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We’re always looking for new movies to watch. We trek to theaters on the weekends seeking the latest feature Hollywood has to offer. We subscribe to streaming services like Netflix in order to have the best films at our fingertips. It can get overwhelming, at times, choosing the right movie to watch. So many films, so little time.
Cinema Blend – as always – is here to help. We have scoured the land to find the best movies on Netflix. You could click off this list and watch any of these movies streaming right now. How did we choose the films? This list was constructed by combining the IMDB Top 300 movies and the Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 Movies into one master list. We then checked each one to see if it was available to stream. In theory, this means we have a list that represents both critical opinion and common moviegoer opinion. These are the Best Movies On Netflix Right Now.
What are you waiting for? Start watching some amazing movies, starting with:
12 Angry Men12 Angry Men is a film that defines the word "timeless." The themes of racial prejudice and its influence in the judicial system are themes that Sidney Lumet pioneered in the era of the film’s release, but have grown stronger with each remake the film has encountered. Its message of fair trial by jury above all, no matter who’s on trial, is something that still resonates to this day. While there are several versions, the 1957 version with Henry Fonda and Jack Klugman is the one you should watch, as it’s just that damned good of a film and ensemble to experience for the first time.
Airplane!You know how they say, "they don’t make ‘em like they used to" when it comes to certain films? Airplane! is one of those movies: partly because it’s spoofing a film franchise that practically no one remembers at this point, and partially because most films that attempt this machine gun approach to humor fall flat on their faces. It helps that straight men Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, and Lloyd Bridges are all in on the joke, but Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty provide a hysterically sweet center to the film as star crossed lovers who were torn apart by the very thing that pulled them apart: airplane related trauma!
All About EveAll About Eve was nominated for fourteen Academy Awards, but that’s somehow less impressive than saying four of its female stars were nominated in the acting categories: two for Leading Actress and two for Supporting Actress. None of them won, likely because they split the votes, but the nominations themselves are evidence enough of how thoroughly brilliant the acting is here. In fact, it’s almost as good as the screenplay by Joseph L Mankiewicz, which follows the tumultuous relationship between a female starlet and those around her.
AmelieThe best part about Amelie isn’t any specific plot point or even a random conversation. It’s the quirky and whimsical energy the romantic comedy is able to build up. Using vibrant settings, unusual characters and plenty of cuts, the film is able to build a pace, momentum and overall feel all its own. Amelie isn’t the type of movie one would ever forget. It’s filled with too much heart and too much eccentricity for that. So, love it or hate it, everyone should experience the manic, strange film for themselves.
Amores PerrosOften described as "the Mexican Pulp Fiction," Amores Perros introduced the cinematic community to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel, Biutiful) and launched what became known as his "Death Trilogy." While dogs – and dog fighting – are important to the three stories told in Amores Perros, the dingy and hard-hitting narratives have more to so with the concept of loyalty, and how betrayal runs through the characters’ plotlines. Though rough around the edges, Amores Perros announces a vibrant filmmaker with a powerful voice, one eager to intro the world to his rarely-seen corner of Mexico.
Anatomy of a MurderOtto Preminger’s engrossing legal thriller Anatomy of a Murder lands on this list for the respect it commands equally from critics and attorneys. Many (OK, most) consider it the greatest, most accurate courtroom depiction put on film, with an acute ear for criminal proceedings and for the authentic, common people whose lives often hang in the balance of a trial. It boldly goes after taboo subjects of rape and murder, treating them with a refreshing, black-and-white clarity. When it comes to the legal tensions of the courtroom-drama genre, few –if any – are more riveting than Preminger’s Oscar-nominated masterpiece.
Annie HallWoody Allen's brand of neurosis is not for everyone, but Annie Hall seems to be the most accessible for those who even barely tolerate his schtick. Diane Keaton's titular character provides a comedic counterpart that those who can’t identify with Allen’s nerdy antics, but her chemistry with Woody Allen’s Alvy helps even those most removed from his brand of humor find something to laugh about. Any good relationship has two sides to it, and any good relationship movie (like Annie Hall) can show both sides and laugh equally at them. If all else fails, it has that really funny sequence where Alvy silences a pretentious critic by breaking the fourth wall and introducing said critic to the artist they were criticizing. Now there’s something we all can agree is funny.
The ApartmentBilly Wilder appears twice on this list, and both films of his represent the two genres he did the best: comedy and noir drama. In the case of The Apartment, Wilder’s sensibilities give Jack Lemmon’s C.C. Baxter a lovable disposition and a not so lovable scenario, as his apartment is the designated spot for executive affairs. Yet with everything that’s thrown at him to compensate his reluctant compliance, the one thing he wants in life is the companionship of Shirley MacLaine. With a touch of darkness to itself, The Apartment knows when to play the right cards and when to "shut up and deal."
Apocalypse NowIt nearly killed director Francis Ford Coppola and his entire cast and crew making the war epic Apocalypse Now, but in honest recollection the whole thing seems absolutely worth it. Set during the U.S. conflict in Vietnam, the movie tells the story of an army captain Bejamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen), as he travels with a small platoon trying to hunt down U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has gone utterly and completely out of his mind. With its film is easily not only one of the best films of the 20th century, but also one of the most important. If you’re not sold on Apocalypse Now by the time the napalm drops to the tune of "This is the End" by The Doors in the first scene, then I don’t know how to help you.
The Avengers (2012)One of the younger entries on the list, The Avengers only proves how good of an overall film it is by maintaining a spot this high for two years after its initial release. Of course, this could speak to the tastes of cineastes of today versus yesterday, but the fact still remains that The Avengers is Joss Whedon’s way of bringing back the classic blockbuster. You can laugh, you can feel, and you can root for someone’s ass to be kicked into another dimension… all in the same movie. Also, this is a good movie to keep on hand for a refresher every time a new Marvel movie comes to theaters.
Battleship PotemkinYou’ll notice that most of the titles featured on this list were released within the last three decades except director Sergei M. Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, having been released all the way back in 1925. Made just a few years after the Russian Revolution and the fall of the Tsarist autocracy, the movie is in many ways a propaganda film but also an important historical landmark. Admittedly the pacing is a bit slow for modern audiences, but the truth is a truly spectacular bit of filmmaking, the most well-renowned scene being the famous "Odessa Steps" sequence, which is packed with some of the most shocking, emotional moments you’ve seen on the big screen.
The Bicycle ThiefFor anyone who has ever searched for the perfect film, Vittorio De Sica's tragic drama recounts the struggles of a father and son as they try to retrieve their missing transportation, a bike that assists father Antonio in his struggles at work, putting food on the table for his family. He learns to bond with son Bruno as they search for the missing cycle, but as the time passes, it becomes a Neo-Realist tragedy, the inevitable and agonizing loss of hope. The more modern revision to "The Bicycle Thieves" maybe too-specifically implicates the audience, particularly in regards to those heartbreaking final ten minutes. Knowing the film as The Bicycle Thief restores much of the poetry of De Sica's timeless classic.
BraveheartMel Gibson was a star long before Braveheart took its nearly three hour runtime to more than $200,000 at the box office, but to many, this was the film that turned him into MEL GIBSON. Even with a dazzling supportin cast, Gibson’s William Wallace carries the film on his back and even directs the hell out of it. In fact, a case could probably be made that Braveheart is one of the films on this list that’s most consistently watched to this day. And why not? It’s inspirational. It’s historical, and during its best moments, it’s really, really badass.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance KidYou know what Hollywood really needed more of? Movies with both Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Unfortunately, there were only two made: the brilliant crime thriller The Sting, and, the absolutely brilliant Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Truly one of the greatest westerns ever, the movie is simply an extremely fun journey with the titular true-life outlaws as they find themselves in and out of trouble leading the notorious Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. In addition to its great story and characters, the film is also absolutely beautiful, courtesy of director George Roy Hill and cinematographer Conrad Hall, and features a hall of fame-worthy final shootout.
Cinema ParadisoYoung Salvatore lives for the films, the only respite from his hardscrabble life of working class misery. At home, he's a playful, troublemaking imp. But as a projectionist with kindly old friend Alfredo, he's a gatekeeper, allowing the world a peek into a place of infinite pleasures and endless joy. Giuseppe Tornatore's elegiac memoir is a valentine to the movies, a tribute to the ways in which the cinema helps shape our world and allow us to follow a path to even greater enlightenment. The extended version is accepted as a final cut by some, but without that extra footage, the original is tighter, more tragic, and ultimately more affecting.
City of GodFernando Meirelles and Katia Lund's City of God is not an easy movie to watch. Set in the dangerous and violent neighborhoods of1960s and 1970s Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the plot follows two young boys as they grow up and take divergent paths in life, one becoming a professional photographer and the other a crime lord/drug dealer, and it’s a story filled with some very harsh realities. All the same, the film is intensely visceral and powerful, and possesses images that will be burned in your mind for days. It’s certainly a lot to take in, but it’s also incredibly worth it as a cinematic experience.
Das BootGerman for "The Boat," Wolfgang Petersen’s Das Boot portrays the tedium and pressure of life onboard a U-boat. You’ll feel like you have enlisted. But the realism captured by Petersen and his crew over the duration of a difficult, year-long shoot has helped Das Boot earn the recognition of being one of the most realistic (and most difficult) war pictures to endure. Don’t wait for a happy ending. This movie doesn’t ask for it, doesn’t earn it, and doesn’t deliver it. War is hell, and so is this spectacularly grueling film.
The Diving Bell and the ButterflyMovies about physical limitations either bring out the best or worst in a director. Either the obstacles of the protagonist hinders the storyteller, or the director finds inventive ways around the handcuff and creates a work of art that truly soars. Diving Bell is on this list because filmmaker Julian Schnabel found incredible ways to convey the locked-in syndrome of Jean-Dominique Bauby, who learned to communicate – and live a full life – by blinking one eyelid. It’s a fascinating journey, and a devastating film, about perseverance, triumph and love. Really!
Donnie DarkoIf you’re into more of an ensemble cast type of film, then Donnie Darko is an excellent choice. Sure, the focus of the story is on Jake Gyllenhaal’s Donnie, but the events he goes through in his troubled 80’s childhood wouldn’t be as effective if there weren’t some really good supporting players in his corner. Even Drew Barrymore and Patrick Swayze, two of the decade’s hugest stars, lend a degree of support to Gyllenhaal’s troubled savior, who navigates a life that borders on a dramatic tragedy and a horror thriller. Each twist lands square in the middle of both realms, leading to an ending that never wears itself out.
Double IndemnityFred MacMurray, much like his directorial collaborator Billy Wilder, knew how to turn on the charm in equally seductive and goofy means. In Double Indemnity, MacMurray ventures into the former territory as an insurance agent who falls for the wrong woman and is willing to kill to be near her. Homicide and honeysuckle soak this thriller that helped define a genre that has inspired many modern filmmakers to follow in its footsteps. All because the right man went to the right house at the wrong time, simply to renew an automotive insurance policy. Ain’t it always the luck when a femme fatale enters the picture?
DownfallMost World War II films focus on the European front, and even more only focus on the Allied Forces part of the story. Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Downfall (or Der Untergang, in its native German) not only focuses on the last moments of the Nazi Party, it focuses on Hitler himself and his life in those final days. It’s been parodied to death, but the truth is, the infamous scene of Hitler’s rage still holds up on its own. That scene alone Downfall worth watching, as it shows just what we tend to forget about World War II. Hitler, despite all of the jokes we make today and the casual nature in which we throw his name around, was an evil we should never hope to encounter again.
Elite Squad: The Enemy WithinThe sequel to Jose Padilha's pulse-pounding Elite Squad does what all great sequels do in upping the ante considerably. Padilha's intense original gave the audience what was basically a full-on analysis of the biology of the world of the BOPE, Brazil's military-based police force, and their endless war against the drug dealers in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. The Enemy Within, however, plays more like an out-and-out autopsy, viewing the system from within. The picture again tackles multiple story strands like the first film, but it focuses mostly on BOPE cop Nascimento (Wagner Moura) as he works his way up the law enforcement chain, slowly being seduced by the amount of power one man can really have.
FargoThere is not a single shot out of place in Fargo, which is especially impressive since the film rambles. It’s just a purposeful ramble that allows viewers to appreciate the Minnesota setting and truly get to know all the personality quirks of Jerry, Marge and everyone else. It also allows the characters to pause long enough to display the good-natured sensibilities and pleasant conversation that run their lives. That superficial care serves as the perfect contrast to the kidnapping and murder schemes that are taking place in the underbelly, and it’s a big part of why Fargo is beloved enough to warrant a television adaptation almost two decades later.
For A Few Dollars MoreFor A Few Dollars More may not have the same kind of name recognition as some of Sergio Leone’s other spaghetti westerns – including The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Once Upon A Time In The West - but that shouldn’t diminish its significance as an absolute stellar entry in the western genre and an amazing installment of the Man With No Name Trilogy. The classic story of bounty hunters searching for a gang of fugitives, the movie’s plot is rather simple, but the execution is epic and it is yet another proving ground where Clint Eastwood puts on a clinic called "How To Be A Movie Legend."
Forrest GumpAlthough it’s one of the most divisive Best Picture winners of all time – having defeated masterpieces like Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption and Quiz Show on its way to the gold – but there’s also no denying the popularity of Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump. The story of a simple man with an extraordinary life paints a fascinating portrait of the 20th century, and is filled with a seemingly endless number of memorable scenes, characters, and dialogue. Life is like a box of chocolates in that you never know what you’re going to get, but with Forrest Gump you know you’re getting a sweet, fun movie and one of the best out there on streaming.
The GeneralWhich titan of the silent age do you prefer: Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton? No matter your answer, you’re sure to marvel as The General, Keaton’s magnificent ode to the railway industry – and to the love of his life (played by Marion Mack). So much has been written about Keaton’s expressive performances, and with good reason. He was a brilliant observer on screen, the calm at the center of a physical hurricane. But watch The General in awe when you realize all of the practical "effects" this filmmaker conjured in 1927… including an actual train plunging off a burning bridge into a gorge.
GladiatorIt's been a while since Ridley Scott was this good, though his film Exodus: Gods And Kings definitely seems to be promising a ride of similar quality. Russell Crowe had been building some steam with his career up to this point, and with a well deserved Best Actor trophy from playing Maximus, his career was cemented in the A-List. In fact, it's hard to find one piece of this film that isn't in tip top shape. It's shot with an eye for beauty and scale, it's got a Hans Zimmer score that everyone can get behind, and if you've ever forgotten why Joaquin Phoenix hit it big in the first place, Gladiator is the movie to remind you.
The Good, The Bad, And The UglyClint Eastwood is in his prime bad ass days as "The Man With No Name", and he has to contend with Lee Van Cleef's "Angel Eyes" and the late Eli Wallach in a show stealing performance as Tuco – each of them good, bad, and ugly respectively. The prize at hand: A bunch of Confederate gold buried in a cemetary. The journey: three hours of shooting, explosions, and absolutely beautiful cinematography. The scene where Ennio Morricone's Ecstacy Of Gold is blaring while the three of them make their way through the climactic cemetery is enough of a reason to throw The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly in your queue.
The GraduateMike Nichols’ The Graduate is arguably the greatest coming-of-age film ever made. At one point in all of our lives, all of us are Ben Braddock – bridging the gap between the teenage years and early adulthood and trying to figure out exactly what that means. The film is biting American satire that is still wholly relevant today, and features performances from Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft that will be remembered until the end of time – and deservedly so. So if I have any piece of advice for you, it would be this: Plastics… I mean, watch this movie.
The Grapes of WrathJohn Steinbeck’s brilliant, Pulitzer-Prize winning novel gets the majority of the Grapes Of Wrath-related attention, but brilliant filmmaker John Ford actually produced an adaptation a year after it came out. It’s quietly great. It was nominated for a slew of Academy Awards and was chosen as one of the first films the United States Government ever preserved in an official capacity, which is an especially good call considering how much different it is from the novel. This film is not a slavish adaptation. It veers off course about half way through and never looks back.
Hachi: A Dog’s TaleGood luck getting through Hachi: A Dog’s Tale without crying. It is the simple story of a man (Richard Gere) and his loyal pup, and the routines they establish. But we will tell you nothing else about this emotional ride, for one needs to experience each bump and turn in the remarkable true story of an animal’s bond to its human companion. Hachi is the less-manipulative cousin to Marley & Me. Again, bring tissues.
His Girl FridayWe often talk of chemistry when discussing romantic-comedy pairings, and few had more than Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in the quick-as-lightning His Girl Friday. The dialogue is rapid fire, and candidly funny, for the time – with Howard Hawks wisely pushing to have actors stumbling over each other with their lines to replicate realistic conversation. The source material for His Girl Friday (the stage play The Front Page) has been adapted several times over the years, but rarely better than when it rested in Grant and Russell’s quick-witted hands.
Hotel RwandaToo few filmmakers give Don Cheadle the spotlight. The gifted character actor frequently plays support (and steals scenes) in Oscar bait (Crash), comic blockbusters (the Iron Man films), and star-studded comedies (the Ocean’s trilogy). We often take him for granted. Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda reminds us how potent Cheadle can be as a leading man, handing him the keys to a politically- and socially-charged international drama that allowed him to show his entire range. It’s Cheadle’s first Oscar-nominated role. It certainly won’t be his last.
The IntouchablesBecause 40 million French people can’t be wrong, right? Co-directors Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano currently hold the record for the second biggest box office hit in their native country, thanks to this gentle and heartwarming story of an unusual friendship between a wealthy quadriplegic (Francois Cluzet) and the man hired as his caretaker (Omar Sy, in his breakout role). Chemistry is everything in a human-relations story such as this. The fact that The Intouchables draws its inspirations from an actual friendship – captured in a documentary – makes this an invaluable watch. See the original before an American studio remakes it.
IP ManThe Hong Kong film scene has been churning out badass martial arts films for years. Some of them are able to branch out and find mainstream success outside the Asian world. IP Man, which is loosely based on the life of Bruce Lee’s mentor Yip Man, wasn’t really able to make a huge dent immediately, but since its 2008 release, it’s been quietly passed around among movie buffs and martial arts fans. Now, it’s most decidedly a cult classic and with good reason. Set in the 1930s, it’s able to show off both a fascinating time in Japanese history and depict just how brilliant Yip Man really was.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1If moviemaking is anything like cooking, Quentin Tarantino might be the Iron Chef. Who else thinks not only to collect previously used ingredients that have no place associating with each other, then throw them together in a way that both comments and improves upon said ingredients? Kill Bill: Volume 1, more frenetic and action-packed than its follow-up, reveals a master at the top of his game, showcasing the fact that his love of music (obscure pop and movie scores) has less to do with mere songs and more to do with the rhythms and beats of an action sequence. The tightening of fingers around a weapon, the sickening crunch of a blow to the head, the savage intimacy of a one-on-one battle. It's all here in the first volume of Tarantino's mash-up classic, which wickedly witnesses The Bride cut a swath through her enemies before leaving us on the most tantalizing of cliffhangers.
The King’s SpeechYou’ll find that a good number of the movies on this list are Academy Award Best Picture winners (big shocker there), and now we’ve come across yet another one of them: Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech. Based on the true story, the film follows King George VI as he struggles to overcome his horrific stammer so that he may properly motivate the people of the United Kingdom to go to war against Nazi Germany and stop the Third Reich’s growing influence through Europe. Colin Firth delivers the best performance of his career so far in the movie as the King, but he is surrounded by amazing supporting turns as well – the highlight being Geoffrey Rush’s Lionel Logue – the king’s speech therapist.
La Strada (The Road)Federico Fellini’s 1954 classic stars Anthony Quinn as a brutish strongman entertaining patrons on the street with the help of reluctant felamel protégé (Giulietta Masina). It’s the story of the making of La Strada that packs more melodrama, as consistent difficulties during production eventually led to the famed Italian director having a nervous breakdown. Still, the movie has Fellini’s fingerprints all over every dour and difficult frame, and students of this Maestro still argue it’s his finest achievement -- perhaps because they never saw La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2, Amarcord, and on and on…
Let The Right One InIn Let The Right One In, Tomas Alfredson managed to capture the horror and the tenderness that we’ve come to associate with vampires. Better still, he manages not to sacrifice either for the sake of the other, walking a deftly balanced story of two outsiders whose friendship goes from being one of convenience to one of survival. If you love endings that can be taken either way, sparking intellectual conversation for hours on end, then you shouldn’t hesitate to stream this beauty. Just make sure you have the correct subtitles with your version of the film. There’s an inferior, dumbed down version out there that Magnet corrected after public pressure.
Life Is BeautifulEnough time has passed that Roberto Benigni’s concentration-camp two-hander Life Is Beautiful no longer needs to be blacklisted as the schmaltzy button pusher that robbed a few key contenders of precious Oscars. (I’m not sure that we’d still give the Best Actor Oscar to Benigni over ANY of his fellow nominees, from Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan to Nick Nolte in Affliction or Edward Norton in American History X.) But the lengths a father goes to protect his child from the atrocities of war really are Beautiful, and so is this film, in the end.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking BarrelsLock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, the first directorial effort from filmmaker Guy Ritchie, makes no real efforts to hide the darkly comedic, violent influence of Quentin Tarantino, but unlike most Tarantino knock-offs this is one that actual works incredibly well. A dark, dirty look at the London criminal underworld, the movie is as funny as it is shocking, and is just a well-made, well-told story about bad people doing bad things to other bad people. Let’s also not ignore that this is the movie that introduced Jason Statham to the world, so we can all be grateful of that.
Man On WirePhilippe Petit’s wire walk between the buildings of the Twin Towers in 1974 stands as one of the most remarkable events I’ve ever witnessed. No, I didn’t see it with my own eyes – but director James Marsh’s brilliant documentary capturing Petit’s attempt to cross between the World Trade Center buildings on a razor-thin wire helps me believe I was on the roof of the now-gone buildings, watching Petit dance among the clouds. Structured as a playful heist film, Man On Wire tells an impossible story of bravey and derring-do, told by Petit and his colorful French admirers who still, to this day, can’t believe he pulled the wire-walk off. Now that the Twin Towers are gone, no one will ever pull the feat off again… and I think that’s right.
ManhattanAnnie Hall is the late 1970s Woody Allen movie most people choose to remember, but for the director’s hardcore fans, Manhattan is every bit as beautiful. Shot in black and white, the film follows the relationship between a 42-year-old man and a 17-year-old girl. It’s somehow both naïve and pessimistic, giving audiences both a view of why a relationship like that would be so appealing and why it would also be almost doomed to fail. Look for a slew of good supporting performances from Meryl Streep, Wallace Shawn and Michael O’Donoghue.
Mary and MaxPen pals on opposite sides of the globe deeply affect one another’s lives in this Australian claymation gem from director Adam Elliot. Yes, we said "Australian claymation," as the powerful and provocative Mary and Max reminds us that animated fare need not only be for children. Spanning decades in the lives of these complicated characters -- with terrific voice work by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toni Colette -- Mary and Max tackles numerous adult topics, yet handles them with an honesty and grace that’s welcome in any genre… and appreciated in the animated form.
MementoMuch like Quentin Tarantino before him, Christopher Nolan knew how to make an entrance. In Memento, Guy Pearce's Leonard Shelby suffers from a certain form of amnesia after his wife's brutal murder. Through tattoos, notes, and pictures; Leonard is on the trail of just who killed his wife. As if a neo-noir murder mystery wasn't enough of a hook (and these days it rarely ever is), Nolan tells the film through reverse storytelling (with black and white sequences happening in order), thus heightening the mystery of Leonard's condition and leading to a mind bending ending. Even on a limited budget, Christopher Nolan knows how to tell a story worth watching.
MetropolisMetropolis is a weird movie. It’s a science-fiction commentary on class, without sound, that really didn’t go over very well during the time of its initial release. Over the years, however, film historians and fans have started marveling at the incredible achievement director Fritz Lang was able to achieve. He shot take after take of even the most monotonous scenes. He used hundreds of extras and real special effects whenever he could, including pools of extremely cold water and fire. He would have been hit with a ton of lawsuits if it happened today, but looking at his stunning visual achievements, I’m not sure he would change a thing.
Mr. Smith Goes To WashingtonFrank Capra, the mastermind behind It’s A Wonderful Life, once made a film so shocking and incendiary that politically minded forces above him wanted to pay him a cool sum of money to surpress it. Capra, an Italian immigrant who love America so much that he could praise and damn her at the same time, resisted such pressure and released the Jimmy Stewart classic Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. While the moral fiber of this senator might not match up with that of a modern day law maker, you can bet that this film served as an inspiration to them when getting into the job. Or, at the very least, they’ve seen the classic filibuster scene once or twice.
MudWe are still in the middle of what has been dubbed "The McConaissance" – that special time in cinema history when Matthew McConaughey finally got his act together, stopped being in crappy romantic comedies, and decided to show the world what he could really do as an actor. This period has resulted in fantastic movies like Dallas Buyers Club,
OldboyIf you’re in the mood for a wholesome, family-oriented film that you can sit down and watch with your kids in the living room… then you should hop away to a completely different entry on this list. The movie begins with a man being kidnapped and imprisoned for years without being given any reason why, and while this part of the film is seriously intense – you’re basically watching a man be driven insane by his own isolation – it is really only the tip of the iceberg. Oldboy is the second movie in director Chan-wook Park’s loosely-linked Vengeance Trilogy, and also its best entry, the film being an absolutely shocking marvel that will have you thinking about it for days after the credits roll.
Once Upon a Time In The WestHenry Fonda will likely always be remembered largely for his more heroic performances, as seen in movies like 12 Angry Men, and The Grapes of Wrath. But it is because his role in Once Upon A Time In The West is so morally distant from those parts that it is easily one of his most memorable films. Another brilliant spaghetti western from director Sergio Leone, the film is perhaps the most epic the genre has seen. Clocking in at nearly three hours long, the movie is certainly a time commitment, but it’s one that’s oh so worth it.
PersonaWritten, produced and directed by Ingmar Bergman, this 1966 Swedish psychological drama borders on horror at various points. It’s also profoundly weird and is still pretty shocking, even by today’s standards. A shot of an erect penis is still sometimes cut out of various edits, and almost fifty years later, film historians and critics still can’t agree what it all means. That being said, it needs to be consumed. It’s a great entry into more avant-garde filmmaking for fans looking to branch out, and while it’s not Bergman’s most popular movie, it may well be his best.
The PianistThe struggle with war movies has always been and will likely always be how to humanize the trauma without losing an awareness of how many people’s lives were forever upended. The Pianist is able to do that through Wladyslaw Szpilman, a brilliant pianist who struggles to survive during the war, thanks in part to friends, strangers and even a German Officer. The struggle for life is often brutal to watch, but in the end, it’s powerful and really, really beautiful.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black PearlGore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl isn’t really one of the best films of all time, but it made IMDb’s list by just being extraordinarily popular, and that alone deserves recognition. This was the movie that transformed Johnny Depp from being a lovable indie star to being one of the biggest A-listers in the entire world, and while the sequels are pretty much universally bad, but it’s surprising how well The Curse of the Black Pearl holds up to this day. Not too shabby for a film based on a theme park attraction, no?
Pulp FictionIf you're not trying to pick out/memorize a favorite line from Pulp Fiction, you're trying to figure out just what order the story goes in. Either way, Pulp Fiction is a film that begs repeated viewings because of how important it is to film today. Pulp Fiction showed the world a voice that knew what had come before in cinematic history, and paid homage to it while deconstructing it mercilessly. It's the bucket of cold water that kept John Travolta and Bruce Willis in the game, while launching Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, and Ving Rhames (among others) into the level of stardom they enjoy today.
Rang De BasantiRang De Basanti goes from zero-to-sixty in a hurry. The Indian film follows a British filmmaker who wants to make a documentary about his grandfather. He picks out some locals to help him make the film, but after one of their friends is killed, they decide to protest, which quickly turns into a large conflict with the government. It’s a powerful statement about what people in lesser established countries often go through, and it’s every bit worth your time.
The Red ShoesFew films balance realism and fantasy as well as The Red Shoes, the breathtaking story-within-a-story drama set in the competitive world of ballet. And it’s no wonder countless, knowledgable film scribes referenced this intoxicating, disturbing fable when analyzing Darren Aronofsky’s recent Black Swan. The Red Shoes draws from a dark tale by Hans Christian Andersen, but it’s a familiar tale (from any source) of an artist consumed by their need to create – be it through dance, choreography, or simple living. There are gorgeous sequences all through The Red Shoes, though none as blistering as the 17-minute ballet at the film’s heart. Anyone making a dance movie after 1948 owed everything to The Red Shoes.
Reservoir DogsIf it wasn’t for the good graces of Harvey Keitel, Quentin Tarantino would have never gotten his career off of the ground. No film is this more true than Reservoir Dogs, which saw Keitel star in, as well as produce, the story of six men who pull off a daring heist for the mob. The problem isn’t in the job itself, but in the fact that one of the six is, in fact, a cop planted to make sure the job goes belly up. While Pulp Fiction is his most remembered film, Reservoir Dogs is where Tarantino got his directorial start, and that’s something worth celebrating.
Rosemary’s BabyRosemary’s Baby turned both Roman Polanski and Mia Farrow into stars. Almost fifty years later, it’s easy to see why. Farrow crushes the naïve, starry-eyed housewife part, and the general tone and camera angle choices are still spot-on. And the writing. Oh God, the writing. Polanski takes the audience in a ton of weird places, using creepy necklaces, inappropriate sex acts, weird books, cults, Satanism and witchcraft. Altogether, it’s a pretty terrifying experience that doesn’t pull any punches. Watch it alone or watch it with someone else. Just don’t watch it with your eyes closed. You need to experience the whole thing.
Short Term 12The number of truly stunning films that have been made outside of the studio system is both staggering and impressive, and Destin Daniel Cretton’s Short Term 12 is an excellent example of some really brilliant indie filmmaking. Set largely in and around a residential treatment center for troubled teens, the movie is a serious emotional gut punch driven by some powerful performances. Serving as the lead is Brie Larson, playing the facility’s staff supervisor with a troubled past of her own, and the turn is only further proof that she is one of the brightest, most talented up-and-comers acting today.
The Silence Of The LambsArguably the best in the Hannibal Lecter series, The Silence Of The Lambs is one of those movies where the key moments are alluded to so much that you feel you've already seen practically the whole movie. Not so with this flick, as Jodie Foster's vulnerable yet hardened sensibilities could never be replicated by your buddies at a cocktail party. Nor could they properly bring depth to Sir Anthony Hopkins' methodical madness as Hannibal Lecter, a killer who's always five steps ahead of everyone else. Would you watch this film? You'd watch this film. You'd watch this film hard.
SwadesWidely considered one of the best Bollywood movies ever made, Swades follows an Ivy League student who returns to India. At first, he’s content to blend in and eventually find his childhood nanny, but eventually, he decides to start trying to help local residents with some major problems they’re having. Along the way, he stats identifying with many of the people he meets and begins an ambitious plan to provide an entire town with continuous electricity.
Terminator 2: Judgment DayThe ultimate in action movie spectacle, Terminator 2: Judgment Day initially earned plaudits for flipping the switch on the frightening first film, turning the boogeyman into a selfless hero battling an even more unstoppable foil. But watching it today divorced from that first film, what's startling is how, in the world of big contemporary blockbusters, few feel necessarily this big. Terminator 2 is an all-terrain thrill machine, an unstoppable engine of action that memorably pits a never-bigger Arnold Schwarzenegger against the sleek, lithe special effect-driven threat of Robert Patrick. What follows is a clash of the titans, with Arnold brushing up against his off-screen self as a monster truly more human than human, a machine that thinks human thoughts, a movie star who seems not of this planet.
TrainspottingDanny Boyle has done pretty much everything in his career, give or take a couple of genres he still needs to venture out into. And yet, you could say he tackled so many of those genres at the same time in his first film, Trainspotting. It’s a comedy about drug addled friends, but a drama about the lives they lead to keep up with their habits. It’s also a horror film when the consequences of such a life catch up with them in all sorts of unexpectedly brutal ways. If you want the morals of Requiem For A Dream, but with a little more of Robert Carlyle beating the shit out of people for a laugh, then Trainspotting is yours for the viewing.
The Usual SuspectsWho is Keyzer Soze? I you legitimately don’t know, then I would recommend watching The Usual Suspects as quickly as possible so that nobody can ruin the absolutely breathtaking twist ending for you. The directorial debut of Bryan Singer, working from an Oscar-winning screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, this stunning crime thriller will not only keep you guessing at every turn, but also features an outstanding ensemble that includes great talents like Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollak, Pete Postlethwaite and Chazz Palminteri. Even if someone has already ruined the ending of this movie for you, the good news is that it’s not too late. With or without prior knowledge of the shocking conclusion, this is one of the best crime movies ever made.
Wake In FrightOzploitation was the term used for films that exploited the Outback by depicting Australia as an outlandishly cruel and colorful terrain, filled with outsized villains and harsh conditions. If you hadn't been to Australian before witnessing one of the darker films of that period, you certainly weren't going afterwards. Which is why Ted Kotcheff's hallucinatory drama sticks out, not for being stranger and weirder than most, but for creating an Australia so plausibly real that you fear you may not even have to leave your country to experience the threat right outside your door. Sweaty and claustrophobic, the film finds a schoolteacher from the city embarking upon a journey into the criminal underworld of the Land Down Under, rediscovering himself just as he must come face-to-face with the devil within. Not necessarily graphic or explicit, Wake In Fright nonetheless features a visceral punch that lingers long after the movie has ended.
Witness for the ProsecutionBilly Wilder tackles Agatha Christie – and really, that should be all you need to know about this crackling 1957 courtroom drama to get you to add it to your queue. As is usually the case, an attorney (the great Charles Laughton) takes on a client accused of murder who – by all accounts – appears guilty. Before the final frame of Wilder’s suspenseful thriller, though, your head will swim with the sheer number of lies and betrayals that occur between the sordid parties. When Witness for the Prosecution opened, a voice-over begged audiences not to share the ending with those who haven’t seen it. You have been warned!