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30 Greatest Charlton Heston Movies Ranked Worst To Best

Considered by many to be among the greatest leading men in Hollywood history, actor Charlton Heston was a powerful force on screen for more than six decades. He starred in many of the most iconic films of the 1960s and more than one landmark science fiction drama in the 1970s. He starred opposite many of Tinseltown's best, from actresses Janet Leigh and Ava Gardner, to fellow leading men like Gregory Peck and Yul Brynner.

Whether it was a hearty Western, a sci-fi adventure, or a gritty noir if Charlton Heston was the star you always knew the film would be led by a tough, no-nonsense hero without an ounce of patience for fools. However, he could also turn on the charm and carry a film on his charismatic shoulders. Time and time again throughout Heston's career, a lackluster production became a memorable movie thanks to him and him alone. 

When paired with a great director, a strong supporting cast, and a bold story, Heston delivered some of the most beloved movies of his generation. With more than 100 projects to his credit, we've narrowed down his best. Did a classic you enjoyed miss the cut? Did your favorite top our list? Well, we've gone up to Mount Sinai, traveled the stars, and investigated ourselves. These are Charlton Heston's 30 best movies, ranked.

30. The Mountain Men

A late-career Western for movie star Charlton Heston, his return to the genre saw him play an unlikely hero in the 1980 film "The Mountain Men" alongside Brian Keith and Stephen Macht. In the title role, Heston plays Bill Tyler, a man of the mountains who ekes out a living in the wilderness as an animal trapper in the Wyoming territory. Along with his friend Henry Trapp (Keith), the two mountain men encounter a young Native American woman named Running Moon, who needs their help after leaving her tribe.

Hoping to get Running Moon to safety, the two men soon find themselves the targets of her abusive husband, a vicious Blackfoot warrior named Heavy Eagle. But when Henry is killed, it's up to Tyler alone to save the woman and stop her husband's quest for vengeance. In an action-packed survivalist adventure, an aging Heston takes a turn as a hearty and gutsy strong man in a wild era of lawlessness on the frontier. 

Though not his best Western, "The Mountain Men" might be Heston's most intense, with excessive gore that bothered some at the time but will appeal to modern viewers looking for a surprising take on an old formula. Gorgeously shot, the film's main appeal is Heston, who towers over the film as a grizzled and determined salt-of-the-Earth warrior.

29. Earthquake

The 1970s were Hollywood's heyday for disaster movies with "The Towering Inferno," "Airport," and "The Poseidon Adventure." But one of the biggest was "Earthquake," a big-budget disaster movie whose title said it all. In a story that very much feels like a Michael Bay picture, the film has a broad ensemble cast that also includes Ava Gardner, Geneviève Bujold, Lorne Greene, George Kennedy, Richard Roundtree, Victoria Principal, and Walter Matthau. We follow several of them through the disaster but begin in Los Angeles with Stewart Graff (Heston), a former pro football player whose relationship with his wife is on the rocks. Just as he begins an affair with an alluring younger woman (Bujold), the city is rocked by a quake that portends an even bigger cataclysm.

When the big one strikes though, the fun begins: buildings topple, dams burst, and the City of Angels is torn asunder, with all of our heroes caught in the middle of the chaos. Struggling to survive amid their own personal drama, Heston and Kennedy become a formidable heroic duo. "Earthquake" debuted to mixed reviews on its 1974 release, but it's become more appreciated in the years since for its escalating high-stakes drama and top-notch special effects. Heston impresses as always, with a strong performance that helps keep the movie from collapsing under its own weight.

28. Three Violent People

Reunited with Anne Baxter, who he shared the screen with the year before in "The Ten Commandments," Charlton Heston starred in "Three Violent People," a Western melodrama where he played a former Confederate officer, Captain Colt Saunders. With the war over, Saunders is stunned to return home to Texas to find it overrun by carpetbaggers and Yankee opportunists. A new corrupt governor from the North has made life in his old hometown an unwelcome place for southerners, and Saunders is far too proud to let that stand.

On his return, Saunders encounters Lorna Hunter (Baxter), a low-class gal and local petty thief who he quickly falls head over heels for. But just as their love begins, Saunders finds himself forced to fight back against the new status quo to save his ranch, which has fallen on hard times during the war and has become victim to cattle rustlers. Now caught between a group of dastardly cowboys and a brutal South-hating governor, Saunders and Hunter must find a way to take back what's theirs.

Though its starting premise is nothing new — a southerner confronted by northerners after the Civil War — it's refreshed here thanks to the likes of Heston and Baxter. Some thrilling fisticuffs and genuinely high-class Western action liven things up, too.

27. Lucy Gallent

Just a few months before the release of "The Ten Commandments," Charlton Heston would play a farm boy turned military officer in the 1955 drama, "Lucy Gallant," based on a novella of the same name published two years before in Good Housekeeping magazine. "The Glass Menagerie" star Jane Wyman takes the title role of Lucy, a refined dressmaker who is traveling from New York to Mexico after her fiancé leaves her at the altar. When a storm leaves her stuck in a small Texas oil town, she meets a macho rancher, Casey Cole (Heston), and eventually decides to stay and build a new life in the southern city.

Heston's Cole romances Gallant, who has opened up a dress shop in the back of a local brothel, which becomes her focus and distracts her from pursuing a life with him. When World War II comes calling though, Cole joins up to fight for his country, eventually falling in love with a fashion model while stationed in Paris. But back home in Texas, Lucy is having trouble with her business, and Cole may need to come back to save her.

Ahead of its time, "Lucy Gallant" portrayed a strong leading woman whose ambition is seen as a good thing. While on the surface it could be seen as a story of a woman struggling to find love and balancing a career, at its heart Lucy's drive to prove to herself that she can do just fine on her own makes the film an enduring classic.

26. The Private War of Major Benson

In a rare comedic detour from the usually more dramatic actor, Charlton Heston starred in "The Private War of Major Benson." In the film, he stars as the titular Benson, a no-nonsense, by-the-book U.S. Army Major who's found himself in hot water with his superiors. In particular, his tough talk to the press has drawn their ire, and so they tell him he's got to head to an all-boys school to help whip their junior ROTC class into proper shape... or be drummed out of the service.

Threatened with losing their cadets due to poor training, Heston's job is to right the ship and help them keep the program. But when he arrives he meets a group of misbehaving kids and proceeds to treat them like he would any regiment of adult soldiers that are under his command: with a stern hand and an iron fist. While there, however, he meets Kay Lambert, the school's attractive nurse, and proceeds to clumsily court a woman for the first time in years. With Lambert's help, he must find a new way to deal with the cadets and earn his way back into his commanding officer's good graces.

25. Counterpoint

The same year that he took a voyage into science fiction with "Planet of the Apes," Charlton Heston went back in time for another war movie, "Counterpoint," which also starred Maximillian Schell, Kathryn Hays, and Leslie Nielsen. Set during the height of World War II in Europe, Heston departs from the expected and plays not a soldier, but Lionel Evans, the conductor of a touring USO symphony. During a German attack on their latest tour stop, however, Evans and his symphony find themselves behind enemy lines and taken prisoner by the Germans, including the ruthless General Schiller (Schell). 

Held prisoner in a Belgian castle, Evans at first thinks they're going to be executed, only to learn that Schiller wants him and his players to perform for him. From there, the film becomes a tense psychological thriller of sorts, as Heston and Schell engage in a battle of wits as Evans attempts to plot a daring escape from his cunning German adversary. Perhaps one of Heston's most underrated war movies, its unique gothic setting and strong cast help it stand out. In one of his earliest reviews, critic Roger Ebert praised the film's suspense as well as Heston's engaging performance, which shined through despite its outlandish story.

24. Julius Caesar (1970)

The first major adaptation of Shakespeare's famous play of the same name — some 40 years after an earlier adaptation in the silent era — the 1950 film "Julius Caesar" starred Charlton Heston as Caesar's best friend Marc Antony. Oddly shot in and around the Chicago area, it was not the big-budget, lavish productions of other epics, and well short of the 1953 version of the story that starred Marlon Brando in the same role. By contrast, Heston's version was a low-budget affair, with plenty of money-saving visual trickery used to stage its battle scenes (as noted by TCM).

Of course, Heston is the star attraction here, with the rest of the cast filled out by relative unknowns. With the young actor dominating the screen, Heston shines through with an impeccable performance. So impressive was Heston in the role that when a different Hollywood studio made their own version of "Julius Caesar" 20 years later in glorious color for the first time, he'd be recruited again to play the same part. Though the 1970 version boasts a bigger budget, larger scale, and was filmed in full color, it doesn't match the 1950 original.

23. The Buccaneer

A remake of the 1938 film of the same name, the 1958 American history epic "The Buccaneer" put Heston into the role of a historical real-life icon. This time, however, the actor was given a supporting part, playing U.S. President Andrew Jackson, with a white wig and some older age make-up. He starred alongside future "Magnificent Seven" star Yul Brynner, who took on the role of notorious 19th-century French pirate Jean Lafitte. 

Directed by the earlier version's star, Anthony Quinn, the film is a dramatic — and fictionalized — retelling of Lafitte's involvement in the War of 1812, fought between the United States and the United Kingdom. The film posits that privateer Lafitte, with no strict allegiances, helped the United States against the British purely because he believed they had the best chance of winning. More of an intimate drama than the swashbuckling adventure of the original version, it was a reminder of Heston's tremendous talent, as it put the actor back into a familiar role: He had already played President Jackson once before, in the 1953 film, "The President's Lady" (but more on that one a little later).

22. The Omega Man

Following his role as astronaut George Taylor in the 1968 sci-fi smash "The Planet of the Apes," Charlton Heston became the go-to star for thoughtful science fiction allegory films. His next one was the 1971 dystopian post-apocalyptic drama "The Omega Man." A genre classic today, the film was an adaptation of a story by Richard Matheson, and the second after Vincent Price's 1964 film, "The Last Man on Earth." 

"The Omega Man" starred Heston as Robert Neville, who is seemingly the only man alive following a global pandemic sparked by a biological weapon during a war between the United States and the Soviet Union. But as Neville wanders the desolate cityscape, he soon encounters a tribe of deranged monster-like mutants who want him dead. A worthy sci-fi follow-up to "Planet of the Apes," the film continues exploring themes of mankind's hubris and the dangers of modern warfare.

Never a big hit in its day, "The Omega Man" has become a genuine cult classic in the decades since. It was parodied by "The Simpsons" in one of their famous "Treehouse of Horror" episodes, while a third version of the story was produced in 2007, with Will Smith starring as the lone survivor in "I Am Legend."

21. The Greatest Story Ever Told

Nearly a decade after playing Moses in "The Ten Commandments," Charlton Heston would return to a big-budget biblical epic in the 1965 George Stevens film "The Greatest Story Ever Told." Recounting the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth (played by a relatively young Max von Sydow), Heston stars as John the Baptist, alongside heavyweights Claude Rains, Telly Savalas, Donald Pleasence, and Martin Landau. A true epic in the grandest of scales, its mammoth four-hour runtime is split into two parts, making it a behemoth of a film, beginning with Mary Magdalene, the Three Wise Men, and the birth of Jesus.

With a vast scope as big or bigger than Hollywood's best epics, the film traced Jesus' life from the desert to Egypt to the selection of his 12 apostles, along with his sermon on the mount and eventual crucifixion at the hands of the Romans and beyond. Nominated for five Academy Awards, including visual effects and cinematography, the film was a glorious spectacle but did not perform at the box office as hoped, especially given its sizable budget. Nevertheless, it has gone down as one of the most beloved, if not best biblical epics of its time.

20. The War Lord

In addition to "The Greatest Story Ever Told," the prolific Heston appeared in a second historical epic in 1965, starring also in "The War Lord," a drama set in Normandy in the 11th century. In the film, Heston plays Chrysagon de la Cruex, a knight who falls in love with a young woman named Bronwyn. Though in love, he gives permission for Bronwyn to marry Marc, who she has been promised to since she was a child.

On the eve of Bronwyn's betrothal ceremony, however, Chrysagon uses a little-known rite to steal her away from Marc for himself, giving him one night with her. But when morning comes, the once-noble protector refuses to give up the bride-to-be. As Marc and his father Odins rally the village against Chrysagon, it becomes clear that Bronwyn may not be the hostage they think.

Praised for its gritty, grungy portrayal of medieval Europe — a rarity in its day with most films going for lush, playful costume dramas — "The War Lord" was full of grounded action and powerful storytelling. 

19. Dark City

Just his third feature film, and his first picture in Hollywood, you might not even recognize a young Charlton Heston in this one. A clever crime noir drama, the 1950 black and white film "Dark City" (not to be confused with the 1998 gothic sci-fi film of the same name) put the 27-year-old Heston in the role of Danny Haley, a young hustler and owner of an illegal gambling joint. A former decorated soldier, he spends his days conning men out of their money at the poker table.

When their latest mark, a military vet named Arthur Winant, turns up dead, Danny and his pals find themselves in hot water. Soon he and the gang become targets of not just the police who suspect they may have been involved, but the victim's brother, a dangerous man looking for revenge. 

An effective noir thriller, "Dark City" was given mixed reviews, but the New York Times glowed about Heston in particular, who they rightly pegged as the next big Hollywood star. Beyond Heston, the rest of the movie's cast was a good one, too, and paired Henry Morgan and Jack Webb up years before they'd reunited on screen for the iconic television cop drama, "Dragnet."

18. 55 Days at Peking

In his long career, Charlton Heston relished big epics, and thrived on historical stories, and "55 Days At Peking" was one more in 1963. A fictionalized dramatization of the siege of international legations in Peking at the turn of the 20th century, Heston starred as Major Matt Lewis, head of the U.S. troops stationed at the American embassy. With the infamous Boxer Rebellion in full swing, Empress Tzu-Hsi declares foreigners the enemy and orders her soldiers to execute them all.

Now it's up to Lewis — who is courting a Russian diplomat — to rally a defense against the Boxers. A truly rousing adventure, "55 Days At Peking" dazzled with spectacular action, more than making up for its somewhat stock characters and thin personal drama. Heston himself — who is as always is an on-screen presence that can't be looked away from — holds the film on his back, carrying it to adventure glory. 

While the New York Times noted that its historical accuracy may be up for debate, the film still delivered on its promise as big-screen entertainment. Satisfying audiences and critics, Variety gave it high marks for its story, music, and strong direction.

17. The Greatest Show on Earth

From "The Greatest Story Ever Told" to "The Greatest Show on Earth," Charlton Heston loves stories that are big, bold, and the best. In this story of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, he plays circus manager Brad Braden. Clad in a leather jacket and a wide-brimmed fedora that may have inspired "Indiana Jones," Heston's character must oversee big changes to the format of the show as they struggle to maintain profitability. The show has recently brought on a new attraction, a celebrated trapeze artist known as the Great Sebastian, whose womanizing has gotten him drummed out of circuses before.

Meanwhile problems with the mob, and a clown named Buttons who may be more than he appears only add to Braden's problems. With the clown's secrets threatening to bring the law to his circus, he fights to keep his girlfriend out of the arms of the charismatic Sebastian.

Another in a long line of big, over-the-top productions for Heston, "The Greatest Show on Earth" made a splash at the box office, becoming the highest-grossing film of the year. Variety glowed about the picture in their review, writing, "This is the circus with more entertainment, more thrills, more spangles, and as much Big Top atmosphere as RB-B&B itself can offer."

16. Ruby Gentry

In one of his earliest films, Charlton Heston starred in "Ruby Gentry" opposite Jennifer Jones (star of "Madame Bovary"). Here he played Boake, a one-time flame of the young Ruby (Jones), a strong-willed Southern Belle who many men in town would love to have. After returning from overseas, however, Boake stuns Ruby and marries another woman. Enraged by losing Boake, she turns her eye to the older and wealthy tycoon Jim Gentry (Karl Malden), a man who she's known since she was a teenager, and makes him her husband.

But even after being wed, she continues to pursue Boake, which only causes more trouble, including a showdown between her husband and her former flame. When Gentry is killed in an accident, though, her flirtations with Boake don't go forgotten, and the town quickly labels her a promiscuous gold-digger and suspects that she may have been involved in her former husband's murder. As the people's ire towards her increases, her rage boils over and she enacts a plot to destroy the town in retaliation.

15. The Wreck of the Mary Deare

A gripping thriller, the 1959 film "The Wreck of the Mary Deare" is not the disaster movie it might appear. Instead, Charlton Heston plays rogue salvager John Sands, who discovers the Mary Deare adrift with its first officer, Gideon Patch (played by screen legend Gary Cooper), who is intent on keeping the ship above water. But Sands and Patch are soon faced down by Higgins, another former crew member, who makes the stunning accusation that Patch was actually the cause of the wreck and the resulting deaths of many crew members.

However, Patch turns around and reveals that it was Higgins, not he, who is responsible. According to Patch, Higgins was part of a criminal conspiracy aboard the ship to sell the valuable cargo to the Chinese government, and if the ship is recovered, the evidence of his crimes can be brought to light. As Patch demands a board of inquiry to investigate, Sands sticks by his side as the two former crewmates try to stay one step ahead of the other. 

Based on a novel by Hammond Ives, "The Wreck of the Mary Deare" was well-received by critics. In their contemporary review, Variety called it "the kind of adventure yarn which, thanks to intelligent treatment and topnotch photography, comes off with a bang."

14. The Naked Jungle

Based on the story "Leiningen Versus the Ants" by Carl Stephenson, the 1954 adventure "The Naked Jungle" starred Charlton Heston, Eleanor Parker, and Abraham Sofaer. Heston portrays Christopher Leiningen, a tough, macho plantation owner in South America who's been arranged to be married to the young widowed New Orleans native Joanna (Parker). Unfortunately, when they meet, Leiningen wants nothing to do with her after discovering she's been married once before. Joanna doesn't give up, though, determined to win him over with her strength, brains, and beauty.

Their troubled courtship gets interrupted when Leiningen learns of an incoming attack by a horde of vicious black ants that endangers their settlement. Though denying his love for her, he wants to get Joanna to safety above all else, but must also fight to keep his home safe from the horde — or "marabunta"– of ants that threaten to destroy everything he's built.

A wily adventure and classic love story with two charismatic stars who boast genuine on-screen chemistry, the film's unique setting and thrilling danger set it apart from others of its ilk. A somewhat forgotten film, too, it was famously and unashamedly ripped off for an episode of "MacGyver" titled "Trumbo's World" that even used recycled footage from the film.

13. Major Dundee

A few years before director Sam Peckinpah would craft "The Wild Bunch," one of the best Westerns of all time, he'd cast Charlton Heston in another classic, even if it never wound up being as beloved. This one, "Major Dundee," featured Heston alongside Richard Harris, Jim Hutton, and James Coburn, was set during the American Civil War just after the Battle of Gettysburg. Heston stars as the titular Major Amos Charles Dundee, a high-ranking officer who's been relegated to head of a prison housing captured Confederate soldiers and petty criminals as punishment.

While there, however, a band of violent Apaches attack the fort and kidnap a trio of children. Now, Dundee must find a group of prisoners — including Confederates and other miscreants — to help him track them down. One of the men by his side is Confederate captain Ben Tyreen, who had once been a friend at West Point before the war turned them into bitter enemies. 

Garnering praise for bringing a fresh new approach to the stale Western genre, "Major Dundee" was met with a so-so reception in 1965, but has been seen in new light in more recent years. Famously chopped up in editing before release, "Major Dundee" has seen at least two newer and extended versions in they sears since. Adding in plenty of cut scenes which included brutal violence and risque moments, as well as an entirely new score. With these improvements, audiences and critics have finally embraced it as a cinematic classic.

12. The President's Lady

Before Spielberg's "Lincoln" and Broadway's "Hamilton," it was the 1953 old Hollywood classic "The President's Lady," starring Susan Hayward and Charlton Heston, in the story of the United States' seventh president, Andrew Jackson. In classic revolutionary-era dress, Heston dons a long-tailed coat and a fancy vest to play the pernicious president, famed for his fighting spirit. But make no mistake, this movie is centered — as the title suggests — on Heyward, who plays Rachel Donelson, and her part in the life of the future U.S. statesman. From his youth to their courtship, up to his presidency, the film provides a stirring — and very Hollywood — account of the impact that Donelson had on not just Jackson's life, but American history.

We first meet Jackson when he is a young lawyer in Tennessee, where he meets and woos his new love, Rachel Donelson Robards, who was married at the time. The two engaged in a troublesome affair, but eventually married after her divorce. The controversial relationship continued to dog the politician as he ascended to the top of the American government, in a time when any little scandal could ruin a man. However, Rachel stuck by his side through thick and thin, and "The President's Lady" illustrates what an important role she was to his success.

11. Midway

An all-star cast was assembled for one of the most ambitious war movies of the decade in the 1976 epic WWII adventure film, "Midway." Charlton Heston starred alongside Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Glenn Ford, Robert Mitchum, Robert Wagner, Cliff Robertson, and a young Tom Selleck. Japanese star Toshiro Mifune ("The Seven Samurai") made a rare appearance in an American film, too, while celebrated composer John Williams provided the rousing score. 

In this dramatic retelling of one of World War II's most famous battles, Fonda's Admiral Nimitz is pitted against Mifune's Admiral Yamamoto, who is plotting a daring attack on the island of Midway in the Pacific. Once Nimitz breaks the Japanese codes and realizes that an attack is imminent, it's up to Heston's Captain Matt Garth to devise a battle plan and defend the island against a powerful enemy force that far outnumbers them.

While "Midway" may not have gone down as one of the best WWII movies ever, it may be among the most grandiose, a visual spectacle of scope and scale rarely seen in its day. Held up by its strong cast, incredible action, and gripping drama, it remains among Heston's top war movies.

10. Khartoum

A war epic in the style of Hollywood's best, "Khartoum" paired Charlton Heston with star Laurence Olivier and a film that recounts the seige of the titular Egyptian city during the 1880s. Olivier plays the Nubian Sufi religious leader Muhammad Ahmad, while Heston portrays British General Charles Gordon, who must defend the city from Ahmad's invading forces. The story begins when a devastating military skirmish in the Sudan leaves losses among British forces, including a well-respected former Colonel, William Hicks. 

Despite not wanting to escalate tensions, the prime minister is under pressure to deal with the matter militarily and sends Gordon — known for his rogue behavior — to respond. Given few resources, and impossible orders, Gordon must defy the odds to save the people of Khartoum.

Full of grizzly warfare, political intrigue, and plenty of suspense, "Khartoum" is a war epic of the highest caliber. It's a visually enthralling cinematic masterpiece, with elaborate, gorgeously photographed battle scenes, and the rivalry between Heston and Olivier lights up the screen. If anything holds the movie back from becoming a classic, it was its obsession with historical detail, if not accuracy, as noted by the New York Times.

9. Will Penny

More than a mere Western, the 1967 drama "Will Penny" is a cowboy movie, starring Charlton Heston as title character, grizzled veteran cattle driver nearing the end of his career. Tasked with watching over the Flat Iron Ranch after a harsh winter, he discovers a young woman Catherine and her son Horace living in an abandoned cabin on the property. At first, he demands they leave the ranch, but after an attack from a violent rawhider whose son he had killed in a deadly encounter, Penny finds himself in need of Catherine's help.

As he slowly regains his strength, Will and Catherine fall in love, and consider a life together. All of that is disrupted, though, when the rawhiders return once more and this time come for Catherine and her son as well. Now the aging, tired Penny must summon his strength one last time to keep those he loves safe from a deadly family who are resolved to exact their vengeance on him.

In his final interview before his death, Heston would call "Will Penny" his favorite role, and it's not hard to see why. A powerful character drama of a man forced to confront his past, it offered the actor plenty of material to chew on, from masculine strength to earnest pathos. Roger Ebert revered the film for its realism and lauded Heston for a powerful performance, in his review.

8. Soylent Green

Following the success of "Planet of the Apes," that featured one of greatest endings in science fiction film history, Charlton Heston was quickly recruited for another mind-bending sci-fi tale full of political allegory. This one was "Soylent Green," a thriller based on a story titled "Make Room! Make Room!" by noted sci-fi satirist Harry Harrison. Like "Planet of the Apes," this film version makes considerable changes to the source material, with its own twist ending added that would cement it as an iconic entry in the genre.

Set in the near-future of 2022, the world struggles with overpopulation, pollution, global hunger, and poverty, and the world's governments are unable to feed or house many of their people. Thanks to a new innovation — a foodstuff called "Soylent Green" — some of the problems have seemingly been mitigated. However, when a murder rocks the factory where it's made, an NYPD detective (Heston) stumbles upon a dark truth that will change everything.

Chock full of social commentary, the film's final revelation has gone down as one of the most shocking twists in cinema history. A groundbreaking film that helped create a new sub-genre where evil mega-corporations control a dystopian future, it even inspired an actual real-life meal-replacement drink dubbed Soylent, which has proven more than a fad.

7. The Agony and the Ecstasy

In another of Heston's historical biopics, "The Agony and the Ecstasy," the actor takes on the role of the Renaissance artist Michelangelo, while Rex Harrison plays Pope Julius II, in a story that chronicles the enormous undertaking of the artist's magnum opus: the painting of the Sistine Chapel. Resistant to the job offered to him by the head of the Christian church, Michelangelo struggles to find inspiration but eventually discovers the spark after a trip into the mountains. 

His work is not easy, though, and as the painting of what will become his greatest and most well-known piece proceeds slowly, trouble arises, and he is threatened to be replaced by a friendly rival. While the Pope deals with the dawn of war on his doorstep, Michelangelo must battle the draconian demands from his patron and his own self-doubt if he is to complete his historic work. 

Nominated for five Academy Awards, it's the outstanding performances of Heston and Harrison that make "The Agony and the Ecstasy" a triumph. 

6. The Big Country

William Wyler's "The Big Country" provides us with one of the few films on this list that doesn't feature Charlton Heston in a lead role. Rather, the actor plays support to stars Gregory Peck and Jean Simmons, in a Western that would net fellow co-star Burl Ives an Academy Award. Another epic of the cowboy variety, Peck stars as an easy-going New England sea captain named James MacKay. The wayward ocean lover comes ashore and puts his life among the waters behind him to join his fiancée Patricia (Carroll Baker) on her father's sprawling Western ranch.

But when a group of local tough guys, led by Hannassey (Ives), draws the ire of Patricia's father the Major (Charles Bickford), it starts a vicious rivalry that McKay wants no part of. Attempting to ease tensions between the group, McKay does little but anger the ranch's foreman Leech (Heston), forcing McKay to prove his toughness.

An edge-of-your seat Western with a style and tone all its own, "The Big Country" has proven a smash hit with audiences and critics alike. And with Peck and Ives in top form, and getting most of the attention among reviewers for their sterling performances, "The Big Country" has become one of Heston's best movies.

5. El Cid

The 1961 epic "El Cid" had a steep hill to climb to live up to its tagline: "The Greatest Romance and Adventure in a Thousand Years!" But despite that tall order, the film succeeds, with Charlton Heston starring as the infamous Castilian warlord Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, nicknamed "El Cid," while superstar bombshell Sophia Loren plays his wife, Doña Ximena. Set in the 11th century when what is now Spain was fractured by Christian and Muslim factions, the film recounts the brutal war waged between the two sides.

On the Christian front, Vivar earns his name "El Cid" when he lets his prisoners go free after being taken captive in an ill-advised attack. But it's his success in uniting the disparate tribes against the brutal Ben Yusuf that earns his reputation as one of the greatest warriors of his time.

Like many others in Heston's filmography, "El Cid" is some of Hollywood's best and most grandiose spectacle. A sharp script, strong direction, and a great cast help make it a true classic, with Heston himself proving he might be one of Hollywood's greatest epic heroes of all time.

4. Touch of Evil

Written and directed by Hollywood legend Orson Welles, the crime noir detective drama "Touch of Evil" proved to be one of Charlton Heston's first all-time classics. Starring opposite screen icon Janet Leigh, the film is famous for its groundbreaking uninterrupted tracking shot. The three minute opening sequence begins with a crook placing a ticking time bomb in the trunk of a car, then continues to follow Mexican special prosecutor Miguel Vargas (Heston) and his new bride Susan (Leigh) as they walk the street and mingle with patrol agents. The shot cuts away only to show the fiery explosion that triggers the story, as Vargas takes it on himself to investigate, having seen the targeted killing firsthand.

With the help of a local police captain Quinlan, Vargas sets out to get to the bottom of the murder, but soon finds himself in over his head. Discovering that Quinlan has been planting evidence on his suspects, he realizes that his ally may be his enemy, putting he and Susan in the crosshairs of a nefarious individuals. To get to the truth, Vargas must do the unthinkable and use Susan as a pawn in a deadly game of cat and mouse. 

3. The Ten Commandments

What could easily be ranked number one on this list is one of the greatest biblical epics in cinema, the 1956 film "The Ten Commandments," the last film to be directed by celebrated filmmaker Cecil B. Demille. In this sprawling story with a cast to match, Charlton Heston plays Moses, who lives a simple life in Egypt unaware of his Jewish roots. But when he learns of his lineage, he doesn't hide from it, instead embracing it to become one of the greatest heroes in religious history. Stars Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, and Edward G. Robinson appear in the film as King Ramses, Queen Nefertiti, the rebel Dathan, respectively.

Containing some of the most enduring images in Hollywood history, there's little we could say about the spectacular scale and acute quality of the film, so we'll let a contemporary review do the talking. "Cecil B. DeMille's 'The Ten Commandments' is, in many ways, the summit of screen achievement," said the Hollywood Reporter in their review on the film's release. "It is not just a great and powerful motion picture, although it is that; it is also a new human experience."

Considered by many to be among the greatest epics ever put to celluloid, "The Ten Commandments" helped cement Charlton Heston as perhaps the most powerful leading man in Hollywood at the time.

2. Planet of the Apes

A landmark science fiction adventure that revolutionized the genre, "The Planet of the Apes" didn't just wow audiences with impressive special effects, but it also boasted a high-concept story. Charlton Heston stars in the film as astronaut George Taylor, who leads a mission supposedly to a far-off planetoid, only to land on a strange world where primates rule, and humans are treated like cattle. After his fellow crew become victims of the apes, Taylor becomes a human science experiment to a pair of curious monkey scientists, Cornelius and Zira, who theorize that their own kind may have ironically evolved from man.

Now, Taylor must convince them that he's not like the men on his planet and lead a revolt to topple the ape aggressors who treat humans like slaves. Pure allegory, the film was co-written by "Twilight Zone" creator Rod Serling, who adapted the French novel by Pierre Boulle, adding a jaw-dropping twist that audiences could never have seen coming and which still reverberates through pop culture today. 

An all-time classic, it was followed by four sequels, a short-lived television spin-off, and two rebooted films, the second of which begat its own multi-film franchise. Easily the most famous in Heston's catalog, "Planet of the Apes" features some of the most memorable moments and indelible dialogue ever seen in sci-fi cinema.

1. Ben-Hur

Throughout Charlton Heston's prestigious film career, we've seen him star in a number of Hollywood's best epics, but "Ben-Hurt" is the greatest of them all. The most expensive movie ever made at the time — it was produced at more than $15 million — it wasn't even the first production of the story to set the record (an earlier silent version did the same some decades before). In the sweeping epic, Heston stars as the eponymous Judah Ben-Hur, a member of the Jewish elite, whose friend — the prominent Roman commander Messala — turns on him when he refuses to give up Jewish rebels. In retaliation, Ben-Hur is taken by Masala and given the life of a slave.

No longer a member of the noble upper class, Ben-Hur sees for himself the cruelty that his fellow countrymen face at the hands of their Roman persecutors. Determined to get revenge for their indignity, Ben-Hur manages to earn his freedom and become a chariot rider, where he sets out to take down Messala in a climactic race that would go down as one of the most thrilling scenes in movie history. 

One of Hollywood's first true blockbusters, it became the biggest box office earner of 1959, and won an astonishing 11 Academy Awards. It took home the trophy for best picture and best director, and the film lands in our top spot as the best movie in Charlton Heston's illustrious career.