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Top 10 Movies Everyone Should See at Least Once

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden

These films are essential watches. From Psycho to Schindler’s List, WatchMojo is counting down the films we feel should be seen by everybody at some point in their lifetime, either because they’re classics, their impact on pop culture, or for how innovative or interesting they are.


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Script written by Garrett Alden

Top 10 Movies Everyone Should See at Least Once

These films are essential watches. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Movies Everyone Should See At Least Once.

For this list, we’ll be going over the films we feel should be seen by everybody at some point in their lifetime, either because they’re classics, their impact on pop culture, or for how innovative or interesting they are.

#10: “Seven Samurai” (1954)

One of director Akira Kurosawa’s greatest and most famous films, “Seven Samurai” depicts a group of ronin, or samurai without masters, who are hired to protect a village from bandits. The film is epic in length and scale and features compelling characters and fantastic action. It’s also one of the most influential movies of the 20th century, sparking a whole host of films about a small group of fighters battling against incredible odds to save the defenseless. Given its impact on cinema and other media, as well as how engrossing it is, “Seven Samurai” is definitely worthy of watching – provided you have a spare 3 and a half hours.

#9: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” (1975)

The story of Randle McMurphy, a prisoner transferred to a mental hospital, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” follows his relationships with the patients and the tyrannical Nurse Ratched. Ratched and McMurphy’s opposing viewpoints, particularly regarding the treatment of McMurphy’s fellow patients, leads to a battle of wills between control and freedom that’s universally compelling. In addition, “Cuckoo’s Nest” features excellent performances and insightful commentary on how we should treat the people that society considers abnormal. The film’s perfect blend of moving friendships, comedy, and dramatic turns has made it among the most acclaimed movies ever made.

#8: “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975)

The absurd and bizarre adventures of King Arthur and the knights of Camelot on their quest to find the Holy Grail, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” is among the funniest films ever made. Nearly every scene is a wonderfully crafted piece of comedic gold, with most of it delivered by the same half a dozen actors. In addition, the grandiose music and settings perfectly offset the incredibly silly dialogue. Though some would argue it’s not Monty Python’s best work, there’s no denying how accessible and utterly quotable the movie is, with references to it found all over pop culture.

#7: “Psycho” (1960)

Though it was hard narrowing down just one of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies for this list, “Psycho” had to be our pick. The story of the Bates Motel’s guests encountering the disturbed Norman Bates and his domineering mother has had a tremendous impact on cinema and pop culture. Not only have individual scenes become iconic, but also the whole film has influenced the creation of the entire slasher genre of horror films and paved the way for plot twists to become a major aspect of movies. Along with its effects, “Psycho” is just an exceptional film.

#6: “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

Depicting the dawn of man, as well as a manned spaceflight to Jupiter that goes horribly wrong, “2001: A Space Odyssey” may have a more thematically driven plot than most movies, but that makes the plot it does have all the more memorable. So much of the film is iconic and has influenced popular culture, from its soaring score, to its revolutionary effects, to its depiction of artificial intelligence turning on humans. “2001” is worthy of its “Space Odyssey” label, as it takes viewers on an unforgettable journey that everyone needs to experience.

#5: “Schindler's List” (1993)

Steven Spielberg has made many great and popular movies, but “Schindler’s List” is arguably his most important, if not his best. The film is based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German factory owner who saved over 1000 Jewish people from the Holocaust by employing them. “Schindler’s List” unflinchingly depicts many of the horrors experienced by those persecuted and murdered by the Nazis during their time in power, as well as the admirable perseverance of those who lived through it. The movie shows us humanity at its worst, but also at its best.

#4: “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994)

There are prison movies, and then there’s “The Shawshank Redemption.” The film follows Andy Dufresne, an apparently wrongly convicted man and his experiences inside, with specific focus given to his work with the corrupt warden and his friendship with longtime prisoner, Red. “The Shawshank Redemption” is a popular and very rewatchable film, with several notable sequences that are frequently referenced in other works. Its portrayal of friendship and its message of maintaining hope in the face of despair are also quite touching, reminding us all that life can get better, no matter how bleak it may seem.

#3: “GoodFellas” (1990)

Martin Scorsese has directed many exceptional films, and while we considered choosing “Taxi Driver” instead, especially in light of an entry yet to come, we just couldn’t justify not picking “GoodFellas” over any of the rest – it’s just too good. The story of the rise and fall of real life gangster Henry Hill, “GoodFellas” is eminently watchable, with a compelling story, memorable characters, excellent performances, spectacular direction, and quotable lines. It’s an excellent balance of a quality film and a popular film, though our next two entries are arguably the best of each of those categories.

#2: “The Godfather” (1972)

“The Godfather” isn’t just “the godfather” of the modern gangster movie – it’s a phenomenal movie, period. The story of Michael Corleone being gradually drawn into his family’s criminal business, “The Godfather” has a multitude of iconic scenes, moments, and lines that have influenced pop culture, and its performances and plot are absolutely stellar. There may be some movies that are technically better, but they are few in number indeed. “The Godfather” is an absolute must-see movie, though not quite as essential as our final entry.

Before we get to our top pick, here’s a few honorable mentions:

“Citizen Kane” (1941)

“The Matrix” (1999)

“Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope” (1977)

#1: “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)

The timeless tale of Dorothy Gale being whisked away from Kansas to the wonderful world of Oz, and her adventures to defeat an evil witch and return home, “The Wizard of Oz” is among the most enduringly popular movies of all time. There are better films, even on our list, but this one is a cultural touchstone whose imagery, characters, songs, and dialogue pervade cinema, culture, and even our vernacular. If you haven’t seen “The Wizard of Oz” yet, click your heels together and get on it right now!

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