10 Essential Movies To Watch Before You Die
Movies have the ability to move us in many different ways. Whether you’re someone who likes to analyze films or you’re a casual movie-watcher, there are certain movies that you absolutely can’t miss. We’ve compiled a list of 10 essential movies that you need to watch before you die. While there are many more that fall outside of this list, these picks are bound to change you after you see them.
1. Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Shawshank Redemption is an incredible film about the 19 years that Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) spent in prison. The film let’s us know right away that Andy did not commit the crimes he was evicted for – the murder of his wife and her lover. However, the judicial system works against Andy, and we follow his life as he befriends fellow inmates (such as Red, played by Morgan Freeman) and finds away to adapt to prison. The film is moving, shocking, and will have your jaw on the floor by the time you’re finished with it. You can watch Shawshank Redemption on HBO Max.
2. Forrest Gump (1994)
Another absolute classic on the list, Forrest Gump is an inspiring movie following the life of Forrest (Tom Hanks), a man who grows up in Alabama with an intellectual disability. We follow Forrest from childhood, all the way up to present time, as he recounts his incredible life as a runner, football player, war vet, and shrimp boat captain. Forrest’s life is a whirlwind of amazing experiences, but the one constant that always seems to float in and out of his life is his best friend Jenny (Robin Wright). This movie takes us through Forrest’s many emotionally charged experiences, all while we follow along with his love and longing for Jenny. Heartbreaking and sweet, you’ll never forget this film once you watch it. Forrest Gump is currently streaming on Netflix.
3. Spirited Away (2001)
Spirited Away is an amazing animated film created by Hayao Miyazaki. The film follows a girl named Chihiro (voiced by Rumi Hiiragi) as she moves to a new house with her parents. Along the way, the family comes across an abandoned theme park. As they explore the theme park, her parents turn into pigs, and Chihiro is left to figure out how to free her and her family from the park. However, she’s not alone – she meets a boy named Haku (voiced by Miyu Irino) who tells her that the park is for spirits who come to relax after performing their duties on earth. This film is filled with stunning imagery and a heartfelt story about bravery. You can watch Spirited Away on HBO Max.
4. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Pulp Fiction is no doubt an essential movie for anyone who is interested in film. The film follows four interwoven storylines. We start with hitmen Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) as they perform a hit and carry out some entertaining banter. The film then leads into the storylines of their boss, Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), the boss’s wife Mia (Uma Thurman), famed boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis), and other characters that you won’t soon forget. The film is directed by Quentin Tarantino, and it’s a masterpiece you’ve gotta check out. You can currently catch the film on Prime Video.
5. Whiplash (2014)
If you’ve ever felt the perils of pushing yourself far beyond your limits, Whiplash is a movie that will hit different for you. The film follows a young man named Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) whose passion for drumming leads him to be recruited into one of the top jazz ensembles in the nation. However, jazz instructor Terence Fletcher (played by J.K. Simmons) utilizes abusive methods to push his students to their limits. Once Andrew finds himself drumming through blood, sweat, and tears, he starts to crumble under the pressure. Whiplash is currently streaming on Paramount+ and Showtime – you won’t want to miss this movie.
6. Fight Club (1999)
Fight Club is a movie that will leave you on the edge of your seat. The film follows the life of a narrator (played by Edward Norton) who suffers from depression and severe insomnia. The narrator attends support groups for addictions he doesn’t have to fulfill the boring aspects of his life, where he eventually meets Marla (Helena Bonham Carter). However, his life turns upside down once he runs into a soap salesman named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). The two men start living together once the narrator’s apartment burns down, and they decide to form a group called Fight Club. Fight Club becomes an underground, consensual fighting ring for discontented men who want to let their aggression out. From outrageous twists to love interests, this film will leave you wondering what you just watched. You can catch the film on Hulu.
7. Dead Poets Society (1989)
Dead Poets Society is one of those once-in-a-lifetime, touching films that you won’t be able to get out of your head. Starring Robin Williams as teacher John Keating, John begins teaching at an all-boys boarding school. Thrown into an environment of conservative traditions, John uses the power of poetry as well as other unconventional teaching techniques to inspire his students to chase after their dreams as they face their own personal problems. This film is all about letting go of society’s constraints and going after what you truly want in life. You can rent the film on Prime Video for $3.99.
8. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Set on a New England island in the 60’s, Moonrise Kingdom is a Wes Anderson film following the adventures of an orphaned boy scout named Sam (Jared Gilman) and his lover Suzy (Kara Hayward). The two twelve-year-olds decide to run away together as Sam uses his scout skills to help them survive in the wilderness. Adults (Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, and Bill Murray) and children from the scout group set out to find the two runaways as a dangerous storm approaches. This film is adorable, adventurous, and touching all in one. You can currently rent the film for $3.99 on Prime Video.
9. The Sixth Sense (1999)
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense tells the story of a boy named Cole Sear (played by Haley Joel Osment) who is haunted by his ability to see dead people. Bashful and quiet, he is unable to open about this ability, until he meets with Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) who is able to help him see purpose in these lingering spirits. The film is filled to the brim with various twists and turns as well as a precious message about life itself. You can watch the film on Peacock and Paramount+.
10. Parasite (2019)
Although a more recent release, Parasite has already been established as a film classic and an essential movie that you need to check out. The film follows the life of the impoverished Kim family living in a basement apartment. As they struggle to make ends meet, the son of the family, Ki-woo Kim (Choi Woo-Shik) is presented with an opportunity to tutor the daughter of the wealthy Park family by his friend who puts in a good word. The entire Kim family begins to intertwine with the Park family in various ways, leading to a chaotic film that will have you completely stunned. You can watch the film on Hulu.
Which essential movies did we leave off the list? Leave a comment with your favorite film classics!
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Sarah is a recent Virginia Tech graduate with a Bachelors in Creative Writing and Psychology.