Watch: 1001 Essential Films to See Before You Die

Let's address possibly the most serious problem affecting filmmakers and cinephiles today.

With the average worldwide human lifespan being approximately 71 years, how on earth do we decide which of the 317,596 feature film titles currently in existence to take up the precious 622,373 hours of our lives?

Okay, I know. Technically, the math's all wrong. This problem is actually far, far worse. First of all, if you're reading this, chances are you've already lived a great many of these hours. (Our 0 to 1 demographic is minuscule unfortunately.) Second, 317,596 is a flawed piece of data, because it only accounts for "feature" titles (1874 - 2021) currently on IMDb's database, which doesn't account for all international, lost, destroyed, or unreleased films. However, let's say that, fine, there are 317,596 films in the world -- the average film is 2.16 hours long. This means that there are 698,711 hours worth of cinematic goodness out there to experience, which means that there are more hours of film than there are in the average lifespan to watch them. 

I want to cry.

"Gawd, who cares." Okay, elaborate conceit over. I'll get to the point. If you're as anxious as I am about missing out on all of the great movies in cinematic history, it might comfort you to know that there is a supercut out there made by Jonathan Keogh that reveals all 1001 films listed in Steven Jay Schneider's book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die -- . Not only does it take the guesswork out of choosing something good to watch (maybe that's less fun), but it's a beautiful reminder of why we work in this industry, demonstrating the beauty and power of cinema a few seconds at a time. Check it out below:

Any list of films that has a limit is going to be incomplete, because there's always one more that should've been included. However, Schneider's list includes films of all important genres, filmmakers, movements from all over the world. If you couldn't recognize something from the supercut, you can find the titles of all of the films in Steven Jay Schneider's list here, or you can always pick up one of the editions of his book

Just in case you're curious and craving more math, if you watch just one of these films every day starting today, you could watch them all by August 4th.

Of 2017.

Two and a half years well spent!

How many films on the list have you seen? Which films do you think are essential viewing at some point in one's lifetime? Let us know in the comments below!     

Check-Out: Cine Lenses – Most popular Lens Deals this week

With any & every B&H purchase You will automatically be entered into the Monthly Gift Card Raffle.

Your Comment


I've watched nearly 60% maybe more of them :)

November 7, 2014 at 8:23PM, Edited November 7, 8:23PM


I stopped watching at the wub-dub-step section but what is the relation between the video and the list? It featured Prometheus several times (obviously not essential) and Punch-Drunk Love (essential) but neither of those are on the list.

November 8, 2014 at 3:02PM


I've only watched 226 of these. But then I guess I've been watching a lot of fairly obscure stuff recently, as well as having been bitten by the episodic bug. Still, seems like a good "starter" list.

November 9, 2014 at 3:37AM

Hendrikus De Vaan
Producer - Director

1001 movies before you die? Actually you don't. There's some gems in there, but there's a hell a lot of pap - and yes I do include Prometheus (don't care how nice it looked). Nicely edited video but to paraphrase Mohsen Makhmalbaf if you really want to make a film you need to stop watching movies and read more poetry.

November 9, 2014 at 4:18AM


Here's another list of 1,000 movies to see before you die (from the UK's The Guardian newspaper):

November 10, 2014 at 8:08AM, Edited November 10, 8:08AM


For what I know you can die right now, V Renee.

November 11, 2014 at 1:13AM

Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor

Thank you. I love the articles you write.

December 3, 2014 at 3:15AM, Edited December 3, 3:15AM

Don Palathara