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50 Best Hollywood Movies Of All Time That Are A Must Watch

List-making is a hobby no movie-buff can take lightly. And when it comes to movies, there is nothing really bigger than Hollywood. Not only is it the biggest movie industry in the world in terms of revenue but it is also the oldest. Some of the Hollywood’s best movies were made between 1930s-1960s. It was during the period that Hollywood movies’ best makers like Charlie Chaplin, John Ford, Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, John Huston, and Orson Welles were at the heights of their creative powers.The period that followed also saw very many master filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, David Lean, Sidney Lumet, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman, Aurthur Penn, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, etc. who have made some unforgettable cinematic gems. These gems need to be savored and cherished but most importantly catalogued. So, for a movie-buff, it is really a lifelong job to maintain his/her list of best Hollywood movies. The list, of course, evolves with exposure and time. A young cinebuff’s best Hollywood movie today is bound to be different than his/her all-time Hollywood best movie last year and so on. But as the cinebuff’s grows his/her choices tend to acquire an air of rigidity and so his/her top Hollywood movies list gradually settles down.The history of motion pictures can be traced back to the year 1885 when the Lumiere Brothers started conducting private screenings of projected motion pictures in the world’s major cities such as London, Paris, and New York. Since then motion pictures have come a long way. The movies that the Lumieres screened and the movies that we watch today are as one would expect poles apart. If we look at the history of moviemaking we would come across a name called D.W. Griffith. It was Griffith who pretty much established the rules that drive the making of motions pictures. I am referring to the rules of continuity and without making it too technical let me put it this way that these are the rules that make the movie watching a nigh seamless experience. The rules which mainly deal with editing and cinematography dictate how films should be shot, cut, and arranged. Although, there rules are just the guidelines, the proper execution of these rules give the filmmakers a better control over things and prevent them from going awry. Some of the best known Hollywood classics adhere to these rules and cine-buffs would vouch that these films still succeed in holding their sway on the viewer.  So today we would put on a cine-buff’s hat and try and zero in on the best movies Hollywood has produced over the last hundred years or so in the order of their chronology.

1. The Birth of a Nation (1915)

This D.W. Griffith-directed movie started it all. This was the first major step towards making of the movies the way we see it and it not only inspired the American filmmakers but also aspiring filmmakers across the globe. It remains till date one of the best movies Hollywood ever made.

2. The General (1926)

This Buster Keaton-directed fun-filled adventure happens to be one of the top Hollywood movies ever. It is famous for its iconic train sequence which happens to be the most expensive scene in the history of silent films.

3. City Lights (1931)

This Charles Chaplin-directed film is a masterpiece in every scene of the word. It is arguably the finest Hollywood movie of the silent era. City Lights has comic scenes of such epic power that they can make the viewer laugh endlessly.

4. The Petrified Forest (1936)

This Archie Mayo-directed film is the first talkie in the list and it has all the elements that one often associate with the finest Hollywood movies. It has a virtuous hero (played by  Leslie Howard), an innocent and charming heroine (played by Bette Davis), and a ruthless villain (played by Humphrey Bogart).

5. The Gone with the Wind (1939)

If we take inflation into account then Gone with the Wind, clocking at 3 hours and 58 minutes, would be the highest box-office grosser of all time. Director by Victor Fleming, Gone with the Wind is set in the backdrop of the American Civil War. Hollywood movies don't get any better than this.

6. Citizen Kane (1941)

This Orson Welles-directed film is often touted as the greatest film ever made. After holding on to the numero uno spot in the Sight & Sound poll of critics on five consecutive occasions, Citizen Kane finally made way for Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece of fear and fetish, Vertigo, in the 2012 poll wherein Citizen Kane still managed to hold on to the second spot. Here is a film for the ages.

7. Casablanca (1941)

Starring the American screen legend Humphrey Bogart in arguably his most famous role and the intoxicatingly beautiful Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman, this Michael Curtiz-directed film is one of those rare films which have consistently received good reviews and almost always appears in every Hollywood best movie list.

8. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

This John Huston classic is looked upon as the epitome of greed and its repercussions in all cinema. Here Humphrey Bogart plays a gold prospector whose greed for gold becomes his underdoing. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a timeless masterpiece, a masterclass in cinematic storytelling that continues to inspire filmmakers across the globe. 

9. Sunset Blvd. (1950)

This Billy Wilder-directed film is undoubtedly the greatest satire ever on the movie industry. Wilder's mastery over his art is apparent in every frame of the film. Sunset Blvd. revolves around a washed up silent-era star, Norma Desmond. Gloria Swanson's portrayal of Norma Desmond till date remains one of the greatest portrayals in the history of cinema. 

10. Ace in the Hole (1951)

This Billy Wilder classic starring the movie god Kirk Douglas, who recently turned 100, remains as relevant today as it was about seven decades ago. Opportunistic journalism remains just as rotten as depicted by the visionary Austrian-born American filmmaker Billy Wilder in his hard-hitting masterpiece. 

11. The Big Heat (1953)

Fritz Lang, along with F. W. Murnau, was one of the most famous names of German Expressionism. But the rise of Nazism forced Lang to move to Hollywood. Among the various films made by him in the US, The Big Heat remains the most famous. It also happens to be one of the greatest Film-Noirs ev

12. On the Waterfront (1954)

This Elia Kazan classic starring Marlon Brando, Rod Steiger, Eva Marie Saint, and Karl Malden remains one of the most influential films of all time. It presents the inspiring story of an ex-prize fighter’s struggle against the corruption in the mob-connected dockers union while working as a longshoreman. 

13. Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

This Robert Aldrich classic Film Noir movie starring Ralph Meeker features one of the greatest opening scenes in all cinema. Kiss Me Deadly brilliantly captures the fear and paranoia of the Cold War era. It is a triumph of style and marked a paradigm shift in the Noir genre with transgressing tones slowly taking over from the classic Hollywood narrative.

14. The Night of Hunter (1955)

This Charles Laughton classic features one of Hollywood movies’ best performances from the great Robert Mitchum who plays a wolf in a sheep’s clothing. His terrifying performance would give chills to the calmest of individuals. This unique film blends the cynicism of Film Noir with the gothic terror of Nosferatu.

15. 12 Angry Men (1957)

Try asking 100 movie-buffs about their most favorite court room drama and majority of them would say 12 Angry Men. Such is the power of this Sidney Lumet classic, featuring a tour de force performance from the legendary Henry Fonda, that it remains as effective today as it was about six decades ago.

16. Paths of Glory (1957)

This Stanley Kubrick classic happens to be the greatest anti-war film ever made. Paths of Glory features an unforgettable performance from Kirk Douglas. Douglas plays a French Colonel who gets ordered by his superiors to kill his subordinates for failing to carry an impossible attack on the enemy.  

17. Touch of Evil (1958)

Directed by Orson Welles, Touch of Evil is one of last classic Film Noir movies. Here is a film that serves as a masterclass in set lighting, camera techniques and motion picture direction. An absolute must-watch!

18. Vertigo (1958)

What can be said of a movie that finally toppled Citizen Kane after five decades of supremacy in the Sight & Sound critics’ poll? Featuring riveting performances from James Stewart and Kim Novak (playing the quintessential Hitchcock blonde), here is a timeless film by the Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock that can best be described as a masterpiece of fear and fetish.

19. Rio Bravo (1959)

This Howard Hawks-directed film is one of the greatest Westerns ever made. To watch Rio Bravo is to witness a master craftsman at the height of his creative powers. Not a frame is wasted as we are treated with one of Hollywood’s finest examples of cinematic storytelling featuring one of the greatest performances from John Wayne. The one certainly deserves a place amongst Hollywood's best movies.

20. The Hustler (1961)

The Hustler, directed by Robert Rossen, is an instant classic. It is not only the greatest movie made about pool but it is also one of the finest sports movies ever made. The movie is about a sportsman’s meek surrender to his follies and his ultimate triumph by accepting the reality of his failure.

21. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

This John Ford classic presents is a clash of two ideologies: the old and the new. While the character of John Wayne represents old school--all grit and machismo--James Stewart’s character represents the changing times--modern education and gender equality. The film is a juxtaposition of the old frontier West still living in its old days and another West that has started to embrace modernism. Although, Stewart gets more screen time this essentially is Wayne’s film. The film is often seen as the consummation of Ford’s great filmmaking career.

22. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

This David Lean classic is undoubtedly the greatest epic of all time. The film is a testament to Lean’s cinematic vision. Apart from its apparent plot which focuses on a British officer whose affinity towards the Arabs makes him an international hero, Lawrence of Arabia is a film that serves as one of cinema’s greatest character study that shows us how easily power can corrupt men.

23. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

An adaptation of a play of the same name by Edward Albee, this Mike Nichols masterpiece (one of the best movie adaptations of a play ever) is about an old couple who pour their malice and frustration into the lives of a young couple that comes to dine with them. The film features breathtaking performances from Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

This Stanley Kubrick masterpiece is not just hailed as the greatest Sci-Fi film ever made but it is also one of the greatest movies of all time. The film is Kubrick’s tribute to the endless uncertainties of the universe. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick shows us our distant past and not so distant future and he does so with the mastery of an artist working at the height of his powers. Here is a film that requires multiple viewings in order for us to true appreciate it.

25. The Wild Bunch (1969)

The Sam Peckinpah classic is in many ways an anti-Western that exits in complete opposition to what the Old West stood for. The themes of chivalry and machismo that drove the classic Westerns are replaced by primal instincts of survival. Peckinpah seem to take a leaf out of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns to portray a lurid canvas hitherto unseen in an American Western. The movie features one of the bloodiest climaxes ever filmed.

26. McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)

Robert Altman was a great American filmmaker who made several masterpieces across different genres. But he never made a better film than McCabe & Mrs. Miller. Here is a Revisionist Western classic, starring Warren Beaty and Julie Christie, about a drifter named McCabe who wants to settle down in life. He builds an abode (more accurately a brothel which he runs in partnership with one Mrs. Miller) for himself but his fate has other plans for him. The film features one of cinema’s most chilling climaxes. The US Library of Congress has acknowledged the film as being culturally, aesthetically and historically significant.

27. The Godfather trilogy 

While The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II are universally hailed as masterpieces, the The Godfather: Part III never really gets the same respect. But, if one looks as the The Godfather trilogy we would really that it is a continuation of the same story, the family saga of the Corleone crime family. The trilogy basically is about Michael Corleone’s journey from being a war veteran to becoming the most feared don in the American mafia. This is a story of his journey to the dark side and the price he ends up paying for his sins.

28. Night Moves (1974)

Arthur Penn’s Night Moves is arguably the greatest mystery thriller film of all time. It also has one of the greatest jaw dropping endings in all cinema.  Made in the vein of classic film noir movies, Night Moves features a riveting performance from Gene Hackman. Fittingly, Hackman plays a private detective who gets caught in the middle of nowhere, not unlike Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade. Penn made a bunch of great movies during his filmmaking career but none attains the perfection of Night Moves.

29. Chinatown (1974)

Another neo-noir mystery film that finds a place on this list is Roman Polanski’s brilliant Chinatown that stars Jack Nicholson as a private detective. The film is frequently acknowledged as one of the greatest films ever made. The gripping suspense that’s at the heart of the Chinatown is what makes it singularly great. The film features a deeply nuanced performance from Faye Dunaway. With its themes of love, lust, betrayal, and incest, Chinatown is a hard-hitting classic that will stay with you forever.

30. Barry Lyndon (1975)

Based on a novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, Barry Lyndon is a film that belongs to the highest echelons of cinema. Kubrick had an eye for spotting literary works which had the potential to be made into formidable films. The is arguably the greatest period drama films ever made. Barry Lyndon serves as a masterclass on set lighting, cinematography, and cinematic storytelling.

31. The Conversation (1975)

Francis Ford Coppola has made many masterpieces including The Godfather films but The Conversation remains his most perfect film. The film deals with the theme of alienation like no other film has ever managed to achieve. At the centre of the story is a surveillance expert Harry Caul (masterfully played by Gene Hackman) who is so committed to his profession that he practically has no social life. He is one paranoid individual who prefers to live in seclusion. The Conversation is not only a powerful character study but is also one of the greatest mystery thrillers ever made. 

32. Jaws (1975)

This Steven Spielberg-directed classic about the frequent attacks of a man-eating shark on the beachgoers is one of the greatest adventure thriller films ever made. The movie is known for its rather striking visuals and chilling background music. The Oscar-winning score composed by John Williams is ranked the sixth-greatest score by the American Film Institute. Such is the terrifying power of Jaws that anyone who has seen it can never really dare to swim in the open sea again.

33. Annie Hall (1977)

Annie Hall is a testment ot Woody Allen's commitment and dedication as a filmmaker. Here was Allen competing against might of Hollywood giants by carving a niche for his low budget, thought provoking films. Annie Hall happens to be one of the finest romantic comedies to have come out of Hollywood.

34. Apocalypse now (1979)

This Francis Ford Coppola-directed masterpiece is inpired by  a Joseph Conrad Story  titled "Heart of Darkness". Making the film was a monumental achievement. A documentary titled "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse" talks about the making of the film and focuses on the various challenges faced by the makers.

35. The Shining (1980)

This Stanley Kubrick-directed psychlogical horror masterpiece is based on a Stephen King novel. The film takes the notion of horror to a whole new level. Jack Nicholson delivers a unforgettable performance. This films will give you chills like you have never experienced before.

36. Raging Bull (1980)

Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull is undoubtedly the greatest sports biography ever made. But is is not just a movie about boxing. It is a treatise in masculine jealousy and insecurity. It is about a man's rise and fall. It is also about success and failure and what an obsession can do to a man. Raging Bull is not an easy film to watch and there are moments that can really disturb you and shake you up. Watch it only if you have a strong heart..

37. Blade Runner (1983)

Blade Runner is not only a Sci-Fi masterpiece but it is also a style statement. A Neo-Noir set in dystopian Los Angeles, Blade Runner revolves around bioengineered replicants, which are visually indistinguishable from human beings, and the blade runners whose job is to retire them as and when they escape out of human control or turn rogue.

38. Scarface (1983)

Brian De Palma's unforgiving portrayal of the American drug mafia of the 1980s, Scarface stars Al Pacino in the role of a Cuban refugee named Tony Montana. The film happens to be one of the most violent crime drama films ever made but its rather raw and realistic portrayal makes it stand out.

39. Amadeus (1984)

Directed by Czech filmmaker Milos Forman, Amadeus is arguably one of the greatest musical period drama films of all time. The film presents a fictionalized account of Mozart's life. The story is told from the point of view of Antonio Salieri who envies and hates Mozart's musical genius.

40. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Once Upon a Time in America was master Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone's dream project that was butchered by the American Studio boses. Here is a crime drama that captures the spirit of Americana perhaps even better than The Godfather films. Not only is the story more realistic and relatable but it is also more humane and yet it has the operatic quality that is somewhat lacking in The Godfather.

41. Blue Velvet (1986)

This David Lynch film has an excess of gore, violence, and sexual content. This film is not meant for the faint hearted. Over the years, this neo-noir mystery film has grown in reputation and today it enjoys a cult status.

42. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Adapting the controversial Nikos Kazantzakis novel of the same name is probably the most daring thing Martin Scorsese has done in his legendary filmmaking career. Here is a film that dares to depict Christ as an ordinary human being and shows his struggle with various forms of temptations such as fear, doubt and lust. It is not an easy film to watch but patience does have its rewards.

43. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

James Cameron-directed Terminator 2: Judgment Day, without doubt, is one of the best Action Sci-Fi films ever made. Here is a rare film that brillaintly blends adrenaline-pumping action with human emotions. Terminator 2 was a critical and commercial success and paved the way for further advancements in the field of CGI and VFX.   

44. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Here is another 1990s classic. Directed by Jonathan Demme, tells the story of an FBI trainee name Clarice Starling who is sent by his trainer to seek the help of an incarcerated cannibalistic killer to help catch a serial killer. The Silence of the Lambs is dark, depressing and diabolical but is one of the finest crime thrillers of all time. 

45. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction is already a cinematic classic. Here is a Hollywood film made in the style of pulp novels. The film is effectively not one but three different stories merged into one in a never-seen-before fashion. The film won the prestigious Palme d'Or at Cannes and set the ball rolling for Tarantino. Here is a rare film that makes gore and violence look really funny. 

46. The Lord of the Ring trilogy

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is actually the three parts of the same story and so it is important that they be considered as one whole entity instead of three different films. Tolkien’s high fantasy novel is a masterwork of English Literature and its adaptation was considered nigh impossible by some of the world’s leading filmmakers. But Peter Jackson proved everybody wrong. The movies' groundbreaking VFX and CGI marked a new chapter in the history of filmmaking. 

47. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

This Steven Spielberg Sci-Fi masterpiece was Stanley Kubrick’s dream project. After Kubrick’s untimely death, Spielberg, Kubrick’s long time friend and admirer, realized it. This film basically is a work of two auteurs and not one. And it is absolutely brilliant. Kubrick’s psychology and Spielberg’s showmanship blend seamlessly to give rise to a unique cinematic masterpiece.

48. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is arguably the greatest film of 2007 and unfortunately also the most underrated. One of the greatest Revisionist Westerns, the Andrew Dominik film tells the story of the murder of the legendary outlaw by Robert Ford.  Here is a gem of a film that demands patience to begin with but those who invest in it are thoroughly rewarded.

49. There Will Be Blood (2007)

This Paul Thomas Anderson-directed masterpiece was inspired by John Huston's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. It features an unforgettable performance from Daniel Day-Lewis. The film serves as a powerful treatise on greed, betrayal and obsession -- one of the greatest at that.

50. No Country for Old Men (2007)

No Country for Old Men won as many as 4 Oscars including the ones for Best Picture and Best Directing. Directed by the Coen brothers, No Country for Old Men -- with its themes of fate, greed, survival, and death -- is one of 21st century's greatest masterpieces.