Do Your Homework: Watch AFI’s Top 100 List Films

If you’re writing screenplays, it’s very important to know the field. You should be watching movies in the theatre now and also studying previously released films. Here is a wonderful basic list of the great movies, which you should see to have a basic understanding of our industry.

In addition, you should endeavor to watch all of the past, present and future Academy Award- and Golden Globe-nominated and winning films.

Click here for more about AFI’s 100 Greatest Movies list.

Click here for a list of all of AFI’s 100 Greatest lists, which can be downloaded.

I would highly recommend watching all of the winners and nominees from within the genre you write, so if you write thrillers, watch the thriller list.

This is the American Film Institute’s 1998 list of the 100 Greatest Movies, selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community. A 10th anniversary list was updated and released last year.

1.CITIZEN KANE (1941)
2.CASABLANCA (1942)
3.GODFATHER, THE (1972)
4.GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)
5.LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)
6.WIZARD OF OZ, THE (1939)
7.GRADUATE, THE (1967)
8.ON THE WATERFRONT (1954)
9.SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993)
10.SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952)
11.IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)
12.SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950)
13.BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, THE (1957)
14.SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)
15.STAR WARS (1977)
16.ALL ABOUT EVE (1950)
17.AFRICAN QUEEN, THE (1951)
18.PSYCHO (1960)
19.CHINATOWN (1974)
20.ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST (1975)
21.GRAPES OF WRATH, THE (1940)
22.2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
23.MALTESE FALCON, THE (1941)
24.RAGING BULL (1980)
25.E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982)
26.DR. STRANGELOVE (1964)
27.BONNIE & CLYDE (1967)
28.APOCALYPSE NOW (1979)
29.MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939)
30.TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948)
31.ANNIE HALL (1977)
32.GODFATHER PART II, THE (1974)
33.HIGH NOON (1952)
34.TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)
35.IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934)
36.MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969)
37.BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, THE (1946)
38.DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)
39.DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965)
40.NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)
41.WEST SIDE STORY (1961)
42.REAR WINDOW (1954)
43.KING KONG (1933)
44.BIRTH OF A NATION, THE (1915)
45.STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, A (1951)
46.CLOCKWORK ORANGE, A (1971)
47.TAXI DRIVER (1976)
48.JAWS (1975)
49.SNOW WHITE & THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937)
50.BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID (1969)
51.PHILADELPHIA STORY, THE(1940)
52.FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953)
53.AMADEUS (1984)
54.ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930)
55.SOUND OF MUSIC, THE (1965)
56.M*A*S*H(1970)
57.THIRD MAN, THE (1949)
58.FANTASIA (1940)
59.REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955)
60.RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)
61.VERTIGO (1958)
62.TOOTSIE (1982)
63.STAGECOACH (1939)
64.CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)
65.SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE (1991)
66.NETWORK (1976)
67.MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, THE (1962)
68.AMERICAN IN PARIS, AN (1951)
69.SHANE (1953)
70.FRENCH CONNECTION, THE (1971)
71.FORREST GUMP (1994)
72.BEN-HUR (1959)
73.WUTHERING HEIGHTS (1939)
74.GOLD RUSH, THE (1925)
75.DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990)
76.CITY LIGHTS (1931)
77.AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973)
78.ROCKY (1976)
79.DEER HUNTER, THE (1978)
80.WILD BUNCH, THE (1969)
81.MODERN TIMES (1936)
82.GIANT (1956)
83.PLATOON (1986)
84.FARGO (1996)
85.DUCK SOUP (1933)
86.MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935)
87.FRANKENSTEIN (1931)
88.EASY RIDER (1969)
89.PATTON (1970)
90.JAZZ SINGER, THE (1927)
91.MY FAIR LADY (1964)
92.PLACE IN THE SUN, A(1951)
93.APARTMENT, THE (1960)
94.GOODFELLAS (1990)
95.PULP FICTION (1994)
96.SEARCHERS, THE (1956)
97.BRINGING UP BABY (1938)
98.UNFORGIVEN (1992)
99.GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER (1967)
100. YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942)

Following is the American Film Institute’s 1998 list of the 400 Movies nominated for the top 100 Greatest American Movies:

1. ADAM’S RIB (1949)
2. THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938)
3. AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER (1957)
4. THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951)
5. ALIEN (1979)
6. ALL ABOUT EVE (1950)
7. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930)
8. ALL THAT JAZZ (1979)
9. ALL THE KING’S MEN (1949)
10. ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976)
11. AMADEUS (1984)
12. AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973)
13. AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951)
14. THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY (1964)
15. ANATOMY OF A MURDER (1959)
16. ANNIE HALL (1977)
17. THE APARTMENT (1960)
18. APOCALYPSE NOW (1979)
19. APOLLO 13 (1995)
20. AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (1956)
21. ATLANTIC CITY (1980)
22. THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937)
23. BABE (1995)
24. BABES IN ARMS (1939)
25. BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)
26. BADLANDS (1973)
27. BAMBI (1942)
28. THE BAND WAGON (1953)
29. THE BANK DICK (1940)
30. BAREFOOT IN THE PARK (1967)
31. BATAAN (1943)
32. BATMAN (1989)
33. BEAU GESTE (1939)
34. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991)
35. BEN-HUR (1926)
36. BEN-HUR (1959)
37. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946)
38. BEVERLY HILLS COP (1984)
39. BIG (1988)
40. THE BIG CHILL (1983)
41. THE BIG PARADE (1925)
42. THE BIG SLEEP (1946)
43. THE BIRDS (1963)
44. THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915)
45. THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (1955)
46. BLADE RUNNER (1982)
47. BLAZING SADDLES (1974)
48. BLUE VELVET (1986)
49. BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967)
50. BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY (1989)
51. BOYS TOWN (1938)
52. BRAVEHEART (1995)
53. BRAZIL (1985)
54. BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961)
55. BREAKING AWAY (1979)
56. THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957)
57. BRINGING UP BABY (1938)
58. BROADCAST NEWS (1987)
59. THE BROADWAY MELODY (1929)
60. BULLITT (1968)
61. BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969)
62. CABARET (1972)
63. CABIN IN THE SKY (1943)
64. THE CAINE MUTINY (1954)
65. CAMILLE (1937)
66. CARMEN JONES (1954)
67. CARRIE (1976)
68. CASABLANCA (1942)
69. CASINO (1995)
70. CAT BALLOU (1965)
71. CAT PEOPLE (1942)
72. CAVALCADE (1933)
73. CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981)
74. THE CHEAT (1915)
75. CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD (1986)
76. CHINATOWN (1974)
77. EL CID (1961)
78. CIMARRON (1931)
79. CINDERELLA (1950)
80. CITIZEN KANE (1941)
81. CITY LIGHTS (1931)
82. CLEOPATRA (1963)
83. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971)
84. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)
85. THE COLOR PURPLE (1985)
86. COMING HOME (1978)
87. THE CONVERSATION (1974)
88. COOL HAND LUKE (1967)
89. THE CROWD (1928)
90. DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990)
91. DANGEROUS LIAISONS (1988)
92. DAVID COPPERFIELD (1935)
93. THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951)
94. DAYS OF HEAVEN (1978)
95. DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (1962)
96. DEAD POETS SOCIETY (1989)
97. THE DEER HUNTER (1978)
98. THE DEFIANT ONES (1958)
99. DELIVERANCE (1972)
100. DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (1939)
101. THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK (1959)
102. DIE HARD (1988)
103. DIRTY HARRY (1971)
104. DO THE RIGHT THING (1989)
105. DR. STRANGELOVE (1964)
106. DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965)
107. DODSWORTH (1936)
108. DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975)
109. DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)
110. DRIVING MISS DAISY (1989)
111. DUCK SOUP (1933)
112. E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982)
113. EAST OF EDEN (1955)
114. EASY RIDER (1969)
115. ELMER GANTRY (1960)
116. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)
117. THE ENGLISH PATIENT (1996)
118. THE EXORCIST (1973)
119. FANTASIA (1940)
120. FANTASTIC VOYAGE (1966)
121. FARGO (1996)
122. FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982)
123. FATAL ATTRACTION (1987)
124. FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (1986)
125. FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (1971)
126. FIELD OF DREAMS (1989)
127. FIVE EASY PIECES (1970)
128. FORCE OF EVIL (1948)
129. FORREST GUMP (1994)
130. 42ND STREET (1933)
131. THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (1921)
132. FRANKENSTEIN (1931)
133. FREAKS (1932)
134. THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971)
135. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953)
136. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)
137. THE FUGITIVE (1993)
138. FUNNY GIRL (1968)
139. FURY (1936)
140. GANDHI (1982)
141. THE GENERAL (1927)
142. GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT (1947)
143. GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953)
144. GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)
145. GIANT (1956)
146. GIGI (1958)
147. GILDA (1946)
148. GLORY (1989)
149. THE GODFATHER (1972)
150. THE GODFATHER PART II (1974)
151. GOING MY WAY (1944)
152. THE GOLD RUSH (1925)
153. GOLDFINGER (1964)
154. GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)
155. THE GOODBYE GIRL (1977)
156. GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS (1939)
157. GOODFELLAS (1990)
158. THE GRADUATE (1967)
159. GRAND HOTEL (1932)
160. THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1940)
161. GREASE (1978)
162. THE GREAT ZIEGFELD (1936)
163. THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (1952)
164. GREED (1925)
165. GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER (1967)
166. GUN CRAZY (1950)
167. THE GUNFIGHTER (1950)
168. GUNGA DIN (1939)
169. HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO (1944)
170. HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986)
171. THE HEIRESS (1949)
172. HIGH NOON (1952)
173. HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940)
174. HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941)
175. HUD (1963)
176. THE HUSTLER (1961)
177. I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG (1932)
178. IMITATION OF LIFE (1959)
179. IN COLD BLOOD (1967)
180. IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967)
181. INTOLERANCE (1916)
182. INTRUDER IN THE DUST (1949)
183. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956)
184. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934)
185. IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD (1963)
186. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)
187. JAWS (1975)
188. THE JAZZ SINGER (1927)
189. JERRY MAGUIRE (1996)
190. THE JOY LUCK CLUB (1993)
191. JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG (1961)
192. THE JUNGLE BOOK (1967)
193. JURASSIC PARK (1993)
194. THE KID (1921)
195. THE KILLING FIELDS (1984)
196. KING KONG (1933)
197. KRAMER VS. KRAMER (1979)
198. LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955)
199. THE LADY EVE (1941)
200. THE LAST EMPEROR (1987)
201. THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (1971)
202. LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1973)
203. THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1988)
204. LAURA (1944)
205. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)
206. LEAVING LAS VEGAS (1995)
207. LETHAL WEAPON (1987)
208. A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (1949)
209. THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA (1937)
210. THE LION KING (1994)
211. LITTLE BIG MAN (1970)
212. LITTLE CAESAR (1930)
213. THE LITTLE COLONEL (1935)
214. THE LITTLE FOXES (1941)
215. LOCAL HERO (1983)
216. THE LONGEST DAY (1962)
217. LOST HORIZON (1937)
218. THE LOST WEEKEND (1945)
219. LOVE STORY (1970)
220. M*A*S*H (1970)
221. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942)
222. THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)
223. A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (1966)
224. THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING (1975)
225. THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962)
226. MANHATTAN (1979)
227. THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940)
228. MARTY (1955)
229. MARY POPPINS (1964)
230. McCABE AND MRS. MILLER (1971)
231. MEAN STREETS (1973)
232. MEDIUM COOL (1969)
233. MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944)
234. MELVIN AND HOWARD (1980)
235. MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969)
236. THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN’S CREEK (1944)
237. MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947)
238. MISSING (1982)
239. MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN (1936)
240. MISTER ROBERTS (1955)
241. MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939)
242. MRS. MINIVER (1942)
243. MODERN TIMES (1936)
244. MOONSTRUCK (1987)
245. MOROCCO (1930)
246. MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935)
247. MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946)
248. MY FAIR LADY (1964)
249. MY MAN GODFREY (1936)
250. NASHVILLE (1975)
251. NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE (1978)
252. NETWORK (1976)
253. A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (1935)
254. THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955)
255. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)
256. NINOTCHKA (1939)
257. EL NORTE (1983)
258. NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)
259. NOTORIOUS (1946)
260. NOW, VOYAGER (1942)
261. OKLAHOMA! (1955)
262. OLIVER! (1968)
263. ON GOLDEN POND (1981)
264. ON THE BEACH (1959)
265. ON THE WATERFRONT (1954)
266. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST (1975)
267. ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS (1961)
268. ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (1939)
269. ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980)
270. OUT OF AFRICA (1985)
271. OUT OF THE PAST (1947)
272. THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES (1976)
273. THE OX-BOW INCIDENT (1943)
274. PATHS OF GLORY (1957)
275. PATTON (1970)
276. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925)
277. PHILADELPHIA (1993)
278. THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940)
279. PILLOW TALK (1959)
280. THE PINK PANTHER (1964)
281. PINOCCHIO (1940)
282. A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951)
283. PLANET OF THE APES (1968)
284. PLATOON (1986)
285. THE PLAYER (1992)
286. THE POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL (1917)
287. PRETTY WOMAN (1990)
288. THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES (1942)
289. THE PRODUCERS (1967)
290. PSYCHO (1960)
291. THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931)
292. PULP FICTION (1994)
293. THE QUIET MAN (1952)
294. RAGING BULL (1980)
295. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)
296. RAIN MAN (1988)
297. A RAISIN IN THE SUN (1961)
298. RAMBLING ROSE (1991)
299. REAR WINDOW (1954)
300. REBECCA (1940)
301. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955)
302. RED RIVER (1948)
303. REDS (1981)
304. RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)
305. RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS 7 (1980)
306. RICHARD III (1912)
307. THE RIGHT STUFF (1983)
308. RISKY BUSINESS (1983)
309. ROAD TO MOROCCO (1942)
310. ROCKY (1976)
311. THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975)
312. ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968)
313. RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP (1958)
314. SAFETY LAST (1923)
315. SALT OF THE EARTH (1954)
316. SANDS OF IWO JIMA (1949)
317. SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977)
318. SCARFACE: THE SHAME OF A NATION (1932)
319. THE SCARLET EMPRESS (1934)
320. SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993)
321. THE SEARCHERS (1956)
322. SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (1995)
323. SERGEANT YORK (1941)
324. THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH (1955)
325. SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE (1989)
326. SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943)
327. SHADOWS (1959)
328. SHANE (1953)
329. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)
330. SHE DONE HIM WRONG (1933)
331. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)
332. SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952)
333. SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (1993)
334. SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937)
335. SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)
336. SONS OF THE DESERT (1933)
337. SOPHIE’S CHOICE (1982)
338. THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)
339. SOUNDER (1972)
340. SPARTACUS (1960)
341. SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS (1961)
342. STAGECOACH (1939)
343. STALAG 17 (1953)
344. A STAR IS BORN (1937)
345. A STAR IS BORN (1954)
346. STAR WARS (1977)
347. THE STING (1973)
348. STRANGER THAN PARADISE (1984)
349. STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951)
350. A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951)
351. SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (1941)
352. SUNRISE (1927)
353. SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950)
354. SWING TIME (1936)
355. TAXI DRIVER (1976)
356. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956)
357. TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991)
358. TERMS OF ENDEARMENT (1983)
359. THELMA & LOUISE (1991)
360. THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1924)
361. THE THIN MAN (1934)
362. THE THIRD MAN (1949)
363. THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO (1944)
364. TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1942)
365. TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944)
366. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)
367. TOM JONES (1963)
368. TOOTSIE (1982)
369. TOP HAT (1935)
370. TOUCH OF EVIL (1958)
371. TOY STORY (1995)
372. THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948)
373. TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932)
374. 12 ANGRY MEN (1957)
375. TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH (1949)
376. 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954)
377. TWO FOR THE ROAD (1967)
378. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
379. UNFORGIVEN (1992)
380. THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987)
381. VERTIGO (1958)
382. THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953)
383. THE WAY WE WERE (1973)
384. WEST SIDE STORY (1961)
385. WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962)
386. WHITE HEAT (1949)
387. WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (1966)
388. THE WILD BUNCH (1969)
389. WINCHESTER ’73 (1950)
390. THE WIND (1928)
391. WINGS (1927)
392. WITHIN OUR GATES (1920)
393. WITNESS (1985)
394. THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)
395. WOMAN OF THE YEAR (1942)
396. WUTHERING HEIGHTS (1939)
397. YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942)
398. THE YEARLING (1946)
399. YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU (1938)
400. YOUNG MR. LINCOLN (1939)

© 2002 American Film Institute
www.AFI.com

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3 Responses to Do Your Homework: Watch AFI’s Top 100 List Films

  1. Dr. Gonzo July 8, 2009 at 8:41 am #

    I think it’s even more important for screenwriters to read the scripts from these films. Most screenwriters don’t do that enough.

  2. Monica July 8, 2009 at 12:53 pm #

    You are absolutely right – most screenwriters don’t read enough scripts. We all need to read more scripts. But, they also don’t watch enough movies. This is also a basic part of the job. We are writing movies, and one should have an intimate knowledge of the greats across all genres. This is the best way to get a good sense for what makes a cinematic story. I read a lot of scripts that don’t really have enough content to make a movie, and I think these writers don’t watch enough movies to have a real sense of what goes into a movie. I have been told many times by writers that they don’t watch movies within their genre – either the classics or recent movies. That is just unprofessional. We need to have an intimate working knowledge of our genre and also what’s being produced in the market now. We all have to have a bigger vision of what we’re trying to do – make movies – and the best way to get a feel for a great movie is to watch them.

  3. Nike Addict August 7, 2010 at 8:30 pm #

    To tell the truth, I am voiceless. The Shawshank Redemption is exceptional. I am quite young movie fan, actually, this film appeared whenI was very young, and consequently I am more accustomed films with improbable special effects, edge-of-your-seat action, et cetera. This film has no of that, and still, it appeals so closely to me . Way Frank Darabont uses the tale of Red to drive on the tale, the beauty of the music applied (note the mouth harp used just before Red finding the letter close to the end). The entire movie, from starting to finish, from actions to sound, is a lighthouse of desire, judgement, and repurchase. The cast is perfect, Morgan Freeman(Red) in reality brings about a refreshing feel to the story, and that’s exactly what the movie is, what a movie should be. Really recommended for every viewer.