What are the best movies of all time? Depends on who you ask, of course. We’ve got our own ideas, ranging from the best movies out right now, to all-time Academy Award-winning classics. But in a fascinating experiment, we’ve decided to ask only actors—including such luminaries as Juliette Binoche, Andy Serkis, Bill Hader and Nick Kroll—for their favorites. After receiving dozens of ballots from working professionals and compiling their votes, we present a distinctly performance-centric top-100 list, filled with great picks. Dive in and let us know where you differ.
Edited by Joshua Rothkopf, produced by Vivienne van Vliet. Written by Dave Calhoun, Cath Clarke, David Ehrlich, Tom Huddleston and Joshua Rothkopf.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best movies of all time
100 best movies as chosen by actors
Director: Sydney Pollack
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Bill Murray
A struggling actor (Hoffman) secretly cross-dresses as a woman to land a role in a daytime soap opera—and gets too good at the deception.
“Who doesn't want to see Dustin Hoffman in a dress talking with a southern accent?”—Nick Kroll
“The game-changing cinematic cross-dressing performance—and a more important movie, from both a craft and sensibility perspective, than most people make it.”—BD Wong
Time Out says: “The tone is quick-witted and appealing, with some of the smartest dialogue this side of Billy Wilder, and a wonderfully sure-footed performance from Jessica Lange.”
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan
The stately, Oscar-winning Mafia epic revived Marlon Brando's career and made a star of Al Pacino.
“The richness of the world that Francis Ford Coppola creates, and the stillness of Al Pacino’s performance—I almost luxuriate in these things because the feeling is so intense.”—George MacKay
Time Out says: “An everyday story of Mafia folk, incorporating a severed horse's head in the bed and a number of heartwarming family occasions, as well as pointers on how not to behave in your local trattoria (i.e., blasting the brains of your co-diners all over their fettuccini).”
Director: John Cassavetes
Cast: Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk, Fred Draper
Gena Rowlands gives one of the most emotionally charged performances in the history of cinema as a housewife experiencing a nervous breakdown. Peter Falk costars as the husband driving her around the fabled bend.
“Gena Rowlands made such an impact on me. She is one my great influences.”—Betty Buckley
“This is one of the most incredible performances I have ever seen. Gena Rowlands makes me physically tense while watching her downward spiral but not in a way that she blocks you out. You can see every fleeting thought and feeling flicker across her face and body. Unbelievable.”—Kyle Soller
Time Out says: “Rowlands unfortunately overdoes the manic psychosis at times, but Falk is persuasively insane as the husband, and the result is an astonishing, compulsive film, directed with a crackling energy.”
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Cast: Philippe Noiret, Enzo Cannavale, Antonella Attili
A warm, romantic story about an elderly Italian projectionist’s friendship with a young boy.
“I seriously wonder if the people who dismiss this film have ears. Cinema Paradiso is mainly a delivery device for Ennio Morricone’s most profoundly emotional score—and there’s a lot of competition for that title. Overall, it’s a pure an expression of movie love as I have ever seen.”—Joshua Rothkopf, New York film editor
Time Out says: “The film retains its wide-eyed charm, pitched halfway between unrestrained romanticism and unknowing kitsch. It’s never exactly been fashionable to like Cinema Paradiso, and time won’t have done much to soften the sneers of dissenters. But the advantage of brazen sentimentality is that it gives the film very little to lose.”
Director: Robert Mulligan
Cast: Gregory Peck, John Megna, Frank Overton
This adaptation of Harper Lee’s landmark novel features Gregory Peck as an Alabama lawyer who defies prejudice by defending a young black man accused of rape.
“It’s my favorite book, and they didn’t fuck it up. ‘Stand up, your father is passing’—the line still makes me weep. It’s a masterclass in how it is always better to do what is right than what is popular.”—Emma Kennedy
Time Out says: “It looks like a storybook of the Old South, with dappled sunlight and woodwormy porches, and Peck is everyone’s favorite uncle.”
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall
With this grand, sweeping sequel, Coppola cuts between Mafia don Vito Corleone’s youth in Sicily (and later, New York City) and the fallout from his death decades later.
“There’s the taut, simmering intensity of Al Pacino; there’s the warm, swaggering charisma of Robert De Niro; and there’s Robert Duvall’s masterfully understated performance. I mean, it’s The Godfather—what can I say?”—Riz Ahmed
Time Out says: “This is quite simply one of the saddest movies ever made, a tale of loss, grief and absolute loneliness, an unflinching stare into the darkest moral abyss.”
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton
Woody Allen is Alvy Singer, a New York comic trying to understand what went wrong during his bumpy love affair with the complex, winning Annie (Keaton).
"When I think of this film, I think of two scenes: first, Diane Keaton and Woody Allen's characters struggling to cook lobsters; second, Woody's Alvy going for Easter lunch with Annie's relatives and us seeing how they all see him as a rabbi. The rapport between Woody and Diane is electric. The film now feels like a blueprint for so many that came later on—and not just Woody's own."—Dave Calhoun, Global film editor, Time Out
Time Out says: “This is the link between Woody Allen’s ‘earlier, funnier’ stuff and more probing works like Interiors and Manhattan. Would that we all could build such masterful bridges.”
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds
Anderson’s sprawling tale about a genuinely “gifted” porn star (Mark Wahlberg) is where the director’s talent for big-picture storytelling first made itself apparent. It also wins the contest for the best prosthetic-cock cameo of the past few decades, hands down.
“Punch Drunk Love is probably my favorite of Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies, but this is the one I think best marries his ambition, technical perfection and sheer verve. One of America’s all-time greatest filmmakers hit it out of the park at essentially his first at-bat.”—Zoe Kazan
“His films are where you dream of being as an actor.”—Patrick Kennedy
Time Out says: “What stiffens this unashamedly exhibitionist movie’s muscles are its beautifully judged performances, from Burt Reynolds’ stand-out as porn-king auteur/father figure, to Julianne Moore’s superb cokehead survivor-star and William H. Macy’s humiliated cuckold, right down to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s gut-wrenching gay crew member.”
Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Cast: Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring, Moira Shearer
A heady, dazzling tale of a dancer (Shearer) caught between the demands of love and work.
“Pretty much perfect in every way. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger were masters, and this film about the heights and depths of creativity makes full use of their talents.”—Zoe Kazan
“Completely unique and compelling.”—Anne-Marie Duff
Time Out says: “Blending impressionist art and expressionist film; blurring the barriers between theater and cinema, body and camera, reality and dream; drawing equally on the avant-garde and the classical; the centerpiece ballet is a sequence of sheer, reckless transcendence.”
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd
Yes, as a matter of fact, we are talkin’ to you. Robert De Niro stars as a psychotic cabbie alongside Jodie Foster, who plays a pubescent prostitute, in this classic set in seedy ’70s Gotham.
“I first saw this when I was in fifth grade at a sleepover and it completely changed my life. For me it’s the best directed and acted film of all time. If you want to learn how to act on film, all you have to do is watch Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver.”—Bill Hader
Time Out says: “Right from the opening credits, as we spy a cab emerging from steam and the eyes of Travis Bickle (De Niro) reflected in his rear-view mirror, we know we’re in someone’s personal hell.”
Director: Sidney Lumet
Cast: Al Pacino, John Cazale, Penelope Allen
A desperate, likable schmo (Pacino) tries to pull off a Brooklyn bank robbery in broad daylight and bites off more than he can chew.
“Brilliant and unexpected. Al Pacino and John Cazale give two beautiful performances in the kind of movie I always wanted to be in. Also, the late Sidney Lumet is a director I would have loved to work with.”—Freddie Fox
Time Out says: “A richly detailed, meandering portrait of an incompetent, anxiety-ridden, homosexual bank robber played with ferocious and self-destructive energy by Pacino.”
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci
In the 25 years since Scorsese’s rapturously entertaining gangster classic debuted, we’ve seen the release of The Sopranos, Pulp Fiction and Breaking Bad—all of which owe a debt to arguably the most influential film of the director’s career.
“If it is on, I have to watch it. The sheer epic scope of the passage of time noted by voiceover, music and stellar production design makes it a masterpiece in my eyes. There isn’t a false note to be found among the many sprawling performances by an utterly perfect ensemble.”—John Gallagher Jr.
Time Out says: “The movie places an unusual emphasis on verbiage: beautiful arias of profanity, neurotic scheming, paranoid delusions. It’s impossible to imagine a gab-happy filmmaker like Quentin Tarantino rising without Goodfellas.”
Director: Bruce Robinson
Cast: Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann, Richard Griffiths
A huge cult film in its native England, this acerbic comedy stars Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann as two unemployed actors in the late ’60s who embark on a disastrous holiday.
“Every line of dialogue is quotable gold. The first time I saw it I wanted to write down each word but was far too mesmerized. It’s as hilarious as it’s heartbreaking. I heard Bruce Robinson originally imagined the film as a novel, which makes sense given its sweeping literary tone. It plays out like a grand old classic.”—John Gallagher Jr
Time Out says: “Withnail only gets better with time. Yes, it’s funny, but it’s also tender and sad, from the arresting sound of Procol Harum’s ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ in the opening scene to its final, rainy farewell.”
Director: Ken Loach
Cast: David Bradley, Brian Glover, Freddie Fletcher
British filmmaker Loach is consistently named as a major influence by directors from around the world; this film is proof that all that praise is more than warranted. Loach’s unsentimental, affecting tale of the relationship between an impoverished boy and his pet falcon set the mold for every examination of working-class strife that would follow.
“You might have to watch this one with subtitles, the Yorkshire accents are so thick. But it’s worth it. A scene where a young boy explains to his class how he trains a kestrel is one of the truly transcendent moments in film. It’s beautiful.”—Bill Hader
Time Out says: “Kes is one of the most astute, engaged films about education and what it takes for kids to be excited about learning—or passionate about anything, whether in the classroom or roaming the fields with a feathered friend.”
Director: Victor Fleming
Cast: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger
The look on Judy Garland’s face when she first sees Oz. The cackle of the Wicked Witch of the West. The melody to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Ray Bolger’s wonderfully loose-limbed dance. Flying monkeys. You can’t improve on this one.
“This movie changed my life forever. I saw it for the first time when I was five years old, and even then I remember worshipping the Wicked Witch of the West. Margaret Hamilton just looked like she was having the most fun of anyone. And that’s the exact moment I knew what I wanted to do with my life.”—Kristen Johnson
Time Out says: “Like Chaplin’s The Kid or E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Wizard of Oz simply lays bare primal emotions. It exposes our childhood anxieties about abandonment and powerlessness and brings to light the tension between the repressive comforts of home and the liberating terrors of the unknown marking all our adult lives.”
Director: Elia Kazan
Cast: Marlon Brando, Karl Madden. Lee J. Cobb
Marlon Brando’s softheaded utterances, his angelic frown and darkening stare as Terry Malloy, dockworker and washed-up boxer, still burn out of the actor’s deep conviction 60 years on. A beautiful and important film.
“I know, I know, I'm biased. But what an amazing film that absolutely captures what was a sea change in American acting. Iconic for a reason.”—Zoe Kazan
Time Out says: “Superb performances (none more so than Brando as Terry Malloy, the ex-boxer unwittingly entangled in corrupt union politics), a memorably colorful script by Budd Schulberg, and a sure control of atmosphere make this account of Brando’s struggles against a gangster’s hold over the union powerful stuff.”
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd
Stanley Kubrick presents horror at its most artful, as Jack Nicholson takes an off-season job as a caretaker at a snowed-in Colorado hotel, and brings his family along for the ride.
“Contemplating the sheer mastery that went into this film—from its Steadicam tracking shots to its overall glacial freeze—is almost too frightening to bear. I don’t need the movie to be some kind of hidden apology for faking the Apollo moon landing (as some conspirators have suggested) for it to work for me. Perfect to watch on a snowy day as the light slants sideways.”—Joshua Rothkopf, New York film editor
Time Out says: “All of Stanley Kubrick’s films demand to be seen on a big screen. They’re about people trapped in huge, indifferent machines gone wrong, from a heist plot to a spaceship.”
Director: Lars von Trier
Cast: Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgård, Katrin Cartlidge
Lars Von Trier’s earthy, Scotland-set melodrama, both strange and tragic, tells of a woman (Watson) whose dying oil-worker husband urges her to sleep with other men.
“The first time I saw this film, I thought my heart was going to burst. There was an immediacy to the filmmaking that I had never experienced before. I loved the chapter cards and the ’70s rock songs, and I was so completely swept up in that mad, sick, romantic, tragic story. Everyone in the film is fantastic, especially my all-time favorite actress Katrin Cartlidge, but Emily Watson is totally devastating. The performance has a transcendence to it, like she's channeling spirits. It is so intense and so real, and the camera is totally merged with her, and you're just feeling, almost physically, every second of this performance which swings from childlike naïveté to violent and complicated sexuality to absolute grief and despair. It's unbelievable.”—Melanie Lynskey
Time Out says: “It’s a remarkable achievement for all concerned, with Katrin Cartlidge, as Bess’s widowed sister-in-law, sharing the acting laurels with the radiant Emily Watson, and writer-director Lars von Trier building the emotional and dramatic intensity with consummate skill.”
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson
Remember when the term Tarantino-esque hadn’t quite cracked the lexicon yet? Then this triptych of tales happened. Surprisingly, the video-store-geek-turned-auteur’s criminal opus still feels fresh, despite the legion of god-awful clones it’s spawned. Accept no substitutes, and relive ’90s cinema glory daze one more time.
“I am drawn to filmmakers who are blessed enough to take the rules, respect them and flip them on their head—all the while maintaining an entertaining piece. Tarantino personifies that here.”—David Gyasi
Time Out says: “There’s plenty of sharp, sassy, profane dialogue, and there are plenty of acute, funny references to pop culture, though the talk sometimes delays the action, and the references sometimes seem self-consciously arch.”
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen
A Roman general fallen into slavery (Crowe) seeks to avenge the death of his family at the hands of an emperor’s corrupt son.
“I remember being so awed when I watched this. I was completely thrilled by the scale of the battle and the gladiator scenes, and I was lost in the darkness of Joaquin Phoenix's performance as Commodus.”—George MacKay
Time Out says: “The cast is strong (notably Connie Nielsen as Commodus's vacillating sister, and the late Oliver Reed, unusually endearing as a gladiator owner), the pacing lively and the sets, swordplay and catapults impressive.”
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Cast: Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé, Saïd Taghmaoui
Full of attitude and insight, this French drama offers a night and day on the streets of Paris as three friends roam the city in the wake of a shocking act of police brutality.
“This bristles with authenticity and realism, and yet it’s such a honed and composed vision. It’s probably my favorite film ever. It’s dangerous, hilarious, bold, game-changing.”—Riz Ahmed
Time Out says: “Society may be on the point of self-combustion, but this film betrays no appetite for the explosion. A vital, scalding piece of work.”
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss
Or, as we like to call it, Three Men and a Shark. Yes, it’s the film that created the template for the contemporary Hollywood blockbuster. Pity that most of its successors suck so hard.
“So much more than a movie about a shark! The three leads play off each other beautifully.”—John Dagleish
“I watch it every Fourth of July. It has everything you’d want in a movie. It’s what we’ll show the aliens when they land: ‘This is called a movie.’”—Bill Hader
“I still can’t believe that Steven Spielberg came along and changed the whole game with this movie before he was even 30 years old. Now, 40 years later, it is just as compelling, thrilling and terrifying as ever.”—John Gallagher Jr.
Time Out says: “Is there such a thing as a perfect film? One that knows what it wants to achieve and does it, flawlessly, artfully and intelligently? If so, then Jaws is as good a candidate as any.”
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci
Is it really the best film of the ’80s? It’s certainly a strong contender (ba-da-bing!), and there’s little doubt that Robert De Niro’s performance is one of the all-time greats—not just for the remarkable physical transformation, but also for his embodiment of male sexual jealousy presenting itself as rage.
“The fire of Robert De Niro's performance is so fascinating throughout that only after watching it, when you step away from it, do you appreciate the work and the length to which he went to achieve it. It is really inspiring.”—George MacKay
“Brutal and beautiful. This opened up the possibilities of what film acting could be to me.”—Michael Sheen
Time Out says: “Raging Bull is a masterclass in pain inflicted on oneself and one’s loved ones, as well as one’s opponents. The use of pop and opera and the black-and-white photography (by Michael Chapman) are exemplary. The actual boxing is a compulsive dance of death.”
Director: Mike Nichols
Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal
Nichols’s first film adapts Edward Albee’s merry-go-round of yelling, screaming, shrieking and bickering for the screen, and gives Taylor and Richard Burton a forum to engage in some very public relationship therapy. George Segal and Sandy Dennis play the other couple caught up in the web of deceit and denial.
“This is balls-to-the-wall, fearless, theatrical, old-school, Hollywood-royalty movie acting.”—BD Wong
Time Out says: “Taylor gives what is probably her finest performance as the blowsy harridan Martha, while Burton is not quite so hammy as usual as her angst-ridden college-professor husband.”
Director: Billy Wilder
Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon
Everybody remembers Lemmon and Curtis in drag, affecting hideous falsettos and tottering in high heels, but Curtis’s devastating Cary Grant impression is the film’s comic highlight. Meanwhile, Marilyn Monroe delivers one of her most effervescent, coherent performances.
“I had an obsession with Marilyn Monroe from the age of 10 and this is one of my favorites.”—Joanne Froggatt
Time Out says: “Some Like It Hot speeds along—the first rule of laughs is pacing—and in its gender-soft neurotic heroes, you can see everything from Woody Allen to Seth Rogen.”
Director: Joel Coen
Cast: Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy
The Coen brothers’ darkly funny crime story features a star turn from Frances McDormand as a pregnant sheriff, and its multiple Oscar nominations helped to bring American indie cinema in from the cold.
“I've seen Fargo more times than I can count at this point. Marge Gunderson is such an aspirational character for me, both as an actor and as a human. She's who I want to be when I grow up.”—Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Time Out says: “The Coens’ beguiling film is very funny and, finally, very moving. Performed to perfection by an imaginatively assembled cast, it displays the customary Coen virtues, at the same time providing a robust emotional core unaffected by the taint of mere technical virtuosity.”
Director: Charles Laughton
Cast: Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Billy Chapin
One of the major tragedies of film history is that Charles Laughton directed only one picture. The one turned out to be a masterpiece: evocative, disturbing and unforgettable. Silent icon Lillian Gish plays a gun-toting woman who protects a group of on-the-run children from Robert Mitchum’s maniacal preacher.
“This brilliant, atmospheric thriller is Robert Mitchum’s finest hour. Daring for its time, it’s about a serial-killer preacher who targets women. It’s also notable for being the only film ever directed by actor Charles Laughton. He was a master in the making.”—Emma Kennedy
Time Out says: “Laughton’s film makes the average film noir look like afterschool kids’ TV. Every shot is a masterclass in contrast, in looming blacks and piercing whites. It’s the most haunted and dreamlike of all American films, a gothic backwoods ramble with the devil at its heels.”
Director: Roman Polanski
Cast: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon
A magnificent exercise in escalating unease, Polanski’s poker-faced adaptation of Ira Levin’s neogothic best-seller follows the pregnancy of Manhattan mom-to-be Mia Farrow as she unwittingly carries the devil’s offspring. One of the best films of the 1960s.
“A horror film that makes you hear baby bumps in the night! It’s been on my mind lately as a pivotal turning point between old-school thrillers—ones that might be called ‘Transylvanian’—and a new breed of modern fear: urban, chatty, cynical.”—Joshua Rothkopf, New York film editor
Time Out says: “It’s main strength comes from Polanski's refusal to simplify matters: Ambiguity is constant, in that we are never sure whether Farrow's paranoia about a witches' coven is grounded in reality or a figment of her frustrated imagination.”
Director: Roman Polanski
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston
Polanski’s masterpiece is several things: a cynical history of L.A.’s property grabs of the ’30s, a gorgeously lush postnoir, and Jack Nicholson’s finest two hours, as a seedy private detective drawn to the money. Robert Towne’s legendary original script takes American greed and shoots it through a Hollywood prism.
“The height of my favorite movie star’s career. Jack is subtle and bemused in this, trusting his director’s brilliance. It has all the humor, intelligence and darkness you’d expect from Polanski and writer Robert Towne. I can watch it over and over.”—Patrick Kennedy
Time Out says: “In 1974, a director (Polanski), a screenwriter (Towne) and a producer (Robert Evans) could decide to beat a genre senseless and dump it in the wilds of Greek tragedy.”
Director: Billy Wilder
Cast: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray
One of the blackest Hollywood comedies ever made, Billy Wilder’s gem stars Jack Lemmon as a lowly office worker whose star rises when he lends out his city pad to bosses for extramarital affairs. Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner was clearly paying attention.
“A wonderful satire about corporate culture and how people are used by it. Bitter and sweet, this is one of my favorites by Wilder.”—Betty Buckley
Time Out says: “The quintessential New York movie—with exquisite design and shimmering black-and-white photography—it presented something of a breakthrough in its portrayal of the war of the sexes, with a sour and cynical view of the self-deception, loneliness and cruelty involved in ‘romantic’ liaisons.”
Director: Olivier Dahan
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Sylvie Testud, Pascal Greggory
The grande dame of doomed chanteuses, Edith Piaf, finally gets her tragic biopic; director Olivier Dahan and actor Marion Cotillard do the great singer justice.
“Marion Cotillard in this film is my bench mark for a best-actress award. If you're not as good as her, then you don't deserve it.”—Katie McGrath
Time Out says: “A showbiz story to rank with A Star Is Born for sheer all-out melodrama.”
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Ciaran Hinds
John Huston’s smudgy fingers are all over Paul Thomas Anderson’s towering masterpiece about an insatiable oil man and capitalist (Daniel Day-Lewis) who’s in desperate need of a hug.
“I was lucky enough to catch this at its Ziegfeld premiere, where a manic Paul Thomas Anderson was constantly sprinting between his seat and the projector booth in order to get the sound levels right (and by ‘right’ I mean ‘louder’). It could have been distracting, but I guess that’s the luxury of knowing that the crowd can’t take their eyes off the screen.”—David Ehrlich, New York associate film editor, Time Out
Time Out says: “This character—this wicked creation, this symbol of a nation, this quiet monster—will lodge in your psyche long after the movie cuts dead on an ending that’s strange and sudden, irritating and pleasing.”
Director: Joseph L Mankiewicz
Cast: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders
Bette Davis tears down her own iconic image with this satirical tale of a cruel, manipulative Broadway actor and the starry-eyed girl (Baxter) who worships her.
“A perfect plot and incomparable performances throughout.”—Celia Imrie
Time Out says: “Joseph L Mankiewicz’s film dissects the narcissism and hypocrisy of the spotlight, but pays equal attention to the challenges of enacting womanhood.”
Director: Roberto Benigni
Cast: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini
Italian comedian Roberto Benigni vaulted onto the international stage with this controversial Holocaust story of a father who distracts his son from the horrors of concentration camp life by pretending it’s all a game.
“This film captivated me from start to finish. To bring so much light, humor and love to the most dire and evil of situations is genius. I'd like to think it reflects the best parts of our humanity.”—David Gyasi
Time Out says: “A determinedly Chaplinesque comic fable.”
Director: Frances Ford Coppola
Cast: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Sam Bottoms
Frances Ford Coppola’s mind-melting Vietnam war epic is like no other movie: savage, psychedelic, darkly hilarious and unforgettable. It’s the last great explosion of the ’70s movie-brat era.
“Totally immersive filmmaking, soaked in mythology and obsession. Coppola leaves it all on the screen. It turned my head upside down and inside out, and I discover something new each time I watch it.”—Michael Sheen
Time Out says: “This is a film of pure sensation, dazzling audiences with light and noise, laying bare the stark horror—and unimaginable thrill—of combat. And therein lies the true heart of darkness: If war is hell and heaven intertwined, where does morality fit in? And, in the final apocalyptic analysis, will any of it matter?”
Director: George Cukor
Cast: Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart
Patrician but spunky Katharine Hepburn falls back in love with devil-may-care charmer Cary Grant in this adaptation of Philip Barry’s wittily sophisticated comedy of manners.
“The lightness of touch, the grace and wit, the primacy of love—everything about the film makes me sing. The best of America with three of the greatest movie actors ever.”—Patrick Kennedy
Time Out says: “The wit still sparkles, the ambivalent attitude towards the rich and idle is still resonant, and the moments between Stewart and Hepburn, drunk and flirty on the moonlit terrace, tingle with a real, if rarely explicit, eroticism.”
Director: George Roy Hill
Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw
No, it didn’t deserve to win an Oscar over movies like Mean Streets and Badlands, but it’s still a thoroughly entertaining yarn, with lead actors Paul Newman and Robert Redford fairly oozing charisma.
“The ultimate grifter movie, utterly charming and so satisfying to watch. A perfect blend of characters, too, from Robert Redford, Paul Newman and Robert Shaw.”—John Dagleish
Time Out says: “Hill's follow-up to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, teaming Newman and Redford again, sticks to the same proven formula.”
Director: Christopher Guest
Cast: Guest, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara
The first of Christopher Guest’s successful run of semi-improvised comedies (based on the model of This Is Spinal Tap), this one follows a small-town amateur drama group thrilled to learn that a New York big shot might attend their opening night.
“I watch this once a year. Everyone in this movie is perfect. Every performance is beyond inspired. Watch the DVD extras to see Parker Posey’s character’s audition. It’s genius.”—Bill Hader
Time Out says: “There are some raucous moments—Corky's hip-swiveling dance moves are a sight to behold—but more often, the comedy has the slow burn of a richly nuanced and nonjudgmental character study.”
Director: Orson Welles
Cast: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Dorothy Comingore
Regularly proclaimed the greatest movie of all time, Orson Welles’s tale of a troubled newspaper magnate changed filmmaking forever, and remains a thunderous, witty and original piece of work.
“Don’t let its greatness scare you away. Citizen Kane is actually quite enjoyable to watch.”—Gilbert Gottfried
Time Out says: “Its imagery still amazes and delights, from the opening shot of the forbidding gates of Xanadu to the last glimpse of the vanishing Rosebud. A film that gets better with each renewed acquaintance.”
Director: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly
Cast: Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds
One of the most purely joyous movies ever made, this is the pinnacle of Hollywood’s musical golden age, with Gene Kelly in timeless form as a silent film star facing the advent of talkies.
“Easily my favorite musical movie. I wanted to be Gene Kelly watching this as a kid.”—John Dagleish
Time Out says: “Is there a film clip more often shown than the title number of this most astoundingly popular musical? The rest of the movie is great too. If you've never seen it and don't, you're bonkers.”
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Cast: Ulrich Thomsen, Henning Moritzen, Thomas Bo
The most powerful film to come out of Denmark’s austere Dogme 95 movement, this heartbreaking drama sees a young man accusing his father of sexual abuse at the patriarch’s birthday party.
"I associate watching The Celebration with that wave of Dogme filmmaking and mouthy bravado that came in the late 1990s. I'm don't know which I saw first: this, or Lars von Trier's even more confrontational The Idiots, but both seemed fresh, new, unseen. These days, shaky, intimate, handheld digital filmmaking is everywhere. Back then, it felt like we were getting closer to these characters, to this family's horror, than we ever could before.”—Dave Calhoun, Global film editor, Time Out
Time Out says: “An assured, admirably abrasive movie.”
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Cast: Ulrich Mühe, Martina Gedeck, Sebastian Koch
One of the biggest foreign-language hits of the last decade, this smart, inquisitive thriller follows a lonely East German operative (Mühe) who grows increasingly jealous and fond of the revolutionary couple he’s employed to spy on.
“A beautiful and heartbreaking film.”—Ellie Bamber
Time Out says: “The complex but lucid script and the somber, noir-inflected camerawork serve not only to establish a brooding atmosphere of fear, doubt and suspicion, but to create a suspenseful thriller of contemporary relevance to a world where civil liberties are increasingly at risk of being undermined.”
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch
Overpraised on its release (it gave Spacey his second Oscar), this sardonic bile fest about a suburban family’s unraveling, complete with sociopolitical overtones (see title), strikes us as painfully schematic nowadays. It’s just a plastic bag, people.
“Outstanding performances by the whole cast, utterly beautiful cinematography and a beautiful script.”—Faye Marsay
Time Out says: “Mendes guides an artful path between desire and self-disgust, playing youth against experience, male against female.”
Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman
Check out black swan Natalie Portman as an ugly duckling (yeah, right) adopted by Jean Reno’s taciturn hit man. Gary Oldman goes overboard and then some as their antagonist.
“I'm not sure that Natalie Portman has ever topped the performance she gave at age 12 in Léon.”—Cath Clarke, UK film editor, Time Out
Time Out says: “Initial wariness between the two characters turns to something warmer, mutually affecting and sentimental. If this sounds familiar that's because it's so reminiscent of (but not as good as) John Cassavetes’s Gloria.”
Director: George Cukor
Cast: Judy Garland, James Mason, Jack Carson
James Mason and Judy Garland headline the definitive version of this oft-told Hollywood sob story, which was painstakingly semireconstructed (some lost scenes feature dialogue and stills only) in 1983.
‘There’s a scene towards the end of this film where Judy Garland is in the middle of a screaming fight and she turns her back to the camera to cry. I never knew a back could be so interesting. I was obsessed with it, how I could still see her grief and her anger from how she held herself. I’d never seen someone put so much emotion into acting, to the point where you want to ask them if they’re okay. I thought that was just so cool.”—Jessica Barden
Time Out says: “Of all Hollywood's heartbreakers, this must be one of the saddest.”
Director: Michael Curtiz
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains
An immortal but ill-fated WWII romance between a surly club owner (Bogart) and a woman from his past (Bergman), Curtiz’s classic might be the most gracefully averted disaster in Hollywood history: Despite being half-shot without a script, almost every line of the movie has been etched into the collective unconscious.
"It’s just perfect, isn’t it? Not a line, not a shot, not a hair out of place. The romantic core is heartbreaking, but the film is surprisingly tough too: all that business about Claude Rains blackmailing young women, and Rick’s attitude to his poor discarded Yvonne. It never pulls punches."—Tom Huddleston, assistant UK film editor, Time Out
Time Out says: “Bogart, Bergman, a catchy piano tune, Nazis: It’s the love story that has it all. And yet, it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. (We just got goose bumps.)”
Director: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Cast: David Niven, Kim Hunter, Robert Coote
Made by Britain’s independent filmmakers the Archers at the height of their powers, this supernatural romance stars David Niven as a dead British pilot attempting to argue his way back to corporeal existence.
“My favorite film since I was about 12. Romantic, disturbing, beautiful, strange and challenging. One of the most extraordinary opening scenes of all time. Deceptively simple and truly groundbreaking.”—Michael Sheen
Time Out says: “Also known as Stairway to Heaven, this is a delightful fantasy that we’d love by any title.”
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Cast: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant
Minnelli’s classic musical tells the story of an American GI (Kelly) who lingers in Paris after the war, becomes a painter and naturally falls into a love triangle with a humble French girl and a lonely heiress.
“I was so affected by this movie. The way Gene Kelly moved and showcased his ladies just melted me when I was a teenager in Texas. I've been looking for ‘that guy’ ever since.”—Betty Buckley
Time Out says: “For nearly two hours of Gene Kelly’s sublime dancing and infectious grin—not to mention some terrific Gershwin tunes—it’s worth putting up with the poutiness of Leslie Caron and the obsequiousness of Oscar Levant.”
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, David Proval
Scorsese’s iconic breakthrough rolls through the rusted underbelly of Little Italy as it used to be, shining a light on the violent world of small-time hoods that he would explore for the next 40 years (and counting).
“Scorsese marked me deeply as a film lover and as a thinker. He turned the frustrations of his youth into much more than mere nostalgia (this isn’t just another American Graffiti). There’s a hard piece of wisdom here: You can’t save every soul.”—Joshua Rothkopf, New York film editor
Time Out says: “The film that launched a thousand irritating knockoffs has lost none of its startling power over the years.”
Director: Irvin Kershner
Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
Star Wars has more of a nostalgic pull for those born between 1960 and 1975, but there’s no denying that Empire is the trilogy’s real masterpiece, in spite of its unresolved conclusion. Do, or do not. There is no try.
“Star Wars defines my whole childhood…it bonds me with my brothers. We don't trust nonfans.”—Katie McGrath
Time Out says: “There’s no denying that The Empire Strikes Back is the original trilogy’s real masterpiece, in spite of its unresolved conclusion.”
Director: Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky
Cast: Erika Bók, János Derzsi, Mihály Kormos
The story goes that Friedrich Nietzsche once encountered a horse that was being whipped by its master, and that after intervening, the philosopher never spoke a word again. Béla Tarr’s apocalyptic final film imagines what might have happened to the horse.
“It’s been four years since I saw this movie and I still feel cold. The sequence where the carriage rides over the top of the hill only to return a few moments later might be the most vividly concise illustration of despair I’ve ever seen.”—David Ehrlich, New York associate film editor, Time Out
Time Out says: “A lugubrious yet overwhelming journey into the depths of despair.”
Director: Rob Reiner
Cast: Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright
A beloved fairy tale that doubles as a testament to the need for keeping such things alive, Reiner’s winking adventure weaves a classic yarn about a kidnapped princess (Wright) and the dashing swordsman (Elwes) who’s determined to rescue her.
"I would’ve been 11 or 12 when I saw this at the cinema—my mum was sick in bed, so I saw it on my own then ran back and told her the entire plot in painstaking detail, a bit like Peter Falk and Fred Savage in reverse. I was so excited by it. That balance of real adventure and self-mocking humor just exploded my brain."—Tom Huddleston, assistant UK film editor, Time Out
Time Out says: “The sentimental attachment that folks have to this adaptation of William Goldman’s fantastic novel almost defies description.”
Director: Shane Meadows
Cast: Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham, Jo Hartley
A traumatized portrait of England’s East Midlands in the early ’80s, This Is England follows a fatherless and feral 12-year-old kid (Turgoose) as his search for acceptance finds him caught up with a group of local skinheads.
“The way in which you become completely engrossed by all of the performances makes it all the more terrifying when the story turns. The use of music in the film is absolutely amazing. Every time I watch the film, I find it affecting.”—George MacKay
Time Out says: “Meadows’s terrific autobiographical nationalist drama is unflinchingly honest about the roots of racism.”
Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Ben Stiller, Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow
Wes Anderson’s career-defining comedy introduces a sprawling family of neurotic New York geniuses as they gather to confront the father who screwed them all up.
“Wes Anderson is currently the most inventive and creative storyteller currently working in American cinema. This is one of his finest. If you don’t like this film, we can never be friends.” —Emma Kennedy
Time Out says: “Ever wonder if Wes Anderson has read J.D. Salinger’s ‘Glass Family’ stories? After seeing this near-perfect film about a dysfunctional clan of geniuses, you’ll pretty much have your answer.”
Director: Victor Fleming
Cast: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Thomas Mitchell
This peerlessly epic Civil War melodrama about the sordid love life of a slave-owning Southern belle is a cornerstone of American cinema (for better or worse).
“I’m a late-comer to the epic romance between Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. The four-hour running time always put me off (four hours!), but this is love story to swoon to.”’—Cath Clarke, UK film editor, Time Out
Time Out says: “An overhyped, underwhelming mixture of spectacle and bathos.”
Director: John Schlesinger
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Sylvia Miles
A newbie male prostitute by the name of Joe Buck (Voight) arrives in New York and tries to learn the lay of the land under the tutelage of hustler extraordinaire Ratso Rizzo (Hoffman).
“Jon Voight as the big dumb Texas cowboy and Dustin Hoffman as lowlife Ratso—this is a film to watch for its intense, committed performances.”—Cath Clarke, UK film editor, Time Out
Time Out says: “It’s hard to believe now that this admittedly frank but hardly scandalous movie was rated X at the time of its release—and equally hard to believe that neither Jon Voight nor Dustin Hoffman won the Best Actor Oscar that year.”
Director: Gary Oldman
Cast: Ray Winstone, Kathy Burke, Charlie Creed-Miles
Oldman’s feature debut proves the rare exception to the rule that famous actors make lousy directors. Yes, it’s exceptionally bleak—the plot finds Ray Winstone (Sexy Beast) terrorizing his family—but there are many moments of grace.
“A ridiculously brilliant film. I don’t think you will find a more heartbreaking and relentless performance than Kathy Burke’s turn in this. She is sublime. Utterly sublime. As is everyone else. Just beautiful casting. What is perfect about Nil By Mouth is that it’s devastating to watch but it has humor in it. That, for me, is the perfect recipe for a good, engaging, honest film.” – Amanda Abbington
Time Out says: “Gary Oldman’s feature debut proves the rare exception to the rule that famous actors make lousy directors. Yes, it’s exceptionally bleak—the plot finds Ray Winstone terrorizing his family—but there are also several moments of transporting beauty and grace.”
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Jared Leto, Ellen Burstyn, Jennifer Connelly
Four Coney Island residents are consumed by substance abuse in this vividly hyperstylized drug trip down the rabbit hole.
“This is my idea of the perfect second movie: Darren Aronofsky’s follow-up to Pi is tougher, bolder, more humane, more outraged, more everything. He’s always been great at conveying the fragility of bodies, but I don’t think he’s yet eclipsed his work with Ellen Burstyn here.”—Joshua Rothkopf, New York film editor
Time Out says: “Drugs are bad. Do not take drugs. That’s what Darren Aronofsky’s show-offy parable about substance abuse boils everything down to: Drugs are not such a swell idea. Don’t do them.”
Director: Bob Fosse
Cast: Roy Scheider, Jessica Lange, Leland Palmer
Time has been surprisingly kind to Fosse’s nihilistic, autobiographical story of a hard-living director (Roy Scheider, never better) on the cusp of burning out for good. Not even Jessica Lange playing death can derail this update on 8½.
“Possibly my favorite film of all time. I love Fosse with an irrational passion. The editing, the music, the precision with which he charts this man's loss of control. Never has there ever been a more searing or imaginative exploration of the self on film.”—Zoe Kazan
Time Out says: “Time has been surprisingly kind to Fosse’s autobiographical story of a hard-living director on the cusp of burning out for good. The dance numbers are phenomenal, and not even Jessica Lange playing Death (!) can derail this nihilistic and exhilarating update of 8 1/2.”
Director: Anthony Minghella
Cast: Juliet Stevenson, Alan Rickman, Jenny Howe
Before it was a hit song by Savage Garden, Truly Madly Deeply was a winsomely fantastic comedy about a bereft British woman (Stevenson) whose long-time love returns home as a ghost.
“Juliet Stevenson traverses the emotional terrain starting from the depth of sorrow all the way up to ecstasy of joy with such a generosity, openness and commitment that it served as a powerful example for me. If she can do that, then it’s possible I can do it too.” —Lili Taylor
Time Out says: “The BBC's sweet, feminine answer to Ghost concentrates on the emotions (and the ratty apartment) of Juliet Stevenson, so desperately unhappy after her lover's death that he comes back from the grave to be with her. As a metaphor for the experience of bereavement, the conceit is overextended, though Stevenson almost makes it work.”
Director: Hal Ashby
Cast: Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon, Vivian Pickles
A suicidal teenager (Cort) falls in love with the free-spirited 79-year-old woman (Gordon) he meets at a funeral in Hal Ashby’s wistfully transgressive romance, the influence of which can be seen in just about everything that premieres at Sundance.
"I first saw it as a teenager growing up in the London suburbs and was totally sold on Harold and Maude’s sunny, hippy, be-yourself message—and that lovely Cat Stevens soundtrack."—Cath Clarke, UK film editor, Time Out
Time Out says: “He’s a young man obsessed with offing himself. She’s a sweet old lady who gives him a picture of a sunflower. The songs of Cat Stevens are wafting through the airwaves. Of course they’re going to fall in love. It’s everybody’s favorite intergenerational romance for a reason.”
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Claude Rains
Many folks consider this one Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest; if nothing else, it features Cary Grant at his least sympathetic, playing an agent who coerces Ingrid Bergman into marrying spy Claude Rains in order to secure information.
“Absolutely perfect screenplay, acting, camera, everything. The most romantic movie I know. Gotta put Hitchcock on the list.”—Zoe Kazan
Time Out says: “In the running for Hitch’s greatest film, it still features the most erotic kiss in the history of cinema.”
Director: Hal Ashby
Cast: Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas
Sellers is pitch perfect as a befuddled gardener who unwittingly rises to national prominence in Hal Ashby’s trenchant satire of an American media culture that had recently been dumbstruck by the musings of theoretician Marshall McLuhan.
"Peter Sellers would lose himself inside his roles in a way I find scary but totally compelling. His performance here is so blank, so strange, it’s haunting. And as political satire, Being There still feels timely: just look at the rise of Donald Trump and you’ll see that the cult of idiocy is alive and well."—Tom Huddleston, assistant UK film editor, Time Out
Time Out says: “Sellers is pitch perfect as a befuddled gardener who unwittingly rises to national prominence in Hal Ashby’s trenchant satire of an American media culture that had recently been dumbstruck by the musings of theoretician Marshall McLuhan.”
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Michael Bates, Patrick Magee
Up for a bit of the ol’ ultraviolence, me droogies? Kubrick’s sensationalistic, chilling social satire has its detractors, but it says more about the perverse necessity of free will than a dozen Ayn Rand books and Rush songs combined.
“I saw this at the same fifth grade sleepover as Taxi Driver. A double mind blower. My dad’s favorite movie. We used to listen to the soundtrack when he drove me to Little League games.”—Bill Hader
Time Out says: “Kubrick’s sensationalistic social satire has its detractors (the usual claim of all stylistic brio, no substance), but it’s undeniably funny, scabrous and chilling.”