While many movies on the list below are classics, recognized by many as some of the best ever, others are far less revered.
But in the 40 or so years of Cinema jammed into a list of 20, I feel this is a solid representation of flicks that are highly enjoyable.
And please know that none of the videos within contain spoilers that reveal twists or the ending of any of the movies.
Now behold, 20 awesome movies that were made before you were born…
It’s impossible to go wrong when Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are involved, and Casablanca—equal parts love story, war film and thriller—is simply one of the greatest films of all-time. And it also includes one of the most famous lines in cinematic history, spoken by Bogart about regret: “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”
Long lost lovers unite:
Who knew a stay in a hotel could be so petrifying? If you want to be scared to the point that you’re afraid to get off your couch to walk to your bed, Psycho is the film for you. One of Alfred Hitchcock’s best, it’s ahead of its time but still aptly takes you back to the period it was set in. You might have a nightmare or two after watching (fair warning).
Janet Leigh (the guest) and Anthony Perkins (the proprietor) get to know one another:
A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
Two fictional days in the life of the Beatles during the height of Beatlemania. The film not only introduced most of the world to the Beatles’ wit, but it is credited with being the precursor for modern music videos (remember those?). And it of course includes tons of awesome Beatles songs.
The Fab Four meet the press:
The Graduate (1967)
Featuring a young Dustin Hoffman as restless recent college graduate Benjamin, Anne Bancroft as an older seductress and Katharine Ross as the seductress’ daughter (wonder what’s about to happen there), The Graduate takes you inside the mind of someone whose life is just starting out. For you “Boy Meets World” fans, it also features Mr. Feeny as Benjamin’s dad. Oh, and an awesome soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel.
Benjamin attempts to reject seduction:
The documentary of the earth-shattering Woodstock Music Festival that took place in upstate New York in the summer of 1969, Woodstock features performances by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Santana, The Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, Joe Cocker and many more. It is a living time capsule that captures the freedom and free love of the late 60s.
Country Joe sings his anti-Vietnam song:
The Godfather (1972)
This classic revolves around the mafia in 1940s New York, but it’s really about family—and the attempt to keep it together with madness raging all around you. Starring Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, John Cazale and James Caan, it doesn’t get much better than this, though some would argue that The Godfather Part II is its equal.
Michael (Pacino) goes to Vegas:
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Yes, another Pacino film. While his most well-known role is as Michael in The Godfather films, Pacino may be at his best (and is certainly at his most frenetic) in Dog Day Afternoon, which was based on an actual botched bank heist in Brooklyn. While serious, the film also has comedic charm and heart. One of the most underrated movies ever.
Sonny (Pacino) works the phones:
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
If Dog Day Afternoon features Pacino at his best, the same can be said for Jack Nicholson as Randle McMurphy. When McMurphy gets transferred from prison to a mental institution, all hell breaks loose in a way only Jack could cause.
McMurphy is back in action:
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
I’m a bit biased since it takes place in the neighborhood where I grew up (Bay Ridge, Brooklyn), but this film is amazing in its rawness and grabs hold. John Travolta is incredible as weekend warrior and dance floor dominator Tony Manero, while the Bee Gees provide the soundtrack.
The opening scene:
Animal House (1978)
John Belushi is in a frat, smashes a guitar against a wall, pours mustard on himself, makes his face into a giant zit, blames Pearl Harbor on the Germans and leads a toga party. Oh, and this film just happens to be the birth of the gross-out comedies that still exist today.
Bluto (Belushi) smashes a guitar:
The Deer Hunter (1978)
John Cazale’s career ended when he died of cancer in 1978 at the age of 42, but all five films he appeared in (including The Godfather and Dog Day Afternoon) were nominated for Best Picture. In The Deer Hunter, Cazale stars as one of a tight knit bunch of friends living near Pittsburgh whose lives are altered due to the Vietnam War. There’s also Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken. Not too shabby.
The guys go hunting:
The Last Waltz (1978)
A documentary that chronicles The Band’s farewell concert, with performances from Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Neil Young and many others. What got it on the list? It was directed by Martin Scorsese and features a behind the scenes look at The Band, whose members describe their life on the road.
Bob Dylan, The Band and more play ‘I Shall Be Released’:
The Jerk (1979)
Steve Martin stars as a dimwitted man who ventures out on his own after learning his black parents aren’t his biological parents. “You mean I’m gonna stay this color?” Navin Johnson (Martin) exclaims when he finds out he’s adopted. That should really be all you need to know that this one is worth it.
Navin (Martin) celebrates his birthday:
The Blues Brothers (1980)
This film features the comedic brilliance of Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi—along with their awesome singing—as they front a rhythm and blues band that’s “on a mission from God.” But the incredible music throughout, from Ray Charles to Aretha Franklin to John Lee Hooker and many more, is just as important as the laughs provided by the stars.
The Blues Brothers and Ray Charles shake a tail feather:
Raging Bull (1980)
A Martin Scorsese-directed masterpiece, Raging Bull stars Robert De Niro as real-life boxer Jake La Motta, losing himself in the role to the point where you forget it’s actually him on the screen. De Niro’s La Motta is truly scary, and along with his performance, the cinematography and soundtrack tie a bow around this one.
Jake (De Niro) wants to know if his wife is being faithful:
The Shining (1980)
If Psycho has the ability to give you nightmares, The Shining might have the ability to permanently damage you emotionally. Jack Nicholson stars in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece as a writer who travels with his wife and young son to be a winter caretaker for a hotel that turns out to be haunted.
Jack (Nicholson) doesn’t like it when his writing is interrupted:
Rocky III (1982)
This is a strange one to have on the list when you consider that Rocky (Best Picture winner) and Rocky II (another very good film) are also eligible. But aside from Sylvester Stallone, Rocky III stars Hulk Hogan as Thunderlips the “Ultimate Male” and Mr. T as ferocious boxer Clubber Lang in a pair of roles that make this one a must-see.
Thunderlips is here:
Risky Business (1983)
Tom Cruise in one of his first roles, before Scientology got the best of him. As well-behaved high school senior Joel Goodsen, Cruise goes wild when his parents leave for vacation. He has a house party, hires a prostitute, takes on a pimp and eventually turns his house into a brothel.
Joel gets a special visitor during his college interview:
The Big Chill (1983)
College friends, played by Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, Tom Berenger and more, reunite for the funeral of one of their own who committed suicide (Kevin Costner, whose face we never see). They wind up spending a debauched weekend together as they reminisce, talk about the friend they lost and explore what might have been. Bonus points for the amazing soundtrack that’s filled with Motown hits.
The opening sequence:
Trading Places (1983)
I’d put Eddie Murphy at the height of his comedic powers up against any comedian ever. Add in Dan Aykroyd as the second star and you get not only one of the best comedies of the 1980s, but one of the best comedies of all-time.
Billy Ray gets hassled by the police: