From action to crime/ gangster and drama films, avid-movie-watcher Abhishek Sareen lists his top 45 must watch guy movies of all time. Handpicked and re-re-watched, here’s the perfect list to choose from while you’re in quarantine.
I’ve been an avid movie watcher all my life. I have been watching movies since movie channels came into existence back in early 90s. My mom says I could have been a president of a big company had I not wasted so much of my time watching movies during my school and college days. But to me, being a movie watcher was better than being president of the United States.
I believe in watching good movies, it’s like appreciating art. For a good movie, it takes countless man hours or sometimes even years, to create a good piece of motion picture art. When I watch or re-watch a movie, I feel that we are absorbing and appreciating a piece of art that took so much creative effort to make. It’s very similar to visiting and appreciating an ancient monument like Taj Mahal that took countless creative man hours and years to design and build.
Must Watch Guy Movies: Top 45
Well, anyways that’s how I justify myself the countless hours that I may have wasted over the years. However, movies do teach you a lot of things if you closely observe the interaction of artists and the message they’re trying to communicate. Most good movies are difficult to appreciate in the first watch. I always advice people to do some background research beforehand.
That’s why I have created a list of 50+ must watch guy movies of all time, from gangster to comedy to drama and everything in between. May you never be bored again. Anyways let me now get cracking with my list.
“You have a once in a lifetime opportunity to stay at home, watch TV, and save the world. Don’t screw this up.”
When it comes to gangster movies, there is no better director than Martin Scorsese, who creates just the best manly movies. He is just extremely good at communicating the motivations and emotions behind a crime. Several directors have got inspired by his style and methods. So here’s my list.
This classic gangsta movie is based on a true story of real life gangster Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta. In my view, this one is the epitome of gangster movies. It’s got a great story line, narration, screen play, and background score. I just find it perfect. It casts actors like Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, which made them the legends that they are today.
This is another great movie by Martin Scorsese and one of the must watch guy movies in my opinion. Again starring Robert De Niro as a casino boss and Joe Pesci as the crazy mob boss. It also stars Sharon Stone as a hustler, who turns into De Niro’s love interest. Spectacular direction and an acting all around. This movie depicts how Las Vegas became the city of gold in the middle of a desert and then later became Disneyland for old tourists. Casino and Goodfellas are a double bill from Martin Scorsese.
Miller’s Crossing (1990)
This is one my favorite American classic style gangster movies. It is directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen; they have unique style of direction. I believe Miller’s crossing is one of the most underrated movie of all times. High chance it got under the shadow of Goodfellas as they were both released in 1990. The cast may not be star studded, but that doesn’t take anything away from Miller’s Crossing being such great movie to watch again and again.
The Departed (1996)
This one is another Martin Scorsese movie, based on 2002 Hong Kong film Internal Affairs. The Departed may not be a truly original movie, but does shine in every other area. It’s got a star studded cast of actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Walberg and Alec Baldwin. My twitter handle “The Guy” is inspired by one of the characters in the movie. Showcasing Leonardo DiCaprio in one of his finest performances, The Departed is truly one of the quintessential guy movies.
The Godfather Part 1 & 2 (1972 & 1974)
These are classics (and among the best guy movies of all time) by Francis Ford Coppola based on Italian mafia families in America, which brought the best out Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in the beginning of their careers. These are definitely great but I must caution you that you need to have ample time at your disposal. They are comparatively long movies and the pacing is slower as compared to movies from the 90s. I thus have always preferred movies from 1980s and onwards, primarily because of their editing techniques and style.
Gangs of Wasseypur 1 & 2 (2012)
These two films are Indian cult classics in the making. These movies are about a revenge between two families that spans across India’s history, starting from Indian independence to current times. According to director Anurag Kashyap, he got the inspiration for these movies from his roots and upbringings.
This is one of my most go-to movies, which portrays rivalry between families in a very non-dramatic way. You can imagine how the real incidents would have actually taken place. Gangs of Wasseypur is a 2 part movie based on a true storyline. Just like how Martin Scorsese revolutionized mafia movies with Goodfellas by portraying characters in a much more relatable and raw style, Anurag Kashyap does a similar feat by giving this movie a realistic feel.
This double bill has a great story, dry humor, brutal crime scenes, very relatable portrayal of gangsters with an insight into their mentality and motivations. If Goodfellas is the greatest guy movie from Hollywood, then Gangs of Wasseypur is an appropriate equal or a tribute from Kashyap to Scorsese.
Gangs of Wasseypur has superb performances all around from actors like Manoj Bajpai, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Richa Chadda, Tigmanshu Dhulia and a big supporting cast who have given spectacular performances, which make it one of the greatest guy movies of all times. The screenplay and background score is outstanding and make this movie a gem. You need to have the stomach to appreciate this piece of art because of raw portrayal of Indian crime. I may be sounding a bit biased, but that’s because I may have become part of the cult this movie has created for itself over the years.
Crime movies are very much like gangster movies, the only difference being that the plot is not dominated by organized crime gangs. So here are my favorite must watch guy movies in the crime genre.
Lord of War (2005)
This movie is all about the business of war and global gun trade. Director Andrew Niccol does a fantastic job communicating the dark side of humanity in a beautiful way. The movie may make you sad, but Nicholas Cage plays the lead as a Ukrainian arms dealer based in New York extremely well. I wonder why this is so neglected by critics, but I just love watch it. It’s got one of my most favorite dialogues, where an African warlord’s son asks Cage to bring him the gun of Rambo, and Cage responds, well, you have to watch it; I don’t want to spoil these little comebacks.
Some of other Andrew Niccol’s good movies are The Terminal (2004) starring Tom Hanks and Truman Show (1998) starring Jim Carrey.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
This is Quentin Tarantino’s greatest movie ever, and definitely one of the best guy movies ever. Kill Bill re-defines action and vengeance movies, with Uma Thurman in the lead as a bride. It’s an amalgamation of American westerns assassins and Japanese samurai sword fighting action. One of the most beautifully crafted movies of all time.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
This is a classic prison escape movie, which goes deep into the minds of the prisoners. It’s rated one of the best movies of all time by IMDB.
The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
This is a remake of a classic of the same name which starred Steve McQueen. The newer remake stars Pierce Brosnan as an eccentric millionaire, who loves to steal for the thrill of it. I think this one has one of the best performances by Pierce Brosnan. This, too, is an underrated movie.
A Bronx Tale (1993)
This one is a classic in the making. It stars Chazz Palminteri, who play local gangster in the Bronx and Robert De Niro playing the role of an honest city bus driver. Sonny (Chazz) clashes with De Niro, as he tries to influence De Niro’s son into his gangster ways. Directed by Robert De Niro, this the sweetest gangster movie you will ever see.
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
This is Danny Boyle’s epic crime drama that depicts India’s slums, especially those in Mumbai, in a colourful and contrasting way. Only a foreign director like Danny Boyle could have made a movie like this, which depicts parts of India, its people, culture and mentality that Indian directors often overlook. I won’t say this is a re-watchable movie but it’s a must-watch guy movie for sure. Other movies that I like from Danny Boyle are Train Spotting 1 and 2, but I’m not sure they’re the must watch kinds of movie for my readers.
No Country of Old Men (2007)
This is a crime, drama and mystery from Coen Brothers. This is a dark movie with a deep meaning. It’s a movie that you may need to re-watch to really understand its hidden layers. I myself neither understood, nor appreciated it in the first go. You may need to watch it twice or thrice over a few years to truly understand and appreciate the meaning.
Javier Bardem’s performance is truly incredible. This is one of the must watch guy movies for audiences who appreciate art over entertainment. Most of Coen brother’s movies are a bit unconventional, and can sometimes be placed in the film noir sub-genre. I have enjoyed a lot of his movies like True Grit (2010), The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), The Big Lebowski (1998). But all of them require an artistic mind-set to truly appreciate. Some of their movies are just horrible, like Burn After Reading (2008), however I’m yet to watch all their movies.
Action & Adventure
The Man from U.N.C.L.E (2015)
This is an over-loaded spy thriller, where the CIA and KGB meet with MI6 to stop a hidden crime organization from taking over the world. Set in the early 1960s at the peak of the Cold War, this is an extremely stylish and witty movie. It’s one of those movies every man should see about the art of manliness.
Also read: The Man from UNCLE | 60s Men’s Fashion
Director Guy Ritchie does a fabulous job blending fashion, spy adventure and classic comedy. It feels as if every frame of this movie is piece of art – pause anywhere in the movie and you can create a wallpaper out it. Starring Henry Cavil as an American spy, this again is a much underrated movie that deserves way more popularity. It’s one of the must watch guy movies that even your girlfriend will enjoy.
Sherlock Holmes (2009) & Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
A completely new take on Sherlock Holmes, these two movies are very true to Guy Ritchie style of direction. They star Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Dr. Watson. The duo give an outstanding performance and have great on-screen chemistry. In the sequel, where Holmes and Watson encounter their biggest nemesis, Professor James Moriarty, played by Jared Harris, is truly amazing.
Behind Enemy Lines (2001)
This one is a very simple film, where Owen Wilson, a fighter pilot’s wingman, gets stuck behind enemy lines. It showcases the life of a modern day navy aviator in a very relatable way. I love this film for its simplicity of emotions played by the characters.
Jason Bourne Trilogy (2002-07)
Jason Bourne’s trilogy are one of my most re-watchable action adventure movie series of all time. These movies, based on famous novels by Robert Ludlum, have a great story line. But the action & direction are also quite remarkable. The shaky cam approach taken by the director will make you feel that you are right in the center of the action.
The Bourne series completely redefined action sequences for Hollywood after their release. The second edition, Bourne Supremacy, is not as awesome as the first (Bourne Identity) and third (Bourne Ultimatum), so I’d put that one in a list of 100 must watch movies, but the trilogy as a whole deserves its place here in the list of must watch guy movies.
The Matrix & Reloaded (1999 & 2003)
I can’t comment much on the Matrix trilogy, other than the fact that they’re sci-fi action and one of the must watch guy movies. If you haven’t heard about them, then you are living on a different planet. Watch them!! Watch them again.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
I generally don’t like to watch movies made before 1990 because of their slow editing, but The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is an exception. What the Bourne series did to action movies, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly trilogy series (or Dollars trilogy) did to the western movies back in the 1960s. This is truly a piece of art.
These films were shot with American actors, an Italian director, with German Money, in Spain based and set during American Civil War times. Almost everything could go wrong, but nothing did. All the movies of the Dollar Triology, also called Spaghetti Western films, were directed by Sergio Leone. The films are Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
This is my all-time favorite Bond movie, where the villain planning to take over the world actually has the most plausible plan. Pierce Brosnan, as James Bond, takes on a global media mogul played by Jonathan Pryce. It’s a fast paced action thriller with one of the best starting Bond movie sequences ever.
Layer Cake (2004)
Here is yet another underrated movie. It stars Danile Craig as a drug dealer, who wants out of the trade when he’s on the top. Set in England, this one’s a nice watch when you have run out of good movies.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Of the Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, I like his 3rd edition the most. And it’s not because of Batman, but because of his nemesis Bane. Bane is played by Tom Hardy, who’s such an over-powering character that you star rooting for him much more than even Batman. Bane’s voice and characterization are the highlights of the movie. It’s a re-watch for Bane and Bane only.
True Lies (1994)
This is a classic action movie, where perfect action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger is an international spy and takes on terrorists. It’s great movie that you can even watch in the morning, directed by James Cameron. This is one of the rare movies about being a real man.
Terminator 1, 2 & 3 (1984, 1991, 2003)
The Terminator series are classics action movies that made a non-actor like Arnold Schwarzenegger a super star. Casting couldn’t have been more perfect for Schwarzenegger, which took him to Hollywood superstardom and later made him governor, too. These are some of the best movies for 20 year old guys.
Top Gun (1986)
Top Gun is a classic that defined the generation of youth of 1980s. This is typical drama movie that has all possible emotions packed together. 1980s was a decade of speed, excess, high adrenalin, passion… and this movie depicts it all perfectly.
It’s one of the must watch guy movies for those who love aviation. It’ll make you admire Tom Cruise again, and it’ll definitely remind you why you wanted to be a pilot when you were a kid. Must watch, if you haven’t. Re-watch if you haven’t watched it in the last 5 years. Plus, with the sequel coming out soon, now is the perfect time to enjoy it.
Drama: Must Watch Guy Movies
The Prestige (2006 film)
The Prestige is a psychological thriller, mystery and sci-fi movie. Directed by Christopher Nolan, this movie has an all-star cast, including Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, and also Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson. Centered around the rivalry between two magicians, whose constant efforts to one-up each other goes to such extreme ends that they are willing to put their relationships and lives at stake. Great writing, cinematography and performances by the cast will make you want to re-watch it as soon as you finish it.
Rush (2013 film)
Rush is a classic in the making. If you are motorsport lover, then this film will top your list of must watch guy movies. Based on the true stories of F1 racing drivers, James Hunt and Niki Lauda, this is one of the best spots documentary movie that exists today. Directed by Ron Howard, this film stays very true to the original setting. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl play Hunt and Lauda and have superb on-screen chemistry as rivals. Re-watchable anytime, except some difficult scenes in the middle. Love the way how the movie is beautifully concluded. And it’ll give you one more reason to like Chris Hemsworth other than Thor.
The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
Directed by George Nolfi, starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, this is a fiction-drama. It’s a beautiful movie about will and fate, and has a great message. Watch it you are feeling down and things aren’t going your way.
A Few Good Men (1992)
This is my favorite courtroom drama movie. It stars Tom Cruise as a maverick lawyer who wants to take on Jack Nicholson. Supported by Demi Moore, this is one neat movie where Tom Cruise displays best of his acting talent.
Fight Club (1999)
Fight club is one of my most favorite movies, not because it’s got a great title but it’s got a great message throughout the movie. Starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, this movie will blow your mind every time you watch it. There are lot of conspiracy theories behind this movie’s story line – one of them being that it’s about Calvin and Hobbes (the cartoon strip with Bill Watterson) in their adulthood. Anyway, this one is a total classic, one of the best Brad Pitt flicks, and one of the top must watch guy movies. It’s also full of tiny details and Easter eggs you’ll notice when you re-watch it again and again.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Matt Damon is brash genius punk, who’s good at anything he gets his on to, like mathematics, history, and law for starters. Co-starring Ben Affleck and Robin William, this is great movie you can watch anytime. Matt Damon’s character is a true underdog that you root for, and everyone enjoys the scene when he takes on Ivy League students and basically, everyone else with pure genius.
The Invictus (2009)
Set during the South African apartheid times, this is a superb sports documentary movie starring Matt Damon as a national rugby team captain and Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. It’s a great look back into history, and how sports united the country of South Africa.
Sin City (2005)
This is Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller directed movie inspired and based on a comic book by the same name, and is one of the must watch guy movies for comic lovers. The movie is unconventional, starring Bruce Willis, Clive Oven and Mickey Rourke. Watch it alone.
The Usual Suspects (1995)
A beautiful crime drama starring Chazz Palminteri and Kevin Spacey in the lead. The less I say better for this movie. Kevin Spacey gives one of his best performance here.
Of all the history dramas, Gladiator is my favorite. It’s got a great story and superb screen play. Russel Crowe stands out as Maximus Decimus Meridius, a general who become a salve and then earns his freedom as a gladiator. This is truly an epic Roman saga, and it’d be one of the best must watch guy movies for those who like epic historical war drama films. It’s one of the best movies that teach you how to be a real man.
Forrest Gump (1994)
Tom Hanks is boy with low IQ who, despite his challenges, builds a dream career and accomplishments one can only imagine, to everyone’s surprise around him. A beautiful movie which can be watch any time of day. A must watch for all. Tom Hanks’ character displays some remarkable qualities like humility, positivity and grit, which are timelessly admirable.
So I hope this list of must watch guy movies was helpful. Do you have any favorite that you’d like to recommend? Let us know below, and you can also tweet me @slubguy.
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Abhishek Sareen is a management professional with over 16 years of experience in brand management. He completed his Executive Education from IIM-A in 2016. He has worked in diverse areas like marketing, e-commerce, international business strategy and business consulting.
He is a passionate cyclist and has participated in several endurance races involving of mountain biking like MTB Himalaya, long distance road biking, triathlons and marathons. In his free time, he enjoys behavioral psychology, economics and chess. He also has an interest in geopolitics and noir films. He is also an advisor at Shilpa Ahuja Digital Media. He can be contacted at [email protected]