We’ve curated a list of 25 critically
Although opinions over what films are to be held up as “great” vary, and are largely subjective, most film lovers, critics, and scholars have reached a consensus on “the best” films.
acclaimed or highly regarded films we think you should see before you die. Check it out and feel free to tack on a few from your own list of top flicks. The following are presented in no particular order.
1.) Apocalypse Now (1979)
With an incredible soundtrack, and its innovative use of sound design, Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is the tops when it comes to a Vietnam War film. The film’s bone chilling suspense, mystery and dark imagery are achieved with pure cinematic artistry. Marlon Brando’s iconic and unforgettably creepy portrayal of Walter Kurtz, a wacko AWOL Colonel, is also legendary. The story follows the team (including Martin Sheen) as they navigate the dangers of the war and often become crazy because of it.
2.) North By Northwest (1959)
Heralded as one of director Alfred Hitchcock best films, North By Northwest is a “Cold War” spy caper packed with wickedly witty dialogue and chase sequences. The chemistry between the film’s stars, Cary Grant and Eva Mary Saint, is bewitching. Romance, comedy, action, and adventure are all rolled into one in this exciting and unconventionally hilarious thriller.
3.) The Wizard of Oz (1939)
There’s hardly a soul that hasn’t seen MGM’s The Wizard of Oz, but if you just happen to be one of them, you’ve got to see it. From the moment that Dorothy (Judy Garland) takes off on the yellow brick road and begins her journey to get back home, all the wonderful creatures and landscapes depicted in L.Frank Baum’s children’s classic come to life vividly with the lush saturation of Technicolor.
4.) Singing In The Rain (1952)
Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly struck nostalgic gold with their cinematic “tip o’ the hat” to the Hollywood movie industry and the cult of celebrity with Singin’ in The Rain. The comedy-musical chronicles the movie industry’s shift from silent pictures to talkies with farcical humor and memorable song and dance sequences performed by its stars Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds. Singin’ in The Rain is a beloved classic.
5.) Boogie Nights (1997)
Boogie Nights offers up a deliciously entertaining inside look at the porn industry during its apex with the story of a young and “gifted” adult film star’s rise and fall. The film is laden with oodles and oodles of disco, drugs, decadence, depravity and, well, you get it. Mark Wahlberg as the young and charismatic “Dirk Diggler” in this a wildly hilarious spectacle that epitomizes the carefree sleaze of 70s American culture.
6.) Philadelphia (1993)
Emotionally gripping and brutally truthful, Jonathan Demme’s dramatic story is about an AIDS stricken homosexual attorney, Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) who fights the law firm that fired him due to his illness. The film is historically significant for tackling the problem of AIDS and breaking down stereotypical ideas of the illness, and of homosexuals. Denzel Washington plays a homophobic attorney that takes Beckett’s case and as a result, overcomes his own prejudices while defending Becket. The story is an incredibly touching tear jerker that encapsulates the emotional impact of the AIDS virus.
7.) When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Rob Reiner and Billy Crystal pour their genius humor into this classic romantic comedy that challenges the idea that men and women could ever maintain a plutonic relationship. The film is a charming yet genuine look at dating and relationships. Starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, and with Harry Connick Jr.’s big band soundtrack, When Harry Met Sally is a delightful comedy.
8.) Titanic (1997)
James Cameron’s Titanic places the passion and heartbreak of young and passionate unrequited love within the context of the horrible and tragic sinking of the “RMS Titanic” at the turn of the 21st century. Tears are inevitable as Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s love affair on the seas comes to an abrupt end. In his most memorable role, DiCaprio is breathtakingly handsome and charming making the film’s finale even more powerful and touching. Although the film’s story is structured around a fictionalized romance, the sinking of the “RMS Titanic” is brilliantly re-created coming as close to the real thing as cinema has ever come.
9.) Annie Hall (1977)
Break-ups are never easy, especially when you’re a neurotic over-thinker who complicates every minute detail of your existence. Such is the case with comedian Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) who examines his failed relationship with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) in attempt to understand why things didn’t work out. Woody Allen’s view on the dynamics and complexities of relationships is riotous. Annie Hall is a beloved romantic comedy and audiences can’t help but fall in love with Diane Keaton. Annie Hall is a funny, therapeutic and a sincere tale of romantic heartbreak.
Celebrated for its large scale production and impressive battle scenes, Mel Gibson’s opus, Braveheart, is about a valiant 13th century Scottish warrior, William Wallace (Mel Gibson) who leads a rebellion of fellow countrymen against the British throne. The film’s hero is romanticized to mythic proportions making his battle against a tyrannical monarch all the more compelling. The cinematography is exceptional and the battle sequences are spectacular.
11.) Gladiator (2000)
Director Ridley Scott’s signature cinematic darkness perfectly suits the cruel and brutal world of Roman gladiators in his Academy Award winning film, Gladiator. The film’s star, Russell Crowe, revitalizes the classical Hollywood Roman gladiator of “sword and sandal” epics with his gritty on-screen presence and Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as the sinister villain “Commodus” is wicked yet oddly beguiling. Gladiator’s cinematic design and specular special effects, coupled with intense performances by its two star actors, make for an exhilarating and extraordinary historical epic.
12.) The Pianist (2002)
Based on the real life experiences of Polish classical composer and pianist, Władysław “Wladek” Szpilman, director Roman Polanski’s Academy Award winning film adaptation of The Pianist, is a terrifying emotional roller coaster that takes the audience through the harrowing Nazi invasion of Poland. The story follows the Jewish pianist as he scrambles around the war torn country, from shelter to shelter, fighting to survive and evade capture. This suspenseful and gripping Holocaust drama is a powerful story of hope and the triumph of the human will. Adrien Brody’s performance as Szpilman is arresting and will keep you on the edge of your seat with a box of tissues.
13.) The Terminator (1984)
The conflict between man and machine is a classic trope of dystopian science fiction but it was James Cameron’s sci-fi action movie, The Terminator, that best captured this theme with cinematic grandeur. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s portrayal of a killer cyborg, the “Terminator T-800,” turned him into a cultural icon and his line of dialogue, “I’ll be back” into a popular catchphrase. When Schwarzenegger became the 38th governor of California, his role as the “T-800,” and its fixture in popular culture, also earned him moniker “The Governator.”
14.) Star Wars (1977)
The legacy of George Lucas’ epic galactic sci-fi action adventure has endured for over four decades and continues to draw fans from all over the world. Star Wars is more than a great film, it’s become a cultural phenomenon. Its fictional universe has been expanded into a multimedia experience and set the precedent for the modern day blockbuster film franchise. Star Wars is not only a stellar dramatic saga between the forces of good and evil, but one of the most historically significant films of the 21st century.
15.) Back To The Future (1985)
Time travel couldn’t possibly have looked any cooler than it did in Robert Zemeckis’ Back To The Future. This sci-fi adventure flick is a cinematic time capsule for 80s culture and technology with its bad-ass Delorean time machine and dated fashion sense. Cripsin Glover’s comical and cartoonish portrayal of “George McFly” has rendered the character one of the most beloved cultural icons to come out of post modern cinema. Back To The Future is truly one of the greatest sci-fi adventure films of all time.
16.) Scarface (1983)
Al Pacino’s iconic portrayal of Cuban drug lord, Tony Montana, has become a centerpiece in drug dealer lore. There is hardly a soul that hasn’t seen this film, but if you just happen to be one of them, you’ve been called to action. Scarface’s gratuitous violence and Montana’s ballsy bravado are not far removed from the reality of Miami, Florida’s dark days of gun slingin’ cocaine cowboys running amok and ruling the city’s streets.
17.) Pulp Fiction (1994)
When Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction hit the silver screen in the mid 90s, it blew movie goers away. Gory and gratuitous violence, interspersed with hilarious snappy dialogue, and a story timeline that was arranged in an unconventional way, made for an exciting and energetic experience. Ironically, Tarantino’s own love of film and pop-culture are not only reflected in Pulp Fiction’s most memorable scenes but its also mirrored in the way that adoring fans of the film have memorized the dialogue and in the endless references to the film that have since become enmeshed in popular culture. Pulp Fiction is the quintessential Quentin Tarantino film.
18.) Goodfellas (1990)
Wise guys have never been more snazzy and cool than in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Arguably one of the most stylish glamorizations of the gangster lifestyle, this movie spoke to the sensibilities of the MTV generation and still holds up with new audiences. Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino top the list of heavy hitters in this fast paced and action packed classic.
19.) The Godfather (1972)
Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel, The Godfather is by far one of the most engrossing gangster films of all time. Beautiful and cinematically baroque, each scene is rendered like a painting. The Godfather epic unfolds with all the classic bloody violence of a gangster flick but it’s the film’s compelling story of the Corleone family’s drama, and an unfading brilliant performance by Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone, that earned the film its Academy Awards. The Godfather’s influence on pop-culture, and its impact on the gangster thriller genre, are indisputable.
20.) Schinder’s List (1993)
Steven Speilberg hits the mark with his departure from science fiction fantasy films in his Academy Award winning historical drama, Schindler’s List. This critically acclaimed story of the heroism of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German businessman who gives refuge to over a thousand Jews from Nazi persecution, is an impactful cinematic masterpiece. Winner of seven Academy Awards, Schindler’s List features powerful performances by Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson and Ben Kingsley.
21.) The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, Shawshank Redemption tells the story of Andy Dufresne, a young professional banker who is wrongly accused and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife and her lover. Set in the 1940’s, the film depicts the ugly realities of prison life through corrupt wardens and prison guards, but also the friendships that develop between Robbins’ character and that of Morgan Freeman.
22.) The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (1966)
Easily one of Clint Eastwood’s finer performances, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is an epic Spaghetti Western directed by the famed Sergio Leone. Starring Clint Eastwood, it tells the tale of a trio of men who pursue a cache of $200,000. Clint Eastwood stars as the “good”, Lee Van Cleef as “the bad” and Eli Wallach as the “ugly” in this film which defines cool. With its main theme music that is easily recognizable, an interesting plot and Clint Eastwood’s stand out performance, it is one of the best films of all time.
23.) Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
A 1962 British epic biographical adventure drama film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia begins with his death by motorcycle accident but soon flashbacks to recall his life of adventure. The film details his exploits in the army as he leads the Arabs against the Turks and his eventual efforts to destroy the power of the Ottoman Empire.
24.) Saving Private Ryan (1998)
A touching film about war and the bonds created, Saving Private Ryan is anything but your typical war movie. Set against the backdrop of World War II, Tom Hanks plays a Captain in charge of a squad ordered to search and find Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon) who is the last-surviving brother of four servicemen. Directed by mega-director Steven Spielberg, the story follows the squad as they wander the German countryside to find Private Ryan.
25.) The Hurt Locker (2008)
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker is the story of a three-man Explosive Ordinance Disposal team during the Iraq War. The movie will take you along for a ride as it depicts the dangers and intensely captivating nature of the job.