Bear in mind that this is by no means a ranking. I have no real favourites. I generally lean toward historical movies (either cultural or war), but I also enjoy science fiction, superhero, kung fu and I dab into various others.
By no means am I saying this is the be all and end all of movies you have to watch to save your life from nothingness and despair. Just that I like these, and they’re what I can currently think of.
- Goodbye Lenin! - If I did have a favourite, this would probably be it.
- Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain - This shares the same musician with Goodbye Lenin!
- Waking Ned Devine - is an extremely charming Irish film
- Das Leben der Anderen - in English, “The Lives of Others”
- Trainspotting - Although this film is about heroin addiction, its background is of an economically depressed Edinburgh which is part of the motivator for the addicts in the film.
War films - I’m going to generally stay away from the American ones which most people would have heard of.
- Das Boot - A German submarine in WW2
- Indigénes - African and Arab soldiers in the French army of WW2
- Letters from Iwo Jima - this is American made but really well done, told from the Japanese side (which is really freaking rare, I don’t have to tell you)
- Joyeux Noel - German, French and Scottish soldiers celebrate Christmas 1914
- Gallipoli - Mel Gibson’s original role in the classic (and good) Australian film in the titular battle of WW1
- Glory - An all black regiment in the American Civil War, and Mathew Broderick. But still an excellent film.
- Waltz With Bashir - Completely animated anti-war film of the Israeli occupation of Lebanon
- Taegukgi - Bear in mind, most war films are depressing but this is probably the most depressing I’ve ever seen. Interesting though, Korean made and set in the Korean War.
- Gettysburg - Only if you’re really interested in the American Civil War. The attention to detail is superb.
- Moon - I recently watched this and loved it
- Star Trek 2, 4, 6 - Of all the Star Trek movies ever, these from the original crew are my favourites. For storyline cohesion you should watch 3, which is still good sci-fi but less entertaining. First Contact is the best of the TNG movies but a little dumbed down.
- Blade Runner - based on the Philip K. Dick story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”
- Total Recall - Despite that this is an Arnold action movie, it’s actually great science fiction as well since it’s also based on a Philip K. Dick story (“We can remember for you wholesale”). Besides, Arnold adds his very odd charm to it.
- District 9 - South African movie with aliens as a metaphor of apartheid
- Star Wars - This isn’t really science fiction, more space fantasy, but I couldn’t put it anywhere else. Original Trilogy only.
- Aliens - also more of an action movie than sci fi, it’s still utterly terrific and has one of the best heroines on film ever.
- Predator - Also an Arnold classic and more of an action movie than sci-fi, it still holds up today. Note that the filmmakers satirized the culture of guns and violence, which is why the overly macho and gun-toting characters are just so comical
Kung Fu - I’m not an expert on these but these are the ones I enjoy:
- Drunken Master 2 (in the US “The Legend of Drunken Master”) - Jackie Chan playing Cantonese folk hero Wong Fei Hung. This is probably the best Jackie Chan movie, in my view. Genuinely funny, good kung fu, ridiculous stunts.
- Bruce Lee’s movies. Don’t need to name them all, they’re all great.
- Once Upon A Time in China - Probably the best of Jet Li’s early work
- Hero - This is an odd one to recommend. I don’t entirely like it but it really is extremely pretty.
- Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle - these movies aren’t really kung fu movies, they’re comedies by Stephen Chow (who is first and foremost a comedian) which play on the Kung Fu genre. I wish I understood Cantonese better to watch his actual comedies, because these films were more catered towards international audiences, which includes me. I found them very charming and very fun.
Superhero - Again, everyone knows the famous ones, so I just have one to add:
- Super - Ironically came out around the same time as Kick-Ass and has the same basic principle of a normal dude who dresses up in a costume to fight crime, but takes its subject matter a lot more seriously. It’s a good overall film with interesting themes about the nature of vigilantism, the culture of entertaining violence, and so on.
- The Rocketeer - This is a relatively less known but rather classic movie. It’s really well made and tells a really good, rather heart-warming story.
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Is probably the most famous and the best of the Spaghetti Westerns. Probably my favourite Western ever
- Seven Samurai - black and white classic
- The Princess Bride - is one of the most charming films from the early 90s.
- Ghostbusters - Just the first one. The second is just okay. But the first is brilliant
So bad they’re funny - Best digested with beer and friends:
- Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness - This is a trashy B movie and it totally knows it, which is what makes it so brilliant. It has a lot of fun with itself and invites you to have fun with it
- Passchaendaele - This is my favourite war movie to completely trash. It is so ridiculously bad that it blows my mind, despite the high production values.
- Death to Smoochy - This is an odd one. But it features Edward Norton in a pink rhino costume, and Jon Stewart.
- Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure - I think history nerds all should see this, sooner or later.
- Commando - Probably the purest representation of an Arnold action movie ever. Ridiculously over the top, ridiculously 80s, and probably the best one-liners ever.
- Shaun of the Dead - A really smart, funny movie having fun with the zombie genre. In England.
- Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels - I almost put this in the cultural section, because it has such fun with cockney accents and the way English northerners and southerners hate each other
- Fight Club - it says a lot that the movie is far, far more well known than the book, with reason.
- The Boondock Saints - This is a cult classic. It has charming Irish men as vigilantes in Boston and Willem Dafoe. Willem Dafoe.
- A Fish Called Wanda - Quite the all star cast and really fun
- Lola Rennt - I like how simple this story is and how creative it is