100 Movies You Need To See Before You Die - Comedy & Horror
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.
22. 'AIRPLANE!' (2008)
Taken almost verbatim - exclamation point and all - from a '50s B-movie called 'Zero Hour!', the Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrahams not only resurrected the idea of parody movies, but pretty much created the blueprint that sustained the genre for nearly four decades. Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges - these were all well-known actors who came out of the old studio system, known for playing their roles straight and clear without a hint of comedy to any of it. The genius in casting them was that they were so effective at being deadpan that it made instantly funnier. Some five decades on, it's still gut-wrenchingly funny.
23. 'THE DEATH OF STALIN' (2017)
There's nothing remotely funny about Stalinism, nor is there anything funny about the Soviet Union or the myriad of horrors that were perpetrated under that regime. Yet, 'The Death of Stalin' instead chooses to focus on not only the absurdity of the era, the opportunism of the apparatchiks in it, and how they all bounced and prodded off each other in a race to see who replaced Stalin. Cunningly, the cast uses their own accents to allow Western audiences to better understand each of the characters better. Zhukov, played brilliantly by Jason Isaacs, is a blow-hard. Malenkov echoes the fussy pomposity of Hank Kingsley in Jeffrey Tambor's performance. Khruschev, in Steve Buscemi's portrayal, is a fast-talking hustler, while Vasily Stalin is more closer to a wide-eyed, Gene Wilder fool in Rueprt Friend's performance. It's diabolically, blackly funny stuff.
24. 'THE BIG LEBOWSKI' (1998)
The Coen Brothers began their career with offbeat comedies such as 'Raising Arizona' and 'Barton Fink', and have returned to in their latter years with the likes of 'Hail, Caesar!' and 'Burn After Reading'. Yet, 'The Big Lebowski' is by far their most potent and effective. Jeff Bridges, in perhaps the most recognisable role of his career, is Jeffrey 'The Dude' Lebowski - a down-and-out stoner who is pulled into a detective story involving the kidnapped wife of Jeffrey Lebowski, a paraplegic millionaire who doesn't tolerate idleness and boasts of his work ethic endlessly. The real star of the film, however, is John Goodman as Walter Sobchak. Based on writer-director John Milius, Sobchak's volcanic rage marks out some of the movie's most hilarious scenes, all of it while The Dude ceaselessly tries to defuse the situation. Riddled with quotable lines, dazzled with star roles, 'The Big Lebowski' is the Coens' crowning jewel in their comedic output.
25. 'BLAZING SADDLES' (1974)
It's hard to imagine a movie that is so ardently subversive, so hilariously crass and, in spite of all those things, so completely relevant as 'Blazing Saddles'. Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little are two gunslingers who are trying to fight off the local railroad from taking over the town of Rock Ridge. On the surface, that's standard fare in Westerns, but it's funnelled through Mel Brooks' anarchic comedy filter and comes out the other side of it as something completely different. 'Blazing Saddles' charged right at the racial components in the story, not unlike Mongo barreling straight into a fight. They even manage to sneak into a villains' convention by disgusing themselves as KKK members. It even descends into a fourth-wall breaking musical comedy by the end of the movie. 'Blazing Saddles', as described by Mel Brooks himself, wasn't written in a writer's room, but rather "in the middle of a drunken fistfight." The results are there on screen.
26. 'SUPER TROOPERS' (2001)
'Super Troopers' was unfairly lumped in with the gross-out comedies of the late '90s and early '00, when in truth, it has more in common with the likes of 'Caddyshack', 'Animal House', and the comedy troupe stylings of National Lampoon and Second City. A group of bored, slacker cops in rural America manage to stumble across an interstate drug trafficking ring, but have to work against their own impulses to be screw-ups and save the day. The straightforward nature of the story allows for a ring-fence in which comedy is allowed to flourish, and flourish it does. The jokes aren't smart, but they're bawdy and fun and very, very entertaining. Featuring an unusual supporting cast that includes Brian Cox (yes, the guy from 'Succession'), Lynda Carter (yes, Wonder Woman herself) and Jim Gaffigan in a key scene, 'Super Troopers' never once misses the target.
27. 'MIDNIGHT RUN' (1988)
Far and away by a measure of lightyears, 'Midnight Run' is the best comedy Robert DeNiro has ever been a part of. The recurring theme in Robert DeNiro's career of late is that he should have probably quit while he was ahead, instead of subjecting himself to awful works like 'Dirty Grandpa', 'The Intern', 'The Family', and that bagel ad for TV. For comedies, he should have stopped here because there was no way he could have done any better. Directed by Martin Brest, DeNiro plays a down-on-his-luck bail bondsman who's ordered to travel with a star witness - played to perfection by Charles Grodin - across America. Chasing them is a violent mobster, played by Dennis Farina, a hapless bounty hunter in John Ashton, and a raving Joe Pantoliano trying to shepherd the two of them home. The chemistry between DeNiro and Grodin is evidenced in every scene, not to mention director Martin Brest knowing when to let the camera simply run on them, rather than trying to inflect anything on it. Quite possibly the greatest action-comedy ever made.
28. 'MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN' (1979)
Any movie that's banned here in Ireland is automatically worth watching, but the stated reason for banning 'The Life of Brian' was particularly stupid. Essentially, the furore was down to the fact that Ireland's then-censors believed it to be blasphemous, and mocking of Jesus Christ. Had they actually watched the movie, they would have noted that Jesus Christ is featured twice in the movie and it's entirely positive and verbatim from the Bible; wherein Jesus recites the Beatitudes and when the Three Wise Men approach the stables at Bethlehem. The movie takes off from there, where we see the Monty Python crew in 33AD Jerusalem poking fun at organised religion and dogmatism from every possible angle. Undoubtedly the most complete of the Monty Python movies - 'The Meaning Of Life' was pretty much a sketch show, whilst 'The Holy Grail' ran out of money and had no ending - 'The Life of Brian' has one of the most effective endings in comedy filmmaking, and gifted a song - 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life' - for the ages.
29. 'SOME LIKE IT HOT' (1959)
That 'Some Like It Hot' so flagrantly dabbled in cross-dressing, homosexuality, camp, and everything else frowned upon in the '50s and '60s in America makes it wildly subversive. It might look a little tame now, but back then, it was scandalous and raucous. Indeed, 'Some Like It Hot' and its huge commercial and critical success effectively put an end to the so-called Hays Code, or by its formal title, the Motion Picture Production Code. Marilyn Monroe's command of the camera in every single scene, Lemmon and Curtis' dynamic, Wilder's bawdy screenplay, the hot and smoky soundtrack - some things never go old.
30. 'HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE' (2016)
'Hunt For The Wilderpeople was like a breath of fresh air on its release, for both its knowing humour, heartwarming air of earnestness, and Taika Waititi's deft handling of difficult themes. Sam Neill, eschewing his usual straight-backed and genteel characters for a bearded, gruff survivalist who is reluctantly paired with "a real bad egg" in the form of Julian Dennison. Hunting them is comedy double-act Rachel House and Oscar Kightly, with one-liners to beat the band. Underneath the comedy, 'Hunt For The Wilderpeople' is a story about responsibility and freedom and the war between the two, and how broken people often find themselves in equally broken people. This informs the dynamic between Dennison and Neill, and gives the comedy an underpinning of emotional context to it.
31.'THIS IS SPINAL TAP' (1984)
The impact that 'This Is Spinal Tap' had on comedies cannot be overstated. In one movie, it defined the mockumentary genre and gave birth to dozens of pretenders in its wake. 'The Office', Christopher Guest's efforts, 'Veep', 'The Thick Of It' - all of them owe a debt to 'This Is Spinal Tap'. Rob Reiner's incredible run of movies, beginning here and ending ten years later with the abominable 'North' in 1994, hasn't yet been replicated. And as for Spinal Tap, they've appeared in everything from 'The Simpsons' to Fran Drescher reprising her role in the movie in her own sitcom, 'The Nanny'. Even IMDb's rating of the movie goes up to 11.
32. 'SUSPIRIA' (1978)
Dario Argento's work can be categorised by one word – violent. Excessively violent, in fact. 'Suspiria' features a truly grotesque amount of blood and gore, but it also meshes these baser elements with incredible visuals and a keen eye for design and artistic influence. Some of the most disturbing murders in 'Suspiria' take place inside an Art Deco-themed dreamworld. A beautiful young ballerina arrives at a prestigious school that just so happens to be home to a coven of witches. Argento specifically chose camera fliters and set designs that made the protagonist, a virginal Jessica Harper, seem much smaller than her surroundings. Combing together unsettling visuals, gleeful violence, and an ominous psychedelic rock soundtrack, 'Suspiria' is the ultimate in stylish European horror.
33. 'DAWN OF THE DEAD' (1978)
As night follows day, the name of George A. Romero and zombies follow together. 'Dawn of the Dead' is by far the most tightly directed, cleanly executed of Romero's efforts, and it's the one so often referenced in zombie movies after. The best horrors address social issues underneath the blood and gore, and 'Dawn of the Dead' takes its aim at capitalism, consumerism, and how an idle citizenry will eventually doom us all to extinction. That it was wrapped up an orgy of violence didn't blunt any of those themes from getting through. If anything, it underlined them in a way that simply stating them couldn't.
34. 'THE FLY' (1986)
David Cronenberg's preoccupation with bodily functions and the idea of the flesh itself as a playground for horror is a fascinating one. It's hard to know exactly where it comes from, whether it's about the diseased remains of society or if it's an agent of personal change and growth. One of his last "straight-up" - as far as the word goes - horrors, it's also one of Cronenberg's most effective. Based on a remake of the 1958 movie of the same name, Jeff Goldblum plays a mildly eccentric scientist whose invention - teleportation through pods - will undoubtedly change the world. As he begins a relationship with science journalist Geena Davis, he resolves him to test his creation on himself to prove its efficacy. Of course, it doesn't go well. Like all Cronenberg body horrors, the idea of change and purity of change is a factor in the story. Goldblum's character initially believes that the change in him is a positive, but it slowly begins to destroy him, and change him into something inhuman. It's only at the very end - literally, the final scene - that we see the human return and it's begging for death. Was that its desire all along? Was the human still inside or was it just because its plan had failed? It's hard to know, but one thing's for sure - 'The Fly' is an unforgettable experience.
35. 'SE7EN' (1995)
Although David Fincher is often accused - not entirely without cause - of being too cold and clinical with his films, 'Se7en' is a deeply emotional story and the ending is probably one of the most harrowing sequences in the horror genre. As Fincher describes it, it was "a tiny genre picture, the kind that William Friedkin would have made after 'The Exorcist'," and was drawn to how it was less of a "police procedural and more a meditation on evil." That evil was personified by Kevin Spacey, who refused his name to be placed on posters or marquees so as to give audiences a true experience when he's revealed. Slick, deeply disturbing and smartly written by Andrew Kevin Walker, 'Se7en' brought a level of gravitas to psychological horror not seen since 'Silence of the Lambs'.
36. 'SCREAM' (1996)
Although subsequent sequels and a poor TV series might have diluted it, 'Scream' is still a movie that bears up after twenty-odd years, and still feels fresh and intelligent as the weekend it hit cinemas. Wes Craven, easily one of the most prodigious and celebrated horror directors of his generation, was on fire and brilliantly subverting the tropes and genre that he himself had helped define in movies such as 'A Nightmare On Elm Street' and 'The Last House On The Left'. Couple that with a cast of up-and-comers like Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and Rose MacGowan, and a fiendishly clever premise and you've got the defining slasher film of the '90s and a pop-culture phenomenon to boot. The best out of the entire series.
37. 'THE BABADOOK' (2014)
There are precious few horror movies out there made by women, and more importantly, it is so truly rare to see horror from a woman's perspective. Very often, women are relegated to tropes like the final girl. 'The Babadook' rises above the confines of genre to explore deep-seated fears of grief, motherhood, family trauma, and the uncomfortable truths that face us daily - all while being utterly terrifying in the process of doing so. Jennifer Kent's remarkable debut showed how lacking an emphasis on narrative has been in modern horrors.
38. 'HALLOWEEN' (1979)
John Carpenter may not have birthed the slasher genre, but he was the one who breathed life into it and gave it shape - no pun intended. Channeling Hitchcock in his casting of Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Janet Leigh, Carpenter used his cunning and acumen to create a rich, textured experience in a movie that has very little to it. Our mind fills in the blanks, letting us see the shape appear out of shadows, standing just off a hedge, waiting behind every door and around every corner, ready at any moment to strike without mercy and without a sound.
39. 'THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS' (1991)
In the space of just two years - 1990 and 1991 - horror had gone from video nasties and moral panic to a respected genre worthy of awards recognition. 'Misery', which was classed more as a psychological thriller than a straight-up horror, had scored a Best Actress Oscar and now, Anthony Hopkins would win a Best Actor for Hannibal Lecter. Paired with Jodie Foster and director Jonathan Demme, Hopkins created a frightening portrayal of a monster with no compunction about slicing off someone's face to survive and evade capture - so yes, it's absolutely a horror film and trying to mask it - pun intended - as a psychological thriller just stinks of snobbery. What made 'Silence of the Lambs' more frightening, however, was the sexual politics that were shown. Starling, a bright and talented investigator, is consistently talked down to by superiors by virtue of her gender and is often greeted with comments about her beauty. As well as this, Ted Levine's sheer transformation into Buffalo Bill is just incredible and marked him out as a physically capable actor who uses every inch of himself - quite literally - in his performance.
40. 'THE THING' (1982)
John Carpenter's 'The Thing' is the ultimate in paranoia horror in any decade. The logline of the film just says it all - "Man Is The Warmest Place To Hide". Like 'Evil Dead', like the next entry, what 'The Thing' does spectacularly well is create a palpable sense of dread by using atmosphere, framing, music and colours, and boxing the audience and the characters into a corner. The stark white that surrounds the base shows that they are completely and utterly isolated from the outside world, whereas the deep shadows and small corridors on the inside show that they are closed in. Carpenter manages to blend two trains of thought when it comes to the monster - less is more, but also when he does decide to show you the monster, he does it in the most outward fashion. What makes the creature all the more frightening is that, in reality, it has no shape. It looks like us, it talks like us - it is us.
41. 'THE SHINING' (1980)
What can be said about 'The Shining' that hasn't already been said? If you're looking for a deeper reading of it, check out the documentary 'Room 237'. It explores all the supposed hidden meanings and 'Easter eggs' that Kubrick patterned throughout the film. If '2001: A Space Odyssey' is the greatest sci-fi movie ever made, 'The Shining' is the greatest horror movie ever made. Like 'The Thing', the horror is that Jack Torrance is you and could be you. Isolationism is the catalyst, sure, but there's something underneath the skin that comes out when put under a microscope. The stories around 'The Shining' are just as frightening. Kubrick specifically tormented Shelley Duvall and pushed her - allegedly - to nervous breakdown. Jack Nicholson improvised much of his scenes, due to Kubrick's changing of the script on a daily basis. All the insane rage came from within Nicholson, probably driven from his frustration at the arduous production. The symbolism of the movie is also fascinating. The Native American iconography, the subtle touches in the camerawork, you could dissect it a million times over and still find something new in every frame and scene. That we keep looking, four decades on, only confirms it.