50 More Must-See Films

Steve Jaeger thought of fifty more films you should definitely watch.

After posting my list of 50 Movies You Should See Before You Die, I kept saying to myself, “I should have put this film on and that one, too.” So here’s another list of worthwhile, must-see movies.

  1. Funny Games—there is an Austrian version and a newer American version by the same director that are nearly identical except for the language spoken. Michael Pitt of Boardwalk Empire stars in the American version along with Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. Two young men terrorize a family in their vacation home. It is brutal, graphic and profoundly disturbing but you’ll never forget it.
  2. A Thousand Clowns—Jason Robards as a free spirited New Yorker on the run from adult life. He lives in a studio apartment with his nephew Nick who is in danger of being taken away by Social Services. Martin Balsam and Barbara Harris co-star.
  3. King of Hearts—Alan Bates stars as a British soldier sent into a small French town near the end of WW I to disarm a bomb set by retreating Germans. The locals have also fled and left the doors to the local insane asylum open. Bates sneaks into town that is completely populated by the escaped patients who have assumed the lives of the townspeople. It is charming, witty and a not so subtle jab at the insanity of war.
  4. Sons of the Desert—Laurel and Hardy are always funny and this is probably their finest work. The boys devise a scheme to attend their Fraternal Order’s convention in Chicago and it only gets better from there.
  5. It Happened One Night—Frank Capra directed this romantic comedy which was the first film to win Oscars in all five major categories. Claudette Colbert plays a runaway heiress and Clark Gable is the smart alec newspaper reporter who agrees to help her get to New York in exchange for the exclusive story.
  6. The Tin Drum—Adaptation of Gunter Grass’ acclaimed novel, the film centers on Oskar, a boy who refuses to grow after his third birthday. He witnesses the birth of Nazi Germany and onset of war as he bangs on his small tin drum to try and warn the world of the coming carnage.
  7. Das Boot—The story of a German U-boat and its crew during WW II told from the German perspective. The film is riveting and it’s hard not to root for the Germans by the end.  I’ve spoken to a number of people who all agree that the movie is so engrossing you forget you are reading sub-titles.
  8. Let the Right One In—I’m usually not a fan of vampire movies but this Swedish film is a gem. Bleak and creepy, it’s about a twelve-year old boy who is bullied at school and makes friends with his new neighbor. She only comes out at night and can climb walls.
  9. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—Based on the novel by Stig Larsen it is the first part of a trilogy where in Sweden all three books have been made into movies. There was an American version released about a year ago which was well done but I prefer the original. A disgraced journalist is hired to research the mysterious disappearance of a member of a prominent family.
  10. Enemy at the Gates—Loosely based on the novel The War of the Rats which drew on historical figures it is the story of a young Russian sniper fighting at Stalingrad. Jude Law plays the young Russian soldier and Bob Hoskins is terrific as Nikita Khrushchev.
  11. Snatch—Very funny Guy Ritchie film about bad guys, worse guys and some very inept crooks trying to move a stolen diamond.
  12. The Baader Meinhof Complex—Fast paced fictionalized account of the notorious Red Brigade that terrorized Germany in the 1970’s. I used to think I was a radical back in the day but after seeing this film I realized I was nothing but a paper revolutionary.
  13. The Lives of Others—Martina Gedeck who also starred in Baader Meinhof plays an East German actress who is under surveillance by the Stasi, the East German secret police. It shows the corruption rampant in the upper ranks of power in Communist Germany.
  14. Forbidden Games—I know it sounds like a porno film but it’s the story of two young French children in Nazi Occupied France who cope with the trauma of life during wartime by holding mock funerals for dead animals and stealing crosses from the church graveyard. The film won a special foreign language Academy Award in 1952.
  15. To Have and Have Not—William Faulkner adapted the Hemmingway novella on a bet that he could turn any bad book into a good movie—Faulkner won. The film is famous as the place where Humphrey Bogart met nineteen year old Lauren Bacall. It is set in wartime Vichy ruled Martinique where Bogart runs a fishing charter business.  He gets involved with French Patriots and turns on the charm with Bacall. “You know how to whistle, right, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”
  16. A Man for All Seasons—Paul Schofield stars as Sir Thomas More, the Chancellor of England who runs afoul of Henry VIII when he refuses to recognize the king’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. Orson Wells, Robert Shaw and Wendy Hiller co-star.
  17. The North Face—German film about two young soldiers who strive to be the first to climb the North Face of the Eiger in the days before WW II.  There is an amazing juxtaposition of the two climbers battling wind and ice while spectators drink wine and tea and watch from telescopes from the sunny terrace of a hotel.
  18. The Castle—A friend from New Zealand first told me about this film and said it was the quintessential movie about Australian trailer trash. It’s much more than that though, a David vs Goliath story of a man trying to keep his home from being taken away by eminent domain. Very funny and sweet.
  19. Live Forever—A brief history of Brit pop in the 1990’s but mostly about the chart wars between Oasis and Blur. Just watching the interviews with the Gallagher brothers is worth the price of a ticket.
  20. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre—John Huston directs his father Walter along with Humphrey Bogart in the story of three down on their luck Americans trapped in Mexico who go after a fortune in the Mexican mountains.  Friendship, greed betrayal and “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”
  21. My Favorite Year—A story loosely based on Errol Flynn’s guest appearance on Your Show of Shows. Peter O’Toole is perfect as fading screen idol and Lainie Kazan steals the show as the Jewish mother married to a retired Pilipino boxer named Rookie Karoka.
  22. Gone Baby Gone—Ben Affleck directed this screen adaptation of the Denis Lehane novel about a kidnapping in the Dorchester section of Boston. This is the side of town you’re not going to see from Freedom Trail. Amy Ryan is amazing as the white trash mother whose daughter has been abducted.
  23. The Producers—before it became a hit Broadway musical it was a screamingly funny movie staring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel.
  24. Where’s Papa?—The great Ruth Gordon stars with George Segal in one of the funniest movies ever. A man promises his dying father he’ll always take care of his mother and never put her in a home. His mother is batshit crazy and senile and poor George tries every thing he can think of to kill her before he kills himself.
  25. A Night at the Opera—The Marx Brothers at their very best as they destroy the opera in order to save it. The story goes that it took take after take as the crew kept breaking up and ruining the scene with their laughter. I grew up watching the panel show To Tell The Truth and was shocked to see a young, beautiful Kitty Carlisle singing her tail off.
  26. Gate of Flesh—Prostitutes plying their trade in Tokyo shortly after the end of the war. A soldier returning from the front stumbles into their midst and disrupts their fragile hold on normalcy.
  27. Another Day in Paradise—James Woods again shines as a strung out petty thief who takes a young Vincent Kartheiser (of Mad Men) under his wing. Melanie Griffith plays Wood’s junkie girlfriend.
  28. Monterrey Pop—D.A. Pennybaker’s documentary of the 1967 California Pop Festival where Jimi Hendrix made his American debut. The performance by Otis Redding is amazing but Hendrix steals the show.
  29. No Country for Old Men—The Coen brothers’ adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel about a Texas man who stumbles on a case full of money from a drug deal gone bad. Javier Bardem is the ruthless killer on his trail and you’ve never been so frightened of a guy with a bad haircut.
  30. Diner—Barry Levinson’s directorial debut about a group of friends just entering manhood in late 50’s Baltimore. Mickey Rourke, Paul Reiser, Daniel Stern, Steve Guttenberg, Tim Daly and Kevin Bacon all saw their careers take off after this film.
  31. Eyes on the Prize—Multi-part documentary about the Civil Rights struggle of the 1950s and ‘60s. It is one of the most compelling films I have ever seen and if you are not outraged by what our society allowed to happen to a whole segment of our citizenry, you don’t have a pulse.
  32. The Petrified Forest—A British wanderer played by Leslie Howard stops at a remote café in the Arizona desert where he begins a flirtation with the owner’s daughter played by Bette Davis. A gang of desperados led by Humphrey Bogart in one of his early movie roles takes everyone at the place hostage as the police close in.
  33. Triumph of the Will—Leni Riefenstahl’s beautifully filmed account of the 1934 Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg. It is a rare glimpse into Hitler’s Germany and also one of the most perfect pieces of cinematography in history. Riefenstahl like Sergei Eisenstine in Russia was a devotee of John Ford and the stark, beautiful photography shows that.
  34. Inherit the Wind—Fictionalized account of the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1920’s Tennessee. Spencer Tracy as the Clarence Darrow character, Frederick March the William Jennings Bryant role and Gene Kelley as the HL Menken character. What is amazing about watching this film is that things haven’t changed all that much in Tennessee in the last ninety years.
  35. Marathon Man—Dustin Hoffman plays a man training for a marathon when he unwittingly gets tangled up with a sinister former Nazi doctor played by Laurence Olivier.
  36. Three Days of the Condor—Robert Redford is a low level CIA analyst who comes back from a coffee break to find his co-workers shot dead. He’s on the run in NYC trying to figure out who’s after him and why and who he can trust
  37. Miracle of Morgan’s Creek—Eddie Bracken and Betty Hutton co-star in the story of a girl who has a little too much fun with a group of soldiers on their way to fight in WW II.  If you don’t know Eddie Bracken, this is a wonderful place to start. Directed by the great Preston Sturgis.
  38. Pierrepoint; The Last Hangman—The story of Albert Pierrepont, Great Britain’s last executioner. His identity was always kept secret until the end of WW II when he was sent to Germany to assist in the hangings of Nazi war criminals and he became something of a folk hero. A few years later as the country’s attitude towards capital punishment changed, he was a hated man.
  39. Happy Go Lucky—A free spirited young English woman decides to broaden her horizons and take driving lessons. Her instructor is in a perpetually bad mood but grows obsessed with her and melts down when he finds that she is in a relationship. Directed by Mike Leigh.
  40. When It Was a Game—HBO documentary that chronicles baseball’s golden age of 1930 to 1958. The film uses rare color Super 8 film, much of it taken by the players themselves. Over the course of a few years it became a three part series, all worth seeing but the first one in my opinion is the best.
  41. The Bad News Bears (1976)—Most sports movies tend to be sentimental and always have the good guy winning in the end. The original Bad News Bears, not the crappy remake of a few years ago is about a Little League team being coached by an alcoholic pool cleaner. The team is anything but good but begins to show improvement when Amanda, played by Tatum O’Neil comes on as the pitcher. The good team doesn’t win in the end but we have a great time watching them try.
  42. The Fog of War—Robert McNamara speaks openly and candidly about the Viet Nam War and his involvement. He is very matter of fact discussing the build up of troops, the mounting casualties and his regrets.
  43. American Beauty—Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening play a successful suburban couple who have grown apart over the years and both yearn for something better. Spacey just wants a ’76 Camaro and his old job back in a fast food restaurant where he can get high, get laid and not worry about anything else. Bening finds she really likes guns and their daughter’s friend, Mena Suvari has eyes for daddy.
  44. The 400 Blows—Francois Truffaut’s first film, an autobiographical story of growing up hard. Twelve year-old Antoine Doinel is unloved by his parents and his teachers. He resorts to a life of petty crime and ends up spending a night in jail after being turned in by his father for stealing the old man’s typewriter. The film is a landmark of French New Wave Cinema.
  45. Pepe Le Moko—Jean Gabin in the title role as a French criminal on the run from the police in the Casbah in Algiers. Inspired by American gangster films and considered an early version of Film Noir.
  46. Animal House—One touchstone of my life was the first time I saw Animal House. I was in a crowded theater and spent most of the time gasping for breath I was laughing so hard. It may not seem like it now but that movie was ground breaking in terms of comedy and even inspired a short-lived TV show.
  47. Private Parts—I know Howard Stern is an acquired taste for many but one of the great things about the movie is watching Paul Giamatti in one of his early roles as Howard’s nemesis at WNNNNN- BC.
  48. Swept Away—Please note, this is NOT the Guy Richie remake starring his then-wife Madonna. The original by Lena Wertmuller is about an obnoxious and very demanding rich woman who is shipwrecked on a remote island with a crewman from her yacht. The tables turn and she becomes his slave both literally and emotionally.
  49. Pygmalion—The George Bernard Shaw story that inspired My Fair Lady. The 1938 British production stars Leslie Howard and the lovely Wendy Hiller. Supposedly Shaw himself picked Hiller to play the part of Liza Doolittle. An English language expert makes a bet he can turn a lower class flower seller into a lady.
  50. Cabaret—I’m not a huge fan of musicals but this one is one of my favorite all time films. Liza Minnelli and Michael York play star-crossed lovers in pre-Nazi Berlin in all its glorious decadence.
If you haven’t already, read Steve Jaeger’s 50 Movies You Should See Before You Die (in No Particular Order).
Which movie that you think everyone should see before they die, doesn’t appear on one of these lists?

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About Steve Jaeger

Steve Jaeger grew up in suburban New York but has lived in the Washington, DC area since his teens. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and worked as a chef for more than thirty years. He is an avid baseball fan, history buff and never misses Curb Your Enthusiasm. He lives in Arlington, VA with three children and a cat.

Comments

  1. Paul Markevicius says:

    I just spent 30 minutes trawling my emotional database, only for the gremlins to wipe it…here’s what I remember typing!
    Sunrise, Murnau, Casablanca, Streetcar Named Desire, On The Waterfront, North By Northwest; Wild Bunch, Butch Cassidy & Sundance Kid; ONce Upon A Time in America / West, Some Like It Hot; Betty Davis in anything, James Stewart, It’s A Wonderful Life, Harvey; Orpheus & La Belle et La Bette (Cocteau) , Les Enfants Du Paradis, Philadelphia Story, Obscure Object of Desire, Wings of Desire, Top Hat (& others!) His Girl Friday, Big Sleep, The Master, Cash, The Heiress, Cyrano, Manon De Source, Little Miss Sunshine, Annie Hall, Taxi Driver, The Godfather, (Italian movie, set in small town with Alfredo the projectionist who loses his sight), and I know, I will be thinking in 5 minutes, how could I not add…

    • steve jaeger says:

      Once Upon a Time in America just missed my cut, I loved His Girl Friday and many of the others on your list.

      • Paul Markevicius says:

        I had seen a remastered copy of Last American Picture Show, on your first list…And it has become, one of my all time favorites of US cinema. The fact that we get treated to so many stars before they/ we knew they would be, with some giants to help them along…and the dirt-bowl depiction of dying small-town America is staggering. One scene with Cloris Leachman, when the teenage boy finally goes back to the house and in one emotionally wrought scene, right at the end of the movie, camera fixed on her face, in the kitchen, she portrays nearly every emotion of strained hope, pain, denial, disillusionment, forgiveness, hatred, bitterness and fatalistic acceptance of it ain’t getting any better/ he ain’t coming back. It blows me away every time. And was v pleased to see Tin Drum at the top of 2nd list…did we talk about Dr Zhivago.?

        • steve jaeger says:

          I saw Dr Zhivago when I was thirteen and had my first serious boy/girl thing with Julie Cristy. My brother had worked at our local movie theater and his old manager would let me in for free so I saw it about ten times in the two weeks it was there. He also gave me all the promo material after the film had moved on. I had a poster and a bunch of lobby cards. Wish I still had them…

          • Paul Markevicius says:

            yes, but my God was she hot in that movie…smouldering sensuality with youthful awakening. Understand where Warren Beatty was coming from. Just saw The Master last night. Seemed to run out of steam a little towards back end and there was an expectation of more plot…but, OMG – what amazing acting from both of them…have you seen it? And great supporting performances…I was reminded of Joachim P’s performance, of watching Daniel Day Lewis how his physicality seems to inhabit the character…so much so, that even standing way off in the distance, in a field, with his back to audience, he exudes power and magnetism. JP was doing the same, and his portrayal of the character was so much about his physicality, his bent, twisted body shape, screaming his pain and awkwardness and insecurity…and his intrinsic beauty, willpower and strength. I’m just going with this…

            • steve jaeger says:

              I haven’t seen The Master yet but it’s on my list. I saw Argo last week and thought it was terrific very, very well done.

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    Things haven’t changed much in Tennesee in the last ninety years.
    Cheap glory, accusing others of racism so as to be the pure and superior.
    What crap!

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      Incompleted thought: The Scopes Trial wsa ginned up by the locals to get publicity and business for Dayton, TN. According to Wiki, Scopes couldn’t remember if he’d taught evolution, but incriminated himself so they could have a defendant and a trial.
      The movie is fiction.
      But if it makes the urban hip feel superior to the inbred, Deliverance morons of flyover country, why not?
      We’ll even pretend it was a documentary.

      • steve jaeger says:

        Dude – who pissed in your grits this morning? As I say, “A FICTIONALIZED ACCOUNT OF THE SCOPES MONKEY TRIAL”. As with any movie, the story must be taken with a grain of salt but I recently watched an interview with an undergrad from U.Tenn and she answered a direct question, “Do you believe in evolution?” Answer, “No, I do not”.
        And yes, I realize that Scopes volunteered to be arrested to test the anti evolution statute and the resulting horrible publicity set Tennessee back at least a couple of months. I have spent a little time in the Volunteer State and would not recommend it for the feint of heart.

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