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The Best Movies Ever

I just Googled the phrase “the world’s great equalizer,” and the magical dwarves of the Internet pulled their little levers and kicked back search results that included sexual pleasure, sleep, traffic lights, public education and Calvinism.

Nonsense, I say. Nothing levels the playing field quite like the world of movies. Everyone watches them, everyone enjoys them, and even those people who don’t enjoy them love to criticize them.

(Some would say food is the obvious choice as the ultimate equalizer, but food is too divisive. There is no universal opinion on food unless you’re eating poop. No one likes to eat poop.)

Movies are the best form of entertainment because they appeal to the masses regardless of age or any other factor. They tell stories (sometimes great, sometimes not-so-great) in tidy, two-hour compartments, and there are pretty pictures involved, too. What’s not to like?

That’s the most half-assed analysis of movies in the history of humanity, but this isn’t meant to be the least bit academic. Instead, it’s an indirect way of getting to a very necessary discussion about the best films of all time.

It’s a topic that has consumed me for about two months. I’ve known for years which movie I consider to be the best of all time, which one is my favorite and which are in my all-time top 10.

But I needed a way to quantify – at least in my mind – which ones fit in the Best Movies Ever category. So I came up with one.

I rank movies on a scale from 1 to 10, and what constitutes a 10 is a movie that prompts me to say, “That’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.” How many times have you ever said that about a film? My guess is it’s a lot more than you’d initially think.

I sat down to tally all of my 10s, and the first draft of my best-ever list contained 97 movies. I told my wife, who immediately chastised me and said it was “way too many.” My oldest brother and sister-in-law said the same thing. I don’t value their opinions, but they were somewhat right: I needed to be stricter.

Thus, I devised a very primitive formula to rate the elements that must be in place for a film to be considered among The Best Movies Ever. Not every 10 has to be the best example of each category, but it needs to max out in four of the six. They are:

1. Story: I’m a writer, so I value this element above all else. Take me on a journey. Make me forget I’m watching a movie for two hours. (Examples: “Fellowship of the Ring” and “Slumdog Millionaire”)

2. Acting: Bad acting can ruin an otherwise good movie, and a stellar performance can erase other mediocre elements. (“Rain Man” and “As Good As It Gets”)

3. Durability: It’s great from start to finish, and it stands up over time. (“Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Casablanca”)

4. Watchability: A movie that you’d want to watch time and again. (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Good Will Hunting”)

5. Cinematography: I’m not a film expert, but I fully understand the difference between standard Hollywood fare and a true cinematic, artistic gem. (“Amelie” and “Saving Private Ryan”)

6. The X Factor: A film that just does it for you, whether it’s based on nostalgia, originality, controversy, quotability or that it’s the standard-bearer for its genre. (“The Matrix” and “Young Frankenstein”)

Armed with my formula (I won’t bore you with the details), I whittled down my list and finished with 77 that I consider to be The Best Movies Ever.

You might still say that’s too many, but I disagree. So kiss my grits.

The Best Movies Ever

‘Amelie’

Amelie

American History X

As Good As It Gets

Best in Show

Big Fish

Blazing Saddles

Borat

Braveheart

Bull Durham

Caddyshack

Casablanca

Catch Me If You Can

Citizen Kane

Dan in Real Life

Dances with Wolves

The Departed

Die Hard

Do the Right Thing

‘Do the Right Thing’

The Family Stone

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

A Few Good Men

Field of Dreams

Fight Club

Fletch

Forrest Gump

The Fugitive

Glory

The Godfather

The Godfather: Part II

Good Will Hunting

The Goonies

The Graduate

Groundhog Day

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’

Inglourious Basterds

It’s a Wonderful Life

Kill Bill: Vol. 1

The King’s Speech

Lars and the Real Girl

Life Is Beautiful

The Lion King

Little Miss Sunshine

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Love Actually

Lucky Number Slevin

The Matrix

Meet Joe Black

Minority Report

Notting Hill

Nueve Reinas

‘Nueve Reinas’

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

The Princess Bride

Pulp Fiction

Rain Man

Roman Holiday

Saving Private Ryan

Seven

The Shawshank Redemption

The Silence of the Lambs

Slumdog Millionaire

So I Married an Axe Murderer

Stand by Me

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi

The Sting

Stranger Than Fiction

There’s Something about Mary

‘There’s Something about Mary’

The Sword in the Stone

Tombstone

The Usual Suspects

Up

V for Vendetta

When Harry Met Sally

Young Frankenstein

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12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Fascinating list, I agree there’s sometimes an X factor for people.

    November 27, 2011
  2. Joey Dunne #

    There are way too many awful movies on that list. Nueve Reinas? REALLY?!!?!

    November 27, 2011
  3. Come up with your own list. You don’t have to use the formula I did. But jot down all the movies you consider to be 10s. I guarantee it’s well over 50.

    Also, you’ve never seen “Nueve Reinas,” so how can you dispute that?

    November 27, 2011
  4. Thanks, movieblog8. The X factor, or whatever people want to call it, is probably what makes my list so long. It’s impossible to separate that very personal element of the movie-viewing experience from how we rate the films.

    November 27, 2011
    • I’d watch a good movie I love over a great movie I like on most days. Again, great post, and I should get to making a list like this.

      November 28, 2011
      • That’s a really good way to describe a lot of the movies on my list. Good, not great, but infinitely enjoyable to me.

        November 28, 2011
  5. This was going well until I hit “The Family Stone.” No, no, no, no. No. Then again, I respect that you have the guts to include “Love, Actually” and “Notting Hill.”

    November 27, 2011
  6. Tricia #

    So, I’m assuming it was the X-Factor, but I was surprised to see Love Actually on the list, but no About A Boy. Totally different movies, but Hugh Grant is in both, so I automatically associate them. For me, if I had to pick a favorite Hugh Grant movie, it wouldn’t be Two Weeks Notice, or Music and Lyrics (under-rated), or even Notting Hill. I would have to say About A Boy every time. I love a good romantic comedy.

    I think you should get more specific and then your list would be shorter. Is it really fair to compare movies across genres? I think not.

    November 27, 2011
  7. RACHEL — No on “The Family Stone”??? You crazy. It’s a great movie. It’s the perfect Christmastime movie, and I think it has some very likable performances in it. It’s definitely an X-factor movie. It just hits me the right way on all fronts.

    TRICIA — I love “About a Boy.” I’d give it a 9, but “Love Actually” is a perfect movie to me. It’s all very subjective, which is why movies rule. And I’m not necessarily comparing these movies to one another or across genres; I’m rating them individually based on the kind of movie they are. “Fletch” isn’t as good of a movie in many was as “The Shawshank Redemption” is, but in their own right, they are 10s to me.

    It’s hard to quantify them, and I probably didn’t create the best formula, but I wanted to try. It works in my head, at least.

    November 27, 2011
  8. i agree- the family stone is fantastic. i cry every time i watch it (and i never cry during movies.)

    so many of your top movies are also on mine, with qualifications that kill bill 2 is so much better than 1 and order of the phoenix is the worst harry potter… book, at least. great list, thanks for posting.

    November 29, 2011
    • Thanks, Amanda. “Kill Bill 2” is a really good movie, but I loved the first part a little more. Don’t know why. Now I’ll have to watch them both again to figure it out.

      November 29, 2011
  9. Brooke #

    This is the best movie list I have ever seen. Some I haven’t heard of and some I have, some I have watched and some I haven’t. All the ones that I’ve watched that are on this list though, I consider among the best movies I have ever seen. Great job, I’m gonna try and watch every movie on this list!

    November 24, 2016

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