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The 100 All-Time Greatest Movies

Because they can, Entertainment Weekly has complied a list of The 100 All-Time Greatest Everything. They include Movies, TV, Music, Books and Stage. Over the next week or so, I will be listing these for you and providing you my feedback on what I think they got right and what I think they got wrong.

Let's start with the Movies. Like so much else in life, a movie is a subjective experience. We bring to the viewing experience our past, our opinions and our mood at the time. Sometime we will hate a movie only to watch it again years later and love it. Similarly, we may fall in love with a movie only to wonder what we were thinking years later. What makes this genre endure, however, is the movies that we fall in love with and stay in love with throughout our lives. Many of mine are represented in this list.

So, here we go:

100: Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
99: There Will Be Blood (2007)
98: All About My Mother (1999)
97: Diner (1982)
96: Sullivan's Travels (1941)
95: Rushmore (1998)
94: Brokeback Mountain (2005)
93: A Face In The Crowd (1957)
92: The Piano (1993)
91: Do The Right Thing (1989)
A good start, but none of these bottom ten rank as among my favorites. Diner is fun to watch now because all the famous faces in it were unknowns at the time. Brokeback Mountain, for whatever reason, didn't speak to me as it did to so many others. Having said that, the scene at the end with the shirt moved me to tears. The Piano is one of the most overrated films of all time. Worth a watch once to see a ten-year-old Anna Paquin show that she was born knowing how to act, but otherwise a dreary movie.

90: The French Connection (1971)
89: Woodstock (1970)
88: The Dark Knight (2008)
87: La Dolce Vita (1960)
86: All About Eve (1950)
85: Dirty Harry (1971)
84: Olympia (1938)
83: The Wild Bunch (1969)
82: Scenes From A Marriage (1973)
81: Blade Runner (1982)
I love Woodstock, but rarely watch it. I will throw it into the DVD player when I doing things around the house just to listen to the music. La Dolce Vita is the single most boring movie I have ever seen, seconded only by Scenes From A Marriage. The French Connection, Dirty Harry, and Blade Runner, although not among my favorite movies, are all fun as hell.

80: Dazed and Confused (1993)
79: Night of the Living Dead (1968)
78: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
77: Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
76: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
75: Touch of Evil (1958)
74: The Hurt Locker (2009)
73: Cabaret (1972)
72: The 400 Blows (1959)
71: American Graffiti (1973)
Raiders of the Lost Ark, as Mark says in his review, is a perfect movie. I have lost count of the number of times I have watched it. Harrison Ford at his best. Dog Day Afternoon is an acting tour de force. Lawrence of Arabia is another one that I believe is overrated. Speaking of Harrison Ford, American Graffiti is not a great movie, but it is fun to watch now to see all the famous faces as unknowns.

70: L'Avventura (1960)
69: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
68: GoodFellas (1990)
67: Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
66: The Shining (1980)
65: Last Tango in Paris (1973)
64: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
63: Network (1976)
62: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
61: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
I recently re-watched GoodFellas; it is still brilliant. Last Tango in Paris was one of the first times I disobeyed a direct order from my parents. My best friend and I snuck in to see the movie and were shocked by the sex; it is much less shocking now that both sex scenes and I have grown up. Is it possible to not love E.T.? I literally hid beneath under my blanket while watching The Silence of the Lambs. Terrifying.

60: Top Hat (1935)
59: All the President's Men (1976)
58: The Seventh Seal (1957)
57: Midnight Cowboy (1969)
56: Schindler's List (1993)
55: Frankenstein (1931)
54: Breathless (1960)
53: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
52: Titanic (1997)
51: A Hard Day's Night (1964)
All the President's Men is in my top ten. Brilliant acting and a story that, although you know the ending going in, still manages to ramp up the tension. Plus, it's all true! Schindler's List is another brilliant film. Worth watching for the credit sequence at the end that reduced me to an emotional puddle. I love all three of the first Star Wars movies. Titanic is romantic fun; not sure I would have put it this high up the list (better than GoodFellas, for example?).

49: Goldfinger (1964)
48: It Happened One Night (1934)
47: A Clockwork Orange (1971)
46: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
45: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
44: On the Waterfront (1954)
43: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
42: Taxi Driver (1976)
41: The Road Warrior (1981)
Goldfinger is the only Bond film to appear on the list. I don't know them all that well, but would be interested in hearing from those of you who do if you agree. It Happened One Night is my favorite romantic comedy of all time because, you know, Clark Gable. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is another favorite because, you know, Jimmy Stewart.

40: Double Indemnity (1944)
39: The Rules of the Game (1939)
38: Vertigo (1958)
37: Manhattan (1979)
36: Rosemary's Baby (1968)
35: Apocalypse Now (1979)
34: Adam's Rib (1949)
33: The Graduate (1967)
32: Duck Soup (1933)
31: Chinatown (1974)
These ten interest me simply because of where they fall on the list. They are all good movies, but only Apocalypse Now would I say is one of the greats.

30: Sunrise (1927)
29: North by Northwest (1959)
28: The Wizard of Oz (1939)
27: The Maltese Falcon (1941)
26: Bicycle Thieves (1948)
25: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
24: The Sound of Music (1965)
23: Notorious (1946)
22: Toy Story (1995)
21: Some Like It Hot (1959)
Now, we're beginning to get to those movies that most critics and viewers alike consider the best of the best. The Sound of Music was the first movie I ever saw and I still love it. Toy Story is in my top ten.

20: The Sorrow and the Pity (1969)
19: Pulp Fiction (1994)
18: Jaws (1975)
17: Seven Samurai (1954)
16: Singin' in the Rain (1952)
15: Blue Velvet (1986)
14: Bambi (1942)
13: Annie Hall (1977)
12: The Searchers (1956)
11: King Kong (1933)
Another good list for the second ten. Jaws scared me so much, it kept me out of the ocean for two whole days. That was saying something when I was a kid. Singin' in the Rain is my favorite musical, ever. Blue Velvet, I must admit, I have never been able to get through. It is too intense for me.

We have finally made it to the Top 10:
10: Gone With the Wind (1939)
-- Certainly in my top ten because, once again, Clark Gable. Plus, Vivien Leigh gives the performance of her career. One of the few films I would argue is better than the book.
9: Nashville (1975)
-- A very good movie, but not one of my favorites.
8: The Gold Rush (1925)
-- This movie is simply divine. Nearly a century later, it still makes me laugh out loud. I believe that this is Chaplin's best performance.
7: Mean Streets (1973)
-- Early Scorsese that proves just how masterful he is at making us care about truly horrific people.
6: It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
-- I've already written about why I love this movie so much.
5: Psycho (1960)
-- This movie is scary, scary, scary. It is also so iconic, there is currently a TV series showing us the backstory.
4: Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
-- Even all these years later, I am shocked by the level of violence in this film. Wonderful acting and direction make this one to watch.
3: Casablanca (1942)
-- Certainly in my top ten, both Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are magnificent in this film. One of the few where the ending makes me smile in spite of the fact that our couple does not end up together. Redemption doesn't come much better than this. "We'll always have Paris." Yes, indeed.
2: The Godfather (1972)
-- I would argue that this is the best film ever made. Coppola managed to get career defining performances from just about every male in Hollywood worth watching. The violence can be tough to take, but watching Pacino become the man in charge is as compelling as anything I have ever seen.
1: Citizen Kane (1941)
-- This is the film that is always listed as the best. Yes, there are some wonderful shots and some wonderful moments. Overall, however, this movie is a bore that goes on for far too long. I went to see it on the big screen a couple of years ago, hoping that I would finally discover what it is so that so inspires filmmakers and critics about this movie. I did not.

So, there they are. What do you think? Did they forget any (like Forrest Gump, the only one in my top ten not included)? Is your favorite listed? If so, where? Do you agree or disagree with the top ten? And, please, do let me know where you think I have missed the boat entirely.

The Top 100 All-Time Greatest Lists:


  1. Definitely a great list of tops, and it certainly made me want to comment immediately! Some of my all-time favorites did make it to the list, but my perennial complaint is that they always manage to slight science fiction.

    Three of the truly great sci-fi movies are in there, though -- my favorite, Blade Runner; 2001, a movie I keep thinking I should get around to reviewing; and Clockwork Orange is also brilliant, another movie I refer to a lot in my reviews and keep thinking I should get around to reviewing, even though it can be hard to watch.

    Three of my absolute favorite old movies are on the list, too -- Casablanca, It's a Wonderful Life, and my favorite, On the Waterfront. Singin' in the Rain has to be the best musical ever made, and it was probably my mother's favorite movie.

    Godfather is undoubtedly brilliant, but it's never been a favorite of mine. I'm also not that big a fan of Citizen Kane, although I dutifully watched it a long time ago and could see that it was a great movie. Just not for me.

    I'm a fan of Chinatown. If I were doing reviews of my favorite non-sci-fi movies, it would probably be on my list. (Along with On the Waterfront, Clockwork Orange, and 2001.

    I also would like to defend Titanic. There's no denying that much of it was romantic drivel, but Cameron was smart enough to cast two future big stars (DiCaprio and Winslet) and dedicated enough to include exacting historical detail to the nth degree. When I first saw Titanic in the theater, I had read a ton of books about it and it was practically all there. And the technical aspects of recreating such an event were so daunting, and Cameron succeeded on every level. I didn't think anyone could do it, but he did.

    Finally, Goldfinger probably is the best Bond movie, although I'll defer to Mark Greig, our Bond expert, for the final word. And a huge favorite of mine that isn't on the list and should be? The Big Chill. It's not my generation's movie, but I've watched it over and over again.

  2. I can't help wondering what their criteria were for defining "greatest." Great from a technical achievement perspective? Great from a cultural impact perspective? Great from a story perspective? Great from a pure enjoyment perspective? The movies included seem to cover all those bases, but it seems weird to rank their greatness when they all reflect different kinds of achievements.

    A perfect example is the #1 pick. What does make Citizen Kane so popular as "the best" movie? Because I don't really think it's all that an enjoyable watch either.

    And how on earth does The Road Warrior come in at #41? I love that movie, but I have a hard time seeing it as "greater" than nearly all of the films in the lower 50. It's a better movie than Schindler's List and Dr. Strangelove? Really?

    Ranking these kinds of things is just a weird endeavor. But I guess it gets us all to look and debate, which is likely the point anyway.

  3. For most of this list I really only have a few comments. For the most part this feels very much like a film historian's list. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, in fact it is great to recognize what a rich film history we've already accumulated in the scant decades we've been making films. However, it should be noted that 95% of this list was made before the last decade, and nothing from this decade was recognized. That feels wrong, since there have been some amazing movies over the last thirteen years. The only ones deemed to have value for these critics are the following five.

    99: There Will Be Blood (2007)
    94: Brokeback Mountain (2005)
    88: The Dark Knight (2008)
    74: The Hurt Locker (2009)
    43: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

    A good list to be sure. I'll admit I haven't seen There Will Be Blood or The Hurt Locker, but I've read enough to know that they probably deserve to be here. I'm honestly thrilled that The Dark Knight made the list, but what about Spider-man 2 or The Avengers? What about other ground breaking genre movies like The Matrix or Alien or The Terminator, or maybe the original Star Wars? This feels like the Academy Awards on a smaller scale, all real world all the time.

    Which makes the following two on the list feel a little out of place.

    81: Blade Runner (1982)
    79: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

    Blade Runner deserves to be here, well maybe not the original theatrical cut, but whatever. Night of the Living Dead also absolutely deserves to make the list. However, as the only real horror movie I can't help but feel an entire genre has been snubbed. Sure sure, most horror is exploitative drivel, and Rosemary's Baby, The Shining, and Frankenstein made the list as well. That doesn't mean those are the kind of horror movies that would normally be grouped with Night of the Living Dead. Where are the iconic ones, the horror movies that stayed with us, like The Exorcist?

    Finally we have the Top 10. Now most of these movies I totally agree with. Movies in this section should be iconic, lasting. They should indelibly linked to our pop-culture, to the point where they are referenced and copied endlessly. There are four here that I think shouldn't have made the top ten. For three of them it is because as a movie nerd I've never heard of them beyond the simple, wow those are really good (or great). Nashville, The Gold Rush, and Mean Streets. Now don't get me wrong, they are probably all really great films. However, they are not linked to our society in the same way as the rest of them are.

    Lastly, Citizen Kane should no longer be in the top ten. It is a brilliant film, and there is a reason why people keep putting it in top lists everywhere. However, there are so many other films that deserve to be on this list and a few that deserve to be in the top ten, that it's hard to justify putting an overrated film from seventy years ago at number 1.

  4. And demerits for no The Princess Bride. Surely being one of the most quotable films of all time merits inclusion as one of the 100 greatest. :)

  5. Yeah, where's The Princess Bride? And J.D. is right that the horror genre was snubbed; sci-fi/fantasy actually got more entries than horror. Why Dirty Harry but not Die Hard?

  6. Re: the lack of more recent films ... I think it is probably harder to mentally justify including more recent things that haven't really "stood the test of time," so to speak. The more recent ones that they did include seem to be those that represented a significant cultural or technical achievement. Brokeback Mountain has tremendous cultural significance, and I can even see that with The Dark Knight, particularly because of Heath Ledger's iconic performance. Return of the King and The Hurt Locker also seem there to recognize signature achievements that will stand the test of time. The only one that gives me pause is There Will Be Blood.

  7. And with that said, maybe they should have included Avatar. Whether or not you liked the story, the film was an incredible visual achievement. Maybe they thought they covered their James Cameron bases with Titanic.

  8. Great comments! In terms of the criteria used for these lists, I refer to Jess Cagle's Editor's Note at the beginning of the issue.

    He talks about the fact that the lists were devised by the editors and critics of EW. He goes on to say, "We would decide what was best, without worrying whether it adhered to or violated conventional wisdom. We've also tried to to honor contemporary work that will endure for centuries to come alongside the classics. We've tried to take into account each work's cultural impact and influence. We've tried not to have the lists entirely dominated by artists like the Beatles and Dickens and Hitchcock, so in those cases, and a few others, we had to pick the best of the best."

    Whether they succeeded or not is up to each of us to decide as we read the list. In fact, Cagle goes on to say, "I'm sure you will disagree with some of our choices, and that's how it should be." I agree.

    I also agree with J.D. that often these lists become "look how cultured and sophisticated we are" as opposed to "these are the movies I really watch." So, horror, rom-coms, and others of that ilk are ignored for some old movies that, let's face it, no one watches anymore. I'm looking at you, #1.

  9. I have to defend Citizen Kane. The movie is incredible in so many ways and was a major achievement for its time. It is definitely a hard movie to get into, but having taught it several times to students in a Film Studies course that I used to teach, I noticed that students go more into it after discussing it. Citizen Kane is like a lot of great literature. It takes a bit of work to get into it but once you do the pay off is unbelievable.

    I agree, though, that Sci Fi and recent movies got slighted here.

  10. I've only seen 19 of these! Oh well. Some of my favorites were included: Casablanca, Some Like it Hot, It's a Wonderful Life. So I can't complain. It would be interesting if they did lists by decade. You know, the most iconic/best movies of the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, etc. What makes a movie good has changed so much over time, it's sometimes hard to compare more modern stuff with some from the 40s and 50s.

    Billie - My mom's favorite movie is The Big Chill! I still haven't seen it.

    Chris - Gone with the Wind is alone on my list of movies that are better than the books they were based on. :)

  11. Sunbunny, there is a list structured list that. I ran across it during my research for reviewing The Usual Suspects. And now I can't find it again; I'd thought it was one of the many AFI lists. I'll keep looking; it was a fun list.

    I've never seen The Big Chill either, but my mother loved, loved, loved the soundtrack, which we had on cassette tape.

    Now, when I'm listening to the oldies radio station and one of those songs comes on, I'm immediately transported to the red Volvo station wagon, singing off-key with my mom and little brother, smelling like chlorine, and having a truly wonderful time running errands and being silly.

    (I'm not describing the memory well. It's one of my best, made all the better because it happened often in my childhood.)

    This list does seem to prioritize originality: the first film to make a strong statement in terms of plot, technique, innovations to the genre, etc. It doesn't seem to prioritize emotional engagement--that reason we watch a movie again and again.

    In that way, it does remind me of other Top 100 lists, like the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century that Time magazine came out with 13 years ago. Sure, Ulysses is a technical marvel. Joyce is a genius. But reading it does not wrench my heart, and I've read it twice, trying desperately to care both times. No dice.

  12. Josie - you've read Ulysses TWICE? Respect. My copy just sits there on my shelf glaring at me with disapproval.

    Just realized, Streetcar Named Desire wasn't on here. Isn't it typically on these sorts of lists?

  13. @ J.D

    Alien,Matrix and Terminator definately should be on this list. Arguably Alien and Terminator have better sequels.

    Films i feel should be on the list:
    The Fugitive
    Die Hard
    American Psycho

    I also detect a level of disdain for Asian cinema.

    Battle Royale 1

  14. I also detect a level of disdain for Asian cinema.

    Anonymous, that is an extremely good point. I haven't seen Spirited Away (is that the right title?), but from what I've heard it belongs on this list, too.

    Sunbunny: yes. Once for fun, and then for a class on the modernist novel in college. That class was taught by an wonderful professor who loved old-school formalist criticism and had beautiful ideas about the grace and power of language.

    If he couldn't make me love Ulysses, then it can't be done.

  15. Josie and Anonymous, yeah Asian cinema or really any foreign cinema is generally snubbed by American movie critics. In individual terms, those movies get praise and adulation from the critics, but when it comes time to actually acknowledge them in top lists they are almost always forgotten.

    Spirited Away is rather awesome, but very strange. Battle Royale (which I finally sat down to watch) is just brutal and hard to watch. Sort of like a train wreck, you can't take your eyes away from it. There are so many more, and that's just specifically Japanese films. China, Korea, Thailand, they all have movie industries and have been able to produce some really great films. The same can be said all over the world.

    Top lists are very subjective, and I've never thought of them as anything more than an opinion, no matter how informed that opinion is.

    By the way, great article Chris.

  16. @josie

    Spirited Away is up their with Toy Story. Alot seperates it from all other animations especially american made ones. A trait i have noticed about asian animation/manga is that even if the story is aimed at children it sugarcoats nothing and is watchable by adults on an adult level. If this was realeased in America it would be a 12a or even a 15 compared to its comparable asian release of a U.


    Oh of course i can understand why top lists leave foreign films out of the equation,there are far more than i mentioned but as you said it is so subjective there is arguably no point even attempting such lists.
    I actually watched Battle Royale when i was about 14 and still at school. I didnt find it brutal, what i found more shocking was the actual premise of the film. A reason why i enjoyed Oldboy aswell. Its not the brutality or the fairly icky stuff that happens, but the premise and idea behind it.

    Shogun assassin should also be on this list as one of the best original revenge stories ever.

  17. And why not Rashomon or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Both are fairly well known in the American market, and are iconic for their story structure and/or visuals.

    Spirited Away really freaked me out. I heard so much about it when it was on the awards circuit, that I wanted to give it a try, but I ended up really disturbed by it. And it was primarily the visuals and the quietness, because I don't remember overmuch about the story. I just remember it had an overall vibe that I found really unsettling.

  18. Suzanne -- a very interesting comment. My question is this: if a film can only be appreciated by those in an academic setting or by people in the business, can we really say it is truly great? Shouldn't there be some level of appreciation by a lay audience?

    The same argument can be made about many books. Ulysses is definitely the example I would choose. I have not yet read the list for the books, but I will post it next as I would guess that this discussion will certainly carry over into that genre as well.

    Josie -- I love your story about the soundtrack which is one of my favorite albums of all time. Music is so evocative. I'll do the music list after the book list.

  19. The lack of even a single film by Hayao Miyazaki (as well as many others) completely invalidates this list in my eyes.

    Best of list like this bore me because they are often so predictable. As others have said, at lot of these films are here more out of status. There is a strong divide between what critics consider to be great movies and what audiences do. if this list had been put together from readers it would've turned out a lot different. There is a snobbery amongst a lot of critics to look down on films that are considered to be too enjoyable, regardless of how brilliant they are. Which is why there is no The Princess Bride, Back to the Future or Die Hard on this list. Instead, we're told once again that Citizen Kane is the greatest film ever made. While its technical brilliance is undeniable, this is a film that is respect more than it is actually loved. I think Friends summed it best:

    Joey: I still can't believe you haven't seen Cujo. What is wrong with you?
    Rachel: Relax, it's not like it's Citizen Kane!
    Joey: Have you ever tried to sit through Citizen Kane?
    Rachel: Yeah, I know, it's really boring. But it's like a big deal!

  20. How about It Happened One Night?
    It was a fun film if not an iconic one.
    It inspired the creation of Bugs Bunny, my favorite cartoon. :)

    I liked Shogun Assassin, too.
    The philosophies of life discussed in this film as seen through the eyes of the child is something.
    I can't forget the scene where the child lost count of the number of enemies his father has killed.

    Finally, I don't believe in lists such as this.
    For me, lists like this just remind me of the movies I enjoyed and yes, also help me take a note of those I missed watching.

    Anyway, every film lover has their own "thing" with the movies they watch.
    As one adage said: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    If you hate the movie you are watching, then for goodness sakes, stand up and walk away. :)

  21. PlatinumRosebud -- It Happened One Night is #48. I was pleased to see it on the list because it is my favorite rom-com of all time. I am the biggest Clark Gable fan on the planet.

  22. Thanks for pointing that out, ChrisB.
    Missed that whole paragraph.
    My mouse needs to retire.
    I'm gonna bury it under the Wall of Jericho. hahaha.

  23. I agree that these lists are predictable. Is is strange that I want the writers of DouxReviews to get together and do some lists like these? :)

    Mark Greig, I immediately thought of that scene from Friends when I saw Citizen Kane!


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