7 Movies My Past Boyfriends Forced Me to Watch That Made Me Who I Am Today

Sometimes personal growth is a film away.
By  · Published on September 21st, 2011

Sometimes personal growth is a film away.

Back in May, the illustrious Matt Patches put together a list so honest, so compelling, so original, that I had absolutely no choice but to copy it almost totally wholesale to craft my own version. Patches’s list was comprised of eight films his previous girlfriends had forced him to watch that made him who he is today (the list was, of course, titled “8 Movies My Past Girlfriends Forced Me to Watch That Made Me Who I Am Today” because we here at FSR are nothing if we are not succinct). The list, while interesting on a purely cinematic basis, also said something surprisingly deep about the nature of relationships themselves – mainly when it comes to the all-important element of compromise. Patches, a gentleman and a scholar, found some compelling honesty in his consistently sweet tales of cinematic (and romantic) discovery. My list starts off with a film that made me realize my first boyfriend was possibly also interested in other men. That’s just the sort of list this is.

Here are seven movies that seven different suitors all “forced” me to watch at different points in my (admittedly still young) cinematic life. More than any individual lesson each film taught me, together the list forms one giant reminder of what I love best about going to the movies – endless possibility. Take a peek at my list after the break, and then feel free to pipe in with any films that someone made you watch that ultimately changed your mind or just flat out won you over.


The Pre-Judgment: No matter how you slice it, 54 will always be the movie I saw on my very first date (I’m from Las Vegas, things are weird there). I had almost no concept of what 54 would be like. I knew Ryan Phillippe was in it. I knew Breckin Meyer was in it. I knew my parents got a little starry-eyed when talking about Studio 54. I also knew that an “adult” had to purchase our tickets for the film, because it was rated R. Did I agree to see the film just because my first boyfriend was 17 and could buy those tickets for us and that made me feel really cool and really grown-up? You better believe it.

The Judgment: 54 is an inane little slice of glittered-up fake history, not nearly as big or bold or bizarre as it could be. Generously peppered with nudity, drug use, alcohol use, and a lax view of set-in-stone sexuality, it was the first film I saw in theaters that shook up my suburban view of life without my (very hip) parents there to filter or explain what I’d just seen. Not exactly a brain-expander, but a definite eye-opener.

Field of Dreams

The Pre-Judgment: You know what can be kind of boring? Dating a baseball player in high school. Endless after-school practices, hauling out to tiny towns for games, going sans date to prom because said boyfriend is playing in section championships – it’s just inning after inning of non-fun. A baseball film on date night? For real, dude?

The Judgment: It’s fair to say that all the bad stuff about dating a baseball player in high school was rendered moot after watching Field of Dreams for the very first time, even if said viewing came care of a shoddy VHS copy in a crowded family living room. Some people stand by Rudy or Rocky as their ultimate sports film, the standard-bearer for any other flick based on balls and goals and sticks and bats and hoops. For me, it’s Field of Dreams – it’s been that way since I was 16, and I don’t see that ever changing.


The Pre-Judgment: I had absolutely no pre-judgment of Nash Edgerton’s wicked little short, Spider. None. And that’s just how it should be.

The Judgment: Spider is perhaps my favorite short film of the past five or so years. The boyfriend who showed it to me didn’t have tastes that skewed to the scary or the gory or the strange, but he did like films that popped and shocked, and that’s exactly what Spider does. Years later, the short showed before a press screening of Edgerton’s The Square and, as the opening scene cued up, I audibly gasped in both terror and delight. No one else in the theater knew what was coming, and I was giddy with the sort of anticipation to their responses that my boyfriend must have felt when he showed me Spider so many years ago.


The Pre-Judgment: I basically expected to nap for two hours. This is what happens when you date poli-sci majors.

The Judgment: I did not nap for two hours. Glory is, much like Field of Dreams, a no-duh standard-bearer for its genre. It’s captivating without being cloying, an informative spin on the war film that is both educational and emotional.


The Pre-Judgment: I admit it. I had a hipster boyfriend, one of those dudes who was just anti-television enough to still, in fact, own a television, albeit an old 19-incher that he hid in his closet and only broke out when he needed to watch election returns and Netflix discs. So when he wanted to watch a film (by Justin Theroux of all people?) that starred Billy Crudup as some sort of haunted children’s book author and Mandy Moore as the only lady who can save him, I balked. It sounded too twee for words. Even I couldn’t stomach this.

The Judgment: Stomach it I did. Dedication is by no means a massive cinematic accomplishment, but it’s a surprisingly dark and oddly sweet little film about two damaged people who are considerably less interested in trying to “heal” each other or themselves than they are in actually making it through a full day without crying. It’s the sort of underseen indie gem that would make a nice, low-key companion to something like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.


The Pre-Judgment: Elizabethtown is a film I love without shame. I know it is a lesser effort from Cameron Crowe and I know it’s silly and weird in ways that aren’t exactly endearing to everyone and, yes, I know that Orlando Bloom is almost woefully miscast, but I love this film and it’s the sort of film that I generally force boyfriends to watch, not the other way around. But this boyfriend made me watch it with him, giving me the chance to prove to him that it was not “terrible” and that I was not “insane” for loving it.

The Judgment: We turned it off about halfway through, but I really do think the hook was in him. Maybe. I still loved the film, though watching it next to a non-believer forced me to acknowledge some of the weaker pieces of it, bits of the film that even I think are straight-up stupid but would never admit as such to myself. Deep thought – you can still love things, even if they’re not perfect. This applies to both films and romantic partners.

About a Boy

The Pre-Judgment: I liked About a Boy well enough when I first saw it in theaters back in 2002, particularly in terms of how it measured up to other Nick Hornby adaptations (it’s not as good as High Fidelity, and slightly better than An Education, at least in my mind). It had not quite stuck with me, and I had yet to revisit it until a suitor requested that I give it another shake. I asked him to watch Singles. Compromise, people, compromise.

The Judgment: I can only assume that I was a moron back in 2002, because a second swing at About a Boy proved to me that the film is not only on-par with High Fidelity, it’s likely considerably better. It’s an even more satisfying watch when you consider some of the schlock Hugh Grant made after it (Did You Hear About the Morgans?, Music & Lyrics, etc.) and when you ponder what a fine young thespian the charming Nicholas Hoult is growing up to be. But it’s also a frightening look inside the male psyche, frightening because of all the fears and foibles it can possess, while still being desperately worthy of love. For those of you in the cheap seats, that’s another deep thought.

How many movies have you been forced to watch that changed you?

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