How The Other Half Lives: A Brit's View of the US, Through Movies!

In truth, I wish I had been born stateside.

From the moment Sandy and Danny got it together at Rydale High, my love affair with all things American was sealed. As embarrassing as this is to admit, during my teen years, I wore baseball jackets and sneakers and em… briefly talked with an American twang. Yeah, told you it was embarrassing.

But where did those dreams of attending prom, signing yearbooks, shopping at the mall, heading to summer camp, and eventually varsity, come from?


I never actually made it to the States until 1989 when I was 16. My mum had a friend getting married in Houston, Texas, and we wound up there via Florida and New Orleans. I pored over the family I stayed with’s photo albums and their kids’ yearbooks. Oh, to have been a cheerleader! Attend the homecoming dance! Hire a limo for prom! I managed to get to go to high school in Houston for a day and it was nothing short of magical. I was even asked for my hall pass!! There were 2 lunch sittings, people roller skating by the lockers, cops patrolling, and everyone drove to school. A world away from my stiff grammar school, where we played hockey, wore itchy blazers and regulation uniforms, and studied Latin.

We flew home after 2 weeks, and I trudged back to my mundane un-American life. No more super cups and iced tea, no frozen yoghurt, no Reese’s Pieces. I was lost.

The only thing that quelled my sadness was watching endless American movies until the VHS tapes wore out.

To explain my unending crush on all things US of A, see the slideshow below. USA, I’ll be back!!


  • The Breakfast Club 1 of 10

    High School - The definitive film to explain the social groups within a high school. I actually walked around the HUGE cafeteria in the Houston school I visited, asking who the nerds and the goths and the jocks were. Because that is how I saw USA high school — as one big John Hughes film. You guys didn't have to wear weird, hideous woolen uniforms; kids were able to express themselves through their outfits. Groups were formed, friendships divided. I think I know every word of this film; it struck such a chord with me. I wanted to kiss John Bender in the store cupboard! I wanted to dance in the library... To this day, my friends still ask 'Do you belong to the physics club?'

  • E.T. 2 of 10

    Halloween - My favourite time of year is Halloween, and no one does it better than you yanks. The dressing up and the trick or treating has only really caught on in the UK in the past few years. They tend to celebrate Bonfire Night on November 4th instead. However, I grew up in Ireland and we loved a bit of Halloween fun. How do I know yanks do it best? Because of E.T. When he goes out dressed as a ghost, and they collect all the candy... it looked much more fun than anything I'd ever experienced. Now I make my son have a Halloween party every year for all his buddies. It isn't for me, obviously. No, no, not at all. *blushes*

  • National Lampoon’s Vacation 3 of 10

    Road Trips - No wonder Clark lost his mind by the time he got to Walley World, only to find it was closed! The hideous journey fraught with rows, a dead old lady, a scary dog, and Cousin Eddie's body odour would be enough to send anyone crazy. It taught me a lesson about road trips, that's for sure — mainly how NOT to do them.

  • Crocodile Dundee 4 of 10
    crocodile dundee

    New York - When Mick Dundee encountered the New York subway, it was as if we all were doing the exact same thing. It looked like a maze! Packed! But still, his technique of skipping the queue and getting to his beloved was genius. New York was depicted as somewhat scary, but Mick handed it in stride. It looked like a buzzing 24/7 place to be... and oh, how we wanted to be there! 

  • Little Darlings 5 of 10
    little darlings

    Summer Camp - This is an oldie! Two girls at summer camp, laying down a bet. When I first watched it, I think I wasn't too aware of what the bet was all about; I was just so enamoured with the idea of summer camp. Lots of wooden huts, camp fires, activities and swimming in a glorious lake. It all looked so romantic. That is until I watched Friday the 13th, and then the appeal waned a tad...

  • The Legend of Billie Jean 6 of 10

    Rebellion - So it might be a bit of a hokey film, but it was beyond inspirational when I was 13. Billie Jean just wants what is fair and she fights for it, running off and making demands, refusing to be blamed for something that wasn't her fault. Courage and determination made us all love Billie Jean. There's always a local sheriff in a movie, wanting his county to feel his strong arm of the law. Here in the Uk, you never felt you could rebel like Billie Jean did or inspire a generation. If only....

  • Footloose 7 of 10

    Prom! The one American way of life that I coveted the most as a teen? Prom. The voting, the decoration of the sports hall, the King and Queen, the dance, the corsage, who to take!! We have 'formals' here in the UK, a dinner followed by dancing just before you leave school at 18. But they always seemed to live up to their name — very formal and not as much fun! Ren came up against the town preacher in this film, and while he had to hold his dance outside the town lines, he did get to take Ariel to the ball... And boy could he dance!

  • The Goodbye Girl 8 of 10
    goodbye girl

    Those brown shopping bags! If you've never seen The Goodbye Girl, you are missing out on one of the sweetest love stories ever to be on a screen. I will never forget the scene where Paula gets mugged and as she chases after the robber, her big brown shopping bag splits and the food spills across the street. She just slumps down and cries. I always wondered why folks used those bags — they may well be recyclable, but my goodness, they look hard to carry!

  • Some Kind of Wonderful 9 of 10
    some kind of wonderful

    Different sides of town - I bought the soundtrack to this movie when I was in Houston in '89. I LOVED it! This film showed me that just like in the UK, there is an awful class hierarchy. When Keith asks out Amanda Jones, a social climber, his best mate Watts is gutted. This whole story (along with Pretty in Pink and Flashdance) showed me how girls from the wrong side of the tracks had to fight to be seen/heard. But that's okay. They were always the smartest, coolest girls anyway.

  • Elf 10 of 10

    Christmas - Okay, so you know the scene in Elf where he runs round and round in a revolving door, giggling hysterically? That is how happy we feel when we go to New York. Yes it is. We wander around, convinced we are in a film (no? Just me then). All that steam rising from the ground, the subway, Macy's, yellow cabs, and landmark buildings... We've seen it all before, but now we can touch! Once, when working on a travel show, I got to stand at the top of the Empire State Building at 8am in the morning. Not a soul was on that side with me. It was my very own Sleepless in Seattle moment. Ahhhh.....


Photo credits: IMDB

Article Posted 3 years Ago
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