We all have our favorite movies, and they may have changed over time. As a child, there was nothing better than “The Last Starfighter” and “The Neverending Story,” I couldn’t wait to go back to my grandparents to catch them on HBO (we didn’t have cable in the country). And I would go back in time and wait in that ridiculously long line to watch “Batman” in theaters again.
You grow to love and appreciate various films as you mature. Being a fluent Italian speaker, I’m now partial to some of the best foreign films like “Cinema Paradiso” and the occasional exceptional movie remake, “Sabrina.“
The list below is dominated by drama and crime flicks, but that doesn’t mean nobody enjoys a good comedy or romance film anymore. Each of these movies ranked highly on the IMDb Top 250 Movies list. The highest total votes settled the tie-breakers, which we discuss at the end.
For now, let’s discuss the top 10 best-rated movies of all time, and maybe after, you can come up with your own list.
Top 10 Highest-Rated Movies of All Time, According to IMDb
- Fight Club (1999) – 8.8
- Inception (2010) – 8.8
- Pulp Fiction (1994) – 8.9
- 12 Angry Men (1957) – 9.0
- The Godfather Part II (1974) – 9.0
- Schindler’s List (1993) – 9.0
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – 9.0
- The Dark Knight (2008) – 9.0
- The Godfather (1972) – 9.2
- The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – 9.3
10 ‘Fight Club’ (1999)
IMDb: 8.8/10 2.2M | Popularity: 175 | Top 250: #12 | Metascore:
Ah, the “club” you can never talk about but can’t help breaking the first rule of…and who could blame us. With so many valuable lessons, a great script, and action-packed sequences, it’s hard to keep quiet about David Fincher‘s “Fight Club.”
Then there’s Brad Pitt‘s rock-hard physique and impeccable acting as Tyler Durden. Yeah…Ed Norton, as the narrator, is impressive too, and who can forget Bob, aka Meat Loaf (not the one mom made you for dinner).
Fincher’s vision in “Fight Club” presents a subversive take on modern society, making breaking free from the shackles of consumerism and starting an underground fight gym feel appealing and oddly liberating. It forces us to question the superficial definitions of masculinity, success, and identity that society adheres to.
And don’t forget the many great one-liners in this movie; it’s no surprise it rates highly with viewers.
Some of my favorites include the following:
“The things you own end up owning you.”
“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”
and the often overlooked…
“We’re a generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.”
Despite the movie not getting meteoric results from critics like others on this list, it has a well-deserved high ranking among fans….and remains a favorite. You’ll be hard-pressed not to find something enticing about this movie – personally, it made me prioritize what I value. Also, did we mention Brad Pitt was half-naked in the film?
9 ‘Inception’ (2010)
Prepare yourself to get lost in the multi-layered dream world of “Inception” (be sure to bring a map, you’ll need it). You’ll need to give this movie a second or third watch not to get lost in the sauce. So many dream layers to keep up with – it can be a challenge to keep track…but well worth it.
In the film, Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) and his team are tasked with a seemingly impossible mission. They must implant an idea into someone‘s mind. This dangerous journey escalates Cobb‘s life to higher stakes than he ever imagined possible.
Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece starring Leonardo DiCaprio captures viewers‘ imaginations due to its science–fiction setting combined with complex plotlines. It rises above the genre as it pushes boundaries continuously – making it one of cinema fans‘ beloved action films across genres alike.
“Inception” is a masterful combination of science fiction, heist action, and psychological thriller. The film introduces the notion of shared dreaming by merging its layered dream worlds in an intricate design. Its narrative structure centers on multiple dreams within dreams that move slower as they go deeper; this effect is known as ‘dream time.’
Furthermore, it has become iconic thanks to its use of totems – personal objects with properties that differentiate between reality and the dream world. These ideas culminate in a climax leaving us questioning whether what we see is real or not!
By pushing traditional boundaries while raising high stakes through intense action sequences, “Inception” engages viewers actively to fully understand its complexity and meaning.
8 ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994)
Ted: “You ever seen any movie ever? He’s the black guy.”
It was intended to be comical, but Ted’s exaggeration of Samuel L Jackson‘s movie presence isn’t far from the truth. Casting him in this movie was an absolute stroke of genius.
“Pulp Fiction,” the classic movie directed by Quentin Tarantino (with some decent acting as Jimmie), stands out with its complex narrative and iconic dialogue. It engages viewers through a non-linear structure that explores multiple perspectives. Its characters have complexity and humanity, while an eclectic soundtrack sets each scene’s tone – creating an unforgettable atmosphere.
What other movie has impeccable timing with quoting bible verses and murder? And then proclaim a miracle for not being shot after committing said murder. It’s exceptional scriptwriting at its best.
We also see some classic Travolta dance moves along with Uma Thurman. Then, a comically but meticulously orchestrated brains clean-up job by The Wolf (Harvey Keitel). And in perfect Bruce Willis fashion, his character, Butch, gets to save the day and ride off in the sunset on his newly acquired “chopper” while proclaiming that “Zed’s dead.”
John Travolta (as Vincent) and Samuel L Jackson (as Jules) experienced newfound fame after this film. Plus, it has been referenced in many media because of memorable quotes from actors who delivered outstanding performances throughout the movie. This unique style has influenced cinema since 1994, making “Pulp Fiction” one of history’s greatest works.
7 ’12 Angry Men’ (1957)
Proof positive that simplicity and excellent scripting can generate a superb cinema experience, this movie has it and has stood the test of time.
Sidney Lumet‘s “12 Angry Men” leaves you feeling like a caged lion is in the room. Set entirely within one jury chamber, this film depicts how raw and complex emotions unfold when twelve men debate a murder defendant’s fate.
This movie isn’t about fancy locations or visuals – it sucks you into its pressure cooker of human spirit and drama. Each juror reflects our biases through their worldviews: they become like mirrors to us all, showing how personal experiences can cloud judgment. We never learn of the defendant’s ethnicity, but the bigotry towards him is shamelessly intense.
The camera slowly closes in on the jurors with almost palpable tension; walls squeeze tighter while emotion escalates inch by inch until we hold our breath for what comes next. There is no typical popcorn flick here – instead, courage arises from standing alone against a crowd’s opinion…making us question whether we’d be ‘Juror #8’ in such a situation.
Reasonable doubt slowly creeps through the jurors as each piece of “evidence” is meticulously questioned.
Ultimately, we only learn the names of two jurors, Juror 8 as Davis (played by Henry Fonda) and Juror 9 as McCardle (Joseph Sweeney). The rest will have to remain a mystery.
6 ‘The Godfather Part II’ (1974)
“The Godfather Part II” is a gut punch that stands out for exploring moral ambiguity. Al Pacino‘s Michael Corleone is a man torn by the consequences of unchecked ambition. He’s achieved power, yet his family is slipping away from him the tighter he holds onto them.
Robert De Niro shines in portraying Vito Corleone; he shows fortitude born from necessity rather than an aspiration to control others. We see Vito’s journey through it all – not just descending into an underworld but rising to something greater than himself.
This film confronts us with those moral questions and encourages soul-searching reflection on ambition versus morality.
The movie does not glorify crime life but instead highlights its loneliness with a devastating conclusion that proves fateful for all involved. All these facets make what could have been just another mafia film into something profound: an opera about morality’s decay that lingers long after viewing.
Finally, that one scene at the end shows Michael in solitude, haunted by his decisions and actions throughout his life of trying to protect ‘what was yours.’ The tragedy here lies within its reminder: power doesn’t bring victory – it brings sacrifice and loneliness.
5 ‘Schindler’s List’ (1993)
An incredible movie, full stop. Its powerful narrative and top-notch acting make it stand out. It’s impossible to watch it without crying.
How often do you hear the word devout Nazi and savior used in the same sentence? Enter Oscar Schindler (played by Liam Neeson), the wartime profiteer (using Jewish slave labor).
The movie offers a unique look into the life of the unlikely protagonist, Oscar Schindler (who saved Jewish lives), and one of the darkest parts of our history – The Holocaust.
Strikingly, the film is almost entirely black and white, with only a little girl wearing a red coat appearing twice to symbolize innocence lost due to brutality. Red stands out for its stark reminder of reality, even amidst war and chaos.
Director Steven Spielberg refused payment as he considered any money earned ‘blood money’ given the context; instead used profits towards founding the Shoah Foundation, recording survivors’ testimonies from genocide events alongside holocaust victims ones too.
To him, this was personal. Spielberg’s own family were Jewish immigrants originally from Ukraine.
Hence, they faced atrocities like those depicted in the movie himself, taking on new challenges far removed from his usual escapist blockbusters such as Jaws or Indiana Jones, courageously tackling the deeply painful subject matter head-on.
Schindler’s List isn’t just a movie but a testament to humanity’s resilience to face unimaginable horror that will never fade away.
4 ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ (2003)
This movie brought J.R.R. Tolkien‘s epic trilogy to an unforgettable close with incredible sets, costumes, and props that were faithful to his vision. It’s an epic journey that captures friendship, courage, and sacrifice.
Minas Tirith stands out as one of its most impressive achievements; constructed on a grand scale, it has become one of movie history’s most remarkable sights.
Frodo’s struggle up Mount Doom will stay etched in your memory forever, as will Aragorn bowing humbly before Hobbits. We witness their resilience even when faced with overwhelming odds – proving Tolkien’s genius for writing realistic characters who inspire us all. Beyond battles or rings, this film shows us how important camaraderie can be on any quest.
From its meticulous world-building to Peter Jackson‘s grandiose direction, the film made history at the Academy Awards by sweeping all 11 nominations for which it was put forward. This had never been done before. Its lengthy runtime (over 200 minutes) also set records, yet audiences stayed engaged throughout, proving its storytelling prowess.
In short, “The Return Of The King” captured Middle Earth uniquely – what few adaptations have managed so well-celebrating J.R.R. Tolkien’s legacy forever.
3 ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008)
Christopher Nolan‘s second installment in his Batman trilogy is remarkable. It ranks #3 on our best movies of all time and #1 on our best action movies list.
Heath Ledger‘s portrayal of The Joker – captivating and terrifyingly brilliant – redefined the character for a whole generation. His performance posthumously earned an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor – rare in superhero films.
High praises considering how excellent Jack Nicholson was as the purple, dancing to Prince music jester in the original “Batman.”
Ledger brought unpredictability to his role as the clown prince of crime; chaos overwhelmingly present amidst a world struggling for order that can be encapsulated by one chilling line: “Introduce a little anarchy, upset the established order…and everything becomes chaos.”
In addition to this unique approach from Ledger on source material, there was something special about how Nolan grounded it all into reality. Gotham felt real, with complex characters wearing costumes rather than cartoonish caricatures, which often saturate other comic book-based blockbusters.
Above all else, “The Dark Knight” stands out as a more gritty crime drama featuring superheroes than traditional high-octane blockbuster fare exploring themes such as morality & heroism, setting it apart from others within its genre, making it not just excellent but exceptional cinema without comparison.
2 ‘The Godfather’ (1972)
Despite having the highest popularity and the only perfect Metascore on our list of the best movies of all time, this classic Italian crime movie barely missed the number one spot.
But it’s not just a movie about the mafia. It’s a tragedy of family and moral choices. Al Pacino plays Michael Corleone, who attempts to escape his father’s criminal lifestyle but eventually finds himself pulled in by duty and loyalty to his family name.
Michael faces internal struggles throughout the film as he weighs personal values against familial obligation– culminating with an iconic scene where we watch him crumble under pressure as he chooses to take revenge on behalf of his dad..a choice that seals both our beliefs in the human will power yet also shows us how this commitment can come at significant cost; ‘trading one’s soul’ so-to-speak.
And then there is the closing shot: doors shutting – leaving friends outside while isolating himself, solidifying his transformation.
This ultimately leaves viewers questioning themselves — How far would you go? At what cost?
This digging additionally sets “The Godfather” apart from other crime films, making it more than just entertainment.
The backstory to this movie alone makes it worthy of topping this list. Keep reading below…
Interesting Filming Facts
If you haven’t seen the Paramount Original series “The Offer” starring Miles Teller that depicts the filming of this movie, check it out on Prime Video.
Paramount Pictures faced a difficult decision when adapting Mario Puzo’s book, “The Godfather.” The Italian-American community was not pleased with how they may be portrayed. They sought to shut down production, and unions threatened the studio if their demands were unmet.
Al Ruddy (Miles Teller) negotiated with Joseph Colombo’s (Giovanni Ribisi) group on behalf of the producers for them to make this movie happen. Terms included removing any direct references to the Mafia or Cosa Nostra from the script, even though they existed in Marios’ novel.
Though violence is shown realistically, characters are given depth beyond criminal activities; humanizing these figures permitted filmmaking while avoiding romanticized portrayal and negative stereotypes that would have upset communities associated with organized crime. This real-life drama added emotions deeply embedded into the culture depicted onscreen – creating an authentic experience surrounding its release.
1 ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ (1994)
IMDb: 9.3/10 2.7M | Popularity: 68 | Top 250: #1 | Metascore:
Get busy living or get busy dying.
You’re gd right! Morgan Freeman said it best in this epic jailbreak redemption story. So many reasons why this is the best movie of all time. Let’s see if we can recount the ways it’s deemed so.
This tale of human resilience and friendship encourages us to persevere in adversity. The story follows Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) as he is wrongly convicted of murder but continues to cling to hope despite his imprisonment at Shawshank Prison.
Andy’s relationship with Red (Morgan Freeman) blossoms into one that embodies strength through companionship formed in shared suffering.
One poignant scene portrays this bond when Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” plays throughout the prison yard – an awe-inspiring exemplar of how art can provide solace even if it’s only fleeting.
In the end, after years spent tied up by false allegations, Andy emerges triumphant from his ordeal, vindicated and rejoicing upon reaching freedom. When he finally escapes, he starts a new life in Mexico with a significant severance, courtesy of the corrupt embezzler, Warden Norton (played by Bob Gunton), who ultimately redecorates his office with his brains using a pistol.
Most think the film’s lesson was never to lose hope, which is admirable. I can appreciate that deduction. Nobody can argue it since it’s a vital slogan to the film’s finality.
For me, the movie’s underlying lesson was never to get married. I never want to be framed for killing an unfaithful wife. Get beaten and raped in prison regularly. Spend almost 20 years prospecting a tunnel with a tiny rock hammer. Then have to crawl through hundreds of yards of raw sewage to obtain freedom.
All for a broken-down boat on a beach in Mexico? No, thank you. I’ll stay single.
Honorable Mention: Best Movies of All Time
The following films barely missed the top 10 best movies of all time due to fewer votes (but still have the same 8.8 out of 10 score). We’ll list these can’t-miss movies so that you can watch them next.
Forrest Gump (1994)
Just barely missing out on the #10 spot of best movies of all time by a few thousand votes is as lovable as ice cream, “Forrest Gump” starring Tom Hanks.
It combines reality and fiction to create an enchanting world seen through the eyes of Forrest. Despite his limited intellectual abilities, he experienced numerous significant moments in American history, like shaking hands with presidents or influencing popular culture.
The merging of historical footage into the story adds authenticity while offering insight from an unconventional viewpoint.
But ultimately, it’s not only about historical events; but also about Forrest’s journey torn between love for Jenny and optimism towards life encapsulated by “Life is like a box of chocolates.” This human aspect makes “Forrest Gump” extraordinary, blending personal narrative with broader history.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
If “The Lords of the Rings” film series were just one movie, it would probably dominate every “best movies of all time” list.
This “Rings” chapter is a world-building masterpiece with meticulous attention to detail and an immersive, tangible, and alive universe. But “Fellowship” stands out for something else – its exploration of fellowship.
Its diverse characters unite for a shared cause – facing danger through courage, friendship, and sacrifice. Consider key moments like at the Council, where each individual pledges their service, or in Moria, when collective strength transcends gloomy darkness. These scenes make this film unique; it shows us how solidarity can light even our darkest paths.
This movie captures not just Middle Earth landscapes but more profound human sentiments too – emotions such as love, trustworthiness, and hope which drive individuals into forming strong bonds united by common causes no matter who they are or where do stand on life’s path.
“The Fellowship of the Ring” is an epic journey with a timeless message – that unity, courage, and friendship can make us all stronger together and are worth protecting at any cost.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
This second chapter continues the narrative that started in “The Fellowship of the Ring,” raising visual and emotional stakes. Its parallel storytelling focuses on three distinct storylines, tied together by intertwining fates — Aragorn’s defense of Rohan, Merry and Pippin’s negotiation with the Ents; Frodo and Sam’s journey to Mordor accompanied by Gollum/Smeagol (raising new levels of complexity through Andy Serkis‘ motion capture performance as a tormented creature).
Helm’s Deep is a pivotal point for our heroes where courage stands against despair during this monumental battle scene featuring overwhelming visual effects thanks to choreography work done behind it. King Theohen delivers stirring words before his courageous stand. At the same time, Gandalf arrives heroically at the last minute leading Riders of Rohan providing hope in the face of desperation – themes that echo throughout the trilogy.
All these elements make “Two Towers” a distinctive bridge between other films from the Middle Earth saga, ultimately setting up the finale. Creating an impactful statement about friendship, sacrifice & hope shows the middle chapter’s potential to expand the story without losing its identity.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1996)
The film originally titled “Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo” in Italy is considered one of the best Westerns of all time. Starring Clint Eastwood, it provides a unique lens to explore human nature.
The movie features three complex characters: Blondie (The Good), Angel Eyes (The Bad), and Tuco (the Ugly). Their motivations unfold as they interact with the world around them.
Tuco, played masterfully by Eli Wallach, stands out. Despite his label of ‘Ugly,’ he is perhaps the most developed character in the film. He is flawed, yet there’s a vulnerability to him that’s compelling.
His character provides valuable insight into morality, which suggests that good or bad labels don’t fully encompass human nature. Instead, shades of grey often determine our actions throughout life’s journey.
The film is replete with scenes that capture intense tension. Survival instincts kick in when characters confront perilous situations. A standout example is the confrontation at Sad Hill Cemetery, where three gunslingers face off over buried gold coins.
Ennio Morricone’s pulsing score adds another layer to these tense moments. It effectively transports us to 1800s America during the Civil War. This serves as a constant reminder of how extreme circumstances can reveal one’s true identity.
“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” breaks from traditional character portrayals. It delves into raw emotion, showing us that humor and kindness can still be found amid life’s struggles.
This film explores human values beyond mere labels, which adds depth to the narrative and prompts thoughtful consideration. The timeless themes of the movie continue to resonate, encouraging us to reflect on our lives today.