What makes a movie great? Why do some stand the test of time while others slowly (or rather quickly) lose their value? For some films, it’s the emotion the story invokes. Sometimes an actor’s performance is so unforgettable, it captures our attention. Occasionally a film is so visually stunning, it can’t be forgotten.
I put together a collection of the 30 best movies of all time. To warn you in advance, this isn’t the usual film snob list of black and white classics and foreign films meant to show off my knowledge of classical cinema. These are the movies we watch because we want to, not because we’re told to.
30. Avatar (2009)
Avatar – Best Movie
Avatar is one of the most visually beautiful movies ever made. Even people who complain about special effects in movies dropped their jaws upon seeing it for the first time. This film pushed modern cinematic technology into a new age, ushering in the age of stereoscopic 3D. Beneath its beauty, the film features a cross-species love story and a social message. Avatar is a must see for any movie fan.
Best Quote: Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) “I became a Marine for the hardship. Told myself that I can pass any test a man can pass. All I ever wanted was a single thing worth fighting for.”
29. Scarface (1983)
Scarface – Best Movie
There are a lot of gangster movies out there, but Scarface is easily the most quoted. The story of Cuban immigrant turned maniacal gangster Tony Montana is gritty from front to back. The chainsaw scene in the beginning still gives me quivers. As he gains more power, his greed starts to get the best of him. He makes a few bad decisions that lead to the one of the best death scenes in movie history.
Best Quote: Tony Montana “You need people like me so you can point your fuckin’ fingers and say, ‘That’s the bad guy.’ So… what does that make you? Good? You’re not good. You just know how to hide, how to lie. Me, I don’t have that problem. Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie. So say good night to the bad guy!”
28. The Notebook (2004)
The Notebook – Best Movie
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit I’ve never seen The Notebook. The reason I know it’s a great film is because every time I tell a woman I’ve never seen it, she tries to convince me to watch it. The basic premise is a boy falls in love with a girl. They have a budding romance, some conflict gets in the way, and they end up together when they’re older. This movie is the bar in which many women measure a man.
Best Quote: Noah (Ryan Gosling) says, “I am nothing special; just a common man with common thoughts, and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten. But in one respect I have succeeded as gloriously as anyone who’s ever lived: I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul; and to me, this has always been enough.”
27. Audition (1999)
Audition – Best Movie
I judge horror movies by how many full length cartoons I have to watch afterwards so I can go to sleep, and Audition is easily a 10 toon film. A widower auditions women for his new wife. He picks a young beautiful woman named Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina) …who turns out to be the most eerily psychotic film character of all time. Yamazaki has scenes of torture so brutal they’re almost unwatchable, and the pleasure she takes in her work is beyond disturbing.
Best Quote: Asami Yamazaki: “Kiri kiri kiri kiri kiri kiri!” (Translation: Pain pain pain pain pain pain!)
26. Young Frankenstein (1974)
Young Frankenstein – Best Movie
Mel Brooks is a king of screwball comedy, and Young Frankestein is the film Scary Movie wishes it was. The cast delivers brilliant lines with impeccable comedic timing. Igor’s (Marty Feldman) sarcastic responses to Dr. Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) crack me up every time. If you’re adverse to older movies, this may be the one to change your mind.
Best Quote: Igor: “Dr. Frankenstein…”
Igor: “You’re putting me on.”
Frankenstein: “No, it’s pronounced ‘Fronkensteen.’ … You must be Igor.”
Igor: “No, it’s pronounced ‘Eye-gor.’”
25. The One Percent (2006)
The One Percent – Best Movie
The One Percent is the second of Johnson & Johnson heir Jamie Johnson’s documentaries chronicling a lifestyle that 99% of us will never have. Born rich, Jamie gives the rest of us a look into the lives of some of America’s wealthiest families. Jamie’s father Jim spends the majority of the film opposing it. With the crash of the artificial housing market soon after and the Occupy movement popping up 5 years later, it’s easy to see what he’s afraid of.
Best Quote: Jamie Johnson: “The top 1% of Americans, like my family and me, own roughly 40% of the country’s wealth, and we share an aggregate net worth that is greater than the bottom 90% of individuals combined.”
24. Cinderella Man (2005)
Cinderella Man – Best Movie
James Braddock (Russell Crowe), a washed up boxer who fights impossible odds to compete for the heavyweight championship is one of cinema’s most memorable underdogs. Director Ron Howard expertly recreates the 1930s setting to draw you into this “based on a true story” sports drama filled with award winning actors. Cinderella Man is everything you want in a sports movie.
Best Quote: James Braddock “I have to believe that when things are bad I can change them.”
23. Bad Boys (1995)
Bad Boys – Best Movie
Hate on Michael Bay all you want, the man knows how to make an entertaining movie. Bad Boys is a buddy cop movie that never gets old, thanks to the personalities of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Filled with flashy car chases and spectacular shoot outs, this is a movie that you can sit down and watch anytime it’s on television, no matter how far in it is.
Best Quote: Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) “You made me think you were gonna shoot me for a minute.”
Mike Lowrey (Smith) “I was.”
22. Unforgiven (1992)
Unforgiven – Best Movie
Before he went crazy and started talking to chairs, Clint Eastwood was responsible for some of the most classic Westerns in American cinema. In Unforgiven, he plays Will Munny, a retired gunslinger who lets his old friend Ned (Morgan Freeman) convince him to collect a bounty from some hookers. On the way, they encounter other bounty hunters and a hardnosed sheriff (Gene Hackman). It takes a lot for Munny to snap, but once he does, you’ll be glad you’re watching from a distance.
Best Quote: Will Munny “All right, I’m coming out. Any man I see out there, I’m gonna shoot him. Any sumbitch takes a shot at me, I’m not only gonna kill him, but I’m gonna kill his wife, all his friends, and burn his damn house down.”
21. Leon: The Professional (1994)
Leon The Professional – Best Movie
This tale of professional assassin Léon (Luc Besson) is dramatic and heartfelt. He takes in a young girl (Natalie Portman) whose drugged out parents are killed by their psychotic dealer (Gary Oldman) then proceeds to teach her the tricks of the trade while protecting her and seeking vengeance. Léon: The Professional is one of those movies where you can’t help but side with the killer, who deep down has a heart of gold.
Best Quote: Léon “The rifle is the first weapon you learn how to use, because it lets you keep your distance from the client. The closer you get to being a pro, the closer you can get to the client. The knife, for example, is the last thing you learn.”
20. Love & Basketball (2000)
Love and Basketball – Best Movie
While many romance movies are difficult for men to watch, Love & Basketball goes a long way into drawing men into this “chick flick” genre by incorporating an underlying sports theme. Quincy (Omar Epps) and Monica (Sanaa Lathan) meet on the basketball court as kids, and their love/hate relationship keeps their lives intersecting as they live their individual dreams of playing pro ball.
Best Quote: Monica “It’s a trip, you know? When you’re a kid, you see the life you want, and it never crosses your mind that it’s not gonna turn out that way.”