Movies You Must See Sometime Before You Dieby lance135 | created - 23 Feb 2018 | updated - 11 Sep 2019 | Public
This is a list I'm going to work on for my own reference, but I hope it also helps others. These are essential viewing to even begin to understand our culture.
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1. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
PG | 121 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a Wookiee and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire's world-destroying battle station, while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the mysterious Darth Vader.
Director: George Lucas | Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness
Votes: 1,393,849 | Gross: $322.74M
If you only see one Star Wars movie, this is the one.
2. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
PG | 115 min | Action, Adventure
In 1936, archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis can obtain its awesome powers.
Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, John Rhys-Davies
Votes: 986,536 | Gross: $248.16M
If you only see one Indiana Jones movie...
3. Back to the Future (1985)
PG | 116 min | Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi
Marty McFly, a 17-year-old high school student, is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his close friend, the maverick scientist Doc Brown.
Director: Robert Zemeckis | Stars: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover
Votes: 1,238,981 | Gross: $210.61M
For me, this defined adventure comedy in the '80s.
4. Blazing Saddles (1974)
R | 93 min | Comedy, Western
In order to ruin a western town, a corrupt politician appoints a black Sheriff, who promptly becomes his most formidable adversary.
Director: Mel Brooks | Stars: Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, Harvey Korman
Votes: 144,669 | Gross: $119.50M
A Mel Brooks masterpiece of silliness.
5. The Great Outdoors (1988)
PG | 91 min | Comedy
A Chicago man and his family go camping with his obnoxious brother-in-law.
Director: Howard Deutch | Stars: Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Stephanie Faracy, Annette Bening
Votes: 49,188 | Gross: $41.46M
One of John Candy and Dan Akroyd's best.
6. Ghostbusters (1984)
PG | 105 min | Action, Comedy, Fantasy
Three parapsychologists forced out of their university funding set up shop as a unique ghost removal service in New York City, attracting frightened yet skeptical customers.
Director: Ivan Reitman | Stars: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis
Votes: 425,799 | Gross: $238.63M
Another must see '80s adventure comedy.
7. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
PG-13 | 103 min | Comedy
A high school wise guy is determined to have a day off from school, despite what the Principal thinks of that.
Director: John Hughes | Stars: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jeffrey Jones
Votes: 369,642 | Gross: $70.14M
An excellent example of why John Hughes owned the '80s.
8. Die Hard (1988)
R | 132 min | Action, Thriller
A New York City police officer tries to save his estranged wife and several others taken hostage by terrorists during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.
Director: John McTiernan | Stars: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson
Votes: 901,429 | Gross: $83.01M
THE Die Hard movie to see - referenced and copied so much, you'll think you've already seen it.
9. Superman (1978)
PG | 143 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
An alien orphan is sent from his dying planet to Earth, where he grows up to become his adoptive home's first and greatest superhero.
Director: Richard Donner | Stars: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando
Votes: 180,659 | Gross: $134.22M
Still the best Superman in one man's opinion.
10. Airplane! (1980)
PG | 88 min | Comedy
After the crew becomes sick with food poisoning, a neurotic ex-fighter pilot must land a commercial airplane full of passengers safely.
Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker | Stars: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Votes: 248,657 | Gross: $83.40M
The start of a new genre of very silly comedy.
11. Beetlejuice (1988)
PG | 92 min | Comedy, Fantasy
The spirits of a deceased couple are harassed by an unbearable family that has moved into their home, and hire a malicious spirit to drive them out.
Director: Tim Burton | Stars: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton, Annie McEnroe
Votes: 315,970 | Gross: $73.71M
An early Tim Burton movie that shows how much of a genius he is.
12. Aliens (1986)
R | 137 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Decades after surviving the Nostromo incident, Ellen Ripley is sent out to re-establish contact with a terraforming colony but finds herself battling the Alien Queen and her offspring.
Director: James Cameron | Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn, Paul Reiser
Votes: 732,632 | Gross: $85.16M
THE Alien movie to see, if you can get past Newt.
13. Back to School (1986)
PG-13 | 96 min | Comedy, Romance, Sport
To help his discouraged son get through college, a funloving and obnoxious rich businessman decides to enter the school as a student himself.
Director: Alan Metter | Stars: Rodney Dangerfield, Sally Kellerman, Burt Young, Keith Gordon
Votes: 34,336 | Gross: $91.26M
Rodney Dangerfield was a one-of-a-kind comic genius. This is an excellent example.
14. Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
R | 121 min | Biography, Comedy, Drama
In 1965, an unorthodox and irreverent DJ named Adrian Cronauer begins to shake up things when he is assigned to the U.S. Armed Services radio station in Vietnam.
Director: Barry Levinson | Stars: Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, Tom. T. Tran, Chintara Sukapatana
Votes: 146,655 | Gross: $123.92M
Pure Robin Williams. This was the best movie had made to that point in his career.
15. Dirty Dancing (I) (1987)
PG-13 | 100 min | Drama, Music, Romance
Spending the summer at a Catskills resort with her family, Frances "Baby" Houseman falls in love with the camp's dance instructor, Johnny Castle.
Director: Emile Ardolino | Stars: Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Jerry Orbach, Cynthia Rhodes
Votes: 242,687 | Gross: $0.62M
One of the most iconic movies about dancing and fading '50's values (as it was the '60's). Also a great example of the talented Patrick Swayze.
16. National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)
R | 109 min | Comedy
At a 1962 college, Dean Vernon Wormer is determined to expel the entire Delta Tau Chi Fraternity, but those troublemakers have other plans for him.
Director: John Landis | Stars: John Belushi, Karen Allen, Tom Hulce, Stephen Furst
This movie ushered in a new type of raunchy teen comedy. Many tropes were created here.
17. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
R | 82 min | Comedy, Music
Spinal Tap, one of England's loudest bands, is chronicled by film director Marty DiBergi on what proves to be a fateful tour.
Director: Rob Reiner | Stars: Rob Reiner, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Kimberly Stringer
Votes: 142,908 | Gross: $4.74M
This movie started a series of mockumentaries and a must of any musician or fan of rock.
18. When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
R | 95 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
Harry and Sally have known each other for years, and are very good friends, but they fear sex would ruin the friendship.
Director: Rob Reiner | Stars: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby
Votes: 228,490 | Gross: $92.82M
One of the most quoted and copied romantic comedies ever, showing off the talents of Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.
19. The Princess Bride (1987)
PG | 98 min | Adventure, Comedy, Family
A bedridden boy's grandfather reads him the story of a farmboy-turned-pirate who encounters numerous obstacles, enemies and allies in his quest to be reunited with his true love.
Director: Rob Reiner | Stars: Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon
Votes: 436,161 | Gross: $30.86M
One of the most referenced fantasy movies of all time.
20. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
PG | 113 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
With the assistance of the Enterprise crew, Admiral Kirk must stop an old nemesis, Khan Noonien Singh, from using the life-generating Genesis Device as the ultimate weapon.
Director: Nicholas Meyer | Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan
Votes: 125,235 | Gross: $78.91M
Possibly the best Star Trek movie of all time.
21. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
PG | 102 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy
Young Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto are swept away by a tornado from their Kansas farm to the magical Land of Oz, and embark on a quest with three new friends to see the Wizard, who can return her to her home and fulfill the others' wishes.
Directors: Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy, Norman Taurog, Richard Thorpe, King Vidor | Stars: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr
Votes: 410,470 | Gross: $2.08M
A masterpiece of family fantasy movie making.
22. My Fair Lady (1964)
G | 170 min | Drama, Family, Musical
In 1910s London, snobbish phonetics professor Henry Higgins agrees to a wager that he can make crude flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, presentable in high society.
Director: George Cukor | Stars: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White
Votes: 98,450 | Gross: $72.00M
Iconic musical adaptation of Pygmalion. Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn are both amazing.
23. The Sound of Music (1965)
G | 172 min | Biography, Drama, Family
A young novice is sent by her convent in 1930s Austria to become a governess to the seven children of a widowed naval officer.
Director: Robert Wise | Stars: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn
Votes: 244,643 | Gross: $163.21M
One of the best musicals ever on screen. Julie Andrews really shines as Maria.
24. The Graduate (1967)
PG | 106 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
A disillusioned college graduate finds himself torn between his older lover and her daughter.
Director: Mike Nichols | Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross, William Daniels
Votes: 280,017 | Gross: $104.95M
A film makers movie, definitely a progressive movie for 1967.
25. Cool Hand Luke (1967)
GP | 127 min | Crime, Drama
A laid back Southern man is sentenced to two years in a rural prison, but refuses to conform.
Director: Stuart Rosenberg | Stars: Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Strother Martin, J.D. Cannon
Votes: 181,752 | Gross: $16.22M
26. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
PG | 110 min | Biography, Crime, Drama
Wyoming, early 1900s. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid are the leaders of a band of outlaws. After a train robbery goes wrong they find themselves on the run with a posse hard on their heels. Their solution - escape to Bolivia.
Director: George Roy Hill | Stars: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin
Votes: 220,776 | Gross: $102.31M
One of the best sort-of westerns with a great pairing of Robert Redford and Paul Newman.
27. Schindler's List (1993)
R | 195 min | Biography, Drama, History
In German-occupied Poland during World War II, industrialist Oskar Schindler gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazis.
Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Caroline Goodall
Votes: 1,385,384 | Gross: $96.90M
Iconic Spielberg film
28. Bedazzled (2000)
PG-13 | 93 min | Comedy, Fantasy
Hopeless dweeb Elliot Richards is granted seven wishes by the Devil to snare Allison, the girl of his dreams, in exchange for his soul.
Director: Harold Ramis | Stars: Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Frances O'Connor, Miriam Shor
Votes: 108,560 | Gross: $37.88M
A sort-of sketch comedy that deftly shows off both Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley.
29. The Jerk (1979)
R | 94 min | Comedy
A simpleminded, sheltered country boy suddenly decides to leave his family home to experience life in the big city, where his naivete is both his best friend and his worst enemy.
Director: Carl Reiner | Stars: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Catlin Adams, Mabel King
Votes: 60,436 | Gross: $73.69M
One of the projects that made Steve Martin a star. Very silly, as well. Great Carl Reiner-directed movie.
30. Forrest Gump (1994)
PG-13 | 142 min | Drama, Romance
The presidencies of Kennedy and Johnson, the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal and other historical events unfold from the perspective of an Alabama man with an IQ of 75, whose only desire is to be reunited with his childhood sweetheart.
Director: Robert Zemeckis | Stars: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Sally Field
Votes: 2,136,614 | Gross: $330.25M
Possibly one of the most quoted movies of all time.
31. Apocalypse Now (1979)
R | 147 min | Drama, Mystery, War
A U.S. Army officer serving in Vietnam is tasked with assassinating a renegade Special Forces Colonel who sees himself as a god.
Director: Francis Ford Coppola | Stars: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest
Votes: 682,313 | Gross: $83.47M
One of the best war movies ever.
32. Titanic (1997)
PG-13 | 194 min | Drama, Romance
A seventeen-year-old aristocrat falls in love with a kind but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic.
Director: James Cameron | Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates
Votes: 1,219,478 | Gross: $659.33M
You've probably already seen it.
33. Avatar (2009)
PG-13 | 162 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy
A paraplegic Marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home.
Director: James Cameron | Stars: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez
Votes: 1,342,316 | Gross: $760.51M
Breakthrough in CGI and fantasy world building.
34. Misery (1990)
R | 107 min | Drama, Thriller
After a famous author is rescued from a car crash by a fan of his novels, he comes to realize that the care he is receiving is only the beginning of a nightmare of captivity and abuse.
Director: Rob Reiner | Stars: James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth, Frances Sternhagen
Votes: 221,056 | Gross: $61.28M
This made Kathy Bates a household name. A very dark Stephen King story.
35. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
PG | 99 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
An old Jewish woman and her African-American chauffeur in the American South have a relationship that grows and improves over the years.
Director: Bruce Beresford | Stars: Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy, Dan Aykroyd, Patti LuPone
Votes: 113,672 | Gross: $106.59M
Classic with two amazing actors.
36. Rocky (1976)
PG | 120 min | Drama, Sport
A small-time Philadelphia boxer gets a supremely rare chance to fight the world heavyweight champion in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.
Director: John G. Avildsen | Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers
Votes: 598,418 | Gross: $117.24M
Excellent fight picture that made Sly a star.
37. The Godfather (1972)
R | 175 min | Crime, Drama
Don Vito Corleone, head of a mafia family, decides to hand over his empire to his youngest son Michael. However, his decision unintentionally puts the lives of his loved ones in grave danger.
Director: Francis Ford Coppola | Stars: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Diane Keaton
Votes: 1,909,929 | Gross: $134.97M
Pretty well the ultimate mafia movie.
38. Men in Black (1997)
PG-13 | 98 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy
A police officer joins a secret organization that polices and monitors extraterrestrial interactions on Earth.
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld | Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D'Onofrio
Votes: 584,731 | Gross: $250.69M
Great sample of Will Smith's talent.
39. The Fugitive (1993)
PG-13 | 130 min | Action, Crime, Drama
Dr. Richard Kimble, unjustly accused of murdering his wife, must find the real killer while being the target of a nationwide manhunt led by a seasoned U.S. Marshal.
Director: Andrew Davis | Stars: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Sela Ward, Julianne Moore
Votes: 304,674 | Gross: $183.88M
Yes, it's a remake, but everything about this action flick is perfect.
40. Taxi Driver (1976)
R | 114 min | Crime, Drama
A mentally unstable veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action.
Director: Martin Scorsese | Stars: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Albert Brooks
Votes: 864,288 | Gross: $28.26M
41. Young Frankenstein (1974)
PG | 106 min | Comedy
An American grandson of the infamous scientist, struggling to prove that his grandfather was not as insane as people believe, is invited to Transylvania, where he discovers the process that reanimates a dead body.
Director: Mel Brooks | Stars: Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle
Votes: 162,794 | Gross: $86.30M
42. The Big Lebowski (1998)
R | 117 min | Comedy, Crime
Ultimate L.A. slacker Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski, mistaken for a millionaire of the same name, seeks restitution for a rug ruined by debt collectors, enlisting his bowling buddies for help while trying to find the millionaire's missing wife.
Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen | Stars: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi
Votes: 827,299 | Gross: $17.50M
43. The Sting (1973)
PG | 129 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama
Two grifters team up to pull off the ultimate con.
Director: George Roy Hill | Stars: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning
Votes: 269,612 | Gross: $159.60M
44. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
PG-13 | 97 min | Comedy