Movies

What is Your Earliest Cinematic Memory?

By  · Published on June 23rd, 2016

We welcome our new summer interns with a big question.

Two weeks ago, we put out a call for Summer Interns, our most ambitious round of the program yet. The response, much to our delight, was overwhelming. From hundreds of well-qualified applicants, we’ve chosen five vibrant young minds to join our team and learn the world of digital publishing over the next few months.

We’re excited for them to start writing articles, but before that we’d like to give you an opportunity to get to know them a bit. To do so, we’ve asked them to answer a not-so-simple question: What is your earliest cinematic memory? As you’ll see in their answers below, we’ve onboarded some bright and charming writers. And there’s no question that this group puts the “young” in “bright young minds.”

Read their responses below, add your own at the bottom of the page, and click each of their names to view their profiles and follow them. They begin gracing the pages of FSR under their own bylines starting next week.

Allison Bigelow

In true 90’s kid fashion, I was raised on a steady diet of Happy Meals, dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, “orange” flavored drinks, and hand-drawn Disney animation. I loved them, but I thought the books were better – you know the ones, Little Golden, with the shiny bindings. The first movie I ever bonded with, Disney’s extremely unexpected rendition of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I still watch on an at least bi-yearly basis.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame was released in theaters a few days shy of my third birthday. While neither my parents nor I have any actual memory of this, everyone is certain we saw it in theaters, which would have been one of the first times I’d gone in my life. My parents bought me a Quasimodo doll and the VHS tape, and thus, love was born. I still listen to the soundtrack on the subway. I watch the movie when I’m sad. I’m devastated it was recently pulled from Netflix. The Quasimodo doll, now twenty years old, is sitting on my bed. The Hunchback of Notre Dame taught me a lot, like why fiction is such a powerful medium and that it is possible for a movie to be better than its book.

colton ledford

I don’t remember much from my childhood, at least not in any coherent way. Most of what I can recollect is of the emotionally distressing event variety, the kind of stuff evolution has made damn sure of will never leave me: the time I misspelled my first word in my elementary school’s spelling bee in front of my entire class (“clothes”, which I spelled c-l-o-t-h-s); the first time I kissed a girl, and then she giggled (I’m sure she did it in an endearing way, but my body only remembers the shame); or that time I was so sleepy, I opened the garbage can lid in our kitchen like it was a toilet and went to town during early morning Thanksgiving festivities (or was that my brother?). I can’t even be sure that these ultra-embarrassing moments are actually historically accurate and wholly owned by me. Who knows what has been falsely engendered or what has been filtered out, like an introspective telephone game made infinitely more confusing because of the layering of every sense and emotion that’s attached. It’s just a random series of hazy memories, so vague and wispy, the mere reminiscence damages the integrity, like opening a bottle filled with smoke to get a better view only to see it slowly escape forever away. All that’s to say, there is one unequivocally distinct event in my life, and that’s the first time I saw Jurassic Park.

It was 1993, I was 6 years old, and I was having an epiphany. Everything about Jurassic Park was more real than life. Steven Spielberg made sure I knew when to gasp in the verisimilitude of it all, John Williams made sure I knew when to cry and be uplifted, and Stan Winston made sure I knew when to poop my pants. Shit, even shirtless Jeff Goldblum made sure I knew what masculinity is all about. The sheer awe of it all is indescribable. I don’t remember much from my childhood, except the truest: dinosaurs are real.

Erica Bahrenburg

I have been watching movies my entire life. I can even remember the first movie I saw in theaters (it was Tarzan in 1999 and I was four), but there is one cinematic memory that stands out among the rest. The summer of 2015, I had the crazy awesome opportunity to study about at the Cannes Film Festival, of all places. I was so excited to be surrounded by the glitz and glamour and go to movie premieres. The second night of the festival, Mad Max: Fury Road premiered. I knew literally nothing about the movie, but desperately wanted to go to the premiere (even though it was coming to theaters the next day) because it was a premiere. After begging on the Croisette for about a half hour, I finally scored a ticket and made my way into the Palais for the film.

It was totally packed and I ended up sitting in the very last row and the entire 2,300 seat theater was crackling with electricity. The lights dimmed and the film jumped right into the action. I remember the people next to me even stood up and clapped when the title card appeared five minutes into the movie. At one rare point of silence about a half hour into the movie, right after that epic storm sequence, I could feel myself and the other 2,999 patrons bracing themselves for what remained. And when the film finished and credits began to roll? A completely well-deserved and thunderous standing ovation from the crowd. This movie reminded me that movies can still totally catch me by surprise. It brought back all the memories and feelings of excitement I felt all the way back in 1999 seeing Tarzan in theaters. It reminded me of the joy and thrills of seeing a movie for the first time. Seeing Mad Max: Fury Road, for the first time, in that mega crowded theater, surrounded by people who were probably (maybe) feeling the same things that I was feeling will stay with me forever.

Max Barnhart

It’s hard for me to keep my memories straight from when I was a young child. My family moved a lot, so the memories from each house blur together in mind. Nonetheless, I do have one distinct memory from that time, and it is one that reveals just how young I still am.

The first time I can recall going to the movie theater with my family, when I was six years old, was to see Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. At that point our New Year’s Eve tradition of watching the original trilogy was well established, but I only know that from my parents’ stories. The theater was filled to the brim with other families and my excitement was palpable. The movie began and I gazed intently at the screen until… I fell asleep. I think it was at some time after the podracing scene until the climactic battle with Darth Maul. Either way, I left the theater dissatisfied, yet hopeful for the future of the series. Little did I know that I would not be satisfied until sixteen years later, when I once again gazed intently as the opening crawl began for The Force Awakens.

Paola Mardo

I watched The Godfather II for the first time when I was about nine or ten years old. I think I watched it either on television or VHS tape at home with my father. I remember walking into my parents’ room during the opening credits and staying because I was so entranced by the titles and music. I was mesmerized by the measured opening scene with the funeral procession and its bloody aftermath. I had never seen anything like it. I’ll admit, most of the movies I had watched up until then were animated Disney films and Arnold Schwarzenegger action comedies. It was still pretty amazing nonetheless.

I’ve watched The Godfather films countless times since that very first viewing, but what initially drew me in was the rags-to-riches tale of Vito Corleone. I vividly remember the scenes where Vito watches a play with his pal Genco or commits petty acts of theft with young Clemenza. I may not have fully understood these the way I do now, but they remain some of my favorite parts of the film. After my initiation to the Godfather movies, I developed an interest in gangster movies, thrillers, and films by Coppola and his contemporaries. True story: Shortly after watching TG2, I tried changing my name to “Paola Corleone” and was convinced my family had Italian ancestors by way of Spain. Though the name didn’t last and I was never able to prove an Italian connection, my love for The Godfather and great cinema never waned.

Care to join our freshly minted interns in sharing your earliest cinematic memory? The Responses area awaits below. Also, if you like this story feel free to hit the ❤️ on the way down and recommend it. This helps others on Medium discover our work.

Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the upcoming One Perfect Shot TV show (HBO Max, 2021) and the co-host of The Storm: A LOST Rewatch podcast. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)