Recently, my co-worker stood up from his desk and scanned the office, looking for a colleague.
“I see him!” he said with the whiff of a fake German accent.
I immediately recognized it as a movie quote. Sure, it wasn’t as iconic as “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” but it was just as recognizable to me. The cadence of his speech paired with the Teutonic accent immediately gave it away.
Unbeknownst to him, he’d just quoted my favorite movie from high school. For years, the movie poster was on my wall. I knew the lines by heart, even the obscure ones. I was so passionate about this particular movie that I got a photo of myself in front of the building where it took place when I first moved to Los Angeles.
I could picture the exact scene in my head. From the window of a skyscraper, a German terrorist aims a rocket launcher at an approaching police assault vehicle. “I see him,” he says just before he pulls the trigger.
While it’s not entirely surprising that a famous movie quote could evoke a flood of memories and even foster a connection between people, it’s even more amazing that a complete throwaway of a line could also accomplish the same task.
That’s why movies are more than just great entertainment. We live in a large and disparate world where we can’t always bond over actual shared experiences. Today, it is our shared media experiences – especially movies – that often provide that vital common context that enables communication and connection between us. As we know, even people with dramatically different backgrounds can form a bond over their shared love (or maybe hatred) of a movie.
Movies have become so integrally important in our lives that our taste in movies is often considered a window into our souls. There’s a reason that every dating site in the world seems to ask everyone to name their favorite movies, right? Someone whose favorite movie ever is The Fast and the Furious might not be an ideally suited match with someone whose favorite movie is Before Sunset (although I love them both for very different reasons). Our favorite movies can provide insight into our personality, temperament, sense of humor, spirituality and politics.
I once worked for a movie producer who said with a straight face that the job of making movies was more important than curing cancer. He hypothesized that if people didn’t have movies to watch, they wouldn’t have any reason to live. In my opinion, this guy doesn’t totally get it and I don’t think it was a coincidence that he made some pretty lousy movies. But his underlying point wasn’t completely without merit (apologies for the double negative). Movies are important. They aren’t just escapist entertainment. Movies are really part of the glue that brings and binds people together in modern society.
“Die Hard, right?” I said to my co-worker.
“Nice,” he replied, looking mildly impressed by the depth of my film geekdom.