The 50 Greatest Films 50 best movies Ever Made (revised)
Mar 13, 2003 (Updated Jul 23, 2006)
The Bottom Line Some of the Greatest Films of All Time that I would enjoy watching right now.
2 ½ years ago on the occasion of my 100th review, I chose 100 Greatest films. Most of them have stayed pretty much where I listed them previously. A few have moved around a bit, a couple of films I somehow missed putting on the top 50 are now here where they belong.
I'm sure there are a few that I will kick myself for not having on this list but if you don't see a film you believe should be here.. let me know and in most cases it probably would have made my top 100 or 150 list.
Which one's have you seen? Heard about? Forgotten and need to see again? There's a lot of good films out there, waiting for you. Enjoy.
1) Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles)
Barely disguised un-authorized critical biography of Hearst; features incredible cinematic innovations, frame compositions, lighting, deep focus techniques, narrative tricks and more, rarely (if ever) used on film before, superb acting, strong script, it is that rarity in
film-ART. It's also easy to appreciate if you're not too anxious to reject it's greatest film of all time moniker. It is. Get over it.
2) China Town (1974- Roman Polanski)
Polanski took Robert Towne's brilliant screenplay, improved what would have been a compromised ending and re-invented noir. As perfect as a film can be, but is stronger in intellectual emotion than some prefer.
3) Wild Bunch (1969 Sam Peckinpah)
Everything about this revolutionary, groundbreaking film is as perfect as a film gets- Acting, direction, screenplay, lighting, staging,pacing, photography, editing, music. Finally in 1981 it was restored to it's original glory. Certainly not as shocking as it once was, but that has diminished none of the power or glory of this American classic .
4) Grand Illusion (1937 Jean Renoir
The focus is on French prisoners during World War 1 and their cultured German captors.Beautifully restored a few years ago. It just doesn't get any better than this. Timeless and unfortunately timely.
5) Rear Window (1954, Alfred Hitchcock)
A daring, years-ahead of it's time suspense thriller, which plays on several levels at the same time and remains for me, Hitchcock's and James Stewart's finest.
6) Wizard of Oz (1939, Victor Flemming)
The timeless fantasy classic. One can bring all kinds of things to the film, or nothing at all and still have a great time.
7) Keaton Shorts (Cops, Sherlock Jr.)
Keaton's shorts where mini-masterpieces of comedy. Besides the incredible acrobatics and sight-gags, there was the Keaton timing, the constant challenge to himself to do something a little different a little more clever, a little smarter or a little better than anyone else was doing. He was innovative, brilliant and finally taken for granted and discarded. Thankfully re-discovered before his death and recently re-discovered by many (thanks in part to one of his greatest fans, Jackie Chan).
8) Horsefeathers, (1932, Norman Z McLeod)
The Marx brothers at their zany and funniest. Maybe it's not their best film (Duck Soup) but it's a film I never get tired of. See my long review please.
8.5) Singin' in the Rain (1952 Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly)
Combining the best of the old, with some of the finest sequences ever filmed, Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Jean Hagen and Debbie Reynolds were never better.
9) To Have and Have Not (1944, Howard Hawks)
Hawks version of Casablanca is better though not quite as beloved. Tougher, sexier, wonderfully paced, memorable performances from all. You know how to whistle don't you?
10) Godfather Part 2 ( 1974, F.F. Coppola)
Impossible as it seems, Coppola topped his Godfather with this perfect near-opera epic of a very dysfunctional family. Pacino at his best, but everyone is superb.
11) The Third Man (1949 Carol Reed)
Brilliant, stylish, suspenseful adaptation of Graham Greene's novel about the mysterious Harry Lime in Post World War 2 Vienna. Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles every bit as good as they were in Citizen Kane. Stunning. Beautifully restored a few years ago.
12) The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Carl Theodore Dreyer)
Please read my long review about this incredible film when you get a chance. A work of Art that remains powerful and a must see for any self-proclaimed lover of cinema. No excuse not to see it now that there is a beautiful Criterion DVD presentation now available.
13) 8 ½ (1963 Frederico Fellini)
It was the 8th full length feature (the ½ , --actually ¼-- was Fellini's section of Boccaccio 70). Mid-life artistic crisis, loss of confidence, meaning is explored in this brilliant, groundbreaking incredibly influential film about the making of films. It's part reality, part dream, part circus and completely magical. Perhaps the best copy-cat film was Bob Fosse's All That Jazz.
14) His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks 1940)
The definitive, best version of THE FRONT PAGE featuring some of the fastiest, wittiest and snappiest verbal repertoire (it's damn near like Beat era poetry) you'll ever laugh at. Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy and a great supporting cast.
15) Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928, Charles F. Riesner, Buster Keaton)
One of Keaton's most entertaining and funniest films. Not really his best (That's The General), but all of his strengths as a comic and as an acrobat are on full display here.
16) Duck Soup (1933, Leo McCarey)
The pinnacle of the Marx Brothers madness is captured in this film which though not a flop, was not the hit the studio expected. Harpo's finest moments can be found here, Groucho is in peak form and Chico ain't no slouch either.
17) Nights of Cabiria (1957 - Frederico Fellini
An earlier Fellini classic about the dreams and seemingly undying optimism of a prostitute who's life is one sorrow after another. It features a dazzling perfect performance by Guillietta Massina that should not be missed. It was the basis for the musical play and subsequent film, Sweet Charity.
18) McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971 - Robert Altman)
One of the richest films from one of the best period of American film, this Altman classic is for many an acquired taste. It's a textured, atmospheric, unglamorous depiction of the end of the Old West that features Altman's brilliant direction (incredible sound design and cinematography too). Warrant Beatty and Julie Christie are superb.
19) Bride of Frankenstein (1935, James Whale)
A sequel better than the original. The King of all gothics. Touching, human, funny, warm, disturbing and unforgettable. See it again,
20) Sons of the Desert (1933, William A Seiter)
Laurel and Hardy's finest film is this comedy of mishap and errors as the boys sneak off to the convention and have to deal with the very obnoxious Charley Chase. A gem from start to finish.
21) Manhattan (1979, Woody Allen)
Comedic slice of life about a group of smart friends in New York City. Nearly flawless, poignant and accurate character study. See my review when you get a chance.
22) Chaplin Shorts
Dozens of comic masterpieces. One A.M. and The Floorwalker are great place to start but there are few Chaplin Shorts (where he's the Tramp) which aren't a delight.
23) Touch of Evil (1958, Orson Welles)
Recently reconstructed according to Welles notes and meticulously restored, this stylistical masterpiece is a brilliantly dark film which is on my list even though Charlton Heston is cast as a Mexican !!! And yes, Venice California does stand in for Mexico. Dennis Weaver's small role as a hotel clerk is obviously the inspiration for Tony Perkins' Psycho Norman Bates. See it.
24) The Lady Eve (1941 Preston Sturges
Everytime you watch this film it seems funnier and funnier. Barbara Stanwyck is a con-artist running a game on naïve dolt Henry Fonda, except she falls for her mark. Script, acting, direction, pacing, BRILLIANT. And after many viewings that rushed ending seems absolute genius.
25) She Done Him Wrong (1933, Lowell Sherman)
Mae West as Diamond Lil, Cary Grant on the verge of super stardom. Still funny and it's easy to see why Mae upset conservatives and was the target of censors for the rest of her life.
26) Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock)
Hitchcock's most discussed film is far from logical. It's an emotional suspense thriller which retains a dream like sensibility throughout. Herrman's music, Stewart and Novak, the incredible direction and you'll need to see it several times.
27) Freaks (1932, Tod Browning)
Still controversial and far more disturbing than almost any horror film you will ever see. It's much more than that however.
28) Jules et Jim (1961, Francois Truffaut)
Three people in love. A film that captures the joy, and pain of love. A beautiful masterpiece.
29) Rules of the Game (1939, Jean Renoir)
Love affairs of the rich and their servants are dramatically, and comically examined in this masterpiece that gets better with every viewing.
30) Psycho (1960, Alfred Hitchcock)
Even if you've seen it a dozen times,it still has the power to surprise and frighten.
31) Chimes at Midnight (1966, Orson Welles)
Welle's labor of love combination of five Shakespeare plays, was marred by a very low budget and took a long time to complete but is a fascinating and mostly successful achievement. The Sound problems which made it difficult to watch have been mostly solved. Also known as Falstaff.
32) Laurel and Hardy Shorts
Whether it's World War 1 as a pie fight in Battle of the Century, or simply trying to get a piano up those stairs in The Music Box, what Laurel and Hardy could do with a simple premise was remarkable. They also remain one of the most touching displays of male friendship ever captured on film.
33) City Lights (1931, Charles Chaplin)
Chaplin's perfect blend of comedy and pathos. A masterpiece
34) Goodfellas (1990, Martin Scorcese)
A unique coming of age, based on a true-crime story. However though we understand the character's allure, there is nothing glamorous about the world writer Pileggi and director Scorcese masterfully show us in this brilliant, violent, yet still stylish film.
35) Out of the Past (1947, Jacques Tourneur)
They remade it haphazardly as Against All Odds. Stick with this, perhaps the finest film noir of the 40's with Mitchum at his best.
36) Safety Last (1923, Fred Newmeyer, Sam Taylor)
Classic silent comedy which features still exciting building climbing sequence and famous hanging from the clock gag . Don't miss it. Jackie Chan borrowed it again for Shanhai Knights !!!
37) It's a Wonderful Life (1946, Frank Capra)
Capra corn at its finest. Jimmy Stewart giving another wonderful performance in this rich piece of Americana. Beloved by millions for good reason.
38) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick)
Mystical, ambiguous masterpiece. A visual feast for the eye, much to consider for the intellect. Years ahead of it's time and incredibly influential.
39) Mean Streets (1973, Martin Scorcese)
Technically adept, low budget masterpiece which put Scorcese, DeNiro, and Keitel on the map and features David and Robert Carradine. Did you know most of it was filmed in Los Angeles?
40) Scarface ( 1932, Howard Hawks)
Brutal, raw and harsh with lots of blatant symbolism, the film was also darkly satiric. It's very dated, but still packs a powerful punch. Paul Muni still riveting as Al Capone like mobster.
41) La Ronde (1950, Max Ophuls)
Remarkable romantic comedy drama which shows various people having affairs and how they form a chain which comes around full circle.
42) The Long Goodbye (1973, Robert Altman)
Many despise what they wrongly believe is Altman's contempt for Raymond Chandler in this Chandler-esque update. It's a masterpiece of the 70's. The Camera never stops moving, the staging, pacing, script, acting, and sense of time and place is superb. The long out of print video release was a butchered pan and scan version of the film. Now it's restored and on DVD. Enjoy.
43) Pinocchio (1940, Ben Sharpsteen, Hamilton Luske)
The most incredible animated film every made. Technically a marvel and beautifully done. It's an emotionally strong film filled with a rich musical score to boot.
44) Strangers on a Train (1951, Alfred Hitchcock)
From the same novelist who also gave us the same character in The Talented Ripley comes this Hitchcock directed masterpiece which was remade as Once You Kiss a Stranger and Throw Momma From The Train. Robert Walker and Farley Granger are superb. The merry-go round finale still thrills.
45) L'Avventurra (1960, Michelangelo Antonioni)
After an argument with her boyfriend a woman disappears on an uninhabited island. Her boyfriend and best friend go looking for her in this film which is about moral and spiritual decay and has some very dry humor sprinkled into the mix. A beautiful masterpiece, a work of art, and most will not enjoy it.
46) Breathless (1959, Jean Luc Goddard)
The film that put Goddard, Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo on the map. Story was by Truffaut. It's a somewhat
romanticized, extremely stylized view of a gangster on the lam from the cops with his American girlfriend. People never saw it done like this and it brought the French New Wave almost immediate attention.
47) The Big Sleep (1946, Howard Hawks)
Raymond Chandler's first novel was faithfully adapted into this masterpiece of film noir featuring unforgettable characterizations by Humphrey Bogart, and Lauren Bacall. Another masterpiece directed by Howard Hawks. The DVD features two versions of the film.
48) O' Lucky Man (1973, Lindsay Anderson)
Malcolm McDowell stars in this continuation of the character he played in IF.....It's about the trials and tribulations, the rise and fall and rise and fall again of a coffee salesman. It features an infectious and purposefully intrusive musical score by Alan Price. Several actors have multiple roles. Don't miss it.
49) Real Life (1979, Albert Brooks)
Brooks' twisted satire of documentaries like P.B.S.'s American Family (The Louds), could very well be a satire of MTV's reality series (Real World) too. The comedy is clever and the underlying comments on the media, American life, the suburbs are well made. Not a masterpiece, but a film that made me laugh till I hurt and firmly established Albert Brooks, Harry Shearer (who wrote this with Brooks and Monica Johnson) and Charles Grodin 's careers. It's even a more timely satire on reality television than when it was made !!!
50) The Producers (1967, Mel Brooks)
It still remains as politically incorrect as ever. Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder's first scenes together are beyond funny and ridiculous. It's the story of a Broadway producer and an accountant who realize they can make more money with a Broadway flop then with a hit, and set up about to find the worst play ever written. They think they find it with Springtime for Hitler and choose an aging hippie, flower child (Dick Shawn's finest hour) to play a Musical Hitler. Outrageous, clever, and full of memorable characters. Finally on DVD with a wonderful documentary too.
I'm sure the placement of some of these films on the top 50 might raise some eyebrows since it didn't leave room for classics like Bicyle Thief or Open City or so many others. My excuse is that these are the 50 greatest film I could watch again and again and prefer them over others.
Thanks for the read and I really appreciate comments, feedback, and add your suggestions on some films you wish were on a list like this. And know that I too wish there was some way to put Re-Animator here.
Christopher J. Jarmick Author (The Glass Cocoon with Serena F. Holder) Writer: Cult Cuts Magazine, Brutarian and many others. Poet. President PEN- Washington.