Brad Geagley’s List of Essential Films

13 Feb

After my last blog, many of you have asked to see my list of films that I give out to my classes – so here it is.  As I’ve repeatedly said, this is a very eclectic list that I use for a variety of reasons:


  1. To acquaint the students with (mainly) films from the American Studio System after sound was introduced.
  2. Some are true classics that they should know, if only for cultural reference, i.e., famous for being famous, like “Gone With the Wind” or “Lawrence of Arabia”.
  3. Sometimes a film (such as “Stage Door”) has been included because I want to introduce them to actors or actresses with whom they may not be familiar – such as Katherine Hepburn or Eve Arden.
  4. All the films have extremely strong stories, and utilize the storytelling elements I teach in class superbly.
  5. Some are included to illustrate specific storytelling elements:  “All About Eve” for dialog, for instance, “Cleopatra” for spectacle, “Sunset Boulevard” for the clash of two styles (silent and sound) or “Inherit the Wind” for those films based on a real news story.


Because of the above-stated reasons, you’ll notice that many of the famed classics are missing, the most obvious of which is “Citizen Kane”.  Sorry, I’ve never found it interesting or emotionally compelling enough to include.  My apologies to its legion of admirers – but it’s my class, after all!



Stage Door



A Tale of Two Cities

Gone With The Wind

Bride of Frankenstein

The Awful Truth

The Wizard of Oz



The Lady Eve

The Shop Around the Corner

Meet Me In Saint Louis

Citizen Kane

The Heiress

The Little Foxes

The Best Years of Our Lives


Mildred Pierce

Shadow of a Doubt



All About Eve

The Bad Seed

Some Like It Hot

Sunset Boulevard

North by Northwest


On the Waterfront

Singin’ in the Rain

Rebel Without a Cause

A Place in the Sun

Paths of Glory



West Side Story

Lilies of the Field

The Haunting


Rosemary’s Baby

Bonnie & Clyde

Night of the Living Dead


Inherit the Wind

Lawrence of Arabia

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

The Graduate




Splendor in the Grass

To Kill a Mockingbird



The Godfather

The Godfather, Part 2



The Last Picture Show


Annie Hall



Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels

A Room With A View

E.T., the Extra Terrestrial


Blue Velvet

Raising Arizona

Terms of Endearment

Ordinary People

Broadcast News


Out of Africa

Remains of the Day



Searching for Bobby Fischer

The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

The English Patient

Raise the Red Lantern (Chinese)

American Beauty

Shakespeare in Love





To Die For

A Beautiful Mind

No Country For Old Men

American Beauty

O Brother, Where Art Thou

The Queen



The Descendants

Pride & Prejudice (2005)



As I’ve said, there are a lot of necessary films missing from this list.  Write and tell me what films you’ve seen from the list, and also some more films I should include.



16 Responses to “Brad Geagley’s List of Essential Films”

  1. stylebyyellowtulip February 13, 2012 at 1:05 am #

    So glad to see that A Room with a View made your viewing list. Not many of my friends have ever seen or heard of this movie and it is one of my favourites – love the beautiful setting of Venice and the storyline provided the characters with some great ‘one liners’ and wholesome innocence of a era long gone. I haven’t watched it in awhile, but will be sure to sometime soon again.

    • Brad Geagley February 13, 2012 at 11:04 am #

      I absolutely ADORE “A Room With a View” – a perfect Valentine’s Day movie, by the way. So romantic.

  2. sandy February 13, 2012 at 3:52 am #

    Film. Such a great medium. Thank you for your list. I’m delighted to report I’m familiar with all but a very few. Notably from 1930 and 40. After that I’ve seen them all and you picked many of my favorites. BTW citizen kane slipped in there too I see.

  3. Jeffrey N. Baker February 13, 2012 at 4:55 am #

    I find it funny that you mention that Citizen Kane would be missing from the list. And then it appears on the list. A flash of sudden guilt, perhaps? 😉

    I never found it interesting myself.

    • Brad Geagley February 19, 2012 at 10:47 am #

      Yeah! I thought I had left it off – but there it was. I still don’t like it.

  4. Chad February 13, 2012 at 7:27 am #

    And just when I thought I’d tapped my Netflix queue as low as it would go! Lots to consider here. I remember a couple years back checking out On the Waterfront and ever since I’ve noticed the way films use the same gates, bars, cages as a scenic symbol. Rosemary’s Baby is so weird and wild. Unforgettable whatever you make of it, right?

    • Brad Geagley February 19, 2012 at 10:48 am #

      It’s a horror film set in the completely normal world – that’s what so great, I think. (That, and the evil alien growing inside you!)

  5. Stephanie Raffelock February 13, 2012 at 8:30 am #

    How about Little Big Man. . .

    • Brad Geagley February 13, 2012 at 11:06 am #

      I haven’t seen that one in so long. I’m not a bit Dustin Hoffman fan, to tell you the truth. And his makeup as the older character seemed a bit too rubberized to be real. But I will definitely take a look at it again. My most vivid memory of it was Dustin being bathed by Faye Dunaway…

  6. maroon5gurl88 February 13, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    Cabaret, Splendor in the Grass, The Bad Seed, and American Beauty are my favorite films and surprisingly enough I’ve seen over half of these. It makes me sad that film classes in my college don’t have the time to show all the movies on this list.

    • Brad Geagley February 14, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

      I absolutely worship those same films…and I AM making time in my class! My students are mesmerized by American Beauty, practically speechless by the end of it.

  7. likeitiz February 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    I scored myself a point for each one I’ve seen at least once. I must say that for the 30’s and 40’s, I’ve seen only 50%, for the 50’s, 7/11. But for the 60’s onward, I’ve seen them all. Even read the book of some. I’m sure we all have our won favorites and that you have considered not just the story but the editing, acting, etc. Glad to see I’m pretty good about choosing good film in your books.

  8. Shannon Howell March 2, 2012 at 4:41 am #

    I’ve been negligent in getting back to this list. I have actually seen some of them, many I haven’t, and some I’m not certain if I have or not (there are plenty of movies I saw when I was little that I didn’t know the names of, but would remember them if I were to start watching again). Also, I had a teacher in middle school who would show old movies – lots of Charlie Chaplin, silent films, and other assortments of non-pop culture things.

    I’ll write back when I go over the list in detail.

  9. maroon5gurl88 March 4, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    Not sure how many people would be interested but thought I’d throw it out there that I’ve been reviewing the films of classic film legend Jean Harlow on my blog. With all the awesome discussion on classic films figured I’d try to entice more people into reading more reviews!

  10. Shannon Howell March 6, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    So, as predicted (by me) I’ve hardly seen any of these. There are many I know of, and could probably quote a line or two from, but haven’t actually seen. For most of these, when I was little I was “too young” to see it or be interested, but by the time I was older “everyone” had seen them. I probably would have gotten to them after college (when my parents and limited income didn’t restrict my movie rentals), but I got married instead – and my husband has seen most of them. So, what bits HAVE I seen?

    Wizard of Oz
    Casablanca (I was well over 20 when I finally saw this, my husband rented it as soon as I mentioned I hadn’t seen it)
    Spartacus (I saw this as a kid)
    The Graduate (shown in high school)
    The Last of the Mohicans (at least twice)
    The English Patient (I think I saw that)
    American Beauty
    Shakespeare in Love (I think)

    I’ll mention a couple movies that I saw at some point that have really stuck with me (as you can tell, I’m no expert in film).

    All’s Quiet on the Western Front
    The Good Earth

    I’ll mention that I saw both of those courtesy of the same high school teacher who showed The Graduate.


  1. Writing Tips | The View Outside - February 14, 2012

    […] day wasn’t I? Well, author and screenwriting tutor, Brad Geagley has put on his blog his list of essential films all of which have extremely strong stories. Out of the 84 film listed, I’ve seen […]

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