20. On the Waterfront (1954)
> Genre: Crime, drama, thriller
> Directed by: Elia Kazan
> Starring: Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb
Movie mogul Darryl F. Zanuck passed on the script for Twentieth Century-Fox, believing no one would “care about a bunch of sweaty longshoremen.” Elia Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg went to Columbia Pictures. Even then the script went through many drafts, including character Terry Malloy as an investigative reporter before becoming the iconic sweaty longshoreman.
19. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
> Genre: Western
> Directed by: Sergio Leone
> Starring: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef
Italian director Sergio Leone traveled to the U.S. and spent a great deal of time researching the Civil War at the Library of Congress. Leone credits legendary Civil War photographer Mathew B. Brady’s expansive collection of images documenting the war as a main source of inspiration.
18. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
> Genre: Drama
> Directed by: Frank Darabont
> Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton
By all accounts, the film was considered a box office bomb when it was first released. But, thanks to its critical acclaim, it garnered a seven Oscar nominations. When the film was released on VHS just after the Oscars ceremony, it became the top-rented movie of the year.
17. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
> Genre: Comedy
> Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
> Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden
This brilliant black comedy nearly ended in a pie fight between the Americans and the Russians. That’s why there’s a massive food table in The War Room. But in a story written by BFI, Kubrick felt it “too farcical,” detracting from the satire. The pie scene found its way to a screening at London’s National Film Theatre in 1999.
16. Chinatown (1974)
> Genre: Drama, mystery, thriller
> Directed by: Roman Polanski
> Starring: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston
The script for the film is heralded as one of the finest ever written. Screenwriter Robert Towne had actually been offered $125,000 to pen the script for “The Great Gatsby” that same year. He felt he couldn’t do the novel justice. He took $25,000 to write his own — “Chinatown.”
15. The Dark Knight (2008)
> Genre: Action, crime, drama
> Directed by: Christopher Nolan
> Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart
Superhero films don’t typically garner Oscar nominations, but this one received eight and won two of them. It’s considered to be one of the best films of the 2000s — and one of the finest superhero films ever. “The Dark Knight” took comics into the realm of the serious movie.
14. Modern Times (1936)
> Genre: Comedy, drama, family
> Directed by: Charles Chaplin
> Starring: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman
Here we see the last of Chaplin’s beloved character The Tramp. This social protest film was also Chaplin’s final great effort in the silent era, as the talkies overtook silent films. The film was made between 1932 and 1936, with Chaplin writing, directing, producing and scoring it.
13. Casablanca (1942)
> Genre: Drama, romance, war
> Directed by: Michael Curtiz
> Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid
This beloved film classic, would you believe, didn’t have a complete script but one that evolved day by day as during shooting. None of the actors actually knew how it was going to end. In the end, it’s about love and sacrifice. Some of the actors were actual refugees from Nazi-occupied countries. “Casablanca” remains one of the most romantic films of all time.
12. All About Eve (1950)
> Genre: Drama
> Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
> Starring: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders
This nearly flawless film was nominated for an astounding 14 Oscars, a feat not duplicated until 47 years later with James Cameron’s “Titanic.” Based on a short story by Mary Orr, “The Wisdom of Eve,” the movie delivers realism behind Broadway’s curtain, the stop-at-nothing attitude, and the fear of aging.
11. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
> Genre: Drama
> Directed by: Milos Forman
> Starring: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Michael Berryman
Art and life entwined in this film, based on the book by Ken Kesey. While a mental institution served as the foundation of the story, cast and crew worked with extras and supporting crew members who were actually patients at the Oregon State Mental Hospital.