Jason Coleman’s Top Ten Movie Game Changers

While various frivolous top ten lists come and go (and according to my previous stomping grounds Starpulse.com are the sole key to site traffic!) there always seems to be a slight disconnect between the writer and the cinematic subjects they are highlighting.  Taking into account trends, movies with legacies and selections that stand out, most lists in a sole effort to be Goggled lack personal insight and passion from the scribe to take things to the next level.  So in looking over my own work recently as a film critic I wanted to get a little more intimate and thus give anyone interested a detailed walk down movie memory lane Jason Coleman style.  So what follows below are ten films that in my life changed the game in terms of what a film could be and my personal stories behind their inclusion.  (Listed by year and not importance folks!)  These are not merely popular choices nor films that were my only favorites, but flicks that took elements in their various genres and elevated them to a place that some movies only dream of going – in short films that had a profound effect on me.  (And remember I grew up in the 80’s hence the small timeline!)  Spilling my movie geek guts for all to see, here are my…Top Ten Movie Game Changers!

Taxi Driver (1976)

Unbeknownst to my parents, my sister Heather used to rent movies for me when I was a kid that my mom and dad most assuredly would not have approved of.  But one fateful day she put me in front of a film that would have such a deep effect that it would shadow every cinematic selection I dug from that point on.  The film was Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and it’s safe to say I had never seen a more memorizing, captivating, tragic and brutally visceral film in my entire life.  It’s an experience that made me seek out the same original work high in every movie from that day and seriously set the bar high for what constitutes a five-star flick – thanks sis.

Blade Runner (1982)

I had seen a lot of cop flicks, but none had the stark visual savvy of Ridley Scott’s 1982 futuristic opus.  Containing all the detective tale tropes I dig – a hard boiled cop, complex villains and a sci-fi angle that hammered the story home – Blade Runner also boldly showed a dirty version of the future that nevertheless still looked so good.  And when matched with the equally majestic score by Vangelis, slow motion sequences like the killing of Zhora through glass windows and the effective final tear inducing speech by Rutger Hauer, the film did what no other had done to that point for yours truly – it took me to another world I wanted to live and die in.

Basket Case/Brain Damage (1982/1988)

Cheesy movies were all the rage when I was growing up in the 80’s, but back then they were considered par for the course.  (Don’t believe me – check out Gymkata!)  But I never considered most of them them good cinema until I came across filmmaker Frank Henenlotter.  Showing that it could be imagination and not necessarily money that made for a damn fine film, his creative double bill of Basket Case and Brain Damage (which I did not necessarily see in that order!) were a revelation for those who complained that having no-budget was what stopped a flick from being memorable.  Tapping into my perverse sense of wonder, both films deal with odd unsightly monsters that I eventually grew to truly love and admire.  The free flowing rage of Belial and the enormous ego of Elmer were excellent vessels to live vicariously through – yes, cinema remains a safe place for the sick.

Ghostbusters (1984)

Seen as a geek in my elementary school days was definitely a hard time for yours truly.  Shunned by the popular boys, ignored by most girls and looked down upon on a daily basis, I fortunately had one friend named Matt with whom I was inseparable.  Our only escape from such harsh school sadism – we headed down to the boys bathroom and pretended we were Ghostbusters.  Cast with raging dorks that were just like us, the Ivan Reitman classic was a film that we both instantly related to and idolized.  Not just due to the clever comedy, cool sight gags or sensational soundtrack, but because for the first time the odd ones out were the heroes of the flick and were finally considered awesome by everyone.  Chiseled looks, family money and McDonald’s delivered for lunch every day be damned – spores, molds and fungus were the new cool kids on the block.

Re-Animator (1985)

I had heard rumors about this one in underground horror circles and word on the street was this flick was a blood and gore aficionados Graceland.  A take-charge splatter fest that was too harsh for the squeamish and definitely difficult to acquire, Re-Animator was an outing that you had to have the lucky pleasure of coming across in nefarious circles.  Upon finally finding it and watching its wicked wares (yes, it was like striking grisly gold!), I was not disappointed.  Not only did it fill said cinematic sick and twisted quotient with everything from bone saw brutality to talking severed heads, but the lead mad scientist Herbert West was a quirky oddball quick with the quips.  Living up to the horror hype and then some, this was fun film filth that indeed proved fresh enough.

Robocop (1987)

I hadn’t seen the early wares of Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven, so color me surprised when sleeping over at a friend’s house I was blown away by the brutality of his first American outing Robocop.  Filled with enough harsh, violent and shocking visual eye candy that I was scared my friend’s parents were gonna turn off the VHS tape, Robocop started with the sheer crucifixion of its lead character and only got more intense from there.  Not that there weren’t other interesting notables like social commentary, kick ass action and villains who lovingly chewed the scenery, but Verhoeven’s in-your-face European style was the cinematic gut punch that lingered long for me.  (And we did a double bill with the original Predator!)  Showing the extreme always makes an impression, Robocop was a brutal and beautiful arrest to my senses that thankfully made no apologies.

sex, lies, and videotape (1989)

Even though Spike Lee proclaimed upon losing to sex, lies, and videotape at the Cannes Film Festival in 1989 that the film that beat his equally impressive Do The Right Thing (which I thought was five-star too!) was merely ‘about a guy jerking off in front of a TV’, I knew nevertheless there was going to be something special about the film.  (Shame on you Spike!)  Looking forward to anything with James Spader (I was a junkie for his work at an early age!), this little indie that was getting all the accolades was something I was itching to see.  I read about it, followed it, waited patiently and even listened to the soundtrack by Cliff Martinez that my father gave me on repeat.  (He had seen the film already and was RAVING about it – torturous bastard!)  But upon seeing it not only did it eclipse my expectations, but surpassed them.  A small, intimate and personal film about four people and their profound effect on each other was so simple but so effective and instantly put filmmaker Steven Soderbergh on my list of filmmakers to watch.  And while his stories and style would get bigger and not necessarily better, sex, lies, and videotape remains a benchmark for me for films with characters worth caring about.

The Killer/Hard Boiled (1989/1992)

Again, rumblings of some insane inspired action flicks via the late Richard Corliss film critic for Time Magazine steered me in the direction of a Hong Kong filmmaker named John Woo and in particular the films The Killer and Hard Boiled.  After looking forever and finally scoring what seemed like a stolen bootleg copy from the local cult video store, I was able to see what the fuss was all about and it indeed as promised was an action genre game changer.  Bold and bloody, but with skilled choreography that would put a Broadway musical to shame, the films treated their violence and bloodlust like another stylistic character and it was a spectacle that had not been seen in such a way before.  Cool cats with two pistols, a hand gun going off with the recipient getting shot in the same frame and emotional bullet fests that go for gonzo, the only thing slicker than the action on-screen was the charismatic work by Woo muse Chow Yun-Fat – both made mayhem look good.

The Adjuster (1991)

I was very familiar with the slow subtle work of thoughtful Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan having been from the North myself, but nothing prepared me for the wash over wares of The Adjuster.  A piece of work that is more an experience than a movie, a feeling than a film, there’s a hypnotic quality to the story of a over-caring insurance adjuster who gets way too close to his clients that cannot be ignored.  The fact that said adjuster was played to perfection by my favorite budding actor at the time Elias Koteas (so good in small parts in both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Some Kind of Wonderful!) was certainly icing on the cake, but the movie mix of Egoyan’s somber style with thoughtful subject matter made for a masterwork that left me in a dream daze – my movie brain forever adjusted thanks to Atom.

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)

The best thing about watching the seriously shocking The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover ala filmmaker Peter Greenaway for the first time was how unapologetic yet beautiful it was.  Using everything from nudity to violence, sadism to cannibalism, and even putting its characters in the sickest and darkest of situations, the controversial film to my virgin eyes still managed to look incredibly lush.  (You try making feces smearing and being stuck in a food truck with rotting meat naked visually stunning!)  But aside from the lavish look of the piece, the film never ceased to surprise.  Continually going further with every shocking story moment and building to a conclusion that utterly kneecaps, I’ve never been more grossed and engrossed by such a single piece of powerful movie work – in Greenaway land safe cinema is truly for the weak.


I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

4 Responses to “Jason Coleman’s Top Ten Movie Game Changers”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    I love this list!

  2. Jason Coleman

    Appreciate you Aaron!

  3. Brandon Peters

    Damn, dude – bravo! One of the most worthwhile, original, true and fulfilling film top ten lists out there! Thank you!

  4. Jason Coleman

    Sincerely appreciate the kind words Brandon – thank YOU.