Good Movies To Watch Before You Die


In 2002, editor Stephen Jay Schneider brought together movies in his book “1001 Movies you Must See Before You Die”, ranging from art house classics to westerns, written by leading film critics and journalists. He updated the book every year since then. A dozen genres are covered: musicals, thrillers, westerns, science-fiction, comedy, war, horror, epics, film noir, art-house, romance, and social drama, arranged in chronological order.

Again, we picked some good movies to watch from the book, mixed with our hot picks and listed below:

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Beth struggles to maintain order on the last day of summer camp at Camp Firewood. She’s also fallen in love with an astrophysics professor who is too busy trying to save the camp from a falling space station owned by NASA.

Stars: Janeane Garofalo, Michael Showalter, Bradley Cooper, David Hyde Pierce, Marguerite Moreau

Director: David Wain

Mulholland Drive (2001)

A young woman is left with amnesia when she gets into a car crash on Mulholland Drive. She is found by Betty, who is in Los Angeles chasing her dream to become a Hollywood star. The two women embark on an adventure all over the City of Angels in search of answers.

Stars: Laura Elena Harring, Naomi Watts, Justin Theroux

Director: David Lynch

The Goonies (1985)

Brand and Mikey Walsh are almost losing their house in a foreclosure but together with Mikey’s friend Chunk; they go after One-eyed Willy’s treasure that they believe could help the two brothers save their home. The Fratellis (a family gang) however also want it.

Stars: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton

Director: Richard Donner

North by Northwest (1959)

Roger O. Thornhill is an ad executive from New York, who is on the run from a deadly foreign spy named Vandamm and his associates after they mistake him for an agent of the government.

Stars: Cary Grant, James Mason, Eva Marie Saint, Jessie Royce Landis, Leo G. Carroll

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Lost in Translation (2003)

The newlywed but neglected Charlotte accompanies her celebrity photographer husband to Japan where she meets old Bob, a lonely film star who is in Tokyo to shoot a commercial for a whiskey. Is their traveling companionship in a foreign land becoming something else despite both of them being married?

Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Akiko Takeshita, Giovanni Ribisi

Director: Sofia Coppola

Boyz’n the Hood (1991)

Tre moves to the tough Crenshaw neighborhood of South Central in Los Angeles to live with his father Styles who teaches him respect and proper values while his girlfriend Brandi is teaching him matters of faith. His two friends Ricky and Doughboy are however not as lucky to have a father, and they’re drawn into the life of crime which ends tragically.

Stars: Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Ice Cube, Angela Bassett

Director: John Singleton

The Apartment (1960)

Baxter works for an insurance company, but he also lends out his apartment to company bosses looking for a private place to conduct their extramarital affairs. His boss Mr. Sheldrake promises to promote him for using the apartment only for Baxter to learn later that the mystery girl in question is Fran, his crush and the girl he is very much interested.

Stars: Jack Lemmon, Fred MacMurray, Shirley MacLaine,

Director: Billy Wilder

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Andy Dufresne works for a bank, but he is falsely accused of killing his cheating wife together with her lover who earns him two lifetime sentences at the toughest prison. He forms a friendship with the seasoned prison entrepreneur called Red. The Warden is also using him to embezzle prison funds, but things take an unexpected turn.

Stars: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, Clancy Brown, William Thomas Sadler

Director: Frank Darabont

Chinatown (1974)

Jake Gittes is a private eye who has just been hired by Mrs. Mulwray to investigate her husband’s infidelity. There is only one problem; the woman who hired him is an imposter! Even worse Mr. Hollis Mulwray turns up dead.

Stars: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, Perry Lopez, John Huston, Darrell Zwerling

Director: Roman Polanski

Rain Man (1988)

Charlie Babbitt is a car sales person with an autistic older brother Raymond living in a mental institution. Charles learns of his estranged father’s death and comes back home to Cincinnati where he discovers that his father’s $3 million worth fortune has been left to the institution where his brother lives.

Stars: Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Valeria Golino, Bonnie Hunt

Director: Barry Levinson

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Capt. Willard is sent to hunt and eliminate Walter Kurtz who the U.S. government believes is mad. He soon discovers that his target is a highly decorated U.S. Army officer.

Stars: Martin Sheen, Dennis Hopper, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Touch of Evil (1958)

Miguel Vargas works for the Mexican drug enforcement and is also newly married to Susie. As he investigates a car bomb explosion together with Hank Quinlan near the American-Mexican border, Vargas begins to doubt that Quinlan and his partner Menzies are framing an innocent man, and they are both dirty.

Stars: Charlton Heston, Joseph Calleia, Orson Welles, Janet Leigh

Director: Orson Welles

Casablanca (1942)

Rick Blaine owns a nightclub in Casablanca, Morocco and he is asked by an old flame Ilsa to help her and her rebel husband Victor Laszlo to escape from the Germans who are hot on their heels.

Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet

Director: Michael Curtiz

Adventureland (2009)

James Brennan wants to take a trip to Europe for the summer, but his parents cannot afford it. He’s forced to get a job at the Shady Adventureland zoo to cover his traveling costs. He finds Emily Lewin and love instead and learns about his real life values.

Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Michael Zegen, Wendie Malick, Ryan McFarland, Kristen Stewart

Director: Greg Mottola

Stairway to Heaven (1946)

Peter Carter is a British pilot heading home in a severely damaged plane from a bombing mission during World War II. He cheats death over the ocean, but an angel is sent to escort Peter to heaven to rectify this problem. He wasn’t meant to survive at all!

Stars: David Niven, Kim Hunter, Marius Goring, Robert Coote

Director: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell

Trainspotting (1996)

Mark Renton is a heroin addict who moves from Edinburg to London to escape the sad life and drug abuse but soon his friends Sick Boy and Begbie show up on his doorstep! He also has an underage girlfriend called Diane.

Stars: Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Kelly Macdonald, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd

Director: Danny Boyle

La Grande Illusion (1937)

Captain de Boeldieu and Lieutenant Marechal are prisoners of war in a German camp. They must overcome their differences and plan an escape despite Captain de Boeldieu developing a bond with a German officer.

Stars: Jean Gabin, Pierre Fresnay, Erich von Stroheim

Director: Jean Renoir

The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)

Damien O’Donovan is an Irish young doctor heading to London where he has just a got a job at a hospital. All that changes when he witnesses the British Black and Tans kill a young man as he says his goodbyes at a farm. He decides to join his brother Teddy who is fighting in the IRA (Irish Republican Army).

Stars: Cillian Murphy, Padraic Delaney, Mary O’Riordan, Liam Cunningham

Director: Ken Loach

Nymphomaniac (2013) Vol.1 & Vol.2

Joe is a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac. A man called Seligman finds her brutally beaten, and he takes her under his care. She recounts her promiscuity and sexual obsessions to him.

Stars: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Stacy Martin, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Shia LaBeouf

Director: Lars von Trier

The Third Man (1949)

Holly Martins writes pulp western novels. He visits his childhood friend Harry Lime but instead finds him dead. After learning that there might have been a third man during Harry’s death, he forms a conspiracy theory that leads him to a head-to-head confrontation with British army officer Calloway as he falls deeply in love with his dead friend’s girlfriend Anna.

Stars: Joseph Cotton, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard, Alida Valli

Director: Carol Reed

Psycho (1960)

Marion Crane has just stolen $40, 000 to skip with her boyfriend, Sam. She stops over at Bates Motel due to a massive storm. She meets Norman who likes stuffing animals and something weird going on with his mom!

Stars: Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Pat Hitchcock, John Gavin, Vera Miles

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Irreversible (2002)

Alex is raped and brutally beaten one night in Paris. Her boyfriend Marcus and ex-lover Pierre go out and hire two thugs to help them get revenge on the rapist.

Stars: Monica Bellucci, Albert Dupontel, Vincent Cassel, Stéphane Drouot

Director: Gaspar Noe

Boogie Nights (1997)

Eddy Adams is a busboy in San Fernando Valley during the 70s who is brought into the world of porn as Dirk Diggler by a director called Jack Homer. It’s a roller coaster ride as he struggles with drugs and conceit in a circle of close friends and co-actors Reed, Amber, and Rollergirl.

Stars: Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly, Julianne Moore, Heather Graham

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Back to the Future (1985)

Marty McFly is suddenly in the 50s thanks to an experiment gone wrong. It’s a funny story where he has to make sure his parents get together to save his future. He also has to be back to his own time to save his friend Doc before it too late.

Stars: Christopher Lloyd, Michael J. Fox, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Se7en (1995)

David Mills has just come transferred, and William Somerset is hanging his boots. But the two detectives are about to encounter a very weird serial killer who picks his victims using the seven deadly sins. Whoever represents one of the sins is dead! Can they can him before he finishes his mission?

Stars: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey

Director: David Fincher

Goon (2011)

Doug Glatt is not like his nerdy adoptive family, but that’s ok because they don’t like him either! He joins an underperforming hockey team as an “enforcer” and leads them to semi-pro hockey glory. He moves from his work as a bouncer to the ice with no idea of how to play hockey, just a pair of steel knuckles!

Stars: Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill, Liev Schreiber

Director: Michael Dowse

Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001)

Bhuvan is a farmer in British occupied India, and he is not afraid to oppose the Captain Russell’s unfair land taxation. The only to have his way is to win a cricket match against Russel’s team.

Stars: Aamir Khan, Paul Blackthorne, Gracy Singh, Rachel Shelley

Director: Ashutosh Gowariker

The Ipcress File (1965)

While investigating a case where scientists are disappearing and reappearing brainwashed, Harry a British spy chances onto an audio tape labeled Ipcress, which could help uncover the mystery and capture the notorious Bluejay. Everyone is a suspect including his superiors.

Stars: Guy Doleman, Michael Caine, Aubrey Richards

Director: Sidney J. Furie

Cabaret (1972)

Sally Bowles is an American Cabaret singer in 1931 Berlin. She meet and falls in love with the sexually confused Brian, who is about to finish his studies. Things dramatically change when Maximilian the Playboy comes to town.

Stars: Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Helmut Griem

Director: Bob Fosse

Memento (2000)

Due to an accident, Leonard can’t remember his last 15 minutes! However, despite this disadvantage, he goes for the guy who raped and murdered his wife by creating a system to help him remember where and why he’s going there!

Stars: Guy Pearce, Joe Pantoliano, Carrie-Anne Moss

Director: Christopher Nolan

Halloween (1978)

Michael Myers has been locked up for 15 years after killing his 17 years old sister on a Halloween night when he was only 6. The now 21 years old Michael escapes during a transfer, and his first stop is his hometown Haddonfield. Who will die next?

Stars: Donald Pleasence, Tony Moran, Nancy Loomis, Arthur Malet

Director: John Carpenter

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Jordan Belford is a young but very ambitious stock broker. He eventually starts his brokerage firm together with his closest friend and confidant Donnie. They soon rise to fame and money in a world full of drugs and sex. Until it all burns down after the government catches up with them.

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler

Director: Martin Scorsese

City of God (2002)

Lil Ze and Rocket live in a slum, but they have different ambitions in life. Lil Ze gets into dealing drugs while Rocket becomes a photographer and uses his passion for highlighting social ills in his neighborhood. Their paths cross and spark a dangerous war for the turf. Knockout Ned wants his piece.

Stars: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Seu Jorge

Director: Katia Lund, Fernando Meirelles

In The Mood for Love (2000)

Chow Mo-wan is a journalist in Honk Kong from the early 60s who moves into a new apartment with his estranged wife; always away working. Here he meets Su Li-zen, who is at similar predicament with her ever working husband. It turns out both are cheated on by their respective spouses. They are starting to fall in love, but their attraction to each other is complicated.
A movie like “In the Mood for Love” is just so typical of Wong Kar-Wai. This great story from the Chinese master of deception will keep you guessing from start to finish. Nothing, as always, is what it seems to be with this talented director.

Stars: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung Man-yuk

Director: Kar Wai Wong


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