21 films to see before you die

21 films to see before you die

These are Wonder of Film’s top 21 films to see before you die. These films have been selected for many different
reasons: some have been huge influencers on the film industry, some have
unparalleled narratives, and some are just undeniably great films that everyone should see at least once.
So, in no particular order, here they are:

    1. The Graduate

      (1968) Mike Nichols
      One of the most parodied films of all time, The Graduate is a true classic. A complicated love triangle
      (to say the least) spirals out of control and leaves a young Dustin Hoffman desperate to regain the
      trust of his true love. The very last scene of the film is one of the most replicated scenes in the film
      industry, it leaves you feeling the same as the characters; relieved and empty. The acting is first class.

    2. Midnight Cowboy

      (1969) John Schlesinger
      Another early Dustin Hoffman film which sees him co-starring with Jon Voight. Voight plays a
      convincingly naive gigolo who thinks New York City will see him making serious money, but ends
      up enlisting the help of a low-life New York native, Hoffman, to survive the strikingly different
      world to what he imagined. This film is raw and packed with emotion thanks to the incredible
      acting and directing.

    3. Star Wars

      Original trilogy (1977, 1980, 1983) George Lucas
      If you’ve got this far in life and haven’t seen the original Star Wars films, seriously where have you been?
      Love or hate, watching these films is like a rite of passage. A sci-fi film set a long time ago in a galaxy far,
      far away, Star Wars follows Luke Skywalker who, with the help of a Jedi Knight, two droids named
      R2-D2 and C-3PO, a princess, a cocky pilot and his loyal Wookiee, tries to take down the evil Empire and
      the infamous Darth Vader… But you knew that already, didn’t you?

    4. The Godfather

      Trilogy (1972, 1974, 1990) Francis Ford Coppola
      The quintessential gangster films. Although The Godfather Part III never matched the brilliance of the
      first two films, it was a necessary conclusion for the franchise. With the likes of Marlon Brando, Al Pacino,
      Robert De Niro, James Caan and Robert Duvall spanning the franchise, it’s easy to see why the films are
      so critically acclaimed. Step into the world of the mob, and see how family must always come first.

    5. Casablanca

      (1942) Michael Curtiz
      Casablanca is one of the great romance films of all time. A story of love, loss, war and oppression,
      the film still resonates today. Even if you’ve never seen the film, you’ve probably heard its most
      famous line:
      “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”

    6. Alien

      (1979) Ridley Scott
      World renowned artist and designer H.R.Giger created arguably some of the creepiest looking creatures
      for Alien, a heart racing sci-fi where central character (Sigourney Weaver) and the rest of the crew on
      U.S. commercial starship
      Nostromo start getting picked off one at a time by an unknown alien organism.

    7. Breakfast at Tiffanys

      (1961) Blake Edwards
      Of all the films Audrey Hepburn made throughout her career, this is probably her most famous.
      She plays an elusive young woman with an eye for Tiffany jewellery. When she gets an interesting
      new neighbour in her building, she begins to show different sides to her character and as her
      neighbour tries to work her out, he realises he is falling in love with her. This romantic comedy is
      a classic which deserves a place in any film collection and sees Hepburn in her element.

    8. Dirty Dancing

      (1987) Emile Ardolino
      While many see this film as a one-dimensional romantic drama (with lots of incredible dancing),
      Dirty Dancing is so much more. Set in the 60’s, it’s a story of social class segregation, the danger of
      back-street abortions, and yes, forbidden love. Dirty Dancing is the most influential dance film of
      all time, influencing the likes of Save the Last Dance, Step Up (and the many sequels) and Take the Lead.
      Also, Patrick Swayze
      really can dance.

    9. The Breakfast Club

      (1985) John Hughes
      The film centres around five teenagers who have detention on a saturday. The group couldn’t be
      more different, but after a day stuck in school together the teens realise that perhaps they have more in
      common than they thought. This is the must see coming-of-age movie, showing that sometimes people
      aren’t what they seem.

    10. Drive

      (2011) Nicolas Winding Refn
      The score, the acting, the directing, the lack of dialogue and use of powerful silences all amount to an
      edge-of-your-seat romance-thriller that flies by in a breeze. You won’t want it to end, but when it does
      you’ll want to watch it again.

    11. The Shawshank Redemption

      (1994) Frank Darabont
      A prison film which depicts a beautiful friendship between two inmates, The Shawshank Redemption
      is a film about finding hope when you feel there is none left.
      “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

    12. 2001: a Space Odyssey

      (1968) Stanley Kubrick
      Famed for its pioneering special effects and as one of the most influential films ever made,
      2001: a Space Odyssey inspired a whole new generation of films through its imagery, editing and running
      themes. The film is payed homage to and referenced in countless films and TV shows, for example,
      in Armageddon the red chairs in the spaceship reference those in 2001, in The Shawshank Redemption
      characters Heywood and Floyd were named after Heywood Floyd from 2001, in Independence Day
      the message “Good Morning, Dave” appears on a computer screen, a quote referencing 2001, and many,
      many more films reference the ultimate classic sci-fi, including Back to the Future, Alien, WALL-E, Tron,
      The Fifth Element… The list goes on. 2001: a Space Odyssey really is one of those films you
      have to see.

    13. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

      (1975) Milos Forman
      A young Jack Nicholson plays a rebel who pleads insanity at court in the hopes of an easier time behind
      bars, but once on a ward for the mentally unstable he sees how badly the nurses treat the inmates.
      This film will make you laugh, make you cry, and break your heart.

    14. The Terminator / Terminator 2: Judgement Day

      (1984, 1991) James Cameron
      Although Terminator 2 is undeniably as good as The Terminator, if not better, the original film was so
      far ahead of it’s time, so full of suspense, and so believable as a concept, it can’t be left off the list.
      Paving the way for the sequel, which is revered as one of the best sci-fi films ever, The Terminator
      set the scene for Terminator 2 to make an unparalleled imprint on the sci-fi genre and special effects,
      which can still hardly be rivalled over 20 years later.

    15. Dead Poet’s Society

      (1989) Peter Weir
      Robin Williams shows his true splendour in the role of an inspirational teacher at an all-boys school,
      where expectations run too high for the students. Williams owns the screen in this moving performance
      of a teacher with such passion and drive to help his students, but for some, the pressure is too much.
      One of the late Robin Williams’ finest moments on screen.

    16. The Pursuit of Happyness

      (2006) Gabriele Muccino
      This emotional film, based on a true story, stars Will Smith as a man who hits rock bottom. After being
      left by his wife and losing his house, he has to make the best of the situation while looking after a
      young son and taking on 6 months of training at his job before receiving a pay cheque. When you feel
      like you’ve been handed a sore deal in life, watch this film to motivate you to get up and change your
      own luck. But have some tissues on-hand.

    17. Blade Runner

      (1982) Ridley Scott
      With such a huge cult following behind the film, it’s impossible not to include Blade Runner on the list.
      The neo-noir set in 2019 follows Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, a Blade Runner who hunts down
      ‘Replicants’, which are genetically engineered to look exactly like humans and are banned from Earth.
      It’s a dark and eery representation of the future which questions morals along the way.

    18. Before Sunrise

      (1995) Richard Linklater
      A heartwarming film based on the simple idea of two strangers who meet on a train, and decide to spend
      the day together exploring the romantic city that is Vienna, Italy. Of course the pair fall in love, but in
      a time before mobile phones and social media, and without swapping addresses, they have to rely
      on faith that they will see each other again.
      Before Sunrise was followed by Before Sunset, both set and made nine years later (2004), where fans
      finally got to find out what happened to the love-struck pair. Before Midnight is the latest installment,
      released in 2013. Before Sunrise is a must-see, thanks to its straightforward but engaging plotline,
      brilliant casting and wonderful writing.

    19. In The Mood For Love

      (2000) Wong Kar-Wai
      A Hong Kong film which tackles morality, In the Mood for Love follows two neighbours who forge a
      friendship through circumstance as their partners are often away on business. Over time, the friends
      discover their partners are having an affair. The friends vow to never stoop to the level
      of their partners infidelities, but struggle as they fall in love.
      The way the film was shot, edited and produced is in such a way to bring on the feeling of isolation,
      including recurring themes throughout the film, one of which is the loneliness
      of eating alone.

    20. Taxi Driver

      (1976) Martin Scorsese
      A disgruntled and mentally unstable New York night-time taxi driver, disgusted with the world around
      him, sets out to save a 12 year old prostitute from ruining her life, and causes some mayhem along the way.
      Robert De Niro is at his peak in this film, showing how truly diverse his acting capability is.
      To get in the mindset of his character, De Niro actually became a cabbie in New York, driving 15 hours
      a day for a month, and studied mental illness.

    21. Sunshine

      (2007) Danny Boyle
      Home to one of the most unbelievably powerful original scores of all time, Sunshine centres around
      the hauntingly realistic future prospect that our sun is dying, and therefore Earth’s resources are dying
      out. Set in 2057, a group of astronauts are sent on a dangerous mission to reignite the sun with a nuclear
      fission bomb.
      Sunshine is up there because it’s a realistic, plausible sci-fi film with some serious morale questions
      asked throughout the film. If nothing else, it’s beautiful to watch, and the soundtrack can take your
      breath away.

 

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