Ever since cinema established itself as a form of art, countless films have been created; countless superb and strong and awe-worthy films.

That is one of the reasons why the choices on this list were so exceptionally hard to make. But there are some films that touch us in a secret, intimate place, deep within our heart, and after we leave the theater we are never, ever the same, not completely.

They change the way we perceive things. They change the way we see the world and the way we feel. In a way, they change our lives. So without further ado, here are the 7 films that will leave deep and lasting marks on your very soul.

1. Magnolia

Back in 2000-2001, PTA said that he believed “Magnolia” would be his best film ever. And he had a point.

A study on luck, coincidences, and the invisible forces that drive and join people, “Magnolia” is a funny, strange, and heartbreakingly human film, in which all the characters struggle for the same things we all do: happiness, redemption, and freedom.

2. No Country For Old Men

It would be overly ambitious of me to try and fit an adequate interpretation of the Coen brothers’ film into one paragraph, so all I can say is that this is a movie that has level upon level of meaning.

With Xavier Bardem fleshing out the inevitability of death and the randomness of chaos in one of his strongest performances, this movie will slam into your head one simple fact: You can’t stop what’s coming.

3. The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick’s largest and most ambitious project to date won the Palme d’Or and divided critics. Like all of his films, it’s worth watching simply for the stunning visual beauty.

However, “The Tree of Life” is much, much more than just a beautiful film. It is a cosmic, transcendental film. It searches for the meaning of life, from the beginning of creation to a small family. And it asks all the right questions.

4. Grave of the Fireflies (“Hotaru no Haka”)

This movie will not present you with existential, or large scale questions, or philosophical musings. But it will change your heart. It is the story of two siblings being orphaned and left to fend for themselves during WWII in Japan. Any further descriptions will not do the movie justice.

5. Fight Club

Ah, “Fight Club”. Where do I even begin with this one? The movie that revolutionized the way many, many men see the world. The first shock comes when you first watch it; you realize the pretentiousness and meaninglessness of consumerism and materialistic self-absorption.

The second shock comes when you realize that the ensuing “revolution” is, itself, a satire, mercilessly taunting itself. The movie will get you thinking. What am I doing? What is it that defines me? How can I liberate myself? Will it have meaning, or is everything still just a copy of a copy of a copy?

6. The Fountain

Darren Aronofsky has given us some wonderful features, that linger and haunt us long after we’ve watched them. “The Fountain” is a little gem that, because of its grandness, can easily be misunderstood.

At its core, it is a love story. One man trying across time and space to get back his love from the clutches of the inevitable; death. At the same time, it is an exploration of how we come to terms with death; decay; and our own perishing.

This balance between love and death, along with the stunning visuals, will give you an unforgettable experience.

7. Life Is Beautiful

Buongiorno, principessa!“. Decades after Roberto Benigni’s film about a father who tries to shelter his son and family from the horrors of WWII in a Nazi concentration camp, “Life is beautiful” remains relevant as a lesson on optimism and preserving one’s humanity and childlike innocence safe and intact from anything life might throw at us.

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This Post Has 93 Comments

  1. Beth

    Loved “Inception” and “The Others” – both made you THINK!

  2. Sophia

    I really love this lists. Thanks for the write up.
    Has anyone watch “The Way Of Gun” its a must to check out.

  3. Rik

    Good movies but all hollywood. So here are some european ones; untouchables (the entouchables), paris france and la grande bellezza, rome italy

  4. northstar

    1. The finder of the money should have gone underground or left the country.

    I did not see any of the other movies.

    1. Smoke

      Shawshank Redemption beats some of these movies

  5. Bob

    What’s the typical demographic for this site? One, maybe 2 movies on the list are good, but that’s really only for people in the US, under 25, lacking any real life experience, and holding to a much different definition of what constitutes a movie that will fundamentally change me.

  6. Zag

    Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

  7. Cynthia

    The Road Within

  8. Suzanne

    1980 movie Resurrection with Ellen Burstyn!

  9. Himanshu Choudhary

    How can you not include “2001: A Space Odyssey” !!!

  10. Tiffany

    “Casshern” from Japan, the single most profound movie I’ve ever seen. I watch it once every six months to be reminded that the answer to everything is so simple. “The Road” with Viggo Mortenson. The entirity of the LOTR and The Hobbit trilogies is rife with philosophical ponderings of humanity, good v/s evil, hatred and love and a myriad of others.

  11. StephanieStroh

    Thank you for another great article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect way of presentation.

  12. John Davidson

    3 movies you missed are PERFUME (the story of a murderer), INSTINCT with anthony hopkins and DEADMAN (Jim Jarmusch film).

  13. msv

    in to the wild

  14. Espen

    Watership down could also be here

  15. S Byrne

    Sofia, in your work, have you found disappointment with humans?

  16. Aubrey


  17. al hel

    !!! Enter The Void by Gaspar Noë !!!
    Irréversible by Gaspar Noë —
    Obviously STANLEY KUBRICK’s 2001, Clockwork, Barry Lyndon et.al. —
    WERNER HERZOG’s Documentaries —
    INGMAR BERGMAN (Hour Of The Wolf! Persona!) —

  18. Andrea

    I Daniel Blake ?

  19. Will Staten

    My List:

    12 Monkeys
    Higher Learning
    Do The Right Thing
    The Matrix 1
    The Godfather
    Pursuit of Happyness

  20. Nina

    Once Were Warriors, Big Fish, The Bucket List, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, 12 Years A Slave, Apocalypse Now

  21. not hater, just disappointed

    Hello there! Thanks for nice recommandations, but I have to say, I saw many influencing movies, and many of them were more touching than these… And Magnolia doesn’t give me anything, but a bad feeling of 3 wasted hours. Hollywood produced a lot of trash, but I can’t believe I spent 3 hours of my existance, waiting for some hidden revealing point. It was so long, slow, boring and empthy! I wish I had not seen it in your list, so I wouldn’t start watching it. 3hours of my life has been wasted 🙁

  22. Larry Sutherland

    I searched for one of these on Amazon Prime and I found it: Magnolia. It is over 3 hours but I think Lar and I will watch it one day – will have to set aside the time. Judi

  23. Mab

    Life of Pi

  24. Joyce Servis

    Sorry, I gave up Hollywood due to their obscene behavior toward the elected PONTUS.

  25. Aldaíres Brito

    Not a movie fan, at all. It seems I have problems with the seventh art. But I need to change that.

  26. Karen Vining

    No Country for Old Men was the WORST FILM EVER. It was the most violent, most depressing, movie I’ve even seen.

  27. Nancy Marshall

    There is only one of these on Netflix, and I would not watch it! (No country for old men is very depressing and violent)

  28. Vicky Leon

    19 years on I sometimes still think of the movie Life is Beautiful. It had a huge impact on me.

    I must see The Fountain. It sounds amazing.

  29. Raafat Gilani

    If you haven’t watched “Grave of Fireflies”, I don’t know what is wrong with you. That movie is just out of this world when it comes to war life.

  30. Maggie

    The films of Andre Tarkovsky made the deepest impressions on my perception.

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