Friday, July 24, 2009

My List of Essential Film Watching

A few months ago, at the nadir of anything practical to do at the old office, I started an Excel spreadsheet of movies I've seen in my lifetime. It was more a memory exercise than anything else, but it soon developed into a cataloging obsession. After a while, it wasn't enough to just list features, but also memorable shorts as well. Of course, I had to include the endless amount of indie films I've seen (that I could remember), bootlegs, unreleased treasures, etc. Obviously, there was very, very little work to be done at the office - is it any wonder they went under?

To further my insanity, I started reviewing more recently-seen films and incorporating reviews I'd written for Film Threat, Sirens, Films in Review, CFQ, etc. Every day, I'd think of at least three or four more titles to add. Then I started reading other peoples' lists, etc. What can I say? At least I wasn't stalking starlets or rooting through my neighbors' garbage.

The thought popped into my head to start listing my own "essentials". Every critic-cum-film-fan has one. So in my tiny bit of spare time, I started highlighting titles that I either believe every person who calls himself a film buff should see as well as personal favorites that I recommend, though not necessarily for everyone.

I write this not as an announcement, but a warning. As of this morning, I have 6,170 titles on this list, total, and well over 600 recommendations, some reviewed and justified, some not. Fruitless exercise? Probably. But, again, keeps me from roaming the streets in a drunken, armed rage.


This is not meant to be a fight-starter. This is not up for debate or fuss or outrage. This is just a list I made of my personal picks for essential viewing for anyone who wants to begin a lifetime of movie-loving. There are 250 titles on this list. It's in alphabetical order, not order of importance.

There will be a second list of personal favorites, not necessarily essential, but important to me.

If you have a question why a certain title is on this list, what makes it "essential", ask and I'll show my work. If you disagree with anything on this list, make your own.

36 Hours (1965)
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Adventures of Robin Hood, The (1938)
Aguirre, The Wrath of God
All Through the Night
American Beauty
American Werewolf in London, An
Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Animal Crackers
Annie Hall (1977)
Apartment, The (1960)
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
August Underground
Bad Day at Black Rock (1954)
Ballad of Cable Hogue, The (1970)
Beauty and the Beast
Better Tomorrow, A (1986) (Ying huang boon sik)
Big Lebowski, The (1998)
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
Blood on the Moon
Blood Simple (1984)
Brazil (1985)
Brick (2005)
Bride of Frankenstein (1931)
Bride Wore Black, The
Bridge on the River Kwai, The (1957)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Brother From Another Planet, The (1984)
Bubba Ho-Tep (2003)
Bullet in the Head (1990) (Die xue jie tou)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Café Flesh
Cape Fear (1962)
Casablanca (1942)
Cast a Deadly Spell
Changeling, The (1980)
Charade (1963)
Chinatown (1974)
Chinese Ghost Story, A (1987) (Sinnui yauman)
Citizen Kane (1941)
City of Lost Children (1995) (La cité des enfants perdus)
Compulsion (1959)
Curse of the Demon (1957)
D.O.A. (1950)
Dark Crystal, The (1982)
Dark Knight, The (2008)
Dawn of the Dead - 1979 Director's Cut
Day the Earth Stood Still, The (1951)
Death Race 2000 (1975)
Deep Red (1975) (Profondo Rosso / The Hatchet Murders)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Dragons Forever
Drunken Master II (Jui Kuen II)
Duck Soup (1933)
Ed Wood (1994)
Eight Men Out (1988)
Enter the Dragon (1973)
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)
Excalibur (1981)
Exorcist, The (1973)
Face in the Crowd, A (1957)
Fight Club (1999)
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Freaks (1932)
Fright Night (1985)
Frisco Kid, The (1979)
From Here to Eternity (1953)
Front Page, The (1974)
Front, The (1976)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Ginger Snaps (2000)
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Godfather, The (1972)
Goldfinger (1964)
Grand Hotel (1932)
Great Escape, The (1963)
Great Race, The (1965)
Gunga Din (1939)
Hard Day's Night (1964)
Harold and Maude (1971)
Harvey (1950)
Haunting, The (1963)
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991)
Heathers (1989)
Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Hell is for Heroes
Hellboy (2004)
Henry V (1989)
Hey, Stop Stabbing Me!
His Girl Friday (1940)
Holiday Affair
Horror of Dracula (1958)
Hot Rock, The (1972)
House on Haunted Hill (1958)
I'll Bury You Tomorrow (2002)
In Cold Blood (1967)
Inherit the Wind (1960)
In-Laws, The (1979)
Invasion! (1999)
Invisible Man, The (1933)
Iron Giant, The (1999)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
Jaws (1975)
Jesus of Montreal
Joshua: Then and Now
Killer, The (1989)
Killers, The (1946)
King of the Hill (1993)
L.A. Confidential (1997)
L.A. Story (1991)
Last of Mohicans, The (1992)
Last of Sheila, The (1973)
Last Temptation of Christ, The (1988)
Leon: The Professional
Let the Right One In
Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, The (1972)
Lilo and Stitch (2002)
List of Adrian Messenger, The
Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972)
Lonesome Dove (1989)
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Lost in La Mancha (2002)
M (1931)
Magnificent Seven, The (1960)
Maltese Falcon, The (1941)
Man Bites Dog (1992) (C'est arrivé près de chez vous)
Man Who Knew Too Much, The (1956)
Man Who Would Be King, The (1975)
Man with Two Brains, The (1983)
Martin (1977)
Masters of Horror: Takashi Miike: Imprint (2005)
May (2003)
Meet the Feebles (1989)
Memento (2000)
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
Metropolis (1927)
Miller's Crossing (1990)
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)
Muppet Movie, The (1979)
Murder by Decree (1979)
My Favorite Year (1982)
Near Dark (1987)
Night of the Hunter (1955)
Nightmare Before Christmas, A (1993)
Noises Off! (1992)
North by Northwest (1959)
Nosferatu (1929)
Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
Out of the Past (1947)
Painted Faces
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Paradise Lost: Child Murders at Robin Hood (1996)
Phantom of the Paradise, The (1974)
Pickup on South Street (1953)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Player, The (1992)
Police Story (1985)
Poltergeist (1982)
Princess Bride, The (1987)
Prodigy, The (2005)
Producers, The (1968)
Project A
Psycho (1960)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Purple Rose of Cairo, The (1985)
Quiet Man, The (1952)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Ran (1985)
Raven, The (1963)
Re-Animator (1985)
Rear Window (1954)
Reivers, The (1969)
Return of Living Dead (1985)
Rio Bravo (1959)
Road Warrior, The (1981)
RoboCop (1987)
Rocky Horror Picture Show, The (1975)
Rosencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1990)
Ruling Class, The (1972)
Schlock: Secret History of American Movies (2003)
Scrapbook (1999)
Sea Hawk, The (1940)
Searchers, The (1956)
Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The
Seven Samurai (1954)
Seven Year Itch, The (1955)
Seventh Victim, The (1943)
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Shallow Grave (1994)
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Sixteen Tongues (1999)
Sleeper (1973)
Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Sorcerer (1977)
Stalag 17 (1953)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Star Wars: Episode V: Empire Strikes Back (1980)
State and Main (2000)
Strange Things Happen at Sundown (2003)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Straw Dogs (1971)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Support Your Local Sheriff (1968)
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
Taxi Driver (1976)
Ten From Your Show of Shows
Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The (1974)
Theatre of Blood (1973)
There's Nothing Out There (1991)
Thin Man, The (1934)
Thing, The (1982)
Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead (1995)
Third Man, The (1949)
Throne of Blood (1957)
Time After Time (1979)
To Be or Not To Be (1942)
To Have and Have Not (1944)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Tombstone (1993)
Touch of Evil (1958)
Toy Story 2 (1999)
Treasure Island (1950)
Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The (1948)
True Grit (1969)
Twentieth Century (1934)
Uninvited, The (1944)
Up (2009)
Usual Suspects, The (1995)
Valdez Is Coming (1970)
Videodrome (1983)
Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography (1993)
Way of the Gun, The (2000)
West Side Story (1961)
What's Up, Doc? (1972)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
Wild Bunch, The (1969)
Wind and the Lion, The (1975)
Yojimbo (1961)
Young Frankenstein (1974)

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