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50 All-Time Best Hollywood Films – Part I

First part of the five part article series highlighting the 50 best films that Hollywood has produced over the last hundred years

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Murtaza Ali Khan
Murtaza Ali Khan
An award-winning Film & TV critic and journalist.

List-making is something no movie aficionado can take lightly. And when it comes to movies, there are few things more influential 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 Charles 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 master filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick, David Lean, Sidney Lumet, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman, Arthur 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. For a movie enthusiast, 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 cinephile’s best Hollywood movie this year is bound to be different than his/her all time Hollywood best movie last year and so on. But as the cinebuff grows, his/her choices tend to acquire an air of rigidity and so the top Hollywood movies list would gradually settle down.

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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 filmmaking 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. Here, I am basically 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 process. 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 but 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 cinephiles would vouch that they still succeed in holding their sway on the viewer.  

So, here is the first part of the five part article series highlighting the 50 best films that Hollywood has produced over the last hundred years or so.

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Read the second part here (31 – 40)

Read the third part here (21 – 30)

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Read the fourth part here (11 – 20)

Read the fifth part here (1 – 10)

50. Jaws (1975)

Jaws Movie Still

This Steven Spielberg-directed classic about the frequent attacks of a man-eating shark on the beach-goers 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. Jaws is said to have marked the beginning of the blockbuster era that would see films such as Star Wars, Alien, Aliens, the Indiana Jones films, ET, Ghostbusters, and Die Hard, among others.

49. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Terminator 2 Still

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 brilliantly blends adrenaline-pumping action with human emotions. Arnold Schwarzenegger is absolutely amazing in the role of the uber-cool human killing machine, T-800. But unlike Terminator (1984), the cyborg is here to protect a human named John Connor. He is of course send from the future by Connor himself. Terminator 2 helped Schwarzenegger win millions of hearts. The film also immortalized him. Linda Hamilton is simply superb (and in perfect shape) in the role of a single mother desperate to protect his only child. Also menacingly brilliant is Robert Patrick in the role of Schwarzenegger’s nemesis, T – 1000, the shape shifting cyborg sent to kill Connor by Skynet. Terminator 2 was a critical and commercial success and has had a tremendous influence on the popular culture. The film also paved the way for further advancements in the field of CGI and VFX.  

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

The Assassination of Jesse James Movie Still

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is one of the best films of 2007 (what a year it was for Hollywood) 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. The characters are superbly essayed by Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck, respectively. Both the actors deserved Oscar and sadly both weren’t obliged. Pitt won the best actor award at the 2007 Venice Film Festival for his mesmerizing portrayal of a ferocious outlaw humbled by the changing times. Here is a gem of a film (featuring arguably the best work of ace cinematographer Roger Deakins) that demands patience to begin with but those who invest in it are thoroughly rewarded.

47. There Will Be Blood (2007)

There Will Be Blood Still

This Paul Thomas Anderson-directed masterpiece was inspired by John Huston’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Anderson used to make everyone watch the Huston film again and again every night during the shooting of There Will Be Blood which features an unforgettable performance from Daniel Day-Lewis who won his second Oscar for his portrayal of a ruthless oil prospector who makes a fortune at the turn of the 20th century. The film serves as a powerful treatise on greed, betrayal and obsession—one of the greatest at that.

46. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Silence of the Lambs

This Jonathan Demme-directed film is an adaptation of a Thomas Harris novel of the same name that tells the story of an FBI trainee name Clarice Starling who is sent by his mentor to seek the help of an incarcerated cannibalistic killer named Dr. Hannibal Lecter to help catch a serial killer.  Along with It Happened One Night (1934) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), it happens to be one of three films to win the top five Oscars—Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Screenplay (Adapted). The Silence of the Lambs is dark, depressing and diabolical but is one of the finest crime thrillers of all time featuring unforgettable performances from Anthony Hopkins (as Dr. Lecter) and Jodie Foster (as Agent Starling).

45. No Country for Old Men (2007)

No Country for Old Men Still

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. 2007 was certainly a special year for Hollywood and is yet to be matched in the recent times. The performances by Javier Bardem (as the serial killer Anton Chigurh), Josh Brolin, and Tommy Lee Jones immensely add to its cinematic brilliance.

44. The Night of the Hunter (1955)

The Night of the Hunter Still

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 minds. This unique film blends the cynicism of film noir with the gothic terror of Nosferatu. Although, hailed as a undisputed classic today, the film was a commercial failure and remains the only film directed by Laughton, who, of course, was an Oscar-winning actor. The Night of Hunter is perfectly summed up by the late American film critic Roger Ebert in his 1996 review of Laughton’s classic: “It is one of the most frightening of movies, with one of the most unforgettable of villains, and on both of those scores it holds up… well after four decades as I expect ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ to do many years from now.”

43. Amadeus (1984)

Amadeus Movie Still

Directed by Czech-American filmmaker Miloš Forman, Amadeus is arguably the greatest musical period drama film of all time. Adapted by Peter Shaffer from his own play of the same name, Amadeus 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. F. Murray Abraham is absolutely mesmerizing to watch in his Oscar-winning portrayal of Salieri. Tom Hulce too is brilliant in his comical avatar of Mozart. Amadeus makes for an unforgettable cinematic experience and deservedly won as many as 8 Academy Awards including the ones for the Best Picture and Best Director.

42. The Big Heat (1953)

The Big Heat Still

Fritz Lang, along with F.W. Murnau, was one of the most famous names of German Expressionism. Lang’s Metropolis (1927) and M (1931) are arguably the greatest German films of all time. 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 ever made. And it is no big surprise, for Hollywood’s film noir genre was more or less an offshoot of German Expressionism.

41. Rio Bravo (1959)

Rio Bravo Still

Howard Hawks was one of the greatest filmmakers of the Hollywood’s Golden Age. John Wayne was one of the most bankable actors of the era (famous for his collaborations with John Ford). Here Hawks and Wayne joined hands to respond to a film that they weren’t particularly impressed with: High Noon. They saw the film as an insult to the values they had helped establish with their Classic Westerns. Hawks had said: “I didn’t think a good sheriff was going to go running around town like a chicken with his head cut off asking for help, and finally his Quaker wife had to save him.” The duo thought that the story of High Noon was needed to be told in their own way. Hence, they made Rio Bravo and the rest is history! 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.

Read the second part here (31 – 40)

Read the third part here (21 – 30)

Read the fourth part here (11 – 20)

Read the fifth part here (1 – 10)

Tell us what you think of our Top 50 list. Please do leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


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