Movies to see once in your life

I’m going to try to cap this at 200 movies, which will probably get harder as time goes on because lots of good films will come out. At the time of writing I’m only at 140 movies, so I will come back and update this in the future, no doubt.

I’ll give a brief synopsis of each film and a link to the Letterboxd page so you can see where each movie is available (note that you can often pay a couple of quid to see a movie on YouTube even if this isn’t listed). I also have a lot of these on DVD, so if you want to do movie days with me and watch each others’ movie lists, I should be able to dig some of these out.

  1. Jurassic Park (1993) – Dinosaurs are brought back to life through DNA science and a man tries to open a dinosaur zoo. Why are you still sitting here.
  2. The Big Lebowski (1998) – Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski is mistaken for another, “big” Lebowski, and dragged into a lot of weird stuff.
  3. Harvey (1950) – Elwood P. Dowd is the only one who can see a rabbit-shaped Pooka named Harvey. His sister tries to commit him to a mental institution.
  4. Bell, Book and Candle (1958) – Kim Novak plays a Witch who pursues her neighbour. She has a cat called Pyewacket who is my favourite.
  5. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) – Hilarity ensues as an advertising executive decides to move his family to an old farmhouse rather than renovate their cramped apartment.
  6. The Prince of Egypt (1998) – This film makes me cry buckets time and again. Beautifully animated adaptation of the Book of Exodus. Ofra Haza provided Yoheved’s haunting voice.
  7. Banshee Chapter (2013) – A scene from this film pops into my mind fairly often. Based on From Beyond by H.P. Lovecraft. Weird radio signals, missing friends, MK-Ultra.
  8. The Devil’s Backbone (2001) – Precursor to Pan’s Labyrinth, a boy arrives at an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War, and meets the ghost of a boy who disappeared on the night that an unexploded bomb landed in the orphanage’s courtyard.
  9. Black Book (2006) – I saw this film a lot later than everyone else but it is very powerful. Apparently voted the best Dutch film ever made, by the public. A young Jewish woman (played by Carice van Houten) infiltrates the Nazis.
  10. Einsatzgruppen (2009) – Things that I can’t describe to you, your eyes have to see them.
  11. House of Wax (2005) – This is a real guilty pleasure film of mine, full of nostalgia for my sister and I. Teenagers get trapped in an entire town rigged with wax people.
  12. We Go On (2016) – Man with a fear of dying offers a reward to anyone who can prove the existence of life after death. There’s a scene in this film that gave me a hell of a chill.
  13. The Cleansing Hour (2019) – A group streams fake exorcisms online, until they accidentally have a real one.
  14. Ju-On: The Curse (2000) – It all starts with the murder of a woman, her son, and their cat. Everyone who visits the house ends up touched by it.
  15. Ju-On: The Curse 2 (2000) – An estate agent who can’t shift the cursed house, asks his spiritually-receptive sister to investigate it, which sets off another string of events. Eventually, hundreds of ghost ladies end up clawing at the windows of a school. I think about it quite often.
  1. Ju-On: The Grudge (2002) – Undoubtedly the film that popularised ghosts having a death rattle. Victims of the house’s curse are shown in nonlinear order, as the house causes time paradoxes. A social worker visits the elderly mother of a salaryman, and finds her living in disarray in a haunted house.
  2. Ju-On: The Grudge 2 (2003) – A TV crew use the house to film one of those shows where they pretend to feel that creepy stuff is going on. Unfortunately, the real curse spreads through them. Then it gets very, VERY weird. An adult woman may or may not give birth to another adult woman.
  3. The Eye (2002) – A blind woman receives cornea transplants, but discovers the previous owner of the eyes could see the dead.
  4. Ringu (1998) – This movie is responsible for a lot! A journalist investigates a rumour about a VHS tape that causes you to die 7 days after viewing it.
  5. Ringu 2 (1999) – The girlfriend of one of the casualties of the previous film, gets roped into a lot of spooky stuff.
  6. Ringu 0 (2000) – Taking place 30 years prior to the first film, the cause of the curse is revealed.
  7. From the Dark (2014) – A couple in the Irish countryside hide on a farm from an actually scary vampire.
  8. As Above, So Below (2014) – I did not expect to enjoy this film quite so much and return to it so many times. Explorers searching the Paris catacombs for the Flamel stone, find Hell.
  9. Hush (2016) – A deaf woman fights off a killer in her isolated home, saves her cat. This film means a lot to me as someone who became deaf in adulthood (though nowhere near as profoundly as the character), because it doesn’t end with some sappy story of her giving up independence.
  10. JeruZalem (2015) – I don’t want to spoil this one too much but there’s a scene with a Google Glass using face recognition and it has stayed with me for a long time.
  11. The Shrine (2010) – Another one of those films with moments that have stuck with me even though the film itself isn’t overtly special. Journalists investigate tourists going missing in a Polish village, finding bodies with metal masks stuck to their faces.
  12. Insidious (2010) – Honestly one of my favourite films. A boy falls into a coma and numerous malevolent entities try to claim his body.
  13. The Vigil (2019) – I am truly spooked by the lore and demonology of my people, and this film has them in spades. A man who left the orthodox community is asked to perform shemira for an elderly man who has died. Unfortunately, that man is haunted by a terrifying Mazzik.
  14. [REC] (2007) – A news reporter following firemen becomes trapped in an apartment building with the victims of a cannibalistic virus.
  15. Hereditary (2018) – This is another one of those films that is hard to describe and is better off just being watched.
  16. The Evil Dead (1981) – Bruce Campbell stars as one of a group of college students who go to a cabin in the woods, find the Necronomicon, and are daft enough to play some incantations. Chaos ensues.
  17. Evil Dead (2013) – Seen as a continuation rather than a remake of the original. It’s really good.
  18. Crowsnest (2012) – I don’t remember much of this film and I need to watch it again, but I do remember the cannibals going around in an RV. One of those films I can’t quite forget.
  19. Grave Encounters (2011) – A reality TV crew become trapped in a genuinely haunted hospital.
  20. DeadTectives (2018) – A pretty hilarious comedy with a similar plot to the previous film.
  1. Ghost in the Shell (1995) – In 2029 (which is actually not that far away, what?) many humans are cybernetic, their consciousnesses referred to as “ghosts” and their bodies as “shells.” People are vulnerable to having their bodies controlled via “ghost-hacking,” and a spate of this is undertaken by a criminal referred to as the Puppet Master. A really obvious influence for The Matrix.
  2. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004) – A technically non-canon sequel in which sex robots carry out murders.
  3. The Cat Returns (2002) – A schoolgirl saves the life of a cat, and ends up visiting the Cat Kingdom.
  4. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) – A young Witch moves to a new town with her cat and starts a flying delivery business.
  5. Princess Mononoke (1997) – I love the kodama. And I imagine that if my dog spoke sentences she would have the same voice as the apes, for some reason. There’s a lot going on here but mainly, a prince trying to resolve a curse meets a woman raised by wolves.
  6. My Neighbour Totoro (1988) – The sentient cat-shaped bus really makes this film.
  7. Suspiria (1977) – This is a really weird film, and it manages to always make you feel like something is going wrong even if you’re not sure why. A woman attends a dance academy where loads of weird stuff happens. Also, carpet wallpaper.
  8. PlayTime (1967) – Monsieur Hulot gets lost in Paris. All I can tell you is that I was absolutely in stitches when I saw this film.
  9. Nosferatu (1922) – Man travels to client’s house and cuts his thumb at dinner. Client then tries to suck his thumb. Turns out client also sleeps in a coffin.
  10. Nosferatu (1979) – I have a poster for this film that is sadly not up in my house at the time of writing because so much stuff is in storage. The film was shot simultaneously in English and German. Jonathan Harker spends four weeks traveling to Transylvania to meet his client, Count Dracula. Count Dracula is a vampire, chaos ensues.
  11. House on Haunted Hill (1959) – I honestly love the entire vibe of this film so much. Vincent Price stars as an eccentric millionaire who invites 5 strangers to spend a night in his allegedly haunted house. Exterior shots use the Ennis House. The film is now in the public domain.
  12. House on Haunted Hill (1999) – Another guilty pleasure of mine, this version sees a group of strangers invited to spend the night in the Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane, which has been converted into a house.
  13. The Mummy (1999) – Brendan Fraser almost died when filming this so you should really appreciate it. Explorers accidentally reanimate a mummy by reading from the Book of the Dead (why do people keep doing that?).
  14. The Nun (2018) – This film became one of my favourites when I saw it because I was constantly jumping and screaming. A nun is found hanging at the front of a Romanian abbey, and the Vatican sends investigators to discover how this could have happened.
  15. The Conjuring (2013) – I love the use of dolly zooms in this film. A classic James Wan film, based on the stories of Ed and Lorraine Warren.
  16. Isola (2000) – A woman with extrasensory perception goes to help survivors of the Great Hanshin earthquake, and meets a girl who seems to have multiple dissociative identities, including one which is a vengeful ghost.
  17. Sputnik (2020) – Sorry but the monster is very cute.
  18. Alien (1979) – Can’t believe I didn’t remember this film until I was further down the list. You just need to watch it. I really bum retrofuturism and there’s plenty of that too.
  19. Jumanji (1995) – A boy gets trapped inside a jungle-themed board game, and later brings things from inside the game back out with him.
  20. A Goofy Movie (1995) – This is just a good movie OK. Especially with those Powerline songs.
  1. #ALIVE (2020) – A videogame streamer is trapped inside his apartment during a zombie apocalypse. A very relatable film since we’ve spent so much time inside during a real disease pandemic.
  2. The Call (2020) – Two women living in the same house 20 years apart manage to speak to each other through an old cordless phone. Bad things happen.
  3. Scarecrows (1988) – A hijacked plane makes an emergency landing in a cornfield full of possessed scarecrows.
  4. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) – A kidnapped woman wakes up in a shelter with a man who says the country has been destroyed by a chemical attack.
  5. Oblivion (2013) – A spacecraft crashes and makes one of the last men on earth question his reality.
  6. The Doll Master (2004) – A group goes to a doll museum in the woods after being invited to have dolls made in their image. Things ensue.
  7. Dead Silence (2007) – I actually kind of hate this one because I hate ventriloquist dummies but at the same time, it’s one of those underrated films.
  8. The Cabin in the Woods (2011) – A comedy-horror that finally explains why so many of these stories feature a cabin in the woods!
  9. Burning Bright (2010) – Bad man seals his children in a house with an actual tiger. Also Meat Loaf is in it for some reason.
  10. The Ritual (2017) – After losing a friend in a robbery, four men go on a trip to Sweden in his memory, where they end up encountering a Jötunn. This film was really good at portraying the characters as normal British blokes rather than weird movie people. It’s really good.
  11. Terrified (2017) – It’s hard to explain this film, but it’s good.
  12. Snatch (2000) – There’s a diamond, and a dog, and a boxing promoter, and Brad Pitt who I always forget is in this film. The best character is probably Bullet-Tooth Tony.
  13. His House (2020) – I was surprised by just how spooky this is. Sudanese refugees find something very wrong in their English house.
  14. 28 Days Later (2002) – A man wakes up in an empty hospital to find out that a virus has destroyed Britain.
  15. 28 Weeks Later (2007) – Twenty-eight weeks after the infected begin to die of starvation, British refugees are brought into a safe zone on the Isle of Dogs. Children go and ruin it.
  16. Blood Quantum (2019) – Indigenous Americans seem to be immune to a zombie-causing virus.
  17. Under the Shadow (2016) – A Jinn is carried on a missile to an apartment building during the Iran-Iraq war.
  18. Gerald’s Game (2017) – A lesson in why you don’t let anyone handcuff you to a bed. THE HAND SCENE THOUGH.
  19. Oculus (2013) – Where to begin with this one. It haunted me for a long time, it feels so heavy and sinister. Do not trust mirrors. Or houses full of dead plants.
  20. U Turn (2016) – People making illegal u-turns on a Bangalore flyover cause accidents and later meet mysterious deaths. The film has been remade in several other Indian languages and was the first Indian film to be remade in Filipino.
  1. Darr @ The Mall (2014) – A smoky apparition haunts a shopping centre. I just remember really enjoying this film.
  2. Annihilation (2018) – It’s the bear, OK. You need to hear what the bear does because it’s scarred me for life.
  3. Lake Mungo (2008) – Another case of there being a scene I’ve remembered ever since. A mockumentary about the mysterious drowning of a 16 year-old girl, where the cameras capture evidence of her double life.
  4. The Unfolding (2016) – Britain is about to enter a nuclear war, but a group winds up at a creepy old house. Another film with moments that never left me.
  5. Four Lions (2010) – A hilarious and also very sad satire on Islamic terrorism.
  6. Starman (1984) – A woman meets an alien who has taken the form of her deceased husband.
  7. Ghosts of Mars (2001) – Another guilty pleasure film of mine, truly unsure why it’s so underrated. Mining activities on Mars release ghost aliens.
  8. The Thing (1982) – Aliens in the Antarctic.
  9. Ghost Ship (2002) – A crew is sent to salvage a ship floating in the Bering Sea. It turns out to be the Antonia Graza, a ship missing since 1962.
  10. City of God (2002) – Organised crime in the Cidade de Deus favela of Rio de Janeiro.
  11. Mulan (1998) – An animated musical adaptation of the legend of Mulan, a Xianbei warrior who disguised herself as a man to prevent her elderly father from having to go to war.
  12. Die Hard (1988) – An NYPD detective arrives in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve in an attempt to reconcile with his wife, but has to spring into action when her office is taken over by terrorists.
  13. Jingle All The Way (1996) – Man does Christmas shopping too late and hilarity ensues.
  14. Drive (2011) – A stunt driver moonlights as a getaway driver. Really good soundtrack as well.
  15. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – I found this film terribly sad but it’s one of those ones you’ve just got to watch.
  16. Sky Blue a.k.a. Wonderful Days (2003) – A love triangle in the time of an environmental apocalypse.
  17. Hanna (2011) – A former CIA agent trains his daughter as an assassin in northern Finland.
  18. The Forest (2016) – A woman searches for her missing twin in Aokigahara, a forest notorious for suicides.
  19. The Little Prince (2015) – This film is so enchanting and I cried a lot. A girl in a boring world meets an eccentric neighbour who tells her stories of the Little Prince. Also the neighbour is Jeff Bridges.
  20. What We Do in the Shadows (2014) – A comedy mockumentary about vampires sharing a house in modern New Zealand.
  1. World War Z (2013) – A lot of people didn’t like this film when it came out but I sincerely enjoy it so much.
  2. Starship Troopers (1997) – War with bugs.
  3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) – Everyone needs a foundation in the original film that came before the famed TV series.
  4. MouseHunt (1997) – I absolutely love this film. Idiot brothers Lars and Ernie Smuntz try to get rid of a mouse so they can renovate an inherited mansion.
  5. Anastasia (1997) – Animated musical adaptation of the story of Anastasia Romanova, who we sadly now know was definitely murdered with the rest of her family by Bolsheviks. It’s a lovely film though. Apparently amateur historian Bob Atchison said that Anastasia was akin to someone making a film in which Anne Frank “moves to Orlando and opens a crocodile farm with a guy named Mort.”
  1. Tears of the Black Tiger (2000) – A bonkers Thai western.
  2. Behind the Curve (2018) – A documentary showing just how far people will go so they can still angrily believe something.
  3. Arahan (2004) – Sang-hwan is a hapless policeman until the “Masters of Tao” tell him he has great Qi.
  4. Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980) – Loveable Sammo Hung is up against a traditional Chinese hopping vampire.
  5. The Prodigal Son (1981) – This is the only film I watch with the English dubbing because it’s frankly hilarious. Yuen Biao portrays a man who thinks he’s a great fighter, but unfortunately his rich father has been paying everyone to lose against him. After finding this out, he travels around, pestering martial artists to teach him.
  6. Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1983) – Perhaps a music video is an odd choice for this list, but you’re missing out if you haven’t seen it.
  7. Red Shadow: Akakage (2001) – Hilarious Ninja spoof.
  8. Communion (1989) – This is just such a bonkers film. I wouldn’t say it was a good film per se, but it’s one of those ones you do have to see.
  9. Shaun of the Dead (2004) – Man tries to get everyone in his life into a pub where they can wait for the zombie apocalypse to blow over.
  10. Hot Fuzz (2007) – London policeman gets relocated to a village, hilarity ensues.
  11. Ong-Bak (2003) – Unbelievable martial arts film starring Tony Jaa.
  12. Pulse (2001) – Once again, some scenes from this are burned into my mind.
  13. Kung Fu Hustle (2004) – It’s bonkers but it’s hilarious.
  14. Dead Man’s Shoes (2004) – A horrible film I had to see in class a long time ago. You should see it too.
  15. Appleseed (2004) – One of the Global War’s last survivors is taken to a utopian city named Olympus, where half of the population are biorobots.
  16. Wind River (2017) – A film that made me cry. Neo-Western about the murder of an indigenous woman.
  17. Silent House (2011) – A woman goes to fix-up a house with her father and uncle, and is ambushed by unpleasant memories and realisations.
  18. The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001) – Bonkers Japanese musical about a family running a guest house that people keep dying in. I used to know every word to the songs. An example. I don’t want to spoil the whole thing but this one is pretty hilarious also.
  19. Azumi (2003) – Eponymous woman is raised from birth to be an assassin.
  20. The ReZort (2015) – Like Jurassic Park but with zombies, has some surprisingly decent spooky moments.
  1. FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992) – A magical animated musical, a truly iconic film from childhood.
  2. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) – Majestical.
  3. The Book of Life (2014) – A song from this film was used on our wedding playlist so I’m quite fond of it. I identify a lot with the wheelchair grandma.
  4. Vault of Horror (1973) – Another film with scenes that have always stuck with me, and now I want to make them stick with the rest of you.
  5. Dearest Sister (2016) – A village girl goes to care for her wealthy cousin, who is losing her sight but starting to see the dead.
  6. Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997) – Two friends decide to fake successful lives ahead of their high school reunion, even claiming to have invented Post-Its.
  7. Freaky Friday (2003) – Annoying teenager and overbearing mother swap bodies.
  8. Mean Girls (2004) – Classic cinema.
  9. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) – Another iconic childhood film.
  10. Practical Magic (1998) – It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this but I’m pretty sure a bad guy dies and grows into a horrible bush.
  11. Death Becomes Her (1992) – I think we all remember being able to see straight through the hole in the middle of that woman.
  12. High Spirits (1988) – Fake haunted castle turns out to have real ghosts.
  13. The Replacement Killers (1998) – An assassin hired by a Triad boss refuses to carry out a killing and must outrun his replacements.
  14. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) – As usual Jim Carrey is playing himself, but this is an iconic childhood film.
  15. School of Rock (2003) – Unemployed musician bluffs his way into working with children.
  16. I am Legend (2007) – Man lives with beautiful dog and hides from spooky creatures.
  17. I, Robot (2004) – Man hates robots but has to interact with them to solve crimes. I really enjoy this film OK.
  18. Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) – Nostalgic Nosferatu spoof.
  19. The Naked Gun (1988) – Mainly I remember the full-body condoms.
  20. Nightlight (2015) – Not an especially amazing film overall but there are scenes in it I’m still thinking about years later.