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98 Best Movies Of All Time

We love making "best of" lists almost as much as we love watching movies, but choosing the top 98 films of all time is a definite challenge. Let's face it: We'll never get to watch every good movie ever made, and it's impossible to make a list like this without feeling like we're missing something. (Hey, at least we don't have to rank them.) But we still hope that when it comes time to pick a movie, this will help steer you in the direction of some of the best entertainment the medium can offer. Pulling from critically acclaimed international gems to the most genre-defining blockbuster successes, we rounded up samples of the best from every genre. Want heart-wrenching, thought-provoking drama? Pulse-pounding adventure? Non-stop laughs? Mind-bending science fiction? We've got it all. And we don't think any of it will disappoint.

Updated on July 27, 2021: Did you know that even after we wrote this list, people kept on making movies? Rude, right? Plus, we're constantly uncovering hidden gems that might deserve your attention. With these updates, we strive to keep the 98 Best Films of All Time updated to reflect any groundbreaking new releases or rediscovered classics.

Spirited Away

When Chihiro's dad decides to take a shortcut, it inadvertently leads the whole family into the spirit world. Her parents quickly fall prey to the forces there, gobbling up food until their greed literally turns them into pigs, and Chihiro is all alone. She works at a mystical bathhouse, encountering spirits and living in nearly constant chaos — all of which risks overwhelming her until she forgets her real name. If that happens, warns the mysterious boy Haku, she will be stuck there forever, just as he is. Beautifully animated and thematically rich, "Spirited Away" helped bring anime to wider and more mainstream international audiences.

  • Starring: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki

  • Director: Hayao Miyazaki

  • Year: 2001

  • Runtime: 125 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%

Unforgiven

William Munny was once a vicious, murderous outlaw, but his marriage changed him. Even after his wife's death, he's tried to hold onto her morality and live a peaceful life. But his struggling farm can't support his children, so he reluctantly takes on the job of avenging the mutilation of the prostitute Delilah. He can't enter back into his old life without a cost, however, especially when the quest brings him up against the cruel and controlling Sheriff Little Bill Daggett. This raw study of the weight of violence makes this one of the darkest and most moving Westerns ever made.

Die Hard

It's Christmas, and it seems like the time to make things right, so NYPD Detective John McClane goes to Los Angeles to see his estranged wife — but his plans go out the window when her company Christmas party is interrupted by a terrorist heist that seizes control of the whole building. Now John has to do whatever he can to evade capture and put a stop to Hans Gruber and his crew, leading to an elaborate cat-and-mouse game. Laugh-out-loud lines, tense and rewarding action sequences, and great characterization make it unsurprising that this led to a major franchise.

  • Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Alexander Godunov

  • Director: John McTiernan

  • Year: 1988

  • Runtime: 132 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Rio Bravo

Arresting a rich man's brother for murder has steep but exciting consequences in "Rio Bravo." Sheriff John T. Chance isn't going to just let Nathan Burdette waltz his guilty brother out of jail, even if Burdette can gather up his own private army. Burdette's overwhelming numbers will have to face off against Chance's crew of surprisingly capable misfits. "Rio Bravo" has good Western action, but its real appeal comes from its amiable tone and immensely likable characters: They have great chemistry, and it's easy to care about their emotional journeys and what victory will give them.

  • Starring: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson

  • Director: Howard Hawks

  • Year: 1959

  • Runtime: 141 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

"The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" is a bleak parable about greed. Fred C. Dobbs sets out — in partnership with two other men — to prospect for gold, but getting it costs him everything. Even the work of getting it out of the ground is exhausting and debilitating, and once untold wealth is at their feet, the men start getting paranoid and mistrustful. Dobbs in particular starts to unravel, becoming selfish, jittery, and miserable. And no matter what he does, there's no guarantee he can make it out with the gold alive.

  • Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt

  • Director: John Huston

  • Year: 1948

  • Runtime: 126 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

Night of the Living Dead

Johnny and Barbra make the drive to visit their father's grave. Cemeteries make Barbara jumpy, and Johnny teases her about it: "They're coming to get you, Barbra!" It's a joke until it's not: Corpses are coming back to life, shambling and dead-eyed and hungry for flesh. "Night of the Living Dead" defined how we think about zombie movies, and it remains a stripped-down and intense chiller with powerful jolts of meaning and social relevance. Its gripping narrative focuses on how the handful of survivors led by the resourceful Ben can possibly make it through the night, which makes it a riveting survival thriller.

  • Starring: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman

  • Director: George A. Romero

  • Year: 1968

  • Runtime: 96 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%

Fantasia

"Fantasia" is an unconventional film, especially when you look at it as a children's movie, but it's nonetheless enthralling. This Disney movie pairs animated sequences — sometimes fantastical, sometimes abstract, but always beautifully drawn — with stirring performances of a selection of classical music. The visuals are stunning enough to make anyone a devoted cinephile, and the way they embody and interact with the orchestra practically acts as a compressed music appreciation class. "Fantasia" may be hard to describe, but it's impossible to forget.

  • Starring: Leopold Stokowki, Deems Taylor

  • Directors: Samuel Armstrong, James Algar, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Ben Sharpsteen, David D. Hand, Hamilton Luske, Jim Handley, Ford Beebe, T. Hee, Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson

  • Year: 1940

  • Runtime: 126 minutes

  • Rating: G

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

Meek's Cutoff

"Meek's Cutoff" is a love-it-or-hate-it movie, but for those who love it, this slow, chilly, and difficult journey on an Old West wagon train is really something special. The story follows a group of families on the Oregon Trail. It's a grueling journey, and as they start running out of food and water, tensions rise — and so do uncertainties. Is their guide reliable, or has he led them into uncharted wilderness? Will the Indigenous man they've captured fulfill his promise to lead them to water, or has the relationship between them already turned so sour that he'll lead them to death instead? The film plunges you into these ambiguities and comes up with no easy answers.

  • Starring: Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Shirley Henderson

  • Director: Kelly Reichardt

  • Year: 2010

  • Runtime: 104 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%

Mission: Impossible

When a high-stakes mission goes horribly wrong, Impossible Missions Force agent Ethan Hunt is out in the cold. Suspected of being a mole and hunted by his own organization, he has to somehow clear his name and find the truth — and the only people he can work with are other disavowed former agents. His quest not only results in some of the most iconic stunts ever filmed, it also kicks off one of the most enjoyable franchises around. The last factor has only added to its appeal over the years, proving its cultural significance and definite greatness.

  • Starring: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Béart

  • Director: Brian De Palma

  • Year: 1996

  • Runtime: 110 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 66%

Casino Royale

Admittedly, picking a favorite James Bond movie is a tricky proposition. But the series is one of the most enduring pieces of modern pop culture, and "Casino Royale" rebooted and reinvigorated it in a fashion that earns this entry a place on our list. Here, we see James Bond near the start of his career, a hard-edged brawler who doesn't care if his martini is shaken or stirred. Along with Treasury agent Vesper Lynd, he's assigned to take down a terrorist bankroller known as Le Chiffre. This turns out to be one of the grittiest and most emotionally intense Bond films, and it also acts as his origin story.

  • Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen

  • Director: Martin Campbell

  • Year: 2006

  • Runtime: 144 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Psycho

Norman Bates, who runs the out-of-the-way Bates Motel, is a shy, awkward young man — one you might suspect is too controlled by his mother. But when secretary Marion Crane impulsively steals a large sum of money and has to go on the run, her life collides with Norman's in a way that will reveal all kinds of things about Norman and his mother. The psychological twists in "Psycho" are dated now, but the movie is still a suspenseful masterpiece with strong performances and an unusual, daring structure. And the famous shower scene deserves every bit of its praise.

  • Starring: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Janet Leigh

  • Director: Alfred Hitchcock

  • Year: 1960

  • Runtime: 109 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%

The Lion King

Like a cheerier "Hamlet" with lions, Disney's "The Lion King" is one of the biggest animated films ever — and with good reason. It tells the story of Simba, whose carefree life as a lion cub prince is shattered when his beloved father dies. Simba blames himself and flees into the wilderness, turning his back on power ... and unknowingly allowing his scheming uncle Scar, who has orchestrated it all, to take control. But sooner or later, Simba will have to come home. The storytelling is strong, the animation is beautiful, and the songs run the gamut from clever to stunning.

Jaws

Pitch-perfect horror, suspense, and adventure, "Jaws" introduces viewers to a terrifying reason not to go in the water. A great white shark has started terrorizing the small town of Amity. With the tourist season in full swing and the profitable Fourth of July weekend right on the horizon, the mayor is eager to bury it and believe the trouble is over. But nothing could be further from the truth, and eventually Chief Martin Brody, researcher Matt Hooper, and veteran shark hunter Quint have to hunt the shark down themselves — or die trying. "Jaws" offers everything you could want in a summer thriller.

  • Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss

  • Director: Steven Spielberg

  • Year: 1975

  • Runtime: 124 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

Mad Max: Fury Road

In a ravaged post-apocalyptic landscape, water and gasoline mean everything, and people are just commodities. One moment, Max is free; the next, he's the property of dictator Immortan Joe. But surprisingly, he gets swept up in the pre-orchestrated escape of Joe's wives, who are aided by the tenacious Imperator Furiosa. Furiosa grew up outside of Joe's control, in a "green place" that she remembers as paradise. She wants to lead them to freedom there, but it means she and Max will first have to fight — and drive — their way through endless horrors and pitched battles. Gorgeously shot and full of perfectly executed practical stunt work, "Mad Max: Fury Road" is a no-holds-barred action movie that also feels like part of an epic.

Seven Samurai

A poor mountain village in Japan knows that harvest time will bring on another bandit raid, and this one could wipe them out for good. They decide to hire samurai for protection — ones down-and-out enough to work for rice instead of money. The result is an unusual group, ranging from an old master to a still-untried young samurai to a wild man who isn't really a samurai at all. Together, they must train the villagers and rely on cooperation, courage, and trickery to drive off the bandits. With plenty of excitement, humor, tragedy, and nuance, "Seven Samurai" is a lasting — and highly influential — classic.

  • Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Daisuke Katō

  • Director: Akira Kurosawa

  • Year: 1954

  • Runtime: 207 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

Halloween

Michael Myers spent years locked away for his sister's murder, but now he's escaped, and he's come back to his pleasant little suburban hometown. And before Halloween night is over, babysitter Laurie Strode and her friends will cross his path. With eerie effectiveness and an almost radical simplicity, "Halloween" boils terror down to its essence: There's someone out there in the dark. Add in a chilling and memorable score, and you have what it takes to set the mold for a whole horror subgenre.

  • Starring: Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles

  • Director: John Carpenter

  • Year: 1978

  • Runtime: 91 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%

Toy Story

What if your toys moved when you were out of the room? In "Toy Story," they do — and in young Andy's room, the head toy is definitely Woody the cowboy, Andy's longtime favorite. Woody is affable and a good leader ... until cool new astronaut Buzz Lightyear shows up and knocks him out of the no. 1 spot in Andy's life. What makes it even worse is that Buzz refuses to believe he's a toy at all.

Pixar's CGI animation in "Toy Story" changed the movies forever, but as cool as the technical innovation here is, the story and performances are what really sing.

  • Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles

  • Director: John Lasseter

  • Year: 1995

  • Runtime: 81 minutes

  • Rating: G

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

The Dark Knight

The second film of Christopher Nolan's gritty, grounded Batman trilogy is even darker and more epic than the first, especially since it features the iconic performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker. While Batman's presence might deter some of the garden-variety criminals, it's started to inspire the more grandiose ones. Enter the Joker. The mob hires him to kill Batman, but his aspirations are bigger than that. He wants to unleash chaos on Gotham and prove his own nihilism is all there is. Add crusading District Attorney Harvey Dent, genius inventor Lucius Fox, loyal butler Alfred, idealistic Rachel Dawes, and diligent Jim Gordon, and you get a tense film that's dense with conflict, action, and philosophy.

  • Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger

  • Director: Christopher Nolan

  • Year: 2008

  • Runtime: 152 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Iron Man

The Marvel Cinematic Universe starts with the well-paced, thrilling, and perfectly cast "Iron Man." Tony Stark is a rich, cocky weapons manufacturer who's nearly as self-centered as he is brilliant. Then he's taken captive in Afghanistan. Forced to think and fight his way out — and faced with the damage he's inadvertently caused — Tony starts looking at life differently. He dons a customized suit and becomes Iron Man — but that's not a change everyone is happy about, especially when he's keeping his technological secrets to himself.

  • Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges

  • Director: Jon Favreau

  • Year: 2008

  • Runtime: 126 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

The Exorcist

After playing with a Ouija board, Regan, a young girl in a quiet Georgetown neighborhood, starts behaving erratically, even aggressively. Her frightened mother brings in a priest with a psychiatric background, and he discovers that Regan's seeming possession is no illusion. The exorcism becomes a high-stakes, horrifying battle of wills and test of faith. Skin-crawling sequences abound here — "The Exorcist" is deservedly considered one of the scariest films ever made.

  • Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, Linda Blair

  • Director: William Friedkin

  • Year: 1973

  • Runtime: 121 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 83%

The Shining

Alcoholic writer Jack Torrance gets what could be a dream job: winter caretaker at the historic Overlook Hotel. The duties should be light, it'll give him plenty of time to write, and he can even take his family with him. But Jack, as it turns out, is a man on the brink, and the isolation and cabin fever at the Overlook push him further. And then, of course, there are the ghosts. As Jack slips into madness and the supernatural happenings at the Overlook intensify, the question becomes whether his young son (gifted with a psychic power called the shining) and overwhelmed wife can possibly make it out alive.

Dr. Strangelove

A wild, perfectly executed satire on Cold War paranoia and an angry warning about what it might lead to, "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" kicks off when a rogue American general orders a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, all because he's worried about the unspeakable danger of water fluoridation. When the Pentagon frantically tries to figure out how to recall the attack, they learn that the Soviets have set up a doomsday machine that will effectively trigger worldwide nuclear devastation if any part of the USSR is hit. Now they're not just worried about heating up the Cold War, they're worried about the impending end of the world.

  • Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden

  • Director: Stanley Kubrick

  • Year: 1964

  • Runtime: 94 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

The Avengers

Superhero team-up movies really started gelling with "The Avengers," which combines action, long-running comic book-style setups and payoff, ensemble bonding, and snappy banter. The Avengers come together to face down the invasion of Loki and his borrowed Chitauri army, but their personality differences and conflicts drive them apart again too quickly for them to get the job done. They have to figure out how to save Earth — but they also have to figure out how to get along without killing each other, even when their styles couldn't be more different. This is an important high water-mark in terms of where blockbusters would go from here, and it still remains a satisfying piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe puzzle.

  • Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo

  • Director: Joss Whedon

  • Year: 2012

  • Runtime: 143 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 91%

His Girl Friday

Ace reporter Hildy Johnson is getting ready to get remarried and leave her job behind forever. Within about five minutes, we completely agree with her ex-husband: She's not cut out for the suburbs. Besides, she and Walter (the ex) are the ones with the crackling chemistry and sexual tension. Walter ropes Hildy into one more job, knowing that it'll be too exciting — and too intricate — to let go. While the two of them uncover the truth and prevent a wrongful execution, Hildy gets closer to accepting that she's still in love with her one-time husband ... and her job.

  • Starring: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy

  • Director: Howard Hawks

  • Year: 1940

  • Runtime: 92 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

Some Like It Hot

Never has a movie about being on the run from gangsters been such a delight. In "Some Like It Hot," struggling musicians Joe and Jerry accidentally witness a gangland massacre — and unfortunately, the gangsters saw them too. In a frantic attempt to hide out, the two make their way out of town dressed as Josephine and Daphne, two members of an all-female band. Joe soon finds himself intent on seducing the sweet, sultry Sugar, another bandmate, and takes on a third identity as a single millionaire; "Daphne," meanwhile, stumbles into an engagement with the wealthy Osgood. This comedy is playful, the performances are great, and the movie sports one of the best endings of all time.

  • Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon

  • Director: Billy Wilder

  • Year: 1959

  • Runtime: 121 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

Black Panther

Wakanda is an African nation that, thanks to their supply of vibranium (basically a magical metal), has never suffered through slavery or colonization. Instead, with their vibranium-enhanced technology, they're a futuristic utopia that has chosen to shield themselves from the outside world. But when it's time for T'Challa to become king, he has to reconsider his country's isolation — and reckon with it in the form of his American-raised cousin, who has come to contest the throne so he can use Wakanda to start a bloody worldwide revolution. T'Challa must seize back power and defend Wakanda from his cousin's rule.

A gorgeous combination of Afrofuturism production design and Shakespearean conflict, "Black Panther" is a major Marvel movie — and a milestone of mainstream Black cinema.

Modern Times

Charlie Chaplin's blend of physical comedy, poignancy, and cutting satire may reach its apex in the silent film "Modern Times." Here, his recurring character the Tramp goes through the wringer of a modern, industrialized society all but designed to chew up the poor, the defenseless, and the eccentric. Despite constant setbacks, he finds love with "the gamin," a poor but determined and lively young woman. Their story has some real emotion to it — but it's just the grounding for a spectacularly funny movie where factory owners try to mechanize workers' lunch breaks and the Tramp confidently, gracefully roller-skates around a department store without noticing he's constantly in danger of plunging to his death.

  • Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman

  • Director: Charlie Chaplin

  • Year: 1936

  • Runtime: 87 minutes

  • Rating: G

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

Singin' in the Rain

The transition point between silent films and talkies is given glorious, frothy life in "Singin' in the Rain," a charming romantic comedy musical. If you believe the Hollywood press, matinee idol Don Lockwood is inseparably linked to his leading lady, Lina Lamont. But offscreen, Don is a goof and a bit of a ham — his best friend is the cheerfully clownish Cosmo — and he can't stand the smug Lina. Instead, he's drawn to the earnest young actor Kathy. Everything gets more complicated when the studio rushes to start making talking pictures ... especially since Lina's voice is far less traditionally glamorous than her appearance. Can Don, Kathy, and Cosmo pull the movie together behind the scenes and make it work?

  • Starring: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor

  • Directors: Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen

  • Year: 1952

  • Runtime: 103 minutes

  • Rating: G

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

A Hard Day's Night

The Beatles star as lightly fictionalized versions of themselves in "A Hard Day's Night," a film that playfully captures the strange nature of celebrity and a life spent traveling, playing, and recording. This is a low-key hangout movie, studded with great performances of the band's own songs. In between avoiding their overwhelming hordes of fans, they try to look after Paul's cranky and mischievous grandfather, amuse themselves, and turn up in time for a live-on-air performance. Lightly funny and well-observed, this is a particular joy for Beatles fans but also just a great movie in its own right.

  • Starring: The Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr), Wilfrid Brambell, Norm Rossington

  • Director: Richard Lester

  • Year: 1964

  • Runtime: 87 minutes

  • Rating: G

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

Mr. Hulot's Holiday

Director Jacques Tati's recurring character Monsieur Hulot makes his debut in this gentle French comedy. Hulot is kind and quietly charming, but his awkwardness and knack for stumbling into gaffes and surreal situations make his simple seaside vacation a little less than relaxing. Hulot also serves as our viewpoint character into the rest of the resort, leading to a loosely structured film where we observe the hotel as a whole in what's basically a series of vignettes — satirical, whimsical, poignant, or all of the above. Later Hulot films might be more ambitious, but this one is just purely lovable and fun.

  • Starring: Jacques Tati, Nathalie Pascaud, Micheline Rolla

  • Director: Jacques Tati

  • Year: 1953

  • Runtime: 98 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

Superman

Superhero movies were treated with a kind of elegant optimism in "Superman," which treated viewers to an earnest, charming origin story for the most famous superhero of all time. Christopher Reeve turns in a very genuine performance as Superman — a.k.a. Clark Kent — who came to Earth as an infant, the seeming sole survivor of his home planet's destruction. He grows up to be a goofy, clumsy reporter ... and a superhero who uses his strength, flight, and other abilities to do whatever good he can. Those two lines of work bring him to ace reporter Lois Lane, the love of his life, and Lex Luthor, a businessman determined to make profit through destruction. With a charismatic cast and a lot of endearing idealism, this one just works.

The Big Lebowski

A classic noir plot meets the transcendentally chill slacker-stoner "the Dude" in the cult classic "The Big Lebowski." When the Dude gets hassled by some men who mistake him for millionaire Jeffrey Lebowski — the Dude's real name — his favorite rug gets ruined. He wants it replaced, so he seeks out the other Lebowski, which gets him and his friends — angry war vet Walter and sweet, spacy Donny — entangled in a conspiracy involving Lebowski's missing wife, a ransom demand, an adult film director, and a group of criminal nihilists.

  • Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore

  • Director: Joel Coen

  • Year: 1998

  • Runtime: 117 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 83%

Airplane!

"Airplane!" masters the zany spoof. Washed-up war pilot Ted Striker faces his traumatic fear of flying when he impulsively boards a plane to try to make things right with his girlfriend, Elaine. Unfortunately, due to some bad fish, the flight crew and most of the passengers start succumbing to severe food poisoning. Ted will have to land the plane to save the day. But the plot isn't really the point here: It's just the excuse for an endless cascade of hilarious jokes. There are a lot of comedies in the world, but few can even come close to the sheer number of laughs per minute in "Airplane!," which masterfully uses slapstick, visual puns, absurdism, and satire to make an unforgettable movie.

  • Starring: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen

  • Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

  • Year: 1980

  • Runtime: 87 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%

The Philadelphia Story

Tracy Lord's marriage to the dapper, upper-class C.K. Dexter Haven fell apart in a spectacular fashion. She's determined that her upcoming wedding will be the pinnacle of respectability — which sounds like it might be a boring assignment for sharp, sardonic reporter Mike to cover for the society pages. But things start crackling when Mike brings Dexter back into the mix. Despite her best intentions — not to mention the looming wedding — Tracy finds herself drawn to both Mike and her ex-husband. Plenty of lively chemistry and witty repartee makes this classic an incredibly charming romantic comedy.

  • Starring: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart

  • Director: George Cukor

  • Year: 1940

  • Runtime: 112 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

In the Heat of the Night

"In the Heat of the Night" is a classic mystery-drama, a story that takes its characters as seriously as it does its crime. One sweltering Mississippi summer, the small town of Sparta sees an unusually high-profile murder: local mover-and-shaker Phillip Colbert. The only two men who can solve the murder are an unusual combination — stubborn, lonely, and racist police chief Gillespie and sharp, authoritative, and Black detective Virgil Tibbs, who's visiting from Philadelphia. Their reluctant partnership takes on unexpected depth as they work their way through a tangle of suspects and a noir-esque mystery. Terrific performances, a strong sense of place, and some iconic lines have made this one last.

  • Starring: Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates

  • Director: Norman Jewison

  • Year: 1967

  • Runtime: 109 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

High and Low

This tense Japanese crime drama starts with a powerful dilemma. Someone calls demanding a hefty ransom for the return of businessman Kingo Gondo's son — but the kidnapper made a mistake. They grabbed the chauffeur's son instead. Only Gondo can pay the hefty ransom, but if he does, it will mean giving up his fortune and any chance at control of his company. After a high-stakes first half focusing on Gondo's predicament, the story moves to explore the search for the kidnapper. It's a ceaselessly engaging crime film that's also a searching examination of social inequality and dark nights of the soul.

  • Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Kyōko Kagawa

  • Director: Akira Kurosawa

  • Year: 1963

  • Runtime: 143 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

Clueless

Jane Austen's "Emma" gets a lively, candy-colored update at a '90s Beverly Hills high school. Bubbly Cher Horowitz is pretty, popular, and rich, and she's confident that she knows best. She decides to elevate one of her classmates to her level of popularity and do some matchmaking, but all her good intentions keep backfiring. As she works to correct her mistakes, she also discovers a few things about herself — and her own heart. Immensely quotable and fun, "Clueless" is a charming coming-of-age story, a clever Austenian remake, a portrait of a time and place, and a sweet romantic comedy. Who could ask for more?

  • Starring: Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy

  • Director: Amy Heckerling

  • Year: 1995

  • Runtime: 97 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 81%

The Maltese Falcon

Hard-boiled private eye Sam Spade's partner, Archer, is murdered after taking on a seemingly mundane case. Ruth Wonderly, who hired him, reveals herself to really be a woman named Brigid O'Shaughnessy: She's not on the up-and-up, but she promises she's innocent. Spade can't trust her, but he also can't help starting to fall for her as he tries to solve his partner's murder. He follows the clues to discover a group of criminals all struggling to get hold of the legendary Maltese Falcon, a priceless jewel-encrusted bird sculpture. With a legendarily ruthless detective and some unusually charismatic — if dangerous — criminals and with more than its fair share of memorable dialogue, "The Maltese Falcon" soars high.

  • Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George

  • Director: John Huston

  • Year: 1941

  • Runtime: 101 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

It Happened One Night

Ellie's elopement has gone horribly wrong. Her father thinks her new husband is only in it for the money (he's right) and he wants to keep them apart. The rebellious Ellie decides to get back to her husband by hook or by crook — and in the process, she meets a between-jobs reporter, Peter, who sees her story as an opportunity to restart his career. They start traveling together, but during all their madcap misadventures, they start falling in love. Soon, the flimsy "Wall of Jericho" sheet separating the beds in their shared room won't be enough to keep them apart.

  • Starring: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly

  • Director: Frank Capra

  • Year: 1934

  • Runtime: 105 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 99%

Shaun of the Dead

Zombie movies don't come any funnier than "Shaun of the Dead," and comedies don't come any tenser or gorier. Shaun is a slacker whose inability to do anything more than coast through life has just led to his breakup with his longtime girlfriend, Liz. And then zombies start attacking, which only makes the breakup pain worse. Together with his hilarious — but even more unreliable — best friend Ed, Shaun has to step up to help the people he loves survive the zombie apocalypse. Even if it does ultimately mean still going to the pub. (It's a secure location!) The result is a perfect genre-bender that's as hilarious as it is horrifying.

  • Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield

  • Director: Edgar Wright

  • Year: 2004

  • Runtime: 99 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

Zodiac

The real-life Zodiac murders get an almost documentary-like treatment in this stunning, eerie, and coolly depicted film. Newspaper cartoonist Robert Graysmith finds himself sucked into the Zodiac case when his paper starts receiving the killer's encrypted letters. His obsession warps his life, but it also draws him closer — he thinks — to unraveling the truth. We also take a panoramic view of the killings and their investigations, checking in on all the people affected (and sometimes shattered) by the killings and following Inspector Dave Toschi as he struggles to put the pieces together. The procedural details here are excellent and engrossing, making the hunt for the Zodiac hypnotic even as the film hews to the case's actual lack of a firm, official resolution.

  • Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr.

  • Director: David Fincher

  • Year: 2007

  • Runtime: 157 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%

Memento

Insurance investigator Leonard Shelby is injured in the same attack that killed his wife: Now Leonard can't form any new long-term memories, so whatever he experiences only stays with him for a brief period. His pain over his wife, however, is forever fresh, and he's determined to avenge her death. Despite his amnesia, he searches for the truth, guided only by his own notes — including some tattooed on his skin — and strategically used Polaroids. To duplicate Leonard's condition, the film runs in a mind-bending reverse chronological order. We see a scene, and, like Leonard, we have no idea what came before it until the next segment comes along. The mystery we unearth as the story goes on is chilling and surprising.

  • Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Ann Moss, Joe Pantoliano

  • Director: Christopher Nolan

  • Year: 2000

  • Runtime: 113 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

L.A. Confidential

In 1950s Los Angeles, everything is supposed to be square-jawed righteousness, glamorous movie stars, and prosperity. But in "L.A. Confidential," we see the truth. We follow three LAPD detectives — principled and deeply ambitious Ed Exley, fame-chasing Jack Vincennes, and blunt instrument Bud White — as they unravel a conspiracy involving corruption, pornography, prostitution, murder, drug deals, and high-profile cover-ups. In the process, lives are shaken up beyond repair, and all three men have to step out of the boxes that have defined them. With a complex plot and fantastic acting and characterization, "L.A. Confidential" is one of the indispensable neo-noirs.

  • Starring: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce

  • Director: Curtis Hanson

  • Year: 1997

  • Runtime: 138 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 99%

Gosford Park

"Gosford Park" takes the traditional country house murder mystery and gives it new teeth and plenty of insight. When tycoon William McCordle is murdered over the course of a fraught weekend, his family, guests, and servants are all suspects. His death acts as a catalyst to explore all the seething resentment and secret frustrations that hide just beneath the surface of the elegant English drawing room, and the movie is particularly good at examining the upstairs-downstairs relationships and tensions between the wealthy and their servants. The movie's clever plotting is aided by biting satire, nuanced character observations, and a strong sense of place.

  • Starring: Eileen Atkins, Bob Balaban, Alan Bates

  • Director: Robert Altman

  • Year: 2001

  • Runtime: 137 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%

Double Indemnity

Insurance salesman Walter Neff shares a murder confession with his boss. Entranced both by the seductive Phyllis Dietrichson and the prospect of using his insurance knowledge to play the game against the company for once, Walter agrees to help Phyllis kill her husband. They'll make it look like an accident, like he's fallen off a train: It pays double. But tiny holes start to appear in the plan once it's done, and they widen out until everything is a dark pit for Walter to fall into. This is noir at its best: smart, bleak, and quotable.

  • Starring: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson

  • Director: Billy Wilder

  • Year: 1944

  • Runtime: 107 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%

Groundhog Day

Phil, a misanthropic jerk of a TV weatherman, has to cover an annual Groundhog Day festival, surrounded by the folksiness and "ordinary people" he despises. That premise alone would make a good movie. But "Groundhog Day" takes it to the next level: It makes Phil live the day over again. And again. And again. He's stuck in a time loop, and no matter what he does, he can't seem to break out of it. Even dying doesn't change anything. Phil's losing his mind ... but the answer to his problems might be closer than he thinks.

Bonnie and Clyde

Depression-era outlaw couple Bonnie and Clyde rob banks. They're breaking the law, but the intensity of their love story and the hypnotic pull of their ennui makes them as attractive as they are compelling. But as their fame grows and their robberies get bloodier — horrific as well as anarchic — they inevitably draw more attention from the police, who start to close in on them. Their options are dwindling, and they're running out of time. This stylish movie and its antiheroes were a major game-changer for American cinema in the '60s.

  • Starring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard

  • Director: Arthur Penn

  • Year: 1967

  • Runtime: 111 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%

Heat

A career criminal comes up against an equally purpose-driven cop in the moody crime thriller "Heat," the movie that finally let Robert De Niro and Al Pacino share a screen. This is a battle of equal titans: Both McCauley (the thief) and Hanna (the cop) are smart, serious, and tough, and they both have a sense of professionalism that makes us respect them. In fact, they even respect each other. McCauley is planning one of the biggest robberies the city has ever seen, and Hanna knows it. Who will come out on top?

Fargo

Heavily pregnant Chief Marge Gunderson investigates a string of murders in snowy, remote Fargo, where Minnesota accents and quirkiness abound — but don't prevent scheming and brutality. The trouble stems mostly from nebbish Jerry Lundegaard, who needs cash so badly that he arranges his own wife's kidnapping in the hope that her father — who won't lend Jerry any money — will pay the ransom. But nothing goes according to plan, and the situation escalates into darkly comedic violence. Throughout it all, the down-to-earth Marge tries to sort through the chaos.

  • Starring: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi

  • Director: Joel Coen

  • Year: 1996

  • Runtime: 98 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Pulp Fiction

Multiple stories collide in this violent, funny, and original crime movie. Jules and Vincent are bantering, lightly philosophical hitmen, soldiers of crime boss Marsellus Wallace; Mia is Marsellus's wife, whom Vincent has to entertain while Marsellus is out of town; Butch is a past-his-prime boxer who incurs Marsellus's wrath when he refuses to throw one of his fights; Pumpkin and Honey Bunny are two lovey-dovey stickup artists who decide to hold up a diner. Over the course of the movie, the characters will collide with each other and hit various crisis points of both conscience and survival. The movie has some serious stakes, but it's also a wild, fun ride with unexpected banter, a dance sequence, and plenty of famous scenes.

  • Starring: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman

  • Director: Quentin Tarantino

  • Year: 1994

  • Runtime: 154 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

Sunset Boulevard

Hollywood loves to build up stars and then either tear them down or forget about them. Few movies show that better than "Sunset Boulevard," which blends film noir with a searing look at the movie industry and the washed-up lives of the people who used to lead it. (The casting even evokes the actors' real-life careers.) Norma Desmond was one of the giants of the silent film era, but she didn't survive the transition to talkies. Now she wastes away in a decaying mansion, nursing dreams of a big comeback that will never happen. Struggling screenwriter Joe is sucked into her life, but what will it do to him?

  • Starring: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim

  • Director: Billy Wilder

  • Year: 1950

  • Runtime: 110 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 99%

Blade Runner

In the future, highly advanced androids — physically indistinguishable from humans — work on distant space colonies. On Earth, these "replicants" are identified and destroyed by "blade runners," who are experts at administering complex psychological tests that give the replicants away. Deckard, a jaded former blade runner, is recruited to track down and terminate four specific replicants, recent escapees. In this fusion of science fiction and noir, Deckard is drawn into a complex thriller plot that will ultimately test his certainties. We also follow the charismatic revolutionary replicant Roy and his friends as they struggle to find a solution. "Blade Runner" is dark, philosophical, and gripping.

The Matrix

Alienated hacker Neo learns that the "real world" is actually a simulation known as the Matrix. In reality, artificial intelligence has taken over and uses humans as organic batteries, lulling them into submission with this shared virtual reality. Outside the simulation, life is much grimmer — but when Neo and his allies reenter the Matrix, their knowledge of its coding lets them do seemingly impossible things. That helps equip them to fight back against the machines, especially the deadly "Agent Smith." "The Matrix" combines a traditional heroic narrative with a sense of disaffected cool and some awesome special effects.

  • Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss

  • Director: The Wachowskis

  • Year: 1999

  • Runtime: 136 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%

Chinatown

Private eye Jake Gittes takes on an ordinary case: follow Evelyn Mulwray's husband and find out if he's having an affair. But the woman who hired him was an imposter, and the actions Gittes takes lead to Mulwray's death. Now Gittes gets drawn into the real Evelyn's life and a large-scale conspiracy involving the city's water supply. Everything in Los Angeles comes down to money, and Gittes soon relearns exactly how hard it is to go up against rich men with power — especially when, as with the superficially affable Noah Cross, they're even more corrupt and sinister than he'd imagined. "Chinatown" is sharply written and full of dark but poetic insights into the human condition, and certain lines and images in it have become a permanent part of pop culture.

Planet of the Apes

In "Planet of the Apes," cryogenically frozen astronauts wake up to find their ship crashed, and then the news gets worse: They're stuck on a world where apes are the dominant species and humans are considered dangerous wild animals. One astronaut, the tough and cynical Taylor, is eventually able to get through to his ape captors and convince some of them that he's more than just a beast — but this kicks off a trial and accusations of blasphemy, putting both Taylor and his ape allies in danger. "Planet of the Apes" is a keeper: a thought-provoking film with a notably great ending.

  • Starring: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter

  • Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

  • Year: 1968

  • Runtime: 112 minutes

  • Rating: G

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%

Back to the Future

'80s high-schooler Marty McFly crashes into his own family's past when his best friend, scientist Doc Brown, invents a time-traveling DeLorean. Stranded back in the '50s, Marty accidentally ruins the key first step in his now-teenage parents falling in love — something he has to scramble to undo before it leads to him fading out of existence permanently. Can he orchestrate his parents' romance and get a younger Doc Brown to fix the time machine he hasn't invented yet? With tons of cleverness and goofy charm, "Back to the Future" is pure fun.

It's a Wonderful Life

A good son, a good brother, and a good husband, George Bailey always chose to put other people's happiness before his own desire for adventure — especially when it meant keeping his small town of Bedford Falls from falling completely into the hands of the wealthy, despicable Mr. Potter. But one fateful Christmas Eve, everything comes crashing down, plunging George into despair and making him think it'd be better if he'd never been born. His guardian angel, Clarence, begs to differ — and gives him a tour of a George-less Bedford Falls to drive the point home.

  • Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore

  • Director: Frank Capra

  • Year: 1946

  • Runtime: 131 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Rear Window

When professional photographer Jeff breaks his leg, he's housebound in his Manhattan apartment, so he takes advantage of the only view he has left: a window that looks out into a shared courtyard. Voyeurism satisfies some of his curiosity — until he witnesses what he thinks is a murder and a cover-up. Across the courtyard, a man named Thorwald may have just killed his wife and buried her in the garden, and Jeff may be the only person who can prove it. With the help of his fiancée, Lisa — whose newly revealed adventurous streak surprises and attracts him — he has to figure out how to deal with Thorwald before Thorwald knows who's watching him.

  • Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey

  • Director: Alfred Hitchcock

  • Year: 1954

  • Runtime: 112 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

The Princess Bride

"The Princess Bride" gently lampoons fairytales, but it also works as a gorgeous, funny, and romantic one in its own right. Buttercup and Westley are deeply in love, but when Westley leaves to try to make his fortune, his ship is attacked by pirates and he's presumed dead. Five years later, a still-grief-stricken Buttercup has numbly agreed to marry the vile Prince Humperdinck — but the road to her wedding becomes bumpy when you fold in a revenge-seeking swordsman, a six-fingered man, Rodents of Unusual Size, a duel of poisoned goblets, and, of course, the mysterious Dread Pirate Roberts, a masked man who seems to hold quite the grudge about Buttercup marrying Humperdinck.

  • Starring: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin

  • Director: Rob Reiner

  • Year: 1987

  • Runtime: 98 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%

Pan's Labyrinth

In Francoist Spain, young Ofelia and her mother move into their new home: her fragile mother has remarried the brutal, sadistic Captain Vidal. Ofelia ventures into a darkly fantastical world that parallels the horrors around her so aptly that it may only be in her imagination. She meets a faun, who tells her that she's the princess of the underworld: She can return home, but first she has to complete certain tasks. As Ofelia progresses further in this dark and often horrifying fairy tale, the situation in her real life deteriorates.

  • Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú

  • Director: Guillermo del Toro

  • Year: 2006

  • Runtime: 119 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

An epic fantasy trilogy begins here, as hobbit Frodo Baggins agrees to the difficult — perhaps impossible — task of taking the powerful One Ring to Mount Doom to be destroyed. If the disembodied but sinister Sauron and his forces locate it first, all will be lost. Luckily, Frodo has a circle of companions: the titular Fellowship of the Ring, drawn from the various kingdoms of Middle-earth. Their skills can help protect Frodo, and their friendship can help sustain him ... unless the corrupting influence of the Ring leads them to want it for themselves.

Vertigo

In this charged psychological thriller, former detective Scottie finds himself drawn into the mystery of Madeleine Elster, who's been behaving erratically; her husband believes she could be possessed by her ancestor, Carlotta. Scottie falls in love with Madeleine, but when he's unable to save her, his love becomes a dark obsession. He believes he's found her double, Judy Barton, and, to her distress, tries to mold her to match his memories of Madeleine. But Judy has a secret. Her connection to Madeleine is deeper and stranger than Scottie could ever guess.

  • Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes

  • Director: Alfred Hitchcock

  • Year: 1958

  • Runtime: 128 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

The Wizard of Oz

In this classic fantasy, Dorothy is swept up in a cyclone. In an instant, she's transported from ordinary (and sepia) Kansas to magical (and Technicolor) Oz. When Dorothy's house crashes down, she winds up with a pair of magical ruby slippers — and the Wicked Witch of the West hot on her tail. She has to make it to Emerald City, where she can ask the Wizard of Oz to send her back home before it's too late. And she gets some company for the road: a Cowardly Lion who needs courage, a Tin Man who needs a heart, and a Scarecrow who needs a brain. They'll have to make their way through a lot of adventures to get what they want.

  • Starring: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger

  • Director: Victor Fleming

  • Year: 1939

  • Runtime: 101 minutes

  • Rating: G

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 99%

The Godfather

Don Vito Corleone is the "godfather" of his crime family, a dignified and effortlessly powerful man who can get seemingly anything done. Michael is his youngest son, a WWII hero with a solid reputation. He loves his family, but he's never had anything to do with their business. But when his father is shot, Michael's loyalty to the family overpowers everything else. He refuses to maintain his innocent place on the sidelines and instead gets involved directly — and, over time, proves that his cool-headed, icily ruthless approach may help him inherit the throne. Both a Mafia movie and a family saga, this is an irresistible classic. "The Godfather Part II" is also a standout.

Tokyo Story

In this profoundly affecting slice-of-life drama, Shūkichi and Tomi, an older Japanese couple, travel for brief stays with their children in Tokyo. The visit only emphasizes the distance in the family, as the adult children fail to make any room in their lives for their parents. The one exception is the sweet, shy Noriko, their widowed daughter-in-law — and they want her to remarry for the sake of her own happiness, which will mean her gradually moving out of their lives. A nuanced character study of a family and a quiet exploration of mid-century Japanese life, "Tokyo Story" is delicate but powerful.

  • Starring: Chishū Ryū, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara

  • Director: Yasujirō Ozu

  • Year: 1953

  • Runtime: 136 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

2001: A Space Odyssey

"2001: A Space Odyssey" covers the span of human existence, punctuated — and accelerated — by the appearance of mysterious monoliths. From apemen suddenly discovering how to use tools (and using them to kill) to humanity taking to the stars to the possibility of transcending the human form entirely, this movie offers it all. But the most conventional narrative comes in the middle, when we follow a group of astronauts who are having trouble with their faulty but self-aware computer, HAL 9000. A patient, icy study in evolution, technology, and the soul, "2001: A Space Odyssey" is meditative and extraordinary.

  • Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester

  • Director: Stanley Kubrick

  • Year: 1968

  • Runtime: 142 minutes

  • Rating: G

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

Citizen Kane

"Rosebud." That's the last, enigmatic word of tycoon Charles Foster Kane. Looking to find an explanation, a reporter traces the course of Kane's life, interviewing his former friends and lovers in the hope of unlocking his psychology. Through his investigation, we retrace Kane's rise to power — especially his development of a newspaper empire that changed the American press forever — and see how he eventually, inevitably destroyed his relationships and the people in his life. One of the classic American tragedies, "Citizen Kane" also pioneered filmmaking techniques that make it both distinctive and timeless.

  • Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Ruth Warrick

  • Director: Orson Welles

  • Year: 1941

  • Runtime: 119 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 99%

Star Wars

Science fiction and fantasy tropes blend perfectly in the story of Luke Skywalker, a restless young man on an out-of-the-way desert planet, getting swept up into a galactic adventure when his home life is destroyed. Luke joins a quest to rescue Princess Leia and join with her — also enlisting smuggler and scoundrel Han Solo — to destroy the planet-killing Death Star and deliver a major blow to the evil Empire. Imagination, sweeping music, and revolutionary special effects seal the deal on making this a classic.

Taxi Driver

Living an isolated, marginal life in New York and working nights as a taxi driver, Vietnam War vet Travis Bickle is mostly severed from the rest of the world. And his estrangement and anger are growing. He develops an obsession with campaign worker Betsy and asks her out, but quickly alienates her. He starts looking for opportunities for violence — either as a perpetrator or a protector. His one lifeline might be his connection to Iris, a child sex worker he wants to rescue ... but this could also just be another avenue to destruction in this dark masterpiece.

  • Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd

  • Director: Martin Scorsese

  • Year: 1976

  • Runtime: 114 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%

The Thief of Bagdad

This colorfully irresistible fantasy film tells stories within stories. Evil Vizier Jaffar tricks, deposes, and imprisons his young sultan Ahmad, and Ahmad must join forces with the scrappy, capable thief Abu, his cellmate, in order to escape and get back to reclaim his throne. On the way, Ahmad falls in love with a beautiful princess — a woman Jaffar wants for himself — and Abu accidentally releases a powerful genie. It all comes together in a bright tapestry of legends and inventive early special effects.

  • Starring: Conrad Veidt, Sabu, June Duprez

  • Director: Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, Tim Whelan

  • Year: 1940

  • Runtime: 106 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

Bicycle Thieves

In the middle of a severe economic depression, Antonio Ricci desperately needs a job to feed his family. When the only one he can find requires a bicycle, he and his wife pawn their treasured wedding sheets in order to buy his back — and briefly, everything seems to be going right. But then someone steals his bicycle. Antonio and his young son embark on a desperate quest to find it, but the city seems like an endless maze of dead ends. Finally, Antonio is faced with an enormous moral dilemma: What would he do in order to ensure his family's survival? A sharp, compassionate masterpiece, "Bicycle Thieves" finds high drama on the streets of Rome.

  • Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell

  • Director: Vittorio De Sica

  • Year: 1948

  • Runtime: 89 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

Alien

"In space, no one can hear you scream." The tagline of "Alien" aptly conveys the claustrophobia and isolation of this taut sci-fi horror movie. The Nostromo — a working spaceship with a mostly blue-collar crew — is on its way back to Earth when they investigate a distress signal ... and pick up a deadly stowaway. Their ship — and even their bodies — have been infiltrated by an alien species, and it's killing them off one by one. Resourceful officer Ripley must do what she can to preserve the lives of the crew and get back home.

  • Starring: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright

  • Director: Ridley Scott

  • Year: 1979

  • Runtime: 117 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

Lawrence of Arabia

During World War I, T.E. Lawrence finds himself acting as liaison between the British Army and the various factions in Arabia. He helps get them additional resources to battle the Turks, and he urges the different tribes to unify for greater strength. He fits the role and begins to actually feel at home, but the intensity of the war — especially his knowledge of his own newly discovered enjoyment of violence — and his peripheral knowledge of the British Empire's plans for the future start to cast a shadow over all his successes. Simultaneously a beautifully shot war epic and a charismatic biography, "Lawrence of Arabia" creates an unforgettable experience.

  • Starring: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn

  • Director: David Lean

  • Year: 1962

  • Runtime: 227 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

10-year-old Elliott gets the surprise of his life when he finds an alien hiding out near his house. The peaceful, gangly creature, dubbed E.T., quickly becomes Elliott's friend as Elliott takes on the challenge of hiding and protecting him. But E.T. needs to return home: His health is failing, and because of the psychic link between them, Elliott is dying too. They need to get him to safety even as the government agents hunting E.T. close in on them, and it all leads to one of the most magical, wonder-filled family films ever.

  • Starring: Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, Peter Coyote

  • Director: Steven Spielberg

  • Year: 1982

  • Runtime: 114 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

Casablanca

Years ago, Rick and Ilsa had a passionate love affair. Now he owns a nightclub in Casablanca — where people frantically looking for travel papers exist alongside Vichy officials — and tries not to get involved. But Ilsa comes back to his life, this time with a husband: the noble Victor Laszlo, a major leader in the Resistance and a man who could be crucial in turning the tide of the war. As all the old feelings between Rick and Ilsa rise back up to the surface, danger presses in around them, forcing them to make life-defining choices. "Casablanca" gives us one of the best — and most bittersweet — movie love stories, and it combines that emotion with a smart script full of sharp and memorable dialogue.

  • Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid

  • Director: Michael Curtiz

  • Year: 1942

  • Runtime: 102 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 99%

M

"M" straddles the line between horror and suspense, a haunting look at one man's guilt and sense of being hunted. That guilt is richly deserved: Hans Beckert kills children. (We never see it on camera, but what we do see — like a little girl's balloon tangled in telephone lines — is striking and gut-wrenching.) He faces a surprising enemy when the street criminals and gangsters of the city organize against him, determined to put an end to his murders so the police presence in the area will die down. Psychologically rich, well-acted, and with a great early use of sound, "M" leaves a lasting impact.

  • Starring: Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Gustaf Gründgens

  • Director: Fritz Lang

  • Year: 1931

  • Runtime: 111 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

The "Star Trek" movies reach their storytelling pinnacle with the nuanced, tragic "Wrath of Khan," which follows up on the series episode "Space Seed." Captain Kirk is now Admiral Kirk, and he's feeling his age. It's both the best and worst time for a resurgence of his past in the form of old enemy Khan Noonien Singh, who wants revenge ... and who also wants the Genesis Device, which causes new life to bloom. Facing off against Khan this time will test Kirk's long-standing gift for finding wins in no-win scenarios.

  • Starring: William Shatner, Ricardo Montalbán, Leonard Nimoy

  • Director: Nicholas Meyer

  • Year: 1982

  • Runtime: 113 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%

The Seventh Seal

Antonius Block and his squire, Jöns, are returning from the Crusades when Antonius encounters Death himself and faces him in a tense chess match that sprawls out over days as Antonius and Jöns make their way through the countryside and their story entangles with traveling performers Jof and Mia. With the plague hovering in the background, the characters try to determine how to live their lives in a world where they often feel God is out of reach and happiness is fleeting. The characters are deeply human, but the most unforgettable part of "The Seventh Seal" might be its haunting images.

  • Starring: Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Nils Poppe

  • Director: Ingmar Bergman

  • Year: 1956

  • Runtime: 96 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

Mulholland Drive

In this eerie, dreamlike film that blurs the line between mystery and horror, an amnesiac woman calling herself Rita tries to uncover her past. She's aided by Betty, a sweet young woman who's come to Los Angeles to start an acting career. Betty and Rita begin to fall in love, but their search for Rita's past undermines their happiness and brings their reality caving in around them. The movie reveals another, much darker version of their lives and love story, and it's up to you to decide how to interpret that intersection — but however you read the movie, its strange sense of dread will stay with you.

  • Starring: Naomi Watts, Laura Elene Harring, Justin Theroux

  • Director: David Lynch

  • Year: 2001

  • Runtime: 146 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 83%

The Day the Earth Stood Still

A Cold War-era plea for peace, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" takes us to the moment when a spaceship lands in Washington, D.C. After his arrival swerves into violence, the alien Klaatu disguises himself as human to get a better sense of who we really are. He befriends a young woman and her son, and their decency shows him the best of humanity even as the tour they give him shows Earth's problems, too. Klaatu needs to give his message to Earth — part inspirational speech and part dire warning — but there is, of course, no guarantee that anyone will listen.

  • Starring: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe

  • Director: Robert Wise

  • Year: 1951

  • Runtime: 92 minutes

  • Rating: G

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

Schindler's List

Charming, charismatic Oskar Schindler has spent years wanting to make a fortune and a name for himself. At first, to him, World War II is just a business opportunity. He looks the other way when his Jewish foreman, Itzhak Stern, uses their factory as a way to classify people as "essential workers" and save them from the labor camps, but he doesn't get involved until the Holocaust underneath his nose becomes too obvious and real to ignore. Then Schindler begins to use his resources to save lives, eventually putting everything on the line to try to protect whoever he can. Powerful, wrenching, and beautifully crafted, "Schindler's List" is hard to watch, but an unforgettable cinematic experience.

The Best Years of Our Lives

Epic but intimate, "The Best Years of Our Lives" explores World War II veterans and their families with sympathy and nuance. The film follows three returning soldiers, all of whom are at different places in their lives: Al Stephenson, a banker and family man; Fred Derry, a young married man who chose the wrong wife; and Homer Parrish, who is coming back with prosthetic hands and no faith in his ability to still be the right choice for the girl he wanted to marry. We also get several delicately handled, realistic love stories, from a heartfelt but possibly star-crossed pair of lovers to a beautiful portrayal of a long-lasting marriage.

  • Starring: Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews

  • Director: William Wyler

  • Year: 1946

  • Runtime: 172 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

In this action-packed, crowd-pleasing sequel to "The Terminator," Sarah Connor has spent years honing her skills and getting ready for the apocalypse she knows is coming. But she's been put in a hospital and separated from her son, John, the future leader of humanity — and John is in danger. An incredibly advanced Terminator, made of liquid metal and capable of shapeshifting, has come from the future to kill him. But this time, a second Terminator — one with a face Sarah finds very familiar and very untrustworthy — has apparently been sent to save him, too. With everything on the line, Sarah must try to save her son and prevent the creation of Skynet.

Moonlight

"Moonlight" is the coming-of-age story of Chiron, who grows up in Miami and has to gradually learn how to fit into a world that's often rigged against him. He's gay — the love of his life is his childhood friend, Kevin, who winds up being part of both his best and his worst memories — and Black, and his mother is an addict. He finds stability and affection with surrogate family Juan and Theresa — but he can't escape from the knowledge that Juan is his mother's dealer. The film portrays Chiron's life with depth and poignancy, leading to some remarkably beautiful sequences.

12 Angry Men

In a cramped jury deliberation room on a swelteringly hot day, 12 men debate their verdict on a murder case. All but one have voted "guilty," and they seem to believe it's an open-and-shut case: This 18-year-old boy yelled that he would murder his father, a witness saw him do it, the boy had recently bought a knife ... and besisdes, there's his "background." But the lone holdout is determined to make sure that the case gets the full consideration. And as tensions in the jury room rise and the men begin to change sides, our investment in the truth only gets bigger. "12 Angry Men" is a potent, well-realized morality play that packs a considerable punch.

  • Starring: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley

  • Director: Sidney Lumet

  • Year: 1957

  • Runtime: 96 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

There Will Be Blood

"There Will Be Blood" centers on Daniel Plainview, whose ruthlessness and singular drive helps him turn an oil well discovery into an empire. But he makes an unexpected enemy in boyish pastor Eli Sunday, who's driven by his own desire for power. With a complex shared interest in the same lucrative land, the two are bound together for years, alternating victories and defeats. And while Daniel continues to rise and accumulate his fortune, he sacrifices everything else, including his relationship with his adopted son, H.W. Vivid, bleak, and sometimes even darkly humorous, "There Will Be Blood" is beautifully shot and perfectly acted. It sits comfortably alongside "Citizen Kane" as a film portraying the dark side of American success.

Monsoon Wedding

"Monsoon Wedding" wastes no time plunging us into its huge cast of characters. They're all orbiting around the wedding of Aditi and Hemant, which is doubling as a kind of massive family reunion where conflicts, secrets, money problems, and old loves will all flare up. Aditi and Hemant, meanwhile, hardly know each other, and are stealing opportunities in the lead-up to the ceremony in order to make sure they can really build a life together. The film is busy, but its sincere investment in its characters ensures that we care about every outcome. It's also one of the best portraits of contemporary India.

  • Starring: Naseeruddin Shah, Lillete Dubey, Shefali Shah

  • Director: Mira Nair

  • Year: 2001

  • Runtime: 113 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

The Shawshank Redemption

When banker Andy Dufresne is convicted of murdering his wife, he's sentenced to life at the grim Shawshank State Prison. His only lifeline is his genuine friendship with fellow lifer Red, who has a particular skill for getting contraband into the prison. Andy's accounting skills prove useful to the corrupt prison administration, which earns him special favors, but any pushback — or attempt to prove his innocence — gets him vicious retaliation. But despite everything, Andy has a special way of holding onto hope. Red is drawn to that, and the story he tells about it is immensely satisfying and emotional.

The Royal Tenenbaums

When Wes Anderson's whimsical style explores deep, thorny emotions, the results are striking. We see that in "The Royal Tenenbaums," which is all about family dysfunction and the weight of disappointment. The younger set of Tenenbaums — Chas, Richie, and Margot — were all acclaimed prodigies, but their "greatness" falls away as they get older and life proves disappointing. On the eve of their mother's remarriage, their estranged and unreliable father, Royal, comes back into their lives. His reappearance acts as a catalyst, leading the family — and Richie's best friend, Eli — to confront things like the unspoken love between Richie and Margot and Chas' lingering grief over his wife's death. Come for the stylized aesthetics; stay for the heartfelt storytelling.

The Age of Innocence

At first glance, you wouldn't think that Martin Scorsese would be the right director to adapt Edith Wharton. But Scorsese's flawless attention to detail and his interest in distinct social environments with their own unspoken rules and power channels makes "Age of Innocence" a stunning, faithful look at this romantic drama of manners in 1870s New York high society. Everyone agrees that Newland Archer's engagement to the lovely, innocent May is a perfect match, and Archer himself is perfectly satisfied with it. But then Ellen's older cousin, the scandal-touched and still-married Countess Olenska, arrives, and Archer's allegiance to May — and society's precepts — is suddenly tested.

12 Years a Slave

"12 Years a Slave" is the horrifying true story of Solomon Northrup, a free Black man and professional violinist. His life is shattered when he's kidnapped and forced into slavery; Solomon eventually has to accept that in the South, claiming he's free will only attract harsh punishment. He has to live as a slave, keeping his head down and waiting for the right opportunity to return home. But that opportunity is slow in coming, and in the meantime, Solomon is forced to work on multiple plantations on an involuntary tour of the horrors of the antebellum South. The film is hard to watch, but it's also gripping, unflinching, and profoundly well-acted.

  • Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o

  • Director: Steve McQueen

  • Year: 2013

  • Runtime: 134 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

The Great Escape

How do you escape from a seemingly escape-proof prison? "The Great Escape" shows the process in detail, planting us in an ultra-high-security prisoner-of-war camp where a group of men are planning an elaborate, high-stakes group breakout. It has all the planning-intensive fun of a great heist movie, but this ensemble drama is ultimately far more serious in its focus. The men are risking too much for it to be funny once the escape really gets started. And the movie gets us invested in its characters, from escape artist Captain Virgil Hilts to meek forger Lieutenant Colin Blythe. Simultaneously cheering and sobering, "The Great Escape" takes its time, but it's riveting from start to finish.

  • Starring: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough

  • Director: John Sturges

  • Year: 1963

  • Runtime: 172 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

In the Mood for Love

"In the Mood for Love" could be the best movie ever made about yearning. Chow Mo-wan and Su Li-shen are neighbors: Each of them is married, and each quietly lonely. They gradually discover that they have something else in common, too: Chow's wife is sleeping with Su's husband. This strange connection creates a charge between the two of them, and they start gravitating toward each other, falling in love. But despite the depth of their feelings, there may not be a way for them to have a happy ending. Gorgeously shot and brilliantly playing with what's unspoken and undone, "In the Mood for Love" is a haunting film.

  • Starring: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, Siu Ping Lam

  • Director: Wong Kar-wai

  • Year: 2000

  • Runtime: 98 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

In 18th century France, independent portrait painter Marianne accepts an unusual job: paint Hélöise, a young lady whose would-be Milanese fiancé wants a portrait, but under no circumstances tell the reluctant-to-marry Hélöise that's what she's doing. The secret eventually unravels, and Hélöise winds up only insisting that Marianne try to really capture her as she is. Over the course of a solitary week together, posing and painting and talking, the two fall in love — even as they know that once the portrait is done, their time together will end. Breathtaking, romantic, and achingly bittersweet, "Portrait of a Lady on Fire" is one for the ages.

  • Starring: Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami

  • Director: Céline Sciamma

  • Year: 2019

  • Runtime: 120 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

Do the Right Thing

"Do the Right Thing" is lively and powerful, and the issues at its core are still regrettably timely. During a hot summer in Mookie's part of Brooklyn, tensions and tempers are running high. The "Wall of Fame" at Sal's Pizzeria becomes an unlikely flashpoint: Sal, Italian-American himself, only puts up photos of Italian-American celebrities. But it's a predominantly Black neighborhood, and characters like Buggin' Out and Radio Raheem are getting tired of not seeing Black faces on the wall. It could be a small conflict — but then the police break it up, leading to Radio Raheem's death, followed by an eruption of outrage and violence. "Do the Right Thing" has a fascinating (and controversial) ambiguity about the role of violence in social reform.

  • Starring: Spike Lee, Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis

  • Director: Spike Lee

  • Year: 1989

  • Runtime: 120 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

"The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" starts with two young lovers: Geneviève, whose mother owns an umbrella shop, and Guy, a mechanic. The two are devoted to each other, but when Guy is called up to serve in the Algerian War, they're separated. It's the worst time for Geneviève to learn that she's pregnant. Worried about her future and believing Guy has moved on, she marries the wealthy Roland. What separates this bittersweet French musical from many similarly star-crossed love stories is that Roland isn't a bad match, and neither is the steady, compassionate Madeleine, whom Guy eventually marries. But the movie elegantly captures how you can't help reminiscing about the road not taken.

  • Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo, Anne Vernon

  • Director: Jacques Demy

  • Year: 1964

  • Runtime: 91 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 99%

The Bridge on the River Kwai

Unconventional war epic "The Bridge on the River Kwai" takes a gritty, complex look at what happens when prisoners at a Japanese POW camp are tasked with building a railway bridge. At first, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson suffers through prolonged confinement in a punishment hot-box rather than cooperate — but when the camp's commander, Colonel Saito, finally agrees to his demands, Nicholson becomes obsessed with seeing the bridge project through. His attachment to the idea of a concrete legacy makes him overlook the tactical advantage he's handing over to the enemy, resulting in a tense tragedy of hubris and conflicting worldviews.

  • Starring: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Sessue Hayakawa

  • Director: David Lean

  • Year: 1957

  • Runtime: 161 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

Parasite

You've never seen a dark comedy as thrilling and unpredictable as "Parasite." The close-knit but financially struggling Kim family finds an unusual way to make ends meet: using lies and some down-and-dirty tricks, they all secure jobs with the wealthy Park family, who doesn't know that their chauffeur, housekeeper, art therapist, and tutor are all related. But what starts off as a biting social satire and unsettling quasi-thriller takes an abrupt swerve when the Parks' former housekeeper comes back. Genre-defying, perfectly plotted, innovative, and full of jaw-dropping twists and turns, "Parasite" deservedly won an Academy Award for Best Picture.

  • Starring: Song Kang-ho, Choi Woo-shik, Lee Sun-Kyun

  • Director: Bong Joon-ho

  • Year: 2019

  • Runtime: 132 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%