The List

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Drama (Serious)
Drama (Lighter)
Romance
Thriller
Action / Adventure
Western
Sci-Fi / Space
Sports
Horror
Animated
Comedy
Romantic Comedy
Documentary
Avante-Garde / Experimental
“The Classics”

Drama (serious)

Not messing around, but not without moments of beauty, inspiration, and tenderness, either.

12 Years a Slave (2013) directed by Steve McQueen
25th Hour (2002) directed by Spike Lee
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days [Romania: 4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile] (2007) directed by Cristian Munjiu
The Army of Crime [France: L’armée du crime] (2009) directed by Robert Guédiguian
Barbara [Germany] (2012) directed by Christian Petzold
Beasts of No Nation (2015) directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga
Bloody Sunday (2002) directed by Paul Greengrass
Blue Caprice (2013) directed by Alexandre Moors
Boys Don’t Cry (1999) directed by Kimberly Peirce
C.R.A.Z.Y. [Quebec] (2005) directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Capote (2005) directed by Bennett Miller
Central Station [Brazil: Central do Brasil] (1998) directed by Walter Salles
Chop Shop (2007) directed by Ramin Bahrani
Coriolanus (2011) directed by Ralph Fiennes
The Counterfeiters [Germany: Die Fälscher] (2007) directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky
Curse of the Golden Flower [China: 满城尽带黄金甲] (2006) directed by Zhang Yimou
Downfall [Germany: Der Untergang] (2004) directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel
Elephant (2003) directed by Gus Van Sant
The English Patient (1996) directed by Anthony Minghella
Far From Heaven (2002) directed by Todd Haynes
Farewell My Concubine [China: 霸王别姬] (1993) directed by Chen Kaige
Fruitvale Station (2013) directed by Ryan Coogler
George Washington (2000) directed by David Gordon Green
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) directed by James Foley
The Green Mile (1999) directed by Frank Darabont
Hard Eight (1996) directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Hate [France: La Haine] (1995) directed by Mathieu Kassovitz
I Am Love [Italy: Io sono l’amore] (2009) directed by Luca Guadagnino
The Ice Storm (1997) directed by Ang Lee
In the Bedroom (2001) directed by Todd Field
The Insult [Lebanon: L’insulte] (2017) directed by Ziad Doueiri
Ju Dou [China: 菊豆] (1990) directed by Zhang Yimou
The Limey (1999) directed by Steven Soderbergh
Locke (2013) directed by Steven Knight
Magnolia (1999) directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Man Push Cart (2005) directed by Ramin Bahrani
Manchester by the Sea (2016) directed by Kenneth Lonergan
Maria Full of Grace [Colombia: María, llena eres de gracia] (2004) directed by Joshua Marston
Macbeth (2015) directed by Justin Kurzel
Melancholia (2011) directed by Lars von Trier
Mystic River (2003) directed by Clint Eastwood
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) directed by Jim Jarmusch
A Prophet [France: Un prophète] (2009) directed by Jacques Audiard
Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) directed by Phillip Noyce
Raise the Red Lantern [China: 大红灯笼高高挂] (1991) directed by Zhang Yimou
Road to Perdition (2002) directed by Sam Mendes
Roma [Mexico] (2018) directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Schindler’s List (1993) directed by Steven Spielberg
Selma (2014) directed by Ava DuVernay
A Separation [Iran: Jodaeiye Nader az Simin] (2011) directed by Asghar Farhadi
The Shawshank Redemption (1994) directed by Frank Darabont
There Will Be Blood (2007) directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) directed by Martin McDonagh
To Live [China: 活着] (1994) directed by Zhang Yimou
Traffic (2000) directed by Steven Soderbergh
Two Days, One Night [France: Deux jours, une nuit] (2014) directed by Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
Whiplash (2014) directed by Damien Chazelle
White God [Hungary: Fehér isten] (2014) directed by Kornél Mundruczó
The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006) directed by Ken Loach
The Wrestler (2008) directed by Darren Aronofsky

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Drama (lighter)

Still serious, but more inclined to find fun and humor in the proceedings.

127 Hours (2010) directed by Danny Boyle
American Gangster (2007) directed by Ridley Scott

Barking Dogs Never Bite [South Korea: 플란다스의 개] (2000) directed by Bong Joon-ho
The Best of Youth [Italy: La meglio gioventu] (2003) directed by Marco Tullio Giordana
Boogie Nights (1997) directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Boyhood (2014) directed by Richard Linklater
Bridge of Spies (2015) directed by Steven Spielberg
Catch Me If You Can (2002) directed by Steven Spielberg
Chungking Express [Hong Kong: 重庆森林] directed by Wong Kar-Wai
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) directed by David Fincher
Days of Being Wild [Hong Kong: 阿飞正传] (1991) directed by Wong Kar-wai
Donnie Darko (2001) directed by Richard Kelly
An Education (2009) directed by Lone Sherfig
Fallen Angels [Hong Kong: 堕落天使] (1995) directed by Wong Kar-wai
Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) directed by George Clooney
Good Will Hunting (1997) directed by Gus Van Sant
Goodbye Solo (2008) directed by Ramin Bahrani
The Imitation Game (2014) directed by Morten Tyldum
Lincoln (2012) directed by Steven Spielberg
Little Men (2016) directed by Ira Sachs
Lost in Translation (2003) directed by Sofia Coppola
Match Point (2005) directed by Woody Allen
Milk (2008) directed by Gus Van Sant
The Motorcycle Diaries [Argentina: Diarios de motocicleta] (2004) directed by Walter Salles
Mud (2013) directed by Jeff Nichols
The New World (2005) directed by Terrence Malick
The Old Man and the Gun (2018) directed by David Lowery
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) directed by Stephen Chbosky
The Post (2017) directed by Steven Spielberg
Pulp Fiction (1994) directed by Quentin Tarantino
The Queen (2006) directed by Stephen Frears
The Quiet American (2002) directed by Phillip Noyce
Rachel Getting Married (2008) directed by Jonathan Demme
Shattered Glass (2003) directed by Billy Ray
The Social Network (2010) directed by David Fincher
Spotlight (2015) directed by Tom McCarthy
Steve Jobs (2015) directed by Danny Boyle
The Story of Qiu Ju [China: 秋菊打官司] (1992) directed by Zhang Yimou
The Virgin Suicides (1999) directed by Sofia Coppola
Walk the Line (2005) directed by James Mangold
Wild (2014) directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
The Wind Will Carry Us [Iran: Bad ma ra khahad bord] (1999) directed by Abbas Kiarostami

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Romance

From happily-ever-after to tragically not-to-be.

2046 [Hong Kong] (2005) directed by Wong Kar-wai
All the Real Girls (2003) directed by David Gordon Green
Before Sunrise (1995) directed by Richard Linklater
Before Sunset (2004) directed by Richard Linklater
Before Midnight (2013) directed by Richard Linklater
Blue is the Warmest Color [France: La vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 et 2] (2013) directed by Abdellatif Kechiche
Blue Valentine (2010) directed by Derek Cianfrance
Brokeback Mountain (2005) directed by Ang Lee
Brooklyn (2015) directed by John Crowley
Call Me by Your Name (2017) directed by Luca Guadagnino
Carol (2015) directed by Todd Haynes
Cold War [Poland: Zimna wojna] (2018) directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
The Deep Blue Sea (2011) directed by Terence Davies
Happy Together [Hong Kong: 春光乍泄] (1997) directed by Wong Kar-wai
Heartbeats [Quebec: Les Amours Imaginaires] (2010) directed by Xavier Dolan
Her (2013) directed by Spike Jonze
In the Mood for Love [Hong Kong: 花样年华] (2000) directed by Wong Kar-wai
Moonlight (2016) directed by Barry Jenkins
The Shape of Water (2017) directed by Guillermo del Toro
A Very Long Engagement [France: Un long dimanche de fiançailles] (2004) directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Weekend (2011) directed by Andrew Haigh

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Thriller

Political, psychological, criminal, international, financial, etc.

’71 (2015) directed by Yann Demange
The American (2010) directed by Anton Corbijn
Argo (2012) directed by Ben Affleck
The Baader Meinhof Complex [Germany: Der Baader Meinhof Komplex] (2008) directed by Uli Edel
Breach (2007) directed by Billy Ray
Brick (2006) directed by Rian Johnson
Burning [South Korea: 버닝] (2018) directed by Lee Chang-dong
Carlos (2010) directed by Olivier Assayas
Children of Men (2006) directed by Alfonso Cuarón
The Departed (2006) directed by Martin Scorsese
Dirty Pretty Things (2002) directed by Stephen Frears
The East (2013) directed by Zal Batmanglij
Eastern Promises (2007) directed by David Cronenberg
Farewell [France: L’Affaire Farewell] (2009) directed by Christian Carion
Fight Club (1999) directed by David Fincher
The Fugitive (1993) directed by Andrew Davis
The Ghost Writer (2010) directed by Roman Polanski
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo [Sweden: Män Som Hatar Kvinnor] (2009) directed by Niels Arden Oplev
Gone Baby Gone (2007) directed by Ben Affleck
Gone Girl (2014) directed by David Fincher
A History of Violence (2005) directed by David Cronenberg
The Hunt for Red October (1990) directed by John McTiernan
The Hurt Locker (2009) directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Inside Man (2006) directed by Spike Lee
Insomnia (2002) directed by Christopher Nolan
Joint Security Area [South Korea: 공동경비구역 JSA] (2000) directed by Park Chan-wook
L.A. Confidential (1997) directed by Curtis Hanson
The Lives of Others [Germany: Das Leben der Anderen] (2006) directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Margin Call (2011) directed by J.C. Chandor
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) directed by Sean Durkin
Memento (2000) directed by Christopher Nolan
Memories of Murder [South Korea: 살인의 추억] (2003) directed by Bong Joon-ho
Michael Clayton (2007) directed by Tony Gilroy
A Most Wanted Man (2014) directed by Anton Corbijn
Mother [South Korea: 마더] (2009) directed by Bong Joon-ho
Mulholland Drive (2001) directed by David Lynch
Munich (2005) directed by Steven Spielberg
Night Moves (2013) directed by Kelly Reichardt
The Prestige (2006) directed by Christopher Nolan
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) directed by Anthony Minghella
Tell No One [France: Ne le dis à personne] (2008) directed by Guillaume Canet
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) directed Tomas Alfredson
United 93 (2006) Paul Greengrass
The Usual Suspects (1995) directed by Bryan Singer
Widows (2018) directed by Steve McQueen
Winter’s Bone (2010) directed by Debra Granik
Zero Dark Thirty (2012) directed by Kathryn Bigelow

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Action / Adventure

Including only superhero flicks that stand particularly well on their own. I like (and recommend) most of the Marvel movies (Avengers and X-Men), but they’re all so interconnected that it felt strange to list them all here individually.

The Abyss (1989) directed by James Cameron
Ant-Man (2015) directed by Peyton Reed
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) directed by Peyton Reed
Atomic Blonde (2017) directed by David Leitch
Baby Driver (2017) directed by Edgar Wright
Batman Begins (2005) directed by Christopher Nolan
Battle Royale [Japan: バトル・ロワイアル] (2000) directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Black Hawk Down (2001) directed by Ridley Scott
Black Panther (2018) directed by Ryan Coogler
The Bourne Identity (2002) directed by Doug Liman
The Bourne Supremacy (2004) directed by Paul Greengrass
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) directed by Paul Greengrass
Captain Phillips (2013) directed by Paul Greengrass
Chronicle (2012) directed by Josh Trank
City of God [Brazil: Cicade de Deus] (2003) directed by Fernando Meirelles
Collateral (2004) directed by Michael Mann
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon [China: 卧虎藏龙] (2000) directed by Ang Lee
The Dark Knight (2008) directed by Christopher Nolan
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) directed by Christopher Nolan
District B13 [France: Banlieue 13] (2006) directed by Pierre Morel
Doctor Strange (2016) directed by Scott Derrickson
Drive (2011) directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Dunkirk (2017) directed by Christopher Nolan
Gladiator (2000) directed by Ridley Scott
The Grandmaster [China: 一代宗师] (2013) directed by Wong Kar-wai
Green Zone (2010) directed by Paul Greengrass
Haywire (2011) directed by Steven Soderbergh
Heat (1995) directed by Michael Mann
Hero [China: 英雄] (2002) directed by Zhang Yimou
House of Flying Daggers [China: 十面埋伏] (2004) directed by Zhang Yimou
Inglourious Basterds (2009) directed by Quentin Tarantino
John Wick (2014) directed by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch
John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) directed by Chad Stahelski
Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003) directed by Quentin Tarantino
Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004) directed by Quentin Tarantino
Kingdom of Heaven (2005) directed by Ridley Scott**
Letters From Iwo Jima (2007) directed by Clint Eastwood
Logan (2017) directed by James Mangold
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) directed by Peter Jackson
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) directed by Peter Jackson
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) directed by Peter Jackson
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) directed by George Miller
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) directed by Peter Weir
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) directed by Brad Bird
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015) directed by Christopher McQuarrie
Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018) directed by Christopher McQuarrie
Okja (2017) directed by Bong Joon-ho
Pan’s Labyrinth [Spain: El laberiento del fauno] (2006) directed by Guillermo del Toro
Premium Rush (2012) directed by David Koepp
Public Enemies (2009) directed by Michael Mann
The Raid [Indonesia: Serbuan maut] (2011) directed by Gareth Evans
Run Lola Run (1998) directed by Tom Tykwer
Saving Private Ryan (1998) directed by Steven Spielberg
Skyfall (2012) directed by Sam Mendes
Slumdog Millionaire (2008) directed by Danny Boyle
Super 8 (2011) directed by J. J. Abrams
The Thin Red Line (1998) directed by Terrence Malick
Thor: Ragnarok (2017) directed by Taika Waititi
Three Kings (1999) directed by David O. Russell
Triple Frontier (2019) directed by J.C. Chandor
True Romance (1993) directed by Tony Scott

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Western

From traditionally old-school to present-day.

3:10 to Yuma (2007) directed by James Mangold
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) directed by Andrew Dominik
Django Unchained (2012) directed by Quentin Tarantino
The Hateful Eight (2015) directed by Quentin Tarantino
Hell or High Water (2016) directed by David Mackenzie
Meek’s Cutoff (2010) directed by Kelly Reichardt
No Country for Old Men (2007) directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
The Revenant (2015) directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Sicario (2015) directed by Denis Villeneuve
True Grit (2010) directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
Unforgiven (1992) directed by Clint Eastwood

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Sci-Fi / Space

From contemplative drama to action blowout, and everything in between.

The Adjustment Bureau (2011) directed by George Nolfi
Annihilation (2018) directed by Alex Garland
Apollo 13 (1995) directed by Ron Howard
Arrival (2016) directed by Denis Villeneuve
Avatar (2009) directed by James Cameron*
Blade Runner 2049 (2017) directed by Denis Villeneuve
Dark City (1998) directed by Alex Proyas**
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) directed by Matt Reeves
District 9 (2009) directed by Neill Blomkamp
Edge of Tomorrow (2014) directed by Doug Liman
Ex Machina (2014) directed by Alex Garland
Gattaca (1997) directed by Andrew Niccol
Gravity (2013) directed by Alfonso Cuarón*
Inception (2010) directed by Christopher Nolan
Looper (2012) directed by Rian Johnson
The Martian (2015) directed by Ridley Scott
The Matrix (1999) directed by Larry & Andy Wachowski
Moon (2009) directed by Duncan Jones
Pacific Rim (2013) directed by Guillermo Del Toro
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) directed by Gareth Edwards
Snowpiercer (2013) directed by Bong Joon-ho
Solaris (2002) directed by Steven Soderbergh
Source Code (2011) directed by Duncan Jones
Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015) directed by J.J. Abrams
Star Wars, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017) directed by Rian Johnson
Sunshine (2008) directed by Danny Boyle
Trollhunter [Norway: Trolljegeren] (2010) directed by André Øvredal

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Sports

From glorious triumphs to valiant defeats, all rousing.

Creed (2015) directed by Ryan Coogler
Creed II (2018) directed by Steven Caple, Jr.
Eight Men Out (1988) directed by John Sayles
The Fighter (2010) directed by David O. Russell
Friday Night Lights (2004) directed by Peter Berg
I, Tonya (2017) directed by Craig Gillespie
Million Dollar Baby (2004) directed by Clint Eastwood
Miracle (2004) directed by Gavin O’Connor
Moneyball (2011) directed by Bennett Miller
Remember the Titans (2000) directed by Boaz Yakin
Rush (2013) directed by Ron Howard
Warrior (2011) directed by Gavin O’Conner

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Horror

From amusingly freaky to purely nightmarish, they all scared me.

28 Days Later (2003) directed by Danny Boyle
28 Weeks Later (2007) directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Contagion (2011) directed by Steven Soderbergh
Detroit (2017) directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Get Out (2017) directed by Jordan Peele
Green Room (2015) directed by Jeremy Saulnier
A Quiet Place (2018) directed by Jon Krasinski
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) directed by Jonathan Demme
Take Shelter (2011) directed by Jeff Nichols
Train to Busan [South Korea: 부산행] (2016) directed by Sang-ho Yeon
The Witch (2015) directed by Robert Eggers

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Animated

Most okay for kids, some not so much.

Coco (2017) directed by Lee Unkrich & Adrian Molina
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) directed by Wes Anderson
Finding Nemo (2003) directed by Andrew Stanton
Grave of the Fireflies [Japan: 火垂るの墓] (1988) directed by Isao Takahata***
Howl’s Moving Castle [Japan: ハウルの動く城] (2004) directed by Hayao Miyazaki
The Incredibles (2004) directed by Brad Bird
Inside Out (2015) directed by Pete Doctor & Ronnie Del Carmen
The Iron Giant (1999) directed by Brad Bird
Isle of Dogs (2018) directed by Wes Anderson
The Jungle Book (2016) directed by Jon Favreau
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) directed by Travis Knight
Kung Fu Panda (2008) directed by Mark Osborne
Monsters, Inc. (2001) directed by Pete Doctor
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind [Japan: 風の谷のナウシカ] (1984) directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Princess Mononoke [Japan: もののけ姫] (1997) directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) directed by Rich Moore & Phil Johnston
Ratatouille (2007) directed by Brad Bird
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsay & Rodney Rothman
Spirited Away [Japan: 千と千尋の神隠し] (2001) directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Toy Story (1995) directed by John Lasseter
Toy Story 2 (1999) directed by John Lasseter
Toy Story 3 (2010) directed by Lee Unkrich
Up (2009) directed by Pete Doctor
WALL-E (2008) directed by Andrew Stanton
Wreck-It Ralph (2012) directed by Rich Moore
Zootopia (2016) directed by Byron Howard & Rich Moore

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Comedy

From goofy nonsense to low-key nostalgia to caustic satire, they made me laugh.

Adaptation (2002) directed by Spike Jonze
Adventureland (2008) directed by Greg Mottola
American Animals (2018) directed by Bart Layton
American Hustle (2013) directed by David O. Russell
Anchorman (2004) directed by Adam McKay
The Artist (2011) directed by Michel Hazanavicius
Attack the Block (2011) directed by Joe Cornish
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) directed by Jay Roach
Beginners (2010) directed by Mike Mills
Being John Malkovich (1999) directed by Spike Jonze
The Big Lebowski (1998) directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
The Big Short (2015) directed by Adam McKay
BlacKkKlansman (2018) directed by Spike Lee
The Cabin in the Woods (2011) directed by Drew Goddard
Dazed and Confused (1993) directed by Richard Linklater
Deadpool (2015) directed by Tim Miller
Dear White People (2014) directed by Justin Simien
The Death of Stalin (2018) directed by Armando Iannucci
The Descendants (2011) directed by Alexander Payne
The Disaster Artist (2017) directed by James Franco
Dodgeball (2004) directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber
Dope (2015) directed by Rick Famuyiwa
Eighth Grade (2018) directed by Bo Burnham
Elf (2003) directed by Jon Favreau
Everybody Wants Some!! (2016) directed by Richard Linklater
Four Lions (2010) directed by Chris Morris
Frances Ha (2012) directed by Noah Baumbach
Get Him to the Greek (2010) directed by Nicholas Stoller
Gosford Park (2001) directed by Robert Altman
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) directed by Wes Anderson
Greenberg (2010) directed by Noah Baumbach
The Guard (2011) directed by John Michael McDonagh
The Hangover (2009) directed by Todd Phillips
Hot Fuzz (2007) directed by Edgar Wright
In Bruges (2008) directed by Martin McDonagh
In the Loop (2009) directed by Armando Iannucci
Juno (2007) directed by Jason Reitman
Kicking and Screaming (1995) directed by Noah Baumbach
The Kids Are All Right (2010) directed by Lisa Cholodenko
Lady Bird (2017) directed by Greta Gerwig
Little Miss Sunshine (2006) directed by Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
Machete (2010) directed by Robert Rodriguez
Midnight in Paris (2011) directed by Woody Allen
Moonrise Kingdom (2012) directed by Wes Anderson
The Nice Guys (2016) directed by Shane Black
The Player (1992) directed by Robert Altman
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
Ocean’s Eleven (2001) directed by Steven Soderbergh
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) directed by Wes Anderson
Rushmore (1998) directed by Wes Anderson
School of Rock (2003) directed by Richard Linklater
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) directed by Edgar Wright
Shaun of the Dead (2004) directed by Edgar Wright
Sideways (2004) directed by Alexander Payne
Snatch (2001) directed by Guy Ritchie
Sorry to Bother You (2018) directed by Boots Riley
The Squid and the Whale (2005) directed by Noah Baumbach
Submarine (2010) directed by Richard Ayoade
Super Troopers (2002) directed by Jay Chandrasekhar
Superbad (2007) directed by Greg Mottola
Talladega Nights (2006) directed by Adam McKay
Trainspotting (1996) directed by Danny Boyle
The Trip (2010) directed by Michael Winterbottom
Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010) directed by Eli Craig
Up in the Air (2009) directed by Jason Reitman
The Way Way Back (2013) directed by Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Wet Hot American Summer (2001) directed by David Wain
What We Do in the Shadows (2014) directed by Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi
Where the Wild Things Are (2009) directed by Spike Jonze
The World’s End (2013) directed by Edgar Wright
Y Tu Mamá También [Mexico] (2001) directed by Alfonso Cuaron
Zombieland (2009) directed by Ruben Fleischer
Zoolander (2001) directed by Ben Stiller

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Romantic Comedy

I don’t hate them all!

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) directed by Judd Apatow
Amélie [France] (2001) directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Bridesmaids (2011) directed by Paul Feig
Clueless (1995) directed by Amy Heckerling
Crazy Rich Asians (2018) directed by Jon M. Chu
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) directed by Michel Gondry
Groundhog Day (1993) directed by Harold Ramis
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) directed by Nicholas Stoller
High Fidelity (2000) directed by Stephen Frears
Knocked Up (2007) directed by Judd Apatow
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008) directed by Peter Sollett
Silver Linings Playbook (2012) directed by David O. Russell
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018) directed by Susan Johnson

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Documentary

Informative, awe-inspiring, often both at once.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008) directed by Sacha Gervasi
Bowling for Columbine (2002) directed by Michael Moore
Citizenfour (2014) directed by Laura Poitras
The Cove (2009) directed by Louie Psihoyos
Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010) directed by Banksy
Free Solo (2018) directed by Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Hoop Dreams (1994) directed by Steve James
I Am Not Your Negro (2016) directed by Raoul Peck
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011) directed by Marshall Curry & Sam Cullman
Inside Job (2010) directed by Charles Ferguson
The Last Waltz (1978) directed by Martin Scorsese
Last Days in Vietnam (2014) directed by Rory Kennedy
Man on Wire (2008) directed by James Marsh
Meru (2015) directed by Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
No End in Sight (2007) directed by Charles Ferguson
Riding Giants (2004) directed by Stacy Peralta
Stop Making Sense (1984) directed by Jonathan Demme
Swimming to Cambodia (1987) directed by Jonathan Demme
Taxi to the Dark Side (2007) directed by Alex Gibney
Virunga (2014) directed by Orlando von Einseidel
Waltz With Bashir [Israel: Vals Im Bashir] (2008) directed by Ari Folman
The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights (2009) directed by Emmett Malloy

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Avante-Garde / Experimental

Mostly fiction films and documentaries with sufficiently unconventional narratives, plus a few truly experimental ones with no narrative at all.

13 Lakes (2004) directed by James Benning
Dead Man (1995) directed by Jim Jarmusch
The Exterminating Angel [Mexico: El ángel exterminador] (1962) directed by Luis Buñuel
The Eye of the Day [Netherlands: De stand von de zon] (2001) directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich
Good Work [France: Beau travail] (1999) directed by Claire Denis
Hunger (2008) directed by Steve McQueen
Man with a Movie Camera [Russia: Chelovek s kino-apparatom] (1929) directed by Dziga Vertov
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) directed by Maya Deren & Alexander Hammid
Of Time And The City (2008) directed by Terence Davies
Operation Filmmaker (2007) directed by Nina Davenport
People’s Park (2012) directed by Libbie Cohn & J.P. Sniadecki
Position Among the Stars [Netherlands: Stand van de Sterren] (2011) directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich
Print Generation (1974) directed by J. J. Murphy
Shape of the Moon [Netherlands: Stand van de Maan] (2005) directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich
Sherman’s March (1986) directed by Ross McElwee
Sink or Swim (1990) directed by Su Friedrich
Sweetgrass (2009) directed by Ilisa Barbash & Lucien Castaing-Taylor
Tarnation (2003) directed by Jonathan Caouette
The Ties That Bind (1984) directed by Su Friedrich
Time Indefinite (1993) directed by Ross McElwee
The Tree of Life (2011) directed by Terrence Malick
Waking Life (2001) directed by Richard Linklater
Workingman’s Death (2005) directed by Michael Glawogger

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“The Classics”

Older movies that have aged especially well, encompassing all of the above genres. Still as gripping and/or compelling as good contemporary movies, not to mention hugely influential in modern cinema.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) directed by Stanley Kubrick
The 400 Blows [France: Les Quatre Cent Coups] (1959) directed by François Truffaut
The Adventurer (1915) directed by Charlie Chaplin
Aliens (1986) directed by James Cameron
All About Eve (1950) directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
All the President’s Men (1976) directed by Alan J. Pakula
Amadeus (1984) directed by Milos Forman
Animal House (1978) directed by John Landis
Annie Hall (1977) directed by Woody Allen
Apocalypse Now (1979) directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Army of Shadows [France: L’armée des ombres] (1969) directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Au Revoir Les Enfants [France] (1987) directed by Louis Malle
The Bad Sleep Well [Japan: 悪い奴ほどよく眠る] (1960) directed by Akira Kurosawa
Badlands (1973) directed by Terrence Malick
The Battle of Algiers [Italy: La battaglia di Algeri] (1966) directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
Blade Runner (1982) directed by Ridley Scott**
Blazing Saddles (1974) directed by Mel Brooks
Blood Simple (1984) directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
Blue Velvet (1986) directed by David Lynch
Bonnie and Clyde (1967) directed by Arthur Penn
The Breakfast Club (1985) directed by John Hughes
Breathless [France: À bout de souffle] (1960) directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) directed by George Roy Hill
Caddyshack (1980) directed by Harold Ramis
Casablanca (1943) directed by Michael Curtiz
Chinatown (1974) directed by Roman Polanski
Citizen Kane (1941) directed by Orson Welles
Cléo from 5 to 7 [France: Cléo de 5 à 7] (1962) directed by Agnès Varda
A Clockwork Orange (1971) directed by Stanley Kubrick
The Conversation (1974) directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Contempt [France: Le mépris] (1963) directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) directed by Woody Allen
Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963) directed by Robert Drew
The Day of the Jackal (1973) directed by Fred Zinneman
Days of Heaven (1978) directed by Terrence Malick
The Deer Hunter (1978) directed by Michael Cimino
Die Hard (1988) directed by John McTiernan
Do the Right Thing (1989) directed by Spike Lee
Dog Day Afternoon (1975) directed by Sidney Lumet
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) directed by Stanley Kubrick
Duck Soup (1933) directed by Leo McCarey
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) directed by Steven Spielberg
Fail-Safe (1964) directed by Sidney Lumet
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) directed by John Hughes
Full Metal Jacket (1987) directed by Stanley Kubrick
Gandhi (1982) directed by Richard Attenborough
The General (1926) directed by Buster Keaton
The Godfather (1972) directed by Francis Ford Coppola
The Godfather Part II (1974) directed by Francis Ford Coppola
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) directed by Sergio Leone
Goodfellas (1990) directed by Martin Scorsese
Grass (1925) directed by Merian Cooper & Ernest Schoedsack
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) directed by Woody Allen
Harold and Maude (1971) directed by Hal Ashby
The Hidden Fortress [Japan: 隠し砦の三悪人] (1958) directed by Akira Kurosawa
Ikiru [Japan: 生きる] (1952) directed by Akira Kurosawa
The Immigrant (1915) directed by Charlie Chaplin
Jaws (1975) directed by Steven Spielberg
The Kid (1921) directed by Charlie Chaplin
Last Tango in Paris [France] (1972) directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
Le Cercle Rouge [France] (1970) directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
M [Germany] (1931) directed by Fritz Lang
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) directed by George Miller
The Maltese Falcon (1941) directed by John Huston
The Man Who Would Be King (1975) directed by John Huston
McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) directed by Robert Altman
Mean Streets (1973) directed by Martin Scorsese
Metropolis (1927) directed by Fritz Lang
Mon Oncle [France] (1958) directed by Jacques Tati
Monterey Pop (1968) directed by D. A. Pennebaker
Murder on the Orient Express (1974) directed by Sidney Lumet
My Left Foot (1989) directed by Jim Sheridan
Nanook of the North (1922) directed by Robert J. Flaherty
Nashville (1975) directed by Robert Altman
Network (1976) directed by Sidney Lumet
Notorious (1946) directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Odd Man Out (1947) directed by Carol Reed
On the Waterfront (1954) directed by Elia Kazan
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) directed by Sergio Leone
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) directed by Milos Forman
Paths of Glory (1957) directed by Stanley Kubrick
Patton (1970) directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
Platoon (1986) directed by Oliver Stone
The Princess Bride (1987) directed by Rob Reiner
Psycho (1960) directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Raging Bull (1980) directed by Martin Scorsese
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) directed by Steven Spielberg
Rashomon [Japan: 羅生門] (1950) directed by Akira Kurosawa
Rear Window (1954) directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Rocky (1976) directed by John G. Avildsen
The Rules of the Game [France: Le règle du jeu] (1939) directed by Jean Renoir
Le Samourai [France] (1967) directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Seven Samurai [Japan: 七人の侍] (1954) directed by Akira Kurosawa
Shoah (1985) directed by Claude Lanzmann
Solaris [Russia: Solyaris] (1972) directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Spartacus (1960) directed by Stanley Kubrick
Stalker [Russia] (1979) directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) directed by George Lucas
Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) directed by Irvin Kershner
Star Wars, Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi (1983) directed by Richard Marquand
The Sting (1973) directed by George Roy Hill
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) directed by Elia Kazan
Sunset Boulevard (1950) directed by Billy Wilder
Taxi Driver (1976) directed by Martin Scorsese
The Terminator (1984) directed by James Cameron
The Third Man (1949) directed by Carol Reed
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979) directed by John Irvin
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) directed by Robert Mulligan
Vertigo (1958) directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Wall Street (1987) directed by Oliver Stone

*Only in a cinema, in 3-D.

**Only the ‘Director’s Cut’–in these cases, it makes a significant difference.

***Very good, but be forewarned: this is far and away, no question, the most heartbreaking movie I’ve ever seen.

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