Seeing is Believing: 25 Movies You Have to Watch to Understand the Hype

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In the vast cinema world, some films have garnered famous reputations. Whether it’s a film from the golden age or a modern classic, the hype surrounding a movie can be incredible. It’s disappointing when a film doesn’t meet expectations. Fans on a popular online forum shared those times when a movie completely lived up to the hype.

1. Casablanca (1942)

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

When film enthusiasts discuss Casablanca, it’s often called the greatest film of all time. That’s high praise indeed that only a handful of movies have earned. But this iconic film deserves the title. From the stylish direction from Michael Curtiz to the captivating performances by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, Casablanca has a profound story about love, sacrifice, and immense courage. 

2. The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (1972 and 1974)

The Godfather Part I & II
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The epic stories of the Corleone family and the inner workings of the mafia are compelling films that have been lauded with awards and praise. However, the intense subject matter may detract some viewers and make them believe they are overrated. But one should always see a film for themselves to form an opinion. 

3. Back to The Future Trilogy (1985-1990)

Back to the Future Franchise
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Some films are such beloved classics it’s difficult to imagine anyone not liking them, much less never having seen them. The Back to the Future movies are hilarious, thrilling, and moving adventures about Marty McFly’s travels through time to help his parents and dear friend and time machine inventor, Doc Emmet Brown. 

4. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's a Wonderful Life
Image Credit: RKO Radio Pictures.

It’s A Wonderful Life is considered a holiday classic to enjoy every Christmas. The story revolves around George Bailey, a man on the brink of ruin who thinks the world would be better if he’d never existed. But an angel in training gives him a glimpse of what that would entail, taking him on a touching journey. It’s a film that warms the heart, elicits tears, and shows us that every life is worthy. 

5. When Harry Met Sally (1989)

When Harry Met Sally
Image Credit: Castle Rock Entertainment.

When Harry Met Sally is a revered rom-com that follows two best friends who meet over the years and eventually fall in love- it is the ultimate friends-to-lovers film. Few movies bolster such impeccable and astute writing and engaging performances. But in the capable hands of Nora Ephron, Billy Crystal, and Meg Ryan, When Harry Met Sally became an instant classic. 

6. Chicago (2002)

Chicago Catherine Zeta-Jones
Image Credit: Miramax Films.

Chicago is a lively, darkly comedic, and creative adaptation of the Broadway show starring Reneé Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere, directed by Rob Marshall. It caused a sensation upon release and won Best Picture at the Oscars. Such films you need to see to appreciate them. The story itself is fascinating, but it also has style and panache that leaps off the screen. 

7. Singin’ in The Rain (1952)

Singin’ in The Rain
Image Credit: Loew's Inc.

Singin’ in the Rain is a musical that more than lives up to the word classic. And it’s always terrific when people finally see firsthand what a joyous movie it is. The romantic musical comedy not only treats viewers to one fantastic song and dance sequence after the next but also gives us a hilarious glimpse into the transition from silent to sound films. 

8. The Hunger Games Franchise (2012-2015)

The Hunger Games Franchise
Image Credit: Lionsgate.

Book-to-film adaptations will always have their diehard fans, skeptical filmgoers, and those with no knowledge of the source material. Because The Hunger Games are based on young adult novels and feature such dark subject matter, it takes convincing to get many to watch. But that’s usually all it takes to believe the hype.

I have family members who finally understood the praise the movies received and were thoroughly surprised at how invested they became in Katniss Everdeen’s journey.

9. LA Confidential (1997)

L.A. Confidential
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

L.A. Confidential is a gritty, compelling study about the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles in the 1950s, where police and journalistic corruption abound. The film is said to be one the most gripping and accurate looks at the time, with a neo-noir style. But that praise can only be fully understood once you see the film firsthand. The story is layered and complex, and the performances are dynamic. 

10. 12 Angry Men (1957)

12 Angry Men
Image Credit: United Artists.

The reluctance and adamant stance some have about not wanting to watch older movies is perplexing. That’s why it feels like a triumph when a particular film wins them over. On the surface, one may understand why the premise of 12 Angry Men sounds unappealing.

The film occurs in a single room as a jury deliberates a murder case. One juror is unconvinced of the defendant’s guilt and wants to thoroughly review the testimony, leading to a compelling look at human nature, prejudice, and integrity. 

11. Good Will Hunting (1997)

Good Will Hunting Matt Damon
Image Credit: Miramax Films.

Films that garner awards will always have their skeptics. After all, awards and box-office numbers aren’t the only determining factors for a movie’s quality or appeal. According to Matt Damon, his eldest daughter is reluctant to watch his films that are deemed ”great.” Amusing as that is, it’d be interesting to see if a first-time viewing would result in a positive reception. 

12. Mean Girls (2004)

Mean Girls Rachel McAdams
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Mean Girls is a hilarious and endlessly quotable high school comedy with an equally goofy and satirical tone. Its clever writing and laugh-out-loud moments made the film only grow admiration over the years, but until you see it for yourself, quotes like “so fetch” and “on Wednesdays we wear pink” hold little meaning. It’s the kind of movie whose humor you need to see to believe.

13. Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

Top Gun Maverick
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The term “hype-train” was coined for films like Top Gun: Maverick. This movie’s success steadily grew, exponentially increasing the buzz around the film. It’s understandable why. The sequel was highly anticipated and did not disappoint. Many believed the nail-biting action and unexpectedly moving story surpassed the original.

14. My Cousin Vinny (1992)

My Cousin Vinny Marisa Tomei
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

My Cousin Vinny is a classic example of a film that seems overhyped. From the outside, it looks like a fun comedy about a lawyer and his long-suffering girlfriend, but nothing extraordinary. You might question how a movie like this could result in a Best Supporting Actress win for Marisa Tomei, and then you watch the film.

15. You’ve Got Mail (1998)

You’ve Got Mail Meg Ryan Tom Hanks
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Many often underestimate romantic comedies. Consequently, many have preconceived ideas about their quality and enjoyment factors. Even with the affable pairing of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, some think You’ve Got Mail is dated and made solely for product placement. This isn't the case. Many forum members responded saying the movie brought them to tears.

16. Jaws (1975)

Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Many might think Jaws is merely the overhyped “shark movie.” Not even its reputation and Spielberg as the director can convince some. But once we do watch this movie about a shark that terrorizes a small coastal town, it genuinely is a film that lives up to the hype. Aided by the brilliance of the John Williams score, the movie is a master class in dramatic tension.

17. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The Wizard of Oz
Image Credit: Loew's, Inc.

It isn’t easy to imagine anyone who hasn’t seen The Wizard of Oz. The classic musical about the girl who dreams of the colorful world of Oz is a childhood staple. The movie is so much a part of popular culture that almost everyone is familiar with the characters or the songs. 

Watching as an adult will undoubtedly feel different. However, The Wizard of Oz can still enchant first-time viewers, whether five or fifty. Several contributors mention watching this classic for the first time after hearing about it their whole lives- and they finally understood its cultural status.

18. West Side Story (1961)

West Side Story Natalie Wood
Image Credit: United Artists.

Much like romantic films, some filmgoers are hesitant to watch musicals. Regarding West Side Story, a Romeo and Juliet-inspired film where two rival gangs dance through the streets, it may sound amusing from the outside looking in. 

It’s a film I didn’t get at first as a huge musical fan. But when we open our minds and go with it, the film’s brilliance is illuminated. The symbolic use of color, vibrant and energetic choreography, and stellar Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein music make West Side Story an incredible viewing experience.

19. Roman Holiday (1953)

Roman Holiday
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Classic film enthusiasts undoubtedly understand why Audrey Hepburn won Best Actress for her very first film. Hepburn is a cultural icon that most have, at least, heard of even without seeing any of her movies. With her Oscar win and iconic status, this film has an illustrious reputation. 

Roman Holiday is a profound and engaging film that needs no famous allure surrounding it to be enjoyed. But chances are, the love story between a princess and a reporter will enchant first-time viewers. And it will make anyone want to book a trip to Rome immediately.

20. Speed (1994)

Image Credit: 20th Century Studios.

Some films become known for their primary plot device. Just as some call Jaws the “shark movie,” many refer to Speed as the “bus movie.” But the thriller that stars Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves deserves more than such a trite description. It’s an edge-of-your-seat and surprisingly moving film that showcases Reeves and Bullock’s star qualities. 

21. The Mummy (1999)

The Mummy Brendan Fraser
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

The Mummy was popular upon release, but at the same time, it’s oddly developed a cult status over the years. What’s fantastic about this film is that it combines multiple genres (adventure, action, fantasy, history, comedy, and romance) to create an incredible feel, engaging story, and memorable characters. 

In particular, the fans describe the chemistry and beauty of actors Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz as swoon-worthy. And those who finally get on board The Mummy Train, at last, understand why it’s a modern classic.

22. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Ocean’s Eleven George Clooney Brad Pitt
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Fans of the original Ocean’s Eleven, stars Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and the rest of the Rat Pack might not believe the buzz and praise showered on the remake. But the 2001 ensemble starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Julia Roberts is possibly even more highly regarded, thanks to the cast, as mentioned earlier, witty comedy, and sharp and quick editing. It’s an effervescent caper that deserves its hype.

23. Miss Congeniality (2000)

Miss Congeniality Sandra Bullock
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Miss Congeniality is a modern classic comedy that follows an FBI agent who goes undercover at a beauty pageant after the event receives serious threats. Hilarious, clever, and featuring a stacked cast, it’s a film whose popularity has only grown over the years. Those who have yet to witness its hilarity might be doubtful. It is another terrific example whose sheer comedic brilliance is fully understood once you watch it. Bullock’s star shines bright, and the supporting cast steals every scene they’re in.

24. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington
Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a pristine example of a film steadily growing in popularity. Today, the movie is now an undeniable part of pop culture, especially in the Fall and Winter every year. Even so, many, including myself, took a long time to realize its greatness.

The dazzling stop-motion animation tells the tale of Jack Skellington and Sally’s adventures to save Christmas and Halloween Town. And those yet to discover the macabre delight will undoubtedly soon understand its significance. 

25. Brazil (1985)

Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Brazil is often talked about as an interesting, but must-watch film. It really is only upon watching the movie that you understand how trippy and interesting, yet important this film really is.


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Marianne Paluso is a freelance writer and artist and holds a Masters Degree in English and Children’s Literature from San Diego State University. Inspired by her favorite films, television, theme parks and all things pop culture and geek related, she especially loves Disney, classic films, fairy tales, period dramas, musicals, adventures, mysteries, and a good rom-com. She joined Wealth of Geeks in 2021, and has also contributed to The Nerd Machine, Catholic News Agency, Christianity Today, and The La Jolla Light. She writes on her own website, creates art that is sold on Redbubble and Etsy, and also partakes in the occasional Disneybound, cosplay, and YouTube video. She resides in San Diego, California.