Top 50 Must-See Movies for Newbies

Must See Movies
We’ve put together this curated collection of best movies (available across all major streaming platforms) for anyone just familiarising themselves with filmmaking. Perfect for film students and new filmmakers alike!
The Burial of Kojo - 50 Must See Movies for Newbies
The Burial of Kojo

The Shawshank Redemption

This movie based on the award-winning Stephen King novel Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, chronicles Andy’s time in prison but most importantly the irrefutable power of friendship.

Read our review of The Shawshank Redemption here.

Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid

Directed by George Roy Hill and starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford as the titular characters, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid follows the infamous yet charming outlaws of the Wild West as a botched train robbery instigates an unrelenting chase headed by a tenacious US posse.

Read our review of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid here.

Chinatown

Continuing on from the sixties new wave of auteur filmmaking with a strong European influence, Chinatown presented audiences with a hardboiled, dark and challenging noir narrative that became a major critical and commercial success.

Read our review of Chinatown here.

Sunset Boulevard

Billy Wilder’s 1950 noir masterpiece pulls no punches in delivering a Gothic Hollywood narrative that feels decades ahead of its time.

Read our review of Sunset Boulevard here.

Shoplifters

Shoplifters tells the poignant story of an unconventional family who relies on petty theft to make ends meet.

Vertigo

This iconic film follows a retired detective, played by James Stewart, who is hired to follow a mysterious woman, portrayed by Kim Novak. As he becomes increasingly obsessed with her, the film takes viewers on a journey through a web of deceit, identity, and dark secrets.

Rear Window

Hitchcock does wonders in building suspense from a very limited set. All the action in Rear Window is set within the apartment, with the viewer taking a first-person role in viewing the activities of Stewart’s neighbours.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut

Now considered to be one of the best science fiction films of all time. Fans should also check out the 2007 documentary Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner which details the production and legacy of the film.

Read our review of Blade Runner here.

Blade Runner: 2049

Come for the narrative sequel, but stay for the cinematography by acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins.

Sorry To Bother You

It’s tough to know where to begin with Boots Riley’s dark and bizarre comedy Sorry To Bother You. The not-too-distant world presented to us is already ten degrees south of normal and gets stranger as we follow the rabbit hole of Riley’s outlandish story.

Read our review of Sorry To Bother You here.

The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club acts as an unwelcome reminder of the temperamental connections made throughout adolescence that can largely be dictated or undermined by social ranking. 

Read our review of The Breakfast Club here.

Parasite

This film is arguably one of 2019’s best film offerings. Almost Hitchcockian in its approach to suspense and dark humour, it makes some stark points about privilege and social divides.

Read our review of Parasite here.

If Beale Street Could Talk

A beautiful addition to the romantic drama genre from Moonlight director, Barry Jenkins.

We Need To Talk About Kevin

Another Lynne Ramsay film added to the list. An expert take on the complex relationship between a parent and their child. Tilda Swinton gives a standout performance in

Read our review of We Need to Talk about Kevin here.

Good Will Hunting

The film revolves around a young janitor, Will Hunting (Damon), who possesses an extraordinary mathematical talent. When his genius is discovered by a professor, he’s faced with the choice of fulfilling his potential or staying in his Boston neighbourhood.

M

Arguably one of Fritz Lang’s most affecting films, M was one of the earliest examples of the influence sound has on elevating tension in the thriller genre.

City of God

Violent and visceral, this seminal Brazilian film masterfully takes non-linear storytelling to whole other level. Brownie points for those who also watch the documentary film City of God: 10 Years Later.

Read our review of City of God here.

Moonlight

A captivating coming-of-age drama directed by Barry Jenkins. The film follows the life of a young African-American man named Chiron through three pivotal stages: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. It is a brilliant exploration of identity, masculinity, and the profound impact of the people who shape our lives.

Cinema Paradiso

The story follows a successful filmmaker named Salvatore, who returns to his small Sicilian hometown for the funeral of his dear friend and mentor, Alfredo. This nostalgic and evocative film celebrates the magic of cinema and the enduring bonds of friendship.

Capernaum

Through a series of flashbacks, Capernaum takes viewers on a harrowing journey as Zain navigates the streets and shelters, forming unexpected connections and taking care of an abandoned toddler.

Dial M for Murder

Dial M for Murder is a classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller. The film revolves around Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), a former professional tennis player who hatches a meticulously planned plot to murder his unfaithful wife, Margot (Grace Kelly).

12 Angry Men 

This courtroom drama remains significant in an age where twenty-four-hour news cycles and social media have arguably resulted in the reaffirmation of personal prejudice and unhindered sharing of misinformation.

Read our review of 12 Angry Men here.

The Red Shoes

The Red Shoes is a favourite of critics and audiences alike, preserving the eponymous fairy-tale in cinematic tradition.

Read our review of The Red Shoes here.

Bonnie and Clyde

It challenged the notions of traditional masculinity that sent young men to war and used the open road as an outlet for their desire to live a life of freedom.

Read our review of Bonnie and Clyde here.

The Usual Suspects

The film follows a group of criminals, each with a mysterious past, who are brought together for a heist. After the heist goes awry, they find themselves being interrogated by a relentless detective.

Wild Strawberries

Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries is a beautifully introspective Swedish film. It tells the story of Professor Isak Borg, an elderly physician who embarks on a road trip to receive an honorary degree. This poetic film is a profound exploration of memory, aging, and self-discovery.

Seven Samurai

So influential to many modern filmmakers, the western and action genres, and to cinematic storytelling in general, Seven Samurai was universally acclaimed upon its release and throughout the 66 years since.

Read our review of Seven Samurai here.

Schindler’s List

Schindler’s List, directed by Steven Spielberg, is a harrowing and powerful historical drama. The film is based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of more than a thousand Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust.

Joker

The origin story of Arthur Fleck, a mentally troubled and marginalised man who transforms into the iconic Batman villain, the Joker, played brilliantly by Joaquin Phoenix.

No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men is a gripping neo-western crime thriller. The story revolves around a hunter who stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong, leading to a violent pursuit by a ruthless hitman.

There Will Be Blood

Daniel Day Lewis won his second Oscar portraying oil prospector Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood – amongst nearly every other accolade under the sun, and deservedly so. Plainview represents the toxic nature of competitive individualist interests – arguably the inherent backbone of US capitalism – as he swindles, humiliates and eliminates anyone who poses a threat to his self-made success and growing empire. 

Read our review of There Will Be Blood here.

Get Out

Get Out, directed by Jordan Peele, is a gripping horror thriller that explores racism and societal tensions. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) visits his white girlfriend’s family estate, only to uncover a disturbing conspiracy.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

It’s funny, shocking and moving; only possible because of the expert script from screenwriter and director Martin McDonagh.

Read our review of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri here.

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) is sent to Italy to bring back a wealthy American playboy, Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law). However, Tom’s infatuation with Dickie takes a dark turn, leading to a web of deceit and murder as he assumes Dickie’s identity.

Pan’s Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro‘s Pan’s Labyrinth is a visually stunning dark fantasy film set in post-Civil War Spain. The story follows a young girl named Ofelia, who discovers a mysterious labyrinth and encounters magical creatures while facing the harsh realities of her stepfather’s fascist regime.

You Were Never Really Here

The sudden colour changes from a broody palette to a Wes Anderson style set of pastels paired with 1940’s music creates a dissonance that fits the film so perfectly.

Read our review of You Were Never Really Here here.

Shutter Island

The film stands as a masterclass in cinematic misdirection. Scorsese utilises conventions of low-budget horror movies, German Expressionism and film-noir to deliver a PTSD inflicted fantasy addressing the toll that unimaginable grief takes on a post-war masculinity.

Read our review of Shutter Island here.

Goodfellas

Goodfellas, directed by Martin Scorsese, is a classic crime drama. The film chronicles the life of Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta, as he rises through the ranks of the Italian-American mob.

Silence of the Lambs

Whether or not you view The Silence of the Lambs as a horror or a thriller, the suspense and continuous overarching tension renders this as one of the most finely crafted and exhilarating milestones of cinema history.

Read our review of Silence of the Lambs here.

The Departed

An intense cat-and-mouse chase, but make it Scorsese. This crime action thriller sees an undercover cop and a mole in the police attempt to identify one another in their attempts in infiltrate a Boston gang.

Okja

It follows the adventures of a young girl named Mija and her genetically engineered super-pig friend, Okja. As they journey to rescue Okja from a multinational corporation, the film addresses themes of animal rights, environmentalism, and corporate greed in a whimsical and emotionally resonant manner.

Spirited Away

Spirited Away is an iconic Studio Ghibli animation. A children’s film that doesn’t shy away from the complexities of storytelling. It accepts the dark and fantastical and the humorous, wrapping it up in this unique land and unfolding it for the audience with delicacy and care.

Read our review of Spirited Away here.

Princess Mononoke

Set in a mystical forest inhabited by ancient gods and spirits, the story follows the young warrior Ashitaka and his encounters with a fierce princess raised by wolves, San. This Hayao Miyazaki film explores themes of environmentalism, conflict, and the complex relationship between humans and nature.

Gone Girl

As secrets are revealed and the truth unfolds, Gone Girl offers a chilling exploration of marriage, manipulation, and the darker aspects of human relationships.

The Burial of Kojo

The Burial of Kojo, directed by Blitz Bazawule, is a visually stunning Ghanaian film that combines family drama with magical realism.

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation is a tender and atmospheric drama from director Sofia Coppola. The film follows the unlikely connection between an aging actor, played by Bill Murray, and a young woman, played by Scarlett Johansson, who form a deep bond.

La La Land

A modern musical that tells the love story of Mia, an aspiring actress played by Emma Stone, and Sebastian, a jazz musician played by Ryan Gosling. Set against the backdrop of Los Angeles, the film combines vibrant song-and-dance numbers with a heartfelt exploration of ambition.

Beach Rats

The film follows the life of Frankie, a young man from Brooklyn who spends his summer days with his friends on the Coney Island boardwalk and his nights exploring his own identity.

Annihilation

Annihilation is certainly worth multiple viewings and stands as a hugely rewarding experience for fans of gothic/body horror, sci-fi or emotionally motivated cinematic storytelling. 

Read our review of Annihilation here.

 Everything Everywhere All At Once

Everything Everywhere All At Once is an award-winning, genre-defying film directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. This inventive film is a surreal and thought-provoking journey through the limitless possibilities of the multiverse.

And that’s just the beginning! Never miss a film reference again with this FREE checklist of Top Films to see. Click on the banner to get your free download:

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