What Makes a Great Movie? Which Ones Rank Among the Best Ever?by Bryan Carey
Feb 18, 2006 Write an essay on this topic.
Popular Products in MoviesThe Bottom Line Choosing a list of the best movies of all time is tough, and even though I did the best I could there are many other movies worthy of inclusion.
Like many people here in Epinions, I have watched a good number of movies across a wide range of genres. I have watched horror movies, dramas, westerns, action films, war movies, comedies, and others. I have seen films from the early days of Hollywood when film was black and white to the modern day era with its high tech images and high paid performers.
With so many movies under my belt, it is very difficult to select a list of my favorite all time flicks. There are so many great movies that it is next to impossible to narrow them down to a list of the ten greatest. With much thought and internal debate, I have selected what I feel are the best movies ever made. Here we go:
10. West Side Story (1961) - I felt like I should include at least one musical on my list and my favorite film in this category is West Side Story. The Jets and the Sharks square off against each other in this musical tour de force and the drama reaches a high point when Jets leader Tony falls in love with the sister of Bernardo- one of the leaders of the rival Sharks gang. Besides the engaging story, this musical features some memorable tunes like I Feel Pretty, Maria, Tonight, Tonight, America, Gee, Officer Krupke, and Somewhere. Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, and Richard Beymer are three of the main stars of this movie musical.
9. Its a Wonderful Life (1946) - This uplifting holiday classic has been part of every Christmas season for decades. Who can forget George Bailey, a guy down on his luck who contemplates suicide only to find his spirits brought back to life when he gets a visit from an angel named Clarence. Fine performances abound in this movie from James Stewart, Donna Reed, Harry Travers, and Lionel Barrymore.
8. Apocalypse Now (1979) - My favorite war movie, this film captures the horrors of the Vietnam War through the directing of Francis Ford Coppola. In this movie, an army captain named Benjamin Willard is sent on a mission to kill a renegade colonel, Walter Kurtz. On the way to fulfilling his task, Willard finds himself distracted in more ways than one by the incredible chaos taking place all around him. This movie not only has great writing and directing, it also has an all star cast including Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Harrison Ford, Laurence Fishburne, and Dennis Hopper.
7. Silence of the Lambs (1991) - Clarice Starling works for the FBI and she has an important assignment. She needs to find clues that will lead to the capture of a mad killer who skins his victims. To accomplish this, she is sent to talk to another crazed maniac, Dr. Hannibal Lector- a man who is brilliant but dangerous and is known for his habit of cannibalizing his victims after he murders them. Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins star in this incredible thriller- one of the few movies to sweep the Oscars in all five major categories.
6. Braveheart (1995) - Based on an historical event, this movie takes the viewer back several hundred years to a time when Scotland was trying to gain independence from English rule. William Wallace was the man who lead the battle for freedom, and his courage and determination to fight to the death to free his native land is entertaining and inspiring. This movie stars Mel Gibson in both the lead acting role and as the director, with a fine supporting cast that includes James Robinson, Sandy Nelson, and Sean Lawlor.
5. Schindlers List (1993) - Oskar Schindler was not a likely candidate for an historic hero, but that is exactly what he became and his story is told with brilliance in this excellent film. Schindler is a business owner who is motivated mainly by money at first. But after witnessing the brutal murder of millions of Jews during the holocaust, his humanitarian side comes out and he saves more than a thousand Jews from certain death in the Nazi gas chambers. This movie stars Liam Neeson and Ben Kingsley and is considered by many to be director Steven Spielbergs film making masterpiece.
4. Casablanca (1942) - This movie is set in the African nation of Morocco where Rick Blaine, a former American World War II fighter, runs a popular night spot. His world is turned upside down when his former lover, a lovely dame named Isla, arrives at the club with her new husband, Victor Laszlo. This all- time classic stars Humphery Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Raines, and Paul Henreid.
3. Spartacus (1960) - This movie tells the story about a man named Spartacus who is born into slavery, turns against his owners, and inspires other slaves to join him in revolt. The numbers grow and grow, and eventually Spartacus finds himself in charge of a full army of rebelling slaves. They are determined to fight for freedom, but their toughest challenge lies just ahead of them: A military confrontation against the powerful Roman army. This action- packed movie stars Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov, and John Gavin in the role as Julius Caesar. It was directed by Stanley Kubrick and remains one of his finest works as a director.
2. Shawshank Redemption (1994) - This excellent movie revolves around a young banker named Andy Dufresne who is sent to prison for the murder of his ex- wife and her lover. While in prison, he becomes friends with another inmate named Red Redding and even though he is behind bars, Andy realizes the importance of keeping hope alive. This powerful film should have won the Best Picture Award and it probably would have won if it had been released any other year (Forrest Gump won the award in 1994). Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are the main stars in this great motion picture.
1. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (1975) - Easily my favorite film of all time, this movie takes the viewer inside the confines of a mental hospital with a man named Randall McMurphy- a convict who is serving time in prison but decides he would rather spend time in a mental hospital. He accomplishes this by pretending to be a little crazy himself and his time in the mental ward, his interaction with the other patients, and his battle with the cold, insensitive Nurse Ratched make this first- rate film one of the best in Hollywood history. This incredible movie, based on a novel by Ken Kesey, was one of the few to sweep all the major Oscars, winning awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Actress. It stars Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Danny Devito, William Redfield, Alonzo Brown, Peter Brocco, and Michael Berryman.
Selecting movies for a list like this is tough because invariably one has to leave out some incredible films that are every bit as deserving of a top ten ranking. Here are some movies that would make my list of honorable mentions for my all - time top ten, listed in order of release:
1. Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
3. Citizen Kane (1941)
4. The King and I (1956)
5. Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
6. Vertigo (1958)
7. Some Like it Hot (1959)
8. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
9. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
10. The French Connection (1971)
11. Clockwork Orange (1971)
12. The Godfather (1972)
13. Breaking Away (1979)
14. Raging Bull (1980)
15. Amadeus (1984)
16. Hoosiers (1986)
17. The Last Emperor (1987)
18. Field of Dreams (1989)
19. Glory (1989)
20. Ghost (1990)
21. Dead Man Walking (1995)
22. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
I could go on and on with other great films, but what I decided to include in the above list are the remaining movies from my rough draft of the ten best movies ever. What I did was make a quick listing of movies (about 30 to 35 of them) that rank among my all- time favorites. I then selected the ten best from that list and included them at the top. The others were relegated to my runners up listing.
When I think about all of the great movies available, it almost seems ludicrous to think that ten of them are deserving of inclusion on this list. Its like asking me to select the ten best beers of all time- a question that I am frequently asked. Like with movies, there are dozens and dozens of five- star quality brews. Narrowing down this list to the top ten cream of the crop is next to impossible and I wouldnt even know where to start. The same is true of movies. There are so many movies that rate as five- star works of cinematic art. There is almost no way that anyone can say which ones are worthy of the top ten and which are not. They are all great in their own unique way.
Most everyone disagrees on exactly which films are worthy of the ten best ranking, but great movies generally have a few things in common. First are the obvious reasons: Excellent performances, direction, screenplay, etc. Second, great movies are the type that can be watched over and over again and never get old. This is certainly the case for the movies on my two lists above. I could watch any one of them multiple times (and I have) without ever growing tired of them. Third, great movies are often remembered because they make a statement. They are not just entertaining in the usual sense, but they make some important statement that makes them stand out in ones memory.
There are certainly many other great films that I didnt include on my list that are deserving of mention. What is amazing to me is that, in spite of the large number of films I have watched over the years, there are still a large number I have never seen. Just to gauge my movie- watching prowess, I looked up a listing of the Best Picture Award winners from 1927 (the first year of the Academy Awards) to 2005 and checked off the ones I have viewed. A total of 77 movies have received the prestigious honor of being named Best Picture. And among these, I have viewed 57 of them. This is a decent percentage, but it also means there are twenty award- winning films I havent watched. Movies like Marty (1955), Gentlemans Agreement (1947), Going my Way (1944), Rebecca (1940), and most recently Chicago (2002) were all selected Best Picture and I have not watched any of them. It is highly probable that, had I viewed all of these films (and other great movies like them) my top ten list could very well have come out differently. In fact, if I was asked to create this same list a couple of years down the road or a few years back, there is a good chance it would be very different than it is today.
Great movies are subjective in nature, but most people can at least agree on a broad selection of movies that stand out in the pack for achieving the highest levels of greatness. The movies I selected for this list of the best movies of all time may be a little different from others lists and most movie watchers would likely debate endlessly over which movies are deserving of the top ten ranking and which are not. But most would at least agree that these movies are worthy of viewing. They are movies that have stood the test of time; offering superior directing, flawless performances, and great writing that makes them enjoyable to watch over and over again.
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