Top 40 List: Must-See Pop Culture Movies

home aloneThe holidays are here and that means a lot of time spent relaxing inside.  Why not catch up on some movies that you’ve been meaning to see?

I was shopping today with a friend and I was shocked to find out that he hadn’t seen The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Who hasn’t seen it?  I realized that there are certain “essential” movies that may not even be the best movies but they are so ingrained in pop culture that I think they are worth watching.  And discussing.  And quoting.  So while a lot of you are counting down the days until Christmas, I’m counting the 40 movies you need to watch to relate to pop culture today.

Criteria that I used- these movies are memorable because they influenced the culture of that time.  They spawned similar movies, started trends, inspired cult followings, and are quoted over and over.  They may not all be the most genius masterpieces or the biggest blockbusters but they are the movies that define and contribute significantly to western pop culture.

Off the top of my head (and the picked brains of two of my friends that I quizzed today), here is my top 40 essential list:

  1. Pulp Fiction– watch the entire movie or it doesn’t make sense!  I had to give it a second try much later in life after walking out of the theatre the first time with my jr. high friends, only halfway into the movie.
  2. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective–  I didn’t really like the movie.  But you have to see it because it sort of sets the tone for every other movie that Jim Carrey makes for a while after.  I liked The Mask best of Jim Carrey’s early movies.
  3. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial- you can’t help rooting for the strange-looking little guy.
  4. The Shining–  in case you don’t know the meaning of “redrum” or why twins dressed the same kinda scare me.
  5. a-clockwork-orange-3-1024A Clockwork Orange– creepy but it makes you think.  And then you’ll understand where that strange one-eye design came from.  Plus it’s Stanley Kubrick!  Or if you really want to go on a trip, see Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
  6. Trainspotting– Ewan MacGregor!  Need I say more?
  7. The Nightmare Before Christmas– you see the images everywhere at Christmas and Halloween.  Don’t you want to know the context behind them?
  8. Edward Scissorhands– and every other Johnny Depp movie.  I’m gonna cheat and sneak in an extra here- Chocolat, one of my all-time favorite movies (also with Johnny).
  9. Goodwill Hunting– apparently I need to see this again because there are some quotes that I’m not familiar with.
  10. Thriller (music video)- it was epic enough at the time that we can consider it a mini-movie.
  11. Scarface– oh Tony Montana, you gave all the young wannabe gangsters of my generation so many one-liners.  Most quoted- “Say hello to my little friend”!
  12. Godfather I and II– don’t watch the third.  I ignored all the advice I was given and wasted 170 minutes of my time wishing I had listened.
  13. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly– Clint Eastwood in a very iconic spaghetti western.
  14. The Sound of Music– I love this movie!  I’m inspired to watch it again after traveling through Austria.
  15. The Lord of the Rings– I’m biased because I love the movies (I have them all in extended editions) but you have to admit, you miss a little something if you don’t understand the references.  You need to see these movies… all three!
  16. Titanic– how many times have we all said “I’ll never let go, Rose”…. awww Jack.  The music from this movie still brings me back every time.
  17. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off– iconic 80’s movie!  And here’s another one-
  18. The Breakfast Club– “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” and this movie go so well together.  And Goonies is another great 80’s flick you have to watch.
  19. Clueless– more notable movies in the high school genre: 10 Things I Hate About You (I love this one), Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, American Pie, Mean Girls, Pretty in Pink, Can’t Hardly Wait, and Cruel Intentions.
  20. Back to the Future– I still remember my parents taking my brother and I to watch this at the drive-in.  It was the coolest movie I had seen up to that point.
  21. Twilight– love it or hate it, you have to admit the vampire/werewolf craze all got kicked off here.  I personally think that the True Blood series is the best of the vampire genre currently.  This brings me to…
  22. Underworld– ah Kate Beckinsale, I love your work!  Including a personal favorite, Serendipity.  If you love the vampire movies, maybe you should even start with Blade.
  23. Star Wars– the original three.  If you haven’t watched these, I think you need to get caught up.  I don’t care that they were made decades ago.  They are epic movies!
  24. Indiana Jones– the original three.
  25. Jurassic Park– best scene is when the water in the glass shakes and you know that T-Rex is on his way.  Eek!
  26. Rocky– I will admit that I haven’t seen the entire series but they are undeniably iconic movies.
  27. Terminator 2: Judgement Day– how many times since this movie have we all imitated “hasta la vista, baby” in our best Schwartzenegger voice
  28. Donnie Darko– it’s a strange one and I watched it twice in a row to better understand it (the second time with the commentary feature).  Cult classic for sure- I was in a clothing store in Vancouver once that had scenes from the movie framed and hung up all over the walls.  You just have to watch it.  Great soundtrack, too.
  29. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy– I quote this movie often.  Best scene- when all the channel casts meet up randomly for a throw-down.  So many great comedians in one fight scene!
  30. Boyz n the Hood– Can you believe that I haven’t seen it?  Shameful.
  31. Any cheesy 80’s horror movie- take your pic from Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Exorcist…. etc.
  32. Home Alone– both the first and second.  Classic Christmas movies!
  33. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation– Another holiday must-see.
  34. Jerry Maguire– oh so good.
  35. The Matrix– I feel like Keanu was made for this role.  Another one to make you think!  And the special effects were insane for 1999’s standards.
  36. Grease– admittedly, I don’t see what all the fuss is about.  But I did watch the movie to understand the MANY references.  It wasn’t bad and Travolta is easy on the eyes.
  37. Batman– the whole series.  Just kidding, if you haven’t already seen them then it would take forever.  But the first one (my favorite) and the last three were all amazing.
  38. The Shawshank Redemption– great acting and a great story.
  39. Silence of the Lambs– another creepy one to keep you up at night.
  40. Cast Away– Tom Hanks was the sole person in most of the movie- totally new concept but he made it work.

Comment and add to the list if you think of more must-sees!  I’m sure I’ve missed some.  Next list that I’m working on: best Edmonton restaurants!  It will take a while to taste and judge all the ones that have been suggested to me.  What a chore that will be… 😉

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5 thoughts on “Top 40 List: Must-See Pop Culture Movies

  1. Pingback: Top 40 List: Must-See Pop Culture Movies | dr mariam ashraf

  2. Pingback: Top 40 List: Must-Listen Pop Culture Songs and Artists « dr mariam ashraf

  3. So many to add: Cruel Intentions, The Princess Bride, Caddyshack, Spaceballs, Gladiator, Avatar, Erin Brokovich, The Usual Suspects, The Fast and the Furious, most James Bond movies, Eyes Wide Shut, Mission Impossible, Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, Some Like It Hot, The Wizard of Oz, Sin City, Memento, I Am Legend

  4. Searched Rotten tomatoes and in the deepest cracks of the hidden internet, but let me just say you have the best top list out there. Thanks

    • I appreciate the comment! I’ve taken a hiatus from blogging for a while but I’ll be back at it in the next week or so and I’ll add more lists at that point 🙂

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