On September 11th, 2001, I was in eighth grade, just a little less than a month after my 14th birthday. I had gotten to school late that day and had barely sat down at my desk in Social Studies class when the English teacher from next door barged in and turned on the television. At 14, you can mildly understand what was happening but in no way could you process it.
Fellow classmates were crying, nervous, and calling any family members they knew were in that city. I remember one girl in particular was positive her father was in that exact area. We watched the devastation until the period bell rang and we switched classrooms. My next class was English and we were asked to write down our feelings. I wish I still had that paper.
To be witty and ease the tension of this unforgettable anniversary, and in sticking with the moniker, “never forget”, I thought I’d count down my top ten favorite films about memory loss. Feel free to post your favorite memory loss films or submit a list of your own. My thoughts and prayers are always with those affected by the events that transpired over a decade ago.
10) PAYCHECK (2003)
I’ve always liked John Woo’s 2003 thriller, “Paycheck”. Much like Ben Affleck’s performance in “Reindeer Games”, it just sort of worked. Add in a memorable (I’ll leave it up to you to take this as a pun) plot and great supporting cast (Uma Thurman, Aaron Eckhart, Paul Giamatti, and Michael C. Hall), and what’s not to love?
9) PANDORUM (2009)
A post-apocalyptic horror-laden science fiction space thriller where everyone wakes up with no memory, on a ship infested with mutants, starring Ben Foster… enough said.
8) THE MAJESTIC (2001)
This was actually the second film that came to mind when thinking up this list, which means it must hold some impact on me. Oddly enough, one of three films starring Jim Carrey, he plays a screenwriter accused of being a Communist. After a car accident, he wakes up on a shore with no memory, being mistaken for an old man’s (Martin Landau) son who was thought to be killed 9 years earlier during WWII. In the wake, he helps the old man rebuild an old movie theater in town. This film came out in December 2001, only a few months after September 11th.
7) ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004)
In Jim Carrey’s second of three serious appearances on this list, he stars in this Charlie Kaufman penned romantic Indie, in which he tried to get his memory erased following the news that his former lover, played by Kate Winslet, has already had him removed from her memory. It begs the question: is it better to have loved and lost, than to never even remember loving somone at all?
6) THE VOW (2012)
Believe it or not, but Nicholas Sparks succeeds in rendering strong emotion from memory loss, especially in “The Vow”, where Rachel McAdams’ character is involved in a car accident and due to brain trauma, resorts back to before ever meeting her current husband, Channing Tatum. This Sparks tale is actually based on a particular true story and brought me to tears. Just imagining being married to Rachel McAdams and then having her completely forget who you are sounds like a nightmare and would make anyone cry. Also, this is the only entry of the list released from this year.
5) THE NOTEBOOK (2004)
More of a spoiler for this film if you haven’t seen it, the memory loss aspect of this film escaped me when first listing it. But then I remembered the first time I saw this film and how shocking it was to figure out what the old man telling the story to the elderly woman was actually about. Back-t0-back Nicholas Sparks films and now people will start questioning my manhood, and more importantly my taste in movies. Give me Rachel McAdams in anything and I’ll most likely love it.
4) THE HANGOVER (2009)
Probably funniest film about memory loss (unless you’re a “Dude Where’s My Car” type of person), these friends lose the groom-to-be in one epic, roofy-filled night of partying and spend the rest of the next day trying to retrace their steps in a mad dash to find him before the wedding (which is basically the premise for “Dude Where’s My Car” except with transvestites and aliens involved somehow).
3) THE NUMBER 23 (2007)
The third and final Jim Carrey non-comedy of the list, “The Number 23”, is not only one of my favorite memory loss films, it’s one of my all-time favorite films. Carrey’s character finds a book that reads similar to his life and the more he reads it, the more connections he makes until he discovers the truth (I’m just semi-ruining all sorts of endings for people tonight).
2) MEMENTO (2000)
The only film on my list that came out before September 11th, 2001, “Memento” is an extremely close second to my number one pick. Guy Pearce plays a man with short-term memory loss in which he cannot create any new memories. He is forced to take Polaroids and leave notes as reminders. The stroke of genius about the film comes from Christopher Nolan, making his first big mark as a director and easily becoming one of my favorite directors of all-time, in messing with the linear editing and timeline of the film.
1) THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT (2004)
2004 was a good year for memory loss films apparently, marking three of the ten entries on the list. Following the year 2004, anyone who has ever asked me what my favorite film of all-time was has gotten the same answer: “The Butterfly Effect”. Instantly drawn to its dark nature and fractured story-telling, not to mention one of the best uses of time-travel in a film, to-date, there are a few aspects of memory loss at work in the film. First of all, Evan (Ashton Kutcher, another comedic actor in a serious role), has memory lapses throughout his life, to which he journals about. These missing memories and journal entries are pivotal the science fiction plot. Another memory loss aspect exists in the theatrical ending of the film, (SPOILER ALERT!) Evan goes back to a young age and scares Kayleigh (Amy Smart) so badly that she stays away from him forever, therefore, never remembering him.