Movies You Must See Before You Die

according to a random book blogger who has a predilection for romance and young adult fantasy novels

First and foremost, the movies I will recommend are the non-edgy type, meaning, you won’t find unknown indie movies here. I almost never watch indie movies so it would be pretentious of me to include them.

Second, if you hate mainstream cinema, get out while you can—this list is teeming with it. Third, this list is basically a collection of some of my favorite movies—and I have pretty bland taste in movies—so don’t expect them to be all critically acclaimed.

Lastly, I hope this list contributes something worthwhile to your time on the internet.

And thus, I begin.

1. The Lovely Bones (2009)

The most remarkable movie I watched as a teenager. Downright unapologetic in the way it presented the truth about murder investigations and the havoc it wreaks in the lives of the family left behind artfully contrasted with the an element of fantasy. Guaranteed to make you feel things; most of which: anger, melancholy, regret and acceptance.

IMDB SYNOPSIS: Centers on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family – and her killer – from purgatory. She must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal.

2. Clueless (1995)

A huge leap from The Lovely Bones but I love me some cute high school movies too. Cher, the lead character in this movie, endeared herself to me quite terribly. She is a spoiled brat whose fashion sense is ingenious but she also has a kind heart and is unintentionally funny. Cher may seem silly at first but she actually has sensible points which I think is partly the reason why became such an iconic character in the whole cinematic landscape (and the other part being her enviable wardrobe).

IMDB SYNOPSIS: A rich high school student tries to boost a new pupil’s popularity, but reckons without affairs of the heart getting in the way.

Cher Horowitz during a class debate about refugees

3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

An academy award winning movie. Need I say more? With such a compelling plot combined with phenomenal acting from the two leads, it’s no wonder this movie was a critical and a box office success. A rare combo only the greats achieve. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a powerful force that shake emotions and provoke minds. You simply have to see it.

IMDB SYNOPSIS: A mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit.

4. Lady Bird (2017)

2017 was a year of great films, Lady Bird an example. It perfectly captured that ever elusive teen angst no one seems to get quite right. Apparently, all we needed was a female writer and director to accurately portray those turbulent teenage years. It was astounding to hear Lady Bird’s dialogues as they echo some of things I thought about and some of the things I told my own mother.

IMDB SYNOPSIS: Christine “Lady Bird” MacPherson is a high school senior from the “wrong side of the tracks.” She longs for adventure, sophistication, and opportunity, but finds none of that in her Sacramento Catholic high school. LADY BIRD follows the title character’s senior year in high school, including her first romance, her participation in the school play, and most importantly, her applying for college.

Lady Bird asking her mother the cost it take to raise her and boldly claiming she’ll write her a check

5. Mulan (1998)

Cultural inaccuracies aside, Mulan was pretty brave in delivering its political messages especially considering the year it came out, pun not intended. The song, “I’ll Make a Man Out Of You” is simply a lyrical masterpiece, add to that the reprise where Mulan and her fellow soldiers (all male) sang the line, “Be a man!” while dressed as girls/king’s consorts and then successfully defeated their enemies. The satire is well and clear.

Mulan is an icon of women empowerment, ahead of her time.

IMDB SYNOPSIS: To save her father from death in the army, a young maiden secretly goes in his place and becomes one of China’s greatest heroines in the process.

Mulan live action is coming in March of 2020!

6. Wonder Woman (2017)

More women empowerment coming your way. Wonder Woman was amazing not because it was the first ‘solo’ film to star a female superhero since 2005’s Elektra (starring Jennifer Garner) but because it was undeniably a great superhero film all over.

The star of the movie is of course, Wonder Woman (Diana) herself, who is such a refreshing addition to the tired and jaded heroes of late. She’s all heart and innocence–very rare–and I’m loathe to part ways with this version of her but growth is inevitable and anyway, it was great while itlasted.

Wonder Woman 1984 poster

Let’s see if Wonder Woman 1984 lives up to the bar set high by the first movie. It will come out in June of 2020. Here’s a poster for your enjoyment.

IMDB: When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, Diana, an Amazonian warrior in training, leaves home to fight a war, discovering her full powers and true destiny.

7. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Romantic comedies are a dime a dozen but this one is a true gem. If Heath Ledger starring in it is not enough to entice you, well, a young Joseph Gordon Levitt is also here. I promise you there are no cringe-worthy sickeningly sweet barf-inducing romantic grand gestures here because it’s Heath Ledger doing them and he always makes it work. He’s very powerful. Plus, he’s funny here. I can’t ever forget this one line he had where I burst out cackling like a witch.

IMDB: A pretty, popular teenager can’t go out on a date until her ill-tempered older sister does.

8. Princess Mononoke (1997)

The animation in this movie is top tier. It was released in 1998 but the quality is beyond. Hayao Miyazaki creates thought provoking stories–that’s a given–but the reason I included Princess Mononoke here is because I want you to be blown away by the amazing action sequences. Just imagining the painstaking work it took to create said sequences leaves me in awe.

IMDB: On a journey to find the cure for a Tatarigami’s curse, Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest gods and Tatara, a mining colony. In this quest he also meets San, the Mononoke Hime.

9. Flipped (2010)

This movie is pretty special, told beautifully and fantastically different from expectations. It’s got that quaint charm to it that I find heartwarming. “Middle school” movies are often made to be funny because admittedly, that stage in our lives is awkward so we resort to making fun of it. Here is where Flipped set itself apart.

It deviated from outright comedy and combined heart, humor, and quirk instead to create a nostalgic film that would tug at heartsrings, make one smile, and reminisce old days gone by. Sometimes I feel like it is magic, not believable but fascinating nonetheless and definitely unforgettable.

IMDB: Two eighth-graders start to have feelings for each other despite being total opposites.

Madeline Carroll as Juli Baker on Flipped

10. Split (2016)

I enjoy psychological thrillers. Movies do this genre better than any other medium. With the help of cinematography, scenes are made to be more suspenseful and real compared to, say, books. Split is a great example. The whole experience was just breathtaking, edge of your seat kind of feeling. James McAvoy did an outstanding job in this one.

IMDB: Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities. They must try to escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.

James McAvoy as seen on Split

11. Leon The Professional (1994)

A dark and bleak film with obvious problematic elements that surpringly kept it tasteful. Instead of touching on the weird relationship between Leon and young Natalie Portman, it ignored it and focused instead on Portman’s survival. Aside from that, Portman’s iconic hairstyle and fashion is worth taking note.

IMDB: Mathilda, a 12-year-old girl, is reluctantly taken in by Léon, a professional assassin, after her family is murdered. Léon and Mathilda form an unusual relationship, as she becomes his protégée and learns the assassin’s trade.

Young Natalie Portman as seen Leon the Professional

12. Logan (2017)

Another dark, gritty film. Not even a fan of X-Men much less a follower of the comics/story arcs but Logan managed to hold the reigns of my emotions and steered it where they want it. Great writing and direction.

IMDB: In a future where mutants are nearly extinct, an elderly and weary Logan leads a quiet life. But when Laura, a mutant child pursued by scientists, comes to him for help, he must get her to safety.

Logan (2017)

13. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)

The only 2018 movie that matters. You need not watch anything else. This is it. Sci-fi elements at play with subtle political messages that isn’t forced on you but rather made to look natural, “no big deal” as it should be.

IMDB: Teen Miles Morales becomes Spider-Man of his reality, crossing his path with five counterparts from other dimensions to stop a threat for all realities.

The Gang (Miles Morales, Aunt May, Peter Parker, Spider-Gwen

14. The Blue Lagoon (1980)

Brooke Shields. That’s the tweet essence. Brooke Shield’s enchanting beauty aside, this film is an intriguing showcase of the biblical relations between man and woman. There are an abundance of questionable developments but you’d soon learn to shrug it off and just enjoy the ride.

IMDB: In the Victorian period, two children are shipwrecked on a tropical island in the South Pacific. With no adults to guide them, the two make a simple life together, unaware that sexual maturity will eventually intervene.

Young Brooke Shields as seen in The Blue Lagoon

15. The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

Few teen movies dare to tell it like it is. Thankfully, we have The Edge of Seventeen to pave the way so the likes of Lady Bird can flourish. The Edge of Seventeen is a lesser known movie which is a pity because it is one of the best coming-of-age movies out there.

Much like Lady Bird, this movie accurately showcased how it feels to be a teenage girl. The whole film is packed with raw emotions; some funny, some heartbreaking, some embarrassing- but all relatable.

Watch it, please. Hailee Steinfeld’s performance here deserved recognition.

IMDB: High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.

Sulky Nadine (played by Hailee Steinfeld) in The Edge of Seventeen

16. The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

This movie is here purely for nostalgic reasons. I watched it as a kid and was absolutely fascinated and thrilled and spooked by its story. It gripped me from beginning to end and inevitably left a mark on me as I recall the beautiful but also creepy creatures I saw in it. In fact, I may just watch it again this week.

IMDB: Upon moving into the run-down Spiderwick Estate with their mother, twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace, along with their sister Mallory, find themselves pulled into an alternate world full of faeries and other creatures.

17. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Another animated film here in this list mainly because of its animation. The art style for Sleeping Beauty is just magnificent. Beautiful hand painted plates in vibrant colors, haunting classical music to match the art, and a tale of woe and love; it’s all perfect.

IMDB: After being snubbed by the royal family, a malevolent fairy places a curse on a princess which only a prince can break, along with the help of three good fairies.

18. Tangled (2010)

Hey, another Disney entry. Don’t knock ’em til you’ve tried ’em. Tangled was outright hilarious. I’ve never laughed so hard over a Disney movie. Tangled was a first in so many ways and brought Disney back to business.

It was the first Disney movie to combine traditional and digital animation methods and the first in a string of successful Disney films in the 2000’s era after years of poor box office returns.

IMDB: The magically long-haired Rapunzel has spent her entire life in a tower, but now that a runaway thief has stumbled upon her, she is about to discover the world for the first time, and who she really is.

19. Gone Girl (2014)

Another psycho-thriller that threw me off my seat. The rare instance where I sympathized with the villain alone and no one else. I even hated the ‘hero/lead’. Speaks of how well written the titular character is.

IMDB: With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.

20. Winter’s Bone (2010)

My introduction to Jennifer Lawrence as this is the first film I saw of hers. Immediately I noticed how good her acting was. I thought, “she should be in more movies” and yep, months later she stars in Hunger Games and then proceeds to sweep the whole world by storm. Watch this. Raw talent working.

IMDB: An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact.

We’ve come to the end of my list. Hoping some entries will be included in your upcoming weekend movie marathon or Friday movie night. Do you share the same taste as me? Leave me a movie recommendation in the comments!