The 300 Movies You Must See Before You Die!

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Maxim presents the one-stop shop to fill your DVD rack.

(I've highlighted the ones I've seen in purple and the ones I want to see in pink. - caitlin1214)

Frankly, we can’t imagine a Heaven without movies, but just in case God’s tastes lean more toward extended lyre jams than Bond marathons, you’d better grab your remote. Given the endless availability of films via rentals, Netflix, on-demand, and downloads, there’s no excuse for not watching movies 22 hours a day. But maybe you need a bit of guidance to the ones you can’t miss, in the form of a fearless, definitive list that doesn’t bother with musicals or Gone With the Wind but isn’t afraid to mix critic-approved cool like The Third Man with cult trash like The Warriors—and 298 other classics. Read on, and, for God’s sake, start watching.

(Maxim.com)


COMEDY
More Must-See ComediesAirplane! 1980
Animal House
1978
American Pie 1999
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery 1997
Bachelor Party 1984
Bananas 1971
Beverly Hills Cop 1984
Blazing Saddles 1974
Caddyshack 1980
The Cannonball Run 1981
Clerks 1994
Dazed and Confused 1993
Duck Soup 1933
Dumb & Dumber 1994
Election 1999
The 40-Year-Old Virgin 2005
Ghostbusters 1984
Groundhog Day 1993
Happy Gilmore 1996
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle 2004
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World 1963
The Jerk 1979
Modern Times 1936
The Nutty Professor 1963
Office Space 1999
Old School 2003
The Pink Panther Strikes Again 1976
The Princess Bride 1987
Raising Arizona 1987
Sixteen Candles 1984
Some Like It Hot 1959
Trading Places 1983
Vacation 1983
Wedding Crashers 2005
Wet Hot American Summer 2001
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory 1971
Young Frankenstein 1974

Monty Python and the Holy Grail
1975
Before saying, “I fart in your general direction,” in a French accent became a cliché, the merry British anarchists’ Arthurian satire was genuinely clever (debates over a swallow’s air-speed velocity), subversive (an exasperated God), and silly (killer rabbits). After all, 100 million movie quoters can’t be wrong.
Extra: Investors included Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.

The Big Lebowski
1998
Nihilists. Cowboy philosophers. Obsessive bowling. This box office gutterball turned dorm room essential (if you’ve spent a single day in college over the past decade, you know every word) is so stuffed with compulsively quotable dialogue that you almost forget it’s also a virtuoso display of the Coen brothers’ editing and cinema­tography.
Line, please: “Hey, careful, there’s a beverage here!”

Kingpin
1996
All respect to Dumb & Dumber and There’s Something About Mary aficionados, but this gross-out opus about a one-handed bowler and his Amish apprentice is the Farrelly brothers’ funniest. How can you top Bill Murray’s gut-busting improv—or comb-over?
Line, please: “What is it about good sex that makes me have to crap? You really jarred something loose, tiger.”

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
2004
Will Ferrell–philes can debate if it’s the SNL alum’s funniest —or simply weirdest—star vehicle, but this spoof of ’70s newscasters founded the foolproof formula of throwaway lines (“Milk was a bad choice,” “I’m in a glass case of emotion.”) and surreally silly situations (a Frat Pack cameo-studded news team gang fight!) that made him a modern comedy institution.
Line, please: “San Diego, of course, in German means ‘a whale’s vagina.’ ”

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
2006
You know a comedy scores when its absurdly popular character is retired rather than mess with perfection. This “doc” about an anti-Semitic, oddly lovable Kazakhstani journalist grossed $260 million, and twice as many gasps at its nude wrestling.
Line, please: “I want to buy a car with a p:cursing:ssy magnet.”

This Is Spinal Tap
1984
Before there was Guffman or The Office, Spinal Tap simultaneously ignited the mock-doc genre and set the bar unreachably high—to 11!
Extra: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer were so convincing as clueless metalheads, even-more-clueless fans believed they were the real thing.

 

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BUDDY MOVIES
The Last Detail
1973
The lucky alchemy of Robert Towne’s profane script, Hal Ashby’s art-house direction, and Jack Nicholson’s wild-eyed rebelliousness forge an underappreciated counterculture classic about three Navy men behaving badly.

More Must-See Buddy Movies
American Graffiti 1973

The Blues Brothers 1980
Breaking Away 1979
Glengarry GlenRoss 1992
The Goonies 1984
Lethal Weapon 1987
The Right Stuff 1983
Saturday Night Fever 1977
The Shawshank Redemption 1994
Stand by Me 1986
Stripes 1981
Swingers 1996
The Warriors 1979


Top Gun
1986
Tom Cruise cemented his superstar status in this slick, fist-pumping blockbuster about fighter pilots named Maverick, Goose, and Iceman competing for air supremacy. Oh, and the greased-up volleyball montage scored by Kenny Loggins’ “Playing With the Boys” just might be the most inadvertently gay scene in mainstream Hollywood history.
Line, please: “I feel the need—the need for speed!”

Superbad
2007
Just when you thought there must be a law that high school comedies have to be about rich girl cliques comes a gut-busting, foul-mouthed teen bromance for the ages, in which Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, and third-nerd-wheel Christopher Mintz-Plasse spend a very long, very crazy night trying to buy booze and get laid.
Extra: Seth Rogan and best bud Evan Goldberg began writing Superbad at age 13.

Deliverance
1972
Squeal, piggy! The backwoods love scene made this tale of yuppies on a very bad canoe trip infamous. Bow-wielding Burt Reynolds at his most macho makes it great.
 

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ACTION
More Must-See Action Movies
Batman 1989
Batman Begins 2005
Battle Royale 2000
Bourne trilogy 2002, ’04, ’07
Braveheart 1995
Clash of the Titans 1981
Die Hard 1988
Enter the Dragon 1973
Face/Off 1997
First Blood 1982
48 Hrs. 1982
Gladiator 2000
The Incredibles 2004
Kill Bill: Vol.1 & 2 2003, ’04
The Lord of the Rings trilogy 2001, ’02, ’03
Predator 1987
Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981
Speed 1994
Spider-Man 2002



Rocky I–IV
1976–85
Yo, Rocky won a Best Picture Oscar. But we also treasure the series for its jogs on the beach with Apollo, Mr. T’s Mohawk, and for ultimate Cold War propaganda Rocky IV.
Line, please: “No, I don’t hate Balboa. I pity the fool.”

The Matrix
1999
Keanu Reeves’ movies about machine-manipulated reality aren’t supposed to be this good, but the groundbreaking FX (see: “bullet time”) were a revelation. Those sequels? Never happened.
Rewind: The lobby shootout is possibly the three most action-packed minutes in film history.

The Road Warrior
1981
The action-overdrive sequel to cult hit Mad Max launched Mel Gibson’s career, made assless chaps a fashion must for postapocalyptic barbarians, and coined the phrase “the Ayatollah of Rock’n’Rollah.” Now that’s a movie, dammit!
 

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WAR
The Bridge on the River Kwai
1957
Watch POW Alec Guinness, forced to build a bridge, descend from stoic to obsessed and you’ll never look at Obi-Wan the same way again.

More Must-See War Movies

Apocalypse Now 1979
Black Hawk Down 2001
The Dirty Dozen 1967
Gallipoli 1981
The Great Escape 1963
*M*A*S*H 1970
Platoon 1986
Saving Private Ryan 1998


Dr. Strangelove
1964
The funniest movie ever about global thermonuclear war. Stanley Kubrick’s coal-black comedy featured Peter Sellers at his best, playing a nebbishy British functionary, the narrow-minded U.S. president, and a twisted genius ex-Nazi.
 

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WESTERNS
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
1966
In the third (and best) volume of Sergio Leone’s majestic, witty, genre-flouting spaghetti Western trilogy, Clint Eastwood’s cheroot-puffing Man With No Name elbowed aside all-American John Wayne as our classic Western archetype: wary, more than slightly cruel, and the last man you’d want to meet in gunfight.
Extra: Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack spent a full year on the Billboard charts.

More Must-See Westerns
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
1969
High Noon
1952
High Plains Drifter
1973
Tombstone
1993
True Grit
1969
Unforgiven
1992
The Wild Bunch
1969

The Searchers
1956
Director John Ford’s Monument Valley scenery would make any young man go West, though we’re not sure we’d ride along with John Wayne’s “hero,” a leather-tough cowboy who can’t decide whether to rescue his kidnapped niece from the Comanches—or kill her.
Rewind: The final view of Wayne framed by a doorway against the open desert is one of filmdom’s most iconic shots.

Jeremiah Johnson
1972
Watch for the breathtaking Utah wilderness. Watch for the arc of a mountain man finding companionship through his quest for isolation. Or watch for the shock of über-liberal Robert Redford butchering half the Crow tribe in revenge. Actually, watch for all the above.
Extra: When the historical trapper on whom Johnson is based was reburied in Wyoming, Redford attended the funeral.
 

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REBELS
More Must-See Rebel Movies

Billy Jack 1971
Dirty Harry 1971
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry 1974
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off 1986
The Graduate 1967
A History of Violence 2005
The Hustler 1961
The King of Comedy 1983
Network 1976
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 1975
Raging Bull 1980
Risky Business 1983
Smokey and the Bandit 1977
Three Days of the Condor 1975
Trainspotting 1996


Cool Hand Luke
1967
The coolest prison movie ever. Yes, Paul Newman’s chain gang anti-hero can eat 50 eggs. More important, he can also make us feel every bead of sweat dripped onto the gritty Southern roadside, the adrenaline rush of bloodhounds hot on his trail, and the existential weight of being a reluctant Christ figure to a bunch of cons.
Line, please: “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

Taxi Driver
1976
Martin Scorsese’s searing portrait of a Big Apple gone rotten, and Robert De Niro’s portrayal of the unhinged cabby who feeds on it, makes for the quintessential ’70s film.
Line, please: We love when Albert Brooks tells Cybill Shepherd… Ha ha, just kidding. “You talkin’ to me?” Line of the decade.

Sid & Nancy
1986
This biopic about Sex Pistol Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman) isn’t totally accurate but does faithfully mirror the punk ethos of valuing pure ’tude over boring technical skill.

Easy Rider
1969
Two bikers roar off on a road trip to Mardi Gras and learn about bigotry, random violence, and the death of the American dream. Well, that and lots of drugs.
 

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COPS
Bullitt
1968
From Dirty Harry Callahan to Lethal Weapon’s Martin Riggs, Steve McQueen’s badass Lt. Frank Bullitt paved the way for every maverick cop who refused to play by the rules.
Extra: McQueen’s stunt driver for Bullitt’s legendary car chase also performed his motorcycle jump in The Great Escape.

More Must-See Cop Movies

Bad Lieutenant 1992
Chinatown 1974
The Departed 2006
Donnie Brasco 1997
Fargo 1996
The French Connection 1971
RoboCop 1987
Se7en 1995
Shaft 1971
The Silence of the Lambs 1991
The Untouchables 1987


To Live and Die in L.A.
1985
The Secret Service agents of this very ’80s crime flick (Wang Chung’s synthy score just might re-perm your hair) break every rule of law enforcement to bust a sadistic counterfeiter, and the shocking fate of hero William Petersen breaks every rule of mainstream moviemaking. In a good way.
Extra: Director William Friedkin reportedly filmed the insane car chase last—in case any actors got killed.

Hard Boiled
1992
The term “bullet ballet” was coined for John Woo’s kung fu masterpiece that sets up Hong Kong cop Chow Yun Fat versus mobsters, then turns machine guns, shotguns, explosions, and blood spurts into objects of fetishized beauty.
 

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CRIMINALS
More Must-See Criminal Movies

Atlantic City 1980
Bad Boys 1983
Bloody Mama 1970
The Boys From Brazil 1978
Boyz N the Hood 1991
Carlito’s Way 1993
Casino 1995
Crimes and Misdemeanors 1989
Dog Day Afternoon 1975
The Getaway 1972
Get Carter 1971
Goodfellas 1990
Heat 1995
A History of Violence 2005
In Cold Blood 1967
The Long Good Friday 1980
Mean Streets 1973
Midnight Express 1978
Natural Born Killers 1994
Pulp Fiction 1994
River’s Edge 1986
Scarface 1983
Sexy Beast 2000
Sin City 2005
Super Fly 1972
True Romance 1993


No Country For Old Men

2007
In adapting Cormac McCarthy’s bleak novel, did the Coen brothers create a violent nouveau Western that uses the chase between Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, and Tommy Lee Jones to ratchet up unbearable tension? Yes! Brilliant? You bet, friend-o.
Extra: Josh Brolin’s audition tape was directed by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.

The Godfather I & II
1972, 1974
You’ve watched them a dozen times. You know every line and have adopted some (“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”) as motivational tools. They are, simply, the apex of all Mob movies. That’s why you’ll watch them a dozen times more.
Extra: Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, both nominated for The Godfather: Part II, never appeared together on-screen until 1995’s Heat.

Bonnie and Clyde
1967
Graphic violence in the name of art wasn’t always as accepted as it is today. B&C’s unapologetic gore showed moviegoers just how cool a bloody movie can be, and paved the way for the antiestablishment flicks that soon dominated American cinema.
Extra: Convinced the movie would tank, Warner Bros. gave producer/star Warren Beatty 40 percent of the gross instead of a small fee.

Reservoir Dogs

1992
Because the bad guys were named Mr. White, Mr. Pink, and Mr. Blonde. And because every time we hear “Stuck in the Middle With You,” we fear for our ear.
 

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HORROR
More Must-See Horror Movies

Carrie 1976
The Exorcist 1973
The Fly 1986
Halloween 1978
Jaws 1975
A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984
Psycho 1960
Rosemary’s Baby 1968
The Shining 1980
28 Days Later 2002


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
1974
None of the countless teens-versus-cannibals ripoffs can match the indie audacity and nerve-jangling trauma of Tobe Hooper’s original gorefest. It may be the only horror movie for which the audio alone would scare you stupid.
Rewind: The infamous “meat hook” scene is edited so well, viewers rarely notice that they never actually see hook pierce flesh.

Night of the Living Dead/Dawn of the Dead
1968/1978
George A. Romero combined politics and apocalypse to invent the zombie genre as we know it in his still-terrifying no-budget B&W classic, Night—then topped it with the splatter-tastic Dawn.
 

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SCI-FI/FANTASY

More Must-See Sci-Fi Movies

Alien/Aliens 1979, 1986
Back to the Future 1985
Blade Runner 1982
Children of Men 2006
Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977
E.T. 1982
King Kong 1933
Planet of the Apes 1968
Star Wars 1977
Terminator/T2 1984, 1991


The Empire Strikes Back
1980
It takes a lot to trump an immor*tal classic. But damn if this funnier, smarter, darker sequel, featuring an AT-AT battle, Han Solo in carbonite, and Yoda, doesn’t pull it off.

2001: A Space Odyssey
1968
Who needs drugs when you have the Blu-ray of this cosmic magnum opus? Stanley Kubrick combines a classical soundtrack with then-advanced FX to tackle no less a theme than the eons-spanning evolution of humankind.
Extra: To nail HAL 9000’s creepily relaxed computer voice, actor Douglas Rain spoke his lines with his bare feet resting on a pillow.

Starship Troopers
1997
In the future, soldiers will look like models. They will wage war against alien bugs. And a current of fascism will turn a B-movie into a dissertation-worthy classic.
 

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ART HOUSE

A Clockwork Orange
1971
The swinging ’60s meet dystopian future in Stanley Kubrick’s daring provocation, in which proto-punk Malcolm McDowell somehow gets our sympathy when brain*washed by the big, bad government.
Rewind: McDowell mimics Singin’ in the Rain while engaging in a bit of ultraviolence.

More Must-See Art House

Badlands
1973
The Bicycle Thief 1948
The Conversation 1974
Do the Right Thing 1989
Elephant Man 1980
The Last Picture Show 1971
Repo Man 1984
Rushmore 1998
Short Cuts 1993
There Will Be Blood 2007


Withnail and I
1987
Take two drug-addled on-the-dole actors from 1969 London, throw them into a dilapidated country house, take away any modern conveniences, add a touchy-feely gay uncle and—voilà!—you have a sardonic cult classic. Cheers!

City of God
2002
Imagine the best gangster bits from The Wire, mix in doc-style cinematography, then set the whole thing in the slums of Rio, and you might have something approaching Fernando Meirelles gritty, intoxicating epic.

Annie Hall
1977
Relationships suck—and yet everybody wants one. No film better explains that paradox than Woody Allen’s lone Best Director winner, whose title character (Diane Keaton) makes Allen equal parts miserable and happy(ish).

Midnight Cowboy
1969
Never has a fish-out-of-water tale been so subversive as when Texas cowboy poser Jon Voight steps off the bus in Manhattan naively looking to become a gigolo and makes unlikely friends with scuzzy swindler Dustin Hoffman.
 

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MINDBENDERS

More Must-See Mindbenders

Beetlejuice 1988
Blue Velvet 1986
Brazil 1985
Donnie Darko 2001
Edward Scissorhands 1990
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 2004
Fight Club 1999
Memento 2000
Pink Floyd: The Wall 1982
The Manchurian Candidate 1962



The Rocky Horror Picture Show

1975
Obscene chants, trashy lingerie, perversion—and that’s just the audience! No wonder it’s been a midnight staple for decades.

Akira
1988
This anime tour de force makes no sense unless viewed under heavy sedation, but the postapocalyptic Tokyo overrun with biker gangs and fascist police is gorgeous.
 

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CLASSICS

More Must-See Classics

Ben-Hur
1959
Casablanca 1942
Double Indemnity 1944
Metropolis 1927
The Night of the Hunter 1955
On the Waterfront 1954
The Third Man 1949
Touch of Evil 1958
Vertigo 1958
White Heat 1949
The Wizard of Oz 1939


The Adventures of Robin Hood
1938
Few characters are as iconic as Sherwood Forest’s noble outlaw, and few actors ever made a role his own like Errol Flynn. With swashbuckling, acrobatic escapes that still amaze today, it set the standard for action-adventure. Mr. Costner, why’d you even bother?
Extra: James Cagney, best known for gangster films, was originally slated for the role.

Lawrence of Arabia
1962
Thank heaven for 70-inch flat-screens. Now home-theater buffs can grasp at least some of the stunning grandeur of director David Lean’s epic about a flamboyant British officer’s exploits in Middle East during WWI, from quicksand closeups to brutal desert battles. Sure, Peter O’Toole’s legendary performance chews the scenery, but there’s plenty to spare.
Line, please: “Nothing is written.”

Kind Hearts and Coronets
1949
Don’t be thrown by the wussified title, this classic British comedy is as dark as they come. When an ambitious but poor social climber realizes that eight nobles (all played by Alec Guinness) stand in his way of gaining a cushy dukedom, he does the only sensible thing: murders them one by one.
Extra: Originally offered only four parts, Guinness asked the producers, “Why not eight?”
 

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NON-GRATUITOUS NUDITY

More Must-See Nudity

Angel Heart
1987
Body Heat 1981
Boogie Nights 1997
Coffy 1973
Jackass: The Movie 2002
McCabe & Mrs. Miller 1971
Mulholland Drive 2001
Poison Ivy: The New Seduction 1997
Revenge of the Nerds 1984
10 1979


Wild Things

1998
This glorious sleazefest’s signature threesome is like the last Super Bowl—one side is in to win, the other side content to coast. Denise Richards bares all of her champagne-glistened body while Neve Campbell wears…a tank top. Even her inexplicable modesty can’t derail the high jinks.
Extra: Campbell later shed the tank top for non-threesome sex scenes. Thanks for nothing, Neve.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High
1982
If ever a movie were a time capsule and an ageless classic, this almost anthropological comedy about Cali high schoolers is it. The sound-track alone is a wonder, and really, Sean Penn deserved an Oscar for disappearing inside über-stoner Jeff Spicoli.
Rewind: C’mon, you already know—Phoebe Cate’s immortal poolside topless scene is the reason frame-by-frame was invented.

Carnal Knowledge
1971
Whether you identify with Jack Nicholson’s unrepentant cocksman or buddy Art Garfunkel’s befuddled romantic, this unsparing look at the sexual revolution will make any man squirm. Luckily, Ann-Margret and Candice Bergen at their peak help the medicine go down.
Extra: The U.S. Supreme Court had to overturn the obscenity conviction of a Georgia theater owner who dared show the movie.
 

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SO BAD THEY'RE GOOD

More Must-See Train Wrecks

Airport 1975 1974
Barbarella 1968
Battlefield Earth 2000
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls 1970
Death Race 2000 1975
Phantom of the Paradise 1974
Reefer Madness 1936
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 1978
The Toxic Avenger 1985


Glen or Glenda?
1953
Plan 9 From Outer Space is a cohesive masterpiece compared to Ed Wood’s transvestite odyssey, a stock-footage patchwork bookended by Bela Lugosi monologues.

Showgirls
1995
This retroactively rationalized “farce”—a triumph of Cinemaxian sexploitation—unintentionally surpasses any Judd Apatow movie’s laugh-to-minute ratio.