Although the history of cinema may seem like a lengthy one, films have only been around for a mere 100 plus years, a slight contrast compared to the length of humanity. Regardless, numerous films have been made over the years, many of which should still be viewed today for their craft and innovative qualities to cinema.
There are many ways a film enthusiast can go about listing films to watch, with some making lists of films dating back to the inception of film. Rather than make a lengthy piece like that, let’s take a look at a few must-watch movies from the 1950s to the present day. We’ll pick one film from each of these decades, give their logline from IMDB, and an opinion on why we picked it. Let’s get started!
1950s – 12 Angry Men (1957)
Logline: A jury holdout attempts to prevent a miscarriage of justice by forcing his colleagues to reconsider the evidence.
If you were to go to a film class, they will more than likely discuss the genius of 12 Angry Men. Although it came out over 60 years ago, 12 Angry Men represents a film driven solely by dialogue. The importance of dialogue shouldn’t be overlooked.
1960s – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Logline: After discovering a mysterious artifact buried beneath the Lunar surface, mankind sets off on a quest to find its origins with help from intelligent supercomputer H.A.L. 9000.
It’s practically impossible to make a film list without discussing the genius that is Stanley Kubrick. The epic avant-garde styling of 2001: A Space Odyssey makes it one of the best films in existence. Who could forget the acid-trip ending involving David and HAL?
1970s – Taxi Driver (1976)
Logline: A mentally unstable veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action by attempting to liberate a presidential campaign worker and an underage prostitute.
The immaculate directing of Martin Scorsese truly took off in the 1970s, with one of his most acclaimed works being Taxi Driver. It’s unpredictable, startling, and features one of Robert De Niro’s best performances.
1980s – Blade Runner (1982)
Logline: A blade runner must pursue and terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space, and have returned to Earth to find their creator.
Most Sci-Fi fans agree that Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is one of the best Sci-Fi gems in existence, which studio interference almost cost the public the magnificence that is Blade Runner. Make sure you watch The Final Cut or Director’s Cut if you haven’t seen it yet.
1990s – The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Logline: A young F.B.I. cadet must receive the help of an incarcerated and manipulative cannibal killer to help catch another serial killer, a madman who skins his victims.
Where to begin with The Silence of the Lambs. Is it the immaculate acting in Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins? Or the troubling storytelling from Jonathan Demme and Ted Tally. There’s a lot to love about The Silence of the Lambs, but don’t go into it if you have a faint of heart for violence.
2000s – No Country for Old Men (2007)
Logline: Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande.
Similar to Kubrick, the Coen Brothers are on the same status with their films, my personal favorite being No Country for Old Men. It’s gritty, a slow-build, and features some of the best performances ever from Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin.
2010s – Moonlight (2016)
Logline: A young African-American man grapples with his identity and sexuality while experiencing the everyday struggles of childhood, adolescence, and burgeoning adulthood.
Moonlight is an essential cultural film that’s more than just cinema. It’s a historical moment where a low-budget LGBTQ film featuring an all-black ensemble cast won Best Picture.