All the years I have been writing about film, I have never sat down and compiled a list like this one. You could say it is almost a decade in the making.
When someone would ask me if I had a favourite film of all time I would always say, “It could be the next one I see.” Mainly it was because it was so very hard to pinpoint one perfect film that you can relate to and watch over and over. The favourite film has to symbolize why you love movies and also reflect who you are as a person. Only real film geeks know what I am talking about.
There are so many “all-time” lists are out there. It took a really long time for me to decide what would even make my list. Please remember this list is my personal list of my favourites, nothing more and nothing less. When I finally arrived at my favourite film of all time and noticed that the constant favourite of “Citizen Kane” didn’t even appear in my Top 50, I knew I had to release a list. Oh, just so you know “Citizen Kane” came in at #65 in my Top 100. I know thousands of film critics across the globe just gasped and grabbed their chests in dismay.
I originally wanted to stop at 20 films but I wanted to see where “Citizen Kane” came in so I mapped my list out to 100. For the length sake of this article I will give details on my Top 25 and just show you the list for the next 25.
So on with the show:
#25: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Stars: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon
Written and directed by Wes Craven
“Nightmare” had to make my top 25 for the single reason in that it is the only film that ever scared the wits out of me. It will always be heralded as my favourite horror film of all time. It was the first of a new brand in horror and from this film a studio was built (New Line Cinema). How can anyone forget Freddy
Kruger, the man is as much a cinematic icon as Indiana Jones?
#24: The Planet of the Apes (1968)
Stars: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
Based on the novel by Pierre Boulle
“Apes” is probably one the classic sci-fi films I relate to the most. The reason why is because in so many ways it shows how man has lost its way and how we really haven’t changed as a species.
The film is utterly brilliant and is often over-looked in a “post Star Wars world”. Heston is brilliant as the idealistic and arrogant astronaut who finds the world turned upside down.
There has been nothing like it on screen and probably never will again. The recent remake, by fave Tim Burton, was a valiant attempt but never reached the same majesty as the original.
#23: Se7en (1995)
Stars: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Gwyneth Paltrow
Directed by David Fincher
Written by Andrew Kevin Walker
“Se7en” is probably one of the greatest suspense thrillers ever made. It is the kind of film that makes Hitchcock smile from beyond the grave. The shock, intensity, atmosphere, performances and script are all perfect.
It redefined the serial killer genre and suspense thriller to another platform. There was so much of this film that has influenced cinema since it arrived.
For me it was the best of its kind since “Silence of the Lambs” and it came so close to creeping above it on my list. This film makes my skin crawl and that is such a good thing.
#22: E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
Stars: Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace and Drew Barrymore.
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Melissa Mathison
“Old Yeller” didn’t make me cry but as soon as those men in white carried E.T. away, I screamed like a little girl and burst into tears.
I was eleven at the time but that image is firmly planted in my mind as one of my first pure cinematic experiences.
That image and the first movie I ever remember seeing, Disney’s The Rescuers at the drive-in, mark the two earliest memories I have of film.
E.T. was brilliant and it is no wonder it has become a staple in pop culture and the history of the cinema.
#21: Gladiator (2000)
Stars: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix and Richard Harris
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by David Franzoni
I have never been shy to say how much I love “sword and sandal epics” and for me “Gladiator” represents the pinnacle of those films in the modern era where “Spartacus” defines the classic era.
When I first saw this film I was enthralled from beginning to end. For me it was cinematic eye candy.
I love Ancient Rome and all its majesty and it was the first film in eons that had transported me back to that time with such finesse and embodiment.
It is no wonder I was crushed when they cancelled HBO’s Rome.
#20: Schindler’s List (1993)
Stars: Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace and Drew Barrymore.
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Melissa Mathison
Until Steven Spielberg took this project on the most detailed cinematic investigation into the “Holocaust” during World War 2 was presented in the epic mini-series “War & Remembrance”. But that controversial and shocking coverage in that mini-series was absolutely pale in comparison to Spielberg’s ode to those who were lost during the War. The black-and-white film with tour de force performances from relative unknowns Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes coupled with the brilliant supporting performance from Ben Kingsley finally put a face on one of the greatest cover-ups in human history. It was a brilliant film and a landmark achievement.
#19: The Sting (1973)
Stars: Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Robert Shaw.
Directed by George Roy Hill
Written by David S Ward
There have been a lot of great films about con-men like 1990’s “The Grifters” and the Ocean’s films but they all don’t compare to the gem of them all, “The Sting”.
It is hard to even approach the timing, direction and sleight of hand of this film.
Newman and Redford are utter magic together. This is the perfect con-man film.
#18: Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Stars: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci and Christopher Walken.
Directed by Tim Burton
Written by Kevin Yagher, based on the story by Washington Irving
Tim Burton is a favourite of mine and for me his best film thus far in his career is Sleepy Hollow. Burton hit it out of the park with this one as everything he seemed to put into the film came up brilliant. Depp’s withdrawn and reluctant hero complex that he honed in other films like “Benny & Joon” and “Edward Scissorhands” evolves into his brilliant portrayal as Ichabod Crane. Burton’s atmospheric and gothic touch to films is utterly perfect for the legend of the headless horseman. I love this movie!!
#17: Unforgiven (1992)
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman.
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by David Webb Peoples
Eastwood for decades symbolized what was the quintessential western hero and during that journey he became a Hollywood icon and legend. Unforgiven marked the end of Eastwood’s romance with the old west and his swansong is still probably his best film of all time.
The film not only uncovered all the cruelty, abandonment and loneliness of the Old West but it showed just how much Eastwood had learned from his tour of duty on horseback.
That rainy night as Eastwood’s character bursts into the saloon to kill Hackman is probably one of the best western scenes of all time. Eastwood is a treasure and you have to look no farther than this film to remember the man he was and the man he is today.
#16: Rocky (1976)
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire and Burt Young.
Directed by John G. Avildsen
Written by Sylvester Stallone
Stallone crafted the perfect underdog when he created “The Italian Stallion”. His performance, the anthem and film’s final moments are Hollywood staples. It is a brilliant film about no matter how far we fall in life if we have heart we can still amount to greatness. Rocky is the only sports film in my Top 50 and for good reason. Yes, I picked Rocky over Raging Bull!!
#15: Taxi Driver
Stars: Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel and Jodie Foster.
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Written by Paul Schrader
Taxi Driver marks the only time a Martin Scorsese film makes my Top 50 as well.
The reason is that I can’t remember a more compelling character study than the life of Travis Bickle. DeNiro’s performance is still one of the best of all time and the evolution and execution of Bickle is mesmerizing.
Taxi Driver for me is still Marty’s best work to date and it is kind of funny that it is appears one spot higher than Rocky on my All-Time list since Rocky beat it for Best Picture back in 1977.
#14: When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Stars: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan and Carrie Fisher.
Directed by Rob Reiner
Written by Nora Ephron
When it comes to the romantic comedy nothing compares to “When Harry Met Sally”. The film defines what it is like to be in any sort of a relationship. The film is so hard to forget because the script is just so well written. It is unconventional in the romantic comedy formula which is part of why it is so utterly brilliant. The priceless orgasm scene is cinematic gold and comedic genius. This film is so hard to forget.
#13: Chinatown (1974)
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston.
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Robert Towne
Chinatown is probably one of the greatest film noir and detective stories on film. Polanski’s brilliant direction and attention to detail allows for the audience to be guessing till the final twist is revealed. Nicholson’s hard-boiled detective and Faye Dunaway’s mysterious damsel are priceless performances. The film is also fondly remembered for how it bridges the ever widening gap between old and new Hollywood. Chinatown does have a few flaws but in some ways that is what makes it even more of a film you can’t miss. You can’t say that about just any film.
#12: Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Stars: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins and Scott Glenn.
Directed by Jonathan Demme
Written by Ted Tally, based on the novel by Thomas Harris
For me “Lambs” is the creepiest and most claustrophobic film of all time. It is haunting, eerie, psychotic, thrilling, bold and revolutionary. It is a film every film student should be forced to see.
The Oscar winning film was also a genre buster that solidified Hollywood’s thirst for more serial killer mystery thrillers.
But unlike a lot of the films in its genre it spawned a franchise that now has a total of five films.
#11: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Stars: Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness and Anthony Quinn.
Directed by David Lean
Written by Robert Bolt
When it comes to the cinematic epics you need to look no further than David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia which symbolizes in every scene why a movie needs to be seen on the big screen to be believed.
I wish there was so way to watch this classic in the IMAX format. Lean’s brilliant direction, O’Toole’s stoic portrayal and the film’s vast desert landscapes makes this film hard to forget. I was the first film I ever bought in letterbox format.
#10: The Mission (1986)
Stars: Jeremy Irons, Robert DeNiro and Aidan Quinn.
Directed by Roland Joffe
Written by Robert Bolt
When I need a push of inspiration or a reminder to why life is worth living, I usually rewatch “The Mission”. It is a hard film to endure but that is all part of its beauty.
The scenic atmosphere, brilliant performances from Irons and DeNiro, self-sacrifice for a better world and the majesty of what is pure is all at the foundation of this film.
I need this film because with each viewing it seems that it allows the viewer to see even deeper into our souls. It is hands down one of my favourite of all time.
#9: The Great Escape (1963)
Stars: Steve McQueen, James Garner and Charles Bronson.
Directed by James Sturges
Written by James Clavell, based on the book by Paul Brickhill
“Escape” is the World War II film that I compare others too. With today’s overt realism, videogame battle sequences and attention to detail, it is so nice to come home to this classic.
No matter how many times I watch this film, I always think that Steve McQueen will make it out. The theme is legendary and the cast represents so many classic Hollywood veterans.
This film is a treat no matter how many times I watch it.
#8: Star Wars (1977)
Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.
Directed by George Lucas
Written by George Lucas
What can I say that hasn’t been said about this single film that changed the face of motion picture history in one night? “Star Wars” was the first real science fiction experience for me when I was a kid. Like all of us who remember the 80s as kids, this film influenced our lives in one way or another. I was no exception.
#7: Some Like it Hot (1959)
Stars: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.
Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan
This film for me is the perfect classic comedy. Every time I see it I crack a smile and burst out laughing.
It was by far the best of Marilyn’s career and stands the test of time as one of the greatest comedies of all time. For me only one other comedy is closer to my heart.
#6: North by Northwest (1959)
Stars: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason.
Directed by Albert Hitchcock
Written by Ernest Lehman
Some people pick “Psycho” while others pick “Rear Window” or “Vertigo” but my favourite Hitchcock film was always “North by Northwest” mainly because for me it has everything you love about Hitchcock in it and more. You have intrigue, suspense, twists and turns, a reluctant hero and a beautiful damsel. On top of that, this was the first Hitchcock film to really open up his formula and go all out. You have high adventure, daring stunts and scenic landcapes including Mount Rushmore. Everything you have ever desired in a movie is here and it is stunningly brilliant to behold.
#5: Airplane! (1980)
Stars: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty and Leslie Nielsen.
Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker
Written by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker
I am probably going to lose some of my reputation for even mentioning this film in the same company as Spartacus and Casablanca but I have watched this film more times than any other film out there (over 100 times) and each and every time I have laughed myself silly.
I know the movie practically word for word and since this is my ALL-TIME list it makes my Top 5 every single time I see it. That has to count for something. I love this movie!!
#4: Spartacus (1960)
Stars: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier and Jean Simmons.
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Dalton Trumbo, based on the novel by Howard Fast.
As I have said already, I love “sword and sandals” films and “Spartacus” defines that genre. The film is a majesty of filmmaking and brilliant in every scene. In its purest moments, it is about the triumph of the human spirit in the eyes of persecution. One man can make a difference. Douglas is bold, legendary and brilliant as the leader of a band of slaves who rise up to take on the Roman Empire. For me this is also infamous director Stanley Kubrick’s greatest film. I could also be alone on that statement too.
#3: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Stars: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen and Denholm Elliot.
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Lawrence Kasdan, story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman
When it comes to defining the action-adventure genre, only one film comes to mind. The hat, the whip and the charm changed our minds of what an action hero should be. Ford was famous for being in two Star Wars films but his iconic turn as Indiana Jones made him the mega-star he is today.
You just can’t imagine anyone else in that same role. It is kind of strange that Tom Selleck was originally cast just before Magnum. It is the action film which I compare all others.
#2: Casablanca (1942)
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergmann and Peter Lorre.
Directed by Michael Curitz
Written by Julius J Epstein and Phillip G Epstein
What makes Casablanca such a classic and why is it my number two film? For me it defines what a classic movie should be. It is unforgettable, stands the test of time, powerful performances, memorable scenes, has an inner message and also still has influence today. Casablanca is a classic because it is all those things and 65 years young. Forget Citizen Kane, this is the movie people will remember for generations and still love with every viewing. I know I do.
#1: Wizard of Oz (1939)
Stars: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger and Billie Burke.
Directed by Victor Fleming
Written by Noel Langley, based on the novel by L. Frank Baum.
The oldest film to make my list is also my most favourite. I placed Oz one spot ahead of Casablanca as my most favourite of all time because in every way this film is me. Everything about it defines who I am as a person. I love the movies and Oz is the perfect example why. I love to escape when I watch movies. You know forget my world for two hours and learn all about a new one. Oz symbolizes what it is like every time I put in a DVD or walk into a theatre. My life is the black-and-white world that Dorothy leaves behind in the twister as the inside of the theatre with my popcorn in hand is Oz as once more I can be taken away. The more I thought about why this film is my favourite the more I learned about the symbolism and connection to this film. Do you have a movie that moves you that way? I am sure glad I do.
So that is my Top 25 list. I am sure that some of you will agree and some of you will be adamant to why your favourite didn’t make my list. Let me know if you have a favourite film. It took me a while but I am really glad I finally decided.
So Says the Soothsayer.
My Top 50 films of All Time
1. Wizard of Oz
3. Raiders of the Lost Ark
6. North by Northwest
7. Some Like it Hot
8. Star Wars
9. The Great Escape
11. Lawrence of Arabia
12. Silence of the Lambs
13. The Mission
14. When Harry Met Sally
15. Taxi Driver
18. Sleepy Hollow
19. The Sting
20. Schindler’s List
24. Planet of the Apes
25. Nightmare on Elm Street
26. The Incredibles
27. Pulp Fiction
28. Apocalypse Now
29. The Dreamers
31. Ben Hur
32. To Kill a Mockingbird
33. Rear Window
34. Usual Suspects
35. The Godfather
37. Sixth Sense
38. Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid
39. Muppet Movie
40. True Grit
41. Lord of the Rings Trilogy
42. King Kong (1933)
43. Last Emperor
44. Dark Crystal
45. Cry Freedom
47. Bridge on the River Kwai
49. Finding Nemo
50. Casino Royale