Jim Emerson has listed the 100 movies (103 actually) one should have seen to form an opinion about film
grace kelly

(…) the movies you just kind of figure everybody ought to have seen in order to have any sort of informed discussion about movies. They’re the common cultural currency of our time, the basic cinematic texts that everyone should know, at minimum, to be somewhat “movie-literate.”
from rogerebert.suntimes.com

That is a brave thing to do, because movie buffs will never agree on what those 100 movies should be, so his effort is bound to get contested. Which is what I’m going to do now.

Looking at his choice, I would say the said Mr Emerson is English speaking and born before 1960. Look at the histogram:
Essential movies per decade

Quick stats
85% of the listed movies are English spoken (mostly American). 70% of the movies were made before 1970. The best decade was the fifties (20 movies – from Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Wilder, Kazan, Godard …), then the seventies (19 movies – from Coppola, Scorsese, De Palma, Altman) and third the sixties (18 movies – Fellini, Kubrick, Bergman, Lean, Nichols).

Best Directors
Obviously, no female directors in the list, no Jane Campion or Sofia Coppola.

with 4 ‘essential’ movies
Howard Hawks
Alfred Hitchcock
with 3 ‘essential’ movies
Billy Wilder
Francis Ford Coppola
Stanley Kubrick
Steven Spielberg
with 2 ‘essential’ movies
Akira Kurosawa
Elia Kazan
Federico Fellini
Fritz Lang
Luis Buñuel
Martin Scorsese
Orson Welles
Ridley Scott
Roman Polanski
Victor Fleming

Foreign movies
It’s been a sery silent last 30 years for non-english, non-US movies, one would conclude by looking at Emerson’s list. France and Germany started strong the first half of the 20th century, Japan had a moment de gloire around ’50-’55, Italy had some luck with Fellini in the early sixties, but since then it’s been really quiet. I’m not a big expert on early European film, but I’m just wondering. Bertolucci? Kieslowski?

Recent movies
Only 6 movies from the nineties make it onto the list:

I’ve seen them all, except for Fight Club, and they’re all good movies, but couldn’t that list be longer? Shouldn’t one at least have seen “Silence of the lambs” to understand “I’m having an old friend for dinner”? And what about … *he says while shifting his legs* “Basic Instinct”? What did “Thelma and Louise” do for emancipation and girl-girl action? The “Lion King” – ‘Hakuna matata’ and all that? Isn’t that more relevant than “Nosferatu” in this day and age?

Checklist
The list is of course a good checklist to see what great movies you still have to sit through. I just did the counting, I haven’t seen half of them yet (I’m around 45%). I have a feeling that if someone would make a top 100 of the last thirty years, I’d be way above 50%.
Remarkable fact: Victor Fleming – a name that did not ring a bell with me – finished “Gone with the wind” and “The wizard of Oz” in the same year: 1939.

Ironically Fleming was brought in on both pictures to replace other directors and smooth out the troubled productions, a feat he accomplished masterfully.
from IMDB