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  • Ken Ilgunas

Uncle Ken’s Top 175 Movie Recommendations



My 16-year-old nephew is a budding cinephile, and after asking me for film recommendations, I went overboard and made a list of — not the greatest — but my favorite 175 films.


It's a list that is unashamedly middlebrow, with a few surprises mixed in. As I review my list, I wonder if, in some cases, I've been over-influenced by the usual honors bestowed on some movies. (Are Bicycle Thieves and The Godfather truly "favorites," or am I merely trying to conform with the critical herd?) I chose to keep these films in because I made this list with my nephew in mind. I was probably inclined to include movies he had to see even if they don't align with the personal theme of this list.


I tried to respect the not-so-bad tastes of my teenage self, so films like The Crow and Braveheart retain the positions of prominence I might not have otherwise granted them in middle age.


Bold=Top twenty

28 Days Later (2002, UK)

1917 (2019, UK US)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, USA)

Adaptation (2002, USA)

Alien (1979, USA)

Aliens (1986, USA)

Apocalypto (2006, USA)

Avatar (2009, USA)

American Graffiti (1973, USA)

American History X (1998, USA)

Amélie (2001, France)

Amores Perros (2000, Mexico)

Annie Hall (1977, USA)

Another Round (2020, Denmark)

Apocalypse Now (1979, USA)

Back to the Future (1985, USA)

Barry Lyndon (1975, USA)

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012, USA)

Before Sunset (2004, USA)

Being John Malkovich (1999, USA)

Bicycle Thieves (1948, Italy)

Big (1988, USA)

The Big Lebowski (1998, USA)

Big Night (1997, USA)

The Biggest Little Farm (2018, USA)

Blade Runner (1982, USA)

Blade Runner 2049 (2017, USA)

Boogie Nights (1997, USA)

Borat (2006, USA)

Boyhood (2014, USA)

Boys N the Hood (1991, USA)

Braveheart (1995, USA)

Brokeback Mountain (2005, USA)

Bruno (2009, USA)

Bull Durham (1988, USA)

The Cakemaker (2017, Germany & Israel)

Captain Fantastic (2016, USA)

Cast Away (2000, USA)

Che (2008, USA)

Children of Men (2006, USA)

Cinema Paradiso (1989, Italy)

City of God (2002, Brazil)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, USA)

Coco (2017, USA)

Contagion (2011, USA)

The Crow (1994, USA)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000, China).

Dances with Wolves (1990, USA)

Dave (1993, USA)

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007, France)

Dogtooth (2010, Greece)

Donnie Darko (2001, USA)

Dunkirk (2017, US, UK)

Edge of Tomorrow (2014, USA)

The English Patient (1996, US, UK)

E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial (1982, USA)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, USA)

Ex Machina (2014, USA)

Fanny and Alexander (1982, Swedish)

Fargo (1996, USA)

Fatal Attraction (1987, USA)

The Father (2020, UK)

Forrest Gump (1994, USA)

The Full Monty (1997, UK)

Gattaca (1997, USA)

Glory (1989, USA)

Godfather I (1972, USA)

Godfather II (1974, USA)

Gone Girl (2014, USA)

Goodfellas (1990, USA)

Good Will Hunting (1997, USA)

Goonies (1985, USA)

Gravity (2013, USA).

Grizzly Man (2005, USA)

Groundhog Day (1993, USA)

Heat (1995, USA)

High Fidelity (2000, USA)

Honeyland (2019, Macedonia)

Holy Motors (2012, France)

Hunger Games Part I (2014, USA)

The Hunt (2012, Denmark)

I'm Thinking of Ending Things (2020, USA)

Incendies (2010, Canada)

Inception (2010, US)

Inglorious Bastards (2009, USA)

Interstellar (2014, US)

Inside Out (2015, USA)

Into the Wild (2007, USA)

It's a Wonderful Life (1946, USA)

Joker (2019, USA)

Junebug (2005, USA)

Jurassic Park (1993, USA)

Kill Bill 1&2 (2003, USA)

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979, USA)

Lady Bird (2017, USA)

Last of the Mohicans (199, USA)

Let the Right One In (2008, Swedish)

The Life Aquatic (2004, USA)

Life Is Beautiful (1997, Italy)

The Lives of Others (2006, Germany)

(3) Lord of the Rings (2001, US, NZ)

Magnolia (1999, USA)

Manchester by the Sea (2016, USA)

Margaret (2011, USA)

The Master (2012, USA)

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003, USA)

The Matrix (1999, USA)

Meek's Cutoff (2010, USA)

Melancholia (2011, Danish)

Monos (2019, Columbia, various)

Moon (2009, USA)

The Motorcycle Diaries (2003, various)

Napolean Dynamite (2004, USA)

Nebraska (2013, USA)

Never Cry Wolf (1983, USA)

Night Moves (2013, USA)

Nomadland (2020, USA)

O Brother Where Art Thou (2000, USA)

An Officer and a Gentleman (1982, USA)

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019, USA)

Paradise Trilogy (2012-13, Austria)

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, France)

Pathfinder (1987, Norway)

Phantom Thread (2017, USA)

Pi (1998, USA)

Predator (1987, USA)

Un Prophete (2009, France)

Pulp Fiction (1994, USA)

Punch Drunk Love (2002, USA)

Quest for Fire (1981, Canada, France)

Raging bull (1980, USA)

Requiem for a dream (2000, USA)

Revanche (2008, Austria)

The Rider (2017, USA)

The Road (2009, USA)

Rocky (1976, USA)

Roma (2018, Mexico)

Romeo and Juliet (1968, various)

Rudy (1993, USA)

Rushmore (1998, USA)

Saving Private Ryan (1998, USA)

Schindler’s List (1993, USA)

Searching for Sugar Man (2012, USA)

A Separation (2011, Iran)

Shakespeare in Love (1998, US, UK)

Shawshank Redemption (1994, USA)

The Shining (1980, USA)

Sicario (2015, USA)

Sideways (2004, USA)

The Silence of the Lambs (1991, USA)

Slumdog Millionaire (2008, USA)

The Squid and the Whale (2005, USA)

Star Wars Ep. 4-6 (1975-) , USA

A Star is Born (2018, USA)

The Sweet Hereafter (1997, Canada)

Talk to Her (2002, Spain)

Taxi Driver (1976, USA)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, USA)

There Will Be Blood (2007, USA)

The Thin Red Line (1998, USA)

This is Spinal Tap (1984, USA)

The Truman Show (1998, USA)

Uncut Gems (2019, USA)

Under the Skin (2013, UK)

Warrior (2011, USA)

What We Do in the Shadows (2014, New Zealand)

Whiplash (2014)

You Can Count on Me (2000, USA)

Zero Dark Thirty (2012, USA)

Zodiac (2007, USA)

Zoolander (2001, USA)

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