Throughout my life, I’ve watched a ton of wonderfully nerdy movies that really stayed with me. They’re the movies that I’ll watch whenever I see them on TV, and they’re the first movies I search for on streaming services when I’m bored.
Sometimes, it breaks my nerd heart to not be able to share everything with my son all at once. But he simply won’t understand some of my nerd nostalgia movies. He was born into an era of iPhones and digital downloads. I came from the days of the diskette.
Here’s a partial list of the movies I hold intense nostalgic nerd emotions for that my son flat-out doesn’t get:
1. Hackers (1995)
I’m sorry, but Hackers had it all: computers, cyberpunk style, high school drama, a killer soundtrack, ugly, yellow diskettes, and a young Angelina Jolie:
Nowadays, everyone’s all “OMG, my Facebook was hacked” when they leave their phone alone in the room with their drunk friends for 5 minutes. Big sigh, dude.
I was watching Hackers one night, and while my son was incredibly excited by Matthew Lillard because he was in the live action Scooby Doo movies (kill me, please), he was not as excited about the hacking, hackers and big-as-briefcases laptops. My heart wept ones and zeroes.
I’m fairly sure Fisher Stevens, wherever he was at the time, got instant diarrhea from the long distance emotional rejection.
2. The Wizard (1989)
Look, if you don’t get a giant, veiny nerd boner when The Wizard is mentioned, you and I can’t be friends. Can’t. Be.
Basically, Fred Savage and his quiet, emotionally withdrawn brother travel across the country to play Super Mario Bros. 3 at the “Video Armageddon” championship. The Wizard was SUPER HYPE at that time because it hit theaters two months before SMB3 was available in the US (December ’89 vs. February ’90).
I actually don’t know how my dad tolerated going to the theater with me while I was splitting the seams of my pants over SMB3, alongside the other future neckbeards in the audience. OMG and do you remember that little Nintendo Power they gave out at the movie? I can’t even. Can you even?
Long story short, I put on The Wizard for my son and somewhere inbetween me having palpitations over Double Dragon and Rad Racer, he lost interest. Someday I’m hoping he can circle back around and appreciate his roots…I mean my roots…I mean…he’s never going to understand The Wizard, is he? 🙁
Also cool for me and not my son: blink and you’ll miss it, this was Tobey Maguire’s first movie. He played one of Lucas’ lackeys at the Video Armageddon.
Even with the glaring game inaccuracies, I still love The Wizard.
3. The Matrix (1999)
Even if your kid hasn’t seen The Matrix, he’s seen The Matrix. Movies, commercials, TV shows and video games have all employed the trademarked (actually trademarked!) “bullet time” effect made popular in the Matrix Trilogy.
But aside from the coolness of the bullet time alone, The Matrix was another tentpole in the cool cyberpunk genre; a bunch of computer hackers figure out that life is just a vast computer program, and that they can unplug and re-enter as they see fit, learning skills via software upgrades. The action sequences were unrivaled:
But even when finding that clip, my son just watched about 30 seconds and walked away, only impressed with the guard that yelled “FREEZE”, thinking he yelled “WHEEEE”. He laughed: “Haha, that guy said ‘WHEEEEE!'”
I answered: “No bro, he said ‘FREEZE’. You know, like ‘stop’?” And yeah, I do call my son “bro”.
My son just went back to the other side of the room and kept repeating WHEEEEEE while pointing an imaginary gun at me. That gun shot shame. And it was a headshot.
Sure, the latter two Matrix movies didn’t reach the same level of awesome, but the first movie will always be in a nerd’s list of favorite movies. It was just so timely and was such a style-heavy innovator. I just don’t know if it’ll hold up for my son by the time he’s old enough to understand it.
4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
This movie needs no introduction, but here’s one anyway: four nuclear-ooze-drenched turtles grow up under the care of Splinter, a talking rat, and not only help to end the Foot Clan crime syndicate, but exact revenge against The Shredder, who just so happens to be Splinter’s former owner’s murderer. Convenient!
YOU GUYS, MY SON HAS ZERO F**KS FOR TMNT.
I need a support group for this. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was AND STILL IS the shit. I look at it as one of my favorite “superhero” movies. I look at it as a shining beacon in a time when big-ass, people-sized, karate turtles could have been done really poorly, and they weren’t. Look, y’all: it was such a good movie that there were a crap-ton of video games, movies, cartoons and sequels. AND A REBOOT.
So, it saddens me that when the Shredder was revealed, my son said “is that…uhhhh…the…guy…?”
YES, SON, THAT’S THE GUY. HE HAS A NAME, AND HIS NAME IS THE SHREDDER. I would have also accepted Oroko Saki.
Then, my son went back to picking at his foot and looking at a Star Wars activity book.
Why doesn’t my son love this movie? Is it too slow by current standards? Is it all of the desk phones and answering machines in the movie that he doesn’t get? Is it Corey Feldman’s voice? I’m so confused. But I’ll try again in a couple of years and hopefully by then…cowabunga?
5. WarGames (1983)
I feel like I don’t even have to explain why a 5 year old just wouldn’t get WarGames. A super boyish Matthew Broderick accidentally hacks his way into a military computer and runs a game that might have just started World War III. But, with the help of Ally Sheedy, Broderick plays tic-tac-toe with the computer until it learns that life is a never-ending cycle of suck and there’s no way to win.
Look, WarGames is everything I love about a hacker movie – it had modem hacking, big, black screens with green shell text, and it had a totally accessible woman who wasn’t really nerdy, but ended up sticking around long enough to possibly fall for the nerd. Plus, it had all sorts of adventure-type stuff like Broderick using a handheld tape recorder to record tones and break out of a room.
I don’t know what kind of staying power WarGames has for a generation that experiences just about zero of the technology in the movie. I can’t wait to show it to my son, but I don’t have high hopes for him understanding what kind of a Wild West hacking used to be – and that you could indeed, dial a phone number, get a modem, and somehow interface with it to get more information. Now, my son just picks up my phone and tells Siri to fetch him some information. And he’s five. WarGames might be a lost cause.
6. Jurassic Park
I saved my sandbag for last. Jurassic Park is a classic (from what I understand is also a classic book), and it’s super smart. It’s got a lot of nuance – a lot more than you’d expect from a movie about the return of dinosaurs.
(What’s one of my favorite scenes from Jurassic Park? Listen to our podcast at around 28mins)
I remember when Jurassic Park came out, what stood out to me was that it wasn’t just action – it was scientific. There was a method behind it. It wasn’t just “hey, we found a dinosaur egg and LOL, it hatched.” They had a whole viable explanation of how the dinosaurs were brought back and how the company planned on controlling them. And all of that science played really well up against Jeff Goldblum’s skeptical character of Dr. Ian Malcolm. And as the movie progresses, it’s not just about Drs. Grant and Sattler escaping from dinosaurs with the kids. You’re learning about how science can bring things to life, but that there’s a certain chaos to it, and sometimes humans themselves are the chaotic variable.
(why, yes – I did embed the Jurassic Park 3D trailer. It was this or a woefully low-res trailer)
Anyway, all of that flies right over a kid’s head. They just see dinosaurs – and in 1993, dinosaurs were incredible to behold, playing on a VCR through a CRT TV. I mean, the effects still stand up today – Stand Winston and ILM really did a whole lot to make you truly believe that these dinosaurs were real. But nowadays, it seems like that kind of high-level effects work is more common in blockbuster films, especially now that the computer modeling and implementation has become more complex. So while Jurassic Park is crystallized in my mind as a unique thing that hadn’t been done before, I think my son will just shrug it off as just one of the many fantasy-sci-fi movies on television.
I think I’ve got a chance with a couple of these. But it’s funny how time-dependent a movie is. From a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle saying that the pizza “has to be here in 30 minutes or less” to anything done with a diskette, movies are a window into a time period, and sometimes later generations just can’t understand how fantastic a movie is in its time.
Which movies do you hope your kids will one day appreciate and understand?