I was recently “scolded” by a former student for not telling him to see Glengarry Glen Ross. That inspired me to put together a “must-see” list for the cinephiles out there. I’m leaving out some obvious ones, you can refer to the American Film Institute’s Top 100 list for those. These are more personal to me, a mix of silly, indie, inspirational and dramatic. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as I do! Before you bother to count, I have to admit the list is actually 35 films long, there are some I just couldn’t bump from the list when more came to mind. Synopses courtesy of IMDB.com.
A man, suffering from short-term memory loss, uses notes and tattoos to hunt for the man he thinks killed his wife.
Pump up the Volume
Mark runs a pirate radio station and causes an uproar when he speaks his mind and enthralls fellow teens.
My Blue Heaven
An all too uptight FBI agent must protect a larger than life mobster with a heart of gold, currently under witness protection in the suburbs.
A young man is a reformed gambler who must return to playing big stakes poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks.
When a tragedy strikes close to home, four police officers struggle with their faith and their roles as husbands and fathers; together they make a decision that will change all of their lives.
Boyz n the Hood
Saga of a group of childhood friends growing up in a Los Angeles ghetto.
A quietly troubled young man returns home for his mother’s funeral after being estranged from his family for a decade.
A teenage loner pushes his way into the underworld of a high school crime ring to investigate the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend.
A veteran assigned to extract Earth’s remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself.
Chris is a once promising high school athlete whose life is turned upside down following a tragic accident. As he tries to maintain a normal life, he takes a job as a janitor at a bank, where he ultimately finds himself caught up in a planned heist.
Acting under the cover of a Hollywood producer scouting a location for a science fiction film, a CIA agent launches a dangerous operation to rescue six Americans in Tehran during the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran in 1980.
The Breakfast Club
Five high school students, all different stereotypes, meet in detention, where they pour their hearts out to each other, and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought.
The Ides of March
An idealistic staffer for a new presidential candidate gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail.
Life as a House
When a man is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he takes custody of his misanthropic teenage son, for whom quality time means getting high, engaging in small-time prostitution, and avoiding his father.
Two documentary filmmakers accidentally uncover the greatest moon secret the world has never known, and the powerful organization determined to keep it that way.
A group of kids set out on an adventure in search of pirate treasure that could save their homes from foreclosure.
A documentary on DIY producer/director Roger Corman and his alternative approach to making movies in Hollywood.
Dream a Little Dream
An accident puts the consciousness of an elderly dream researcher into the body of a bratty teenager. The problem? The kid prefers dreamworld limbo to real life.
Run Lola Run
A young woman in Germany has twenty minutes to find and bring 100,000 Deutschmarks to her boyfriend before he robs a supermarket.
A noble underachiever and a beautiful valedictorian fall in love the summer before she goes off to college.
Bright Lights, Big City
A disillusioned young writer living in New York City turns to drugs and drinking to block out the memories of his dead mother and estranged wife.
The Usual Suspects
A sole survivor tells of the twisty events leading up to a horrific gun battle on a boat, which begin when five criminals meet at a seemingly random police lineup.
Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he, working alongside his computer, GERTY, sends back to Earth parcels of a resource that has helped diminish our planet’s power problems.
A piano player at a crossroads in his life returns home to his friends and their own problems with life and love.
An epic mosaic of interrelated characters in search of love, forgiveness, and meaning in the San Fernando Valley.
In the Mouth of Madness
An insurance investigator begins discovering that the impact a horror writer’s books have on his fans is more than inspirational.
Right at Your Door
A dirty bomb goes off in Los Angeles, jamming freeways and spreading a toxic cloud.
Teenage surfer Bethany Hamilton overcomes the odds and her own fears of returning to the water after losing her left arm in a shark attack.
A law student comes to California for the summer and ends up playing professional volleyball.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
A couple undergo a procedure to erase each other from their memories when their relationship turns sour, but it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with.
Being John Malkovich
A puppeteer discovers a portal that leads literally into the head of the movie star, John Malkovich.
The Secret of My Success
A talented young man can’t get an executive position without rising through the ranks, so he comes up with a shortcut, which also benefits his love life.
An industrial worker who hasn’t slept in a year begins to doubt his own sanity.
Requiem for a Dream
The drug-induced utopias of four Coney Island people are shattered when their addictions become stronger.
Grosse Pointe Blank
Martin Blank is a professional assassin. He is sent on a mission to a small Detroit suburb, Grosse Pointe, and, by coincidence, his ten-year high school reunion party is taking place there at the same time.
Johnny is a successful banker who lives happily in a San Francisco townhouse with his fiancée, Lisa. One day, inexplicably, she gets bored of him and decides to seduce Johnny’s best friend, Mark. From there, nothing will be the same again.