Best Movies of All Time

A friend of mine recently asked me to compile a list of what I considered to be some of the best movies of all time, broken down into categories.

Here’s my list, with brief commentary.

Caveat: It’s more a totally subjective account of films that I have enjoyed and found memorable -- rather than an objective assessment of cinematic quality or cultural importance.


Until the End of the World (1991) [d. Wim Wenders]: William Hurt, Solveig Dommartin, Sam Neill, Max von Sydow, and Jeanne Moreau star in a rambling, round-the-world journey of self-discovery. Good characters, interesting ideas, and a killer soundtrack. My number one favorite.

Blue Velvet (1986) [d. David Lynch]: Dennis Hopper menaces Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, and the audience in the purest expression of Lynch’s cinematic vision of America.

Jesus of Montreal (1989) [d. Denys Arcand]: A fascinating modern-dress allegorical exploration of the themes of the Christ mythos told through a troupe of amateur actors staging a cutting-edge passion play.

Love and Human Remains (1993) [d. Denys Arcand]: A dark vision of urban disaffection where good-looking young Canadians are sexually conflicted and miserable, full of ennui, weltschmertz, and schadenfreude; with Mia Kirschner looking tasty as a patent-leather-wearing dominatrix.

My Own Private Idaho (1991) [d. Gus Van Sant]: River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves in the roles they were born to play as two street hustlers who meet a bunch of weirdoes, with some interesting imagery and creative visuals along the way.

Ice Station Zebra (1968) [d. John Sturges]: Patrick McGoohan kicks ass at the North Pole in this Cold War thriller; with Rock Hudson and Ernest Borgnine.

The Eiger Sanction (1975) [d. Clint Eastwood]: Clint Eastwood versus George Kennedy in the Swiss Alps. What more could you want?

Birdy (1984) [d. Alan Parker]: Nicholas Cage and Matthew Modine star in a story of a withdrawn young man and his frustrated best friend. I could relate.


The Third Man (1949) [d. Carol Reed]: Orson Welles, at his amoral best, matches wits with the well-intentioned Joseph Cotten and the steely Trevor Howard in this noir classic. Unforgettable zither music will haunt you.

Stalag 17 (1953) [d. Billy Wilder]: William Holden rocks in this gripping tale of soldiers in a German POW camp during WW2. The inspiration for Hogan’s Heroes? You be the judge.

Charade (1963) [d. Stanley Donen]: Cary Grant is the manliest man ever and Audrey Hepburn looks delicious in this light-hearted thriller that I never get tired of watching. One of my all-time favorites.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) [d. Robert Mulligan]: Gregory Peck puts America to shame in this classic, starring my cousin’s best friend as “Scout.” No kidding!

The Naked Kiss (1964) [d. Samuel Fuller]: An early look at the dark underbelly of small-town America that was pushing the envelope in ’64. A hooker tries to get a fresh start, but can she escape her past? Perversion seethes under the surface of a Leave It to Beaver world.


2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) [d. Stanley Kubrick]: Cold, creepy, and mind-boggling sci-fi classic that made the genre respectable. Viewers with A.D.D. need not apply.

Planet of the Apes (1968) [d. Franklin J. Schaffner]: Charlton Heston burns up the screen in one of the greatest films of all time. The remake, the old TV series, and the increasingly silly sequels only tarnish the reputation of the senses-shattering original.

Star Crash (1979) [d. Luigi Cozzi]: Christopher Plummer and half-naked Caroline Munro mince around unconvincing sets in the ultimate “spaghetti sci-fi” flick that was a staple on Houlihan & Big Chuck. Laughable low-grade trash that is nevertheless enjoyable and memorable. Great antidote to pompous tripe like Star Wars.


My Name is Nobody (1973) [d. Tonino Valerii & Sergio Leone]: Terence Hill and Henry Fonda send up the “spaghetti western” genre in a funny, touching, and thoroughly enjoyable movie; with a fantastic score by Ennio Morricone.

Unforgiven (1992) [d. Clint Eastwood]: No holds barred as a gruesome-looking Clint gets revenge on Gene Hackman in a bleak and hopeless American West.


The Reflecting Skin (1990) [d. Philip Ridley]: The only scary movie that ever really scared me, it’s a tale of a boy whose imagination may or may not be running away with him in a desolate rural landscape.


Eraserhead (1977) [d. David Lynch]: The Lynchian classic of masculine angst and despair; works much better on the big screen, unfortunately. Somehow loses a lot when seen on a television set.

Prospero’s Books (1991) [d. Peter Greenaway]: John Gielgud does his only nude scene in this intriguing kaleidoscope of funky imagery set on a Shakespearean framework.

Girl on a Motorcycle (1968) [d. Jack Cardiff]: The Most Perfect Movie Ever Made features Marianne Faithfull as a leather-clad young adulteress making a masochistic stream-of-consciousness journey to her cold-hearted lover (Alain Delon) upon her surging Harley-Davidson amidst a psychedelic miasma of solarization.


Dr. Strangelove (1964) [d. Stanley Kubrick]: Hilarious tour-de-force for Peter Sellers as three different characters in this classic nihilistic atomic-age satire. George C. Scott and Slim Pickens are unforgettable.

The Big Bus (1976) [d. James Frawley]: Joseph Bologna and Stockard Channing lead an all-star cast in this delirious spoof of disaster movies. A must-see for Stuart Margolin fans.

Time Bandits (1981) [d. Terry Gilliam]: Time-traveling midgets lead a little boy on a terrifying adventure to confront evil in its purest form. Fun for the whole family!

Night on Earth (1991) [d. Jim Jarmusch]: A series of vignettes set in taxi cabs operating simultaneously around the globe, moving us geographically from dusk till dawn, and offering some very funny characters. Awesome score by Tom Waits pulls it all together.

Bob Roberts (1992) [d. Tim Robbins]: Fake documentary about political hypocrisy hits all the right buttons as Giancarlo Esposito tries to expose the folk-singing right-wing candidate played by Robbins.


The Bicycle Thief (1948) [d. Vittorio De Sica]: Touching story of a desperate dad in postwar Italy trying to provide for his family without losing his son’s respect. A deft touch makes a possibly maudlin premise into an all-time classic of the cinema.

Wings of Desire (1987) [d. Wim Wenders]: Introspective study of an angel (Bruno Ganz) who falls in love with the gorgeous Solveig Dommartin and crosses over from his black & white world into the overwhelming technicolor landscape of West Berlin. Requires truckloads of patience, but is ultimately rewarding.

Delicatessen (1991) [d. Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet]: A twisted fantasy wherein the rubber-faced Dominique Pinon tries to avoid being turned into supper for an apartment building full of kooky cannibals.


Koyaanisqatsi (1983) [d. Godfrey Reggio]: A mind-bending collage of beautiful cinematography set to a haunting score by Philip Glass, illustrating the imbalances of modern life.

Triumph of the Will (1934) [d. Leni Reifenstahl]: A filmmaking genius transforms a short, ugly, Austrian fanatic into a god, making Nazism seem like the coolest thing since the Roman Empire. Must be seen to be believed.


At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Tony Bonzana said...

If you hadn't seen it yet, try "Mondo Cane" as a great documentary, of italian production. Thank you for the list of movies by the way.


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