If you haven’t seen these movies, what are you waiting for? You won’t find any hidden gems on this list; you may have already seen most of them. If there are any on this list that you still need to see, bump them up your watchlist. These are bucket-list movies you can’t possibly justify leaving unwatched.
1. The Godfather I & II (1972 and 1974)
Don’t overthink it or get cute when it comes to the top spot on any list. Francis Ford Coppola blessed the world with two masterpieces in a two-year span, offering over six total hours of Don Corleone, Michael Corleone, Fredo, Clemenza, Tom Hagen, Don Fanucci, Sollozzo, the Feast of San Gennaro, Sicily, vendettas, revenge, domestic disputes, fraternal backstabbing, and cinematic excellence.
For what the films are, there will never be anything better than Godfather I and II.
2. The Departed (2006)
It wouldn’t be right to publish this list without Martin Scorsese. While Goodfellas, Casino, Taxi Driver, and other Scorsese films are must-see-before-you-die material, The Departed proved that Scorsese could adapt seamlessly to cinema’s never-ending evolution.
A thoroughly modern crime flick that embodies Scorsese’s reliance on memorable characters and powerhouse actors, The Departed takes a thrilling look at Boston’s seedy underbelly while loosely nodding to real-world gangsters (namely Whitey Bulger).
3. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Does any film turn your stomach as consistently (or relentlessly) as The Silence of the Lambs? Jonathan Demme’s thriller based on Thomas Harris’ source novel brought Hannibal Lecter to life in a horrifying fashion, delivering twists and unexpected turns until the very end.
From Anthony Hopkins’ Lecter to Ted Levine’s Buffalo Bill and Anthony Heald’s Dr. Frederick Chilton, few films deliver as many characters that compel you to take a shower immediately post-viewing. For a horrifying thriller that’s an indisputably excellent film, The Silence of the Lambs is the call.
4. The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix is much more than an ahead-of-its-time sci-fi classic that broke cinematic barriers and worked out viewers’ neurons with an original premise inspired by Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, though it is certainly that.
The Matrix has also proven to be a warning and a rallying call for those who strive for truth in a world that sometimes feels like a computer simulation.
5. 12 Angry Men (1957)
While the 1997 television movie remake is a standout film in its own right, the original 12 Angry Men earned a rare 9.0 rating on IMDb, a feat so uncommon that it may as well be a 10. A teleplay by Reginald Rose that was adapted into a play and a film, 12 Angry Men, is a masterclass in keeping the audiences in rapt attention without a single gimmick.
Elite dialogue, a truly unpredictable storyline, and a seasoned cast of serious actors make 12 Angry Men a black-and-white film that holds its own next to modern dramatic thrillers with far greater budgets.
6. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Stanley Kubrick’s movies could occupy several spots on this list, but Eyes Wide Shut claims the podium because it is Kubrick’s final film. Speculation is that the movie, which is an unnerving adventure into mansion parties guarded by iron gates and code words, is more derived from reality than audience members would like to believe.
7. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Veterans noted that Saving Private Ryan is an unmatched portrayal of the horror of war. From the unbridled gore of the Omaha Beach landing to the sobering scene at Arlington National Cemetery, director Steven Spielberg strikes all the cords of war’s devastating effects.
In addition to being an indelible feat of filmmaking, Saving Private Ryan has an inherent message for those who tend to speak flippantly about armed conflict.
8. The Dark Knight (2008)
It’s difficult to communicate how big a deal it is that a comic book movie is ranked third on IMDb’s Top 250 movies list. It’s a testament to Christopher Nolan’s masterful directing, Heath Ledger and Christian Bale’s timeless hero-villain dynamic, and the film’s status as completely genre-bending and cliche-shattering.
9. Airplane! (1980)
While countless comedies could claim a spot on this list (Superbad, Blazing Saddles, and A Princess Bride come to mind), Airplane! typifies what it means not to take yourself too seriously.
Every Leslie Nielsen film lets no more than five seconds pass without delivering a new gag, and Airplane! may just be the best of the lot. Lines like “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue” signal the utter ridiculousness of Airplane!, which you have to see yourself to believe.
10. Schindler’s List (1993)
Schindler’s List combines a rare formula of a legendary director, a blank-check budget, a compelling story, and fearless grappling with one of the most sensitive periods in history. A phenomenon when it hit theaters, Schindler’s List has remained among the top echelon of must-see movies, even with studios churning out an endless torrent of films since its release in 1993.
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This article was produced and syndicated by The Cents of Money.