The other day I was driving in my car and The Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want was playing. It is an iconic song from the Stones but it is also the memorable opening song played during the funeral procession in the movie, The Big Chill.
I remember my parents in the 1980s sharing how much that movie meant to them and how it captured their generation and its joys and struggles. My parents were born in 1944 and 1945 so they would associate themselves with the Baby Boomer Generation but as the joke in the movie Field of Dreams went, they had two fifties and movies straight into the seventies. In other words, they didn’t fully associate themselves with the hippie movement yet they experienced the complexities of the Vietnam era. Like my parents, I have always felt like I was in a lost generation being born in 1978 and am often thrown in either the younger part of Generation X or older in Generation Y.
Harper Lee said it best in the book and movie To Kill A Mockingbird,
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Lee’s wisdom applies to how we feel about people of different generations. In my observations, it seems like the newest generation seems to be labeled as the most “selfish” when if we study history, each younger generation was judged in a similar way. For example, in life I have witnessed many people blame the Baby Boomer generation for their perceived lack of morals but as they are getting older, it has given us time to let history tell their story better. By giving them time, we are learning that they are a generation with great strengths and complexities and we can better understand their impact on the way we live today.
I believe we will be better people if we take time to learn about each other, which will minimize incomplete judgments. The past century has been defined by many things but one of them is the way movies can tell each generation’s story. I have compiled a helpful list of movies that best define each generation. The list is compiled from my personal observations, research and comparison of similar lists online and from polling friends. I don’t expect everyone to agree with this list but my hope is for this to be a way to learn more about our generations through the art of movies.
I isolate three types of movies for each generation; cultural, comedy, and war. I want to know what makes people laugh, how they live and what they fight for. I have watched all of these movies and appreciate them uniquely for what they represent. I hope you will enjoy them too.
The Greatest Generation – The “G.I. Generation” or “WWII Generation” (1925-1939))
- Cultural: Rebel Without a Cause, The Godfather, It Happened One Night, It’s A Wonderful Life
- Comedy: Some LIke It Hot
- War: Saving Private Ryan, Flags of our Fathers
- Key moments: World War II, The Atomic Bomb, Korean War
Silent Generation / The Boomer Generation – “The Sandwich Generation” or “War Babies” Born 1939-1964
- Cultural: The Graduate, The Big Chill, All The President’s Men
- Comedy: Animal House, Parenthoodand M*A*S*H
- War: Platoon, The Deer Hunter, The Hunt for Red October
- Key moments: JFK Assassination, Vietnam, Watergate, Saturday Night Live
Generation X – The “Gen X’ers” or “MTV Generation” Born 1965-1979
- Cultural: Reality Bites and The Breakfast Club
- Comedy: Back to the Future, Say Anything and Forrest Gump
- War: Jarhead, Black Hawk Down
- Key moments: MTV, Challenger exploding, Berlin Wall falling, The Gulf War
Generation Y & Millennials The “Millennial” or “Echo Boomers” Born 1980-1991
- Cultural: The Social Network and Clueless
- Comedy: American Pie and Knocked Up
- War: Zero Dark Thirty and Generation Kill
- Key moments: Columbine Massacre, 9/11, The Iraq War
Generation Z – The “iGeneration” Born 1991-present
- Cultural: The Twilight Saga, Harry Potter and The Hunger Games
- Comedy: Mean Girls and Pitch Perfect
- War: Restrepo
- Key moments: Obama elected, Apple products, Bin Laden killed, Newtown
Which movies do you feel best defines your generation? Why?