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Shadie Elnashai is a longtime Rentertainment pal, former ace movie news reporter for the Buzz, and all around great guy. You can read more about him at imdb and on his blog, Shades of Grey.

Shadie's 204 Essential Films

Next time you have a spare 17 or so days, I thoroughly recommend watching the following movies. Chronologically would be a rewarding and worthwhile order. They represent the snobby cinephile in me, and what he (or she) deems to be the very best examples of cinema from the last 112 years. It comes with the disclaimer that I am only 24 and that I have - at the time of writing - only seen about 3410 films. Omissions may just mean that I haven't seen them, so feel free to recommend ones you don't see (such as Highlander 3). Or even better, make your own list. Incidentally if you were to force me to choose an absolute best from this list, it would be Fellini's 8 1/2 (1963).

Le Voyage Dans la Lune / Trip to the Moon (George Melies, 1902, France)
Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari / Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920, Germany)
The Kid (Charlie Chaplin, 1921, USA)
Nanouk l'Esquimau / Nanook of the North (Robert J Flaherty, 1922, France)
Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens (F W Murnau, 1922, Germany)
Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925, Russia)
Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927, Germany)
Jazz Singer (Alan Crosland, 1927, USA)
The General (Buster Keaton, 1927, USA)
Un Chien Andalou / The Andalusian Dog (Luis Buñuel, 1929, France)
M (Fritz Lang, 1931, Germany)
Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse / The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang, 1933, Germany)
Las Hurdes / Land Without Bread (Luis Buñuel, 1933, Spain)
L'Atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934, France)
It Happened One Night (1934, Frank Capra, USA)
The 39 Steps (Alfred Hitchcock, 1935, UK)
Top Hat (Mark Sandrich, 1935, USA)
Night at the Opera (Sam Wood, 1935, USA)
Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936, USA)
Dodsworth (William Wyler, 1936, USA)
La Grande Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937, France)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (Walt Disney, 1937, USA)
The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock, 1938, UK)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz, 1938, USA)
The Wizard Of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939, USA)
Gone With The Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939, USA)
His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940, USA)
Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941, USA)
Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941, USA)
Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942, USA)
Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1943, UK)
Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944, USA)
Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944, USA)
Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945, UK)
La Belle et la Bête / Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau, 1946, France)
Shoeshine (Vittorio De Sica, 1946, Italy)
Great Expectations (David Lean, 1946, UK)
Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1946, UK)
It's A Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946, USA)
The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946, USA)
Ladri di Biciclette / Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948, Italy)
Oliver Twist (David Lean, 1948, UK)
The Red Shoes (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1948, UK)
Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1948, USA)
Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949, UK)
The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949, USA)
Orphée / Orpheus (Jean Cocteau, 1950, France)
Rashômon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950, Japan)
Los Olividados / The Forgotten Ones (Luis Buñuel, 1950, Mexico)
All About Eve (Joseph Mankiewicz, 1950, USA)
Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder, 1950, USA)
Lavender Hill Mob (Charles Crichton, 1951, UK)
The African Queen (John Huston, 1951, USA)
Les Jeux Interdit / Forbidden Games (René Clément, 1952, France)
Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa, 1952, Japan)
Singin' In The Rain (Stanley Donen, 1952, USA)
Scaramouche (George Sidney, 1952, USA)
High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952, USA)
Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot / Mr Hulot's Holiday (Jacques Tati, 1953, France)
Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953, Japan)
Tôkyô Monogatari / Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1953, Japan)
Les Diaboliques (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1954, France)
La Strada (Federico Fellini, 1954, Italy)
Shichinin no samurai / Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954, Japan)
Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954, USA)
On The Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 1954, USA)
Our Best Days (Helmy Halim, 1955, Egypt)
Bob le Flambeur / Bpb the Gambler (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1955, France)
Nuit Et Brouillard / Night and Fog (Alain Resnais, 1955, France)
Pather Panchali / Song of the Road (Satyajit Ray, 1955, India)
A Generation (Andrzej Wajda, 1955, Poland)
Ladykillers (Alexander Mackendrick, 1955, UK)
Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955, USA)
Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1955, USA)
The Killing (Stanley Kubrick, 1956, USA)
Aparajito / The Unvanquished (Satyajit Ray, 1957, India)
Le Notti di Cabiria / Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini, 1957, Italy)
Kanal (Andrzej Wajda, 1957, Poland)
Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman, 1957, Sweden)
Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957, Sweden)
Bridge On The River Kwai (David Lean, 1957, UK)
Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957, USA)
12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957, USA)
Witness For the Prosecution (Billy Wilder, 1957, USA)
Mon Oncle / My Uncle (Jacques Tati, 1958, France)
Jalsaghar / The Music Room (Satyajit Ray, 1958, India)
Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus, 1959, Brazil)
Pickpocket (Robert Bresson, 1959, France)
Les Quatre Cents Coups / The 400 Blows (François Truffaut, 1959, France)
Apur Sansar / The World of Apu (Satyajit Ray, 1959, India)
North By Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959, USA)
Ben-Hur (William Wyler, 1959, USA)
Testament of Orpheus (Jean Cocteau, 1960, France)
À Bout de Souffle / Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960, France)
L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960, Italy)
La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960, Italy)
Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960, UK)
Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960, USA)
Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick, 1960, USA)
Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960, USA)
Nahr El Hub / River of Love (Ezzel Dine Zulficar, 1961, Egypt)
Une Femme Est Une Femme / A Woman Is A Woman (Jean-Luc Godard, 1961, France)
Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa, 1961, Japan)
Jules Et Jim (François Truffaut, 1962, France)
Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962, UK)
What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (Robert Aldrich, 1962, USA)
8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, 1963, Italy)
Il Gattopardo / The Leopard (Luchino Visconti, 1963, Italy)
High and Low (Akira Kurosawa, 1963, Japan)
Silence (Ingmar Bergman, 1963, Sweden)
Great Escape (John Sturges, 1963, UK)
Dr. Strangleove Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964, UK)
Akahige / Red Beard (Akira Kurosawa, 1965, Japan)
Help! (Richard Lester, 1965, UK)
Sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965, USA)
La Battaglia di Algeri / Battle of Algiers (Gilo Pontecorvo, 1966, Algeria)
Closely Watched Trains (Jirí Menzel, 1966, Czechoslovakia)
Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966, France)
Masculin, Féminin / Masculine, Feminine (Jean-Luc Godard, 1966, France)
Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966, Sweden)
Blow-Up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966, UK)
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966, USA)
The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967, USA)
Bonnie And Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967, USA)
Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg, 1967, USA)
2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968, UK)
Z (Costa-Gavras, 1969, France)
Kes (Ken Loach, 1969, UK)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969, USA)
Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969, USA)
The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969, USA)
Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971, UK)
Walkabout (Nicolas Roeg, 1971, Australia/UK)
Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971, USA)
The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971, USA)
Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie / Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Buñuel, 1972, France)
Aguirre: The Wrath Of God (Werner Herzog, 1972, Germany)
Sleuth (Joseph Mankiewicz, 1972, UK)
The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972, USA)
El Espíritu de la Colmena / Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, 1973, Spain)
The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973, USA)
Badlands (Terrence Malick, 1973, USA)
The Sting (George Roy Hill, 1973, USA)
Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974, Germany)
Enigma of Kasper Hauser (Werner Herzog, 1974, Germany)
The Godfather, Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974, USA)
Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974, USA)
The Front Page (Billy Wilder, 1974, USA)
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (Milos Forman, 1975, USA)
Dog Day Afternoon (Sidney Lumet, 1975, USA)
Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975, USA)
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976, USA)
Man of Marble (Andrzej Wajda, 1977, Poland)
Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977, USA)
Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 1978, USA)
Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1979, Germany)
Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (Werner Herzog, 1979, Germany)
Camera Buff (Krysztof Kieslowski, 1979, Poland)
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979, USA)
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980, USA)
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980, USA)
Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980, USA)
Gallipoli (Peter Weir, 1981, Australia)
Das Boot (Wolfgang Petersen, 1981, Germany)
Veronika Voss (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1982, Germany)
Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982, USA)
Year of the Quiet Sun (Krzysztof Zanussi, 1984, Poland)
Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984, USA)
This Is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984, USA)
Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985, UK)
Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986, USA)
Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders, 1987, Germany)
Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987, UK)
The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris, 1988, USA)
Time of the Gypsies (Emir Kusturica, 1988, Yugoslavia)
Dekalog (Krzystof Kieslowski, 1989, Poland)
Miller's Crossing (The Coen Brothers, 1990, USA)
Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990, USA)
Naked Lunch (David Cronenberg, 1991, Canada)
Raise The Red Lantern (Zhang Yimou, 1991, China)
The Player (Robert Altman, 1992, USA)
Trois Couleurs: Bleu / Three Colors Blue (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1993, France)
Schindler's List (Steven Spielberg, 1993, USA)
Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994, USA)
Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994, USA)
The White Balloon (Abbas Kiarostami, 1995, Iran)
12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995, USA)
Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996, UK)
Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh, 1996, UK)
Fargo (The Coen Brothers, 1996, USA)
Festen / The Celebration (Thomas Vinterburg, 1998, Denmark)
The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, 1998, USA)
Color of Paradise (Majid Majidi, 1999, Iran)
Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999, USA)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000, Taiwan)
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001, Japan)
Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001, USA)
Cidade de Deus / City of God (Fernando Meirelles, 2002, Brazil)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Peter Jackson, 2002, New Zealand)
Hable Con Ella / Talk To Her (Pedro Almodovar, 2002, Spain)
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter … and Spring (Kim Ki-Duk, 2003, South Korea)
2046 (Wong Kar Wai, 2004, China)
Das Leben der Anderen / The Lives Of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006, Germany)
INLAND EMPIRE (David Lynch, 2006, USA)
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