My Top 10 Stories Of All Time

As a writer, I love good stories. There are some books, movies, and TV shows that continue to stick with me over the years, as well as excellent tales I’ve only recently discovered. Some I appreciate for their impact on my writing; others, I love simply because they excite me and move me. Trying to pare down a “Top 10 Stories” list is something I’ve aspired to try for a while now, but needless to say it wasn’t easy to do. There are certainly stories I love that ended up on the cutting room floor. I also wanted to be diverse in medium, because there are seasons where reading feels like a chore and I want to enjoy a good story through a movie or video game. And while this list will inevitably change over the years, it currently feels like the best representation of my inspiration. Some of these will be no surprise, but others I’ll get to introduce to this blog for the first time.

So, without further ado, here are my top 10 stories of all time:

10) ABC’s The Middle: If you can still laugh during episodes you’ve watched dozens of times, I’d say that’s a good marker of a great show—and one that certainly applies to this sitcom. If you’re unfamiliar, The Middle aired from 2009-2018, following a family of five as they navigate life together. There are many moments in this show that remind me of my own family dynamic, as well as poignant scenes and episodes that often spoke into our family’s own growing pains as my brother and I graduated high school. The show still resonates with me because the characters are relatable and the humor spot on. As a writer, I’m also inspired by how the show touches on the pains and joys of normal life in a realistic way.

9) Disney’s The Lion King: As a kid, no Disney movie could beat The Lion King, a film that contributed to my obsession with cats of all kinds. I used to listen to the soundtrack regularly to help me fall asleep. While I still love the original animated movie, I perhaps appreciate the Broadway musical even more. It was the first professional theatre production I ever went to as a kid, and stuck with me for its epic stagecraft, amazing costumes, and compelling musical numbers that added onto the original track list. I saw the stage musical again last year and loved it just as much. Though The Lion King is a simpler story, it continues to be a treasured classic.  

8) Dreamwork’s How To Train Your Dragon: Specifically, I’m referring to the first film. While I do like the whole trilogy, the first How To Train Your Dragon is still my favorite, and became my favorite movie period for a while as an early teenager. A story about Vikings and dragons perfectly aligned with my interests as I became more interested in my Norwegian roots and my love of fantasy started to blossom. I found the characters interesting, and still regularly listen to the movie’s score while writing. The movie also has a lot of relational significance for me, too: I watched it so many times with my brother, to the point that I could quote pretty much the whole script verbatim, and it helped me meet a writer friend at a conference, as we bonded over our shared appreciation for the movie. Plus, it’s such a great story, and a one of the few examples of a movie that’s better than the book.

7) Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive: I’m glad these books are over a thousand pages long, because I don’t want time with these characters and in this world to end. Out of all of Sanderson’s series, The Stormlight Archive is absolutely the best, with a rich world to discover, compelling and broken characters, and end-of-the-world stakes. (Although as I write this, it occurs to me that the same descriptors also apply to his Mistborn trilogy… huh.) These books are ones that I can’t put down, and the series reignited my passion for writing fantasy. Reading Sanderson’s books are not only enjoyable and entertaining, but also a study in how to craft compelling character arcs and fantasy worlds that feel new, magical, and exciting.

6) Netflix’s Lost In Space (Reboot): This sci-fi show is a masterpiece. It centers on a family trying to survive on a mysterious planet and unravel the mystery of the powerful robots they encounter. The overarching plot is compelling, with intriguing elements of world-building that slowly get revealed over the course of the show’s three seasons. Yet mixing in the family dynamic with the sci-fi elements adds realism and heart to the show, as the story is just as much about how the family grows closer together as it is about the robots and surviving in space. The series inspires me to attempt to write great family dynamics in my own books, too.

5) J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter: I’m always in the mood for Harry Potter. This series has been a part of my life since childhood, and my family typically watches the movies once a year. The books, too, add even more depth to the story, world, and characters, building an inviting, immersive created world that never fails to draw me in. This series, along with The Chronicles of Narnia, was one of my first real introductions to the fantasy genre.

4) Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Era: Weirdly enough, I never got into The Legend of Zelda as a kid, but since playing Breath of the Wild a couple years ago, I’ve been hooked on the series. In particular, I’m fond of the Breath of the Wild era (Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom, and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity). Not only is the gameplay incredibly fun and immersive, but I find the stories set in this world with this particular iteration of characters compelling. I won’t say much more since Tears of the Kingdom just came out and I’ve truly only scratched the surface of the game. I’ll end with this: no video game inspires me on a story-level more than Zelda.

3) The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity Saga: Most Marvel movies (with some notable exceptions) after Avengers: Endgame have missed the mark for me, but the Infinity Saga—the films starting with the very first MCU movie, Iron Man, through Spider-Man: Far From Home—still holds up. During my college years in particular, the unfolding MCU was a major source of inspiration for me, to the point that I nearly made my own series a sprawling, interconnected universe that would culminate in the ultimate crossover book. Not only did I love the Marvel movies, but I adored the TV show Agents of SHIELD, even if its canonicity is questionable. While not every Infinity Saga movie was perfect, taken as a whole, the overarching story of the Infinity Stones was done so well and so compellingly. The MCU created an interconnected world excited me yet still felt human, with long-term character arcs for the leads that worked so well and culminated so beautifully in Endgame. In some ways, I feel like the MCU will be the equivalent to the groundbreaking masterpiece of the original Star Wars trilogy for me and my generation.

2) J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The impact of Tolkien on my writing can’t be overstated. While my introduction to The Lord of the Rings was through the Peter Jackson movies, I quickly fell in love with Tolkien’s writing. The Lord of the Rings is probably my most reread book. I find inspiration in Tolkien’s journey as a writer, the beautifully constructed world he created, and the characters across his work. Plus, the story of The Lord of the Rings is excellent: a story of hope and victory over evil, humility’s triumph over the lust of power, and many, many other Christian themes. It’s the reason I’m a fantasy writer today.

1) The Bible: The only True Story on this list, but there’s a reason it’s number one. As Christians growing up in a culture saturated with Christianity, I think it’s easy to lose sight of the awesomeness of Scripture. If you’ve never read the Bible cover to cover, do it! From a storytelling perspective, the whole of Scripture is amazing at telling the story of Jesus Christ, from the very beginning of creation, to the ways He’s foreshadowed in the Old Testament, to the climax of Jesus’s life and ministry, and the continuation of God’s Kingdom made available to all people. Not only does the Bible inspire me on a spiritual level, but I also learn from it as a storyteller. After all, if I believe that the best stories are mere reflections of the reality expressed through Scripture, why would I not want to go to the source for that inspiration?