15 Films to Watch before You’re 25
Few mediums affect us in the same capacity as a film does. A blend of visual art, story-telling and music; cinema blends every other art form. There is no lack of films that are enjoyable to watch with friends, laughing and bantering while munching on popcorn. Similarly, there are also films that can change your perception of the world and even yourself. These are the films that come out maybe once in a few years, and any fan of film should have them on their fingertips.
1. Whiplash (2014)
‘Whiplash’ stars Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons, and tells a story about abuse, exploitation and the pursuit of greatness. The two actors’ performances are truly remarkable and are what really carry the film. Teller is able to portray Andrew, a young struggling artist with true conviction. Meanwhile, Simmons, in his role as Teller’s perpetually disappointed and abusive teacher, makes the character easy to hate.
The film ends with a 20-minute-long Oscar-worthy scene, in which we see Andrew at his lowest, before deciding to not back down, thereby gaining the respect of not only the biggest players in his industry, but also his mentor who finally approves of him.
2. The Prestige (2006)
‘The Prestige’ is a Christopher Nolan film that stars Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Scarlett Johansson. With a meandering chronology, the film tells the story of two rivals, both trying to outdo each other in their career. The efforts of both men to be the best, and the sacrifices each makes for their craft surprises the viewer each time another layer of the film unravels. It plays with structure and story in the way Nolan has mastered. It is a film that comes together on the second watch, as you start to realize how the movie managed to deceive you the first time.
3. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
With classics like ‘Jaws,’ ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘ET’ and ‘Schindler’s List,’ Steven Spielberg has managed to conquer nearly every genre. Perhaps his best work, however, is ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ With stellar performances from Tom Hanks and Matt Damon, this movie is amongst the most accurate depictions of war on-screen. In fact, for many veterans, it was difficult to sit through it upon its initial release. As fewer and fewer of us face the misfortune of living through war, it is vital that the horrors of it are not forgotten.
4. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
‘The Shawshank Redemption’ is the highest rated film on IMDB for more than one reason. Though the film was a box office flop upon release, it was nominated for 7 Oscars. Not only does the film have brilliant performances from Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in the lead, but the entire supporting cast has also lived up to the gold standard this film sets. The movie is able to humanise prisoners, not just the innocent, but those who are criminals as well. It depicts oppression, and the crushing of the human spirit. We are able to understand how good men turn to evil when given the right concoction of desperation, persecution and power.
5. The Shining (1980)
‘The Shining’ is on nearly every single ‘Scariest Horror Films Ever’ list. Before the days of excessive CGI and jump scares, Stanley Kubrick was able to capture true horror, both literal and existential. Through the subtler aspects of film-making, such as lighting or camerawork, Kubrick creates an atmosphere of genuine horror that will persist in the viewer’s mind long after watching the film.
6. Inglorious Basterds (2009)
‘Inglorious Basterds’ is one of Quentin Tarantino’s many masterpieces, this one providing an alternative ending to World War II. The film is able to have a successfully comedic tone in spite of its serious subject matter. Christoph Waltz’s character of Hans Landa is one of the most simultaneously terrifying and charming villains in cinema. Perhaps no actor could have given the role the same life as Waltz. Alongside him, Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger and Michael Fassbender constitute just some of the star-studded cast. With a long list of characters and subplots, it is ever-so satisfying to see each different story element converge towards the climax where each memorable character finally meets. The opening of the film alone acts almost like a short film itself, and is amongst the best scenes ever filmed.
7. Psycho (1960)
Watching at least one film by Sir Alfred Hitchcock is a rite of passage for any cinema fan. One of the director’s best works is the thriller ‘Psycho.’ This film is amongst the most iconic horrors, and has inspired many other great works. With plot twists and subverted expectations, the audience is kept on its toes. With iconic scenes as the shower scene that perhaps started the cultural phenomenon of being afraid of being murdered in the shower, this film should be seen simply for the history it carries.
8. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is amongst the most beautiful films to reach our screens. In the 90 odd minutes that one watches it, the drabness of the world vanishes and is replaced by a whimsical, pastel-colored wonderland. Though brutal in its treatment of even the beloved characters, somehow the film manages to stay comedic and light-hearted, with characters that are memorable.
9. The Godfather (1972)
It should be no surprise that ‘The Godfather’ makes it onto this list. The movie features side-by-side performances of two of the greatest actors of all time, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Not only that, but the film challenges viewers to suspend their preconceived perceptions about good and bad, right and wrong. The film is about the cost of being a leader, and the power and responsibility that go hand-in-hand. It shows us the grays of character, the importance of a personal moral code and teaches countless valuable lessons. This is what makes the film not only remarkable, but a must-watch.
10. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
‘A Beautiful Mind’ depicts the real life and experiences of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics. Russell Crowe, in the lead role, showcases his abilities, as the film relies mostly on his performance. The twist in the film is unexpected and well-executed, with the suspense being held for long enough to keep the viewers on the edge of their seat. What this film does best, though, is create a genuine understanding for mental health disorders. Rather than just seeing the effects on others, we are put in the shoes of the person suffering so we may understand why they are doing things that may not be making sense to us.
11. Shutter Island (2010)
With a director like Martin Scorsese and a cast starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley, 2010s ‘Shutter Island’ was undoubtedly going to be an amazing movie. The atmosphere teeters between unnerving and true horror, as the Island itself feels as though it is working against our protagonists. Watching Leonardo’s gradual descent from being a calm, collected and in-control cop into madness is riveting. The film’s open-endedness leaves the viewer with questions and makes the film easily rewatchable.
12. The Truman Show (1998)
It’s odd that a film that was made in 1998 is more relevant now than ever. As we live in a world where we are increasingly under surveillance and feeling watched through our phones and technology, it is easier to understand and relate to Jim Carrey’s ‘Truman Burbank’ than ever. The film plays with dramatic irony, where the audience is aware of the truth about Truman’s life, but is in anticipation for when and how the main character will find out. The film comments on advertising and sponsorship, deception and media and ends on a note of hope that is ever-prevalent to us all.
13. Goodfellas (1990)
Another of Scorsese’s films, ‘Goodfellas’ sits on the throne with ‘The Godfather’ as the greatest gangster films of all time. While the latter is about the crime bosses, ‘Goodfellas’ is about the middlemen. The film satirises the concept of ‘The American Dream’ and shows how many immigrants actually had to ‘make it’ in America. There is a lot to learn from this film, such as the consequences of crime and how far you can really get with a lie. The most important lesson, however, may be in the comedy of the film itself. The light hearted tone really shows the audience how to not take everything too seriously.
14. Birdman (2014)
Watching ‘Birdman’ for the first time may feel like a fever dream. I started to understand the film on no less than my fourth watch. The 2015 Oscar winner stars Michael Keaton in the eponymous role, alongside Emma Stone and Edward Norton, each of which get their moment in the spotlight. Filmed in a one-shot style, the movie mimics a stage production. With a beautiful score, the pace never feels slow. What starts as a film about a man desperately trying to revitalise his career turns into a film about a man whose identity has become entwined with the character he played in his early career. Near the film’s mid-point, the lines between reality and supernatural start to blur and the very ending is in equal parts jarring and intriguing.
15. The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
This film has one of the earliest and arguably the best portrayal of the iconic character, Hannibal Lecter. Sir Anthony Hopkins brings life to the character and plays the murderous, cannibalistic psychopath to be extremely likeable. The film was also produced as the third wave of feminism began, and touches just subtly enough on a woman working in a male-dominated field and the problems faced by her. Jodie Foster, with her petite frame and delicate features, is perfect for the role. Each room she enters, the eyes of men linger on her, but she uses this same femininity to seem unthreatening and get what she wants. The film, nearly three and a half decades old, also handles its villain being transgender with more care and tact than even much of modern media today.
- Pulp Fiction
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Life is Beautiful
- Forrest Gump
- Schindler’s List
- The Wolf of Wall Street
- No Country for Old Men
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