I saw Solo yesterday afternoon and enjoyed it, but of course there are people on the Internet — that aching black hole of want — who find it disappointing because it didn’t sufficiently change their lives like others in the series.

I’ll never be one of those people who say, “It’s only a movie” because I know that they can be life-changing experiences, but I’m 45 years old and I can count 18 movies that have altered the trajectory of my life in any meaningful way.

[I’m not saying they’re good or important or my favorites; I’m saying that watching them changed my thinking in some notable way. I have many more movies that I simply love.]

  • Star Wars (1977)
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
  • The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  • Wargames (1980)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
  • E.T. (1982)
  • A Christmas Story (1983)
  • Return of the Jedi (1983)
  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1983)
  • Stand By Me (1986)
  • Wall Street (1987)
  • Heathers (1988)
  • Dead Poets Society (1989)
  • Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  • The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  • Gattaca (1997)
  • The Truman Show (1998)

That list ends in 1998. That’s not the last time a good movie was made, nor was it the last time I let myself by changed by stories. I think that was just when the engine of that change switched almost completely over to books.

What’s my point? I suspect that when someone tries to make a movie to change your life, it is almost certainly doomed to fail. The ones that succeed are surprising and idiosyncratic, and the less you expect your life to be changed, the more it likely will be.