Film is arguably the art form that evokes the most emotions. And great films are those that move audiences most. They generate a deep connection between moviegoers and the story.
While 24/7 Wall St.’s list of 100 best movies of all time attempts a more impartial approach of aggregating and averaging critic and audience reviews, these reviews were no doubt influenced by the films’ emotional appeal.
The 100 best films span all genres and tell stories of romance, determination, fear, money, success, failure, freedom, loss, truth, and other themes.
Each motion picture is unique and may excel at different aspects, yet all of these films will most likely be remembered for all time.
A film can transcend images on a screen to something much greater. Its power lies in its ability to emotionally connect the audience with the story.
From its beginnings in the late 1800s, through greater developments in the early 20th century, the motion picture’s evolution continues to astound us.
Cinema has produced great auteurs, such as Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, and Billy Wilder. Hitchcock, Chaplin, and Wilder are all immigrants who achieved lasting acclaim for their work. Hitchcock landed seven films on the list, while Chaplin and Wilder each had five. American-born directors are well-represented with Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, John Ford, and Martin Scorsese, all of whom had three movies on the list.
Every great movie has a great story, and how many of these movies were made often is a great story itself. Often, they’ve got their own drama worthy of performances. In the end, the films achieved their goal of making it to the silver screen, and a slice of immortality.
100. The Social Network (2010)
> Genre: Biography, drama
> Directed by: David Fincher
> Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake
Rounding out the top 100, this American biographical drama tracks the success of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The billionaire tech entrepreneur later admitted the film was distressing due to artistic license. Nonetheless, it took home three Oscars.
99. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
> Genre: Crime, drama
> Directed by: Robert Mulligan
> Starring: Gregory Peck, John Megna, Frank Overton
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee, this Great Depression-era story of racial injustice and lost childhood innocence was selected by the United States National Film Registry for preservation by the Library of Congress in 1995. It was deemed a “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” film.
98. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
> Genre: Action, adventure, sci-fi
> Directed by: George Miller
> Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
The fourth installment and reboot of the Mad Max franchise won great critical acclaim — not an easy feat for an action film. With that, it garnered 10 Academy Award nominations. This joint American-Australian venture almost didn’t see the light of day. It had been in development for decades, with pre-production beginning in 1997.
97. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
> Genre: Drama, romance, war
> Directed by: William Wyler
> Starring: Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Fredric March
This film examined the problems World War II veterans faced upon returning home — areas Hollywood typically avoided. Though non-professional actor Harold Russell was nominated for best supporting actor, the Academy board didn’t think he had a chance of winning and voted to give him an honorary Oscar. Russell ended up winning anyway. It’s the only time an actor has won two Oscars for the same role.
96. The Thin Man (1934)
> Genre: Comedy, crime, mystery
> Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke
> Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’Sullivan
Director W.S. Van Dyke, who noticed there was an affinity between actors William Powell and Myrna Loy, encouraged them to improvise and worked that into the movie. This was the reason for the film’s true success and it launched The Thin Man franchise.
95. Annie Hall (1977)
> Genre: Comedy, romance
> Directed by: Woody Allen
> Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts
Sparring against “Star Wars,” even some on the team of “Annie Hall” believed it would lose out to the sci-fi/adventure blockbuster. But win it did, taking home four Oscars in total. Movie critic Roger Ebert noted in 2002 that this film has “more intellectual wit and cultural references than any other movie ever to win the Oscar for best picture.”
94. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
> Genre: Comedy, crime, drama
> Directed by: Martin McDonagh
> Starring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell
Of his characters, screenwriter-director Martin McDonagh has said: “I didn’t want anyone to completely be the hero, and I didn’t want anyone to completely be the villain.” Herein lies the complexities that resonate with all of us. It’s no wonder the film won numerous accolades, including two Oscars.
93. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
> Genre: Comedy, romance
> Directed by: George Cukor
> Starring: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart
James Stewart, who was nominated for best actor Oscar for his role in this film, didn’t think he would win. Nor did he believe he deserved to because he initially felt miscast in the role. Stewart even admitted to voting for Henry Fonda’s performance in “The Grapes of Wrath.” But the stars clearly favored him that night.
92. The Artist (2011)
> Genre: Comedy, drama, romance
> Directed by: Michel Hazanavicius
> Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman
Seventy years after silent movies were rendered obsolete, “The Artist” came along and proved they still had their place in the film medium. Filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius said he was laughed at by friends, actors, and producers when he first told them of his idea for the film. It nabbed five Oscars, including best picture.
91. Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
> Genre: Adventure, comedy, drama
> Directed by: Preston Sturges
> Starring: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick
Screenwriter and director Preston Sturges said he wrote the film in response to the preachy tone of other comedies, “which seemed to have abandoned the fun in favor of the message.” It’s been said that Sturges was influenced by actor John Garfield’s adventures as a hobo, hitchhiking and riding freight trains across the country for a short spell in the 1930s.