60. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
> Genre: Crime, drama, thriller
> Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
> Starring: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen
Quentin Tarantino’s debut film, a heist thriller, sparked an artistic revolution in indie film. It’s been said that arthouse turned on its head to become “grindhouse” — films marked by blood and gore. The movie catapulted Tarantino into the spotlight and rewarded him with the title of most influential new filmmaker of his generation.
59. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
> Genre: Crime, drama
> Directed by: Sergio Leone
> Starring: Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern
This epic crime drama, Sergio Leone’s longtime passion project, was a box office flop in the U.S. The original neary 4.5 hours-long (269 minutes) movie was cut down in Europe to a brilliant version of 3 hours and 49 minutes (229 minutes). Against Leone’s wishes, it got further sliced down to 2 hours 19 (139 minutes) for American audiences. That proved damaging. The film remains on the list of all-time greatest gangster films.
58. To Be or Not to Be (1942)
> Genre: Comedy, war
> Directed by: Ernst Lubitsch
> Starring: Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Robert Stack
It’s been said that the one thing director Ernst Lubitsch took seriously was comedy. Unfortunately, upon its release, the film’s star Carole Lombard was killed in a plane crash, Pearl Harbor had just been attacked, and the war was raging on in Europe. The film was deemed tasteless. Over the years, it’s been recognized as a classic.
57. Boyhood (2014)
> Genre: Drama
> Directed by: Richard Linklater
> Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke
This groundbreaking film was shot with the same cast over 12 years. Writer-director Richard Linklater said he created a “structural blueprint” for it, but not the dialogue. He also corrected viewers’ assumptions that the dialogue was improvised. Linklater said he likes to rehearse and rewrite dialogue until it feels improvised. Now that’s an achievement.
56. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
> Genre: Crime, drama, thriller
> Directed by: Jonathan Demme
> Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence A. Bonney
Nabbing both best actor and actress Oscars among its five Academy Awards, there was a good deal of improvisation on the set. Jodie Foster later said that in the scene of Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling meeting for the first time, Anthony Hopkins mocking of Foster’s southern accent was an improvisation. She was horrified, deeming it a personal attack, later realizing her reaction was what he sought.
55. Stagecoach (1939)
> Genre: Adventure, western
> Directed by: John Ford
> Starring: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Andy Devine
Westerns were a commodity by the late 1930s. But this one was so pioneering, it lifted the status of its genre to great heights. No longer were westerns considered lowbrow, cheaply made films, but rather rich and complex in story and character. The movie garnered seven Academy Award nominations and won two.
54. Out of the Past (1947)
> Genre: Crime, drama, film noir
> Directed by: Jacques Tourneur
> Starring: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas
Heralded as one of the multi-layered greats within film noir, director Jacques Tourneur successfully created a dark, moody, terror-ladened aura. It’s even known for the constant cigarette smoking of its actors. Tourneur used the exhaled smoke as a device to capture light and billowing clouds, enhancing the film’s aesthetic beauty.
53. Touch of Evil (1958)
> Genre: Crime, drama, film-noir
> Directed by: Orson Welles
> Starring: Charlton Heston, Orson Welles, Janet Leigh
Considered one of the finest classics-era film noir, its 1958 release was not writer-director-actor Orson Welles’ original cut. Re-released twice, again in 1976 and 1998, the latter was more closely aligned to Welles’ desired film. He’d written a 58-page memo to Universal in 1958, detailing what needed to be done to fix the film, but the memo was not discovered until the mid-90s.
52. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
> Genre: Film-noir, mystery
> Directed by: John Huston
> Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George
This is the movie that spawned film noir. At least in critic Roger Ebert’s view, who said the film did the groundwork for the genre that gave us “mean streets, knife-edged heroes, dark shadows and tough dames.” Ebert goes as far as to say the plot is the last thing you actually think about with this film.
51. Duck Soup (1933)
> Genre: Comedy, musical, war
> Directed by: Leo McCarey
> Starring: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx
The film is considered as the Marx Brothers’ finest and funniest, but it did not gain that appreciation until college students reclaimed it in the 1960s. A satire mocking political leaders (read: dictators), audiences at the time weren’t ready to handle the level of disrespect aimed at politicians in the movie. Fascist leader Benito Mussolini even banned it in Italy.
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