40 movies you must watch before you die

by akshay-mamidi | created - 08 Nov 2015 | updated - 01 Jun 2019 | Public
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1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

R | 142 min | Drama

82 Metascore

Over the course of several years, two convicts form a friendship, seeking consolation and, eventually, redemption through basic compassion.

Director: Frank Darabont | Stars: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler

Votes: 2,802,453 | Gross: $28.34M

Who'd have thought a story by Stephen King, more over a short story, would do so well both commercially and critically? Well, this is what you get when you get Frank Darabont to direct a movie with Morgan Freeman in it.

2. Good Will Hunting (1997)

R | 126 min | Drama, Romance

70 Metascore

Will Hunting, a janitor at M.I.T., has a gift for mathematics, but needs help from a psychologist to find direction in his life.

Director: Gus Van Sant | Stars: Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Stellan Skarsgård

Votes: 1,024,048 | Gross: $138.43M

Biased here. Not everybody loves this movie, but it's on the top of my watch list purely because of the rawness and emotion of the scenes with long strips of conversation. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's screenwriting debut, which they co-won an Oscar for. If only Titanic did not completely eclipse this movie in 1997, this movie would have won much more than the 4 academy awards than it did.

3. Forrest Gump (1994)

PG-13 | 142 min | Drama, Romance

82 Metascore

The history of the United States from the 1950s to the '70s unfolds from the perspective of an Alabama man with an IQ of 75, who yearns to be reunited with his childhood sweetheart.

Director: Robert Zemeckis | Stars: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Sally Field

Votes: 2,181,177 | Gross: $330.25M

I don't have to elaborate, do I?

4. Pulp Fiction (1994)

R | 154 min | Crime, Drama

95 Metascore

The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster and his wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.

Director: Quentin Tarantino | Stars: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis

Votes: 2,149,569 | Gross: $107.93M

Ok, many people would find this movie weird, because of its weird chronological sequence and generally random themes and events that don't really connect or have significance as a whole. Well that's the point here. Narrowing down on scenes and having long, conversational scenes where gangsters discuss philosophical ideas isn't what you'd usually expect of them. Not to mention Samuel Jackson's Oscar-Worthy acting. Tarantino's best.

5. American Beauty (1999)

R | 122 min | Drama

84 Metascore

A sexually frustrated suburban father has a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his daughter's best friend.

Director: Sam Mendes | Stars: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley

Votes: 1,186,869 | Gross: $130.10M

Kevin Spacey's voice is probably my most favorite voice in the world. He has just the right tinge of timbre in a background of this alto voice that is exceptionally soothing. The theme of this movie is not what you'd expect it to be, and the turning point appears gradually, ending off in an ultimate climax with, again, Spacey's voice as the backdrop of the finale.

6. The Usual Suspects (1995)

R | 106 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

77 Metascore

The sole survivor of a pier shoot-out tells the story of how a notorious criminal influenced the events that began with five criminals meeting in a seemingly random police lineup.

Director: Bryan Singer | Stars: Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Stephen Baldwin

Votes: 1,119,839 | Gross: $23.34M

Another one of Kevin Spacey's big roles during his "prime" of the late 90s. An interesting story, with a slightly predictable twist.

7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

R | 108 min | Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi

89 Metascore

When their relationship turns sour, a couple undergoes a medical procedure to have each other erased from their memories for ever.

Director: Michel Gondry | Stars: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Gerry Robert Byrne

Votes: 1,047,400 | Gross: $34.40M

I had nightmares for 3 days after watching this. Don't use that as an excuse not to watch it though. It's excellent, really.

I watched this again recently and I realised what I wrote above doesn't do much justice to the movie. The scenes are beautiful; the way the memories were removed were extremely well thought out, the slow fading of the details from the backgrounds were the little facts I loved about the movie. I should probably move this up to my top 5. Yes, I should.

8. The Green Mile (1999)

R | 189 min | Crime, Drama, Fantasy

61 Metascore

A tale set on death row in a Southern jail, where gentle giant John possesses the mysterious power to heal people's ailments. When the lead guard, Paul, recognizes John's gift, he tries to help stave off the condemned man's execution.

Director: Frank Darabont | Stars: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt

Votes: 1,362,354 | Gross: $136.80M

The second of Stephen King's works to make it big commercially and critically. Frank Durabont should really be the only one allowed to make his books into movies, with the success of The Shawshank Redemption.

9. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

R | 102 min | Drama

71 Metascore

The drug-induced utopias of four Coney Island people are shattered when their addictions run deep.

Director: Darren Aronofsky | Stars: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans

Votes: 875,806 | Gross: $3.64M

Officially the most disturbing movie I've ever watched. This would not have been without the excellent cinematography and lightings. Although you'd think a movie discouraging the use of drugs by showing its terrible effects would deter the individual, it made me want to try them even more. JK, heh.

10. Fight Club (1999)

R | 139 min | Drama

67 Metascore

An insomniac office worker and a devil-may-care soap maker form an underground fight club that evolves into much more.

Director: David Fincher | Stars: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Meat Loaf, Zach Grenier

Votes: 2,236,601 | Gross: $37.03M

Brad Pitt + Edward Norton + Soap = Legendary

11. Memento (2000)

R | 113 min | Mystery, Thriller

83 Metascore

A man with short-term memory loss attempts to track down his wife's murderer.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Mark Boone Junior

Votes: 1,288,469 | Gross: $25.54M

Just why this movie is so unknown and underrated, I don't know. What I know is that Jonathan Nolan is equally, if not, more talented than his older brother for coming up with a plot so elaborate, perfect and thought provoking 10 years before Inception. The brothers were already *beep* people since the beginning of the 21st Century and only got found out after Inception.

12. The Pianist (2002)

R | 150 min | Biography, Drama, Music

85 Metascore

A Polish Jewish musician struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II.

Director: Roman Polanski | Stars: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Emilia Fox

Votes: 879,008 | Gross: $32.57M

Adrien Brody did himself, his Jewish ancestors, and all the Jews in the world a great justice by his performance in the pianist. Scorsese's Schindler's List, if you please.

13. Schindler's List (1993)

R | 195 min | Biography, Drama, History

95 Metascore

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: 1,408,946 | Gross: $96.90M

It'll probably be the same description as The Pianist so I'll just say - Spielberg's Pianist in conclusion.

14. Confessions (2010)

Not Rated | 106 min | Drama, Thriller

A psychological thriller of a grieving mother turned cold-blooded avenger with a twisty master plan to pay back those who were responsible for her daughter's death.

Director: Tetsuya Nakashima | Stars: Takako Matsu, Yoshino Kimura, Masaki Okada, Yukito Nishii

Votes: 41,079

The freakiest psychological thriller I've ever seen gosh this was a beautifully scary movie I think I got scarred for a few days after watching it

15. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

R | 153 min | Adventure, Drama, War

69 Metascore

In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers coincides with a theatre owner's vengeful plans for the same.

Director: Quentin Tarantino | Stars: Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth, Mélanie Laurent

Votes: 1,526,994 | Gross: $120.54M

This really seals the deal of me being a complete Tarantino fan I mean... I just love all his works and I can't find any redundant scene in this one, as well as his other works. Favourite scene would be the bar scene of course - "Say auf wiedersehen to your nazi balls" LOL I could watch that a million times over

16. Django Unchained (2012)

R | 165 min | Drama, Western

81 Metascore

With the help of a German bounty-hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal plantation owner in Mississippi.

Director: Quentin Tarantino | Stars: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington

Votes: 1,636,872 | Gross: $162.81M

Tarantino does it again with his spaghetti western style incorporated into a very realistic take on the slavery situation in the states before the civil war. Christof Waltz does an amazing job again with his meticulous (I would like to hear him say that word in character) acting and attention to every single action or word he says. And you'd love tarantino's cameo in this one

17. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

R | 111 min | Action, Crime, Thriller

69 Metascore

After awakening from a four-year coma, a former assassin wreaks vengeance on the team of assassins who betrayed her.

Director: Quentin Tarantino | Stars: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen

Votes: 1,159,947 | Gross: $70.10M

And Vol. 2 as well (Counting the both of them as one movie for the purpose of this list)

Tarantino... I should just stop there. You see the trend

18. Gattaca (1997)

PG-13 | 106 min | Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller

64 Metascore

A genetically inferior man assumes the identity of a superior one in order to pursue his lifelong dream of space travel.

Director: Andrew Niccol | Stars: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Gore Vidal

Votes: 316,070 | Gross: $12.34M

Highly underrated sci-fi movie that first explored the complex nature of identity theft and DNA manipulation. I love how detailed it got at some parts; they really didn't overlook much. I still wonder why it never got the fame it deserved.

19. Secretary (2002)

R | 107 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

63 Metascore

A young woman, recently released from a mental hospital, gets a job as a secretary to a demanding lawyer, where their employer-employee relationship turns into a sexual, sadomasochistic one.

Director: Steven Shainberg | Stars: James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jeremy Davies, Lesley Ann Warren

Votes: 95,899 | Gross: $4.06M

This is the only movie in which I have seen the concept of sadomasochism and BDSM explored. It is really quite disturbing in a way but so artistic and absorbing that you just lose yourself in the movie. And the main actor looked like Thom Yorke of Radiohead, if that's a bonus.

20. Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

PG-13 | 106 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

70 Metascore

A delusional young man strikes up an unconventional relationship with a doll he finds on the Internet.

Director: Craig Gillespie | Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, R.D. Reid

Votes: 151,507 | Gross: $5.97M

One of Ryan Gosling's arthouse films that allowed me to conclude that this man is a real showman and deserves much more admiration and fame that he, of course, already has

21. In Bruges (2008)

R | 107 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

67 Metascore

Guilt-stricken after a job gone wrong, hitman Ray and his partner await orders from their ruthless boss in Bruges, Belgium, the last place in the world Ray wants to be.

Director: Martin McDonagh | Stars: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ciarán Hinds, Elizabeth Berrington

Votes: 450,997 | Gross: $7.76M

I'll be honest with you - this was the movie that surprised me at the most random moments; Colin firth's excellent Irish drawl fits in with his funny villain persona that he pulls off excellently. And you'd want to visit Bruges after watching this movie.

22. Blue Valentine (2010)

R | 112 min | Drama, Romance

81 Metascore

The relationship of a contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between time periods.

Director: Derek Cianfrance | Stars: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, John Doman, Faith Wladyka

Votes: 206,542 | Gross: $9.74M

Raw, refreshing and real. I can't put into words how well Gosling and Williams acted in their roles, it's one of the few moments I feel as though I'm watching characters living their lives rather than actors acting as characters. Brilliant screenplay and touching scenes. Top 5.

23. Submarine (2010)

R | 97 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

76 Metascore

15-year-old Oliver Tate has two objectives: to lose his virginity before his next birthday, and to extinguish the flame between his mother and an ex-lover who has resurfaced in her life.

Director: Richard Ayoade | Stars: Craig Roberts, Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine, Noah Taylor

Votes: 94,722 | Gross: $0.47M

I'm only 20 mins into this movie and I'm loving it. The delivery is flawlessly deadpan and hilarious at the same time, I don't know what to make of it. Cameras are perfect too, every best matches in with each motion and screenplay couldn't be better. Extremely relevant scenes and done in a very "indie" way, of course.

24. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

R | 139 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

76 Metascore

In late 1950s New York, a young underachiever named Tom Ripley is sent to Italy to retrieve Dickie Greenleaf, a rich and spoiled millionaire playboy. But when the errand fails, Ripley takes extreme measures.

Director: Anthony Minghella | Stars: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett

Votes: 222,682 | Gross: $81.30M

"my funny... Valentine..." the eerie music always seeps into my head when I think about this movie. One of Matt Damon's best and again, underrated movie that deserves more light. Philip Seymour Hoffman's in it too, if that's a bonus.

25. An Education (2009)

PG-13 | 100 min | Drama

85 Metascore

A coming-of-age story about a teenage girl in 1960s suburban London, and how her life changes with the arrival of a playboy nearly twice her age.

Director: Lone Scherfig | Stars: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Olivia Williams

Votes: 136,954 | Gross: $12.57M

This was my Carey Mulligan phase so I just liked nearly every movie she acted in. Fanboying aside, this was a really brilliant movie and should be watched when you feel like ditching your studies and taking a train to nowhere with a stranger you think you trust.

26. Big Fish (2003)

PG-13 | 125 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

58 Metascore

A frustrated son tries to determine the fact from fiction in his dying father's life.

Director: Tim Burton | Stars: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange

Votes: 451,923 | Gross: $66.26M

The attitude of story telling to convey messages of one's life was truly exemplified through this movie. Scenes are odd, heavily exaggerated and obviously false but it's all in the image of story telling. Burton does it again by getting the viewer so engrossed in his plot, which, without fail, never fails to surprise an audience. Expect a bizarre ending, that's what I can say for a Tim Burton movie. It's his style and there's nothing wrong about it. But it's the message that he's trying to get across that matters. A small, but sweet and poignant one.

27. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)

Not Rated | 155 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical

Three friends decide to turn their fantasy vacation into reality after one of their friends gets engaged.

Director: Zoya Akhtar | Stars: Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, Abhay Deol, Katrina Kaif

Votes: 83,194 | Gross: $3.11M

My favorite Hindi movie of all-time! The Akhtar siblings are so bloody talented I don't know how they do it so well. The acting, screenplay and direction was just perfect in this.

28. Barfi! (2012)

Not Rated | 151 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

Three young people learn that love can neither be defined nor contained by society's definition of normal and abnormal.

Director: Anurag Basu | Stars: Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Ileana D'Cruz, Saurabh Shukla

Votes: 84,971 | Gross: $2.80M

Another good Hindi movie (good ones are honestly rare, some people wouldn't agree). But it is a must watch for Kapoor's beautiful acting. Now this is called acting, because as a deaf and mute person, he has to convey all his feelings and emotions purely through body language and expression.

29. The Departed (2006)

R | 151 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

85 Metascore

An undercover cop and a mole in the police attempt to identify each other while infiltrating an Irish gang in South Boston.

Director: Martin Scorsese | Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg

Votes: 1,381,457 | Gross: $132.38M

Irish gang stories began with this movie. The Boston accent was honestly rather exaggerated in the course of the film but hey, who's complaining? Just park the car in the car park

30. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

R | 169 min | Drama, War

91 Metascore

Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns

Votes: 1,451,618 | Gross: $216.54M

31. Gladiator (2000)

R | 155 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

67 Metascore

A former Roman General sets out to exact vengeance against the corrupt emperor who murdered his family and sent him into slavery.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed

Votes: 1,564,729 | Gross: $187.71M

Russell Crowe... You just made me cry

32. Garden State (2004)

R | 102 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

67 Metascore

A quietly troubled young man returns home for his mother's funeral after being estranged from his family for a decade.

Director: Zach Braff | Stars: Zach Braff, Peter Sarsgaard, Natalie Portman, Ian Holm

Votes: 221,157 | Gross: $26.78M

33. Shutter Island (2010)

R | 138 min | Mystery, Thriller

63 Metascore

Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule, two US marshals, are sent to an asylum on a remote island in order to investigate the disappearance of a patient, where Teddy uncovers a shocking truth about the place.

Director: Martin Scorsese | Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Emily Mortimer, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley

Votes: 1,397,533 | Gross: $128.01M

34. Drive (I) (2011)

R | 100 min | Action, Drama

78 Metascore

A mysterious Hollywood action film stuntman gets in trouble with gangsters when he tries to help his neighbor's husband rob a pawn shop while serving as his getaway driver.

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn | Stars: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks

Votes: 682,350 | Gross: $35.06M

Nothing special about the script or acting, but the neo-noir feel, the cinematography and the score was brilliant. Gosling lived up to his role again.

35. Being Flynn (2012)

R | 102 min | Drama

53 Metascore

Working in a Boston homeless shelter, Nick Flynn re-encounters his father, a con man and self-proclaimed poet. Sensing trouble in his own life, Nick wrestles with the notion of reaching out yet again to his dad.

Director: Paul Weitz | Stars: Paul Dano, Robert De Niro, Julianne Moore, Olivia Thirlby

Votes: 17,671 | Gross: $0.53M

36. A Beautiful Mind (2001)

PG-13 | 135 min | Biography, Drama

72 Metascore

After John Nash, a brilliant but asocial mathematician, accepts secret work in cryptography, his life takes a turn for the nightmarish.

Director: Ron Howard | Stars: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer

Votes: 963,676 | Gross: $170.74M

37. Black Swan (2010)

R | 108 min | Drama, Thriller

79 Metascore

Nina is a talented but unstable ballerina on the verge of stardom. Pushed to the breaking point by her artistic director and a seductive rival, Nina's grip on reality slips, plunging her into a waking nightmare.

Director: Darren Aronofsky | Stars: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder

Votes: 800,772 | Gross: $106.95M

38. Inception (2010)

PG-13 | 148 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

74 Metascore

A thief who steals corporate secrets through the use of dream-sharing technology is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a C.E.O., but his tragic past may doom the project and his team to disaster.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elliot Page, Ken Watanabe

Votes: 2,471,353 | Gross: $292.58M

39. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

R | 122 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

81 Metascore

After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.

Director: David O. Russell | Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver

Votes: 729,348 | Gross: $132.09M

I didn't like the idea of this movie when I heard of the plot and storyline. I mean, how different can a standard love/hate movie get right? The plots of these kind of movies are awfully predictable and contain nothing new and refreshing. Playbook is not one of these movies. The stereotypes don't apply here. Jennifer Lawrence ensures that. She beat nearly every contender at the Academy Awards and truly deserved her award for her role here. Not to mention that trip of hers that she so elegantly got over.

40. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

R | 136 min | Crime, Sci-Fi

77 Metascore

In the future, a sadistic gang leader is imprisoned and volunteers for a conduct-aversion experiment, but it doesn't go as planned.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke

Votes: 860,588 | Gross: $6.21M

Have I mentioned how much I love Stanley Kubrick? Not just as a director but even as a person, in general. His ideas were totally out of the world (in a good way, of course), but I’ve not included many of his movies in this list because they aren’t “must-watches”. They’re kind of at the top of “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” with respect to movies.

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