The Top 20 Movies of My Lifetime (20-11)

A list like this is always going to be subjective, and I don’t expect others to agree with it. I still think it is worth highlighting the movies that have had a significant impact on my life and why this is the case. If you believe that something amazing is missing from the list, please let me know in the comments section below.

I was born in 1985, so the movies on the list have to have been released in 1985 or later. All films on the list also have to be movies:

  • that I have personally watched,
  • that I have personally enjoyed, and
  • that have emotionally impacted me in some way.


Unfortunately, the longer that I practice psychotherapy, the more that I can see the limitations to it. Over time, it has become easier for me to look at the traps that people consistently fall into, and the logical steps that people need to take to successfully overcome these difficulties.

However, people are not just logical creatures. They have emotional reactions to things, based on their past experiences and beliefs. For long-term change to take place sometimes, we need to be able to truly connect and bring about change on an emotional level.

This is where stories become relevant. Whether it is through a good fiction book or a great movie, stories can connect with us on an emotional level and move us more than a rational argument ever could. Without further ado, here is my list, ranked based on their IMDb star rating:

# 20: The Conjuring (2013) – IMDb star rating: 7.5/10


Quite simply, I have never been more scared watching a horror movie in the cinema than this one. I locked my arms between the armrests so that I didn’t jump too much, and the amount of sweat I produced by the end of the movie was intense. The sequel is almost as good, but the scene where the mother wakes up and thinks that her kids are playing a clap-clap version of hide and seek is genuinely terrifying. James Wan is a master of his craft, and his supernatural stuff is much better than the Saw series.

I was tempted to include ‘Wake in Fright’, the Australian outback horror instead of this as it has a higher IMDb rating and it was an uncomfortable watch. However, the success of a scary movie needs to be about how scary it is, and therefore ‘The Conjuring’ is the perfect way to kickstart the list.

# 19: The Castle (1997) – IMDb star rating: 7.7/10


My only Australian movie to make the list. I was thinking about my most quoted movie of all-time, and this is a close battle with ‘Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy’ and ‘Happy Gilmore’, however ‘The Castle’ has a higher star rating and gets the nod for being an Aussie film. From “tell ’em to get stuffed” to “the vibe” to “the serenity” to “he’s an ideas man” to “we could talk for hours” and “I dug another hole”, The Castle is a truly classic Australian film. For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, do yourself a favour and check it out. Truly knee-slapping fun.

# 18: Midnight in Paris (2011) – IMDb star rating: 7.7/10


The best Woody Allen film by far in my opinion. A lot of people might say ‘Manhattan’ or ‘Annie Hall’ or even ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ may be better, but I tend to prefer the movies that Woody actually doesn’t appear in himself. When Owen Wilson’s character gets to go back in time and meet F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway and Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, this is movie magic at its finest. Plus, Marion Cotillard as Adriana is magical too. I’d escape Rachel McAdams as Inez for her any day.

# 17: Groundhog Day (1993) – IMDb star rating: 8.0/10


Just brilliant in my opinion, and the best Bill Murray film by far. What would you do if you were stuck living the same day over and over again in a town that you didn’t want to be in? The main character Phil first tries to take advantage of others, then commit crimes, then kill himself, then learn skills, then help others and finally find true love. Another great example of movies being able to teach us something using a method that couldn’t possibly happen in real life.

# 16: Donnie Darko (2001) – IMDb star rating: 8.1/10


This is an example of the right movie at the right time. I was experiencing a lot of suicidal ideation at the time that this movie came out in 2001, and the main song from the movie ‘Mad World’ by Gary Jules connected with me in a way that not much else did. It seems to be the closest depiction I’ve seen of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, my favourite novel at the time by the author J.D. Salinger. It was a dark time for me, and Donnie Darko really helped me to feel that I wasn’t alone in my struggle. It looked to be the start of a promising career by director Richard Kelly, but he doesn’t seem to have done much since 2009’s ‘The Box’.

# 15: Before Sunrise (1995) – IMDb star rating: 8.1/10


I enjoyed all three films in this trilogy, but the first one was my favourite by far. Two strangers, randomly meeting each other on a train in a foreign land, spending the night together wandering around the streets of Vienna and developing an amazingly strong connection in the process. I also really liked ‘Boyhood’ and ‘Dazed and Confused’ from Linklater, but ‘Before Sunrise’ takes the cake for why I love travelling and meeting new people and saying yes to spontaneous experiences.

# 14: The Truman Show (1998) – IMDb star rating: 8.1/10


This and ‘EdTV’ were really at the forefront of the reality TV movement that has taken over commercial TV these days. ‘The Truman Show’ is a much better movie, however. Who hasn’t imagined themselves as the main character in a story? I know I have. What if everything was just a set up to create conflict and tension for the millions of viewers out there? Would you like this, knowing that you are likely to be safe and cared about for the rest of your life? Or would you rather break free and experience an authentic and genuine life experience, and give yourself a chance of finding real love and happiness? We all have a choice between what is expected of us and what it is that we would really like to do.

# 13: The Sixth Sense (1999) – IMDb star rating: 8.1/10


One of my friends, unfortunately, spoiled the twist at the end of this movie before I saw it, so I’ll never get to experience watching it without knowing what was actually happening. The fact that I still loved it and that it made this list is a true credit to how great the movie is. Early on, I would have listed M. Night Shyamalan as one of my favourite directors. How far his and Haley Joel Osment’s career fell after this gives you an indication of how fickle Hollywood can be, but it was nice to see the director return to some type of form with the recent ‘Split’. Hopefully, his upcoming sequel to ‘Unbreakable’ will be good too. At its essence ‘The Sixth Sense’ is an exploration of the topic of grief. I wonder what mediums think of this movie and its most famous quote “I see dead people”?

# 12: Inglourious Basterds (2009) – IMDb star rating: 8.3/10


The best Tarantino movie in my opinion. The tension that he is able to create through dialogue is amazing, especially with the extended scene at the beginning of the film and the even more extended scene in the basement bar. Tarantino is a movie nerd through and through, and many people will say that ‘Pulp Fiction’ is his masterpiece, but this is better than that in many ways for me. Christoph Waltz was amazing, and getting to revise history in a way that leads to Hitler being shot in the face by a machine gun would have no doubt be satisfying to many. It just shows that big budgets and lots of action can never make up for poor dialogue when it comes to building up suspense. It’s a pity ‘The Hateful Eight’ was so bad. Here’s hoping that Mr Tarantino makes a return to form with his next film.

# 11: Good Will Hunting (1997) – IMDb star rating: 8.3/10


My favourite movie about therapy and the benefits that it can bring. It’s great to see Robin Williams in some of his more series roles too, including this one, ‘What Dreams May Come’ and ‘Dead Poets Society’. The scene where Robin Williams character Sean says to Matt Damon’s character Will that it’s not his fault for the prior abuses that have taken place in his life is compelling, as it finally leads to a breaking down of the barriers that Will puts up to defend himself. This is something that is all too obvious with many of the clients that I see who have had abusive pasts. The fact that many of them continue to treat themselves as harshly as they were once treated by their perpetrators is heartbreaking to see time and time again, and I wish that they too could truly grasp and genuinely feel that they were not responsible for the abuses that they have suffered.

Stay tuned for #10 through to #1…

Published by Dr Damon Ashworth

I am a Clinical Psychologist. I completed a Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology at Monash University and a Bachelor of Behavioural Sciences and a Bachelor of Psychological Sciences with Honours at La Trobe University. I am passionate about the field of Psychology, and apply the latest empirical findings to best help individuals meet their psychological and emotional needs.

11 thoughts on “The Top 20 Movies of My Lifetime (20-11)

  1. Good list! The Castle was hilarious, The Sixth Sense was great, so scary, I didn’t see the end coming. I liked Woody Allen before the child sexual abuse allegations came up. Couldn’t watches movies much after that. Loved Manhattan. My favourite movie of all time though has to be The English Patient. Brilliant!

    1. Yes I agree with what you say about Woody Allen. I don’t like to watch him for that reason, but I saw Midnight in Paris before I knew too much about what had happened. I haven’t seen The English Patient yet. I will have to check it out. The Seinfeld episode talking about it was great!

      1. The English Patient is also my favourite movie of all times. It is such a masterpiece, isn’t it? The music alone is the work of a genius.

      2. Gabriel Yared is a great composer. And what he composed for “Betty Blue” and “The Talented Mr Ripley” – brilliant pieces!

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