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50 Films To See Before You Die

Film4's critics have thrashed it out to come up with our own list of cinema's essential "must see" films - and they might not always be the ones you'd expect...

  • The Apartment

    When you're in love with a married man, you shouldn't wear mascara

    The Apartment (1960) Billy Wilder

    Winner of five Oscars, three BAFTAs and three Golden Globes, Billy Wilder's satire-cum-romance, starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, is a true classic. Nominally a comedy, The Apartment runs the gamut of drama, melodrama, romance and potential tragedy in one great, sophisticated social critique.

  • Citizen Kane

    You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn't been very rich, I might have been a really great man

    Citizen Kane (1941) Orson Welles

    The world's most acclaimed film. With this inventive account of the life of a media tycoon, the young Orson Welles threw down a challenge to Hollywood from which neither fully recovered. With its spirit of visual and narrative innovation, and Welles's precocious, towering central performance, Citizen Kane almost lives up to its own reputation as the best film of all time.

  • North By Northwest

    The moment I meet an attractive woman, I have to start pretending I have no desire to make love to her

    North By Northwest (1959) Alfred Hitchcock

    Alfred Hitchcock presents a 3000-mile chase across America starring Cary Grant in an increasingly-dishevelled suit. Some have argued that North By Northwest isn't one of his Hitch's truly great films but, in the Graham Greene categories of 'entertainment vs serious work', it's an archetypal example of the former, as Hitch blends the set-pieces with dark humour and some digs at self-serving politicians.

  • Chinatown

    You're dumber than you think I think you are

    Chinatown (1974) Roman Polanski

    Roman Polanski's masterly film noir stars Jack Nicholson as a private detective who becomes embroiled in a dark and dangerous scandal, a Faye Dunaway as a fragile femme fatale. Nicholson is superb as a basically decent man who tries to find the truth, but can't bear the revelations he uncovers - right up to the film's horrifically unhappy ending.

  • All About Eve

    I'm nobody's fool, least of all yours

    All About Eve (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz

    Bette Davis excels as an aging diva in the six times Oscar Winner. The piece fizzes with energy and the bitchy lines flow, largely from Davis' wickedly crooked mouth. The entire cast is on top form (Marilyn Monroe makes an early, fleeting cameo appearance), although among the actors only Sanders won an Oscar for his superb turn as the louche theatre critic, Addison De Witt. One of Hollywood's finest backstage dramas.

  • Casablanca

    Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine

    Casablanca (1942) Michael Curtiz

    Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman make the silver's screen's best tragically torn apart couple as Rick and Ilsa, separated by fate and the invading German army. With its romantic story, unforgettable songs, top supporting cast, fantastic script, climactic sequence at the airport and perfect final line, Casablanca has rightly become one of the most popular films of all time.

  • The Wizard Of Oz

    I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!

    The Wizard Of Oz (1939) Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy, Norman Taurog and King Vidor

    Dorothy certainly isn't in Kansas anymore, Toto, as she sings and dances her way across one of the most magical fairylands ever committed to celluloid. An exuberant landmark of children's entertainment and Technicolor filmmaking, The Wizard Of Oz is inventive, fantastical, colourful - and a surprisingly dark and complex tale about economics and the miseries of childhood.

  • Film4 2001: A Space Odyssey

    I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do

    2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Stanley Kubrick

    Kubrick, cinema's chilliest genius, abandons conventional narrative and presents a succession of beautifully-composed sketches on the theme of evolution, death and rebirth linked by the mystical presence of a large black monolith. We know what the year 2001 looks like now, and it doesn't look much like Kubrick's vision. But 2001: A Space Odyssey itself still looks immaculate. Spectacular, trailblazing and philosophical, it's an undisputed masterpiece.

  • Black Narcissus

    We all need discipline

    Black Narcissus (1947) Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

    Black Narcissus is a film to rival Powell and Pressburger's very best work. And since said best work includes A Matter Of Life And Death and The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp and The Red Shoes, this is very high praise indeed. Deborah Kerr stars as a nun posted to a Himalayan convent where her vows are tested by the salacious attentions of local royal agent David Farrar and the dangerously unhinged Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron).

  • Film4 Apocalypse Now

    I love the smell of napalm in the morning

    Apocalypse Now (1979) Francis Ford Coppola

    Martin Sheen journeys through Vietnam and Cambodia to terminate flipped-out renegade US colonel Marlon Brando. But his mission becomes a screaming trip into madness, stunningly realised by Coppola's hallucinogenic direction and a cast dragged from Hollywood's Narcotics Anonymous

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