My Top 3 Favorite Movies of all Time & Why

TIME TO REVEAL my number one movie of all time. But first, let me explain, in a nutshell, why this sensitive, dancer girl likes such a strange concoction of movies: 

3. Never-ending Story inspires my creative, imaginative side. Also I was severely bullied for two years in my childhood, so this movie is always a healing experience for me!

And a very different choice ... 

2. Air Force 1 sets a standard of great leadership for me. I aspire to be basically everything Harrison Ford is as President, in this movie.  Brave. Humble. Tenacious. Experienced. He knows how to fight smart and tough, because he began his career in the military.  Having given up my country, family & comforts for ministry, I can relate a little bit to the sacrifice.  And then how it qualifies you by building character you didn't have, otherwise. I also can completely relate to the fierce love of family in this story ... and of wanting to protect those under my care with everything I am.  One last tie-in, is that my family comes from the Ukraine, so we share both a love of Russian people and a healthy fear of communism - my grandma escaped at eight years old, and not one moment too soon. I LOVE THIS MOVIE!

Last, but certainly not least, my absolute favorite movie of all time is … . 🥁 … .

#1.  Apollo 13

Although I do not at all care for the course language in this film, I love just about everything else about it. 

Apollo 13 feels like my life.  Having a relatively peaceful childhood and a great college experience, I graduated with an engagement ring on my finger and a heart full of hope. I had no idea I was about to stumble into a season of danger, twists, turns, fear, facing death, and having to dig deep to survive, such as is portrayed so beautifully in this film. 

I have often said that I would love to preach a series of sermons based on this incredible movie. My awe in seeing it the first time, surrounded by all my birth family & our spouses, which is extremely rare since we all live far apart, is also a treasured memory.  The favorite quotes are many. After the show I remember my Dad with the guys, giggling their way out of their post-movie restroom visit, where we learned one of them was saying, "All systems go," and "Houston, we are go for launch," at the most opportune times, leaving the rest of them in fits of laughter.  I am still chuckling over that usage to this day, over 30 years later. 

My favorite Apollo 13 moments are too many to capture in a single post, so I will just list one of them here.

"Failure is not an option."

Flight Director Gene Kranz is not one to give up. No matter the seemingly endless catastrophes, he remains steadfastly positive, even while his team of nerdy  heroes loses faith.  

    Ed Harris as Flight Director Gene Kranz

Though optimistic at first, his key leaders, working the problem, repeatedly come to him with gravely negative predictions.  At one point, nearly everyone was forced to face the likelihood that a safe trip home for these astronauts looked impossible. It would take a miracle.  Though obviously fighting his own fears, Director Kranz leads with valor, adamantly refusing to accept the sentiment that this rescue mission could not be done.

In what I consider one of the best movie moments of all time, he takes his team to task, changing their mindset from problems to possibilities with that one simple phrase. 

*mild language warning*

Not an option. It brings me to tears, to this day. I'm not one to rewatch movies or read books twice, but this movie I have watched probably a dozen times. Why? 

Because, it's the courage I need to possess in this life, played out through the worst of circumstances, by men who use their intellect, tenacity, ability to go without sleep, sheer will, and faith in God to achieve what would become known as 'The Successful Failure." 

Turns out this all REALLY happened. Two years before I arrived on planet Earth, this unbelievable story was happening in real life. People all over North America were leaning close to their radios, hushed in a prayer-filled silence as they hoped for the impossible. 

As a young woman, fighting a deadly cancer alongside my husband, I had no idea the film was based on a true story until it ended. I have never been so captivated by the big screen as I was that day, and am still.  

For the rest of my life, the leader in me asks the questions:

"What if they were not willing?" Seriously. What if the guys at Missions Control just gave up?  Went home, giving in to their fears or their tiredness or the pressure to just stop thinking creatively to overcome each new problem?

What if they did not pull together as a team?  Three lives were saved - fathers, husbands, brothers, not by one hero but by many men working together.  From the big guys to the ones working figures in another room, everyone was needed. Everyone came together. Respected each other. Listened, argued, and then came to conclusions that would not have been reachable without every single contribution. I love that about this film. It is how I think about the people in my life, in my family, in my friendships, and about my myself. I need the courage, the talents, the quirks and even the sometimes-annoying differences of those God has placed around me.  Failure is not an option. AND I cannot achieve success alone. 

And perhaps the most important question - 

What if our nation had not humbled themselves, to turn to God for help?

At the climax of this story, after every human effort had been made, there is a devastatingly long six minutes of re-entry blackout, where it seems the entire world sat on the edge of their seats, unable to do anything more. After overcoming, working, reworking, and applying the solutions, there was nothing left that human strength could offer. A holy hush descended upon the Mission Control room, all over the NASA centers, and indeed around the country as that tiny return capsule faced the immense  heat of rocketing through the earth's atmosphere.  Flight Director Kranz knew that they had done their best, yet the angle of re-entry was not where it should be, and that the meagre, likely damaged materials between our astronauts and that incredible fiery force would not hold up much longer. It was in God's hands now.  All they could do was wait. 

Time and time again in my life, I have found myself facing a moment like this.  I, too, am not one to give up. When things get harder than I can imagine, I dig deep into my Ukrainian pentecostal roots and find another ounce of courage to stay alive. Sometimes that works. Many times, it's not enough. And in the end, we have to face once again the frailty of our humanity to solve problems bigger than life.

You know what? That's a fine place to be.

It is good to know I partner with a Father who chooses to have me on his team, all the while knowing that I am incomparably weak, and cannot work the miracle that's needed.  Yet He chooses me. He wants to work with me, and also wants me to trust Him to step in, whenever what I have is simply not enough. 

Apollo 13 is filled with electric moments that inspire me to have courage and overcome.  I am so thankful for this story in real life and on the screen, to help me stay the course no matter what I'm facing. Stories are powerful. So is love, prayer, and honoring the unique gifts of those around us. That is why Apollo 13 is my #1 favorite movie of all time. 

Thanks for taking this journey of remembering with me. It is good to sit and ponder why certain things nourish our souls and call us back, time and again. I appreciate the opportunity I have to put my thoughts into words, and words into type, and then to share those ideas with you.  I truly appreciate you making the time to read what I have entered here.  May all your days be blessed with the creativity of a neverending story, the bravery of fictitious president James Marshall, and the tenacity of all those who helped the lucky #13 astronauts get home. 

  • rwl


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