Trying to decide which movies are the best movies ever made is difficult. Because let’s face it, the film is one of the most glorious entertainment and art mediums ever happen to the human race. It’s one invention of many that we cannot live without!
In the realm of movies, no one is excluded. Whether it’s a child whose imagination is limitless, the hopeless romantic, epic tales from history, or documentaries about the real world around us, there’s something for literally everyone.
Films have a way of uniting us, of giving us an outlet for emotions we didn’t even know we needed to express, and giving us a simple and enjoyable escape for a few hours. They broaden our horizons, deepen our imaginations, relieve stress, and at their best, give us a glimpse into our true selves, as we see them reflected in some part on screen. Needless to say, many films also carry life-changing messages in them.
The movies on this list may not be your favorite, but they all have had an impact on culture and filmmaking. With input from critics, history, and a love of the medium, here are our 25 Best Movies Ever Made.
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Silence of the Lambs
Based on the 1988 novel of the same name, this film centers around FBI agent Clarice hunting down a serial killer and enlisting the help of Hannibal Lecter, a cannibalistic serial killer and former psychologist who is currently in jail for his crimes.
The movie gradually gained notoriety and success, making it a sleeper hit, and became the third film to win Academy Awards in all top five categories. It was nominated for 7 Oscars in total, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Oh, young Harrison Ford, how we love thee. Directed by Steven Spielberg with a story by George Lucas and a score from John Williams, how could this movie be anything other than magical? Released in 1981, the first in the Indiana Jones trilogy (nope, the Shia LaBeouf one doesn’t count), “Raiders” contains a sexy adventuring professor, the answer to why you should never bring a knife to a gunfight, and melting Nazis.
Fun Fact: According to a Reddit Ask Me Anything answer from Ford himself, originally the iconic sword and gun scene was supposed to be much longer, but Ford had dysentery at the time and had to take frequent (very frequent) filming breaks. Because of this, he and Spielberg decided that it would be better if he just shot the guy. We agree; it was better.
No, “Birds” is not the iconic Hitchcock film, “Rear Window” is (though one could also make an argument for “Rope”). It’s hard to tell which is the bigger draw here – Hitchcock’s unique storytelling style on a single set, or Jimmy Stewart’s performance.
Grace Kelly wearing costumes from Edith Head alone also make it a movie worth watching, even if mystery suspense isn’t your thing. The basic storyline is that a newspaper photographer is stuck at home mending from a broken leg with nothing to occupy his time save his neighbors in the apartment complex. The photographer witnesses what he believes to be a murder, which he decides to solve from his window.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
For those who don’t know, the genre of Spaghetti Western is so named because they were mostly made by Italian directors in the ’60s and ’70s (spaghetti instead of espresso, really?). The director that defined the genre was Sergio Leone and “Dollars Trilogy” (“A Fistfull Of Dollars,” “A Few Dollars More,” and “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly”), which starred Clint Eastwood.
Leone hadn’t originally intended the movies to be a trilogy. So if you haven’t seen the first two, it won’t impact your enjoyment of “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.” If you’re a fan of cinema in general, Leone’s work stands out for it’s well thought out close-ups, his use of silence and dramatic scores. This is a great example of the genre at its zenith.
Just the name of this movie brings up that bullet scene. While “The Matrix” wasn’t the first movie to use that specific effects technology, it was the first movie that made “bullet time” stick in people’s minds.
It also demanded more from its fight choreography than any other movies being made at the time, with actors and stunt doubles spending six months to train before shooting. When it went to DVD in 1999, VHS was still king. The Matrix helped facilitate the industry shift from VHS to DVD by being the first movie to sell over 1 million DVD copies.
“Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.” Possibly the best movie ever made where the guy (spoiler alert) doesn’t get the girl. Its release was rushed to coincide with the Allied invasion of North Africa a few weeks earlier, filmmakers didn’t expect “Casablanca” to do well in the box office, much less become the classic it has.
It went on to win Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Writing. Fun Fact: Humphrey Bogart was only 5’ 8” tall, where Ingrid Bergman was almost 5’10” tall. Director Michael Curtiz had Bogart stand on a box to fix the height issue, which is still what they do with short actors like Tom Cruise.
Not only did Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic bring to life the dreams of millions of “Dinosaur Kids,” it changed the way movies were marketed and fundamentally changed special effects for the film industry.
A combination of never before used CGI from George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic, combined with models from the legendary Sam Winston, brought a level of realism to the film that had not been seen before.
The costumes! The dancing! The music! The sound of Rosemary Clooney’s voice whenever she speaks!
Not only is White Christmas one of the very best Christmas movies ever made (with strong independent female leads in charge of their own career – in 1954), it’s a perfect example of the Musical genre and idealized post-WWII Americana.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, “Goodfellas” is often considered to be one of the greatest mob movies ever and was the inspiration behind David Chase’s popular HBO series “The Sopranos.”
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Despite the glaring exclusion of Tom Bombadil, “Fellowship of the Ring” is considered by many to have stayed the closest to the book.
The filmmakers didn’t hesitate to go “all in” at a time when epic high fantasy on this scale wasn’t a sure box office hit. For this reason, it accomplished a rare feat, receiving praise from old fans as well as new.
Seven Samurai chronicles the story of a village that hires seven rogue samurai to protect them from bandits (it would later be reborn in Western Culture as “The Magnificent Seven”). It is the highest-grossing Japanese movie ever and one of only a few Japanese films to ever make it into western cinema to any significant extent.
Despite being in Japanese, the movie is filmed and acted in such a way that you could understand what’s going on even without the subtitles, and despite being three and a half hours long, doesn’t suffer from pacing problems that many modern, shorter movies do. Also, yes, the sword fights are amazing.
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Arguably the best from Disney’s renaissancea period, the tale as old as time was not only groundbreaking because of the CGI in the ballroom sequence (The chandelier. You know what I’m talking about), but because it was the first full length animated feature to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Yes, it’s that good.
And yes, it holds up. The characters are well developed, the humor is timeless, and the music…well, it won the Academy Award for Best Original Music Score. Just ignore the live-action remake, it loses all the charm and magic of the animated version.
As one of the most controversial and talked-about films of the 1990’s, “Fight Club” had an incredible impact on popular culture.
And overnight, Tyler Durden’s line, “The first rule of Fight Club is – you do not talk about Fight Club,” became one of the most popular quotes of the decade.
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
While “I am your Father” is a pretty common pop culture reference, it’s hard to remember that, before Empire was released in 1980, fans had no idea that Luke and Leia were twins.
Additionally, no one knew Darth Vader was their father. This is Star Wars at it’s very best, paternity, heartbreak, cocky declarations of love, and limb loss.
One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest
Only the second film to win all five major Academy Awards, it wasn’t until almost twenty years later that “Silence of the Lambs” followed suit. “One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest” was a major hit.
It was regarded as being so good that in some Swedish movie theaters it was shown for a mind-blowing 11 years straight. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the top movies of all time!
Singin’ In The Rain
The movie about movies tells the story of the brightest stars in Hollywood making the transition from silent movies to “talkies.”
While, yes, Gene Kelly is the star of this classic movie, and yes, he did perform the iconic scene with a fever of 103; it’s Danny Kaye that really steals the show.
Even if you’re not interested in Japanese culture and Anime, there are lots to enjoy and appreciate about Hayao Miyazaki’s films. “Spirited Away” perfectly captures why his films are so enchanting. The second highest-grossing anime film of all time, Spirited Away is a beautiful dark fairy tale about a girl who happens upon what seems to be an abandoned amusement park.
She crosses into the realm of the gods and must not only keep herself alive but save her parents who have been turned into pigs. It won the 2003 Academy Award for a best-animated feature and remains an example of why fairy tales aren’t all necessarily intended for small children.
Based on the novel “Schindler’s Ark” by Thomas Keneally, Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” not only won seven Academy Awards but also went down as one of the greatest films of the century.
In it, Spielberg chronicles the life of Oskar Schindler, a businessman living in World War II Germany who saved the lives of thousands of Jews by offering them employment.
12 Angry Men
Famous for being filmed almost entirely on one set, “12 Angry Men” follows a jury as it attempts to reach a unanimous decision. When they first enter the deliberation room, 11 of the 12 men have already decided on a verdict, until Juror #8 starts bringing up things that could be considered reasonable doubt.
It’s a beautiful glimpse into human nature and the different motivations we all bring to the table. It wasn’t until the film came out on television long after its initially disappointing performance at the box office that it achieved its legendary status.
The first feature-length science fiction film to ever be made and considered one of the best silent films ever made, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis was released in 1927 and contains what many of us still love and expect from good sci-fi: A dystopian future with an ever-widening gulf between classes.
Additionally, it had special effects that were ahead of its time, and a love story that crosses social boundaries. Everyone who appreciates film should see at least one silent movie, and if the thought of silent movies sounds boring to you, you won’t be disappointed with this one.
No “best movies” list would be complete without a Tarantino film. Released in 1994, “Pulp Fiction” stars John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, and Uma Thurman. Stylistically, Pulp Fiction changed what people thought of Independent film, and what it could do.
Three different stories are woven out of chronological order and take you on a sexy, weird, gloriously violent ride that is everything you didn’t know you wanted from a movie. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, and won for Best Original Screenplay.
Gone With The Wind
First of all, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” was the first curse word ever uttered on screen. Secondly, Vivian Leigh’s performance as Scarlett is something that must be beheld to be appreciated. Released in 1939, the epic film follows the life of Scarlett O’Hara, a Southern Belle raised in wealth on a plantation, through the Civil War and Reconstruction.
It was the first film to be filmed entirely in color (Wizard of Oz is partly in black and white), and won 8 Academy Awards, including the first Oscar to ever be awarded to an African American, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, going to Hattie McDaniel for her role as Mammy. She was also the first African American to be nominated for acting.
Based on Stephen King’s short story “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” the film originally flopped at the box office when it was released in 1994. It opened to wide release the same day as Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction,” which is part of what led to its poor box office performance.
We don’t have time to go into the lengthy backstory of how it got made, but it’s interesting to note that Tim Robbin’s role of Andy Dufrense almost went to Tom Cruise, which would’ve made it a wildly different film. The story of two unlikely friends breaking out of prison has become beloved by a generation.
As one of the most respected films ever, “The Godfather” has repeatedly been recognized as one of the best movies ever made.
Never before had any film taken the insider perspective on a crime family the way it did, and besides having one of the greatest casts, screenplays, and directors of all time, it had a significant impact on western culture that has come to be known as the “Godfather Effect.”
Released in 1941, “Citizen Kane” is one movie that most top critics and film snobs agree to be the best film ever made. The pinnacle of the art form, Orson Welles wrote, directed and starred in the film when he was only 25, which makes its critical acclaim all the more impressive.
Starting with his death at Xanadu, his estate in Florida, it tells the story of Charles Foster Kane’s life, jumping between the past and interviews in the present with those who knew him. Admit it, you’re a movie buff. It’s okay. We are, too. If you liked this list, you need to check out 25 Best Netflix Original Movies.