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Literature / 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

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1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die is a book about movies supervised by Steven Jay Schneider. It contains a list of movies that are considered "must-see" movies, with each entry accompanied by a short essay explaining why. It was first published in 2003, with new editions having been released annually since then. Because of these updates, there have been more than 1001 movies in total in it (but always 1001 in any given edition, as there are the same number of entries added as removed each edition). As of the 2021 edition, a total of 1245 movies have been included in the English-language version. The book has also been translated to several other languages, and those editions replace some of the entries with local films (Swedish films in the Swedish edition, and so on).


The book eschews True Art Is Angsty and True Art Is Incomprehensible, featuring films like Babe, Booksmart and The Princess Bride alongside the likes of Un Chien Andalou, Persona, and Dancer in the Dark. As the introduction notes, a comprehensive overview of film history does not only contain one type of movie, but all kinds – epics, documentaries, cult films, blockbusters, experimental films, and slapstick comedies. The book also does not aim to contain the 1001 best movies, but 1001 "must-see" movies. To that end, the selection has been made with care taken to ensure that it includes the entire panorama of film history, with films from all eras, regions, and genres.

Treating the book as a cinematic bucket list as the title suggests has become fairly common for cinephiles. There is a List Challenge with over 50 000 users, a wiki, a subreddit, innumerable IMDb and Letterboxd lists, and a bunch of other places online, all dedicated to the list and watching all the movies on it.


    Films featured in the book 

The book provides examples of:

  • Animation Age Ghetto: invoked Argued as the reason why, in later editions, the Toy Story franchise only received one entry to cover all movies whereas every movie of the original Star Wars trilogy each got its own entry. Out of the 1245 films that have been included (as of the 2021 edition), only 22 (1.8%) have been animated—and four of them are Toy Story films.
  • Cultural Translation: Translated editions of the book replace a certain number of entries with local entries. The Swedish edition contains movies such as Miss Julie, I Am Curious (Yellow), and Show Me Love that aren't in the original English-language edition, for instance.
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  • Doorstopper: The book is is 960 pages long, and the total number of pages of content is even greater due to the annual updates.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The book contains a list of 1001 movies (well, kind of – see Never Trust a Title) the author considers must-see movies, with each entry accompanied by a short essay explaining why.
  • Funetik Aksent: The entry for Dracula renders Bela Lugosi's lines as "Cheeldren of the naight, leesten to thaim" and "I nevair dreenk vine!".
  • It's Not Porn, It's Art: The introduction notes that the book aims to include the entire panorama of film history, with films from all eras, regions, and genres. However, pornographic films are conspicuously absent (even though there are some pornographic films that could be argued to be important in film history), and the entry for In the Realm of the Senses (a film with unsimulated sex scenes) explicitly refers to it as a non-pornographic film.
  • Long Title: For this reason, the title is often abbreviated to simply 1001 Movies when the book is discussed.
  • Never Trust a Title: The book does not contain exactly 1001 movies, but 1001 entriesOlympia parts 1 and 2 are combined in a single entry, as are the two parts of Ivan the Terrible, the three films in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the four Toy Story films. Moreover, two of the entries are Krzysztof Kieślowski's The Decalogue (a 10-episode miniseries) and Lars von Trier's Riget (an 8-episode, 2-season TV series), which are not movies to begin with. In addition, the book is updated annually (and has been since 2003), with the total number of works included numbering 1245 as of the 2021 edition.
  • Reference Overdosed: The essays motivating the films' inclusion in the book, written by over 50 different film critics, often make heavy use of references and parallels to other films, directors, scriptwriters, et cetera to make their point. The half-page entry for The Saragossa Manuscript, for instance, references James Dean, Arabian Nights, Franz Kafka, and Roman Polański.
  • Scare Quotes: The entry for Ran refers to its runtime as a "mere" two hours and forty minutes.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: invoked The entry for The Sound of Music notes that while the opening scene may seem banal nowadays, that's only because it has been imitated so much.
  • Take That!: The entry for Planet of the Apes says that it was a project that could have gone horribly wrong, and points to the 2001 remake as an example of how.
  • Take That, Audience!: The entry for Johnny Guitar says that if that film is not to one's liking, perhaps one is better off only watching documentaries.