18 Movies You Absolutely Need to See Before You Die

If you haven’t seen these movies yet, it may be time to add them to your watchlist. From Titanic to The Godfather, here are 18 movies everyone should watch at least once.  

Jaws

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

If you’re not afraid of the ocean now, you will be after seeing this classic. When a great white shark terrorizes the waters of a small seaside town, it’s up to Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), marine biologist Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and local fisherman Quint (Robert Shaw) to hunt and kill the beast. But the beauty of Jaws lies not only in its memorable kill sequences but in the dialogue, as the three ocean-stranded characters are forced to reconcile.  

Gone with the Wind 

Photo Credit: MGM Studios.

This timeless tale is based on Margaret Mitchell’s book of the same name and follows the life of Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), a headstrong and manipulative Southern belle. With an almost four-hour run time, this Civil War epic perfectly captures the grandeur and tragedy of this period in American history.

Casablanca 

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Another timeless classic, Casablanca is an enduring love story about passion and sacrifice. When cynical nightclub owner Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) meets his former lover Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and her new husband Victor (Paul Henreid) at his club, he must grapple with his feelings and decide whether to save the pair when they are kidnapped by the Nazis. It’s a gripping story from the offset, but what sets Casablanca apart from other war dramas is the chemistry between the characters, adding depth to the film’s romantic storyline.

The Godfather 

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

If you haven’t already seen Francis Ford Coppola’s gripping mafia flick, then it might be time to add it to your watchlist. Regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, The Godfather chronicles the Corleone crime family’s patriarch Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), and his reluctance to hand over his power to his youngest son Michael (Al Pacino). From its compelling storyline to iconic characters, The Godfather is an exceptional film and without a doubt a timeless classic.

Taxi Driver 

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

With iconic performances and thought-provoking social commentary, Taxi Driver remains one of the most influential cult classics of all time. When ex-war veteran Travis (Robert De Niro) takes a job as a taxi driver, he becomes disturbed by the corruption and violence he observes in New York City. He soon develops an obsession with saving a young prostitute (Jodie Foster) from her exploitative pimp, leading to a shocking and violent climax. Taxi Driver is an intense critique of urban decay and the dark underbelly of American society in the 1970s.

Fargo 

Photo Credit: PolyGram Filmed Entertainment .

Fargo’s dark humor, coupled with its stark depiction of violence, creates a memorable cinematic experience. Revolving around a botched kidnapping scheme in the snowy landscapes of Minnesota, this Coen Brothers classic is a unique exploration of greed and desperation, with just enough black comedy to keep you amused.

Apocalypse Now 

Photo Credit: United Artists.

Set during the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now captures the surreal landscape of war-torn Vietnam. Loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness, the film follows Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen), a U.S. Army officer tasked with assassinating Colonel Water E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando). From an iconic helicopter attack to the eerie atmosphere of Vietnam, Apocalypse Now is an evocative tale that can’t be missed.

The Shining 

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Based on Stephen King’s book of the same name, this Stanley Kubrick classic brought a new meaning to insolation. When Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is hired to caretake an isolated hotel, the isolation slowly unravels his sanity, putting himself and his family in danger. While Kubrick’s version received criticism from Stephen King, this spine-chilling horror is regarded as one of the scariest films of all time. And for good reason.

Schindler’s List

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

A harrowing portrayal of the Holocaust, Schindler’s List is a retelling of Oskar Schindler and his efforts to save Jews from the horrors of the Nazi regime. Not one to be watched without a box of tissues, the film is by far one of Spielberg’s best and is a profoundly moving take on one of the darkest chapters in human history.

Titanic 

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

This record-breaking Oscar winner is an epic retelling of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. With a cleverly intertwined romance story that accurately portrays the ship’s class systems, Titanic’s unique blend of drama, action, and tragedy makes the film a timeless classic.

Wall-E 

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios.

This Pixar classic is as thought-provoking as it is sweet. When Earth has become a wasteland, and humans have been shipped away to space, lonely robot Wall-E is responsible for cleaning Earth and restoring it to its natural form. When he meets and falls in love with another robot named EVE, the pair set out on an adventure to save mankind. This emotionally beautiful tale has become a modern classic suitable for all ages.

Brokeback Mountain

Photo Credit: Focus Features.

Aside from the powerful performances and director Ang Lee’s masterful direction, Brokeback Mountain is a groundbreaking representation of same-sex relationships. When cowboys Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) fall in love, despite having families of their own, the two enter a two-decade-long affair and grapple with societal expectations and the challenges of concealing their relationship. As one of the first Hollywood films to depict same-sex relationships, Brokeback Mountain challenged societal norms and effectively brought LGBTQ+ issues to a wider audience.

The Dark Knight 

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

The second installment in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, this film offers far more than action-packed sequences and brutal kills. Earning Heath Ledger his first Oscar as the Joker, The Dark Knight is gritty, dark, and easily one of the best superhero movies of all time.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 

Photo Credit: Walt Disney.

The first feature-length film that brought Disney magic to life. When princess Snow White is banished by her evil stepmother, she is rescued by seven dwarfs who form a friendship with her. It’s a much-loved classic tale of friendship and kindness, and while animation has come a long way since its release, Snow White remains a classic for people of all ages.

Suspiria

Photo Credit: Produzioni Atlas.

This Italian horror film is a must-see for any fan of the genre. When American ballet student Suzy (Jessica Harper) enrolls in a German dance academy, she soon discovers that it is actually run by a coven of witches. Accompanied by a haunting musical score, Suspiria is an unsettling tale that favors tension over gore and jump scares.

Pulp Fiction 

Photo Credit: Miramax Films.

In true Tarantino style, Pulp Fiction is a racy crime story, with humoristic undertones intertwined in its complex narrative. An anthology about the Los Angeles underworld, Pulp Fiction is cinema’s equivalent of abstract art with four intertwined tales of violence and redemption. This influential and entertaining cult classic is not one to be missed.

Lawrence of Arabia 

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

This epic historical drama tells the story of T.E. Lawrence, a British Army officer who played a key role in the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire in World War I. Despite its three-hour run time, the film captivates you from the offset right up until its final sequence. With epic battle scenes and a stand-out performance by Peter O’Toole, Lawrence of Arabia remains a powerful exploration of post-war trauma.

Alien 

Photo Credit: 20th Century Studios.

From director Ridley Scott, this sci-fi horror classic spawned a franchise of movies, books, and video games. But none have quite managed to live up to the original. When a spacecraft’s crew intercepts a distress signal, their ship is invaded by a large and ruthless alien. With special effects groundbreaking for its time and one particularly memorable scene, Alien is one film that will stick in your mind long after the credits roll.

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Amy Watkins

Writer & Blogger

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