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The Greatest Movies Ever Made

I had a recent discussion with a coworker about what constitutes a great movie. Every person’s opinion on that will be different, but I do have my own opinion on it, so I’m writing about it. From my perspective, a great movie is devoid of everything that will typically earn it an R rating. Excessive or graphic violence, nudity, sex, and foul language are all disqualifiers. There have been many, many great movies come out of Hollywood over the decades that had none of these things. But, it seems to be a rare movie these days that has a great story to tell, doesn’t include filth, and isn’t ninety percent computer-generated imagery (CGI). It must not be possible anymore to make a movie without CGI because it seems like just about every movie is filled with it. One of these days, actors and actresses may even find themselves in the unemployment lines as computer-generated actors and actresses are used to make movies.

CGI has its place and can be a great addition to the movie, but far too many films make the CGI be the movie. In my list below, The Lord of the Rings movies were some of the best films to ever be released and they are certainly filled with CGI. But, the CGI does not take the place of an epic story or the character development. I’ve seen numerous films replete with CGI in which the weak story and anemic characters were merely fillers around the CGI. No thank you.

There have been scads of really good movies that I’ve enjoyed watching, some multiple times. But some of the content prevents them from being great. That said, without further ado, here is my list of what I consider to be the best movies ever made. One through ten are in order, the rest are alphabetical.

Ben Hur (1959) – An epic tale set in biblical times with great characters, incredible action scenes, and one of the greatest scores ever written. The sea battle and the chariot race are unforgettable as Judah Ben Hur, played by Charlton Heston, is falsely sentenced to the galleys by an old friend, only to find redemption and opportunity for revenge. This is easily the greatest film to ever be released.

The Big Country (1958) – Gregory Peck is a ship’s captain who comes to the west to marry his fiance. He immediately finds himself at odds with her father, who owns a huge ranch and is in a long-standing feud with another rancher. Fabulous score by Jerome Moross and one of my favorite movies lines: “I’m not responsible for what people think, only for what I am.”

To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) – Atticus Finch is a lawyer whose children learn about racial prejudice while he defends a black man against a false rape charge. Gregory Peck has one of the great roles in cinema history.

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – This film set the standard for special effects and CGI being used to compliment great storytelling and character development. Luke Skywalker hears the greatest reveal in movie history and the score by John Williams is easily the best of his career.

The Great Escape (1963) – The true story of Allied prisoners of war escaping from a German prison camp during World War II. Great cinematography, an international cast of stars and a fun score by Elmer Bernstein.

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) – Errol Flynn in the famous tale of Robin Hood, Prince John and King Richard. A true classic with great scenery, a wonderful score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and one of the most famous goofs in Hollywood history – a car seen driving by in the background of one scene.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – The conclusion to a trio of movies that tell perhaps the greatest fictional story of good triumphing over evil, based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Red River (1948) – John Wayne’s best role of his career as he plays Tom Dunson, who leads a cattle drive to Missouri across the Red River. A classic western with a supporting cast of many stars led by Walter Brennan, arguably the greatest character actor in cinema history.

How the West Was Won (1962) – A sprawling saga of the Prescott family over several decades of Westward expansion and adventure. Great cinematography, a few songs and a cast of many stars including James Stewart, Gregory Peck, Henry Fonda, John Wayne and Walter Brennan.

The Magnificent Seven (1960) – Seven gunfighters are hired by the peasants of a Mexican village to defend them against an army of banditos. Cast of stars led by Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson.

Honorable Mentions

12 Angry Men (1957)
2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)
A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966)
A Christmas Story (1983)
A Man For All Seasons (1966)
Air Force (1943)
Apollo 13 (1995)
Born Free (1966)
Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951)
Captains Courageous (1937)
Death On the Nile (1978)
Destination Tokyo (1943)
Dial M for Murder (1954)
Dodge City (1939)
Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)
El Dorado (1966)
Exodus (1960)
Fail Safe (1964)
Friendly Persuasion (1956)
Gettysburg (1993)
Greyhound (2020)
Heaven Knows, Mr Allison (1957)
Hondo (1953)
It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)
King Kong (1933)
Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Northwest Passage (1940)
Objective Burma (1945)
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Pork Chop Hill (1959)
Quo Vadis (1951)
Raid On Entebbe (1976)
Rear Window (1954)
Rio Bravo (1959)
Roman Holiday (1953)
Sahara (1943)
Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)
Sergeant York (1941)
Seven Days In May (1964)
Shane (1953)
Shenandoah (1965)
Singin’ In the Rain (1952)
Sink the Bismarck (1960)
Stalag 17 (1953)
Stanley and Livingstone (1939)
Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
The Alamo (1960)
The Bear (1988)
The Bravados (1958)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
The Caine Mutiny (1954)
The Cowboys (1972)
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
The Desperate Hours (1955)
The Enemy Below (1957)
The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)
The Fugitive (1993)
The Glenn Miller Story (1954)
The Great Locomotive Chase (1956)
The Great Race (1965)
The Guns of Navarone (1961)
The House On 92nd Street (1945)
The King and I (1956)
The Longest Day (1962)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
The Man From Snowy River (1982)
The Man Who Never Was (1956)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
The Million Pound Note (1954)
The Music Man (1962)
The Princess Bride (1987)
The Searchers (1956)
The Shootist (1976)
The Spirit of St Louis (1957)
The Ten Commandments (1956)
The Thing from Another World (1951)
The Train (1964)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
The War of the Worlds (1953)
Them! (1954)
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
True Grit (1969)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Winchester 73 (1950)

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