So far this list has been heavy on the movies that were made during my lifetime, but that will change soon, I promise.
Memento was probably the first time I realized what movies could do to you other than entertain. I was 17 and had just heard about this film with a weird narrative structure (it runs backwards — kind of) and was intrigued. It hit my local theater and I went to see it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was one of the most engrossing movie experiences I’ve ever had, and now, over a decade later, one thing still rings true: every time I watch it I pick up on something new.
If you’re unfamiliar, the film is about Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), a man who has a condition that doesn’t allow him to make new memories. He relies on pictures and tattoos on his body to tell him what is going on every single day. His mission? Find and kill the man who did this to him and killed his wife. But the catch is that the story opens at the end in color, switches to a black and white flashback, and then back to color. Don’t read anything, but this is what it looks like.
The movie ends in the middle of the story, as the timelines converge. The coolest part about this though is that in the color narrative, we are given the exact same condition that Leonard has — we don’t know what happened before. It’s brilliant, and it’s one of movie karma’s greatest achievements that helmer Christopher Nolan has gone on to make The Dark Knight and Inception.