100 Essential Movies Any Serious Film Fan Should See

     September 18, 2019


If you’re a budding cinephile, it can be difficult to know where to start or even to find a baseline. Cinema becomes more daunting every year as new films are released and old films are reappraised. With this in mind, the staff of Collider.com has collaborated on 100 movies we think every film fan needs to see.

To be clear, this list is not an ending, but a beginning. It’s meant to serve as a starting point. Just because a movie didn’t make this list of 100, that doesn’t mean it’s “inessential.” Rather, we wanted to provide a good foundation that would spark a person’s curiosity about where to go next. Additionally, while many essential movies were done by white, male directors because historically those are the people who have had power, we didn’t want to neglect international cinema, female filmmakers, or filmmakers of color, and we have sought to include their work here.

Another group of film fans could come up with their own “Essential 100” and make a strong argument for it. However, we didn’t create this list to spark an argument, but to spark curiosity. If you look at this list as a guide rather than an end-point, then it should set you on a path to building your knowledge and appreciation of cinema.

Also, it should be noted that this list is organized alphabetically. We have not ranked these movies against each other because part of the purpose of this list is to get you to start with any film that piques your interest and see where it leads you.

Below is an overview of our list, and you can click on each title to read our justification for why it’s essential. But if you want the complete experience, scroll through the complete version of the list at the bottom. And if you want to test your progress, here is a checklist of all 100 movies. Make sure to let us know how many you’ve seen so far!

And click here for Bill Hader‘s list of movies that inspired him, plus our exclusive interview with the actor/writer/director about how he became a cinephile.

8 1/2

The 400 Blows

2001: A Space Odyssey



Image via United Artists


All About My Mother

All That Jazz


The Apartment

Apocalypse Now

The Avengers

Back to the Future

Battleship Potemkin

A Better Tomorrow

Birth of a Nation

Blazing Saddles


Blue Velvet

The Bride of Frankenstein

Brokeback Mountain

The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari



Citizen Kane

Cleo From 5 to 7


Creature From the Black Lagoon

The Dark Knight


Image via Universal Pictures

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Days of Heaven

Die Hard

Do the Right Thing

Double Indemnity

Dr. Strangelove

Drunken Master

Duck Soup

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

The Empire Strikes Back

Enter the Dragon

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The Evil Dead



Fast Times at Ridgemont High

The General

Get Out

The Godfather

Gone with the Wind


The Great Dictator

His Girl Friday


Image via USA Films

In the Mood for Love


Jurassic Park

The Killer

King Kong

Lawrence of Arabia

A League Of Their Own

The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

The Matrix

Menace II Society


Monty Python and the Holy Grail



Night of the Living Dead


The Princess Bride

Pulp Fiction

Raiders of the Lost Ark



Image via Paramount Pictures

Rear Window

Roman Holiday


The Searchers

Seven Samurai

The Shining

The Silence of the Lambs

Singin’ in the Rain

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

The Social Network

Some Like It Hot

Spirited Away

Star Wars

Sunset Blvd.




Taxi Driver

This Is Spinal Tap

The Thing


Image via RKO

Top Hat

Toy Story




When Harry Met Sally

For additional curated recommendations from the Collider staff, check out our lists for the best comedy films of the 21st century, best documentaries of the 21st century, and best war movies of the 21st century so far.

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