Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia. David Fincher's Fight Club. Mike Nichols' The Graduate. These are just a few examples of classic motion pictures that critics adore, filmmakers routinely cite as artistic influences, and audiences will continually discover for years to come. And none of them made this list.
That's because, in recommending the 100 Must Watch Movies to See Before You Die, the criteria needs to be very strict. Some films will live on forever, but, upon their initial releases, did said flicks change the course of cinema? Without their respective existences, would entire movie genres be what they are today? When it comes to the works included in the following list, the answer to both questions is, “yes.”
These are the 100 must watch movies to see before you die.
100. National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)
Director: John Landis
Screenwriters: Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney, Chris Miller
Starring: John Belushi, Tim Matheson, Stephen Furst, Kevin Bacon, John Vernon, Verna Bloom, Donald Sutherland, Karen Allen
Animal House, the most respected (and funniest) of all college movies., centers on the mischievous Deltas, a ragtag crew of frat-rejects who wage a cavalcade of anarchy on their campus, much to the dean's chagrin. Animal House paints the collegiate experience as one full of sex, booze, and other forms of debauchery. No wonder so many live vicariously through the Belushi poster.
99. Blazing Saddles (1974)
Director: Mel Brooks
Screenwriters: Andrew Bergman, Mel Brooks, Richard Pryor, Norman Steinberg, Al Uger
Starring: Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman, Slim Pickens, Madeline Kahn, Mel Brooks, Dom DeLuise
You can't talk about comedy on celluloid without mentioning Mel Brooks, the visionary behind Young Frankenstein, Spaceballs, and The Producers. His best film remains the righteously politically incorrect Blazing Saddles, a spoof of the Western that confronts race head-on. Check the credits on the screenplay—Richard Pryor's name is just one indication that the material isn't going to be handled with kid gloves. The plot, at its most distilled, involves the new sheriff of Rock Ridge. His name is Bart (Cleavon Little), and he's black. As you can probably guess, this isn't a smooth transition for the racist townsfolk.
98. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Country: United Kingdom
Directors: Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones
Screenwriters: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
British comedy troupe Monty Python are the kings of irreverence, and Holy Grail is without a doubt their crowning achievement. An oddball send-up of the legend of King Arthur, this nutty historical farce is equipped with all of Python's best traits: intelligent satire, pointless asides (usually animated, always great), gleeful excess (the limb-severing Black Knight fight), and multiple, sometimes unrecognizable, performances from each Python member.
97. Bananas (1971)
Director: Woody Allen
Screenwriters: Woody Allen, Mickey Rose
Starring: Woody Allen, Louise Lasser, Carlos Montalban
Allen's 1971 comedy (the second he wrote, directed, and starred in) follows Fielding Mellish, a blue-collar product tester who feigns interest in the fictional warring country of San Marcos, and eventually travels there to settle the conflict. If you haven't seen it, you won't believe how fast the man can move (especially in a scene where he questions himself in court). The movie's filled to the brim with gags (being pressured into performing surgery by his proud father) and set pieces (the wide world of sports coverage of his wedding consummation) that really take it the extra mile. The movie took Allen from new talent to established comedy star.
96. Annie Hall (1977)
Director: Woody Allen
Screenwriters: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman
Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts
Annie Hall is deceivingly simple to understand: it's about a cynical comedian who muses over his failed relationship with a woman, the titular Annie Hall, who was far too free-spirited for him to ever hold onto. But to keep it at that would be a disservice to what could arguably be Woody Allen's most iconic work. The film defined Allen's signature style—that is, a neurotic, heartbroken protagonist, a focus on slices of life, hearty and intellectual dialogue, and picturesque view of Manhattan.
95. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Director: Rob Reiner
Screenwriters: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner
Starring: Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Fran Drescher, Bruno Kirby
You don't have to be an undying Mötley Crüe fan to appreciate This Is Spinal Tap, director Rob Reiner's hilarious and sharp send-up of the music industry, particularly the hair metal culture of the 1980s. Presented as a “real” documentary, it's a work of committed brilliance. As the self-centered, at times delusional, members of the fictional heavy metal group Spinal Tap, actors Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer deliver every ridiculous bit of dialogue and perform each exaggerated song with such all-in vigor that This Is Spinal Tap feels like the funniest episode of Behind The Music ever made.
94. Coming to America (1988)
Director: John Landis
Screenwriters: David Sheffield, Barry W. Blaustein
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, Madge Sinclair, John Amos, Shari Headley, Eriq La Salle, Louie Anderson
Coming to America is hands down Eddie Murphy's best movie, an airtight riot that's as funny today as it must've been back when it came out (most of us were younger than Bebe's kids at that time). As a sweet-hearted African prince living in Queens, Murphy never misses a beat, playing brilliantly off of Arsenio Hall (as his sidekick) and appearing in makeup as a handful of other characters (the Murphy-heavy barbershop scene is one of comedy's great sequences). Watching Coming to America is a rite of passage.
93. Rushmore (1998)
Director: Wes Anderson
Screenwriters: Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams, Seymour Cassel, Brian Cox, Mason Gamble, Connie Nielsen, Luke Wilson
Wes Anderson populates his well-manicured films with charming yet socially inept characters. His fixation on symmetry and consistently wry humor has been the source of scorn for efforts like The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited. But Rushmore, the first film to put Anderson on the map, is more than a collection of quirks.
The film's hero, an arrogant nerd (a spot-on Jason Schwartzman), gets caught up in a love triangle with his academy's first grade teacher (Olivia Williams) and a strange millionaire (Bill Murray, in his resurrection role). Whenever Schwartzman and Murray go toe-to-toe, Rushmore is sublimely hilarious. You'd probably want to knock Schwartzman's character out in real life, but, in Rushmore, you root for him.
92. Boogie Nights (1997)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Screenwriter: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Burt Reynolds, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Heather Graham
Don't worry, you don't have to watch this at 1 a.m. with the volume down low. Boogie Nights follows one man's rise in the porn industry and the people he meets there. That includes a vet (Julianne Moore), a tycoon (Burt Reynolds), and Rollergirl (Heather Graham) who never takes her skates off, not even when performing. The movie's greatest surprise (besides the size of the main character's penis) was Marky Mark, Mr. Calvin Klein Undies himself, in the starring role as famed fucker Dirk Diggler. If you've ever wondered what the Golden Age of Porn must've been like, slap this on your Netflix queue.