25 best movies of all time

Written by:
February 1, 2021
Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions

25 best movies of all time

It was 1895 when Auguste and Louis Lumière used a cinematograph machine to project moving images onto a screen. Audiences have been enraptured by cinema ever since. Naturally, movies have come a long way since the early days of 50-second reels, resulting in a rich variety of styles. Meanwhile, every cinematic era has put forth its respective slate of timeless masterpieces.

One might wonder: Why do most movies age poorly while a choice few seem to get even better over time? The foremost answer, it would seem, boils down to auteurism. That is to say, the greater the creative stamp a filmmaker can put on their work, the better the chances are the work will appreciate over time.

Another noticeable trend among the best movies of all time? Many of them don't take place within their respective periods. Depicting the past or the future—or a separate world altogether—is often a safer bet than depicting the present reality. Last but not least, a great film usually delivers the goods on multiple fronts. That means everything from the writing to the music to the acting is memorable, if not downright iconic. At the end of the day, of course, there is no one solitary answer—just like there is no one type of great film.

Whatever the reasons, the best movies of all time arguably represent the pinnacle of artistic achievement in the modern era and that makes them worth celebrating over and over again. Here to do just that is Stacker, which has weighted IMDb ratings and Metascores equally to create a Stacker score. Each movie needed at least 20,000 votes on IMDb. If the movie didn't have a Metascore, it was not included. Counting down from #25, here are the best movies of all time.

You may also like: 111 monumental movies from film history and why you need to see them

1 / 25
Universal International Pictures

#25. Touch of Evil (1958)

- Director: Orson Welles
- Stacker score: 93.2
- Metascore: 99
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Runtime: 95 minutes

The name Orson Welles might be most synonymous with 1941's “Citizen Kane,” but this 1958 effort is similarly phenomenal. After opening with one of the most famous tracking shots in history, the film dives into the story of scandal, corruption, and murder in a small Mexican border town. Starring as Police Capt. Hank Quinlan is Welles himself, who later claimed this was the most fun he'd ever had making a picture.

2 / 25
Ashton Productions

#24. Some Like It Hot (1959)

- Director: Billy Wilder
- Stacker score: 93.2
- Metascore: 97
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Runtime: 121 minutes

In this 1959 comedy, two male musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) dress up as women and join an all-women band, as they simultaneously evade murderous mobsters. Still adjusting to their new personas, the men befriend singer and ukulele-player Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, played by Marilyn Monroe. While Monroe's performance is nowadays the stuff of legend, she was reportedly difficult to work with during the shoot, frequently showing up late and forgetting her lines.

3 / 25
IFC Productions

#23. Boyhood (2014)

- Director: Richard Linklater
- Stacker score: 93.2
- Metascore: 100
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Runtime: 165 minutes

A film quite unlike any other, 2014's “Boyhood” chronicles the life of its protagonist, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), over the course of 12 years. What truly distinguishes the work, however, is the fact that director Richard Linklater actually took 12 years to make it, meaning Mason's development authentically unfolds before the viewer's eyes. Like so many Linklater films, this one relies on the humanistic strength of its characters to get its point across, as opposed to adhering to a strict narrative. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke co-star.

4 / 25
FortyFour Studios

#22. WALL·E (2008)

- Director: Andrew Stanton
- Stacker score: 93.2
- Metascore: 95
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Runtime: 98 minutes

Set in the distant (or not too distant) future, “WALL·E” represents one of Pixar's most ambitious projects, and features virtually no dialogue for the first 20 minutes. It follows the adventures of its title character, a lovable robot who's tasked with wading through garbage on an uninhabitable Earth. After boarding a spaceship, WALL·E discovers what humans have been up to since they destroyed the planet. And what is that, one might ask? Eating and watching TV, mostly.

5 / 25
Warner Bros.

#21. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

- Director: John Huston
- Stacker score: 93.8
- Metascore: 98
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Runtime: 126 minutes

The ultimate exercise in greed-based paranoia, this 1948 film stars Humphrey Bogart as Fred Dobbs, a down-on-his-luck thief who uncovers a fortune in gold with the help of two men. Soon enough, Dobbs suspects the others are conspiring against him, with his subsequent actions eventually leading to his demise. The movie won three Academy Awards, including two for writer/director John Huston, and later provided the framework for a classic episode of “The Simpsons.”

You may also like: Best artists in country

6 / 25
Twentieth Century Fox

#20. All About Eve (1950)

- Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
- Stacker score: 93.8
- Metascore: 98
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Runtime: 138 minutes

In this 1950 drama, an obsessive actress (Anne Baxter) climbs her way to the top of a theater company by ruthlessly manipulating her supposed idol (Bette Davis). Written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, “All About Eve” cynically—albeit accurately—portrays show business as a cruel and unforgiving industry, especially to actresses of a certain age. The film was nominated for 14 Academy Awards (winning six of them), which ties it with “Titanic” and “La La Land” for the most Oscar nominations in Hollywood history.

7 / 25
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

#19. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

- Directors: Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy, Norman Taurog, Richard Thorpe, King Vidor
- Stacker score: 93.8
- Metascore: 100
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Runtime: 102 minutes

Essential viewing among children of all ages, this 1939 film tells the story of Dorothy (Judy Garland), a farm girl who gets knocked out during a tornado and wakes up in the magical world of Oz. With the help of a lion, a scarecrow, and a tin man, Dorothy and her dog Toto search for the wonderful wizard in the hope he can send her home. Along the way, she famously incurs the wrath of a wicked witch.

8 / 25
Paramount Pictures

#18. The Godfather: Part II (1974)

- Director: Francis Ford Coppola
- Stacker score: 93.8
- Metascore: 90
- IMDb user rating: 9.0
- Runtime: 202 minutes

Continuing “The Godfather” saga to rapturous acclaim (and six Academy Awards), this 1974 sequel finds Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) squaring off against a sea of troubles while trying to expand and legitimize his empire. Also depicted is a young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro), who journeys to the United States from Italy in the early 1900s and ascends to power after murdering the local don. After De Niro won an Academy Award for his performance, he and Marlon Brando became the only two actors in history to win an Oscar for their portrayal of the same character.

9 / 25
New Line Cinema

#17. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

- Director: Peter Jackson
- Stacker score: 93.8
- Metascore: 92
- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Runtime: 178 minutes

Peter Jackson's “Lord of the Rings” trilogy kicked off in 2001 with this celebrated installment. After coming into possession of a powerful ring, a hobbit named Frodo (Elijah Wood) and his companions set out to destroy the relic before it ends up in the wrong hands. Hot on their tail is a range of murderous creatures, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the all-powerful ring.

10 / 25
Norma Productions

#16. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

- Director: Alexander Mackendrick
- Stacker score: 94.3
- Metascore: 100
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Runtime: 96 minutes

Some of the best films take a little time to catch on with audiences, eventually obtaining masterpiece status. Such was the case with 1957's “Sweet Smell of Success,” which underperformed upon its initial release, but has since earned itself a very loyal following. Converging multiple genres such as drama and noir, the movie centers on an unscrupulous Broadway columnist named J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster), who goes to great lengths to destroy his sister's relationship with a jazz musician.

You may also like: 100 best Western films of all time, according to critics

11 / 25
Charles Chaplin Productions

#15. Modern Times (1936)

- Director: Charles Chaplin
- Stacker score: 94.3
- Metascore: 96
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Runtime: 87 minutes

Charlie Chaplin reprised his role as The Tramp for this 1936 masterpiece, which stuck to silent-era traditions despite being made in the age of talkies. In the film, The Tramp struggles to make ends meet in a highly industrialized world, famously slithering his way through the gears of a machine during one of the era's most epochal scenes. Chaplin was reportedly inspired to make the film after talking about machinery and technology with Mahatma Gandhi.

12 / 25
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

#14. North by Northwest (1959)

- Director: Alfred Hitchcock
- Stacker score: 94.3
- Metascore: 98
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Runtime: 136 minutes

No list of great films is complete without Alfred Hitchcock, and this 1959 thriller finds the famous director at the top of his game. The movie stars Cary Grant as a New York ad executive, who gets caught up in the world of international espionage after being mistaken for a notorious spy. What follows is an epic struggle for survival, which culminates with a deadly showdown on Mount Rushmore.

13 / 25
Columbia Pictures Corporation

#13. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

- Director: Stanley Kubrick
- Stacker score: 94.3
- Metascore: 97
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Runtime: 95 minutes

Acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick enters the list with 1964's “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” a movie that puts the “dark” in dark comedy. In the film, a series of miscommunications lead to a nuclear showdown between the world's most powerful nations. As intentionally ridiculous the movie is, an early version of the script was even more so, with aliens watching the whole fiasco from space.

14 / 25
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

#12. Singin' in the Rain (1952)

- Directors: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
- Stacker score: 94.8
- Metascore: 99
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Runtime: 103 minutes

Arguably the most celebrated musical of all time, “Singin' in the Rain” takes place during the rise of talkies and finds the members of a production company struggling to adapt. Not only did Gene Kelly star, co-direct, and choreograph the film, but he performed a song-and-dance number with a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Debbie Reynolds co-stars in her breakthrough role as Kathy Selden.

15 / 25
Shamley Productions

#11. Psycho (1960)

- Director: Alfred Hitchcock
- Stacker score: 94.8
- Metascore: 97
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Runtime: 109 minutes

Far more than a heralded thriller, 1960's “Psycho” paved the way for the modern slasher genre, and furthermore upended various mainstream conventions. In telling the story of a murderous hotel owner, Alfred Hitchcock relied on everything from quick cuts to gripping music to a shape-shifting narrative, thereby delivering a completely new cinematic experience. To this day, the famous shower scene is among the most important sequences in movie history.

You may also like: Most Emmy wins of all time

16 / 25
Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions

#10. Vertigo (1958)

- Director: Alfred Hitchcock
- Stacker score: 95.3
- Metascore: 100
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Runtime: 128 minutes

Nothing is as it seems in “Vertigo,” an Alfred Hitchcock classic based on Boileau-Narcejac's 1954 novel “D'entre les morts” (“From Among the Dead”). In the film, a former police detective (James Stewart) is hired to trail a friend's wife (Kim Novak) who's been acting strangely and may be a suicide risk. The otherwise mundane gig goes haywire as the P.I. becomes obsessed with the woman and Hitchcock shares his most revelatory, personal production of his career.

17 / 25
RKO Radio Pictures

#9. Citizen Kane (1941)

- Director: Orson Welles
- Stacker score: 95.3
- Metascore: 100
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Runtime: 119 minutes

Here's a movie so great that when something else is likewise terrific, that thing is often referred to as the “Citizen Kane” of its respective arena. Accordingly, this 1941 film—which depicts the ambitious rise of newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles)—has only gotten better with age. It might no longer retain the #1 spot on lists of the greatest films, including this one, but ask the right cinephile, and they will likely assert “Citizen Kane” is still the best movie of them all.

18 / 25
Universal Pictures

#8. Schindler's List (1993)

- Director: Steven Spielberg
- Stacker score: 95.3
- Metascore: 94
- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Runtime: 195 minutes

While Steven Spielberg was no stranger to serious fare by the early 1990s, he nevertheless caught audiences by surprise when he released this award-winning drama. It tells the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who ultimately saved 1,100 Jewish lives during the Holocaust. Spielberg forewent a salary when making the film, and donated the profits to a charitable foundation.

19 / 25
New Line Cinema

#7. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

- Director: Peter Jackson
- Stacker score: 95.3
- Metascore: 94
- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Runtime: 201 minutes

In the final installment of Peter Jackson's “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the forces of good and evil do battle over the fate of Middle Earth, while Frodo reaches the last leg of his journey. Not only did the film earn over a billion dollars at the box office, but it won 11 Academy Awards out of 11 nominations, giving it the highest perfect score in Oscar history.

20 / 25
Miramax

#6. Pulp Fiction (1994)

- Director: Quentin Tarantino
- Stacker score: 95.3
- Metascore: 94
- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Runtime: 154 minutes

Quentin Tarantino's second directorial effort arguably remains his most quintessential work. Interweaving three violent stories—while simultaneously paying homage to a host of influences—“Pulp Fiction” is quite simply the stuff that great cinema is made of. Speaking of influences, the hit film was happy to pay it forward, inspiring a wave of upcoming auteurs.

You may also like: Top 100 Country songs of all time

21 / 25
Charles Chaplin Productions

#5. City Lights (1931)

- Director: Charles Chaplin
- Stacker score: 95.8
- Metascore: 99
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Runtime: 87 minutes

Sticking to his well-established roots, Chaplin released this primarily silent film three years into the talkie era. Rife with signature pantomime, it follows The Tramp (Chaplin) as he resorts to various extremes while trying to make a buck. It all paves the way for one of cinema’s most unforgettable final scenes, during which the story’s underlying pathos is laid bare.

22 / 25
Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions

#4. Rear Window (1954)

- Director: Alfred Hitchcock
- Stacker score: 95.8
- Metascore: 100
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Runtime: 112 minutes

In addition to striking the perfect balance of intrigue and suspense, this 1954 Hitchcock film endures through its perennial relatability. After all, who hasn't wondered what his or her neighbor might be up to behind closed doors? In “Rear Window,” the answer is potentially murder. Or is a wheelchair-bound James Stewart simply letting his paranoia get the best of him? To say anything more is to spoil the fun of watching this classic for the first time.

23 / 25
Warner Bros.

#3. Casablanca (1942)

- Director: Michael Curtiz
- Stacker score: 96.4
- Metascore: 100
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Runtime: 102 minutes

This 1942 masterwork takes place in the Moroccan town of Casablanca, where jaded nightclub owner Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) helps refugees flee to America to evade Nazi capture. After Blaine's former flame (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband show up seeking his help, he finds himself entering a world of trouble. Most cinephiles would argue “Casablanca” is the result of a perfect screenplay, yet when that very same screenplay was passed around under a different name in the 1980s, professional readers chastised it for having “too much dialog” and “not enough sex”. Nevertheless, the original script—and subsequent film—was about as close to perfect as a movie could get for its time.

24 / 25
Orion-Nova Productions

#2. 12 Angry Men (1957)

- Director: Sidney Lumet
- Stacker score: 96.4
- Metascore: 96
- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Runtime: 96 minutes

Snagging the #2 slot is this taut 1957 drama from Sidney Lumet, in which 12 (angry) jurors determine the fate of a suspected murderer. What starts as an open-and-shut case becomes something far more complex, as a lone holdout convinces the others that the defendant might not be guilty after all. As the debate unfolds, each juror's own respective prejudices bubble to surface, with all the action taking place inside the jury room.

25 / 25
Paramount Pictures

#1. The Godfather (1972)

- Director: Francis Ford Coppola
- Stacker score: 100
- Metascore: 100
- IMDb user rating: 9.2
- Runtime: 175 minutes

Stanley Kubrick himself used to reluctantly theorize that “The Godfather” was the greatest movie ever made, and most audiences and critics agree. Chronicling the exploits of the Corleone crime family, this 1972 masterpiece delivers everything one could ask for in a film, fusing elements of drama, violence, and suspense to absolute perfection. Indeed, there’s virtually no aspect of “The Godfather” that doesn’t remain iconic to this day, hence its status as the best movie of all time.

You may also like: 30 musicians with legendarily long careers

Trending Now