The Godfather: Part II
The Godfather Part II is one of the most critically acclaimed sequels of all time. In fact, many critics rank it higher than the first Godfather film, believing it to be the superior film. Currently, it holds a 98% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. Starring two highly acclaimed actors, Al Pacino as Michael and Robert De Niro as the young Vito (played by Marlon Brando in the first one), the epic crime film tells the story of the rise and fall of the Corleone family.
The Godfather Part II received multiple Academy Awards in 1975. The film won Best Picture and Francis Ford Coppola earned the Best Director Oscar. Al Pacino earned a nomination for his work, but it was Robert De Niro who won his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Out of 11 nominations, the film won six total, including additional awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Dramatic Score and Best Art Direction.
While today Forrest Gump only has a 71% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, in 1994, it was a critical darling. The film moved audiences, providing the perfect combination of sentimentality, drama and comedy. Audiences today still laugh and cry at the extraordinary film about an ordinary man and his adventures through the 1950s to the 1980s.
Forrest Gump received a huge number of Academy Award nominations and six Oscar wins. The film earned Best Picture in 1994, which fans of Pulp Fiction were not happy about. Other wins included the Best Director award for Robert Zemeckis, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects and Best Film Editing. It also earned a second Oscar for Tom Hanks (first being Philadelphia).
The 2002 musical film Chicago stars Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renée Zellweger and Richard Gere. Mixing comedy, drama and music, the film is about two women in jail awaiting trial for murder with hotshot lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) set to defend them. As both women compete for fame and celebrity surrounding their notoriety, musical antics ensue.
The entertaining musical holds an 86% critic score and 83% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. More impressively though, Chicago earned 12 Academy Award nominations. Out of those 12 nominations, it earned Best Picture, Best Costume Design, and Best Film Editing Oscars. It also earned a Best Supporting Actress award for Catherine Zeta-Jones.
All About Eve
All About Eve is easily one of the best films of the 1950s, starring one of the greatest actresses of all time - Bette Davis. The film features Davis as Margo Channing, an acclaimed but aging Broadway star, and Anne Baxter as Eve, a young newcomer who threatens her career. The film features an impressive 99% Rotten Tomato score from critics and is just as loved by fans with a 94% audience score.
All About Eve earned a whopping 14 Academy Award nominations. Out of those 14 nominations, the film won a total of six. Oscar wins included awards for Best Motion Picture and Best Director for Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Surprisingly, neither Bette Davis nor Anne Baxter received the Best Actress award despite praise from critics and audiences.
Gravity has one of the highest Rotten Tomatoes scores for a science fiction film with a 95%. The film features a simple plot that is basically Cast Away in space. Astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock, is left stranded in space with no shuttle and no contact with Earth but has to figure out how to get home anyway. While the plot of the 2013 film may not have been the most original, it featured groundbreaking special effects and editing that really pulled audiences into every moment.
The science fiction film directed by Alfonso Cuaron earned seven Oscars, including Best Director. Additional awards won were Best Cinematography, Best Special Effects and Best film Editing. It should be noted that while Gravity was nominated for Best Picture, it failed to win the award. Instead, the 2014 Best Picture Oscar went to 12 Years a Slave, which had earned only two other awards.
Bridge on the River Kwai
Bridge on the River Kwai is one of the best war films of all time. The 1957 film stars Alec Guinness (before he became a jedi) and William Holden. The plot revolves around POW Colonel Nicholson who oversees the building of a railroad bridge for his Japanese captors. But as Stockholm Syndrome takes hold, the Colonel's duties to his captors become an obsession and he forgets his place in the British Army.
Bridge on the River Kwai had great success at the 1958 Academy Awards. The film won 7 of its 8 nominations. Wins included Best Motion Picture, a Best Director award for David Lean, and a Best Actor award for Alec Guinness. On top of that, it is still beloved by critics with a 95% Rotten Tomatoes score.
The Best Years of Our Lives
The Best Years of Our Lives was considered one of the biggest critical and commercial successes of all time – at least when it came out. The 1946 film earned $23.7 million and had a budget of under $3 million. The film is just as loved today with a 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes. It tells the story of three World War II veterans trying to return to civilian life.
At the 1947 Academy Awards, The Best Years of Our Lives earned 7 out of 8 awards at its initial ceremony. Best Picture, Best Director for William Wyler, and Best Actor for Fredric March were just some of the Oscars it won. Years later, Harold Russell and Samuel Goldwyn would receive honoree awards for their contributions to the film.
Going My Way
The 1944 film, Going My Way was the perfect escape for those living through World War II. The comedy-drama musical stars Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald. In the film, a priest named East St. Louis transfers to New York City to take over a parish at St. Dominic's Church. The film currently has an 81% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Going My Way was a critical success and earned plenty of Oscars at the 1945 Academy Award ceremony. The film received a Best Motion Picture award, and Best Director award for Leo McCarey. Bind Crosby also won an Oscar that year. Barry Fitzgerald was nominated for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor but only won for his supporting role. In total, it received 7 wins out of 10 nominations.
Tying with Going My Way in terms of nominations and wins, The Sting was a huge success in 1973 and it has a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. The caper film revolves a plot around two conmen, played by Robert Redford and Paul Newman, who team up to get revenge against a ruthless crime boss. Mixing comedy and drama, the excellent production recreates the 1930s to perfection and truly shines with two remarkably charming leads. The film had a budget of just 5.5 Million and earned 159.6 Million at the Box Office.
On top of its commercial and critical success, the movie earned a ton of awards too. It received the Best Picture award in 1974 and got six other awards, including Best Director for George Roy Hill and Best Original Screenplay for David S. Ward. Other awards earned were Art Direction, Costume Design and Film Editing among others.
Patton, the 1970 film starring George C. Scott is widely considered to be one of the greatest biographical war films. The film details the career of General George S. Patton during and after World War II. Although most films about World War II up to this point had glorified the war and its American heroes, this movie did the unexpected and portrayed Patton in a not so flattering light.
Patton had great success on Oscar night. George C. Scott earned a Best Actor Academy Award but in protest of the Academy voting process and the awards, he refused to accept it. The film also received Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, among others. It received 10 nominations total and won seven altogether. It has a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Lawrence of Arabia
With Lawrence of Arabia, director David Lean, whom also directed Bridge on the River Kwai, redefined what an epic film could be. The 1962 film featured sweeping desert landscapes, meticulously detailed sets, incredible cinematography and fine acting from its cast. Based on the life of T.E. Lawrence (played by Peter O' Toole) and his career during World War I, the story depicted the rise and fall of a British war hero and celebrity.
Not only does Lawrence of Arabia have a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes but it also has an extensive collection of awards. Gaining 10 nominations and seven wins, the film won Best Picture, Best Cinematography -Color, Best Music Score and Best Director. No acting awards were received; however, Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif were both nominated.
Out of Africa
At the time, it was a critical success, but now its position as one of the all-time greats is somewhat controversial. Currently, Out of Africa, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford only has a 59% on Rotten Tomatoes. The romantic drama film can be a difficult watch for many people due to its length and pacing. Nevertheless, the 1985 film garnered plenty of awards and praise.
With a total of 11 nominations, it ranks among the most nominated films of all time. Best Picture, Best Director (Sydney Pollack), Best Screenplay, and best Cinematography are just some of the awards that were won in 1986. There were seven wins in total.
Dances with Wolves
Before Dances with Wolves most movies about Native Americans were downright offensive. Many of them featured white actors playing natives in an extremely unflattering light, portraying them as violent monsters out to hurt or kidnap white people. Dances with Wolves turned out to be the metaphorical embrace of Native Americans in Hollywood. The Civil War era film about an injured Union soldier living among the natives has an 83% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Dances with Wolves was the first Western to win best Picture since the 1931 film Cimarron. It was directed and starred Kevin Costner who won Best Director in 1991 for his work. Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Cinematography were also won. The film got 7 out of 12 nominations.
No movie encapsulates the horrors of the Holocaust quite like Schindler's List. The 1993 film told the story of German industrialist Oskar Schindler, and the 1,200 Jews he saved during the Holocaust. The film also stars Ralph Fiennes as the evil Amon Göth who serves as a character foil for Oskar Schindler. The film received critical acclaim and does to this very day with a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. It is also shown in schools for teaching purposes.
For Schindler's List, Steven Spielberg earned a Best Picture and Best Director Oscar. Steven Zaillian won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, while Janusz Kaminski won for his beautiful but horrifying cinematography. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes were both nominated for an Academy Award but did not win. Schindler's List had 12 nominations and 7 Oscar wins.
Shakespeare in Love
In 1999, Shakespeare in Love was a subject of huge controversy because of its win over another Spielberg classic, Saving Private Ryan. Although Saving Private Ryan was expected to win and remains an audience favorite, the truth is that Shakespeare in Love was the bigger hit with critics. The film's story recounts a fictional love story between William Shakespeare and a woman posing as a man so that she may act in his plays.
The period comedy-drama earned 13 Academy Award nominations. Out of those 13 nominations, it received 7 wins in total. Best Picture, Best Actress for Gwyneth Paltrow and Best Supporting Actress for Judi Dench were just some of the awards won. By comparison, Saving Private Ryan was nominated for only 11 awards and received just five. Shakespeare in Love also has a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, so apparently, some people still like it.
Loosely based on the musical, Cabaret is set in 1931 Berlin, just as the Nazis were coming into power. An American cabaret singer played by Liza Minnelli is caught in a love triangle between a university professor and a wealthy German playboy. Cabaret has a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes as of 2020.
Cabaret may not have taken the Best Picture award, but it won 8 Oscars nevertheless, solidifying its position as one of the most critically acclaimed movies of all time. The 1972 film won for Best Director, Best Actress (Liza Minnelli) and Best Cinematography in addition to several others. There were 10 nominations total.
The 2008 film, Slumdog Millionaire, directed by Danny Boyle was filmed primarily in India and based loosely on the novel Q & A. It tells the story of Jamal Malik, a contestant on an Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" Jamal answers a series of difficult questions that he happens to know the answers to because of his life experiences. The story is told through flashbacks.
The expertly crafted Slumdog Millionaire has a 91% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. The year it came out, it was featured on numerous top ten lists and it earned a total of eight Academy Awards. It received Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Filming and Best Original Song. There were 10 nominations total.
Hollywood always loves a good biopic, and Gandhi was one of the best from the 1980s. The 1982 film has an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. Directed and produced by Richard Attenborough, the epic recounts the life of Gandhi from 1893 to 1948. Ben Kingsley is in the titular role and it is also one of Daniel Day Lewis's first films.
In 1983, Richard Attenborough garnered Best Picture and Best Director awards for his work. Ben Kingsley won best actor and John Briley won for best screenplay. The film also won for cinematography and costuming. There were 11 nominations and 8 wins in total.
Of course, we said Gandhi was "one of the best" because the very best of the 1980s would have to be Amadeus. The 1984 film has a 93% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. It stars Tom Hulce as the musical genius Mozart and F. Murray Abraham as the mediocre Salieri. Jealous of Mozart's abilities and burdened by his own self-loathing, Salieri hatches a scheme to silence Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for good.
Amadeus was nominated for 11 Academy Awards. Among those 11 nominations, a total of eight were received at the 1985 ceremony. Both Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham were nominated for Best Actor and Abraham was the winner. Amadeus received additional wins for Best Picture, Best Director (Milos Forman), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay, among others.
My Fair Lady
My Fair Lady, based on the musical and the earlier stage play Pygmalion, centers around a Cockney flower seller named Eliza Doolittle and a phonetics professor who vows to teach her to speak "proper" English. Audrey Hepburn stars as Eliza Doolittle and Rex Harrison stars as Professor Henry Higgins. The musical drama has a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.
On top of its critical success, it also earned many awards. It won 8 Academy Awards including one for Rex Harrison. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography Oscars were earned as well. With 12 nominations total, those who worked on the film had a lot to be proud of.
On the Waterfront
On the Waterfront is often ranked among the top ten films of all time by organizations like the American Film Institute where it ranks as the eighth greatest film. It has a 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes, making it easily one of the most acclaimed movies of all time. The 1954 crime film starring Marlon Brando is about a former boxer, Terry Malloy, who is faced with the opportunity to turn witness against a criminal union boss, not long after being forced to throw a fight and give up his dreams as a boxer. Terry Malloy is threatened by the community in hopes that he won't testify.
Its success at the Academy Awards also solidified On the Waterfront's place among the all-time greats. The film and its star, Marlon Brando both received Oscars. Elias Kazan won the award for Best Director. The film's supporting actress, Eva Marie Saint was a winner as well. On the Waterfront received 8 wins and 12 total nominations.
Gone with the Wind
Gone with the Wind was once one of the most beloved epics of all time. In 1939, it had a budget of just 3.85 Million and earned more than $390 Million at the box office. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 91% score from critics and a 92% score from audiences. It earned 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture and a Best Actress award for Vivien Leigh. There was a total of 13 nominations.
The epic romance film, set in Georgia during the American Civil War, is the story of Scarlett O'Hara, her affairs with men and her efforts to keep her family plantation running. It is of course, a product of its time. The depictions of slavery and its glorification of the South during the Civil War are outdated. At around 4 hours long, it can also be a chore to sit through. But none of that changes its historical significance and impact on the industry. Frankly, you may not give a damn, but critics and film historians certainly will.
From Here to Eternity
From Here to Eternity is yet again, another romance drama war film. This one stars Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, and Frank Sinatra. Based on the novel of the same name, the film is set in 1941. Like Gone with the Wind the film received 8 wins and 13 nominations, but with a Rotten Tomatoes score that is 1% higher, From Here to Eternity ranks above the former.
The film earned Best Motion Picture and Best Director awards at the 1954 Oscar ceremony. Frank Sinatra got an award for Best Supporting Actor and Donna reed got one for Supporting Actress. Best Cinematography – Black-and-White, Best Screenplay and Best Film Editing were also handed out.
The 1958 musical romance Gigi is based on the 1944 novel of the same name. It tells the story of Gaston, a playboy with a fear of commitment and his new friend, Gigi who begins to fall in love with. The film stars Leslie Caron and Louis Jordan. At the tie, this movie was well praised by critics.
Gigi had much success at the 1959 Academy Awards, winning all nine awards that it was nominated for. The film earned the top prizes like Best Motion Picture, Best Director and Best (adapted) Screenplay, and Best Film Editing. Additionally, Gigi won awards for costume design, art direction and Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.
The Last Emperor
The Last Emperor starring John Lone, Loan Chen and Peter O'Toole recounts the reign of Pu Yi, the last emperor of China. Captured by the Soviet army, 1950, Pu Yi remembers his life in the Forbidden City. This film has an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes as of 2020.
Like Gigi, The Last Emperor won nine out of nine Oscars for which it was nominated. No acting Oscars were received but it did win for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography, among other categories. Although it was a success with the audience, it failed to capture the same interest with critics, earning only $44 Million at the Box Office.
The English Patient
You may never have seen this movie but you at least saw the "Seinfeld" episode about it. Is it overrated? Maybe. But that doesn't change how critically acclaimed it was in the '90s. The British-American epic romance war drama set in World War II has an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. As with most epic romance films, filmgoers eventually fall out of love with them.
Nonetheless, the film accumulated many awards after its release in 1996. It earned a Best Picture and Best Director award. Juliette Binoche earned the award for Best Supporting Actress and John Seale earned the award for Best Cinematography. The film lost the adapted screenplay Oscar category. The main actors, Kristin Scott Thomas and Ralph Fiennes, both lost in the lead acting categories as well.
West Side Story
The 1961 musical West Side Story, which we promise is the last on the list, was the definitive musical of the time. Critics loved the unique take on the story of Romeo and Juliet set on the Upper West Side in New York City. Natalie Wood played Maria and Richard Beymer played Tony. Today, there would be much controversy with white actors playing Hispanic characters or even all the stereotypes sprinkled throughout the movie, but in the '60s, Hollywood just didn't care.
Surprisingly, West Side Story hasn't been canceled yet, as it has a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film won the Best Picture category and Best Director for both Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. George Chakiris and Rita Moreno both earned Best Supporting Actor and Actress awards, respectively. Altogether, the film won 10 out of 11 nominations, losing only the Best Adapted Screenplay category, showing that it's not without merit.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
In terms of movie trilogies in most circumstances, the third film never quite cuts it. But that wasn't the case with the 2003 film, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. In fact, many regard the third installment as not only the best of the Lord of the Rings trilogy but as one of the best movies of all time, if not "the best." The epic film totals around 3.5 hours (or 4 for the extended cut) and most of that time flies by. Earning $1.142 billion, the movie was a commercial success.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 93% critic score, showing that critics felt just as strongly as audiences. Hollywood as whole agreed too, giving The Return of the King a total of 11 nominations in all major categories other than acting. At the 2004 Academy Awards, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won all the awards for which it was nominated, making Oscar history.
Ben Hur (1959) was a religious epic film starring Charlton Heston, who was basically the Harrison Ford of his time. At the time of its production, at over $15 Million, it was the most expensive movie ever made. Adapted from Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, it was designed as a remake of the 1925 Silent Film. This version holds n 86% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Earning 11 Oscars out of 12 nominations, Ben Hur's record is also not to be ignored. The 1959 film won awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Visual Effects in addition to several others. As one of the most epic films of its time, it was the first film to earn 11 Oscars - a record that has not yet been beaten.
Between film and television, Hollywood has made several movies about the Titanic over the years but only one has made a huge impact. The 1997 film Titanic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, won 11 Oscars out of a total of 14 nominations. Although its main actress failed to take home the Oscar she was nominated for, Titanic won most of the major awards it was nominated for including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Cinematography.
When James Cameron won his Academy Awards for his work on Titanic, he proclaimed, "I'm King of the World" just as DiCaprio does in the movie, and indeed he was. The movie may have just an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes now, but in the late 90's, it was the biggest movie anyone had seen since Gone with the Wind or Star Wars. The blockbuster film was titanic in its own right and earned over $2 Billion at the box office.