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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What’s the first movie you remember seeing?

Here’s a new daily feature, just a little something to jumpstart conversation. Today:

What’s the first movie you remember seeing, the one that’s really stuck with you since, the one that leaps to mind as the first movie that had an impact on you?

Depending on your age, you may have seen that movie in a theater, or you may have seen it on VHS. (If you saw it on DVD, you’re probably too young to be hanging out here.)

For me, the movie is Fantasia, which I saw at Radio City Music Hall — back when they were still showing movies there. I would have been about five or six, so this would have been around 1974 or so. And I remember being scared shitless by the demons of Bald Mountain.



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  • marshall

    The first movie I remember seeing was Star Wars, I was around 3. I remember specifically because during the scene when Luke charged into Lei’s cell and said “I’m Luke Skywalker and I’m here to rescue you!” everyone in the theater started cheering, and that always stuck with me.

  • Melinda

    Peter Pan. I was 3. My dad says I got scared and we had to leave – I remember being bored and my neck hurting because we were sitting to close to the front. My dad took me into another theatre where there was a hawk soaring on the screen (I figured out 25 years later it was Ladyhawke!) and then we left.

  • Alli

    I’m only 25, so the first movie I remember seeing in a theater was the Little Mermaid when I was 5. Ursula scared the crap out of me. To this day, I can’t stand scary movies, and I think it was because of the giant octopus. Yes, I was a sensitive child…

    I also remember watching Disney’s Robin Hood on Beta, but I can’t remember how old I was when I started. That probably was my first real movie.

  • Gee

    Dumbo. I remember the pink elephants and Dumbo being separated from his mother. I have no idea how old I was. I found it quite scary.

    Another early one that stuck with me was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang because the child-catcher was TERRIFYING!!! What were they thinking!!!!!?

    Hmm. I must have been a fearful child. :-)

    (I did hide behind the armchair – no sofa in that room – for Doctor Who.)

  • Rob

    The first movie I remember watching was The Wizard of Oz. My mom bought me the video, and I would watch it at least once a day for I don’t know how long. Sometimes I’d finish it and rewind and start over immediately after. I remember even going to friends’ houses of hers and her bringing the tape so I could watch it and be occupied when she was with her friends. When I think about film, it’s still the first one that comes to mind. I even wrote a term paper on it for a film class in college, paralleling and contrasting Dorothy’s journey in the film to E.T.’s.

    The first movie I remember seeing at the theatre was The Muppets Take Manhattan. Again, the memory’s very connected to my mom, who I remember was crying at Kermit and Piggy’s wedding. And, yes, I am still a Muppet fan to this day.

  • joy

    Great question. I remember seeing a lot of movies when I was very young, but I don’t really remember the first movie I saw. I also remember seeing Fantasia in the theatres, but it was the 77 release, I believe, which puts me at like 4 at the time.

    I *do* remember the first movie that scared the crap out of me. Excalibur. I was nine, and probably a little too young to watch it. I distinctly remember Lancelot getting run through with a sword, after sleeping in the woods with Guenevere.

  • NorthernStar

    My earliest memory of a movie was a western I watched with my dad when I was about 3 or 4. I think it was called Young Billy Young but I wouldn’t swear to that.

    I remember being totally in love with Billy and feeling all weird that I enjoyed it when he was hurt.

    Looking back, I think I was doomed to a fandom life even then!

  • Anne-Kari

    Tough one… I think it was “The Wizard of Oz”, shown at the local public library on a big(ish) screen. The flying monkeys freaked me out.

    Also in the mix is “Star Wars”, as in the original 1977 film. My father took me and my brother when it opened, and I do remember loving it – but moreover, my father was unexpectedly blown away in the first few minutes. He said after that he was expecting another horrible, boring, cheap scifi movie with terrible special effects, but in the first scene where the huge Imperial ship comes up from behind and fills the whole screen, he knew this was going to be different.

    Good stuff.

  • I saw Bambi at the movie theater in Bangor, Maine. I was sad that Bambi’s mom died (sorry for spoiler) and I remember being surprised walking out of the theatre and it still being daylight (apparently we went to the matinee).

  • TJP

    ET, at the drive-in, in my PJs in the VW bus.

  • Anne-Kari

    TJP – That sounds like the perfect first movie experience. I think you win :)

  • Jan Willem

    When I was six, I saw Disney’s Snow White in the Heiloo (Holland) village cinema, the so-called Asta Theater, before the 1967 Christmas holiday. I believe it was an end-of-term primary school event. I recall the bit with the poisoned apple recipe was quite scary, but it’s the Heigh-Ho song that stuck with me most. Like smells, songs are good at evoking memories. (A few years later both the school, the cinema and the nearby fire station were levelled to put up a shopping mall and a parking lot.)

  • Christy

    The Wizard of Oz. I was around 3 years old. We were watching it at home, so it was probably on VHS or airing on a TV channel. My older brother loved it, but that movie scared the beejesus out of me, particularly the Wicked Witch. To this day, I don’t like to watch it.

  • The first one I can remember was Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

    I had become a fan first watching the Animated Series, then finding the Original Series reruns, so this was my first “new” Trek I had even seen.

    Still like to pull that DVD out now and then. The DVD cut is so much better.

  • RyanH

    “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” at a drive-in movie theatre. I was 4. It was a double feature. The whole family watched Rodger, then my parents put me to sleep in the back seat and watched whatever the late movie was.

    If I check the dates on movies I can remember snippets of, I might find one or two earlier, but Roger Rabbit was thew first that I remember vividly.

  • Shanik

    It’s weird, I remember that the first movie I saw was The Aristocats, I say is weird beacuse it was relased 15 years before I was born… it most have been some kind of screening or something, but I remember clearly seing the scene when the butler steals the kitties jajaja

  • Ryan

    It has to be Pinocchio.

    Not sure what age I saw it at, but I was definitely quite young. I remembered loving the song.

  • t6

    I was born in 1972.

    I’ll give you two answers.
    1973 The Sting came out. I don’t think I saw that in the theatres. At least, I don’t remember it. But 1974…when I was two. The soundtrack was everywhere. And I remember loving the soundtrack…especially “The Entertainer.” I’d make my mom play that tune on the jukebox of the diner we would hang out in in San Diego…when I was two. Now I’m a Musicologist. Go figure.

    The other answer. My mom took me to see The Omen in 1976. I was four. I remember deciding after the kid killed his mom who was dusting the chandelier by running into her with his tricycle that I should go to the lobby and play pinball instead. My mom gave me lots of quarters. Now I am the spawn of the devil with psychic powers. Go figure.

  • S

    Clash of the Titans
    We were late arriving to the theatre, so I distinctly remember that moment: walking into that huge dark space, holding my Mother’s hand as we watched huge waves crashing through white pillars.

  • Jester

    Though I was born in 1969, I didn’t see a lot of movies until late 1976 — I was the child of a divorced single mom and we didn’t have a lot of money. After she remarried in 1976, there was money for movies, but only at the drive-in and only if the entire family wanted to see it. As a result, I didn’t see Star Wars until it was re-released in 1981 or 1982, and my first movie memory came pretty late.

    It was Superman, which I saw in a drive-in theater not long before my 10th birthday. To this day, my earliest movie memory is Lois Lane screaming “You’ve got me? Who’s got YOU?!” and Superman’s answering chuckle.

    There must have been a few movies before that, but I don’t remember them. I’ve also made up for lost time since then. ;-)

  • Mimi

    “The Secret of Nimh” is the first one I remember seeing in the movie theater. I was 3. I haven’t thought about that movie in years, probably because there was a scene where the mice/rats are menaced by a HUGE piece of farm equipment, and I was completely terrorized… never wanted to see that again! I should Netflix it now, see if I can handle an animated plow 25+ years later…

    “Goonies” also stands out as the first PG movie I saw in the theater. My friend Jason invited me to go with him and his family, and I remember my parents discussing whether a PG movie was okay for me to see. It was a big deal to me when they said I could go. I remember being totally scandalized by parts of it, and totally confused by other parts. I think I was 6.

  • Kelly

    The first movie I remember watching is either The Wizard of Oz (on VHS) or The Little Mermaid (on VHS as well). In theaters, the first movie I remember seeing is Disney’s Hercules.

  • Kinda fuzzy, but it would be in the back seat of my parents’ car at the drive-in. Blazing Saddles, The Sting or True Grit.

  • Anne-Kari

    Wow, I’m amazed at how many people saw their first movie in a drive-in. Growing up in NYC, there was no such animal – are there even any left now?

  • Okay, it must have been The Sting. True Grit may have been re-released around that time. I was about three years old at the time, but I can distinctly remember hearing “The Entertainer”. :)

  • Jester

    Anne-Kari: there are still a few hundred drive-ins in the U.S. and they are making a slow come-back in the southern and western parts of the country.

    This is partially due to the nostalgic baby boomer market, partially due to the economy (one car’s admission traditionally gets you two movies), and partially due to advancing technology. The newest drive-ins are experimenting with tape adapters or RCA-jacked speaker cords that can be plugged into a car stereo’s AUX port (so as to use the car’s speakers instead of a window-mounted one).

  • Adam S

    My brothers (18 and 17 at the time, 1977) took me to see Star Wars at a theater in Evansville, Indiana. I remember I got a photo book in the lobby. (Wished I’d kept that one.) I didn’t see Return of the Jedi until 1987 when my family got our first VCR, and I didn’t see The Empire Strikes Back until it aired on NBC in the late 80’s.

    TV movies that I remember though included broadcasts of Logan’s Run and Sssssss! Crazy stuff!

  • Mark

    The first movie I remember for-sure seeing in the theater (as opposed to on TV) was Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger; I would have been 6 or 7, I guess (I was born in ’69). I remember thinking it was both awesome and scary (I had at least one night of minotaur nightmares).

    I might have seen any of the childhood staples (Mary Poppins, Wizard of Oz, etc) in theatrical re-releases, but I’m not sure.

  • Kathy A

    The first family movie I remember seeing in the theater was The Sound of Music, which was a rerelease when I was around five, 1971 or so.

    The first grown-up film was The Sting, in 1973 when I was seven. That one I remember distinctly–I think it was the first time I’d been to the Rialto Theatre in downtown Joliet. Pre-refurbishment, so it was a bit ratty inside, but the faded glamor of the interior was still there: the entryway based on Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors, the amazingly huge marble pillars, the sweeping staircase, and the Wurlitzer organ we enjoyed before the show (it was returned to the orchestra pit below after the recital portion was complete).

    Anyway, the movie also sticks in my head, from the opening credits and music to the audience’s reaction to the movie’s opening caption that stated the time was 1936 and the place was Joliet, Illinois (the eruption of cheers was deafening!), and all the twists and turns of the story had me thinking the 7-y.o.’s version of “Whoa!” at the end.

  • Tony

    I saw ET in the theater when I was 4 or 5. I also remember going to see Never Say Never with my dad at the drive-in a year or so later.

  • MaSch

    I remember seeing “The Great Mouse Detective” in cinema in 1986, when I was 6 years old. But, since I already was 6 years old, I probably would have seen one or another of the Bond movies, almost certainly “Goldfinger”, at home.

    So, I’d go for “Goldfinger”.

  • G.

    I don’t remember the first movie on television/beta but the first one in the movie theater was E.T. I was 5. I asked my older brother and grandma why they were crying at the end. I wasn’t scared during the movie, though I remember thinking that E.T. was kind of gross. I did have terrible nightmares after the movie of my family all turning into E.Ts and chasing me around my grandma’s house. THAT was terrifying. I refuse to watch the movie to this day.

  • The first movie I remember seeing was Star Wars. I thought the ending ceremony where Leia puts medals on our Luke & Han was a wedding. It took me several more viewings (and years) to realize that just because the lady is wearing a white dress and exchanging jewelry does not make it a wedding. And yes, I thought she was marrying both of them. Also related – my initial impression that Han Solo was a “snuggler”.

    The first movie I went to was Disney’s Snow White. I don’t remember it at all. My mom says I was terrified at the witch, but instead of crying I would just turn around in my seat everytime the witch was onscreen. I found myself subconsciously turning around in my seat years later when confronted with the Nazgul in FOTR. Those bastards are scary!

  • amanohyo

    I watched Young Frankenstein when I was two and reportedly thought it was hilarious. Then, at two and a half I watched Dr. No, but I don’t remember that one either. The first movie I remember seeing was The Dark Crystal at the age of three. I was mesmerized by the whole movie and thought the giant hermit crabs were the coolest things ever. After watching it again recently, I sadly realized that the pacing is a tad too slow for me now, but I’m sure its responsible for my love of fantasy and alternate world science fiction.

    I’m happy to see so much Wizard of Oz love. That was one of the few movies at my daycare. We watched it so many times that every kid there had memorized the entire script after just a few weeks.

  • Joanne

    The first movie I remember seeing on television was The Sound of Music – I was four or five, and spent the family holiday in Austria later that year singing, highly off-key (we have cinecam evidence unfortunately).

    The first movie I clearly remember seeing in a cinema was The Little Mermaid, though since I was about eight by then I must have seen something else previously. I remember it because my brother (aged four) cried because he was so terrified of the witch. I cried because of the happy ending.

  • Mimi

    It’s interesting how many of these comments include memories of being absolutely terrified by something or other in a movie. It’s making me think twice about when I’ll let my kiddo start to watch movies!

  • drew ryce

    North by Northwest in a drive-in in 1959. I was seven. I’m sure I saw other movies before this but the Mt Rushmore scene is the earliest clear and certain memory.

    In answer to the question about Drive-Ins, yes they were a huge part of growing up in rural America (at least in the 50s and 60s) and a few still exist.

  • JasonJ

    Godzilla movies with my older brother back in the early 70’s are my first movie memories. Saw Star Wars in the theater, awesome, but the first movie to freak me out was the original Night Of the Living Dead. I’ll always remember those black and white intestines. Must be why I am a sucker for zombie movies to this day. Alien was another one that was of impact when it came out. Alien and Star Wars helped to cement my closet sci-fi geekiness.

  • JoshB

    Godzilla movies in general. For me he was cooler than the Terminator, Predator, Alien, and Darth Vader put together. I would stomp around my room knocking over imaginary skyscrapers and heatspraying (my word for his radioactive breath) tank columns.

    To this day the American Godzilla remains my most hated movie of all time.

  • Hdj

    My Mother Says the first one was Sercet of the Nihm but, I’m pretty sure since it is my memory it was Return of the Jedi

  • I’m sure I went to plenty of movies before it, but The Little Mermaid is the first one I remember watching in theaters. I still have a strong affection for it, however many years later. And I still know all the lyrics to all the songs.

    Also the VHS cover had naughty pictures on it, which is one of the most hilarious things ever… I remember hearing about it at school and rushing home to check and sure enough: Dicks!

    Ah, nostalgia.

  • MaryAnn

    It’s interesting how many of these comments include memories of being absolutely terrified by something or other in a movie. It’s making me think twice about when I’ll let my kiddo start to watch movies!

    But we were terrified in a *good* way. We want to have a strong reaction to movies, don’t we?

  • shoop

    “The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band.” Late 60s Disney rep cast–Walter Brennan, John Davidson, Lesley-Ann Warren, Kurt Russell, with songs by the Sherman brothers; I think it’s safe to say the movie doesn’t represent either of those folks’ best work. Nevertheless, to this day, I still have one of the songs, about Benjamin Harrison, running through my head.

  • bats :[

    The responses are great, although they make me feel really, really old (hell, I was 20 when Star Wars came out, and I stood a number of times in the Phoenix summer sun waiting to see it at the one and only theater in town showing it (and it showed there for over a year!)). So, all you damn kids, get off my lawn!
    I don’t know what the “first” movie I saw was. My mother and I went to a lot of matinees and drive-in movies, but the ones that made an impression on me, for one reason or another:
    Gay Purr-ee: a full-length cartoon with voices by Red Buttons, Robert Goulet and Judy Garland. It had kitties in it! I know I loved that so much that we saw it at least twice (maybe two nights in a row) at the drive-in.
    The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao: it had dinosaurs in it! Well, it was the Loch Ness monster, but I was dinosaur-crazy, and that was the reason why we went. What ended up sticking with me far longer was Pan.
    Jason and the Argonauts: the fighting skeletons. Yep.
    Other ones that I only remember snippets from: a foreign animated movie with a magic monkey who carried a staff/baton (I’ve figured out that this was Alakazam the Great! — seeing it in the last couple of years, it wasn’t so great; people trapped in a cabin with a mountain lion clawing at the door; and another people-in-peril movie, with screaming from someone trying to get a door open, and then silence, with blood flowing under the door and channeling into a groove running across the threshold, all in glorious black-and-white.
    Oh, and all those HUGE films released in Cine-Rama — I’m fuzzy on seeing them, but I know that was always a Big Movie Experience for our family.

  • The Screaming Skull and Terror from the Year 5000. A double bill in the State Theater in Bellevue, Ohio, circa 1960. I’m sure they weren’t the first movies I ever saw, or even the first in the theater, but they’re the first I remember distinctly because it was the first time my parents let me go to a horror movie.

    I found The Screaming Skull on DVD at the library in the past year or so and grabbed it up with a gasp of delight. What a kick to watch it again. So cheesy!

    And The Wizard of Oz is the only movie that’s ever given me an indelible, unforgettable nightmare. I was being chased through the witch’s castle, running up and down stairs, and absolutely terrified. One of two childhood nightmares that I remember with stark clarity.

  • First movie I saw on the large screen: the animated version of 101 Dalmations, when I was still in grade school.

    First movie I’ve saw in its entirety on the small screen: Tarantula, when I was even younger. (Hey, I had a weakness for horror films when I was a kid.)

  • Lindsay

    I was born in 1974 and the first movie I remember seeing in the theater was Popeye with Robin Williams and the amazing Shelley Duvall. I remember being so terrified by Bluto and not understanding why in the world Olive would want to marry him. Now I get it. But still, Olive, really??

  • Paul

    The first movie I saw was “Star Wars” but I don’t remember seeing it. My father says we came out and I said it could have used more action. But my father also had that wow reaction to the opening shot of that Star Destroyer. It retrospect, it was the best way any SF movie has given a sense of giant scale to a little model.

    The first movie I remember seeing on the big screen was the first “Star Trek” movie. It was too long but the idea of flying a space ship through another space ship, one made out of energy instead of matter . . . that blew me away. Plus, my dad had taken me to see Trouble with Tribbles at a library showing so Mr. Spock was already my hero.

  • JoshB

    Spock? Scotty “I gave them to the Klingons” was the hero of Trouble with Tribbles, imo.

  • Boingo

    First movie? I can’t remember, but the 1st movie
    that made an impact that I thought heavily about for
    a few years was “The Graduate.” I was just getting out of high school and madly in love with a girl. I was
    so delusional.I related to Ben pulling out all stops
    to get Elaine.

  • Boingo

    I saw the early sci-fi: “Fiend Without A Face,”
    and had nightmares for years. Those things were
    outside my house and I tried to close the door,
    and it wouldn’t shut-swung both ways! No-I didn’t turn
    bi-sexual in the ensuing years, Mr. Jung.

  • I must have seen Superman when it came out in ’78, because I remember being a big fan and whooshing around and wearing out the soundtrack LP (with the big fold-out sleeve showing Reeve flying). But I don’t recall my actual experience in the theater. I must have seen Star Wars the year before, too, although again I remember the film but not the theater experience.

    My earliest memory of actually being in the theater: Empire Strikes Back. It was a special screening sponsored by the local fast-food chain, and before the film there were speeches and audience giveaways and people in oversize burger-and-fries costumes doing a stupid dance.

    And then Luke lost his hand–HE LOST HIS HAND!!!!!–and Vader said he was Luke’s father, and that just couldn’t be true, could it? Could it?

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