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Great Movies to Watch

Madhura Pandit
Be it action, comedy, romance, or mystery, you can trust movies to entertain you always. Some movies make you feel good, while some can have a lasting, disturbing effect. This story provides a list and brief information of some of the greatest movies to watch.
Watching a good movie is one of the surest forms of entertainment. Hundreds of movies are made every year, and one simply has myriad options to choose from.
Everyone has a preferred favorite movie genre. Otherwise, there are always old classics that can rekindle romance, give you a good laugh, or bring tears to your eyes, even when watching for the umpteenth time. Here is a list of some of the best movies of all time.
The movies are categorized in a list according to the year of their release, and not by their popularity. There are many great movies to watch when bored, right from action, mystery, romance, to comedy, adventure, satire. Here are some of the best films categorized according to the year of their release.
*The list comprises movies that are the author's personal choice. These movies also rank high in Rotten Tomatoes and Internet Movie Database websites.

The 1930s

Frankenstein (1931): This is one of the classic horror monster films that gives you real goose bumps. Based on the novel with the same name, written by Mary Shelley, this movie is a must-watch for its great performances and memorable scenes.
Dracula (1931): Belonging to the vampire-horror genre, this is a movie based on a novel (with the same name written by Bram Stoker). If you are horror movie buff, this movie is not to be missed. Watch it for its horror elements and a magnificent performance by Bela Lugosi (as Count Dracula).
Scarface (1932): Not many are aware, but this movie is based on the novel with the same name written by Armitage Trail. A gruesome violent crime movie, it is a classic in its genre. The Scarface (1983) is inspired by this cult movie.
It Happened One Night (1934): That it was the first film to win five major Academy Awards (Best Actor, Actress, Picture, Director, and Screenplay), that it stars Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, that it was directed by Frank Capra, that it is a romantic comedy (screwball comedy), are enough reasons to watch this classic film at least once in your lifetime.
Modern Times (1936): If you are a Charlie Chaplin fan, you wouldn't want to miss this film. The film is a comedy, satire, and the last silent film by Chaplin.
The Prisoner of Zenda (1937): Another book-based movie filled with adventure (swashbuckler), that is considered a masterpiece and exciting to watch. Action, suspense, and great performances by the lead actors Ronald Colman, Madeleine Carroll, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr..
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937): It is considered as the greatest animated movie by the American Film Institute. Watch it for its out-of-the-world animation, wonderful characters, and music score. It is the first full-length animated feature film produced by Walt Disney.
Gone with the Wind (1939): It is an epic romantic historical movie, set against the backdrop of war. It is based on the book with the same name. Watch it for the realistic story (the movie is very close to the book), and the excellent chemistry between Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable (as Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler respectively).
The Wizard of Oz (1939): It is a fairytale, fantasy film, based on the book (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum). Watch it for the visuals, use of Technicolor, and characters. A must-watch for children and adults alike.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939): This comedy-drama is considered as one of the finest films of director Frank Capra. The plot depicts functioning of the political system of the United States. The USP of the movie is its relevancy in today's times.
(Honorable Mentions: King Kong, All Quiet on the Western Front, Stagecoach, Mutiny on the Bounty, You Can't Take It With You)

The 1940s

The Grapes of Wrath (1940): It is a drama movie with the plot based on the plight of the poor farmers during the Great Depression. It is heartrending, yet entertaining. Watch it for amazing performances of the actors, stunning cinematography, and wonderful narration.
Rebecca (1940): This is a psychological thriller based on a book with the same name written by Daphne du Maurier. It is haunting, mysterious, and tragic. It is very close to the book and keeps you hooked till the end.
The Philadelphia Story (1940): Watch this movie entirely for Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, and Ruth Hussey. It is a romantic comedy with witty lines and memorable scenes.
The Maltese Falcon (1941): It is a suspense thriller that shows a detective and three criminals trying to obtain a jewel-crusted falcon. Arguably the first dark film (film noir), it is a must-watch for a gripping story, action, and for Humphrey Bogart.
Citizen Kane (1941): A classic drama, Citizen Kane is one of the most popular films in the world. Watch it for the unique story, interesting narrative technique, and an overall entertainment factor. It lists in nearly all lists of greatest movies.
Casablanca (1942): A romantic drama, this is one of the most loved romantic films all over the world. This is a love story based on the backdrop of the Second World War. It is engaging, captivating, intriguing, and timeless.
Double Indemnity (1944): A film noir, this classic movie remains popular because of its gripping and unique plot. The movie is dark, savvy, with unique performances by the lead actors.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946): Another Frank Capra masterpiece, this movie is popular because it is inspiring and very relevant even today. It is a story of an angel inspiring a frustrated man by showing him his good deeds.
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946): This is a drama film about veterans returning home after the Second World War. Not the usual war movie, this is more about human emotions, changes in life experienced by the veterans post war. Should be watched for excellent characters and performances.
The Third Man (1949): This is a suspense thriller, popular for its unique visual style. There are many reasons to watch this film. Watch it for its plot, stars, settings, cinematography, music score, humor, scenes, and dialogs.
(Honorable Mentions: The Big Sleep, Bicycle Thieves, Pinocchio, How Green Was My Valley, Going My Way, Gentleman's Agreement)

The 1950s

All About Eve (1950): A story of show business rivalry, treachery, an aging star, and an aspiring woman, this drama film is a classic. Praised extensively since its release, nominated for 14 Academy Awards, and a great performance by Bette Davis make it a must-see movie.
Sunset Boulevard (1950): A film noir, black comedy, tragedy, satire, Sunset Boulevard is a film about the world of Hollywood. Watch it for storyline that has a very fine line between fiction and reality.
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951): Being one of the most popular and controversial films, this movie is a stage play by Tennessee Williams. The movie shows raw, crude human emotions. Watch it for performances of all the lead actors, Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden.
Singin' in the Rain (1952): If you are a fan of musicals, this is the ultimate movie for you. If not a musical fan, you will still enjoy it for its beautiful storyline, endearing characters, and humor. 100% entertaining!
On the Waterfront (1954): This is a must-see movie for fans of crime movies and Marlon Brando. With an electrifying performance by Brando, powerful storyline of corruption, and violence, this movie is unparalleled in its genre.
The Searchers (1956): Although relatively less popular when released, this is one of the greatest movies of all times. The movie is complex, ambiguous (watch the climax), has a beautiful storyline, and a superb performance by John Wayne.
12 Angry Men (1957): What's unique about this movie is that it is entirely shot in a single room, has limited characters (just a single star, Henry Fonda), yet it keeps you hooked to the screen. Go for the movie for its gripping plot, dialogs, and drama.
Vertigo (1958): This is a psychological thriller by Alfred Hitchcock (and also his personal favorite). It is gripping, suspenseful, and very dark. Arguably one of the best films ever made by Hitchcock.
Some Like It Hot (1959): Being acclaimed as one of the greatest comedy films by the American Film Institute, this screwball comedy is very entertaining. With interesting script (although it is a remake of a French film Fanfare d'Amour) and wonderful performances, this is a movie not to be missed.
(Honorable Mentions: Giant, Rear Window, Seven Samurai, Paths of Glory, Ben-Hur, The Greatest Show on Earth)

The 1960s

Psycho (1960): This psychological thriller has achieved more or less a cult movie status. It is brutal, suspenseful, chilling, and a true masterpiece by Alfred Hitchcock. You wouldn't want to miss the now-famous, spine-chilling shower murder scene.
Spartacus (1960): Another Stanley Kubrick movie, this epic movie has stood the test of time, and is still regarded as one of the best movies of all time. It is based on a novel with the same name, written by Howard Fast, and is a truly great watch.
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961): You may like it, you may hate it, but, there is no denying the fact that this is one of the most popular movies of Hollywood. A romantic comedy, this is more of a chick flick, with beautiful clothes, feel-good factor, charming characters, and a happy ending.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962): If you are a lover of drama, epic, adventure, war films, then this is a movie to look out for. Although very long (nearly 4 hours), watch the movie for its cinematography, picturesque locations, and sets. An epic in true sense!
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962): Based on the novel with the same name written by Harper Lee, this movie is as fascinating as the novel itself. A drama, this movie is about racial prejudice. Gregory Peck is at his best in the movie.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964): Very few movies have pulled off a comedy satire based on a war as good as this movie. Despite having a simple plot, the handling by director Stanley Kubrick makes it a masterpiece.
My Fair Lady (1964): This is a musical film based on the play, Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. The film may appear more or less a chick flick to some, but, it is entertaining, humorous, with classic songs.
The Sound of Music (1965): Another popular musical, this is warm, family film that can be watched more than once. Beautiful locations, songs, characters, and an overall feel-good factor makes this movie a must-see for teenagers and adults.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966): This is a drama movie, boasting a rich star cast, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal, Sandy Dennis. It is based on a play with the same title by Edward Albee. Watch it only if you like dark and intense movies.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): Although this is termed as one of the greatest movies to watch, it has a very limited audience. You may like it only if you are a fan of the genre (sci-fi). The concept may not seem very interesting today, the movie is worth a watch for its visual effects.
(Honorable Mentions: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, The Graduate, The Longest Day, West Side Story, A Man for All Seasons, Oliver!)

The 1970s

The Godfather (1972): This exceptional crime movie cannot be described merely in words, you HAVE to watch it. It is very close to the novel (with the same name, and written by Mario Puzo), has memorable scenes, and dialogs, is very gripping, enchanting, and entertaining. Watch it for Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. It is one of the greatest movies of Hollywood.
Chinatown (1974): The film won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. This film noir is dark, mysterious, and very intriguing. The exceptional story, drama, and performances by lead actors are worth watching.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975): It is an understatement to say that the movie is brilliant only for its screenplay (it is based on the novel with the same name written by Ken Kesey). The performances, the direction, scenes, and the tragic end, make this movie watchable and laudable.
Taxi Driver (1976): This classic dark movie by Martin Scorsese shows one of the best performance by the lead actor, Robert De Niro. The movie is about a taxi driver (a Vietnam War veteran) who experiences the dark side of life while driving at night in New York.
Network (1976): Satirical movies are always a delight to watch. What's noteworthy about this movie is that it is relevant even today and a delight to watch. The movie bagged four Academy Awards (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay).
All the President's Men (1976): This is a movie based on a book with the same name written by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. It is a political film based on the real-life investigations by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (journalists) during the Watergate scandal. With a powerful story, the movie is thrilling and very entertaining.
Star Wars (1977) (or Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope): This is the first movie in the Star Wars franchise (those released afterwards are its sequels and prequels). It is a sci-fi fantasy film with really great special effects. Watch it if you love this genre, for it is very entertaining.
Annie Hall (1977): This is a romantic comedy featuring Diane Keaton and Woody Allen (also the director). This sad-sweet romantic movie is also considered as one of the funniest movies in American cinema. This movie is a must-watch for its story and dialogs.
The Deer Hunter (1978): Another movie based on the Vietnam war, this film is violent and disturbing. But, the theme of friendship woven in this war film also makes it heartrending, emotional, and worth watching.
Apocalypse Now (1979): The pairing of actor-director (Marlon Brando-Francis Ford Coppola respectively) gave another great movie after the Godfather, the Apocalypse Now. This thrilling, haunting war movie, based on the Vietnam war, is called a masterpiece. Beware: watching it may be disturbing for some.
(Honorable Mentions: The Godfather II, Jaws, A Clockwork Orange, Cross of Iron, Superman, Rocky, The Sting)

The 1980s

Raging Bull (1980): This is a biographical drama movie based on the book (Raging Bull: My Story by Jake LaMotta). Although it appears as a sports movie about a boxer, the movie is more about the personality and character of the boxer, than his game. Another great movie by actor-director (Robert De Niro-Martin Scorsese respectively).
Gandhi (1982): As the title suggests, this is a biographical film about the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (leader of Indian independence movement). Directed by Richard Attenborough, it is one of the best biographical movies of all time (having won 8 Academy Awards). Actor Ben Kingsley (playing Gandhi) is remarkable in his role.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982): Some sci-fi movies stand the test of time and are worth watching again and again, even after 30 years of their release. This is one such movie, depicting a little boy befriending an extraterrestrial. Winning four Academy Awards, this movie is watchable for its visual effects and for its warm story.
Blade Runner (1982): This is a sci-fi action film about human-like robots tracked down by cops (blade runners). On its release, the film was criticized. However, over the time, it has gained cult status. It is fast-paced, dark, and entertaining.
Scarface (1983): This is a crime gangster movie, which seems very much like Godfather with Al Pacino typecast as a gangster. But, it has achieved cult status with its memorable characters (Tony Montana, for one), violent scenes, and memorable lines.
Back to the Future (1985): An unusual combination of sci-fi and comedy works wonders in this movie. It is a fantasy movie about time-traveling. The movie is humorous, entertaining, and exciting. Worth watching for children and adults.
Platoon (1986): Another war film based on the Vietnam war. This Academy Award-winning movie is unusual because it depicts the war in the most real way. The movie depicts a very honest view about the actual Vietnam war.
Aliens (1986): This sci-fi film is a sequel to the 1979 film Alien. Director James Cameron almost always gives a great movie to watch. This action film is dark, intense, adventurous, and very entertaining.
Do the Right Thing (1989): This is a drama film based on racism and social ills in America. It is considered as one of the most controversial films ever. It is realistic, funny, and entertaining.
When Harry Met Sally (1989): This romantic comedy is one of the most popular movies in the genre. Excellent chemistry between the on-screen couple (Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan), witty lines, and memorable scenes make this movie worth watching.
(Honorable Mentions: Airplane, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Die Hard, The Terminator, Sophie's Choice, Amadeus, The Last Emperor)

The 1990s

Goodfellas (1990): This gangster, crime movie by Martin Scorsese is quite different from other gangster movies. There is violence, it shows the rise and fall of a gangster, but, there are no moral views here. Watch it if you are a fan of the genre or Scorsese.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991): This spine-chilling horror, thriller, crime movie won the Academy Awards in all the top five categories ( Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Writing).
Based on the novel with the same name written by Thomas Harris, the movie is thrilling, yet disturbing, and has excellent portrayals by Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991): The second part of the Terminator franchise is more popular because of its outstanding visual and sound effects. Directed by James Cameron, this big-budget film is very entertaining and enjoyable to watch. Arnold Schwarzenegger is perfect in his part.
Schindler's List (1993): This is one of the most outstanding and remarkable movies in the world. Based on real story and a novel (Schindler's Ark written by Thomas Keneally), it is a story about a German businessman, Oskar Schindler, who saved lives of Jews during the Holocaust.
With spectacular performances by Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Ben Kingsley, this Steven Spielberg movie is touching and heart-breaking.
Groundhog Day (1993): This is a comedy movie starring Bill Murray. It is farce, and more than just another humorous movie. It gives a wonderful message, which makes it a delight to watch.
Pulp Fiction (1994): This movie is based on crime, violence, but, has elements of humor. Directed by Quentin Tarantino, it has an unusual structure. Boasting of a strong cast (John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis), the movie works because of the story (having won Academy Award for the Best Original Screenplay), direction, and performances.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994): This drama movie is based on the novel (Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption written by Stephen King). Being a very popular movie, it is sentimental and has an ability to form a deep impact. Although starring Tim Robbins, it is Morgan Freeman who steals the show.
Toy Story (1995): It is very rarely that animated movies remain in the list of 'must-watch' movies for a long time. But, this movie, produced by Pixar Animation Studios (first fully computer-animated feature-length movie) is a major hit, and appreciated, and loved till date. Adults and children will never get bored of watching it.
Titanic (1997): Being the second movie to win 11 Academy Awards (the first being Ben-Hur), what is it that exactly works for Titanic? The real-fictitious story, romance, melodrama, huge glorious sets, direction, cast, visual effects, cinematography, music, et al. In short everything is just perfect. It is a mesmerizing epic by James Cameron.
The Sixth Sense (1999): This horror movie starring Bruce Willis is considered as one of the most popular thrillers of all time. It has some very scary scenes and a twist at the end. It is thrilling, scary, and at times, emotional.
The Sixth Sense (1999): This horror movie starring Bruce Willis is considered as one of the most popular thrillers of all time. It has some very scary scenes and a twist at the end. It is thrilling, scary, and at times, emotional.
(Honorable Mentions: The Lion King, Jerry Maguire, Forrest Gump, Sleepless in Seattle, Unforgiven, Jurassic Park, Shakespeare in Love)

The 2000s

Almost Famous (2000): This comedy-drama movie has all the elements of entertainment in a film: music, romance, humor, rock & roll, and sentimentality. With brilliant direction and performances, this movie will be enjoyed by teenagers and adults.
A Beautiful Mind (2001): The movie is a biographical film (based on the book with the same name written by Sylvia Nasar) about a Nobel Laureate, John Nash. He is a mathematician suffering from schizophrenia. The narrative, with perfect portrayal of Nash by Russell Crowe, is worth watching. The movie brought home four Academy Awards.
The Lord of the Rings (film series): These are adventure movies based on the novel with the same name written by J. R. R. Tolkien. All the movies are outstanding, true to the novel, with out-of-the-world visual and special effects. The film series (3 movies together) have won 17 Academy Awards in total, with the maximum bagged by The Return of the King.
The Pianist (2002): This is a biographical movie based on the autobiographical book The Pianist written by Władysław Szpilman, and directed by Roman Polanski. This is a realistic, impressive, heartrending story of a pianist, in the backdrop of the Holocaust.
Because of its emotionality and realistic approach, this is considered as one of the best Holocaust movies. Watch it for Adrien Brody as the pianist.
Million Dollar Baby (2004): With its posters, one may think it is another movie based on boxing. Although this is a sports movie, it is more than just it. The plot is tightly held with a very unexpected end. Brilliant performances by Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, and Morgan Freeman in this Academy Award-winning film.
The Departed (2006): Martin Scorsese is called a master movie director because of the classic films he makes decade after decade. This crime gangster movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, is thrilling and violent. The multi-layered characters and unique story will make you want to watch this movie more than once.
The Hurt Locker (2008): This is a war film, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, and based on the Iraq war. The movie is tense, vivid, and one of the best films made on the Iraq war. The movie is usually appreciated by the fans of war movies.
The Dark Knight (2008): Unanimously considered as one of the greatest movies to watch, this superhero film (Batman series) is adventurous, thrilling, dark, at times, spine-chilling, and complex. The Joker portrayed by Heath Ledger is unforgettable.
Avatar (2009): Being the highest-grossing film of all time, this sci-fi adventure movie simply makes you breathless with its wonderful special and visual effects. Directed by James Cameron, this magnum opus is a treat for both sci-fi lovers and the regular audience. Love or hate it, there is no denying that the cinematography is simply magical.
Up (2009): Another exceptional movie from Pixar Animation Studios, this is a 3D animated adventure movie with terrific animation. The plot is soulful, funny, without a single moment of boredom. Kids and adults will equally love the movie.
(Honorable Mentions: Gangs of New York, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Notebook, Gladiator, Requiem for a Dream, Amélie, Slumdog Millionaire)
From 2010 onwards till date, there are a few truly remarkable movies. You must have watched most of these already. Those worth mentioning are: The Social Network (2010), Black Swan (2010), Inception (2010), 127 Hours (2010), The King's Speech (2010)..
..Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 (2011), Midnight in Paris (2011), Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011), Warrior (2011), The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Les Misérables (2012), Life of Pi (2012), Lincoln (2012), Argo (2012), etc.
All these movies are a must-watch for any movie buff. You may have watched many of these, as they are popular and all-time favorites.