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The A to Z of Movies to See Before You Die

By Edited Sep 24, 2016 5 10

The A to Z of Movies to See Before You Die
Credit: Spash

The Alphabetical Bucket List of Must See Films

Do you love film? What films do you think you should see before you die? Are you well versed in cinema but need some inspiration as to what to watch next? Perhaps you would like to improve your knowledge of moving pictures? Check out this bucket list and see how many of the films you have seen. The list runs from A-Z but you will notice that is certain cases (such as films starting ‘the’ or with ‘q’ and ‘x’) some liberty is taken with the first letter.


A is for ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979)

This masterpiece is an adaptation of ‘Heart of Darkness’ set in the Vietnam War. The story of the making of the film (captured in the documentary ‘Hearts of Darkness’) is almost as fascinating as the movie itself. For example, the scene with Captain Willard getting drunk and mentally falling apart in his room; that really is Martin Sheen having a nervous breakdown. Shocking and captivating in equal measure.

Mission ‘A’ accomplished? Then why not try: Alien, American Beauty, A Clockwork Orange, Amelie, Amadeus, Annie Hall

Apocalypse Now(125121)
Credit: Amazon

B is for ‘Blade Runner’ (1982)

Philip K. Dick’s psychedelic science fiction writing has inspired many movies (such as Minority Report and Total Recall) but Blade Runner has to be the best. The film set a benchmark for science fiction films and has been imitated and referenced many times since. Make sure you see the original.

Looking for a replicant of B? Then try: Braveheart, Bicycle Thieves, Batman Begins, Ben-Hur, Back to the Future


C is for ‘Citizen Kane’ (1941)

Orson Welles wrote, directed and starred in this epic film. Many people have tried and failed to pull a similar trio since. If you do not know what ‘Rosebud’ refers to then you need to see this movie.

If you have a little longer to live check out these Cs: City of God, Casablanca, Cinema Paradiso, Chinatown, Cool Hand Luke


D is for ‘Das Boot’ (1981)

This film perfectly captures the tension of war, in this case seen from the perspective of a German U-Boat crew. You will never want to get inside a submarine after seeing this. Prepare to have your nerves shattered.

Have you come up for air looking for another good title under D? Then target: Dr Strangelove or How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb, Die Hard, Downfall, Donnie Darko


E is for ‘E.T .’ (1982)

Do you know this scene?

Elliott: “E.T., stay with me. Please...”

E.T.: “...stay.”

Elliott: “Together. I'll be right here. I'll be right here.”

E.T.: “Stay, Elliott. Stay. Stay. Stay. Stay.”

Scientist: “The boy's coming back. We're losing E.T..”

Elliott: “E.T., answer me, please. Please.”

I am welling up so I’ll stop here; go and watch it while I recover myself.

Do you want to phone home for another E? What not try: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, European Vacation


F is for ‘Fight Club’ (1999)

What is the first rule of fight club? Who is Tyler Durden? If you don’t know then you need to get this movie. This movie is brutal, surprising and witty; it will make you laugh and grimace.

Ready to do a few more rounds with films that start with F? Try: Forrest Gump, Full Metal Jacket, For a Few Dollars More, Fargo


G is for ‘(The) Godfather Part 2’ (1974)

Better than the original Godfather? One thing is for sure; this is Al Pacino and Robert De Niro on top form. Want some further advice? Do not bother seeing Part 3; it is a let down after Part 2.

Want to whack some more Gs? Then hunt down: Goodfellas, Gladiator, Gran Torino, Good Will Hunting, Gone with the Wind, Groundhog Day, Gandhi


H is for ‘Heat’ (1995)

Al Pacino and Robert De Niro go head to head once again in this tense action drama. The gunfight down the street (you will know it when you see it) has to be rated as one of the best gun battles in movie history.

Cooled down and wanting another H? Take down: Hotel Rwanda, High Noon, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2


I is for ‘Inception’ (2010)

This movie proved that people still enjoying thinking when they go to the cinema. The special effects are awesome but it is the intricate storyline that keeps you engaged. Have you seen it or did you just dream that you saw it? Whose idea is it to see the movie anyway? Watch it and try to work out the answer.

Dreaming of more from I? Look out for: It's a Wonderful Life, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Into the Wild


J is for ‘Jaws’ (1975)

Another great work from Spielberg this movie is about obsession (oh, and a big fish). The film that put a generation off swimming in the sea.

Have you appeared from behind the sofa looking for more big teeth from J? Try: Jurassic Park


K is for ‘King Kong’ (1933)

The 1933 version of King Kong set the standard for creature features and even though the special effects feel very clunky now the storyline is a classic, hence the remake. Watch this one first, then the 2005 version. 

Want another movie giant starting with K? Set your sights on: King Kong (2005), (The) Kid


L is for ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ (1962)

See this on the largest screen you can get hold of. Buy your own IMAX cinema if you can. Saying that, you do not need 3D to be caught up by the sweeping camera shots and expansive vistas.

Shaken the sand from your feet and want another L? Try: Leon, LA Confidential, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, La Haine


M is for ‘Modern Times’ (1936)

No ‘best of’ film list can really be complete with a Charlie Chaplin movie. Charlie does not need to talk in order to rage against the machine.

Need more M on your production line? M has also manufactured: (The) Matrix, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Metropolis


N is for ‘Nosferatu’ (1922)

Vampires really are hard to kill; our cinemas are full of them. See the film that spawned a thousand fangs. Graf Orlok gives a haunting rendition of the Count, but much of the film was lost due to copyright battles with the Stoker family (due to the obvious reference to Dracula). ‘Shadow of the Vampire’ (2000) fills in the blanks so see this too.

Want to get your teeth into more N movies? You will like the taste of: North by Northwest, No Country for Old Men


O is for ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest’ (1975)

This is arguably Jack Nicolson’s finest performance; captivating, infuriating, devastating. Warning: it may take you some time to emotionally recover after watching this film.

Escaped the asylum and looking for another O? Track down: Once upon a time in the West, Oldboy, On the Waterfront


P is for ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ (2006)

Guillermo del Toro helps to redefine fantasy in this surreal exploration of war from the perspective of a young girl. Result: a surreal visual feast.

Found your way out of the maze and want another P? Try: Pulp Fiction, Psycho, Reservoir Dogs, Platoon


Q is for ‘(All) Quiet on the Western Front’ (1930)

Ok, this is a bit of a cheat for Q, but if you see it you will understand why it should be on the ‘must see’ list. It is a war film that captures the futility and drudgery of war, as seen through the eyes of a disillusioned soldier. Very moving.

There is not much waiting in the Q but do check out: Quadrophenia


R is for ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (1981)

Harrison Ford outruns boulders, swashes buckles and defeats the Nazis. Archaeology? Yes, but with bull whips instead of trowels. Watch it; love it.

Seeking another treasure beginning with R? Dig up: Rashomon, Raging Bull, Rocky


S is for ‘Seven Samurai’ (1954)

There are swords, lots of swords; but also finely drawn characters and a classic story to bind them all together. This is Director Akira Kurosawa’s definitive work and way better than remakes such as the ‘Magnificent Seven’. Take up the fight today.

Are you still standing and ready for more from S? Take on: (The) Shawshank Redemption, Schindlers List, Star Wars: Episode IV, Stand by Me, (The) Seventh Seal


T is for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (1962)

Gregory Peck provides the most compelling and inspiring picture of fatherhood in cinema history. He epitomises justice, bravery and wisdom in this famous adaptation of Harper Lee’s award winning book.

Court adjourned and wanting another case? How about these Ts: (The) Terminator, Taxi Driver, Toy Story 3, Seventh Seal, Toy Story


U is for ‘Unforgiven’ (1992)

Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this dark reframing of the Western. You may have seen Clint play the anti-hero before, but not like this, not like this…

Are U quick on the draw and wanting more? Watch out for: Up, (The) Usual Suspects


V is for ‘Vertigo’ (1958)

Alfred Hitchcock is at the top of his game directing James Stewart alongside Kim Novak in this acrophobic thriller. Also brilliantly spoofed in Mel Brooks’ ‘High Anxiety’.

Ready to look down again? Fix your eyes on this V: V for Vendetta


W is for ‘WALL-E’ (2008)

True, it’s not everyone’s favourite animated film, but this robot love story blends a brilliantly observed homage to silent film with a clear environmental message.

Recycled that one and need another? Clean up these other Ws: Witness for the Prosecution, We Need to Talk About Kevin


X is for ‘American History X’ (1998)

Edward Norton is utterly convincing in this brutal portrayal of neo-Nazis. The ‘kerb’ scene is not for the feint hearted, but the film’s message has greater impact than the violence.

Did X mark the spot? Then why not try: Malcolm X, X-Men


Y is for ‘Yip Man’ (2008)

Yip Man (The original title for Ip Man) is the biographical story of the martial arts master who inspired Bruce Lee. If you are going to see a Kung Fu movie, make it this one (but then go and see ‘Enter the Dragon’, ‘Kung Fu Hustle’ and ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’ of course!)

Have you mastered Wing Chun but are still asking Y? Get an answer with: 3:10 to Yuma, Yojimbo


Z is for Zulu (1964)

Thousands of Zulu warriors surround 140 British Soldiers, all seems lost, but no one had warned the Zulus that these Welsh Infantrymen could sing. Never has war sounded so good. Michael Caine fends off spears and the Royal Engineers save the day. Hurrah! Tea and medals anyone?

End of the line? It is in when Z is for: Zombieland

Credit: Amazon


Dec 31, 2012 11:18am
What would you add to the list?
Jan 16, 2013 12:24am
I think you overreached and not by just a little. You missed classics by Ford, Kubrick, Peckinpah, Capra, Hitchcock, Woody Allen, Kurosawa, Tarantino (perhaps you've heard of him?), etc. ( I could name another two dozen)
But more to the point, you consider Heat a good movie? The egos of the two stars wouldn't even allow them to play a scene together. That movie is a joke.
Another question, "What would GF 2 be without the original? Leave the gun, get the cannoli and watch some more movies.
Jan 16, 2013 2:30am
Hi Hillloyd, thanks for the response. You are right, I had to leave out many films by various directors (although if you read carefully most of the directors you mentioned are covered, even if just in the further recommendations under each letter.) In researching the piece I had to balance films that I like, with comments from various critics, along with popular opinion. No such list can ever be definitive - art is too subjective for that - but I do hope that it does provoke discussion (like this) and gives people some ideas for films to watch. I love cinema so I will certainly continue to devour films. 2012 was a great year for film, lets hope 2013 brings many more!
Jan 16, 2013 6:53am
What a nice list of great movies.

Thumbs up from me!
Jan 16, 2013 7:59am
Hi MeinePCwelt, thank you, glad you liked it!
Jan 16, 2013 8:23am
IP Man is one of the coolest movies I have ever seen. I love it and the fact it is based on a true story makes the movie even more memorable.
Jan 16, 2013 8:58am
Gonzo, I agree, even for someone like me who loves and has watched loads of kung-fu movies, Ip Man blows your socks off!
Jan 19, 2013 12:26pm
Nice list. the funny thing about Donnie Yen (Ip Man) is that just 2 years before he starred in Ip Man he played a 19-20 yo boys in Dragon Tiger Gate :lol:
Jan 20, 2013 5:43am
Thanks dennis40! I had not realised that about Donnie Yen, I will check out Dragon Tiger Gate.
Jan 28, 2013 1:11am
Well we've all got different taste but I enjoyed the article. Especially agree on R and T!
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