Thursday, 7 July 2016

General: 30 films to watch before you die

This is my list of 30 films that everyone ought to watch at least once before he dies.
  1. Earth vs Flying Saucers (1956)
  2. Faster Pussycat Kill Kill (1965)
  3. The Wild Bunch (1969)
  4. Young Frankenstein (1974)
  5. Tommy (1975)
  6. The Man who would be king (1975)
  7. Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
  8. Apocalypse Now (1979)
  9. The Shining (1980)
  10. Terminator (1984)
  11. Thelma and Louise (1991)
  12. Basic Instinct (1992)
  13. Falling Down (1993)
  14. Jurassic Park (1993)
  15. Pulp Fiction (1994)
  16. Leon (1994)
  17. Mars Attacks (1996)
  18. Scream (1996)
  19. Lost Highway (1997)
  20. Dark City (1998)
  21. The Legend of 1900 (1998)
  22. The Matrix (1999)
  23. The Green Mile (1999)
  24. Donnie Darko (2001)
  25. Spider-Man (2002)
  26. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  27. The World's Fastest Indian (2005)
  28. King Kong (2005)
  29. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
  30. Life of Pi (2012)
I first presented this list in November last year, but I made the mistake of hiding it in a post about the 30th film, "The Life of Pi". It's also in the sidebar, but people who view my blog on a phone or tablet might not see the sidebar. Now I'm finally making the list public and easily accessible.

Most similar lists consist of 50, 100 or even 1000 films. I deliberately picked 30 films, so that the films can be watched within a month. I'm well aware that choosing such a small number means omitting many other first rate films. Yesterday I discussed the list with a friend and I was criticised for not including "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Godfather". Those are doubtlessly good films, and I did consider them for my list, but I had to eliminate many good films to keep the list down to 30.

As you can see, the list is chronological, not in order of importance. It's too difficult for me to rank them. If I had to name one film as the most important film of all time I would say "Faster Pussycat Kill Kill". If I knew I were going to die tomorrow it's the film I would watch today.

It took me a long, long time to compile the list. My initial list contained about 90 films, and I spent hours staring at the list figuring out what to eliminate. Now that the list is complete I shan't make any more changes, even if there's a new film made this year which I consider to be the most brilliant film ever made. It would be too difficult for me to eliminate any of the 30 films listed to make room.

I imposed four restrictions on the list:
  1. Only films in the English language.
  2. No more than one film by the same director.
  3. No more than two films from the same year.
  4. Only films that are easily available.
The first restriction is entirely arbitrary. There are many good films in other languages. I've only made this restriction in order to make my choices easier by reducing the number of potential films for the list.

The second restriction is to make my list more varied. I have a few favourite directors, and I might feel tempted to include half a dozen films by each of them. Having this restriction spreads the list more.

The third restriction is one that I made out of desperation. Even after making the first two restrictions I still had more than 50 films in my list. I noticed that I had a few clusters of films, for instance I had five films made in 1996. By imposing this restriction it was easier to make cuts, for instance I knew that three of the 1996 films had to go. I almost decided to have a maximum of one film per year, but that would have distorted my list too much.

The fourth restriction is for purely practical reasons. If I'm recommending essential films to my viewers, it would be unfair of me to include films that are out of print and impossible to find anywhere. In my case, this restriction only led to the omission of one film, "The Paperboy", which has never been released on DVD in America or England.

This isn't a list of my 30 favourite films. All 30 films in the list are films I greatly enjoy, but I've given priority to the films that I consider to be important. I've already compiled a list of my 50 favourite films, but I need more time to put the films in order. There is a lot of overlap with this list, but some of the films are omitted, due to being pushed out by films that don't qualify for this list (see the above restrictions).


  1. # 2 out of 3 ain't bad. # 20 of these I have seen in full (and a few in passing). I do think Terminator 2 is better than the original, if only by a whisker. No.s 12, 17, 26 and 28 are all a bit over-rated in general IMHO.

    1. "Terminator 2" is a brilliant film, though very different to "Terminator". I can't say which of the two films is better. But since this is my essential films list rather than my favourite films list I wouldn't include a sequel.

      Concerning the films you consider overrated I'll go through them backwards.

      28. King Kong -- I know that a lot of people don't rate this film highly. I admit it's a matter of taste.

      26. Eternal Sunshine -- This film is so intelligent, it's the logic behind it that makes it appealing. It's a film for people who like films that make them think. Doesn't that include you? In a way "Adaptation" (also a Charlie Kaufman script) is even more intelligent and deserved to be included in my 30 films. But I'm not changing the list now. What's done is done.

      17. Mars Attacks -- Sheer genius! Tim Burton's best film. How can anyone not like it? It's camp, it's ridiculous, it's insane, but that's what makes it so good. Give it another chance.

      12. Basic Instinct -- I totally disagree with your opinion that this film is overrated. From the structure, i.e. plot and pacing, it's probably the best film ever made. It has depths that only become apparent after repeated watching. It angers me that the film is best known for Sharon Stone letting men look up her skirt. It has so much more to offer.

    2. P.S. Wait for my favourite film list. I already have a list of my 50 films, but I probably won't publish it until I have the time to watch them all in order.

  2. Mike, I look forward to viewing aome of these. I have seen a lot of them already but there are plenty which are new to me.

    1. Plenty? Which ones haven't you seen? I thought a serious film fan like you would have seen all of them. A few exceptions at least.


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