The Best Films Of All Time

My opinion on the best movies of all time. In my mind these can't be topped, though unfortunately I don't have enough for a full top 10. I don't want to force myself to add four more, so the list stands at seven, for now.

I don't think anything contemporary comes close enough to warrant a spot on the list, but I think There Will Be Blood would be the closest.

These are my picks based on several factors; Pure watchability in terms of entertainment, emotional impact, themes/messages, and achievement/influence of film during each film's time period.


M - Ok, it's a bit cliche, but this movie's themes and message are just as relevant today as when the movie was made. What makes this particularly special for me is that it was made in 1931, not long after talkies began to take over film. This was Fritz Lang's first talkie, and includes one of the most brilliant performances ever, by Peter Lorre.


Grand Illusion - It's amazing how modern this movie feels, not outdated at all. Of all the movies on my list, this might be the most complete; great story, characters, message, humor, emotion, it has everything, even a love story for good measure. Perhaps one of, if not the first, true masterpiece, courtesy of Jean Renoir. And if this wasn't enough, some think that his The Rules of the Game is even better.


The Great Dictator - I quoted this in my review, but it's worth putting it here too even though it's from wikipedia: "At the time of its first release, the United States was still formally at peace with Nazi Germany." The greatest satire ever made, about one of the most evil men who ever lived, can any other film really compete with the powerful message here? Plus it's Chaplin, in his first talkie.


The Third Man - An Ebert favorite. I didn't love it the first time I saw it, but I've seen it many times since and it gets better every time. The second time I watched it I was hooked. This is probably the only movie on my list that will make you smile, aside from the ocassional laughs some of the other movies provide. However, it shares a common theme with three other movies on the list; while it isn't about a historical event like Grand Illusion, The Great Dictator, or Army of Shadows, history plays a large role. The film takes place in post war Vienna and that is very important to the story in many aspects. It's usually a great experience when a movie provides us a glimpse into the past like this.


High and Low - I didn't want this list to be too personal, I wanted to pick movies I truly felt are the best, and this one is probably the closest I get to a personal pick. But it's Kurosawa, and my favorite of his that I've seen so far, so I don't regret the choice. It is almost certainly the least "important" movie of the group on many levels, but it's such an amazingly told story. Well, as I think about it more, maybe this pick *was* too personal, but it's already here and I do love it!


2001 A Space Odyssey - Best Kubrick movie. Best Sci-Fi movie. There are some sweeping films on this list, but this one spans 4-million years...There have been major film accomplishments in the last century, but I believe this is the greatest. Like I allude to in my review, this is such an amazing work of art. Kubrick's vision(ok, and Clarke's) might never be matched again in film.


Army of Shadows - Jean-Pierre Melville gets a decent amount of praise, but not enough. His Le Cercle Rouge was beautiful, but I think Army of Shadows(released only a year earlier) is even more mesmerizing. Again we are dealing with history, with the film following a group of French resistance fighters during WWII. Incredibly thrilling, wonderfully acted, and the most amazing moods that Melville sets. You can only make an argument for 2001 about which is the more enthralling movie, keeping your attention for every single second of their runtimes.

25 Comments

  • Ok this is long, bear with me.

    I also find it interesting there is nothing past 1970 but I think I know some of the reasons. (I'm 25 by the way, so I don't think that has anything to do with it).

    First, and I think this is the less significant reason, I believe a film needs significant time around before being called a true "great." As much as I love There Will Be Blood I can not be sure that it will hold up in 50 years(it probably will).

    The main reason is something I've mentioned before, probably somewhere on this list; There is something special about a film that is taking place in, or depicting, another time/era. Even the two most recent films on the list do not take place during their respective time periods. 2001 spans 4 million years. Army of Shadows was released in 1969 but is about WWII.

    Three other movies on the list, while not history films, rely heavily on the historical aspects. WWI, WWII, post-WWII. I'm far from a history-buff so it's not about that. There's just something about looking at such a different way of life that makes a great movie(at least for me).

    In contrast it seems so easy to find flaws with and dislike things about contemporary film. There's a quality missing compared to the older films. Maybe the directors of the older films had time on their side and got an extra boost from it, but there are thousands of movies from the same eras that flop today. The movies on my list are ones that I think hold up extremely well and are still completely relevant. The directors do deserve that credit.

    Back to modern film, it's just too hard to judge new films to old. It's no coincidence that the modern classic There Will Be Blood takes place in the early 1900s. There just aren't enough films of the same caliber in the last 40 years. There are films I do love, but not that I would include on this very selective list. The modern stuff is too familiar, and films from the 70s and 80s might be my least favorite. They feel old and outdated but not old enough to be especially interesting. I guess it might not be fair because those decades didn't have a WWII to spice things up, but it is what it is.

    We'll see what we're still talking about in 2050

  • Wow! Great answer!

  • Haha thanks, hopefully I didn't repeat myself too much

  • Amazing post Rick; well said!

  • Thanks guys.

    www.filmforum.org/movies/more/grand_illusion
    Anyone in the NYC area, go see Grand Illusion!!!! Just found out it's playing and I'm definitely going to get there

  • Great list, man. High and Low is my favorite Kurosawa too.

    And I liked your big post up here, I feel the same way sometimes. I think that there are so many movies today that they don't even have time to study and work on something really artistic. Of course there is some good stuff around (Synecdoche, New York is a great example of that) but some years ago it was much harder to make a movie, so they had to make it rightly.

    Question: what do you think about Tarkovsky?

  • Thanks Walter. Those are good points, not many directors really take their time, or have the freedom to do so. Such a large majority of the industry only exists to make money. Luckily we do get some good stuff here and there, miraculously.

    I shamefully admit I haven't seen any Tarkovsky yet, though I have a bunch on my watchlist(earlier today I went through some of your reviews/ratings and added a bunch of stuff, including a couple Tarkovsky films that I don't know. I appreciate how you are very selective with your 4.5 and 5 star ratings). I hope to conquer some of his films soon. Would you care to suggest an order to watch them in?

  • Tarkovsky is probably my favorite director, Rick. I'm very glad you liked my reviews with my crippled English :P

    Well, if you don't know him, maybe Ivan's Childhood is the best choice to start, try his unique language etc.

  • You must be happy, he is very well represented in the latest Sight and Sounds top 50 list.

    And your english is very good(I'm assuming it isn't your first language), probably better than many native speakers :)

    I'll check out Ivan's Childhood(yet another I didn't even have on my list)

  • Yes, Tarkovsky is respected. Bergman said that Tarkovsky was the real genius of cinema, the only one who created a utterly original cinematic language. :)

    Let me know when you see it, I'd like to know your opinion. :)

    And thanks. Yes, it isn't. All my English knowledge comes from online games I used to play, books and films. I don't have much patience to go to English classes :P

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