100 Movies You Need To See Before You Die - Sci-Fi & Crime
Lists, as you probably know, are completely subjective.
At its core, it's a recommendation based on one's own opinion. It can have omissions, sometimes glaring ones. There can be exhaustive arguments as to what and where things place on said list, not to mention debates on the very nature of lists itself.
For this list, we've kept it broad as we can - but it's not a ranking. These are 100 movies that you should get to see at some point. Some are comedies, some are documentaries, some are action movies, some are horrors. We've divided the 100 movies into categories, the first being documentaries and animation.
While the entries are numbered from 100 down to 1, we've grouped them into genres for ease of reading. Again, we're not ranking them as one better than the other. As we said, it's simply a recommendation of 100 movies, without placing them in any order other than genre.
As always, we want to hear from you about our choices. You can tweet us at @entertainmentie, message us on Instagram, or you can e-mail us.
For animation and documentaries, tap here.
For comedy and horror, tap here.
42. 'CHILDREN OF MEN' (2006)
The truly frightening part of 'Children Of Men' - and it is a deeply frightening movie - is that as the years since its release, it's less sci-fi and closer to our daily reality than we're all comfortable in admitting. Beyond the grander tapestry of the story of a world so desperate for hope, the decay and rot of society set in, what gives 'Children Of Men' such weight is in the performances of Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Clare-Hope Ashitey. The desperation in each of them isn't played up for the camera at any point, it's lived in, well worn, like a pair of shoes that they've walked around in for years. They know this world all too well, and the frightening part is we may yet come to know it, and perhaps already do.
43. 'THE MATRIX' (1999)
Borrowing heavily from 'Ghost In The Shell', and about a dozen other sci-fi stalwarts, the Wachowskis' post-apocalyptic, virtual-reality sci-fi blockbuster blew everyone's heads off on its release. Seamlessly mixing martial arts, explosive squibs, and the sort of mind-expanding philosophy that's usually reserved for the likes of Ursula K. LeGuin and William Gibson, 'The Matrix' still holds up to this day. Keanu Reeves' icy, detached performance works well for the material and only an actor like Laurence Fishburne could contend with some of the woeful dialogue and make it sound compelling. Throw in one of the best soundtracks of the decade, Hugo Weaving chewing up the scenery at every given opportunity, and you've got a sure-fire hit with two sequels that couldn't possibly live up to the original.
44. 'CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND' (1978)
More than anything else, 'Close Encounters Of The Third Kind' tells us that something that we don't understand isn't always something to be feared. If anything, it can be something beautiful and wondrous, something that will change you and how you view this world entirely. Richard Dreyfuss is an average working electrician who encounters a UFO on his way home from a job. Like us, he is sceptical but little by little, we're drawn into his obsession with finding out what it is he saw. Moreover, he can't stop himself. The ragged desperation he goes through, tempered with good-natured humour, makes it one of his most defining performances. Coupled with John Williams' triumphant score, and special effects that still startle and amaze to this day, and you have Spielberg's crowning achievement in sci-fi.
45. 'ALIEN' (1979)
Conversely, if 'Close Encounters Of The Third Kind' had you thinking aliens were a friendly, music-loving bunch, 'Alien' goes in the exact opposite direction. Seamlessly blending space sci-fi and horror, Ridley Scott guides you through what is essentially a home-invasion story that just happens to be set on a mining spaceship. In comparison with other home-invasion stories however, the cast of 'Alien' aren't plucky teenagers. They're adults, well into their thirties, and can think logically and rationally. Indeed, their first instinct is to leave - as it would be anyones. Yet, the way in which it explores their motivations - money, naturally - is fascinating and adds a layer of conviction and plausibility in two genres that rarely see one or the other.
46. 'ANNIHILATION' (2018)
That 'Annihilation' never received a theatrical release in Irish or UK cinemas is a travesty. Just looking at the textures, the soundscapes, the sheer audacity of it would have been an awe-inspiring experience. Adapted from Jeff Vandermeer's brainy sci-fi novel of the same name, Alex Garland fashions together a story that takes in grief, the destruction of relationships, the nature of self and humanity, and does it all with style and substance left over for countless more movies. It may borrow in parts from early sci-fi efforts like 'Stalker', but like the quarantined area in which it's set, things refract and change shape when inside to create something unique, with only a bare hint of the original.
47. 'BLADE RUNNER' (1980)
You've probably noticed that only a handful of movies in this portion of the list are from the past ten or twenty years. This is because Hollywood stopped taking chances and 'Blade Runner' is, in part, probably the reason why. It was far too ahead of its time and only became fully appreciated for what it was some years after it was needed. Harrison Ford – in easily his best role ever – plays Deckard, a retired detective who specialises in hunting down human-like robots known as Replicants. It starts off a straightforward film; Ford finds the bad guys and takes them out. But as the story progresses, it delves more into what makes humanity human, what memories are our own, and the value of life in any form. There are precious few movies like it, all because it cannot be reached and cannot be done any better than this.
48. 'THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK' (1980)
'Star Wars' brings up a lot of emotions in people when it's raised for discussion. Some are derisive of it, some are completely swept up in it, and some think fondly of what it once was. Leaving all that aside, one thing that can be universally agreed upon - in any galaxy, be it here, or in one far, far away - is that 'The Empire Strikes Back' is the best of the series. Why? For one, it deepens the intensity of the first. It introduces new locales, new villains, new dangers, and new dynamics. The "darker sequel" trope began with this, and it is very much that - Han Solo trapped in carbonite, Luke Skywalker's hand sliced off, Darth Vader revealed as his father?! - it has become synonymous in blockbuster movies as the sequel blueprint, but one that's never been replicated quite so well.
49. 'JURASSIC PARK' (1993)
Going to theme parks with Michael Crichton must have been a weird experience. At any rate, Steven Spielberg's adaptation of his glossy sci-fi pageturner was all but assured to be a landmark sci-fi blockbuster. Even now, the sense of wonder and scale is potent in repeat viewings of 'Jurassic Park'. An ageless wonder, seeing the brachiosaurus move in herds still has that spark, and the ensemble cast of Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough all give truly memorable performances. Over three decades on, life, uh, still finds a way.
50. '2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY' (1968)
It's really says something about a director that is able to cross genres and create one of the defining works in that genre. 'The Shining' is often considered the best horror movie ever made. 'Dr. Strangelove' is a monumental work of satire, 'Paths of Glory' is one of the most definitive anti-war movies to this very day, and the topic of sci-fi movies cannot be discussed without first noting the impact and resonance of '2001: A Space Odyssey'. The themes, the production design, the music, the characters, all of them are so symbolic of what we think of in sci-fi. Artificial intelligence as a threat? That began with HAL. The idea of existence beyond our knowing? That's the Starchild sequence. Even putting a Howard Johnson's on the moon with Pan-Am flights to there speaks to how commercialism will eventually reach the outer heavens. There is so much in '2001' that we can now seem influenced from it, and yet, it's still a truly fascinating movie to watch and experience either for the first time, or for the hundredth and first time.
51. 'ZODIAC' (2007)
For a story about deep obsession and its price on family and work relationships, a director like David Fincher is the only one who could approach it so well - probably because he knows it all too well himself. Frequently driving his cast mad with excessive takes, Fincher crafts a warped fable about the price of obsession, and where it eventually leads. During production, Fincher actually retraced the investigation led by Detective Dave Toschi and Robert Graysmith and met with one of the few survivors of the Zodiac. While Robert Downey Jr. may saunter through some of the best scenes, it's the grim determination of Mark Ruffalo and Jake Gyllenhaal's Bambi-esque innocence that makes 'Zodiac' so convincing. The sharp flashes of comedy between the three help to leaven some of the moments of terror.
52. 'SCARFACE' (1983)
It's loud. It's long. It's garish. It's insanely violent. And people either love it or hate it. 'Scarface' is the ultimate in cocaine-fuelled decadence and excess, and was intended to be Oliver Stone's defining statement on the '80s after 'Wall Street'. Al Pacino plays Tony Montana, a low-level Cuban criminal who guns his way to the top of the drugs business in Miami. While it may have served to influence everything from gaming to hip-hop and rap, 'Scarface' was intended as a warning, not as a guidebook. Underneath the mountains of cocaine, the Porsche 928, Giorgio Moroder's synth soundtrack, 'Scarface' is a Shakesperean tome about the hollow nature of money and power. The final scene really shows this, as Montana's bullet-ridden corpse flops dead into an indoor pool above a statue that mockingly pronounces in bright neon pink - 'The World Is Yours'.
53. 'DRIVE' (2011)
As much a product of the '80s and the works of Paul Schrader, Giorgio Moroder, Brian DePalma, 'Drive' came at just the right time and reminded audiences that crime movies don't necessarily have to have complex stories in order for them to be stylish. Indeed, 'Drive' is a movie that's wholly made up of aesthetics, from the sun-drenched exteriors to the shadowed, street-light car chases. Nicolas Winding Refn pulls back on script and even story for a dreamy, yet unforgettable experience.
54. 'THE USUAL SUSPECTS' (1995)
There are only a handful of movies that benefit from repeated viewings, considering that plot-holes and bad storytelling can become more apparent the second or third time around. 'The Usual Suspects' is one of those that improves with repeated viewings, simply because there's so much going on that you'll miss half of it the first time you see it. Five career-criminals are brought together on trumped-up charges and begin to plot their revenge on those who have wronged them. However, it soon transpires that they themselves have been double-crossed by an unseen criminal mastermind and are then blackmailed into his service. Fiendishly devious, 'The Usual Suspects' still remains a complex web of criminal mastery.
55. 'CHINATOWN' (1974)
Although the likes of 'LA Confidential' may have painted around the same lines as 'Chinatown', no movie has ever come close to taking in the moral complexities and intricacies of it, or the sultry overtones and the sinister tapestry of lies underneath. Jack Nicholson, in one of his defining performances, was incredible as Jake Gittes whilst the late, great John Huston was every bit the smiling monster of a villain in Noah Cross. That, coupled with Jerry Goldsmith's languid score and John A. Alonzo's gold-hewn cinematography, 'Chinatown' remains a masterpiece of the crime and noir genre. While it may be extensively copied, it's never been equalled.
56. 'THE FRENCH CONNECTION' (1971)
As much as the likes of 'Chinatown', 'Goodfellas', or even more esoteric efforts like 'Bad Lieutenant' capture the grisly glamour of crime, few can speak to the same level of authenticity that 'The French Connection' does. Gene Hackman is Popeye Doyle, a half-deranged cop who's bent on destroying the heroin trade single-handedly in New York, and doesn't care how he does it. The movie has one of the greatest car chases and, what's most frightening, is that it was done without even stopping traffic. The director William Friedkin mounted a camera on top of a car and told his stunt drive to go as fast as he could through a populated area - without obtaining permits. Yes, really.
57. 'GOODFELLAS' (1990)
Martin Scorsese has come back to the place of the criminal in American society again and again throughout his career, in everything from 'Mean Streets' and 'Casino', to more recent efforts like 'The Departed' or 'The Irishman'. Yet, none of them have the same audacity, the same thrill, or the same boldness as 'Goodfellas'. It is a rip of coked-up madness, punctuated by needle drops of music, all of it wrapped up in savvy, knowing dialogue and jet-black humour. Never has a movie made being a career criminal seem so exciting, and what's more, 'Goodfellas' embraces it wholly. Henry Hill is played by Ray Liotta like a maniac rock star, while his bandmates in Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci each have their own solos and moments to blast out. As far as we can remember, it's Scorsese's greatest crime movie.
58. 'THE GODFATHER, PART I & II' (1972, 1974)
We might be breaking the rules here, but it's the crime section. So, y' know, it's to be expected. But to get back to it, 'The Godfather Part I & II' are meant to be experienced and enjoyed as one film, broken into two. It's a sprawling epic that spans entire generations of the Corleone family and launched the careers of Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert DeNiro, Robert Duvall and reaffirmed why Marlon Brando is one of the greatest actors of our time. Francis Ford Coppola's direction is assured and convinces the audience that the Corleones are not hardened criminals, but more of a dynasty in the same way the Kennedys or the Roosevelts are.
59. 'LA CONFIDENTIAL' (1997)
"Hold your badge up so they know you're a cop." So few crime movies have the courage to examine the dynamic between crime and law, and how the two connect and weave together. 'LA Confidential' is now even more relevant, what with the reckoning the US is having with decades of police brutality and unchecked corruption inside the halls of power. That it's set in the prosperous '50s of Los Angeles doesn't dilute any of this. If anything, it drives home the fact that corruption, violence, and codes of silence are at the very heart of the police in America.
60. 'HEAT' (1995)
"You wanna be making moves on the street, allow nothing into your life that you can't walk out on in thirty seconds." When you look at Al Pacino in the likes of 'Jack & Jill', or Robert DeNiro in the likes of 'Dirty Grandpa' or that Kia advert, it's hard to imagine that they were once respected actors. Even more, they were both in a decent movie together. Does anybody remember 'Righteous Kill', for instance? Yeah, neither do we.
Still, all those terrible career choices can't erase the good work they've done, and 'Heat' remains their finest work together. A sprawling crime saga set in Los Angeles, the two actors are at the height of their powers and both of them utterly convincing in their roles. Michael Mann's complete commitment to his craft - from hiring a real SAS specialist to train the cast in small arms, to using the real production sound during the street battle towards the end - propels the two actors in a way that other directors couldn't hope to do.
At just over three hours, 'Heat' earns its runtime by not only weaving together strands that could easily make up one whole movie but never once squandering a moment in it that doesn't service the characters or the story. The minute details in each and every performance just tells you that. DeNiro starched his own shirt collars, as most ex-cons learned how in prison. Danny Trejo, who's in the movie for all of maybe ten minutes, was himself a career criminal before he turned to acting. Jon Voight's character was based - appearance and all - on Edward Brunker, the author of 'No Beast So Fierce' and a former criminal kingpin.
Put all that together, and you have the greatest crime movie of the past three decades.