30 Movies You Should Watch Before 40

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1. Fight Club (1999)
I’m starting with this cult classic because it’s an absolute favorite. The story revolves around an unnamed protagonist who in an attempt to overcome his struggles with masculinity and consumerism, starts a fight club “as a radical form of psychotherapy”. This movie is best watched without any spoilers, so don’t go around looking it up. Just watch it. Seriously.
2. The Godfather (1972)
Who hasn’t heard of The Godfather. This film revolves around the outbreak of a gang war set in the late 1940’s that took place in NYC. The Godfather has been widely regarded as one of the “greatest films in world cinema” and as one of the most influential. If that’s not enough to sell it to you, I don’t know what will.
3. Forrest Gump (1994)
Seems to be a recurring theme with movies based on novels. Starring the marvelous Tom Hanks, the story shows the naïve Forrest Gump’s life throughout several decades, who witnesses and even takes part in some of the most memorable events of the late 20th century. It’s such a light-hearted film but might make you feel a lot of things. In conclusion, it’s definitely a must-watch.
4. Pulp Fiction (1994)
This Quentin Tarantino comedy crime masterpiece is a classic. With its ironic mix of violence and humor and lots of pop culture references this movie was nominated for 7 Oscars. Starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, Pulp Fiction connects the story lines of LA mobsters, fringe players, small-time criminals and the mysterious briefcase. This movie could be broken down and analysed for ever but the best way to get into all those interesting analytical discussions, is to give it a watch.
5. Psycho (1960)
A classics list would be incomplete without Hitchcock. Once again based on a novel, this film is about Marion Crane, a secretary who ends up at a motel after embezzling money from an employer and the motel’s disturbed owner manager. It has been said to have “set a new level of acceptability for violence, deviant behavior and sexuality in American films” and the US Library of Congress said it was “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” Convinced?
Drama
6. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Banker Andy Dufresne is convicted of a double murder even though he continues to proclaim his innocence. He’s then sentenced to a life time in Shawshank State Prison where he meets “Red” and faces the ugly realities of prison life. Think a little Orange Is The New Black? Or maybe not! If you’ve liked American History X, City of God or Trainspotting then this is definitely your type.
7. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Along the vibes of The Truman Show and a little American Beauty, this movie is one of Nicholson’s best. McMurphy escapes prison by pleading insanity and when sent to a ward for the mentally unstable, he both endures and witnesses the abuse and degradation of the Nurse Ratched and of course, the nurse must be taken down. Great plot line and also – surprise, surprise! – based on a book.
8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
One of my absolute favorites. You have Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet at one of their finest moments playing the intriguing Joel and Clementine. This is also another that is best watched without any spoilers but the gist of it is that Clementine applies to undergo a procedure to erase Joel from her memories but the experience in itself allows them to truly understand what they had in the first place. Filled with beautiful quotes and really intriguing moments, this one is a top recommendation for the indie film lovers out there.
9. Her (2013)
I was wondering whether I should add a new film to the list or not but this list would be incomplete without Her. In a world where artificially intelligent operating systems have become accessible to everyone and are designed to have a conscious, Theodore finds himself developing a very unlikely relationship with his OS, Samantha. This film truly touches on our dependency when it comes to technology and what our possible dystopia/utopia could look like. Very thought provoking.
10. American Beauty (1999)
This one is a true classic. With the brilliant Kevin Spacy as Lester Burnham, a depressed suburban father struggling with a mid-life crisis, American Beauty truly explores the life of suburban America from the housewife archetype to the American dream with just the perfect amount of nostalgic vibes for the modern viewer.
War
11. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Following the invasion of Normandy, two brothers lay dead while in New Guinea a third brother has been killed fighting the Japanese. After the Army General Staff learns that a fourth brothers missing in the French countryside, a rescue mission is sent to find the young soldier and return him home. This mission to “Save Private Ryan” is a thrilling, although intensely graphic journey.
12. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Full Metal Jacket, directed by Stanley Kubrick, is a war film about the dehumanization of U.S. recruits in the Vietnam War both in the brutal boot camps to the streets in Hue. Focused on the Tet Offensive, this film is a great look back into history with all its grim bits left in.
13. Platoon (1986)
Following the theme of the Vietnam War, Platoon is the first film of a trilogy of Vietnam War films by Oliver Stone and is based on Stone’s own experiences as a U.S. infantryman in contrast with John Wayne’s vision of the war as portrayed in The Green Berets. It’s also the first Hollywood film to be written and directed by a veteran of the war in Vietnam.
14. 300 (2007)
300 is an American fantasy action film based on the 1998 comic series of the same name by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, which is a retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae. The plot is about King Leonidas who leads 300 Spartans into battle against the Persian Xerxes. Definitely a classic and one that I have watched one too many times.
15. Schindler’s List (1993)
The first time I watched this movie was for History class and when I got home I decided to watch the full thing and boy was I not disappointed. Schindler’s List is considered an “epic historical drama film” directed and co-produced by the legendary Spielbrg. The story is based on the life of Oskar Schindler who was a German businessman who saved more than a thousand Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust.