roman Holidayfor me as the first rom-com that would deliberately leave me unsatisfied and a little melancholy — and I loved it.

Before Sunset

Sun-dappled sidewalks and breezy European movies may be another common thread for me. When I first watched Before Sunset, I had no clue about love, heartbreak, or the bittersweet reality of life as a thirty-something, but I felt it deeply when I watched Jesse and Celine sojourn the streets of Paris. I was always more of a book-reader than a movie-watcher as a kid, but Before Sunset provided that perfect gateway for me — it's honestly like watching a book come to life. The dialogue between Jesse and Celine sings, but still feels refreshingly real. And as I watched them meander around the streets of Paris talking about life and regrets, I felt myself seeing for the first time that aspirational part of movies. This is how life should look: beautiful and sun-drenched, and filled with beautiful people being sad. But my favorite thing that I pulled away from Before Sunset is that there's no greater tragedy than the simple passage of time.

Beauty and the Beast (1946)

By now, you can probably tell what kind of movie shaped me: gorgeous visuals that shield an ugly or sad truth. If you psychoanalyzed it a bit, you can trace all that back to Beauty and the Beast. Disney's Beauty and the Beast would shape my taste for Gothic Romance, but Jean Cocteau's La Belle et La Bete would shape my visual palette. How eclectic, elegant, and sumptuous the movie looks! It's a marvel of costume and set design, and one that lends perfectly to that uneasy fairy tale of the beauty who falls in love with the beast.

Chris Evangelista

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark isn't my favorite Steven Spielberg movie (that would probably be E.T.), but it's the Spielberg film that first made me take notice of Spielberg as a director. I don't remember how old I was when I first saw the first Indiana Jones adventure, but I do know that when I first laid eyes on the film, I was amazed at the adventure on display. Lost Ark might be the most fun Spielberg ever had making a movie – every frame of the film is loaded with grin-inducing set-pieces and action scenes. Plus, you just can't beat Harrison Ford punching Nazis. And you just can't beat Spielberg the wunderkind pulling from the past to craft a rollicking, hugely entertaining adventure. Raiders is the type of film I remember watching as a kid and thinking, "How can someone fit so much stuff into one movie?"


I'm a horror movie fanatic, but few horror movies can come close to John Carpenter's Halloween. In the years since Carpenter's film, horror has grown more graphic and extreme, but as hardcore as the genre gets, it never even approaches the chilliness of Carpenter's low-grade meditation on inherent evil. Not only am I a horror fan, I'm a big nerd when it comes to Halloween as a season, so I was always drawn to Carpenter's film. Here, the filmmaker taps into the centuries-old superstitions surrounding the holiday, and blends it a story as tight as a snare-drum. There's no fat on Halloween; no extraneous moments wasting time. Instead, this is a non-stop reflection of cold, stupid, unthinking, uncaring evil. What makes Michael Myers so terrifying is that he's the human equivalent of the shark from Jaws – he kills because he has to. How freakin' scary is that?


I was between 8 and 10 when I first saw GoodFellas on home video, which is probably way too young to really understand exactly what's going on in the film. But even though I was young, I was also entranced at Martin Scorsese's direction. I'm not a prodigy, so I won't sit here and lie to you and say I knew exactly what Scorsese was doing in this film when I first saw it. But I do know that I can distinctly remember watching that long tracking shot that goes through the side-door into the Copacabana nightclub and realizing that something special was happening on the screen. It was perhaps the first time I became fully aware of what direction was. It turned me into a life-long Scorsese fan.


Carol is a recent film – 2015 – so it might seem weird to place it on a list of films that defined my love of film. But to me, this is proof that no matter how old (and jaded) I get, there's always going to be a new movie that will still have the power to sweep me off my feet. Todd Haynes' breathtaking film eloquently captures the feeling of falling in love, all of it conveyed through looks and glances, mostly shot through windows as if we're voyeurs peering into the character's lives. I remember catching Carol at an early morning press screening – I specifically remember stepping out of the theater after the film ended, exiting the dark into the sunlight, and feeling like I had to catch my breath while reflecting on what I had just watched. That's movie magic, folks. And when I find it, I want to hold onto it as tight as I can.

Jacob Hall

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The remarkable thing about Monty Python and the Holy Grail is that it's still good. All these years later, after countless viewings and after enduring countless people quoting it to death, it remains as sharp, anarchic, and totally gonzo as ever. Seeing this film at the right time and place can do funny things to you, rewire you on a genetic level. I know it did that for me. It was, in my youth, the funniest movie I had ever seen and it remains, in my adulthood, formally daring, audacious, and experimental in ways that predict the course of modern comedy. No movie has done more to break my brain and reassemble it in the right order and no film has better informed what I find funny...and no film has been a better showcase for how the lowbrow and the highbrow can coexist in the same moment. It's so silly and so smart and it's hard to imagine comedy (and what I find personally funny) being the same without it.

L.A. Confidential

Do you remember your first favorite movie? Not the first movie you watched over and over again, but the first movie that you finished, thought about, and realized "Yes, that is the best film I have ever seen"? L.A. Confidential is no longer my favorite movie of all time, but it was my first favorite movie and one that I still revisit regularly. And with each revisit, I continue to be stunned. Curtis Hanson's slick, stylish, and grimy neo-noir is one of the best movies of the '90s, a perfect example of mainstream and arthouse colliding. On one level, this is a perfect cop thriller. On another, it's a devastating character study and examination of broken systems. Recognizing L.A. Confidential's multitudes made be a better movie fan and opened the door to more challenging movies. But almost no one else made it look this easy.

The Creature Walks Among Us

Back in the day, the AMC network used to air month-long monster movie marathons every October and it was appointment viewing. I would sit close to the TV and absorb black and white horror after black and white horror. The Fly, Them!, The Wolf Man...the works. Years later, I now know that the best old Universal Monster movie is Bride of Frankenstein and my passion for these characters is ingrained into to my soul. But it is The Creature Walks Among Us that sticks in the back of my mind like a forgotten popcorn kernel. It's always there. Decades before Hollywood threw Oscars at The Shape of Water for showing sympathy for a monster, Universal did it with the third and final film in the Creature From the Black Lagoon series. Here, the creature has been injured by man, his gills destroyed. But scientists save him with a lung transplant. Can the creature adjust to live on land? Can he live among the humans? No. Nor should he. What happens next is shattering and shocking and made young me realize that yeah, monsters are people, too.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Raiders of the Lost Ark is the best Indiana Jones movie, but I didn't own that as a kid. I owned Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on VHS and it rarely left the VCR. I've seen this movie more than any other film, possibly 100 times. It was just there as I grew up, a comforting blanket of a movie that provided everything you want in a film. It's exciting and funny, scary and heartwarming, silly and moving. No film has provided a better picture of what Steven Spielberg can do as filmmaker – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is a trifle, but it's a trifle that's more confident than just about any other film you're bound to watch.

Ben Pearson

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Yes, this is one of my favorite comedies. But this list is about more than just our favorite movies – it's about how these films specifically shaped us as film lovers. Ferris Bueller's Day Off is hilarious, of course, but the reason it makes this list for me is because it helped establish my love of movies that love their characters. The plot mechanics of this film are very simple: a kid and his pals skip school and goof off in the big city. But Ferris Bueller isn't about plot. It's about hanging out with Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane, learning about them through their interactions with one another, and having so much vicarious fun that you feel like you're getting away with something in the process. I like to think Ferris's anti-authoritarian streak rubbed off on me a little, too.

The Princess Bride

There's a lot to love about The Princess Bride, and that's precisely why it makes this list for me. It has a little bit of everything: fantasy, romance, pirates, swashbuckling, comedy, tons of quotable lines, and much more. It's also a commentary on storytelling itself (both with the bookended grandfather segments and the way the main story alternately satirizes and plays into expectations). It was probably the first piece of meta storytelling I ever saw (outside of, like, old episodes of Looney Tunes), and since I'm a sucker for stories with multiple layers to peel, this one scratched all the right itches for me.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Classic adventure, dripping with style. Raiders transported me to another time and place, but more importantly, it showed me at a young age how remixing old influences from the past into something new and exciting can provide something that manages to elevate beyond those original inspirations.

The Big Sleep

This wasn't the first film noir movie I watched, but it's the one that best represents what I love about the genre (one that's been a favorite of mine for years). The plot is famously labyrinthine, but despite that, the film is archetypal noir: quick, hard-boiled dialogue, shocking bursts of violence, lurid cover-ups and double-crosses. A dogged detective, a femme fatale. There's a beautiful purity to it all, even though the subject matter is anything but. Watching this movie led me to notice aspects of filmmaking I previously didn't pay much attention to – things as simple as lighting and shadows, and how a cinematographer can utilize those elements to tell an additional story about a character within a single shot.

Peter Sciretta

Back to the Future

Back to the Future is, without a doubt, my favorite film of all time. But why does it define me? This film inspired my love of movies and the marvelously planned set-ups and payoffs led to my love of screenwriting, which eventually led me to where I am today at /Film. Back to the Future instilled in me a "What-if?" wonder about the universe and the possibility of stories.

Almost Famous

I've never been a huge music or concert person, but somehow Cameron Crowe's film spoke to me personally. Maybe it was because I also somehow stumbled into journalism at a young age, running one of the first pro wrestling news websites in high school, traveling across the country going to shows, pretending not to be a high school kid, and mingling with the wrestlers. This later led to my life at /Film, which even further mirrors the film.

Star Wars

I'm going to cheat and say Star Wars as a franchise, as I can't choose one particular film. While I have certainly seen Back to the Future more than any other film, I've definitely spent more of my life concerned with George Lucas' galaxy far, far away. My grown-up house is lined with Star Wars posters, looking more like an elegant kids room. My wardrobe mostly consists of pop culture t-shirts. I wear my fandom on my sleeve and my excitement and anticipation for the next chapter always leads to me to over analyze every trailer bit, theorizing and geeking out with friends. Camping out overnight for the prequels or at Star Wars Celebration have become almost as important to me as the film at the end of the yellow brick road (and yes, in the case of the Star Wars prequels, sometimes I find, like Dorothy, that the Wizard at the end of the road is not who I had hoped for, and learn that it's all about the fun journey with friends along the way).

Cinema Paradiso

This is a film about a young boy who lost a parent at a young age, and with the missing guidance discovers the magic, wonder and love of the cinema. Sure, it's about much more than that, but at the core of the film this is to be a reflection of my love for not just movies, but the cinema going experience.