The films that influenced me: Jesse Williams

Influential films for Jesse Williams

Film has always been a part of my life. From going to the cinema for the first time on my second birthday, to watching films with my dad, it’s something that has always felt special to me. As someone who grew up in a house with a ridiculously sized DVD collection, and a father who collected Empire magazine, movies became hard to avoid.

The films in this list either resonated with me for a very specific reason, or hold some nostalgia that I will never be able to shake. Ultimately, they all hold a very special place both in my heart, and my life.

#10: Kill Bill

Kill Bill was my first ever foray into the world of Tarantino, and my first ever film that featured genuinely graphic violence. I watched it, like most of the films on this list, with my dad. He was a huge fan of Kill Bill, and from that day on, so was I.

Kill Bill showed me a group of strong, fearless, and slightly insane women, all cool in their own way, who weren’t reduced to just what they looked like or what they wore. They were respected, feared, and although they weren’t the best role models, they showed me what women were capable of if they were given the chance. Women could do anything. Including surviving their attempted assassination.

#9 Get Out

A slightly more recent one, that I went to see at the cinema for the first time with my best friend. I then went many more times after that. Get Out changed my life. I had always been a huge fan of horror, and had been watching scary movies since before I could even remember. I had become desensitised. However: this film managed to scare me. I can remember leaving the cinema, and not being able to talk to my friend – she was silent, too. We just spent a good 20 minutes trying to figure out if what we had just watched was going to change the face of horror cinema forever.

To this day, Get Out is still one of my favourite films. Jordan Peele is a master of the genre, and for some reason, it’s like he has a door into my mind. It’s like he knows what scares me. That is something that I hadn’t thought since I watched The Descent, and didn’t think again until I went to see Us. This film changed everything.

#8 Amelie

I have always been a sucker for something a bit odd – I think that’s why I love Wes Anderson so much. However, I think Amelie is the reason for that. If I had never watched that film on my laptop in the early hours of the morning, I think my taste would be completely different.

#7 Nancy Drew

Here is one of the more random selections. Nancy Drew, starring Emma Roberts, was released when I was nine. I had never read any Nancy Drew books or watched any of the other Nancy Drew films prior to then – I basically knew nothing about her. As soon as I watched this film, I became obsessed. Obsessed to the point that it probably wasn’t healthy. I wanted to be her.

I can remember being so desperate for a detective kit just like Nancy’s: it was a brown satchel, that folded out and had everything a young detective could ever want, including snacks. My dad, because he was (and still is) amazing, made me one for the Christmas after the film came out. It had everything in it – even the same snacks as the one in the film. This is one of my fondest memories, and makes me happy whenever I think about Nancy Drew.

#6 Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the film that kickstarted my love for Audrey Hepburn. Between the years 2009-2012, she was my hero. She helped the resistance during WWII, she was a humanitarian, and activist and she had an EGOT. She was an amazing woman, and this film showed me that. From her cat (called ‘Cat’, which I thought was so cool), to her sofa that was half a bathtub, to her wardrobe that I would still die for to this day, she is an icon and I loved her.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s made such a huge impact on me that, when I went to New York for a wedding in 2011, my dad and I visited the very Tiffany’s in the film. I had saved up all of my birthday and Christmas money for nearly two years so that I could sat I bought myself something at the Tiffany shop that Audrey had visited. I still have the earrings I bought, and whenever I wear them, I think of that trip, I think of that film, and I think of Audrey.

#5 Clueless

I watched Clueless when I was about eight or nine. It was another film that my dad told me to watch, and again, it was another film that I became obsessed with. To this day, I still love it. It’s my go to film – if I ever don’t know what to watch, this is what I put on. I know every word of the script, I have the album, I have multiple Clueless t-shirts. It’s one of those films that just makes me happy.

If Clueless taught me anything, it’s that films can be fun. I never really appreciated a film unless it was something that I had been told was a classic, or that I needed to watch. This film showed me that enjoying a film was enough – it didn’t matter whether or not it was critically acclaimed, or if it had the best cast or director. It just had to spark joy. That’s exactly what Clueless did for me.

#4 Troop Beverly Hills

Possibly the most niche film on this list is the Shelley Long led, amazingly bad film, Troop Beverly Hills. My dad showed me this film when I was really young, and I have always loved it. It’s the film I watch before an exam, before an interview, if I’m sad, if I’m stressed. It’s a bit like a comfort blanket: it just makes me feel better.

I had copies of this DVD everywhere. One at my mum’s, one at my dad’s, and a second one in my bedroom at my dad’s. I even took one with me to university. Troop Beverly Hills, with it’s over the top fashion, extremely 80s soundtrack, and Shelley Long being funny in a ridiculously stupid way, is the movie that is the most likely to make me smile.

#3 Scream

Scream was one of the first horror films I ever watched. I can remember sitting on the sofa, definitely way too young to be watching, and listening to Drew Barrymore as she spoke on the film to that infamous gravely voice. It was the first film that ever scared me, and that ever shocked me. It was also slightly weird for me, as I was a huge fan of the Scooby-Doo movies, and Shaggy is the killer in Scream. I’m not sure whether the shock I felt stemmed from that, or whether it stemmed from genuine shock about who the killers turned out to be.

Scream was the first film I ever watched that featured a final girl. To this day, horror films that have final girls, the last woman standing, are some of my favourites. I had only ever seen girls in films being rescued by the man, or waiting for the man to come and save them at the last second. This all seemed very unrealistic to me – my mum was brilliant in a crisis. So, when I watched Scream, it just solidified that women were as cool as I thought they were.

#2 Okja

As previously mentioned on Movie Metropolis, Okja had a huge impact on me. When it came out in 2017, I was at university. I had come home one weekend and I watched it in the living room of my dad’s house. I don’t think a film had ever made me cry as much as that one did. It wasn’t even just crying – it was full on ugly sobbing. It made me think about every single choice I had ever made, and it pushed me to make a change.

This was the movie that made me become a vegetarian. I can remember, in about the last 10 minutes of the film, thinking that I couldn’t go on as I had been and that animals didn’t deserve to be eaten. It made me realise that what I was eating used to be alive, and honestly, it was no different than me eating a beloved family pet. I am still vegetarian to this day.

#1 Toy Story 2

It would be genuinely impossible to have any other film at the top of this list. Toy Story 2 was the first film I ever saw. I went on my second birthday, and, arguably, it kickstarted my obsession with films. Not only was it a film about toys coming to life, a theory that I always believed to be true, but one of the main characters had the same name as me. Jessie the Cowgirl was my original hero. I had the hat, I had the costume, I had t-shirts, skirts, toys – you name it, I probably had it. I would watch the VHS of Toy Story 2 on repeat, rewinding it whenever it finished.

Never has a film ever had as much of an impact on me as Toy Story 2. I still get chills when I watch Woody’s makeover scene, I had every single toy (including Tour Guide Barbie), and to this day, it is my favourite animated film. Toy Story 2 makes me feel like a child again whenever I watch it.

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