20 Must-Watch Movies Everyone Should See Before They Die

The phrase “must-watch” is thrown around way too liberally these days. We really mean it when it comes to these movies, though—you must watch them before your ticker stops ticking. Bump these up your movie night list ASAP.

1 – Inception

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Few movies are as ambitious as Inception. Between Christopher Nolan's deft directorial hand, a cast that transcends the phrase “star-studded,” and a plot that will put your brain in a pretzel, Inception is arguably the most unique film of its era.

2 – The Shining

jack nicholson
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment.

No director had a more extraordinary skill for making audiences uncomfortable than Stanley Kubrick. A Clockwork Orange and The Shining are particularly unsettling, masterfully toeing the line of multiple genres (Is it a horror movie? Thriller?) but leaving no doubt when the film ends.

Stephen King's source material and isolated setting make The Shining an incredibly memorable and must-see-before-you-die masterpiece.

3 – Incendies

Image Credit: Entertainment One.

There are a handful of directors whose every movie is a must-watch release. Before director Denis Villeneuve was known for Blade Runner 2049Dune, and Sicario, he announced his arrival into the limelight with Incendies. 

This critically beloved film is beautiful, moving, and tragically under-viewed.

4 – Reservoir Dogs

Reservoir Dogs Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Edward Bunker, Lawrence Tierney
Image Credit: Miramax Films.

A classic “Who's the rat” narrative replete with Tarantino's razor-sharp dialogue and a studly cast led by Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, and Michael Madsen? If you haven't seen Reservoir Dogs, do it before your croak. You owe it to yourself.

5 – It's a Wonderful Life

It's a Wonderful Life
Image Credit: Liberty Films.

Most moviegoers today will see a film made in 1946 and immediately pass. Please don't make that mistake with It's a Wonderful Life, as you'll miss out on a truly remarkable film.

Stream this as soon as possible if your priorities are out of whack.

6 – Schindler's List

Schindler's List Ralph Fiennes Liam Neeson
Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Never to be mistaken for a feel-good film, Schindler's List confronts one of the most stomach-churning historical periods. One of Spielberg's most challenging and beloved films, Schindler's List is a must-see that you won't be able to look away from.

7 – Whiplash

Whiplash J.K. Simmons
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

In an age where seemingly every movie is a remake, spin-off, or recycled version of a well-worn Hollywood cliche, Whiplash is a wholly original film. Who would have guessed that the politics of a studio band could be so ruthless?

8 – The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others
Image Credit: Buena Vista International.

Have you ever wondered how fellow citizens could spy on each other? The Lives of Others answers that question and then some, providing a gripping look at Cold War-era Germany and the domestic espionage that ruled the day. What makes The Lives of Others a must-see movie, though, is the humanity that breaks through the cracked concrete façade.

9 – The Man From Earth

The Man From Earth
Image Credit: Anchor Bay Entertainment.

One of the deepest sleepers on this list, The Man from Earth is anything but a blockbuster film. However, the movie unravels in a fascinating manner that will, above all else, make you think.

10 – 1984

Nineteen Eighty-Four
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Even if you've read the book, the cinematic rendition of Orwell's classic makes Big Brother even more vivid. Aptly released in 1984, the film stars William Hurt and perfectly captures the paranoid, dystopian world ruled by nonsense.

The movie isn't a feel-good affair, but the Ministry of Truth gives its stamp of approval.

11 – The Silence of The Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs Anthony Hopkins
Image Credit: MGM.

The Silence of the Lambs is cinematic horror at its finest. The scariest part is that director Jonathan Demme does not rely on supernatural monsters or fantastical beasts to frighten the audience. He depends on Thomas Harris' source material, specifically Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter.

No film will leave you locking your doors and questioning your choice of psychiatrist like The Silence of the Lambs will.

12 – Into The Wild

Into the Wild
Image Credit: Paramount Vantage.

Into the Wild is a movie about adventure, family strife, and the double-edged nature of setting out on one's own. Based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, Into the Wild will take you through the full range of emotions while providing plenty of natural beauty and great music for maximum sensory delight.

13 – Braveheart

Braveheart Mel Gibson
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

The 1995 epic historical drama stars Mel Gibson as Sir William Wallace, fighting for Scottish Independence against King Edward I of England.

Gibson also produced and directed the film, which won four Academy Awards at the 1996 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.

14 – Good Will Hunting

Good Will Hunting
Image Credit: Miramax Films.

You need to see Gold Will Hunting solely for Robin Williams' performance.

His acceptance of the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting is the only time he's truly been speechless.

15 – The Lord of The Rings Trilogy

viggo mortensen
Image Credit: New Line Productions.

Based on the beloved fantasy novels by J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the best film adaptions and one of the greatest achievements in cinematic history.

16 – Fight Club

Fight Club Brad Pitt
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Fight Club is known to be one of the most influential movies of the late 1990s. To this day, people still talk about how the ending of this film changed their minds about cinema.

17 – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet
Image Credit: Focus Features.

This science fiction film is creative and makes us question if it's better to love and lost or to never have remembered you were in love at all. 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for a number of other major awards during its season. 

18 – Castaway

Cast Away
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Lost on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean, Castaway is a story about survival and friendship. It says a lot about the film in that one of the main characters is a volleyball who we feel for throughout the movie.

19 – The Godfather

The Godfather Marlon Brando, Salvatore Corsitto
Image Credit Paramount Pictures.

This Francis Ford Coppola movie is still regarded as one of the most important films ever created. The entire Godfather collection has stood the test of time.

20 – Forrest Gump

forrest gump
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Forrest Gump takes viewers through some of the most important historical events during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, all through the life of Forrest, who just wants to be in love and loved by others.

Source: Quora.

Sam Mire is a freelance writer who has manned a variety of beats over nearly a decade in the literary biz. He has spent weeks in the Alaskan wildlands, immersed himself in the world of Florida's homeless population, covered live sporting events, and served as a linchpin for media outlets in the legal, tech, and entertainment spaces. Sam has been published in Fast Company, Forbes, Entrepreneur, AP News, Fox News, and, most notably, Wealth of Geeks. In his free time, he enjoys boxing, woodwork, petting his dog, and reveling in good company.