The Movies That Define Your Generation

December 18, 2013 — 4 Comments

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))

Silent Generation / The Boomer Generation – “The Sandwich Generation” or “War Babies” Born 1939-1964

Generation X – The “Gen X’ers” or “MTV Generation” Born 1965-1979

Generation Y & Millennials The “Millennial” or “Echo Boomers” Born 1980-1991

Generation Z – The “iGeneration” Born 1991-present

Which movies do you feel best defines your generation? Why?

4 responses to The Movies That Define Your Generation


    For GenXers, you could almost simply say “John Hughes.”

    When I think about the movies of my youth, the first ones that always come to mind are: Ferris Bueller, The Breakfast Club, and (the non-Hughes) Back to the Future. But to look at his list of films, is to see ALL the movies I loved as a teenager: The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller, Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink, Home Alone, Weird Science, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Uncle Buck, Vacation (and Christmas Vacation). I still quote many of these regularly.

    John Hughes most definitely had an impact on me.


      Ray, there is no doubt that John Hughes had about the best pulse on not just the teenage generation but where parents were at that time. The majority of great comedies and dramedies during the 80s had the John Hughes direct touch if not an influence. It’s fun to look back and how we still appreciate he and his work. It is as relevant today as it was then.


    I was born in 1954…smack dab in the middle of the Boomer Gen. Movies that speak to my era are “The Graduate”, “Woodstock”, “Love Story”, “The Godfather” and “Jaws”. Also anything with John Wayne and Clink Eastwood.


      Bucky, you grew up in a renaissance of great films. I watched Godfather 1 and 2 about ten years ago and it rocked my world. They remind me that there is something so special about the power of visual story in addition to books. It has to be done well but that is why movies like The Graduate, Jaws, and The Godfather all have an impact on my generation the way it did for you. Thanks Bucky!

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