Movies to See before You Die

Friday, October 23, 2009 at 10:29 am

There are plenty of movies to see before you die, and this list discusses ten of them. Check back often, as we’ll no doubt feature more of these in the future. If you decide to take my advice on any of the following, be sure to leave us a comment and let us know whether or not you enjoyed the film.

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The Duellists (1977) – Set against the backdrop of Napoleon’s rise and fall, two soldiers (played by Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel) engage in a series of inconclusive duels over a number of years. This film marked Ridley Scott’s directorial debut, and it’s an interesting portrait of two men consumed by hate and a sense of honor.

City of God (2002) – Think Goodfellas set in Brazil, and you’ve got an idea of what City of God is all about. There’s a cast of colorful characters, plenty of underworld types, and lots of scenes punctuated by violence. In the middle of it all, a boy nicknamed Rocket falls in love and pursues his dream of becoming a photographer. I have no idea how this film was passed over as one of the five finalists for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2004 Oscars (although it did receive four other nominations). When it comes to movies to see before you die, this one’s near the top of the list.

Deliverance (1972) – Four friends (Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox) go canoeing down a river in Georgia and run afoul of dangerous hillbillies who like to make outsiders squeal like pigs. Strong performances from the leads, plus the badass “Dueling Banjos” scene between an inbred kid named Lonnie and Mr. Cohagen. Ned Beatty’s screen debut will make heterosexual men everywhere cringe in fear.

Southern Comfort (1981) – Another film with violent backwoods types, Southern Comfort pits Cajuns in the bayou country of Louisiana against a squad of the Louisiana National Guard (on maneuvers with limited live ammo). Excellent cast featuring Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, Peter Coyote, Brion James, and Fred Ward.

Open Range (2003) – A group of “free grazers” (Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner) move their herds across the territory of a violent land baron (Michael Gambon) and quickly encounter trouble. When the villains kill one of their friends (and their dog), Duvall and Costner open up a can of Old West whoopass in their quest for revenge. Meanwhile, there’s a strong romantic subplot involving Costner’s former Civil War soldier and the aging-yet-beautiful sister of the local doctor (Annette Bening). The climactic gunfight is one of the best ever filmed.

Dillinger (1973) – Forget Public Enemies, Warren Oates plays the best movie version of John Dillinger ever captured on film, and Ben Johnson is utterly ruthless as G-Man Melvin Purvis. The characters aren’t watered down as romantic figures, but rather they’re allowed to be the bastards they really were. Plenty of bloody shootouts, and a cast featuring Harry Dean Stanton, Steve Kanaly, Geoffrey Lewis, Richard Dreyfuss, Cloris Leachman, and Michelle Phillips.

The Lives of Others (2006) – This film about an East German intelligence officer assigned to spy on a playwright won the 2007 Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Deservedly so, as it’s filled with strong performances and the theme of human decency in the face of crippling government oversight. Sadly, lead actor Ulrich Muhe died of stomach cancer only months after the film received its Oscar.

Cabin Boy (1994) – A bizarre comedy about Nathaniel Mayweather, a pampered “fancy lad” who boards a fishing vessel known as the Filthy Whore, somehow mistaking it for a luxury cruise liner bound for Hawaii. Abused by the eccentric crew (including James Gammon, Brion James, and Brian Doyle-Murray), young Nathaniel braves the dangers of Hell’s Bucket and finally becomes a man. Incredibly original, the film also features appearances by David Letterman, Alfred Molina, and Mike Starr. Tim Burton was originally slated to direct before signing on to do Ed Wood.

Hooper (1978) – Burt Reynolds is his usual gum-chewing self in this film about stuntmen. Reynolds plays Sonny Hooper, a legendary stuntman whose hard-living ways are starting to catch up to him. Plenty of death-defying stunts and a strong supporting cast which includes Sally Field, Jan-Michael Vincent, Brian Keith, Robert Klein, Adam West, Terry Bradshaw, and James Best.

Midnight Run (1988) – Charles Grodin plays an accountant who embezzles $15 million from the mob before getting arrested. Robert De Niro is the bounty hunter hired to go after him when he jumps bail. What follows is a comedy/action film filled with shootouts, car chases, and plenty of male bonding. Dennis Farina plays the villain, and Yaphet Kotto is a dedicated FBI agent. Sort of like The Odd Couple, but with lots more handguns.

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Now that you’ve finished my list of movies to see before you die, take a look at these other articles which also suggest specific films to see before shuffling off this mortal coil.

This entry was posted on Friday, October 23rd, 2009 at 10:29 am and is filed under Good Movies, Thoughts on Film. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Movies to See before You Die”

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November 2, 2009


Hooper! Really?! I mean, come on.

I do agree with City of God, however. Brilliant film.


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