45 Movies Every Film Buff Should See

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You’re sitting around the office with your work mates talking movies, when suddenly someone mentions ****** (the unmentionable film). You passively mention that you haven’t seen it yet, to which they gasp, “You haven’t seen *****! It’s only the best thing since sliced bread. God’s gift to film.” You ashamedly tuck your head between your legs, completely clueless, while your “friends”, who have secret lives as movie snobs, belittle you for not seeing the greatest most awesomest movie of the century. We’ve all had this dialogue at one point or another, some more than others.

In no particular order, the list below is filled with many of those unmentionable films you need to see in order to avoid a similar situation from happening again.

Chances are you will not like something about this list. We are very aware that many movies you believe deserve to be included have been left out. Film remains subjective and although we would have liked to have added every great movie, it just wasn’t humanly possible. Feel free to lend us a hand by suggesting titles we might have missed, to make the list more complete. Better yet, compile your own list for us all to look through.

Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane is a 1941 American drama film, directed by and starring Orson Welles. It was released by RKO Pictures, and was Welles’s first feature film.

YEAR: 1941
PlOT: Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance.
DIRECTOR: Orson Welles
CAST: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten.


Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia is a 1962 British epic film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence.

YEAR: 1962
PlOT: Epic rumination on a flamboyant and controversial British military figure and his conflicted loyalties during wartime service.
DIRECTOR: David Lean
CAST: Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness.

ben hur

Ben Hur

Ben-Hur is a 1959 American epic historical drama film set in ancient Rome.

YEAR: 1959
PlOT: When a Jewish prince is betrayed and sent into slavery by a Roman friend, he regains his freedom and comes back for revenge.
DIRECTOR: William Wyler
CAST: Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

A drama film directed by Miloš Forman and based on the 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

YEAR: 1975
PlOT: Upon arriving at a mental institution, a brash rebel rallies the patients to take on the oppressive Nurse Ratched, a woman more dictator than nurse.
DIRECTOR: Miloš Forman
CAST: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher

Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai is a Japanese adventure drama film. The film takes place in 1587 during the Warring States Period of Japan.

YEAR: 1954
PlOT: A poor village under attack by bandits recruits seven unemployed samurai to help them defend themselves.
DIRECTOR: Akira Kurosawa
CAST: Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni, Akira Kurosawa

2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick.

YEAR: 1968
PlOT: Humanity finds a mysterious, obviously artificial, object buried beneath the Lunar surface and, with the intelligent computer H.A.L. 9000, sets off on a quest.
DIRECTOR: Stanley Kubrick
CAST: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood

Raging Bull

Raging Bull

Raging Bull is a biographical sports drama art film adapted by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin from Jake LaMotta’s memoir.

YEAR: 1980
PlOT: An emotionally self-destructive boxer’s journey through life, as the violence and temper that leads him to the top in the ring, destroys his life outside it.
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
CAST: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty

Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver is a psychological thriller film written by Paul Schrader. The film is set in New York City, soon after the Vietnam War.

YEAR: 1976
PlOT: A mentally unstable Vietnam war veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City where the perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge to voilence.
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
CAST: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster

The Deer Hunter

The Deer Hunter is a 1978 drama film directed and co-written by Michael Cimino about a trio of Russian American steel worker friends and their infantry service in the Vietnam War.

YEAR: 1978
PlOT: An in-depth examination of the way that the Vietnam war affects the lives of people in a small industrial town in the USA.
DIRECTOR: Michael Cimino
CAST: Robert De Niro, John Cazale

Godfather I and II

The Godfather is a 1972 American crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by Albert S. Ruddy from a screenplay by Mario Puzo and Coppola.

YEAR: 1972 and 1974
PlOT: The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.
DIRECTOR: Michael Cimino
CAST: Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction is a 1994 American crime film directed by Quentin Tarantino, who co-wrote its screenplay with Roger Avary.

YEAR: 1994
PlOT: The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster’s wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.
DIRECTOR: Quentin Tarantino
CAST: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman

Annie Hall

Annie Hall is a 1977 American romantic comedy directed by Woody Allen from his screenplay co-written with Marshall Brickman.

YEAR: 1977
PlOT: Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the ditsy Annie Hall.
DIRECTOR: Woody Allen
CAST: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton

Blade Runner

Blade Runner is a dystopian science fiction action film directed by Ridley Scott.

YEAR: 1982
PlOT: Deckard, a blade runner, has to track down and terminate 4 replicants who hijacked a ship in space and have returned to earth seeking their maker.
DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott
CAST: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a science fiction film written and directed by Steven Spielberg.

YEAR: 1977
PlOT: After an encounter with UFOs, a line worker feels undeniably drawn to an isolated area in the wilderness where something spectacular is about to happen.
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
CAST: Richard Dreyfuss


Snatch is a 2000 crime film written and directed by British filmmaker Guy Ritchie, featuring an ensemble cast.

YEAR: 2000
PlOT: Unscrupulous boxing promoters, violent bookmakers, a Russian gangster, incompetent amateur robbers, and supposedly Jewish jewelers fight to track down a priceless stolen diamond.
DIRECTOR: Guy Ritchie
CAST: Jason Statham, Brad Pitt

Sling Blade

Sling Blade is a 1996 American drama film set in rural Arkansas, written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton, who also stars in the lead role.

YEAR: 1996
PlOT: Karl Childers, a simple man hospitalized since his childhood murder of his mother and her lover, is released to start a new life in a small town.
DIRECTOR: Billy Bob Thornton
CAST: Billy Bob Thornton


Alien is a 1979 science fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott.

YEAR: 1979
PlOT: A commercial deep space towing ship, investigating a suspected SOS, lands on a distant planet. The crew discovers some strange creatures and investigates.
DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott
CAST: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt

Empire of the Sun

Empire of the Sun is a 1987 American coming of age war film based on J. G. Ballard’s semi-autobiographical novel of the same name.

YEAR: 1987
PlOT: A young English boy struggles to survive under Japanese occupation during World War II.
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
CAST: Christian Bale, John Malkovich


Goodfellas (stylized as GoodFellas) is a 1990 American crime film directed by Martin Scorsese. It is a film adaptation of the 1986 non-fiction book Wiseguy.

YEAR: 1990
PlOT: Henry Hill and his friends work their way up through the mob hierarchy.
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
CAST: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta

The Exorcist

The Exorcist is a 1973 horror film directed by William Friedkin, adapted by William Peter Blatty from his 1971 novel of the same name.

YEAR: 1973
PlOT: When a girl is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter.
DIRECTOR: William Friedkin
CAST: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow

The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption is an award winning American drama film life in prison.

YEAR: 1994
PlOT: Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.
DIRECTOR: Frank Darabont
CAST: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman

There will be blood

There Will Be Blood is a 2007 American drama film written, co-produced, and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. The film is loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil!

YEAR: 2007
PlOT: A story about family, greed, religion, and oil, centered around a turn-of-the-century prospector in the early days of the business.
DIRECTOR: Paul Thomas Anderson
CAST: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman

Lean on Me

Lean on Me is a 1989 dramatized biographical film written by Michael Schiffer, directed by John G. Avildsen.

YEAR: 1989
PlOT: The dedicated but tyrannical Joe Clark is appointed the principal of a decaying inner-city school that he is determined to improve.
DIRECTOR: John G. Avildsen
CAST: Morgan Freeman, Beverly Todd

The Shining

The Shining is a 1980 psychological horror film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick

YEAR: 1980
PlOT: A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future.
DIRECTOR: Stanley Kubrick
CAST: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall

Leon: The Professional

Léon: The Professional is a 1994 English-language French thriller film written and directed by Luc Besson.

YEAR: 1994
PlOT: A professional assassin rescues a teenage girl whose parents were killed in a police raid.
DIRECTOR: Luc Besson
CAST: Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman


Scarface is a 1983 American epic crime film directed by Brian De Palma, written by Oliver Stone

YEAR: 1983
PlOT: In 1980 Miami, a determined Cuban immigrant takes over a drug cartel while succumbing to greed.
DIRECTOR: Brian De Palma
CAST: Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer

The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects is a 1995 American neo-noir film written by Christopher McQuarrie and directed by Bryan Singer

YEAR: 1995
PlOT: A boat has been destroyed, criminals are dead, and the key to this mystery lies with the only survivor and his twisted, convoluted story beginning with five career crooks in a seemingly random police lineup.
DIRECTOR: Bryan Singer
CAST: Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne

Fight Club

Fight Club is a 1999 American film based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk.

YEAR: 1999
PlOT: An insomniac office worker and a devil-may-care soap maker form an underground fight club that transforms into a violent revolution.
DIRECTOR: David Fincher
CAST: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton

Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket is a 1987 war film produced, directed and co-written by Stanley Kubrick.

YEAR: 1987
PlOT: A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the Vietnam War has on his fellow Marine recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting set in 1968 in Hue, Vietnam.
DIRECTOR: Stanley Kubrick
CAST: Matthew Modine, R. Lee Ermey

American History X

American History X is a 1998 American drama film directed by Tony Kaye and starring Edward Norton

YEAR: 1998
PlOT: A former neo-nazi skinhead tries to prevent his younger brother from going down the same wrong path that he did.
CAST: Edward Norton, Edward Furlong

Requiem for a Dream

Requiem for a Dream is a 2000 drama film directed by Darren Aronofsky.

YEAR: 2000
PlOT: The drug-induced utopias of four Coney Island individuals are shattered when their addictions become stronger.
DIRECTOR: Darren Aronofsky
CAST: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly

Being John Malkovich

Being John Malkovich is a 1999 American comedy-fantasy film written by Charlie Kaufman.

YEAR: 1999
PlOT: A puppeteer discovers a portal that leads literally into the head of the movie star, John Malkovich.
DIRECTOR: Spike Jonze
CAST: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz

The Last Emperor

The Last Emperor is a 1987 biopic about the life of Puyi, the last Emperor of China, whose autobiography was the basis for the screenplay.

YEAR: 1987
PlOT: The story of the final Emperor of China.
DIRECTOR: Bernardo Bertolucci
CAST: John Lone, Joan Chen, Peter O’Toole


Seven is a 1995 American thriller film, with horror and neo-noir elements, written by Andrew Kevin Walker

YEAR: 1995
PlOT: Two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his modus operandi.
DIRECTOR: David Fincher
CAST: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt

L.A. Confidential

L.A. Confidential is a 1997 neo-noir film based on James Ellroy’s 1990 novel of the same title.

YEAR: 1997
PlOT: As corruption grows in 1950s LA, three policemen – the straight-laced, the brutal, and the sleazy – investigate a series of murders with their own brand of justice.
DIRECTOR: Curtis Hanson
CAST: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce


Amélie is a 2001 romantic comedy film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

YEAR: 2001
PlOT: Amelie, an innocent and naive girl in Paris, with her own sense of justice, decides to help those around her and along the way, discovers love.
DIRECTOR: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
CAST: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz

Before Sunrise

Before Sunrise is a 1995 romantic drama film directed by Richard Linklater.

YEAR: 1995
PlOT: A young man and woman meet on a train in Europe, and wind up spending one romantic evening together in Vienna. Unfortunately, both know that this will probably be their only night together.
DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater
CAST: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now is a 1979 American epic war film set during the Vietnam War.

YEAR: 1979
PlOT: During the on-going Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade Green Beret who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.
DIRECTOR: Francis Ford Coppola
CAST: Marlon Brandon, Martin Sheen

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 art film adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novella A Clockwork Orange.

YEAR: 1971
PlOT: In future Britain, charismatic delinquent Alex DeLarge is jailed and volunteers for an experimental aversion therapy developed by the government in an effort to solve society’s crime problem.
DIRECTOR: Stanley Kubrick
CAST: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee


Memento is a 2000 American neo-noir psychological thriller film written and directed by Christopher Nolan.

YEAR: 2000
PlOT: A man, suffering from short-term memory loss, uses notes and tattoos to hunt for the man he thinks killed his wife.
DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
CAST: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss

Dead Man Walking

Dead Man Walking is a 1995 American crime drama film adapted from the non-fiction book of the same name.

YEAR: 1995
PlOT: A nun, while comforting a convicted killer on death row, empathizes with both the killer and his victim’s families.
DIRECTOR: Tim Robbins
CAST: Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn

No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men is a thriller based on the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name.

YEAR: 2007
PlOT: Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande.
DIRECTOR: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
CAST: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin

The Pianist

The Pianist is a 2002 biographical war drama film directed by Roman Polański.

YEAR: 2007
PlOT: A Polish Jewish musician struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II.
DIRECTOR: Roman Polanski
CAST: Adrien Brody


Vertigo is a 1958 psychological thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock based on the 1954 novel D’entre les morts by Boileau-Narcejac.

YEAR: 1958
PlOT: A retired San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend’s much-younger wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her.
DIRECTOR: Alfred Hitchcock
CAST: James Stewart, Kim Novak

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