Everyone likes to watch movies. Movies are a source of entertainment, knowledge, social awareness, cultural awareness, and a form of art.
Several films are made every year, and therefore naturally, there are several lists like a list of movies to watch before you die and guides curated online as well as offline to assist the moviegoers better to choose a movie to watch.
Lists of the greatest movies ever, best action movies ever, best romance movies, best spy movies ever, pop up all the time. So, today we have curated a “list of movies to watch before you die.”
Although there are hundreds of such movies that can be entered, most of them here are not superhero movies, here are a selected few, which will surely leave their mark on you. NOTE: We have not included movies that are part of a series like The Dark Knight, Harry Potter, LOTR.
This is a classic 90s movie headed by veteran actors like Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. This movie is based on the real-life story of the mobster Henry Hill and his associates.
Directed by the legendary movie director Martin Scorsese, this movie is filled with blood, strong language, and mafia code. Indeed a legendary piece of work, this movie features in multiple “lists of movies to watch before you die.”
When Christopher Nolan decided to make a mind-bending, head-scratching movie, he would have come with the plot of inception.
Consisting of an ensemble cast of actors led by the genius Di Caprio, Inception is about infiltrating and controlling dreams of the subjects, with an underlying mission to be accomplished. After you are done watching the movie, you would ask, “What does the end of the movie mean?”
3. Shawshank Redemption
Regarded by some critics as the most excellent movie ever created, Shawshank Redemption is about a banker, played by Tim Robbins, who is sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
The acting of Robbins and his co-star Morgan Freeman is critically acclaimed, backed by the antagonist role of Bob Gunton.
The movie, an adaptation of a Stephen King novel, is described as a beautiful piece of art that teaches much-needed values; in the words of Robbins, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies”.
4. The Wolf of Wall Street
The critics of this movie might describe it as crass, vile, and vulgarly sexual. But the story, the character development, the terminologies and most important the acting of Di Caprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, and all the supporting cast has transformed this movie into a cult hit.
Frequently this movie tells the real-life story of how stockbroker, Jordan Belfort, committed securities fraud and laundering under the banner of his stockbroking firm.
The film follows the lavish and crude lifestyle of the protagonists and how their life took turns from bad to good to best to worst.
5. Fight Club
If there is any movie that will make you question the system, it is Fight Club and, of course, V for Vendetta, but let’s save it for later.
The movie follows the struggles of the seemingly wonderful life of Edward Norton, who is the narrator, and he cannot sleep, cry, go on with his life! Until he meets two people Martha Singer and Tyler Durden, who completely change his life, well no, not for the better!
The movie is shaded with subtle suggestions and heavy mystery, so you will just have to watch it to know what the underground Fight Club is all about, because hey, “The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club.”
The brilliant acting of the trio has brought cult status and following to the movie.
6. Mulholland Drive (Stylized as Dr.)
Voted as the greatest movie of the 21st century in a poll conducted by BBC Culture, Mulholland Dr. is a masterpiece sculpted and created by the genius director David Lynch, who is responsible for creating other gems like Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and Twin Peaks.
This movie tells the story of a young woman, an aspiring actress who stumbles upon the amnesiac Rita.
As they venture to know more about her identity, a series of vignettes and mysteries unfold with a frantic ending. The best part of the movie is the sequence where Rebekah Del Rio sings the song “Crying” in Spanish, which lays a platform for a very emotional scene. Try to hold your tears in!
7. Saving Private Ryan
This Steven Spielberg masterpiece is set in World War II, which opens to the Normandy Landings by the US Army.
The first 20-25 mins are especially notorious for gory scenes, flying arms and legs, broken necks, and blown-up bodies. Many army veterans got PTSD after watching these scenes, so if you are sensitive to such scenes, you have been warned.
The movie is considered one of the greatest of all time due to the sheer quality of brilliance displayed by Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Edward Reiben, and the other supporting cast.
The movie is deeply embedded in everyone’s mind and shows the ugliness of war. Not including it in a “List of movies to watch before you die,” will be a shame.
8. Black Swan
A psychological thriller movie by genre, Black Swan starts the beautiful and experienced actress Natalia Portman (Nina), who is supposed to play the role of the fragile and innocent embodiment of the White Swan and also the dark and sensual embodiment of the Black Swan.
But, competition for the latter role from her rival Lily (Mila Kunis) puts immense pressure on her performance and mental state, due to which, Nina loses the grip over reality and slips into psychosis and paranoia.
The film did an outstanding job of portraying the madness that people can descend to, when under unimaginable pressure. Portman’s performance was critically acclaimed and won her an Oscar for Best Actress.
9. The Passion of the Christ
The biblical epic that was released in 2004, directed by Mel Gibson and starring Jim Caviezel as Jesus of Nazareth, garnered huge amounts of controversy as well as critical acclaim upon release.
You do not have to be religious to watch the movie. The film portrays the final 12 hours of Jesus’ life, also called the Passion.
Some notable events like The Last Supper and the betrayal by Judas is covered in the movie. The film dialogue is completely in Hebrew, Latin, and Aramaic.
The last half an hour of the movie displays the horrors of how Jesus was tortured and scarred, followed by his crucifixion. The movie really moves a person emotionally.
10. Slumdog Millionaire
When 18-year-old Jamal Malik from the slums of Juhu wins 20 million rupees on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, eyes are turned to him, and he is questioned.
As he tells his own life story, flashbacks of his childhood life are seen, which highlights the common but unresolved issues that the orphans face in India, like poverty, human trafficking, engaging in petty crimes, organ racket.
The movie was a huge hit on its release, praised for the acting of Patel and Pinto. The movie won the Oscar for best movie, director, and adapted screenplay. Also, there was widespread praise for the musical score by composer AR Rehman.
If it weren’t for Slumdog Millionaire, the legendary film ‘Lagaan‘ would have included in this “list of movies to watch before you die.”
11. Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind
This movie proves the statement, “If love exists and you are meant to be with the person you love, it will find you.” Employing a non-linear narrative, this movie tells the story of Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet), who meet and feel a certain magnetic connection towards each other.
The reason is revealed later that they were previously in a relationship and had their memories of each other erased after separation.
This brilliant movie explores the theme of romance and fate as the faded memories of the two are slowly explored and surface, as their fate tries to bind them together.
Adding this movie to the “list of movies to watch” is justice done right to love and the art of cinema.
12. Downfall (German: Der Untergang)
You might know this film from the reference and memes of Hitler raging and shouting at his subordinates, where his words are masked to something irrelevant and funny.
The movie Downfall was released in 2004, set in and around the Fuhrerbunker, and the plot of the film is set during the Battle of Berlin, depicting the final days of Nazi Germany and Hitler. The storyline is heavily developed from the viewpoints of the survivor’s memoirs, historical sources, and eyewitness accounts.
The acting of Bruno Ganz as Hitler was critically acclaimed for bringing the character to life and portraying Hitler as a human being, rather than a devil, which his actions adjudged him to be.
13. Schindler’s List
Another Oscar-winning masterpiece by Steven Spielberg, this film has very meticulously portrayed the divine acts of Oskar Schindler, the German businessman, who employed and subsequently saved the lives of around a thousand Polish Jews from the Holocaust.
The portrayal of Liam Neeson as Schindler and Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth, the ruthless SS lieutenant, was widely praised.
The film very gravely shows the plight of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, including multiple scenes in which they are stripped, lynched, shot, packed in-crowd, and their dead bodies thrown in piles of corpses.
A polar opposite of the previous film on this list, Downfall, this film once again shows us why Hitler and his Nazi Party were devils. A very honorable inclusion in the list.
14. 2001 a Space Odyssey
This film was created and released in the year 1968 by the legendary director Stanley Kubrick. Many people probably think that this film is too old for their age.
But that is far from the truth. The plot of the film surrounds an alien monolith that appears in multiple periods, and briefly influences the evolution of humans and science.
The main plot revolves around the scientists, Bowman and Poole, as they travel to Jupiter along with a supercomputer, HAL 9000, who controls the operations of the spacecraft. As the behavior of HAL changes, and it starts to act independently, the scientists need to figure out a way to stop HAL before anything catastrophic happens.
Regarded as a gem of the sci-fi genre, this movie has been frequently mentioned in the “greatest movies of all times” list.
15. The Godfather
If there is one movie that has consistently occupied the #1 position in greatest movies to ever, most brilliant movies ever list, it is The Godfather.
Headed by legendary actors Marlon Brando and Robert Duvall and backed up by future genius actors like James Cann and Al Pacino, The Godfather is a mafia crime thriller based on the novel of the same name by author Mario Puzo.
The movie beautifully narrates the story of Vito Corleone, the head of the Corleone crime family, and how he manages to balance his relationship with his family, friends, and enemies. “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” goes his legendary line.
The movie also displays the transformation of Michael, son of Vito, from a quietly troubled young man who doesn’t want to get involved in the “family business” to a ruthless mafia boss and leader. The film won the Oscar for best film and best actor and has cemented its legacy and set a benchmark for brilliance.
If you would like to take it a step further and read a bigger “list of movies to watch,” follow this link. Although few movies can be included in this list we limit it to our top 15 choices.
Honorable Mentions to the Top 10 Movie Series That We Could Not Include Here:
- Harry Potter Series
- Jurassic Park
- LOTR trilogy
- Scary movie series
- The Dark Knight trilogy
- Star Wars series
- Pirates of the Caribbean series
- Rocky series
- Terminator series
- Back to the Future Trilogy
- Mad Max Series
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show
- Tokyo Story
- Toy Story
Please note that the curated list was a product of well-researched indices of greatest movies from various magazines, platforms, and, critics ratings. If you think there are any additional movies to include in the “list of movies to watch before you die,” please mention in the comment below.