Have you ever considered trying to get your friends and family into the films that you love? It may seem like a daunting task, but the truth is, there are many possibilities for geeky initiation in the film world. I’d like to think that even though everyone might not identify themselves as geeks, everyone has the potential. It’s all just a matter of playing to their likes and dislikes, and slowly exposing them to films they might not choose on their own.
So if you’re game, here are 10 geeky films great for the less-than-geeky contingent. I think these are ideal for initiation without being too overt. Remember, the aim isn’t a hard sell, but a soft sell.
Tron: In 1982, Tron took the world by storm. Up until that time, no film had gone so far out of the bounds of design. Sure, these days “Tron Guy” is a bit of a joke in geeky circles, but at the time, Tron was really head and shoulders above anything, and took science fiction in film to another level. I think Tron is particularly suited for people interested in the way film changed in the 1980s, as well as anyone interested in racing, or gaming. Remember, not all gamers are geeks. Another plus is that Tron includes a very familiar face: this years’ best actor Oscar winner Jeff Bridges. Great for: film students, gamers, racing fans
The Lost Boys: Before Twilight (I find it important to remind myself every now and again that there was life before Stephanie Meyer) the hottest teen vampires were of course, Kiefer Sutherland and his sexy crew in this 1987 film. Dark, gritty, and occasionally rather funny, The Lost Boys also includes a geeky twosome of vampire slayers: the Frog brothers. It’s a great film for those immersed in vampire mania, while being a fantastic segue into something like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Whedonverse. Great for: Twihards
The Frighteners: Since paranormal is “in” and Peter Jackson is one of the reigning gods of geek cinema, I figure this is a perfect initiation film. Not to mention, it includes Michael J. Fox — the film is, in fact, his last leading role. Basically, he talks to dead people and exploits what they know to make money–but the stakes get raised when a mass murderer escapes from hell and is on the loose. Aside from a neat story line, the film also has just enough humor and some impressive (for their time, anyway) special effects. Great for: people into shows like Medium, and The Ghost Whisperer.
Flatliners: This was always the film I used when playing the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, because it’s chock full of so many actors, it’s kind of nuts. Sure, it’s a Joel Schumacher film (as is The Lost Boys… and we’ll give him that, though we never can forgive him for the whole Batman thing), but it also includes Julia Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland, Oliver Platt, and William Baldwin. Basically, it’s about a bunch of medical students pushing the bounds of life and death. It’s cool, science-based (however loosely) speculative film. Great for: anyone with a thing for Ms. Roberts, or fans of 24.
Gattaca: Once again, this film is a good choice because of familiar actors: Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke. The premise of the film is, according to Wikipedia anyway, “biopunk” — essentially everyone in society, is ordered by their DNA. Those inferior, or with genetic shortcomings, suffer discrimination and prejudice. It’s a near dystopian vision and centers around Hawke’s character Vincent, who was conceived naturally and suffers many of the shortcomings we “normal” people are familiar with, including a bum heart. I think this film works particularly well for people of the CSI/medical drama slant, because there’s definitely elements of both in this film. But the dystopian vision makes it purely geeky and wonderfully speculative. Great for: socially conscious people, science-minded people, philosopher types, and those interested in medicine.
District 9: There is certainly something to be said about films that use familiar and realistic landscapes. Aside from Avatar, many geeky films just go over the top with their otherworldliness and often alienate their non-geeky audience, or just become laughable. District 9 does away with that, in a way, with a documentary approach to filmmaking. The film speaks to themes of segregation, racism, and apartheid, while never really leaving Earth. Great for: those who like documentaries, those who prefer “reality” shows.
The Princess Bride: You can’t beat funny, really. Even though The Princess Bride plays to 100 fantasy tropes, not to mention themes of romance as well, the humor transcends geekery altogether. It’s also a film that branches out in many ways. What do I mean? Well first, there’s the famous cast: from Billy Crystal to Christopher Guest to Cary Elwes and Robin Wright, chances are even the least geeky person will recognize these faces. Christopher Guest is a great gateway to films like This is Spinal Tap, Best in Show, and Waiting for Guffman. Cary Elwes was in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, which is a great introduction to Mel Brooks. See? Everything’s connected. Great for: those who like love stories and humor.
The Dark Crystal: A great selection for the younger set, and anyone with a vague interest in fantasy worlds. Because this isn’t an epic trilogy, the learning curve’s pretty low. It’s a beautiful film, and ideal for those familiar with puppets/Muppets. In my opinion, one of the most remarkable things ever accomplished by the Henson Company (up there with Labyrinth, but without the David Bowie difficulty… not that I have problems with it, but I could see how other people might). Great for: artist-types, fantasy literature beginners, kids.
From Hell: Two important things about this movie: it stars Johnny Depp (who is in everything these days) and it’s based on a comic book by Alan Moore. It’s also a bit of a slasher film, considering it’s about one of the first high-profile slashers: Jack the Ripper. If you’re hoping to share something geeky with a friend or family member with an affinity for history (or horror films) and period pieces, this might just do the trick. Sure, it isn’t the highest cinema, but it’s a great springboard considering the cast and writing team (Bonus: Ian Holm, i.e. Bilbo Baggins!). Great for: people obsessed with Johnny Depp, those who like costume dramas, history buffs.
Hellboy: This may seem like a big geek immersion at first, but there is reasoning behind it. First, I’ve always loved the Hellboy films for their portrayal of the real world. It definitely feels like something that could happen (very much the way the Indiana Jones films did, too). Secondly, the mythological elements are wonderfully done, and interwoven with history in a very intriguing way. Hellboy is an anti-hero, too, which sets the film apart from many other geek films. With hints of steampunk, alternate history, and plain good storytelling, I think its appeal is broad indeed. Not to mention, it’s also based on a comic series by Mike Mignola. The film is also directed by Guillermo del Toro, who’s something of a geek hero himself, with film credits to his name including Pan’s Labyrinth and the upcoming Hobbit films. Great for: fans of mythology, history, and explosions.
Sure, there’s a ton that I left out; the more I add, the more I realize I’ve missed. I clearly have a bias for 80s films, too. But all that aside: what are some great geek initiation films you’ve recommended to your non-geeky friends?