Ever wondered which movie is so iconic that it is a must-watch in a lifetime? We bring you a curated list of movies that everyone should see at least once.
At least one of these could be your next pick for movie night.
Set during World War II, “Casablanca” centers on a nightclub owner who is torn between love and virtue. He must choose between his love for a beautiful woman and helping her husband, a Czech resistance leader, escape the Vichy-controlled city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Nazis.
2. 12 Angry Men
A young man is on trial for murder. The jury, tasked with determining his fate, is almost unanimous in a guilty verdict, except for one juror. This juror insists on reasonable doubt, encouraging others to deeply consider whether there is indeed any uncertainty in the case presented.
“Threads” portrays the terrifying consequences of a nuclear war on the city of Sheffield, England. Through the lens of two families, it showcases the breakdown of society and the struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic world, offering a grim depiction of the Cold War era fears materialized.
4. Hotel Rwanda
In “Hotel Rwanda,” viewers witness the Rwandan genocide through the eyes of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who houses over a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda. It’s a tale of courage and humanity amidst horrifying violence.
5. Saving Private Ryan
The horrors and heroism of D-Day are brought to life in “Saving Private Ryan.” Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action, navigating the brutal realities of war.
6. Grave of the Fireflies
A heartbreaking tale set in World War II Japan, “Grave of the Fireflies” follows a young brother and sister as they strive to survive in a world ravaged by war. Their story is a testimony to the human spirit’s resilience and the deep bond of family amidst tragedy.
7. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
Randle McMurphy, feigning insanity to avoid prison labor, finds himself in a mental institution. Here, he rallies the patients against the oppressive Nurse Ratched. The film explores themes of individualism versus authority and the fine line between sanity and madness.
A parody of the disaster film genre, particularly the 1957 Paramount film “Zero Hour!”, “Airplane!” is known for its fast-paced slapstick comedy and visual and verbal puns and gags. It follows an ex-fighter pilot who must save a flight filled with passengers after the crew falls ill due to food poisoning.
9. Stand by Me
Based on Stephen King’s novella “The Body,” this film narrates the journey of four friends who go on a hike to find a dead body in their small town. It’s a coming-of-age tale that explores friendship, fear, and the loss of innocence in the face of death.
10. Schindler’s List
Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist and member of the Nazi party, turns into an unlikely humanitarian amid the barbaric Nazi reign. Using his factory to shield Jews from death, Schindler saves over a thousand lives. The film is a stark portrayal of the Holocaust’s horrors and a man’s fight against it.
11. Shawshank Redemption
Andy Dufresne, a banker, is sentenced to life in Shawshank State Penitentiary for the murder of his wife and her lover, despite his claims of innocence. Over the decades, he forms a close friendship with fellow inmate Red, and the two men bond over a series of harrowing and hopeful events within the prison walls.
12. The Act of Killing
This documentary confronts Indonesia’s unpunished mass killings of 1965–66 through the eyes of the perpetrators.
In a surreal and horrifying twist, the killers reenact their crimes in various cinematic styles, including Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers, revealing the twisted narratives they tell themselves to justify their actions.
13. American History X
Derek Vinyard, a former neo-Nazi leader, attempts to prevent his younger brother from going down the same path of hatred and violence that he did. The narrative unfolds through a series of non-linear flashbacks, showcasing the brutal and transformative journey of a man seeking redemption from his racist past.
14. Dead Poets Society
In a conservative boys’ prep school, a charismatic teacher, John Keating, inspires his students to challenge the status quo and embrace poetry as a way to seize the day (“Carpe Diem”). The film explores the transformative power of literature and the tragic consequences of suppressed youthful exuberance.
A chronicle of the rise and fall of Henry Hill, a young man drawn to the glamor of the mob. From a foot soldier, he rises through the ranks but eventually falls from grace, becoming an informant against his former partners in crime. It’s a gritty, no-holds-barred look at the mafia’s inner workings.
16. It’s a Wonderful Life
George Bailey, a man who has given up his dreams to help others, contemplates suicide on Christmas Eve. He receives a visit from an angel who shows him what life would have been like if he never existed, helping him realize the impact of his good deeds.
17. The Quiet Girl
In “The Quiet Girl,” a nine-year-old from a dysfunctional family finds herself spending the summer with distant relatives. As she adapts to life with a middle-aged farm couple, she begins to see a different, perhaps healthier, way of living. The film explores the transformative power of family bonds and the innocence of childhood.
In a dystopian future, an average Joe wakes up after a hibernation experiment to find a society dumbed down to alarming levels. The film satirizes a commercialized, anti-intellectual culture, where Joe suddenly finds himself to be the smartest person alive, tasked with fixing a world gone absurdly wrong.
19. Grapes of Wrath
During the Great Depression, the Joad family sets out on a harrowing journey from Oklahoma to California in search of a better life. Facing unimaginable hardships and societal injustices, the film, based on Steinbeck’s novel, paints a vivid picture of the desperate conditions and unyielding hope of those living in poverty.
20. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
High schooler Ferris Bueller decides to skip school, enjoying a day of adventure in Chicago with his friends. The school’s principal is on to him, setting the stage for a day of comedic escapades and close calls. It’s a light-hearted, iconic 80s film celebrating youth and spontaneity.
21. The Godfather
“The Godfather” delves deep into the world of the mafia, chronicling the Corleone family’s head, Vito, and his reluctant successor, son Michael. A tale of power, family dynamics, and criminal enterprise, it offers a gritty portrayal of the mafia’s underbelly, marking a milestone in the crime genre.
22. Back To The Future
Teenager Marty McFly is accidentally sent thirty years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his close friend, Dr. Emmett Brown. Marty encounters young versions of his parents and must ensure they fall in love, or he’ll cease to exist. It’s a thrilling adventure packed with humor and iconic moments.
23. Lord of the Rings Trilogy
In a mythical world, young hobbit Frodo Baggins inherits a ring with dark powers. With a group of friends, he embarks on a perilous journey to destroy the ring and defeat the dark lord Sauron. The trilogy, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels, is a grand tale of friendship, courage, and the battle against evil.
Tips for Hosting the Perfect Movie Night with Friends
Planning a movie night with friends after going through our list of must-watch films? Ensure it’s a memorable experience with these tips:
Choose the movie in advance or create a shortlist. You can even theme the night around a particular genre or director.
Comfort and Ambiance:
Arrange cozy seating with blankets and cushions. Set the mood with dimmed lights, candles, or string lights.
Offer a variety of snacks, from classic popcorn to a mix of sweet and savory treats. Don’t forget beverages like soda, water, or themed cocktails.
Encourage everyone to silence and put away their phones to fully immerse in the movie. A distraction-free environment enhances the experience.
After the movie, engage in a lively discussion to share opinions, favorite scenes, or even trivia related to the film.
Movies have the power to transport us into different worlds, offer new perspectives, and touch our hearts in unprecedented ways. The movies listed above promise to offer you experiences that are both enriching and deeply moving.
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This article was produced and syndicated by Viral Chatter.
Martha A. Lavallie
Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.