I don’t know what the exact figure is, but so many people in the world aspire to make movies one day, myself included. Besides heading out and making shorts yourself to learn the craft, watching many movies is a great way to get inspired and learn from the magic of cinema. That said, let’s highlight a few films I feel everyone should watch if they want to make movies.
The Fire Within (1963)
Logline – Depressed Alain Leroy leaves the clinic where he was detoxified. He meets friends, acquaintances, and women, trying to find a reason to continue living. Will this help him?
There’s a lot you could say about The Fire Within, and I think it has one of the most substantial scripts dialogue-wise. As straightforward as the story might seem, you won’t lose interest in the slightest, and that’s thanks to Maurice Ronet’s performance and its genuinely heartbreaking story.
Logline – Two men reaching middle age with not much to show but disappointment embark on a week-long road trip through California’s wine country just as one is about to take a trip down the aisle.
Sideways is a profoundly deep and poetic film about existentialism and dread while simultaneously being one of the funniest movies I’ve seen. Constructing heavier themes with comedy is helpful in filmmaking, and Sideways is a perfect example.
Raging Bull (1980)
Logline – The life of boxer Jake LaMotta, whose violence and temper led him to the top in the ring, destroyed his life outside of it.
There are plenty of films to take and analyze from Martin Scorsese, and out of them all, my favorite is Raging Bull. If you’re looking to create a film where the central character goes against everything you’d learn in film school—likability and redeeming qualities—but still works, Raging Bull is a masterclass for that purpose.
La Haine (1995)
Logline – 24 hours in the lives of three young men in the French suburbs the day after a violent riot.
La Haine is incredible for many reasons. Whether you wish to view its script, historical significance, or from a technical standpoint, almost everything about great filmmaking checks the boxes with La Haine. Watch it as much as you can; you’ll learn something new each time.
Bicycle Thieves (1948)
Logline – In post-war Italy, a working-class man’s bicycle is stolen, endangering his efforts to find work. He and his son set out to find it.
Italian Neorealism is a quintessential moment in film history, and most point to Bicycle Thieves as one of the best from that era. The film will touch anyone who views it, and it’s remarkable how well it holds up despite being 70-plus years old.
Chungking Express (1994)
Logline – Two melancholy Hong Kong policemen fall in love: one with a mysterious female underworld figure, the other with a beautiful and ethereal waitress at a late-night restaurant he frequents.
Wong Kar-wai is a remarkable filmmaker; practically all his films have something valuable to learn from. Chungking Express is one of his most acclaimed, and rightfully so. The film utilizes so many incredible shots, acting, and lines that you can grab from and analyze in many different ways. Not to mention how it totally shifts characters and focus in the middle of the film. How many movies have done that?
Logline – A guide leads two men through an area known as the Zone to find a room that grants wishes.
Andrei Tarkovsky is another filmmaker with a catalog of incredible films; pretty much all are must-watches. Stalker is one of his more challenging efforts, being not as direct, and is very slow while diving deep into heavier themes of purpose, happiness, hope, and faith.