25 movies every man in your life should see before he's 25
If you haven't seen Boyhood, you've almost certainly heard about it. Shot over 12 years, the film follows the life of Mason Evans from ages six to 18. It's simply about growing up, about the way your relationships with parents, siblings and friends change over time, and about the defining moments that carry you from boy to man.
2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Arguably the best action film of all time, there are so many reasons to see Terminator 2, but one of the best things about it is that, fucking awesome though he may be, Arnie is not the film's biggest badass. That honour goes to Sarah Connor, and in an already testosterone-flooded genre, it's good to know that you don't need a cast of meatheaded dudes to make a high-octane action flick.
3. Fight Club
Fight Club is the film about masculinity. Men who feel like they're no longer allowed to be men - men who both literally and metaphorically have lost their testicles - regain their masculinity by knocking seven shades out of each other. You may disagree with its ideas (do you really have to fight someone to truly know yourself?) and the last third of the movie is just stupid, but Fight Club is the very definition of bravado.
4. The Godfather
Everybody should see The Godfather, because it's The Godfather, A.K.A. one of the best films ever made. There's not much point going into detail on why it's such a good movie, but the key themes of the film are family, loyalty to the family, and a man's duty to protect those closest to him. As Don Corleone says, "A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man."
5. This Is Spinal Tap
This Is Spinal Tap, along with being one of the all-time great comedies, is a hilarious exposé of the ludicrousness of men. That is, the trouser-stuffing, sex-fuelled, unwittingly misogynistic and unflinchingly stupid members of Spinal Tap who represent a certain idea of and ideal for men. Although to be fair, who wouldn't want to be in a band with a song called 'Sex Farm'?
6. 12 Years A Slave
Not many films are worthy of being described as 'important', but 12 Years A Slave is. The story of Solomon Northup's betrayal and survival is as beautiful as it is harrowing, dealing with the hardest of subjects in the most artful of ways. It's an exquisite portrayal of man's inhumanity to man, and everyone needs to see it - without exception.
Whatever you may think of Clint's politics, he is indisputably a cinematic portrait of masculinity. While you should certainly see Dirty Harry, The Good, the Bad And The Ugly and all the other Clint classics, Unforgiven is Eastwood's eulogy to his own alpha male persona and to the Western genre he typified. In it, he plays a retired gunslinger and outlaw who's brought back for one more bout of violence.
8. The Way, Way Back
No one had an easy time growing up, but it's miles harder when everyone treats you like you're still a kid. The Way, Way Back is a funny and touching look at awkwardness and alienation in the teenage years, with Steve Carell playing against type as the biggest asshole stepdad you've ever seen. For anyone who struggled to find themselves when they were younger, this is a film that understands you.
9. Saving Private Ryan
Few films capture the horrors of battle better than Saving Private Ryan's opening sequence at the D-Day landings. The film is not concerned with the glory of war; at its heart is an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances, whose only goal is to do his duty: returning the missing Private James Ryan to his already three-time bereaved mother.
10. The Big Lebowski
Jeff 'The Dude' Lebowski is a man we all aspire to be. He goes bowling, he drinks White Russians, and until a couple of hoodlums peed on his rug, he had his life in order. Mistaken for another, bigger Lebowski, The Dude is caught up in crime caper involving pornographers, a severed toe and a gang of German nihilists.
11. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb
Dr. Strangelove gives us comfort in the knowledge that our world leaders might just be as petulant, childish and utterly absurd as we are, even when on the brink of nuclear war. No man should pass through his life without being exposed to the genius of Peter Sellers, and this is one his best pieces of work.
12. Taxi Driver
Robert De Niro may have fallen off the wagon in recent years, but back in the early days, he was untouchable. His portrayal of Travis Bickle, a lonely, suffering Vietnam veteran, is one of film's most iconic characters. He can't sleep, so he drives his taxi all day and night, surveying 1970s New York City, praying that "some day a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets". He knows he has to do something, but whether he does the right thing is another matter.
13. Boyz N the Hood
There were few places harder to be a young man than South Central Los Angeles in the 1980s. As Roger Ebert notes in his review of Boyz N the Hood, "In inner-city America, one in every 21 young men will die of gunshot wounds, and most of them will be shot by other young men". Living on the edge of gangland, three young men have to decide how to define themselves in a world where violence and death are just another part of life.
14. The Raid
The gender stereotyping of movies tends to be that women like love and romance, whereas men like punching and kicking. Well if anyone's gonna watch punching and kicking, they might as well watch the best of the best. The Raid, a tower block assault movie, is somewhere between an action thriller and a martial arts masterpiece, with some of the best (and most painful-looking) fighting you'll ever seen in a film.
15. There Will Be Blood
Daniel Plainview is motivated by one thing: competition. He has a ruthless will to succeed and see his competitors crushed, but he loves his son and is not without honour. His first discovery of oil takes him from a lone prospector scratching around in the dirt to a man consumed by power and wealth, hollowed out by his own greed like the earth beneath him. The movie won Daniel Day-Lewis his second Oscar and you'll see why when you watch it.
16. All Is Lost
All Is Lost is an easy film to explain: Robert Redford is on a boat in the middle of the ocean. His boat suddenly crashes into a shipping container. The rest of the film is Robert Redford trying not to die. There are no other characters and basically no dialogue, and yet All Is Lost is an incredibly compelling watch. A modern survival classic from one of cinema's most iconic actors.
17. Straw Dogs
Straw Dogs is a hard watch. American mathematician David (played by Dustin Hoffman) goes with his wife Amy to live in her small hometown in Cornwall. The locals don't take kindly to the outsider, which sets off a chain of events culminating in the pacifistic David using lethal force to defend his home. The film is shocking even to this day, due to its startling violence and a controversial rape scene - you'll have to watch and make your own mind up.
18. American Psycho
Patrick Bateman looks like a man, but he is not. "There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman," he says. "Some kind of abstraction. But there is no real me: only an entity, something illusory." Bateman has the facade of a perfect life, but it's entirely hollow, with all his material possessions and narcissistic affectations acting as props in the theatre of his existence. Oh, and he kills a lot of people.
Yes, a Disney kids' film is essential viewing for every man. Frozen, apart from being a great story with the most annoyingly catchy song of recent times, is a definitive statement: men don't have to be the heroes. Hilariously, Fox News took this as an attack on masculinity, claiming that Frozen is “empowering girls but turning our men into fools and villains”. Any sensible man can see what Frozen actually is: a long-needed redressing of the balance.
20. The Shawkshank Redemption
Hopefully you've already seen The Shawkshank Redemption, because how could you not have seen The Shawshank Redemption? Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit and has to learn how to survive inside Shawshank prison. The film is based on hope, a hope built on the friendship between Andy and Red (Morgan Freeman). In a lesser film their relationship would be called a bromance, but this is something more.
21. Raging Bull
The true story of boxer Jake LaMotta is one of self-destruction. His rise and fall is punctured with bouts of violence (in and out of the ring) and intense jealousy, which strain his relationships with his wife and family. Raging Bull is the antithesis of Rocky: there's no glory in Jake's career, nothing noble. The boxing scenes are some of the most brutal you'll ever see on screen, and also some of the best.
22. Apocalypse Now
In the depths of the Vietnam war lay the depths of madness. Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent into the jungle to assassinate the renegade Colonel Kurtz, who has gone insane and built an army of his own. Apocalypse Now looks into the dark hearts of men at war, all of whom have been touched and corrupted by it in one way or another: how can anyone make sense of something as senseless as war?
23. To Kill A Mockingbird
The American Film Institute voted Atticus Finch as the number one hero in movie history, and watching To Kill a Mockingbird it's not hard to see why. Finch is a lawyer in 1930s Alabama, charged with the defence of a black man accused of the rape of a white woman. To some extent, the film is about the death of innocence, as seen through the eyes of Atticus' children Jem and Scout, but more simply it's about a man and his family standing up for what's right.
24. The Social Network
Facebook, according to The Social Network, was born out of pettiness. It wasn't a lightning strike of genius, it was a contemptuous little boy trying to get even with the opposite sex. It's ironic that the biggest social tool since the printing press was created by someone who didn't know the meaning of the word 'social'. How much of The Social Network is truth or exaggeration is up for debate, but the film is a slick and witty story of a bitter young man becoming the world's youngest billionaire.
25. Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane is a lesson in how not to be a man. Charles Foster Kane chases everything he can: money, success, political power. Through his actions he isolates himself, turns his friends and family away, leaving him to die wealthy, but alone. On his deathbed he says one word: "Rosebud". The film explores his highs and lows, but when we finally learn what "Rosebud" means, we learn that happiness is in the moment, not in the pursuit.