What makes one a Chewer? It isn’t just reading CHUD.com regularly, although that’s a great start. It definitely isn’t being an expert at mastication. Being a Chewer requires a certain sensibility that’s outside of the mainstream. Sure, a Chewer can hold his or her own in a Star Wars OT vs PT argument with a standard movie geek, and sure, a Chewer can go with the rest of the film snobs to an Ozu revival, but a Chewer also gets really, really excited about the DVD release of The Manitou.

Over the next few weeks we’re going to be bringing you The CHUD.com Essential Films Collection – the films that would be in our dream Chewer DVD Box Set. These are 50 movies that we think every Chewer should see and love. This is by no means the definitive list of movies that make one a Chewer, but it’s a good start. It’s also in no order – the first films that we list are just as essential as the last ones. And it’s a list that will leave off the obvious as much as possible – you don’t need us to tell you to see Lawrence of Arabia or Seven Samurai.

So fire up your Netflix or your Amazon accounts – every day we’ll be bringing you two movies that are worth seeing, and probably worth owning as well. Chew on, Chewers.

Leon: The Professional (Buy it from CHUD!)

http://chud.com/nextraimages/leonCHUD.jpgThe Movie: An out-of-place manchild (Jean Reno) gets raised and trained by mob guys to become the ultimate hitman. But his one vulnerability – his heart – is blown open when he meets a recently orphaned little girl (Natalie Portman) and he must protect her from the dirty cops who killed her family while trying (and failing) protecting himself from her unnaturally mature charms.

Why it’s Essential: Despite great work since, particularly in films like Closer, Ronin, and The Contender, this film’s central trinity of greatness – Portman, Reno, and Gary Oldman, respectively – churned out signature roles here that have cast a shadow over everything else they’ve done. Portman’s Mathilda is a remarkable mix of innocence, sensuality, vulnerability, and fury. Reno’s Leon is equal parts child and Angel of Death. And no one can forget the Galactus-level scenery devouring of Oldman’s Stansfield and his immortal retort “EEEEEEEVEEEEERRRYYYOOOOONE!”

But if that were all there is, this would merely be an entertaining film. Luc Besson’s razor-sharp script and direction keeps everything in this story focused and gripping, deftly balancing badass action, intense drama, and oddly touching bits of comedy. Unfortunately, he has never been able to scale these heights again either, and perhaps that’s the true miracle of Leon. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime, almost magical convergence of perfect casting, acting, writing, direction, and tone.

http://chud.com/nextraimages/housepostt.jpgThe Movie: Poor Roger Cobb (William Kaat). His kid was taken from him, he had it rough in Vietnam, his writing career’s gone to shit, and now he’s being menaced by malevolent forces from beyond! This is before even taking into account that it’s the 80’s. Steve Miner’s lovely little horror comedy (featuring a story from 80’s horror genius Fred Dekker) is the flipside to the really out there splatstick efforts we so passionately love. It’s light, fun, loaded with fun FX, and features the best montage of beast dismemberment to ‘This is Dedicated to the One I Love’ ever.

Why it’s Essential: William Katt and Richard Moll. Together. Bottom line is this; House is a blast. It shares a kinship with films like Evil Dead 2 but it also tries to carry an emotional throughline and be sort of a Stephen King tale for the 14 year old set. Wait, Stephen King tales are tales for the 14 year old set. You get my drift. It’s always fun, features very solid work from the Greatest American Hero, and if it’s ever on television it’s impossible not to watch. It’s the splatstick film you can show your kids.