Skip to Content

100 Essential Movies Every Guy Should See

100 Essential Movies Every Guy Should See

Cinematic history is littered with gems. In the hands of a brilliant director, a skillful cast, or a visionary writer, a masterpiece can be born. There are so many, in fact, that selecting just 100 as essential viewing was extremely challenging. We debated. We consulted reviews. We rewatched forgotten films. After weeks of doing so, we’ve come to the conclusion that these are the 100 films every guy should see. If you haven’t seen them all, it’s time to fire up Netflix.

1. 300

Modern war movies have nothing on 300. This visually stunning film effectively blends elements of historical accuracy and fantasy to create an epic and memorable story. The film’s use of color, lighting, and special effects enhance the already-intense battle scenes in all the glorious blood and gore.

2. 12 Years a Slave

The story follows Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free-born African American man living in New York, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the 1840s. Despite being a free man, Solomon is sold from one slave owner to another, experiencing the brutalities and injustices of the slave system. He is forced to work on plantations in Louisiana, and despite numerous attempts to escape, he is never able to regain his freedom. Along the way, he meets a variety of other slaves, each with their own unique story and struggles, including Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) who is subjected to horrific abuse.

3. 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey follows a voyage to Jupiter with the sentient computer HAL after the discovery of a mysterious black monolith affecting human evolution. It starts with a group of apes discovering the monolith and then jumps forward in time to show humanity’s advancements in technology and space travel. The crew of the spaceship Discovery One, led by Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Dr. Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood), are on a mission to Jupiter to investigate the monolith when HAL malfunctions and turns on the crew. The ending leaves much to interpretation and will have you debating with friends and fans endlessly.

4. A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange is a crime film that follows the life of a violent and dangerous young man named Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his gang, who commit random acts of crime and violence just for pleasure. The story takes a turn when Alex is arrested and subjected to an experimental treatment called Ludovico technique that is supposed to “cure” him of his violent tendencies. The film explores themes of free will, morality, and the consequences of violent behavior. As a result of the treatment, Alex becomes unable to defend himself, and is left to the mercy of his victims and former associates.

5. Alien

Alien is a science fiction horror film that follows the crew of the commercial spaceship Nostromo, who encounter an extraterrestrial life form that begins to stalk and prey on them one by one. When the crew receives a distress signal from a nearby planet and they investigate it, they find a mysterious egg which contains a deadly creature that attaches itself to one of the crew member’s face. As the creature grows and starts killing the crew, they realize that they are not dealing with a friendly alien and must find a way to stop it before it kills them all. The film is directed by Ridley Scott and features a strong ensemble cast, with Sigourney Weaver in the lead role as Ripley, the warrant officer of the Nostromo.

6. All Is Lost

This survival drama film that follows the story of a man, known only as “Our Man” (played by Robert Redford) who is stranded alone in the Indian Ocean after his sailboat is damaged by a shipping container. With no means of communication and limited supplies, Our Man must find a way to survive and repair his boat before he is overtaken by the elements or other dangers. Throughout the film, we see Our Man’s struggles as he faces extreme weather conditions, navigates through storms and tries to fix his boat, all while dealing with the mental and emotional toll of being alone in the middle of the ocean.

7. Almost Famous

A story of a teenage journalist sent on the road with an up-and-coming rock band during the 1970s, this film is both a nostalgic trip back in time and a heartfelt coming-of-age story. The film’s performances, particularly by Kate Hudson, Frances McDormand, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, are outstanding, and the script is witty and funny.

8. American Beauty

American Beauty tells the story of a man named Lester Burnham, a middle-aged advertising executive who is going through a mid-life crisis. Lester is unhappy with his job, his marriage, and his life in general. He becomes infatuated with his daughter’s best friend, Angela, and begins to fantasize about her. Meanwhile, his wife Carolyn is having an affair with a local real estate tycoon, Buddy Kane. As Lester starts to change his life, he quits his job and starts to work out and smoke pot. He starts to reconnect with his daughter, Jane, but his newfound happiness causes tensions in his family and leads to a dramatic climax. Through the lens of the Burnham family, the film gives a commentary on the disillusionment and the search for meaning in suburban life.

9. American Graffiti

This film follows a group of teenagers growing up in a small town in California in the early 1960s as they deal with the end of their summer vacation and the start of the next phase of their lives. The film explores their relationships with each other, their families, and the girls they are interested in. Along with the coming-of-age story, the film also deals with themes of nostalgia and the loss of innocence as the characters face the realities of growing up and leaving their childhood behind.

10. American History X

American History X tells the story of Derek Vinyard, a former neo-Nazi leader who is released from prison and attempts to prevent his younger brother from going down the same path of hate and violence. The movie explores themes of racism, family, and redemption as Derek reflects on his past actions and struggles to steer his brother toward a different future.

11. American Psycho

This dark satirical thriller follows the story of Patrick Bateman, a wealthy, charming, and intelligent young man who is also a violent and remorseless serial killer. The movie portrays the superficial and materialistic world of Wall Street yuppies in the late 1980s, and how Bateman’s obsession with perfection and status spiral out of control, leading him to commit increasingly heinous crimes. As the line between fantasy and reality begins to blur, Bateman’s grip on sanity starts to slip, leaving audiences wondering whether his murders are real or just a figment of his twisted imagination. Starring Christian Bale in the lead role, the film is a disturbing and thought-provoking exploration of the dark side of the American Dream.

12. Animal House

Animal House is a comedy set in 1962 that follows the misadventures of the Delta Tau Chi fraternity at the fictional Faber College. The fraternity, consisting of slovenly and uncultured members, clashes with the Dean Wormer and the uptight Omega Theta Pi fraternity. It’s the peak fraternity movie, even if you never lived a fraternity life.

13. Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now follows Captain Willard, a U.S. Army officer on a mission to assassinate and assassinate Colonel Kurtz, a rogue officer who has established a cult-like following in the jungle. As Willard navigates up the Nung River, he witnesses the horrors of war and starts to question the morality of his mission and the purpose of the war itself.

14. Blade Runner

This classic 1982 science fiction film is set in a dystopian future in which genetically engineered replicants, visually identical to adult humans, are used for dangerous and degrading work on Earth’s off-world colonies. The film follows Deckard, a “blade runner” who hunts down and “retires” rogue replicants. Deckard falls in love with Rachael, a replicant who initially believes herself to be human, and becomes embroiled in a conflict between the replicants and their oppressive creators.

15. Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie and Clyde is a 1967 crime film about the real-life criminal couple, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. The film follows the pair as they rob banks and stay one step ahead of the law. Despite their successes, their relationship is strained by Bonnie’s growing ambition and Clyde’s violent tendencies. The film culminates in a violent shootout between the couple and a posse of police officers, ultimately leading to their death.

16. Boogie Nights

A film that tells the story of the rise and fall of a group of people working in the pornographic industry in the 1970s and 1980s, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, and Philip Seymour Hoffman all star in the movie for an exploration of nostalgia, the porn industry, and the American dream.

17. Bottle Rocket

Bottle Rocket is a 1996 comedy film about three friends–Dignan, Anthony, and Bob–who attempt to pull off a series of increasingly ambitious heists. After a brief stint in jail, Dignan and Anthony enlist Bob to join them in their plans for a major robbery. However, their plans go awry and the trio find themselves in increasingly dangerous situations. Despite their misadventures, the trio remain loyal to each other and manage to come out of their experiences relatively unscathed.

18. Boyhood

Boyhood is a 2014 drama film that follows the life of a young boy, Mason, from age 6 to age 18. The film follows his experiences growing up with divorced parents, his first loves, his struggles with adolescence, and his transition into adulthood. Along the way, Mason and his family must deal with the ups and downs of life, and ultimately learn to accept that growing up is a process that must be embraced.

19. Boyz n the Hood

This 1991 drama follows three friends growing up in South Central Los Angeles. The film centers on Tre Styles, who is determined to make something of himself despite the harsh environment he lives in. His two friends, Doughboy and Ricky, face different challenges and temptations, as Doughboy gets pulled into a life of crime and Ricky becomes a rising star athlete. The film follows the three friends as they navigate their way through their tumultuous teenage years and learn to accept the realities of their lives.

20. Braveheart

Braveheart is a 1995 historical drama film set in Scotland in the 13th century as William Wallace, a Scottish warrior, unites the Scottish clans in a rebellion against the English. Wallace leads the Scots in a series of battles against the English, culminating in the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Spoiler: The victory at Stirling Bridge is short-lived, however, and Wallace is eventually betrayed and executed.

21. Bullitt

An action crime film directed by Peter Yates and starring Steve McQueen as a police lieutenant who is assigned to protect a key witness in a high-profile mob case. The film features one of the most iconic car chase scenes in the history of cinema, the chase scene is a masterful display of filmmaking and car choreography, showcasing the skill and expertise of the filmmakers.

22. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a 1969 western film about two outlaws, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, who form a gang and embark on a series of daring and dangerous heists. As the law catches up with them, the two try to escape to Bolivia in hopes of a quieter life, but the pursuit continues and their final stand-off with the law leads to an iconic shootout. Along the way, the two develop a strong bond and become friends, and ultimately accept that sometimes even the best outlaws must pay the price for their crimes.

23. Children of Men

This 2006 science fiction film set in a dystopian future where human infertility has made it impossible for anyone to give birth. The film follows Theo Faron, an apathetic bureaucrat, who is tasked with protecting a mysterious young woman who is believed to be pregnant and is the last hope for humanity. As Theo and the woman evade enemies on all sides, they must fight to survive and protect the future of the human race.

24. Cool Hand Luke

A film directed by Stuart Rosenberg, starring Paul Newman as a non-conformist prisoner in a Florida prison camp who refuses to knuckle under to the system. Luke’s defiance and refusal to give in to their demands leads him to be seen as a hero by his fellow inmates, but also earns him the wrath of the guards. As Luke’s punishment becomes increasingly severe, he continues to stand up for himself and his fellow prisoners, ultimately leading to a showdown with the prison authorities.

25. Dazed and Confused

Alright, alright, alright. This 1993 coming-of-age comedy film is set in 1976 Texas and has spawned quotes you might not even realize are from the movie. The film follows the last day of school for a group of high school seniors, and the hijinks and adventures that ensue. The story is told through the eyes of freshman, Mitch, who is struggling to fit in with the older kids. Along the way, he and his peers experience the joys and struggles of growing up, learning about themselves and each other as they navigate their way through the summer.

26. Dog Day Afternoon

A 1975 crime drama film based on the true story of a robbery gone wrong. The film follows Sonny, an aspiring criminal, who attempts to rob a bank in order to pay for his partner’s sex change operation. The robbery is quickly botched, forcing Sonny and his accomplice to take hostages and negotiate for their freedom. As the police and the media surround the bank and the situation escalates, Sonny must find a way to get out alive.

27. Drive

Ryan Gosling’s sparse dialogue allows you to hear more of the killer soundtrack in this 2011 crime drama about a Hollywood stunt driver who leads a double life as a getaway driver. He meets his neighbor, Irene, and her young son and develops a relationship with them. When Irene’s husband is released from prison, they are threatened by a gangster and the driver must use his skills to protect them. With his back against the wall, the driver must risk his own life to save the ones he loves and keep them safe.

28. Fargo

Fargo is a 1996 dark comedy about a car salesman who hires two criminals to kidnap his wife in order to extort a large ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. The plan quickly spirals out of control as the criminals become involved in a series of misadventures which lead to a series of violent and unexpected events. The film follows the investigation of the case by a pregnant police chief, who must unravel the dark secrets behind the kidnapping in order to find justice.

29. Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a 1982 comedy-drama film set in a California high school. The film follows a group of students as they navigate their way through the ups and downs of teenage life, from crushes and romance to parties and school work. Along the way, they learn valuable lessons about themselves and life, from the funny to the heartbreaking.

30. Fight Club

You may not be able to talk about fight club if you know anything about the movie, but you definitely need to watch it. Fight Club is a 1999 psychological drama about a depressed office worker who finds solace in an underground fighting club. He meets Tyler Durden, the club’s mysterious founder, and the two become close friends. Together, they create a new form of therapy that combines physical fighting with personal and philosophical exploration. As their experiment grows, it spirals out of control, leading to a chaotic and violent climax.

31. Forrest Gump

Tom Hanks stars in Forrest Gump, a 1994 comedy-drama about an unlikely hero whose simple innocence and unique outlook on life make him an endearing character. Throughout his journey, Forrest encounters historical figures, celebrities, and everyday people, teaching us about life, love, and the power of believing in ourselves.

32. Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket is a 1987 war drama film set during the Vietnam War. It follows a group of U.S. Marines as they go through a rigorous boot camp and then are sent to the front lines of the war. The film follows their struggle to survive and keep their sanity intact in the face of the horrors of war. It is a dark and powerful look at the effects of war, and a testament to the strength and resilience of the human spirit.

33. Gangs of New York

This 2002 historical crime drama is set in the Five Points area of New York City in the mid-19th century. Two gangs, the Irish immigrants led by Bill “the Butcher” Cutting and the “Native Americans” led by Amsterdam Vallon. The film follows Amsterdam’s quest for revenge against Bill for the murder of his father, and the ensuing battle for control over Five Points.