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  • Writer's pictureHunter Friesen

Happy National Cinema Day! Here are 9 Movies that MUST be seen on the big screen.

For as much as we’ve gained with the invention and normalization of streaming, there’s something crucial to the enjoyment of watching movies that we’ve lost: Watching them in a theater.

Of course, the act of going to a cinema isn’t dead. But the habits of consumers are changing rapidly, with many switching over entirely to streaming as their mode of entertainment. By doing so, we’re losing that shared communal experience that made so many classic movies into the legends they are today.

Listed below are several movies that you are practically required to see in the cinema, as watching them at home would rob you of the magical effect they produce.

And with today being National Cinema Day (which hundreds of theaters are celebrating with $3 tickets), there’s no better time to venture out to the cinema and see something that catches your eye. Who knows, maybe one of your local theaters is playing one of the films listed.


While many directors use long takes to enhance specific scenes, director Sam Mendes took it another step further for his World War I film. To help visualize the peril that two British soldiers are put through to deliver a critical message, Mendes has their entire journey take place in (seemingly) one extended take. It’s a move of pure showmanship that lends itself to several sequences of technical brilliance. Those feelings of adrenaline and desperation would be lost if you were at home, where the temptations to look away from the screen are often too much. You need to be fully immersed in this movie to appreciate every bit of what it is accomplishing.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick’s magnum opus remains one of the most influential films in not just the science fiction genre, but of any genre. It’s continued to puzzle viewers since its world premiere in 1968, for which Roger Ebert attended and wrote “many of those who remained until the end knew they had seen one of the greatest films ever made.” Kubrick reaches for the stars, and in doing so, dazzles us with sights and sounds that no director has had the confidence to replicate since.


With Avatar: The Way of Water finally coming out after so many delays, now is the perfect time to initiate yourself into James Cameron’s unique vision. 2009’s Avatar was, and still is, one of the only movies to be fully enhanced by its use of 3D, with Cameron’s perfectionism filling the world of Pandora with intricately lush details. Even a decade later, the visual effects and sound work are the bars to clear for any blockbuster.

Disney will be giving the film a theatrical re-release in premium formats starting on September 23.

Avengers: Endgame

Of course, seeing this one-of-its-kind blockbuster on the big screen would greatly enhance all the technical aspects, such as the visual effects and score. But anyone who saw the film on opening night will tell you about the communal experience of watching it with other fervent MCU fans. Laughter, tears, and applause punctuated every moment and greatly enhanced their appreciation for the culmination of an era. Few films have been able to bring together (and wholly satisfy) so many people, and it’s not likely any will be able to do it better.


Never mind the weak story and script, watching Gravity on the big screen will reinvigorate any person’s love for cinema. Alfonso Cuarón's roaming camera keeps viewers intertwined with the fate of the astronauts as they attempt to survive the unthinkable. From minute one to minute ninety-one, you're enveloped within the setting and circumstances, desperately clinging onto your seat for dear life as the sound design and visuals overtake your body. I've been through 4D experiences at amusement parks and IMAX theaters, but nothing has come close to the experience of Gravity.


It’s only fitting that Christopher Nolan, the man responsible for restoring 2001: A Space Odyssey for its 50th anniversary, would create his puzzle box film, which also continues to be open to interpretation to this day. Almost immediately upon its release, Inception became the tentpole for the modern blockbuster: big casts, big ideas, and bigger explosions. But few have been able to hold you in a vice like Nolan, who expertly uses all facets of production to tell his complex stories.

Lawrence of Arabia

David Lean’s biographical epic is such a cinematic experience, that seeing it in a regular theater still wouldn't be enough. The true, and to some cinephiles, only, way to see this monumental film is on glorious 70mm (which has been recently remastered to 4K for the 60th anniversary), which allows for the film’s warm visuals to pop like never before.

There is a shot later in the film where the shimmering desert heat conceals a distant character to only a speck on the horizon. The shot holds until this figure begins to take form, revealing itself as the savior in the desert. As I rewatch the scene on my computer, it looks terrible. The speck cannot be distinguished on such a small screen, nor does the horizon appear as vast and harsh. But as I watched it on 70mm, I leaned forward and, just like the character, strained to see through the heat towards the figure. Once the figure became clear, and Maurice Jare's score began to swell towards that illustrious theme, you truly appreciate the power of cinema.

Mad Max: Fury Road

As belated sequels go, Mad Max: Fury Road may very well be the cream of the crop. The film never slows down, always racing along at a breakneck pace, delivering one amazing action set piece after another. What sells the film as a cinematic experience is the sound work, which adds incredible depth to its simple narrative. Even the most advanced home sound systems cannot replicate the waves sent through your body as you sit in the cinema.


The color, the costumes, the acting, and the music; it's all perfect in Akira Kurosawa's epic adaptation of Shakespeare's King Lear. Each frame is brilliantly framed as a painting, staging actors often in the foreground of amazing sets and backdrops. Nothing is left out and is laid out in a clear and concise way. Cinematically, the battles are the culmination of Kurosawa's directorial career. Bright red blood stains the ground it flows on and the skill of the samurai is well illustrated. Akira Kurosawa beautifully paints the horrors of life through sumptuous production values and a talented cast.

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