100 Must-Watch Movies to See Before You Die

Every self-respecting movie fan has to watch these movies at least once. From 'Coming to America' to 'Jaws', here are Complex's 100 must-see movies.

100 Must See Movies Goodfellas
Image via Getty
100 Must See Movies Goodfellas

There are certain movies that everyone, even novice filmgoers, will recognize: Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining; David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia; David Fincher’s Fight Club; Mike Nichols’ The Graduate. Each is lauded by critics, admired by filmmakers, and adored by audiences. And yet none of them made this list.

That’s because the criteria for our list of the 100 Must-Watch Movies to See Before You Die is extremely strict and weighted in historical context. More than a “best movie of all time” list, here are the ones that changed the course of cinema upon their initial release. The ones that inspired or fundamentally altered entire movie genres. Some of these movies are pushing 100 years old, while others were released within the last decade. Regardless, they all hold an important place in the canon of cinema as we know it.

Every self-respecting movie fan owes it to themselves to see each of these at least once before they visit that multiplex concession stand in the sky. Our picks range from horror staples like The Thing to Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas to markers of entire eras like The Social Network. So if you’re asking yourself “what should I watch?” this list is perfect for you. We know you’ve got time on your hands – better get started!

Goodfellas (1990)

100 Must See Movies Goodfellas

Parasite (2019)

Parasite Movies to See Before You Die

Country: South Korea

Director: Bong Joon Ho

Screenwriters: Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin-won​​​​​​​

Stars: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam

Bong Joon Ho blew people’s minds when he released Parasite in 2019​​​​​​​. The story gives a close-up view of the class conflict, social inequality, and wealth disparity that occurs in South Korea and across the world. Parasite follows the four members of the Kim family who are all unemployed and scraping to get by. Their life takes a turn when they find themselves with the opportunity to scam their way into all of them working for the affluent Park family.  The film is a satirical take on capitalism and it observes how the inequality in our world can start to affect and impact a person’s mental state, and how far greed can take us.  

Parasite was the first South Korean to win the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. It also went on to win four awards at the 92nd Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature Film. It also became the first non-English language film in Academy Awards history to win Best Picture, and the first South Korean film to be nominated in the category. When we mentioned films that have torn down barriers in the movie industry, this is without a doubt one of them. Not only was it one of the several groundbreaking Asian stories that have been told in recent years, like Minari, Everything Everywhere All at Once, and Crazy Rich Asians, but it has also opened the door for films to win big in these categories without the need to be translated, dubbed or boxed into the “foreign” categories during award season. And another thing? They proved that diverse and unique stories like these perform well at the box office, too. 

National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)

John Belushi in Animal House

Blazing Saddles (1974)

Cleavon Little and Gene Kelly in Blazing Saddles

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Cast of Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Bananas (1971)

Still from Bananas

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

Cast of Spinal Tap

Coming to America (1988)

Eddie Murphy and fans

Rushmore (1998)

Bill Murray in Rushmore

Boogie Nights (1997)

Mark Wahlburg in Boogie Nights

My Own Private Idaho (1991)

River Phoenix headshot

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman

Lost in Translation (2003)


Mean Girls (2004)

Mean Girls cast

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy

Some Like it Hot (1959)

Still from Some Like it Hot

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Cast of The Philadelphia Story

In the Mood for Love (2000)

Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung

When Harry Met Sally... (1989)

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal

Talk to Her (2002)

Pedro Almodovar with Academy Award

8 1/2 (1963)

Fellini and actors

The Red Shoes (1948)

Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Tim Curry and Susan Sarandon in Rocky Horror Picture Show

Singin' in the Rain (1952)

Cast of Singin' In The Rain

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Performers in Beauty and the Beast costumes

The Lion King (1994)

Timon and Pumba in The Lion King

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz

Mulholland Drive (2001)

Cast of Mulholland Drive

Freaks (1932)

Freaks movie poster

Dracula (1931)

Bela Lugosi as Dracula

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)

Promotional poster for Plan 9 from Outer Space

Psycho (1960)

Janet Leigh in Psycho

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Zombies in Night of the Living Dead

Halloween (1978)

Michael Myers in Halloween

Suspiria (1977)

Promotional still from Suspiria

The Exorcist 1973)

Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Promotional still from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

The Thing (1982)

Kurt Russell in The Thing

Blue Velvet (1986)

Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet

Scream (1996)

Scream cast members Courteney Cox and Drew Barrymore

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Still from The Blair Witch Project

Fat Girl (2001)

100 must watch movies before you die fat girl

King Kong (1933)

A still from King Kong

Jaws (1975)

Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider in Jaws

Alien (1979)

Sigourney Weaver in Alien

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)

Cast of Star Wars: Episode IV   A New Hope

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark

Back to the Future (1985)

Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2

Jurassic Park (1993)

T Rex in Jurassic Park

The Matrix (1999)

Carrie Anne Moss and Keanu Reeves in The Matrix

The Dark Knight (2008)

Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

Enter the Dragon (1973)

Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

100 must watch movies before you die crouching tiger

The Third Man (1949)

Still from The Third Man

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Still from Sunset Boulevard

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Still from It's a Wonderful Life

Casablanca (1942)

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca

Vertigo (1958)

Still from Vertigo

Modern Times (1936)

Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Still from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Metropolis (1927)

Still from Metropolis

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Still from 2001: A Space Odyssey

Blade Runner (1982)

Harrison Ford in Blade Runner

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange

Videodrome (1983)

Still from Videodrome

Akira (1988)

Akira director Otomo

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Still from E.T. the Extra Terrestrial

The Breakfast Club (1985)

Ally Sheedy and Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club

The Goonies (1985)

Cast of The Goonies

The Sandlot (1993)

Cast of The Sandlot

Toy Story (1995)

100 must watch movies before you die toy story

Scarface (1983)

Al Pacino in Scarface

The Godfather (1972)

Marlon Brando as Don Corleone in The Godfather

Citizen Kane (1941)

Still from Citizen Kane

The Social Network (2010)

Cast of The Social Network

Raging Bull (1980)

Robert De Niro in Raging Bull

Taxi Driver (1976)

Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver

Rocky (1976)

Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers in Rocky

Chinatown (1974)

Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway in Chinatown

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Still from Apocalypse Now

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Still from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Wild Bunch (1969)

The cast of The Wild Bunch

Seven Samurai (1954)

Movie poster for Seven Samurai

Rashomon (1950)

Scene from Rashomon

Breathless (1960)

Jean Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg in Breathless

The Seventh Seal (1957)

Character from The Seventh Seal

Do the Right Thing (1989)

Promotional still from Do The Right Thing

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971)

Crew on set of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song

Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)

Cast of Sex, Lies, and Videotape

Down By Law (1986)

Character in Down By Law

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Promotional photo from Pulp Fiction

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Matt Damon in Saving Private Ryan

The Thin Red Line (1998)

The Thin Red Line cast members Sean Penn and Nick Nolte

Fargo (1996)

Frances McDormand in Fargo

Memento (2000)

Cast of Memento

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Jennifer Connelly and Jared Leto in Requiem for a Dream

Hunger (2008)

100 must watch movies before you die hunger

Pink Flamingos (1972)

Scene from Pink Flamingos

Deep Throat (1972)

Scene from Deep Throat

Latest in Pop Culture