Top 25 Greatest Films of All Time

by LDGerrits | created - 13 May 2017 | updated - 3 weeks ago | Public

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1. Andrei Rublev (1966)

R | 205 min | Biography, Drama, History

The life, times and afflictions of the fifteenth-century Russian iconographer.

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky | Stars: Anatoliy Solonitsyn, Ivan Lapikov, Nikolay Grinko, Nikolay Sergeev

Votes: 38,712 | Gross: $0.10M

Besides its depth and breadth of concern, 'Andrei Rublev' is known for the diversity and extremity of its divergences. More than a historical biography or period drama, it is a collection of moments that can be encountered both in their own right and as figurations. Over the course of three hours, we actually meet more or less three semi-protagonists, most notably Rublev himself, but memorably, too, the young bellmaker, Boriska, whose 'stingy' father has left him 'without the secret' of his trade, but who nonetheless successfully manages to cast the bell, in the final episode. Through these various characters we are confronted with not History, but history in the lower-case: people shaping a passage through time, sometimes confounded, sometimes redeemed.

With 'Andrei Rublev,' Tarkovsky was consciously crafting a language that owed nothing to literature, and it's a pity so few others followed him. In today's cinema, we're still served up linear, cause-and-effect biographies of artists as if, by doing so, we'll understand the person and be able to make sense of their art. Andrei Rublev operates according to a different understanding of time and history. It asks questions about the relationship between the artist, their society and their spiritual beliefs and doesn't seek to answer them. 'In cinema it is necessary not to explain, but to act upon the viewer's feelings, and the emotion which is awoken is what provokes thought,' wrote Tarkovsky in 1962.

'I think there exists a law: author cinema is made of poets and all great directors are poets.' 'Andrei Rublev' is an example, perhaps the most important, of Tarkovsky’s commitment to a formal ‘poetics’ of cinema. Its nonlinear narrative structure, the metaphorical interrelation of images, and its symbolism make for less a story about an event than a way of experiencing events interact. Ingmar Bergman remarked that Tarkovsky was ‘the greatest’ because he ‘invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.’

More than this, though, what we sit through is not some abstraction of reality into reverie, but an attempt to think through this conflict: the cold fact of the world and our mediated experience of it. In the end, Rublev resolves to paint again. He comforts the bellmaker, Boriska, who is overwhelmed by the solitude of his achievement: ‘What a great joy for all men. You gave them such a great happiness: and you cry? Stop it!' 'Andrei Rublev' is worthy of remembering not because it collapses life into art, but because it attempts to imagine how art can be life’s witness. Hence, Tarkovsky’s observation: ‘Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn’t look for harmony but would simply live in it.’

10 out of 10.

2. The Seventh Seal (1957)

Not Rated | 96 min | Drama, Fantasy

A man seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague.

Director: Ingmar Bergman | Stars: Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Nils Poppe

Votes: 143,087

A knight returning from the Crusades finds a rude church still open in the midst of the Black Death, and goes to confession there. Speaking to a hooded figure half-seen through an iron grill, he pours out his heart: 'My indifference has shut me out. I live in a world of ghosts, a prisoner of dreams. I want God to put out his hand, show his face, speak to me. I cry out to him in the dark but there is no one there.' The hooded figure turns, and is revealed as Death, who has been following the knight on his homeward journey.

Images like that have no place in the modern cinema, which is committed to facile psychology and realistic behavior. In many ways, Ingmar Bergman's 'The Seventh Seal' has more in common with the silent film than with the modern films that followed it. It is considered to be one of the masterpieces of cinema with its stark imagery and its uncompromising subject, which is no less than the absence of God.

Films are no longer concerned with the silence of God but with the chattering of men. We are uneasy to find Bergman asking existential questions in an age of irony, and Bergman himself, starting with 'Persona', found more subtle ways to ask the same questions. But the directness of 'The Seventh Seal' is its strength: This is an uncompromising film, regarding good and evil with the same simplicity and faith as its hero.

All of Bergman's mature films, except the comedies, are about his discontent with the ways that God has chosen to reveal himself. But when he made 'The Seventh Seal' he was bold enough to approach his subject in a literal manner; to actually show the knight playing chess with Death, which is a brilliant metaphor for man's attempt to defy mortality's gravity through his accomplishments, perhaps most vividly in the idea of artistic genius, the need to create a vital work which will survive the author's death. And he had the confidence to end his film, not with a statement or a climax, but with an image. "The strict lord Death bids them dance,” says the young actor, directing the attention of his wife to the horizon, against which Death leads his latest victims in a macabre parade.

Ingmar Bergman's dark masterpiece effortlessly sees off the revisionists and the satirists; it is a radical work of art that reaches back to scripture, to Cervantes and to Shakespeare to create a new dramatic idiom of its own.

10 out of 10.

3. Ran (1985)

R | 162 min | Action, Drama

96 Metascore

In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other...and him.

Director: Akira Kurosawa | Stars: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryû

Votes: 99,286 | Gross: $3.52M

'Ran' is probably cinema's greatest rendition of a Shakespearean epic, ironically coming from an oriental film-maker. Adapted by Kurosawa from Shakespeare's 'King Lear,' 'Ran" undoubtedly features amongst the best works of the master auteur. It captures with sheer vividness and surreal resplendence, the true essence of human struggle for survival, highlighting the cruelties associated with life. 'Ran' is strictly indicative of the sole consistency of life namely change, an attribute that not only makes the humans vulnerable but also gives them the hope to rise after a fall.

10 out of 10.

4. Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)

Not Rated | 95 min | Drama

100 Metascore

The story of a mistreated donkey and the people around him. A study on saintliness and a sister piece to Bresson's Mouchette.

Director: Robert Bresson | Stars: Anne Wiazemsky, Walter Green, François Lafarge, Jean-Claude Guilbert

Votes: 15,236 | Gross: $0.04M

5. Persona (1966)

Not Rated | 83 min | Drama, Thriller

86 Metascore

A nurse is put in charge of a mute actress and finds that their personae are melding together.

Director: Ingmar Bergman | Stars: Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Margaretha Krook, Gunnar Björnstrand

Votes: 86,764

Writing from a hospital bed, Ingmar Bergman put down almost anything that was in his head to start with, then transposed into a story of two women, or one. A line in the movie states blatantly that everyone has two personae; the one external and the one internal. "Persona" is one of the greatest human dramas with a psychological force rarely, if ever, seen today. Bergman and Nykvist commit to film one of the most introspective studies of mortality, sanity and the human condition.

10 out of 10.

6. Ordet (1955)

Not Rated | 126 min | Drama, Fantasy

Follows the lives of the Borgen family, as they deal with inner conflict, as well as religious conflict with each other, and the rest of the town.

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer | Stars: Henrik Malberg, Emil Hass Christensen, Preben Lerdorff Rye, Hanne Aagesen

Votes: 12,174

7. Ikiru (1952)

Not Rated | 143 min | Drama

A bureaucrat tries to find a meaning in his life after he discovers he has terminal cancer.

Director: Akira Kurosawa | Stars: Takashi Shimura, Nobuo Kaneko, Shin'ichi Himori, Haruo Tanaka

Votes: 58,458 | Gross: $0.06M

'Ikiru' is a perfect true story of everybody's life - how we don't even realize we have it until we know it will be over in a short while. Watanabi's quest for self-discovery is one of the greatest from any motion picture ever made. The all-too-true paradox is one to end all paradoxes- that Watanabi is dead, and had been all his life, until he realized he was sick, which is when he began living for the first time. Akira Kurosawa elevates a story that could have been simple melodrama to the level of masterwork with a genuine love of his characters, and with an incredible technical direction. The film's structure accentuates and deepens its many, many lessons on life, and the performances, including a heartbreakingly earnest turn by Shimura are all flawless.

10 out of 10.

8. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Approved | 216 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama

100 Metascore

The story of T.E. Lawrence, the English officer who successfully united and led the diverse, often warring, Arab tribes during World War I in order to fight the Turks.

Director: David Lean | Stars: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins

Votes: 241,240 | Gross: $44.82M

The cinematography is unforgettable and the scale is vast. In many ways, it defines a time, a genre and even cinema. "Lawrence of Arabia" defines all of the above, but at the centre of 'Lawrence of Arabia' there is a real historical person who was also a hero worthy of classical Greek tragedies: a man whose virtues are his downfall. It is the dual nature of Lawrence of Arabia, as an epic and as a personal exploration of the mind, that lifts it to a level of poetry made from images and dreams. Within its frames "Lawrence of Arabia" captures the essence of a man, a time and place with unparalleled cinematic magic.

10 out of 10.

9. Maborosi (1995)

Not Rated | 110 min | Drama

92 Metascore

A young woman's husband apparently commits suicide without warning or reason, leaving behind his wife and infant.

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda | Stars: Makiko Esumi, Takashi Naitô, Tadanobu Asano, Gohki Kashiyama

Votes: 3,913

10. Tokyo Story (1953)

Not Rated | 136 min | Drama

An old couple visit their children and grandchildren in the city; but the children have little time for them.

Director: Yasujirô Ozu | Stars: Chishû Ryû, Chieko Higashiyama, Sô Yamamura, Setsuko Hara

Votes: 43,642

Yasujirô Ozu's "Tokyo Story" is a serene and contemplative look at the breakdown in the relationship between grown children and their elderly parents shortly after World War II. The film concerns itself with problems many of us must face: the struggle to maintain a self-fulfilling life independent of parental expectations, the changes in relationships wrought by time, and the inevitability of separation and loss. Yasujirô Ozu does not point the finger at either parents or children but, like many of his films, offers a thoughtful meditation on the transitory nature of life.

10 out of 10.

11. The Mirror (1975)

G | 107 min | Biography, Drama

A dying man in his forties remembers his past. His childhood, his mother, the war, personal moments and things that tell of the recent history of all the Russian nation.

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky | Stars: Margarita Terekhova, Filipp Yankovskiy, Ignat Daniltsev, Oleg Yankovskiy

Votes: 32,024

Tarkovsky's striking eye for composition and his ability to combine eclectic elements is without comparison. However, the film offers more than a series of captivating and confounding images. The greatest achievement of 'The Mirror' is to capture a sense of what it is to be human, in a manner that is neither pompous nor pretentious. This is a hauntingly beautiful film.

10 out of 10.

12. (1963)

Not Rated | 138 min | Drama

A harried movie director retreats into his memories and fantasies.

Director: Federico Fellini | Stars: Marcello Mastroianni, Anouk Aimée, Claudia Cardinale, Sandra Milo

Votes: 99,194 | Gross: $0.05M

13. City Lights (1931)

G | 87 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

With the aid of a wealthy erratic tippler, a dewy-eyed tramp who has fallen in love with a sightless flower girl accumulates money to be able to help her medically.

Director: Charles Chaplin | Stars: Charles Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Florence Lee, Harry Myers

Votes: 146,352 | Gross: $0.02M

14. The Battle of Algiers (1966)

Not Rated | 121 min | Drama, War

95 Metascore

In the 1950s, fear and violence escalate as the people of Algiers fight for independence from the French government.

Director: Gillo Pontecorvo | Stars: Brahim Hadjadj, Jean Martin, Yacef Saadi, Tommaso Neri

Votes: 46,959 | Gross: $0.06M

Capturing a historic moment with extraordinary accuracy makes a film truly beautiful, painful, and masterful. With the tradition of Italian Neo Realism and French New Wave 'The Battle of Algiers' harshly seals the ugly realities of both French Legion and Algerian Guerillas. And despite his leftist viewpoint, Pontecorvo neither ridicules or demonizes the French. It stands out as a splendid work of art, as a political hymn to independence, and as a thought-provoking philosophical reflection on violence, and on the relationship between ends and means. Viewers will find it strikingly relevant to the present day.

10 out of 10.

15. Three Colors: Red (1994)

R | 99 min | Drama, Mystery, Romance

100 Metascore

A model discovers her neighbor is keen on invading people's privacy.

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski | Stars: Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frédérique Feder, Jean-Pierre Lorit

Votes: 79,886 | Gross: $4.04M

16. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

G | 149 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi

82 Metascore

After discovering a mysterious artifact buried beneath the lunar surface, mankind sets off on a quest to find its origins with help from intelligent supercomputer HAL 9000.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter

Votes: 540,513 | Gross: $56.95M

Central to the profundity of '2001: A Space Odyssey' is the notion that few things are more meaningful than a child's first steps, the emotive impact of this scenario manifest in every one of the film's dizzying set pieces, albeit multiplied to epic proportions. At its core, the film is a journey, a summarization of those questions that are both the simplest in their inquisition and most profound in their answers: Who are we, where do we come from, and where are we going? The film exists as an exploration of these timeless themes and the existential weight that accompanies them, probing our growth from passive eating machines subject to the unforgiving elements, to conquerors of the world and pioneers of space, awaiting only a helping hand from a superior force to reach the next level of existence. Just as the ape-men in the opening act must learn to use the tools around them to survive, so, too, must man learn to walk again when subjected to zero gravity, captured here with a gravitas that suggests a celestial being waxing philosophical.

Stanley Kubrick, like many great artists, often took to examining humanity from the outside in, a quality that both fans and detractors have mistaken for outright cynicism. '2001: A Space Odyssey' is an incontrovertible counterargument to such misanthropic claims, both celestial and appropriately humble in its framing of our existence against the reaches of space, the semi-detached tone critical to its aura. Though God is never explicitly invoked in the film, the unseen extraterrestrial forces are undoubtedly manifest of the God concept, and ultimately build on the notion. As a metaphor, the monolith is many things: an evolutionary trigger, a burglar alarm set to notify our having reached the next stepping stone, a porthole that penetrates the very fabric of space and time. It's no coincidence that the towering figures bear the likeness of a doorway, in the final act sending Dave beyond the infinite of space only to return him back to Earth, born again. The psychedelic sequence that accompanies the former is one of the preeminent accomplishments in all of film-a climactic, orgiastic sequence of alien landscapes, exploding nebulae, and wafting tides of organic space that practically leaps off the screen. Putting to shame the comparatively shallow thrills of virtually every blockbuster ever made, it may be the ultimate example of mind-blowing cinema.

This, however, isn't until long after the film has lulled the subconscious into a state of deep tranquility-essentially, a return to nature, of inwardness and meditation unhindered by the distractions of the rat race. Detractors often cite the film's lack of dialogue as a source of extreme boredom, but it's through the film's silent, deliberate hypnosis that it achieves its ballet-like majesty, with every painterly image and effortless pan and cut communicating not only a necessary emotional cue, but the wordless beauty of mankind as a creative, conscious entity at work in the universe. This sense of awe is appropriately complemented by the marriage of Kubrick's work with that of composers past, the thunderous notes of 'Also Spake Zarathustra' catapulting man into the cosmos only for Strauss's 'The Blue Danube' to titillate his senses once there. The space-docking sequences employing the latter evoke a range of feeling far beyond the evocative ability of language's too-literal limitations, at once exhilarating and bemusing in their waltz-like bliss, while the repeated use of the former marks mankind's many ascensions throughout the film. Their rhapsody is apparent throughout the entirety of the film, as individual moments made eternal, as literature created in the flesh. The final passages are the most exultant in their taking us beyond ourselves into a wide-eyed state of untarnished possibilities; entirely without words, the film reminds us that, despite how far we've come, the real odyssey has only just begun.

10 out of 10.

17. The Sacrifice (1986)

PG | 149 min | Drama

At the dawn of World War III, a man searches for a way to restore peace to the world and finds he must give something in return.

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky | Stars: Erland Josephson, Susan Fleetwood, Allan Edwall, Guðrún Gísladóttir

Votes: 20,081 | Gross: $0.30M

One could briefly explain some of the plot, but that would mean nothing. This is a film that speaks of terror, of faith, and above all, of binding promises. An intellectual, living in a remote and beautiful cottage is celebrating his birthday with friends and family - when war is announced. Promises of life, and of death are the main premise of the film, and one cannot walk away from it. This is the sort of film that terrifies, ensnares, and draws you in, so that no matter what the moment, you cannot rip yourself away. Filmed with supreme skill and incredible beauty, this is a film that forces you to look at your life, your premises, and your entire evaluation of existence.

10 out of 10.

18. Rashomon (1950)

Not Rated | 88 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

The rape of a bride and the murder of her samurai husband are recalled from the perspectives of a bandit, the bride, the samurai's ghost and a woodcutter.

Director: Akira Kurosawa | Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Machiko Kyô, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura

Votes: 133,904 | Gross: $0.10M

19. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

R | 136 min | Crime, Drama, Sci-Fi

80 Metascore

In the future, a sadistic gang leader is imprisoned and volunteers for a conduct-aversion experiment, but it doesn't go as planned.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke

Votes: 686,763

Stanley Kubrick's ninth film, 'A Clockwork Orange,' is a brilliant and dangerous work, but it is dangerous in a way that brilliant things sometimes are, because it is a movie of such manifold, contradictory effects that it can easily be seen in many ways and may well be wrongly used by a number of people who see it.

Although the film, like Anthony Burgess's novel from which it is adapted, is cast as futurist fiction, it is much more a satire on contemporary society than are most futurist works, all of which, if they are worth anything, are meaningful only in terms of the society that bred them. It may even be a mistake to describe the movie 'A Clockwork Orange' as futurist in any respect, since its made-up teenage language, its décor, its civil idiocies, its social chaos, or their equivalents, are already at hand, although it's still possible for most of the people to ignore a lot of them.

It seems to me that by describing horror with such elegance and beauty, Kubrick has created a very disorienting but human comedy, not warm and lovable, but a terrible sum- up of where the world is at. With all of man's potential for divinity through love, through his art and his music, this is what it has somehow boiled down to: a civil population terrorized by hoodlums, disconnected porno art, quick solutions to social problems, with the only 'hope' for the future in the vicious Alex.

In my opinion, Kubrick has made a movie that exploits only the mystery and variety of human conduct. And because it refuses to use the emotions conventionally, demanding instead that we keep a constant, intellectual grip on things, it's a most unusual and disorienting movie experience.

10 out of 10.

20. Sansho the Bailiff (1954)

Not Rated | 124 min | Drama

In medieval Japan, a compassionate governor is sent into exile. His wife and children try to join him, but are separated, and the children grow up amid suffering and oppression.

Director: Kenji Mizoguchi | Stars: Kinuyo Tanaka, Yoshiaki Hanayagi, Kyôko Kagawa, Eitarô Shindô

Votes: 12,504

21. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)

Not Rated | 95 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama

In the 16th century, the ruthless and insane Don Lope de Aguirre leads a Spanish expedition in search of El Dorado.

Director: Werner Herzog | Stars: Klaus Kinski, Ruy Guerra, Helena Rojo, Del Negro

Votes: 46,510

22. Kagemusha (1980)

PG | 162 min | Drama, History, War

84 Metascore

A petty thief with an utter resemblance to a samurai warlord is hired as the lord's double. When the warlord later dies the thief is forced to take up arms in his place.

Director: Akira Kurosawa | Stars: Tatsuya Nakadai, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Ken'ichi Hagiwara, Jinpachi Nezu

Votes: 28,522

'Kagemusha' gives a profound insight in the pre-Tokugawa period of Japan. Especially remarkable is the very elaborated atmosphere of this film to which contribute the pure and simple dialogues and the use of very well-made sceneries. Although the atmosphere is very elaborated and almost perfectly historic; the tension is heightened by the simplicity of the scenes. Kurosawa leaves certain parts to the viewer's imagination rather than showing it. The movie is highly philosophical as well as emotionally touching, and presents the soul of the way of samurai and Japan's old samurai system much better and more serious than countless movies about samurai.

10 out of 10.

23. Pather Panchali (1955)

Not Rated | 125 min | Drama

Impoverished priest Harihar Ray, dreaming of a better life for himself and his family, leaves his rural Bengal village in search of work.

Director: Satyajit Ray | Stars: Kanu Bannerjee, Karuna Bannerjee, Subir Banerjee, Chunibala Devi

Votes: 19,116 | Gross: $0.54M

24. 12 Angry Men (1957)

Not Rated | 96 min | Drama

96 Metascore

A jury holdout attempts to prevent a miscarriage of justice by forcing his colleagues to reconsider the evidence.

Director: Sidney Lumet | Stars: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam, John Fiedler

Votes: 592,574 | Gross: $4.36M

Take a classic film and strip it down to its bare necessities. Gone are the extravagant sets and sweeping camera-work; removed are the lavish visual effects and epic story lines. What we are left with is cinema in its purest form, where acting is the sole driving-force of the narrative, and our attention is retained through the director's thorough exploitation of a bare-bones scenario. Sidney Lumet's debut feature-length film, '12 Angry Men,' is quite simply one of the most arresting motion pictures I have ever seen, a veritable melting pot of gripping performances and impassioned monologues.

9 out of 10.

25. Raise the Red Lantern (1991)

PG | 125 min | Drama, History, Romance

A young woman becomes the fourth wife of a wealthy lord, and must learn to live with the strict rules and tensions within the household.

Director: Yimou Zhang | Stars: Li Gong, Jingwu Ma, Saifei He, Cuifen Cao

Votes: 25,674 | Gross: $2.60M



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