Rotten Tomatoes has become the main source for movie reviews. Instead of one critic, you’ve got a large selection of critics from both mainstream and independent media giving reviews and coming together to score a movie “Certified Fresh” or straight up “Rotten”. It’s extremely rare for all the critics to agree, but when they do, you know the movie is worth checking out. With that in mind, we’ve curated a list of movies spanning every decade from the 1930’s to today. Here’s 25 movies rated 100% fresh on rotten tomatoes:
Frankenstein (November, 1931)
With so many “modern” interpretations over the decades, it’s easy to forget that the original Frankenstein is an exceptional work of legitimate horror filmmaking. Boris Karloff’s performance as the monster is the stuff of movie legends and even over eighty years later, Frankenstein continues to inspire modern horror movies with its legacy while remaining a genuinely creepy viewing experience.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (May, 1938)
In 1938, long before the days when swashbucklers were consistently presented with some sort of ironic subtext, Errol Flynn defined what Robin Hood should be; a handsome, romantic, good-natured hero leading a film that is utterly committed to bringing you (and the whole family) pure adventure!
Pinocchio (February, 1940)
Pinocchio is widely regarded as the perfect benchmark of a Walt Disney classic movie and one of the crown jewels of American cinema. Even today, it is described as one of the most enchanting films ever brought to the screen and combines charm, humor, and a fair amount of legitimate fright in order to appeal to audiences of all ages.
Citizen Kane (May, 1941)
The multi-talented Orson Wells is widely considered to be one of the greatest directors in the history of Hollywood. Among his many exceptional films, Citizen Kane, his first film, may be his lifetime achievement. The poignant story of a newspaper tycoon’s rise and fall is less a movie and more an arresting work of art that has only improved over time.
The Maltese Falcon (October, 1941)
Humphrey Bogart at his finest drives this classic and iconic film that is easily one of the most influential noirs in history. Much like some modern-day movies based on books, The Maltese Falcon was the third attempt at an adaptation, and succeeded where the others failed because of superb casting and the director’s (excellent) choice to stay as close to source material as possible.
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The Third Man (September, 1949)
Critics agree that The Third Man is one of the undisputed masterpieces of cinema. As an extremely stylistic example of classic film noir, this post-war thriller also boasts career-defining performances by Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles culminating in an exciting, witty, and thought-provoking roller coaster of a movie.
All About Eve (January, 1950)
All About Eve won six academy awards, including best picture. Bette Davis and Anne Baxter gave amazing lead performances, but most critics agree it was the script that really allowed to movie to shine as a dramatic comedy. Throw in a minor role by the iconic Marilyn Monroe and this movie is jam-packed with clever female star power!
Singin’ In The Rain (January, 1952)
Often considered the pinnacle example of the classic Hollywood musical, Singin’ in the Rain is a genuinely funny and entertaining masterpiece of a film that highlights the broad spectrum of talent in 1950s American cinema. Especially impressive was Gene Kelly’s performance as not only the star, but also the movie’s director!
The Searchers (March, 1956)
John Ford is known to be the greatest of old western movie directors. When you combine what many consider to be his greatest direction with a gritty, obsessive, borderline insane performance by the great John Wayne (long before the 70s made antiheros cool) and you’ve got a western that changed the way people looked at westerns while eventually helping to influence movies like Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Seven Samurai (November, 1956)
Largely considered to be the ultimate achievement of director Akira Kurosawa (and a large part of the reason most people in the US recognize his name,) Seven Samurai combines still-relevant action sequences with an engrossing story and memorable characters to make it literally one of the most influential films ever made.
Mary Poppins (August, 1964)
As one of the great movie musicals of all time, Disney’s Mary Poppins features legendary performances by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke along with graceful, cutting-edge, animation effects that have aged very well. The result is a timeless classic that retains its magic over half a century later, and is still one of Disney’s best-loved films.
Cool Hand Luke (January, 1967)
As a representation of a golden age of Hollywood filmmaking, Cool Hand Luke features one of the great Paul Newman’s most impressive performances. While the movie’s director is widely considered to have failed, the superb writing and exceptional supporting cast were enough to produce a tough, honest film with backbone and chilling dramatic power.
Playtime (June, 1973)
A subtle, artistic, and complex film cut into various highly metaphorical scenes, Playtime is a remarkable achievement in sight gags and satire. The French film is set in a futuristic Paris and is famous for it’s enormous, specially constructed set. The film’s director; Jacques Tati insisted on shooting Playtime on high-resolution 70mm film to maximize its visual impact. Though not a box-office success (partially due to the enormous cost of the set,) many movie connoisseurs consider this film to be a work of legitimate genius and Jacques Tati’s greatest achievement.
Zelig (July, 1983)
Classic, crazy, Woody Allen filmmaking at its finest, Zelig follows a man of the same name who is also known as the “human chameleon”; a man who compulsively transforms himself to blend in with anyone that he is near. The mock-documentary cleverly recreates “archive footage” from the 1920s and 30s and inserts Allen’s Leonard Zelig into scenes with everyone from Babe Ruth to Adolf Hitler. The effects are far ahead of the movie’s time and Woody Allen’s unique humor is indeed timeless.
The Terminator (October, 1984)
James Cameron’s classic, low-budget, sci-fi action movie is an iconic staple of popular culture that redefined its genre while propelling young movie greats like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton to mainstream stardom. Especially notable are the relentlessly fast pace and extremely efficient, non-bloated storytelling… an art that has unfortunately proven very difficult to recreate in modern cinema.
Bob Roberts (September, 1992)
A satire disguised as a documentary, Bob Roberts follows a wealthy, well-connected young man running for a senatorial seat in Pennsylvania. An unsettling amount of the insightful political commentary made by the film is very relevant following the 2016 election season, and in the meantime Tim Robbins portrays his typically funny and well thought-out take on a disturbingly possible demagogue.
Before Sunrise (January, 1995)
Out of the slew of “modern romance” movies that were released in the 90s, Before Sunrise has arguably aged the best. Over twenty years later the career-defining performances of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are so strong that one could argue that this remains one of the most romantic movies of all time. Though it didn’t make the 100% list, the 2004 sequel; “Before Sunset” continues the exceptional chemistry of this pair and scored a solid 95%.
The Sweet Hereafter (June, 1997)
An extremely powerful movie based on the book of the same name, The Sweet Hereafter elaborates on the nature of love by plunging you into the raw, heartfelt emotions of loss and loneliness. When a small town loses its children to a horrible tragedy, the story that unfolds among those who must live with it will stay with you long after the movie is over.
Toy Story 2 (November, 1999)
One of the very few sequels in history that might just edge out it’s predecessor (Toy Story is also rated 100%,) Disney Pixar’s Toy Story II is a landmark achievement in graphics, voice acting, and excellent storytelling. The success of the Toy Story movies was a huge leap for gorgeous mainstream computer animation.
Taxi To The Dark Side (April, 2007)
Taxi To The Dark Side is a powerful and currently relevant documentary taking a deeper look into the suspicious death of an Afghani taxi driver who was a suspected terrorist. The film takes a disturbingly detailed look at the infamous systematic torture of terror suspects by US Forces in military prisons, and asks both the subjects of the film and the viewers themselves compellingly hard questions.
Man On Wire (January, 2008)
A documentary telling the story of what has been called the “artistic crime of the century”, Man On Wire tells the exhilarating story of daredevil Philippe Petit and his infamous walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center (Including actual archival footage of the feat.)
We Were Here (September, 2011)
We Were Here is a documentary that takes a sober, eloquent, powerful look at the public rise of AIDS in the 1980s and its definition as the “Gay Plauge”. It is a testament to both the fallen and the survivors of a simultaneous battle against societal prejudice and the onset of a world-changing disease.
Only Yesterday (February, 2016)
Originally released in 1991 for Japan by Studio Ghibli, this classic was finally given an English release early last year. While I personally prefer my anime with subtitles (my Japanese is… rusty) Studio Ghibli is one of the few studios that lends itself well to English scripts and voice acting without losing the feeling of its stories. As usual for this studio, the animation and story of a Japanese woman’s self-reflection are timeless and thought provoking.
Tower (October, 2016)
Tower is a documentary on the University of Texas’ sniper tragedy. It combines actual footage, first-person testimony, and rotoscopic animation to dramatically and effectively recreate an event that is brutally relevant in current times.
Frank and Lola (December, 2016)
It only got a limited theatrical release but critics agree-this modern noir “psychosexual drama” is worth your time.
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