15 Essential Movies You Need To Watch Before You Kick the Bucket

After you’ve read this list of the greatest books ever written, get ready to watch some of the best movies ever made! Everyone will have their own personal opinion and bias will surely come into play, but most movies on this list are critically acclaimed.

There are so many films that everyone loves, but for some movie critics the criteria needs to be very strict. Some movies will live forever, some will change the course of cinema and some will be embedded in a country’s culture. Any self-respecting movie fan should watch some or all of these movies at least once in their lifetime. So let’s not waste time. This list is in no particular order.

1. The Godfather I-III

One of the most quoted and most influential movies franchises of modern times. The Godfather I & II are meant to be watched and enjoyed as one movie because that was how the book by Mario Puzo was written. Although the book was made into two parts, it somehow stayed loyal to the book. The 3rd film brings some closure to the Corleone story. The movies span the entire generation of the Corleone family from Don Vito Corleone’s life in Sicily to his escape and eventual migration to New York. It showed his rise to power and his tragic fall with the passing of the torch to Michael, and ultimately to his lonely death in Sicily, Italy. The movie showed loyalty to the family and honor to friends as well as the friends of friends. Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, James Caan, Robert Duvall… Enough said!

”I understand. You found paradise in America. You had a good trade, you made a good living. The police protected you and there were courts of law. So you didn’t need a friend like me. Now you come and say “Don Corleone, give me justice.” But you don’t ask with respect. You don’t offer friendship. You don’t even think to call me “Godfather.” You come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married and you ask me to do murder – for money.” – Don Vito Corleone. Classic.

2. Lost In Translation

How can you not love this movie? Scarlett Johansson and the great Bill Murray star in this charming film. We all know that Bill Murray is one wacky guy who is known to throw in hilarious ad libs in movies, but this one really showed his chops for serious acting without trying too hard. Even so, he still has an uncanny ability to derive laughs out of raised eyebrows or stares. Scarlett Johansson effectively plays an unhappily married young woman who meets Murray at a hotel bar in the bustling setting of Tokyo. The movie steered clear from any cheesy sentiments, but instead it grounded the movie in fine-tuned subtlety.

3. Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy

Ron Burgundy, Brick Tamland, Brian Fantana and Champ Kind of the channel 4 news team in San Diego are the best in the business. When the movie came out, many film goers emerged from cinemas more confused than amused. Everyone was bewildered by its 70s theme and its overt ridiculousness. To put it simply, most film goers were not ready for this kind of comedy, but any Will Ferrel and Andy McCay fan will get it the first time. The collaborators did whatever they thought was funny without any regard for the audience. This movie is one of the most quoted and most hilarious.


4. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick abandons conventional narrative and presents a succession of beautifully-composed sketches that tackle evolution, birth and rebirth. It is spectacular, philosophical and trail blazing. It can be said that it is an undisputed masterpiece.

5. Apocalypse Now

Shot entirely in the Philippines, Apocalypse Now narrates Martin Sheen’s journey through the American/Vietnamese/Cambodian war to terminate flipped-out rogue US colonel Marlon Brando. But his mission turns into a wild trip of madness released by Francis Ford Coppola’s hallucinogenic direction and the unforgetable quote “I love the smell of napalm in the morning”. Classic.

6. Up

This is one of those movies that will always be remembered and referenced thanks to its captivating opening sequence. You have to have a heart of stone if you don’t feel anything for Up. It’s not cheesy and it feels so authentic for a film by Pixar that you will be taken off-guard and will feel a lump in your throat or probably tears by the end of the prologue. It tells the story of Carl, a widower who decides to leave his life behind and go on an adventure with a chubby boy scout. This is considered Pixar’s greatest work, a movie for all ages.

7. Akira

Anime are known to focus on sci-fi and fantasy themes and some of the most well-known, successful and critically acclaimed movies are in those veins. Akira focuses on a group of teenagers of Neo-Tokyo who are being hunted by an oppressive, military-rules government because one of their own has psychic powers. This film helped popularize anime and was a hit when it was released.


8. Seven Samurai

One of the masterpieces of famed Japanese director Akria Kurosawa. The movie tells the story of a 16th century village whose desperate inhabitants hire 7 ronins or masterless samurai to protect them from invading bandits. A 3-hour philosophical and entertaining ride that weaves delicate human emotions and relentless action into an evocative, rich and unforgettable story of courage and hope.


9. Pulp Fiction

This movie brought John Travolta back into stardom and launched Samuel L. Jackson’s bad assery on the big screen. Bruce Willis also performs at his best. Endlessly quotable, Pulp Fictopn was a part of pop culture just like many other films in the 90s and it helped Tarantino as an emerging directorial talent. Good interconnecting stories, great cast and a fantastic soundtrack provide an unforgetable movie ride. Quote Ezekiel 25:17 whenever you want to freak out your friends.


10. Training Day

Denzel Washington won an Oscar for his portrayal of Alonzo Harris, a corrupt, hard-bitten narcotics detective who takes rookie narc detective Ethan Hawke under his wing on his first day. And what a nasty first day it turns out to be! Denzel rocks two handguns and shows he is one bad ass detective during the entire film. Alonzo Harris will go down as one of the most corrupt character in a movie because of Denzel’s spot on acting. King Kong ain’t got nothing on me!

11. Scarface

It’s a violent, loud, long, garish and drug-fueled movie. You either love it or hate it. Al Pacino plays Tony Montana, a low level Cuban criminal who built his way to the top of the 80s cocaine business in Miami, Florida. Scarface showed how money and power are both fleeting and hollow. Say hello to my little friend!

12. Goodfellas

A modern day gangster classic and considered Martin Scorsese’s greatest work, Goodfellas explores organised crime. It is a true to life account of Henry Hill, mobster and FBI informant. The movie details the rise of Hill, who idolised wise guys in his Brooklyn neighbourhood. Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci show how the mafia works, making this film both entertaining and frightening. A masterpiece of quotable dialogue, good soundtrack and a talented cast.

“Everybody gets pinched. But you did it right. You told ’em nothing and they got nothing… I’m proud of you. You took your first pinch like a man and you learned the two greatest things in life… Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut.” – Jimmy Conway

13. American Pie

One of the best and most hilarious raunchy comedy films the late 90s kids grew up with. It’s a story of four friends, Jim, Finch, Oz and Kevin, who make a pact to lose their virginity before they graduate high school. As the date draws near, the boys wonder who will score first and more importantly, whether they really want to do it. The poor pie, Stiffler, Stiffler’s mom and the exchange student Nadia… We will never forget them.


14. The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings Trilogies

Even though the Tolkien estate hates the movie adaptations by Peter Jackson, these movies further introduced the world to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle Earth. Long time fans and new ones made the movies a worldwide hit and encouraged more people to read about the world of Tolkien. Truly an epic and magnificent work of literature and a superb movie adaptation. If you were not a fan the first time, read the books and watch the movies and surely you will be a Tolkien geek. Some of the best fantasy characters are owed to Tolkien: hobbits, wizards, goblins, orcs, elves, dwarfs, wargs, trolls and many more!


15. High Fidelity

A witty and funny film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s book about record store owner Rob Gordon, played by John Cusack. He sells his music in Chicago the old fashioned way – on vinyl. This is a time when CD was king and only a handful of purists were buying vinyls. Although Rob and his store clerk, played by Jack Black, have an extensive knowledge about pop music and are consumed with the music scene, it was no help to Rob when he lost his groove and his girlfriend walked out on him. He recounts his top 5 relationships during the film. Breaking the 4th wall in an amusing and immersive way, this is one of the best and smartest romantic comedies our time.

Go out and rent, download or stream these movies – whatever your sources are, you need to watch these essential films. Enjoy!


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