1. Films for General Adult Discussion Groups
  2. Films for Ambitious Adult Discussion Groups
  3. Films to Discuss with Young Viewers


Note from Jeffrey Overstreet:

The following lists are recommended titles for groups to view and discuss.

They are not intended to represent comprehensive lists of films on their particular themes. Rather, they are films that I personally have found challenging and rewarding, and I have enjoyed discussions about them with other moviegoers.

I’ve compiled these lists with discerning adult viewers in mind. Some films contain elements that could be offensive to some viewers. I encourage you to read about the films ahead of time. Pay attention to what the film is rated, and why, and make sure that those in your discussion group do not go into the film unprepared.

Reviews of these films available at LookingCloser.org, or elsewhere, will help you determine which selections would be best for you and your viewing group. Proceed with caution, and a sense of adventure.

Each film in these lists may reveal multiple themes. They are listed under particular themes here only as suggested areas of focus. You may find other surprising connections and contrasts, and organize lists of your own.

These lists will be expanded and revised periodically.

Films for General Adult Discussion Groups

  • Alien; dir. Ridley Scott
  • Almost Famous; dir. Cameron Crowe
  • Amadeus; dir. Milos Forman
  • American Splendor; dir. Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini
  • The Apostle; dir. Robert Duvall
  • Babette’s Feast; dir. Gabriel Axel
  • Being There; dir. Hal Ashby
  • Big Night; dir. Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci
  • Born into Brothels; dir. Zana Briski
  • Capote; dir. Bennett Miller
  • Chariots of Fire; dir. Hugh Hudson
  • Citizen Kane; dir. Orson Welles
  • The Color of Paradise; dir. Majid Majidi
  • Crash; dir. Paul Haggis
  • Dead Man Walking; dir. Tim Robbins
  • Dead Poets Society; dir. Peter Weir
  • The Decalogue (a series of 10 short films); dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski
  • Do the Right Thing; dir. Spike Lee
  • Dr. Strangelove; dir. Stanley Kubrick
  • Empire of the Sun; dir. Steven Spielberg
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose; dir. Scott Derrickson
  • Fargo; dir. Joel and Ethan Coen
  • Fast, Cheap and Out of Control; dir. Errol Morris
  • Fearless; dir. Peter Weir
  • Final Solution, dir. Cristobal Krusen
  • Finding Neverland; dir. Marc Forster
  • The Fisher King; dir. Terry Gilliam
  • The Fog of War; dir. Errol Morris
  • The Fountain; dir. Darren Aronofsky
  • Gattaca; dir. Andrew Niccol
  • Ghost World; dir. Terry Zwigoff
  • The Gleaners and I; dir. Agnes Varda
  • Gosford Park; dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
  • The Gospel of John; dir. Philip Saville
  • Grave of the Fireflies; dir. Isao Takahata
  • Harold and Maude; dir. Hal Ashby
  • Henry V; dir. Kenneth Branagh
  • Hero; dir. Zhang Yimou
  • Hoop Dreams; dir. Steve James
  • Hotel Rwanda; dir. Terry George
  • House of Sand and Fog; dir. Vadim Perelman
  • In America; dir. Jim Sheridan
  • In the Bedroom; dir. Todd Field
  • The Insider; dir. Michael Mann
  • Insomnia; dir. Christopher Nolan
  • Italian for Beginners; dir. Lone Scherfig
  • Jean de Florette, and Manon of the Spring; dir. Claude Berri
  • The Last Days of Disco; dir. Whit Stillman
  • Last Orders; dir. Fred Shepisi
  • Limbo; dir. John Sayles
  • Lone Star; dir. John Sayles
  • Lord of the Flies; dir. Peter Brook
  • Malcolm X; dir. Spike Lee
  • Man Facing Southeast; dir. Eliseo Subiela
  • A Man for All Seasons; dir. Fred Zinnemann
  • The Man Without a Past; dir. Aki Kaurismäki
  • Mansfield Park; dir. Patricia Rozema
  • Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World; dir. Peter Weir
  • Metropolitan; dir. Whit Stillman
  • Million Dollar Baby; dir. Clint Eastwood
  • Millions; dir. Danny Boyle
  • The Mission, dir. Roland Joffé
  • Modern Times; dir. Charlie Chaplin
  • The Mosquito Coast; dir. Peter Weir
  • The New World; dir. Terrence Malick
  • Nine Lives; dir. Rodrigo Garcia
  • No Direction Home: Bob Dylan; dir. Martin Scorsese
  • Nobody’s Fool; dir. Robert Benton
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? dir. Joel and Ethan Coen
  • Pan’s Labyrinth; dir. Guillermo Del Toro
  • Personal Velocity; dir. Rebecca Miller
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock; dir. Peter Weir
  • Pieces of April; dir. Peter Hedges
  • The Player; dir. Robert Altman
  • Ponette; dir. Jacques Doillon
  • Promises; dir. Carlos Bolado, B.Z. Goldberg, Justine Shapiro
  • The Queen; dir. Stephen Frears
  • Quiz Show; dir. Robert Redford
  • The Remains of the Day; dir. James Ivory
  • Rivers and Tides: Any Goldsworthy Working with Time; dir. Thomas Riedelsheimer
  • The Road Home; dir. Zhang Yimou
  • A Room with a View; dir. James Ivory
  • The Royal Tenenbaums; dir. Wes Anderson
  • Rushmore; dir. Wes Anderson
  • Saved! dir. Brian Dannelly
  • The Searchers; dir. John Ford
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer; dir. Steve Zallian
  • The Secret of Roan Inish; dir. John Sayles
  • Sense and Sensibility; dir. Ang Lee
  • Shadowlands; dir. Richard Attenborough
  • Shall We Dance? dir. Masayuki Suo
  • Shattered Glass; dir. Billy Ray
  • The Shawshank Redemption; dir. Frank Darabont
  • Signs; dir. M. Night Shyamalan
  • Sophie Scholl: The Final Days; dir. Marc Rothemund
  • The Station Agent; dir. Thomas McCarthy
  • The Straight Story; dir. David Lynch
  • Super Size Me; dir. Morgan Spurlock
  • Tender Mercies; dir. Bruce Beresford
  • The Thin Blue Line; dir. Errol Morris
  • Thirteen Conversations About One Thing; dir. Jill Sprecher
  • Three Kings; dir. David O. Russell
  • To Kill a Mockingbird; dir. Robert Mulligan
  • The Truman Show; dir. Peter Weir
  • Twelve Angry Men; dir. Sydney Lumet
  • Unbreakable; dir. M. Night Shyamalan
  • Unforgiven; dir. Clint Eastwood
  • The Up Series; dir. Michael Apted (28 Up, 35 Up, 42 Up)
  • The Virgin Suicides; dir. Sofia Coppola
  • Watership Down; dir. Martin Rosen
  • Whale Rider; dir. Niki Caro
  • What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? dir. Lasse Hallström
  • When Harry Met Sally; dir. Rob Reiner
  • The Widow of St. Pierre; dir. Patrice Leconte
  • Wit; dir. Mike Nichols
  • Witness; dir. Peter Weir
  • Zelig; dir. Woody Allen

Films for Ambitious Adult Discussion Groups

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey; dir. Stanley Kubrick
  • The 400 Blows; dir. François Truffaut
  • Andrei Rublev; dir. Andrei Tarkovsky
  • Apocalypse Now; dir. Francis Ford Coppola
  • Au Hasard Balthazar; dir. Robert Bresson
  • Babel; dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • The Ballad of Jack and Rose; dir. Rebecca Miller
  • Barton Fink; dir. Joel and Ethan Coen
  • Before Sunrise, and Before Sunset; dir. Richard Linklater
  • The Big Kahuna; dir. John Swanbeck
  • Blade Runner; dir. Ridley Scott
  • Brazil; dir. Terry Gilliam
  • Brokeback Mountain; dir. Ang Lee
  • Caché; dir. Michael Haneke
  • Café Lumiere; dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien
  • The Celebration; dir. Thomas Vinterberg
  • Children of Men; dir. Alfonso Cuarón
  • Cinema Paradiso; dir. Giuseppe Tornatore
  • The Circle; dir. Jafar Panahi
  • Claire’s Knee; dir. Eric Rohmer
  • Code Unknown; dir. Michael Haneke
  • Crimes and Misdemeanors; dir. Woody Allen
  • Days of Heaven; dir. Terrence Malick
  • Diary of a Country Priest, dir. Robert Bresson
  • Dirty Pretty Things; dir. Stephen Frears
  • Distant; dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan
  • Dogville; dir. Lars Von Trier
  • Donnie Darko; dir. Richard Kelley
  • Down by Law; dir. Jim Jarmusch
  • L’Enfant; dir. Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; dir. Michel Gondry
  • The Five Obstructions; dir. Lars Von Trier
  • The Flowers of Shanghai; dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien
  • Full Metal Jacket; dir. Stanley Kubrick
  • George Washington; dir. David Gordon Green
  • Grizzly Man; dir. Werner Herzog
  • Hannah and Her Sisters; dir. Woody Allen
  • Husbands and Wives; dir. Woody Allen
  • The Ice Storm; dir. Ang Lee
  • Ikiru; dir. Akira Kurosawa
  • In the Mood for Love; dir. Wong Kar-Wai
  • Jesus of Montreal; dir. Denys Arcand
  • Junebug; dir. Phil Morrison
  • Lantana; dir. Ray Lawrence
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou; dir. Wes Anderson
  • The Life of Brian; dir. Terry Jones
  • Lost in Translation; dir. Sophia Coppola
  • Love and Death; dir. Woody Allen
  • Magnolia; dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
  • A Man Escaped; dir. Robert Bresson
  • Mean Creek; dir. Jacob Aaron Estes
  • The Mirror; dir. Andrei Tarkovsky
  • Natural Born Killers; dir. Oliver Stone
  • Ordet; dir. Carl Dreyer
  • Paris, Texas; dir. Wim Wenders
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc; dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer
  • The Passion of the Christ; dir. Mel Gibson
  • The Pianist; dir. Roman Polanski
  • Punch-drunk Love; dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Ran; dir. Akira Kurosawa
  • Rashomon; dir. Akira Kurosawa
  • The Return; dir. Andrei Zvyagintsev
  • Ride with the Devil; dir. Ang Lee
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead; dir. Tom Stoppard
  • Rosetta; dir. Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne
  • Safe; dir. Todd Haynes
  • A Scanner Darkly; dir. Richard Linklater
  • Secrets and Lies; dir. Mike Leigh
  • The Seventh Seal, dir. Ingmar Bergman
  • The Son; dir. Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne
  • The Sweet Hereafter; dir. Atom Egoyan
  • Solaris; dir. Andrei Tarkovsky
  • Stevie; dir. Steve James
  • A Taste of Cherry; dir. Abbas Kiarostami
  • The Thin Red Line; dir. Terrence Malick
  • Thirteen; dir. Catherine Hardwicke
  • Three Colors: Blue; dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski
  • Three Colors: Red; dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski
  • Three Colors: White; dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski
  • Three Times; dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien
  • Tokyo Story; dir. Yasujiro Ozu
  • Waking Life; dir. Richard Linklater
  • The Wind Will Carry Us; dir. Abbas Kiarostami
  • Wings of Desire; dir. Wim Wenders
  • Winter Light; dir. Ingmar Bergman
  • The World; dir. ZhangKe Jia
  • Yi-Yi (A One and a Two); dir. Edward Yang

Films to Discuss with Young Viewers

For five-year-olds and up:

  • My Neighbor Totoro, dir. Hayao Miyazaki
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, dir. John Lounsbery and Wolfgang Reitherman
  • Toy Story, dir. John Lasseter
  • Lilo and Stitch, dir. Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders
  • The Wizard of Oz, dir. Victor Fleming, Mervyn LeRoy, Richard Thorpe, and King Vidor

For eight-year-olds and up:

  • Duma, dir. Carroll Ballard
  • The Black Stallion, dir. Carroll Ballard
  • The Little Princess, dir. Alfonzo Cuarón
  • Finding Nemo, dir. Andrew Stanton
  • The Secret of Roan Inish, dir. John Sayles
  • The Emperor’s New Groove, dir. Mark Dindal
  • Mary Poppins, dir. Robert Stevenson
  • Babe, dir. George Miller
  • The Muppet Movie, dir. James Frawley
  • The Iron Giant, dir. Brad Bird
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service, dir. Hayao Miyazaki
  • The Miracle Maker, dir. Derek W. Hayes and Stanislav Sokolov
  • The Secret Garden, dir. Agnieska Holland
  • Monsters, Inc., dir. Pete Docter, David Silverman, and Lee Unkrich
  • Cars, dir. John Lasseter
  • The Story of the Weeping Camel, dir. Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni

For ten-year-olds and up:

The Princess Bride, dir. Rob Reiner

Star Wars, dir. George Lucas

Watership Down, dir. Martin Rosen

Into the West, dir. Mike Newell

Spirited Away, dir. Hayao Miyazaki

Holes, dir. Andrew Davis

March of the Penguins, dir. Luc Jacquet

Microcosmos, dir. Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou

To Kill a Mockingbird, dir. Robert Mulligan