Top Ten English movies of All Time

Apr 3, 2006 (Updated Jul 2, 2006)

The Bottom Line To pluck the best pearls from the sea is indeed a Herculean task but when done, its worth every bit the effort.

This list had been on my mind for a long time, probably ever since I joined Epinions. But something or the other always gets in the way when I get down to it. So finally I have it compiled. Comments will be extremely appreciated.

A Few Things

• I have named this list Top Ten English movies because there are a great many non-English films that would otherwise have been included here but have hardly ever been heard of. As I am from India, I am familiar with many films of Satyajit Ray (recipient of the Honorary Oscar, 1991) a few of those easily deserve a place here. Similarly, I am convinced that there are movies in Japanese, French, Chinese, African, Indonesian and in all other languages that should be honoured likewise. But as most of us aren’t familiar with any of them, I have restricted my list to English Language films only. For the same reason, sadly, I will also have to overlook Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) which in all its emotional subtlety is the best Wuxian film ever made.

• Secondly I have noticed many reviewers include here movies like Mars Attacks, Reality Bites and Fight Club. This made me ponder “Are we making a list of the ten best films” or “are we making a list of my ten best films”? The two lists may not have anything in common for quite a few people. Hence I shall be sticking to the main proposed topic and listing what I think should be honored as the ten best English movies ever made. As such a few movies I really love such as A Streetcar Named Desire (1961), Elizabeth (1998), Howards End (1992), To Kill A Mockingbird (1962), The Student Prince (1954) and The Constant Gardener (2005) will not make it here.

• I shall nonetheless be mentioning my five best movies. This is however just my personal taste and the movies on the whole are arranged in an alphabetical order. On to the list-

In alphabetical order :

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Animated movies are those rare treasures that can charm young and adults alike. Beauty and the Beast has it all- a deep love story, a moving innocence and one of the best musical scores ever composed. In 1989, a beautiful mermaid with a soulful voice made her appearance on the silver screen and won the hearts of millions. Two years later, Beauty and the Beast ushered in a second Golden Age of animation, rejuvenating the dying genre. Beauty and the Beast remains an epitome of cinematic excellence, unsurpassed in splendour; a movie that can be watched again and again.

Concluding Thoughts:

An unforgettable masterpiece indeed unparalleled in beauty and charm; a beloved classic for ages to come.

My Personal Take:
No. 2

Ben-Hur (1959)

In those days, a movie of these proportions was a landmark achievement in itself. William Wyler’s magnum opus Biblical drama is the tale of a hero, a prince of the Jews and his survival in a world when Jerusalem had been overrun and the Romans had emerged the conquerors. The movie is a visual delight; its varied exploration of emotions undoubtedly gives it a deserving position on this list.

Concluding Thoughts:

An epic in its day, it still remains one of those rare movies that stays fresh and alive even though many who initially made it and loved it are no more.

Casablanca (1943)

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Berman star in this bittersweet love story amidst a nation torn by world war. Called "America's most popular and beloved movie- and rightly so" by The Motion Picture Guide, Casablanca’s heart-wrenching and brilliant performances have secured it an infallible status in Hollywood movie history.

Concluding Thoughts:

A twilight of emotions, a ray of romance illuminating the hearts of millions of viewers.

Empire Strikes Back, The (1980)

Mere words cant describe the phenomenon that was Star Wars. George Lucas’ space odyssey would take us “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”. The technical brilliance accompanies an emotional thrill that remains undiminished even today. Coupled with John William’s sweeping score, the entire trilogy became a joyride into an unknown universe. The second movie is undoubtedly the best of the whole lot but as a series, Star Wars simply cannot be missed by any movie fan.

Concluding Thoughts:

An out-of-this world experience, watching this movie is taking a journey into a universe, millions of light years away.

Godfather, The (1972)

The movie remains unique in its portrayal of the American underworld, the lives of the mafias and the dons, their emotions, their duties, their compulsions, their passions. With a flawless direction by Francis Ford Coppola and one the best on-screen performances ever by Marlon Brando the movie is a must see for any fan of the silver screen.

Concluding Thoughts:

Stark and real, vivid and cruel; a plethora of passion-conflicting and complementing.

Gone With The Wind (1939)

Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”- this is probably one of the most famous lines ever said. Margaret Mitchell’s epic love story received the epic treatment by Victor Fleming and was translated into one of the most memorable movies ever. Vivien Leigh’s Scarlet is unforgettable and Clark Gable’s heartthrob Rhett lives on not only in hearts but on the cover page of almost every edition of the novel published.

Concluding Thoughts:

Like a gust of wind the viewer is blown off his feet (or seat, if you will) by this movie every time it is watched.

My Personal Take:
No. 5

Lord of the Rings, The- trilogy (2001-03)

My favourite book was finally adapted into the movie that Tolkien himself had not believed possible. But Peter Jackson accomplished this mammoth task and raised the movies to a level above and beyond the silver screen. Everything about the films is brilliant-the story, the direction, the cinematography, the CG, Howard Shore’s haunting score and Ian Mckellen’s unforgettable Gandalf. But the trilogy succeeds on a far higher echelon- it has a heart and a soul that is so deep it merges with the viewer and becomes one with him, transporting him to a world unknown and beautiful where he can belong forever.

Concluding Thoughts:

Taking a ship and setting sail into a world of fantasy, so beautiful that the sense of its existence is established only with a return to reality.

My Personal Take:
Numero Uno

Roman Holiday (1953)

Its difficult to say with whom the viewer falls in love, the movie or Gregory Peck’s Joe or Audrey Hepburn’s Princess Ann. Another of those love stories that lives on in hearts forever. The expression on Gregory Peck’s face in the last scene is one of those singular silver screen moments when everything around us spins to a stop and only what we see becomes real so that we want to hold on to it forever.

Concluding Thoughts:

A b/w masterpiece, a blend of fairy tale love and a touch of reality not Roman to the human heart.

My Personal Take:
No. 3

Schindler’s List (1993)

Steven Spielberg is one of those directors of whom anything is possible, whether it be ET or Jurassic Park or the gem that was Schindler’s List. A depiction of humanity in its nascent form and a picture of that same humanity that is no more humane is what gives Schindler’s List its brilliance. Simply put, watching the movie is like being there and being one with those thousands of innocent Jews mercilessly slaughtered during the Holocaust.

Concluding Thoughts:

One of those unique visionary ventures that penetrates right into the human soul and makes its permanent dwelling there.

My Personal Take:
No. 4

Sound of Music, The (1965)

Is there anyone in the world who has not heard Do Re Mi? In the 70s and 80s the most heard voice on the gramophone was that of Julie Andrews. The movie is an accomplishment in itself, though the music by Rodger and Hammerstein is another achievement altogether. A cherished classic today, The Sound of Music stands as a reminder of the Hollywood where musicals had the power to enthrall millions.

Concluding Thoughts:

The sound lingers on through generations, equally enthralling and even more.

Honorary Mentions:

Born Free (1966)

The melody in the roar is stringed to life in this film about a lion cub, Elsa, raised by humans. The movie envelops the spirit of the wild and a world where man and beast are free in their nativity, where the boundaries of civilization cannot and do not exist.

E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982)

Spielberg’s imaginative bonanza succeeds on multiple levels- as a science fiction, an emotional congregation and a tale of undying friendship.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

David Lean’s “desert classic” was one of the greatest triumphs of Hollywood history. The danger, the romance and the emotion-all these elements are conveyed through with a power that grasps the heart of any viewer.

My Fair Lady (1964)

Another musical that has lived on through generations. Based on Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion this movie starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn has today taken itself to the status of a sought after classic.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Without it there would be no soulful princesses or dashing heroes who have created on the silver screen a world of their own. Brimming with innocence and charm, Snow White still remains the Fairest movie of them all!

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