When I meet someone new I try and get the favourite film question in fairly early, if conversation allows (and I don't trust people that don't have a favourite/s). For proper film fans this is a minefield of a conundrum. Can we name just one? Are we allowed a top five? Can we have a fave in each genre?
As a kid I use to have a top ten, listed in order of preference, but the more films I saw the more impossible it became to maintain the list. Most fans I speak to contend that it’s impossible to have a single favourite film of all time, to narrow such a vast artform down to one top ranked movie. When I'm asked the question I still give a list of ten or so films, no longer in order of preference. I like to give credit to all my favourites, Jaws (1975), Halloween (1978), Heat (1995), and almost feel like I'm letting them down if I don't. But my number one spot hasn't changed since 1991 and I doubt it ever will.
It was that wonderful week between Christmas and New Year when food and drink is plentiful and every evening feels like a party. The television schedules were packed with great films and this particular evening my Dad was staying up to watch Aliens (1986). It being Christmas, I knew I'd be allowed to stay up late but I had to beg my Mum to let me watch the film to. She relented and left the two of us in front of the television with a mountain of Christmas nibbles. Plate of sausage rolls and cheese straws in hand I asked my Dad for some background on the movie. The TV guide said it was a sequel, though Dad could only vaguely remember the original. His memory for film specifics has always been awful but what he could recall was that the first film was one of the scariest he'd ever seen.
With this tantalising nugget I settled into the sofa, picturing little green men with big black eyes chewing on the ankles of foolhardy spacemen. There were know little green men in Aliens though. The beauty of the film was that it made no difference at all seeing it in isolation. If anything, not having seen Alien (1979) made it even scarier. All I had to go on for the first fifty odd minutes was a distraught Ellen Ripley pleading her case about this "thing" that had destroyed her ship and crew. I was so desperate to find out what this beast was, by the time the Colonial Marines entered the Alien nest on Sub-Level 3 I had damn near stopped breathing. Then we tipped over the edge.
The subsequent hour and half of Aliens was one of the highlights of my childhood, frantic action, sausage roll dropping scares, and a double ending I had no idea was coming. Despite being eleven years old I knew I had seen the best movie I was ever going to see. I just knew it, there was no question. Even though there would be many more films viewed in the decades to come, Aliens would not be topped. Perhaps it was the time of the year, the Christmas tree lights the only other glow in the room, the big plate of festive snacks and brimming glass of cola (something we didn't have in the house the rest of the year). But having seen the film many times since, the feeling remains the same. Those two and half hours spent on LV-426 will always stand as my favourite movie.
Am I alone in my strong feelings for a particular film, or do others share the sentiment for one movie that touched them so completely they knew it was love at first viewing?