Film critics pick the 50 best movies of all time

Endless lists have been made, and it's a great way to start an argument at a party. What's better, 'Chinatown' or 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'? 'The Wizard of Oz' or 'Singin' in the Rain'? Everyone's picks are different, but for their new book 'The Greatest Movies Ever,' film critics Gail Kinn and Jim Piazza selected their choices for the best 101 movies of all time. First published in 2008, this edition of the book is revised with new picks like 'Slumdog Millionaire.' Here's a sampler – the 50 films that got the top spots on Kinn and Piazza's list.

50.'Bonnie and Clyde'

"For the thrill-struck, radiant young couple on the run, the Great Depression is over," the critics wrote of the 1967 film directed by Arthur Penn. "They're racing into the sunrise of an anti-Hollywood revolution. A vast new youth audience suspicious of war and the politicians who make it are hungry for antiheroes."

Actress Jane Fonda passed on the role of Bonnie.

A member of the actual Barrow gang, W.D. Jones, said the movie made the adventures look "glamorous," but that the real thing was far otherwise.

'2001: A Space Odyssey'

"Kubrick's aim was always high," Kinn and Piazza write of the 1968 film by the director. "But this time he shot his arrow past the stars and into the heavens to explore his ideas about man's place in the universe, extraterrestrial life, and the lives and deaths of intelligence and the imagination."

According to Frederick I. Ordway, the scientific advisor and technical consultant for the movie, director of NASA's Office of Manned Space Flight George Mueller called the office complex where Ordway and designer Harry Lange were researching "NASA East" because of the large amount of material on space they had with them.

In an interview with writer Joseph Gelmis, Kubrick said of the sometimes ambiguous movie, "In a film like '2001,' where each viewer brings his own emotions and perceptions to bear on the subject matter, a certain degree of ambiguity is valuable, because it allows the audience to "fill in" the visual experience themselves." 

'Rules of the Game'

"Renoir watches through long, undisturbed takes the collapse of an era where heroism was possible and class privilege prevailed with all of its trappings, including the suppression of truth and humanity," the critics write of the 1939 film directed by Jean Renoir.

The director cameoed in the film in the role of Octave.

'Top Hat'

"Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers shimmer across the dance floor in a timeless, spaceless whirl called romance," Kinn and Piazza write of the 1935 film directed by Mark Sandrich. Star Astaire's screen test reportedly came with the note, "Can't act. Can't sing. Balding. Can dance a little," according to Biography.

According to Rogers, during the "Cheek to Cheek" number, Rogers' dress shed feathers everywhere, and filming had to be halted to fix the problem. Astaire nicknamed his co-star "Feathers" after the incident.

'8 1/2'

"A gush of visual astonishments await as we journey through the mind of a genius who's essentially psychoanalyzing himself," the critics wrote of the 1963 film by Federico Fellini. "More than a little like dreaming with your eyes open."

The movie was later the basis for the Tony Award-winning musical "Nine," which was adapted as a film in 2009.

'The Deer Hunter'

"The [Russian roulette] scenes serve as a metaphor for the brutality of war," Kinn and Piazza write of the 1978 film directed by Michael Cimino. ""Anything less powerful might not have challenged the patriotic, buddy-buddy fervor with which the film's tight group of friends from a small steel-mill town enlist to prove their manhood and their deep love of country."

The five films "Deer" actor John Cazale appeared in were all nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.

'City Lights'

"It's a solo flight of comic invention that comes at you like some kind of clown miracle," Kinn and Piazza write of the 1931 film directed by star Charlie Chaplin. "And its elaborate slapstick sequences became templates for thousands of films that followed."

According to Turner Classic Movies, Chaplin initially wanted to make the movie entirely silent, but he decided to put music in the film after "talking pictures" caught on.


The 1982 film directed by Barry Levinson is an "extraordinarily sad, funny and perfectly penned depiction of the lives of an aimless group of buddies at the end of an era," the critics write. "This multi-character study pulls such natural performances out of the promising cast that you're sure you've known every one of these guys your entire life."

A TV pilot based on the movie was written by Levinson and featured actor Paul Reiser returning to reprise his film role, with actor Michael Madsen taking over the role first played by Mickey Rourke and James Spader taking on Kevin Bacon's part. However, the pilot wasn't picked up for a series by its network, CBS.

'The Lives of Others'

"You get the sense that the film's sterling performances don't come simply from the actors digging deeply into their characters -- but from their own memories of how it was just twenty years before," Kinn and Piazza write of the 2006 film directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. "In its transcendent epilogue, The Lives of Others shows us the end of a nightmare and something more precious than any political movement -- the opening of a lost man's soul."

Director Henckel von Donnersmarck told the New York Times that he was inspired to create the film after he remembered a quote by Lenin. "I remembered Maxim Gorky, who quoted Lenin as saying that Beethoven’s ‘Appassionata’ was his favorite piece of music," he said. "But Lenin said, ‘I don’t want to listen to it because it makes me want to stroke people’s heads, and I have to smash those heads to bring the revolution to them.’... I suddenly had this image in my mind of a person sitting in a depressing room with earphones on his head and listening into what he supposes is the enemy of the state and the enemy of his ideas, and what he is really hearing is beautiful music that touches him."

'Schindler's List'

The 1993 film directed by Steven Spielberg "shows enormous restraint and provides rich insight into one of our darkest moments in history," the critics write. "The film does not use easy formulas but triumphs in its directness, in its power to terrify without numbing."

Spielberg did not accept any payment for the film.

The production did not get permission to film scenes inside Auschwitz, so they filmed right outside the gates in an area built to look exactly like the prison.

'The Conformist'

"Though beautifully and opulently stylized, utilizing unusual camera angles, the play of light and shadow, tints, textures, and patterns, Bertolucci succeeds in producing one of the most chilling and resoundingly truthful character studies of an individual, as well as a collective mentality, in this portrait of a weak man who succumbs to fascism for fear of being left out," Kinn and Piazza write of the 1970 film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.

Before making "Conformist," the director had made documentaries for Shell Oil.

'Blade Runner'

The 1982 film directed by Ridley Scott shows "just another day in 'Apocalypse Soon' LA, as the questions 'Why are we here?' and 'How long have we got?' echo in the electric smog," Kinn and Piazza write. "If you want to dig, there are plenty of messages beneath the surface. If you just want to sit back and immerse yourself in this visual feast, you won't need to understand a thing."

According to the BBC, Scott put an end to fan debate and confirmed that main character Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, is a replicant, or robot. Ford told Entertainment Weekly that he'd asked Scott about it during filming and that he "never got a straight answer."

'Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb'

"The abuse of power has never been as maddeningly funny," Kinn and Piazza write of the 1964 film directed by Stanley Kubrick. "Kubrick's pantheon of eccentrics and grotesques with their fingers on the button is as absurd and riotously funny as it is paralyzing."

The movie originally had a line in which the character of Major "King Kong," portrayed by Slim Pickens, originally had a line in which he said that "a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Dallas," according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Because the movie was being released shortly after the JFK assassination (it came out in January 1964), the line was changed so the city referenced was Las Vegas.

'The African Queen'

"It isn't grit and a cranky steam engine that get the rickety African Queen down the Bora River," the critics write of the 1951 film directed by John Huston. "It's sheer star power. The German Navy, alligators and leeches don't stand a chance against the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn at full-throttle."

The original boat used in filming can now be seen in Key Largo, Fla., where it was recently repaired and is now available for rides.

'The Best Years of Our Lives'

What makes the 1946 film by William Wyler so good, according to Kinn and Piazza, is "the arch-realism combined with an unusually frank discourse on the plight of returning servicemen."

Star Harold Russell, who played Homer Parrish, was actually a double amputee through injuries sustained in World War II like the character he played in the film. He won both the Best Supporting Actor Oscar and an Honorary Oscar for the film.

'Raging Bull'

The 1980 film by Martin Scorsese is a movie about a man who "has little sense of himself and his value in the world beyond what he can do with his fists," Kinn and Piazza write. "A man, in short, who is dragged under by his own nature. We cannot dismiss his failings; we ache for him not because he is sympathetic, but because we recognize him in ourselves."

Star Robert De Niro told Scorsese the story of the boxer.

Charles Scorsese, father of the movie's director, appears in the film as Charlie, the cousin of Tommy Como (Nicholas Colasanto).

'It's A Wonderful Life'

"Having the film fall into the public domain almost seems like an act of grace performed by Clarence himself," the critics write of the 1946 film by Frank Capra. "Had we not had the opportunity to see it again and again, we would have missed experiencing the indelible power of this film." 

The movie is based on a short story by writer Philip Van Doren Stern titled "The Greatest Gift," though the man in Van Doren Stern's story is named George Pratt rather than George Bailey (James Stewart).

'The Graduate'

The 1967 film directed by Mike Nichols is "rebellion on the home front, amongst the solid middle class, and audiences went nuts," the critics write. "Hoffman's generation cheered, maybe over-related, but as with every generation, it was delighted to have found a hero of its own. Watch the film now and be transported -- or simply look around and see that we haven't, in the end, come all that far."

When star Anne Bancroft took on the famous role of Mrs. Robinson, she was only six years older than co-star Dustin Hoffman.

Actor Robert Redford was first considered for the role of Benjamin Braddock.

'It Happened One Night'

"Frank Capra broke the comedy mold when he added romance to the mix, creating a special brand of good-natured Depression escapism called screwball comedy, wherein an ill-matched man and woman go kicking and screaming into each other's arms – in overdrive," Kinn and Piazza write of the 1934 film directed by Frank Capra.

According to the New York Times, "Night" star Claudette Colbert, who portrays an heiress in the film, said she never took acting lessons and noted her lack of experience when she got her first role, a small part in the Broadway play "The Wild Westcotts." "I just went right onstage, and I learned by watching," she told the NYT. "I've always believed that acting is instinct to start with; you either have it or you don't."

'Strangers on a Train'

"Like so many of the best thrillers of the era... things really get cracking on a train," Kinn and Piazza write of the 1951 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. "In Hitchcock's world the good guy with the enviably untroubled existence always makes the ideal victim because, at heart, as much as we're supposed to identify with him, nothing gets our pulse racing, our imagination fired, like a dedicated villain."

In an interview with Boston Phoenix writer Gerald Peary, author Patricia Highsmith, who wrote the book of the same name on which "Strangers" was based, said she felt actor Robert Walker "was excellent. He had elegance and humor, and the proper fondness for his mother," though she disliked the fact that the character Guy (Farley Granger) is a tennis player in the movie rather than an architect as in her novel. "I thought it was ludicrous that he's aspiring to be a politician, and that he's supposed to be in love with that stone angel [the character of Ann Morton, played by actress Ruth Roman]." 

'Saving Private Ryan'

"Spielberg lays before us a visceral and devastatingly honest film experience that speaks more through action and emotion than words," Kinn and Piazza write of the 1998 film by the director. "But the brilliant director cannot seem to resist his urge to frame the story in sentimental conventions of the genre... it's difficult to ignore this transition into the predictable, but the harrowing vision of war that radiates from the screen is burned so deeply into your senses that, regardless of those Spielberg-ian niceties, you are ultimately left with the harrowing insight into the pain and tragedy of war."

In an interview with American Cinematographer, Spielberg discussed how he was influenced by some of his favorite films set during World War II but also how he tried to set "Ryan" apart. "On 'Private Ryan,' I tried to take the opposite approach of nearly every one of my favorite World War II movies," he said. "Films that were made during the actual war years never really concerned themselves with realism, but more with extolling the virtues of winning and sacrificing ourselves upon the altar of freedom. Those were the themes of many World War II pictures, which also were designed to help sell war bonds. I love those movies, but I think Vietnam pushed people from my generation to tell the truth about war without glorifying it."

'A Streetcar Named Desire'

The 1951 movie directed by Elia Kazan is a "flagrantly theatrical film, ironically, [giving] birth to Hollywood's age of neorealism, marking the demise of plot contrivance, musty acting technique, and faux back-lot atmosphere," write Kinn and Piazza. "It can't be stressed enough that Marlon Brando's performance here was a pioneering journey into the stratosphere."

According to Turner Classic Movies, the Hays Motion Picture Code Office objected to parts of the film and they were deleted or changed. Examples include references to Blanche (Vivien Leigh)'s husband's homosexuality, which were taken out, and the ending of the film – Stella (Kim Hunter) originally stayed with her husband but says she will not return to him in the new ending. 

According to the Examiner, playwright Tennessee Williams, whose play of the same name was the basis of the movie, named Stanley Kowalski after a co-worker.

'Funny Face'

The 1957 film directed by Stanley Donen "is an ageless, delectable froth of a film, too substantive, to be a guilty pleasure," write the critics.

Donen also directed the acclaimed film musical "Singin' in the Rain." 

A 1927 Broadway musical titled "Funny Face" also starred Fred Astaire and the movie shares four musical numbers ("Funny Face, 'S Wonderful," "He Loves and She Loves," and "Let's Kiss and Make Up") with the stage show. However, the plots of the two are very different, with the "Funny" stage show following a mix-up over valuables in a safe, while the movie version of "Funny" centers on a bookstore worker and a fashion photographer who fall in love.

'Jules and Jim'

"The film is a carousel, spinning with good talk and great friendship, with disappointed longings, reckless passion, and misguided notions," Kinn and Piazza write of the François Truffaut film released in 1961. "Only one thing is abundantly clear: this witty and sometimes cynically narrated fairy tale is entrancing for its visual and musical poetry, its technical inventiveness, and its loving, humanistic vision."


The 1990 film directed by Martin Scorsese is "the violent flip-side of the American dream, set to a driving pop beat and populated by low-lifes at the wheel," write Kinn and Piazza. "The movie is so packed with color, grisly humor, and the childish, spontaneous joy of mob life, there's an underlying message that crime, however briefly, pays."

Writer Nicholas Pileggi, who wrote the nonfiction book "Wiseguy" about protagonist Henry Hill that was the basis of the film, told the New York Times, "When you see violence, it should be shocking. What has happened, I think, is the banality of violence. Some books and movies have made violence an acceptable form of behavior. It is not – in my book or in this movie."

In the scene where main character Henry Hill and his wife Karen are discussing going into the Witness Protection Program, U.S. Attorney Edward McDonald plays himself – he talked it over with the real-life Hills when they asked to enter the program.

'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'

"The enchanted, star-filled skies, dancing lights, and a monumental, volcano-like mountain to which the characters have been mysteriously drawn provide the backdrop for our greatest contemporary science-fiction film," Kinn and Piazza write of the 1977 film by Steven Spielberg

Composer John Williams, who created the famous five-note theme of the film, also created the famous music for Spielberg's 1975 movie "Jaws."


"Hitchcock is less interested in the mystery here than in the suspenseful struggle between love, identity, obsession and death," the critics write of the 1958 film directed by the famous auteur. "He captured this enigma in cinematic terms that will haunt you for the rest of your life."

Various scenes were shot in San Francisco, including at Mission San Juan Bautista, where star Kim Novak falls from a tower. 

'Pan's Labyrinth'

"Goya meets Alice in Wonderland in this genre-obliterating tour de force," Kinn and Piazza write of the 2005 film directed by Guillermo del Toro. "Intermingling dark and shimmering special-effects imagery with an abiding respect for character, del Toro questions our notion of the polarity between reality and imagination."

Director del Toro said during an interview with the Guardian that "we had a distributor tell us, during pre-production, that if we made it in English, the exact same story and everything, they'd raise their backing to $30m [more than double the original budget]. The answer was very immediate: no. Because the moment you start accepting anything that feels remotely wrong... the moment you give in, you're giving up. You've lost control, it's not the movie you wanted."

The director was next to author Stephen King at a screening of the film and saw King shifting uncomfortably at some of the gorier sections. Del Toro said it was the greatest moment of his life.

Actor Doug Jones played the Faun that speaks with girl explorer Ofelia, and Del Toro told USA Today that for the end of the film, when the Faun is stronger, he "told Doug to go rock star on me, like a glam rocker. But less David Bowie, more Mick Jagger."

'Double Indemnity'

"Happiness is open to wide interpretation in this early LA noir wrought by genre masters at their peak," Kinn and Piazza write of the 1944 film directed by Billy Wilder, saying of star Barbara Stanwyck, "Unrepentant wickedness as refreshing and inventive as a powerful jazz riff."

According to Turner Classic Movies, he movie was based on a 1943 crime novel by James M. Cain, which in turn was based on real events in 1927 – the woman allegedly involved, Ruth Snyder, was sentenced to death and was the subject of the famous photo which showed her being killed by the electric chair, taken by a reporter who'd snuck in a camera.

Wilder often worked with screenwriter Charles Brackett but Brackett would not work on "Indemnity," according to TCM, because he objected to the film's content.

'La Dolce Vita'

In the 1961 film directed by Frederico Fellini, write the critics, "the actors are stunning and nightlife Rome looks spectacularly hip in plush velvet black-and-white. Warhol could have based his entire life-as-art movement on a single frame."

"Vita" actor Marcello Mastroianni, managed to get out of a prisoner-of-war camp run by the Germans during World War II and escape to Italy.

According to the BBC, a scene in which actors Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni stand in the Trevi Fountain was shot in March and Mastroianni was so cold he needed to wear a wetsuit.

'The Searchers'

"With its stunning vision of the literal and mythological landscape of the American West, its complex characterizations, and a simple story that speaks to the essence of the American character, The Searchers has become nothing less than a touchstone of American cultural history," Kinn and Piazza write of the 1956 film by John Ford.

Buddy Holly wrote a song based on protagonist Ethan Edwards' often-repeated line "That'll be the day."

The younger version of star Natalie Wood's character Debbie was played by Wood's sister, Lana Wood.

'To Kill a Mockingbird'

The 1962 film by Robert Mulligan is "a poetic tale about the innocence and maturation of two motherless children who learn responsibility and compassion during one blissful, mischievous, confusing and dangerous summer in a small Southern town," the critics write.

In 2003, the American Film Institute picked lawyer Atticus Finch as the greatest hero depicted onscreen.

The actor playing Boo Radley for mere minutes at the end of the movie is Robert Duvall in his film debut. 

'Gone with the Wind'

The 1939 film by George Cukor, Sam Wood and Victor Fleming is "the result of three directors, over 20 uncredited writers (including F. Scott Fitzgerald), and the luminous Vivien Leigh, who provided one of the most complex performances in an era of stereotypic female images," Kinn and Piazza write. "She transforms Deep South soap opera into something resembling Greek myth."

The nation was captivated before production started by the search for an actress to play main character Scarlett O'Hara.

According to the Atlantic, during that search, a woman traveled to producer David O. Selznick's home on Christmas Day inside a version of the novel's cover and stepped out in full costume, telling him, "I am your Scarlett O'Hara!"

'On the Waterfront'

"Kazan unleashed a force of nature on the screen, a performance by an actor that was not a performance at all but an act of poetic truth revealed," Kinn and Piazza write of the director and his 1954 film. "Marlon Brando's Terry Malloy, the inarticulate lug whose simple and improvised gestures... revealed something true about the experience of being alive."

The movie was shot in Hoboken, New Jersey, the film's fictional setting.

According to the Guardian, while Brando said he improvised the famous "I could have been a contender" speech, screenwriter Budd Schulberg has the script with the speech written.

'Apocalypse Now'

The 1979 film by Francis Ford Coppola is "a monumental film that succeeds on many levels," Kinn and Piazza write. "From the massive, genocidal, Wagernian helicopter assault to the decadent Playboy pageant in the jungle, Coppola has imagined countless indelible moments and images on an awe-inspiring, epic scale."

The production was so troubled that it inspired a documentary, titled "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse," that detailed the many, many problems. According to the Independent, star Martin Sheen had a heart attack, star Marlon Brando showed up late without having read the script and would only agree to improvise his dialogue, and many of the helicopters for the production were taken by the then-president of the Philippines to use in his real war. 

'Taxi Driver'

"We hate Bickle's violence, his twisted, off-kilter views of everything, but we cannot resist him either," the critics write of the main character in Martin Scorsese's 1976 film. "We hear his thoughts through his diaries, which contradict what we see on the outside... There are some things that don't quite add up, but Scorsese's dramatic, visual genius, the emotional resonance of the performances, and the power of the music combine like chemicals absorbed through the pores."

According to Business Insider, the actor obtained a cab driver's license and drove cabs for weeks at a time to get inside Bickle's head.


"The great trick in Psycho is Hitchcock's ability to make us care about a maniac," Kinn and Piazza write about the 1960 film by the director. "He introduced America to the vulnerable, boyishly charming monster next door."

Hitchcock biographer Patrick McGilligan told NPR that the studio at which Hitchcock was under contract, Paramount, was "horrified at the possibility of this lurid film being made." One of the ways Hitchcock got the movie made was by not receiving a salary, said McGilligan.

'All About Eve'

The 1950 film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz is "a timeless, unsentimental backstage epic that is more about the fear of aging and loss of power than the whizzbang life of the theater," write the critics.

Both Bette Davis as the reigning actress Margot Channing and Anne Baxter as a nice (or is she?) up-and-comer were nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for the film.

'Some Like It Hot'

"Billy Wilder loved testing the business edge of the censor scissors," Kinn and Piazza wrote of the director of the 1959 film. "Drag certainly wasn't new... but what made the difference, and what keeps this one so remarkably fresh, is the degree of seriousness [Jack] Lemmon and [Tony] Curtis invest in their masquerade... what's so especially tender is the sisterly bonding between them and Monroe's character."

According to Turner Classic Movies, Lemmon and Curtis often took off their heels and soaked their feet in between takes.

Curtis was reported to have said that "kissing Marilyn was like kissing Hitler," and he went back and forth in subsequent years on whether he actually did.


"Nashville is the jewel in Robert Altman's crown, no less than the high point of the 1970s anti-Hollywood revolution," write the critics of Altman's 1975 film.

According to the A.V. Club, Altman met actress Shelley Duvall when Duvall was working in a mall. Duvall made her feature film debut in Altman's 1970 movie "Brewster McCloud." 

'Singin' In The Rain'

The 1952 film directed by Stanley Donen showed that "everybody's 'Gotta Dance,'" wrote the critics.

Many of the songs in the movie had already appeared in other films – for example, "Singin' in the Rain" was used in the movie "The Hollywood Revue of 1929" and in the 1940 movie "Little Nellie Kelly," among others, as well as recorded by various artists.

According to The Biography Channel, star Gene Kelly performed the title number with a 103-degree fever.


"One of the most creatively contentious, groundbreaking glories of the golden 1970s, a noir-oriented (pun intended) puzzler for a more cynical generation featuring a deviously kinetic poster boy for the era, Jack Nicholson," Kinn and Piazza wrote of the 1974 film directed by Roman Polanski.

In an interview with "Chinatown" screenwriter Robert Towne, CNN reporter Todd Leopold noted that the film seems to reflect Watergate but that the movie was actually written and shot during the late '60s and early '70s, before the true repercussions of the scandal would be felt. "But these things are in the air," Towne told CNN. "There was... that sense of the disparity between what you were told was happening and what was really going on."

In addition, Towne said of the contemporary movie industry (the interview was conducted in 2009), "I think the script of 'Chinatown' would be hard to get made today, [with] its complexity and its darkness."

'Annie Hall'

The 1977 movie directed by Woody Allen that he also starred in is "Allen nail[ing] the '70s boy-girl thing, which consisted of lots of freedom for ambivalence, pleasure, too much information, and all the words in the world with which to talk about it," write the critics.

Singer-songwriter Paul Simon portrays Tony, Annie's record producer.

Star Diane Keaton's film ensembles of tie and man's shirt quickly became a popular look for the real world.

'The Wizard of Oz'

The critics call the 1939 film directed by Victor Fleming "less a movie than an American rite of passage."

The three actors who played Dorothy's friends, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Bert Lahr, were all skilled vaudeville men.

Decades later, star Judy Garland's daughter Liza and the son of Tin Man actor Haley, who was named after his father, got married for a brief time.

'North by Northwest'

The 1959 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock is "a glamorous, cross-country suspenser that gave Cary Grant, in the ripe sunset of his career, his lasting iconic image: the Wrong Man, in a very correct blue suit, outrunning a kamikaze crop duster," write Kinn and Piazza.

The movie contains a famous mistake, in which a little boy in a cafeteria covers his ears before star Eva Marie Saint shoots Grant.

'Lawrence of Arabia'

"This human paradox of extreme self-deprecation and grandiose ambition, kindness and sadomasochistic drive remains as mutable as the transcendent desert landscapes that swirl around him," the critics write of the title character in the 1962 film directed by David Lean.

O'Toole told NPR that "I can't imagine anyone whom I'm less like than T.E. Lawrence," but he believed Lean was looking for "someone who could act it rather than be it." 

The actor also reminisced over gambling with co-star Omar Sharif in Beirut. "All the money we had earned in nine months, we lost in one night in Beirut," O'Toole told NPR.

'Sunset Boulevard'

The 1950 film by Billy Wilder is "trenchant, satirical noir with honest-to-God grownup characters," write Kinn and Piazza. "Sure, they're selfish users beyond redemption, but they can dress and talk! Unsentimental in the extreme and all the more fascinating for it."

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Wilder said what he remembered most about making the film was "the remarkable access we got. We were able to use Paramount Studios and its famous gate... the one access we did not get came after Swanson shoots Holden, and the house was swarming with police and press. I wanted two gossip columnists – Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons – each on the phone, one upstairs, one down, neither of them giving up the phone and saying, 'Get off the line... I was here first!' Hedda I got easily, but Louella knew quite well she would lose that duel because Hedda was a former actress, and she would wipe the floor with her."


"Everything matters," the critics write about the 1942 film directed by Michael Curtiz. "Every word uttered in this film has wit. Every gesture, every turn of the head has import. 'Casablanca' is that rare movie miracle, a film with not one inconsequential frame, not one insignificant line of dialogue."

According to Turner Classic Movies, the famous closing line of the film, "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship" wasn't originally in the script – Hal Wallis, a producer, thought of it.

'Citizen Kane'

Orson Welles' 1941 film with its "breakneck pace, its play with every conceivable camera angle, its inventive use of shadows, dissolves, deep focus, ceiling shots, overlapping dialogue, and a cacophony of offscreen sounds combine into a film masterpiece unlike any other," write Kinn and Piazza.

According to Turner Classic Movies, director and star Welles cut his hands open during the scene in which he breaks things in his wife Susan's room after she leaves, and Welles injured his ankle during a scene in which Kane runs down a staircase after Boss Gettys.

Welles spoke to the New York Times about the possibility that "Kane" was based on the life of William Randolph Hearst. According to TCM, Welles said, "[The movie] is not based upon the life of Mr. Hearst or anyone else. On the other hand, had Mr. Hearst and similar financial barons not lived during the period we discuss, Citizen Kane could not have been made."

'The Godfather' and 'The Godfather Part II'

Yes, the films by Francis Ford Coppola are technically two movies -- but the first film, released in 1972, and the second, released in 1974, equally take the top spot for best movie of all time on Kinn and Piazza's list. "Both movies ask the question, What is true evil?" the two critics write. "The possible answer: a well-spoken, thoughtful young man forced to sacrifice his conscience and his family in order to become who – and what – he must be. The two movies culminate in a brooding Sicilian bonfire of greed, betrayal and revenge, brilliantly played out by the greatest actors of their generation at their incendiary peak."

According to Turner Classic Movies, actor Al Pacino asked Lee Strasberg, who portrays Hyman Roth, to leave his retirement to act in "The Godfather Part II." 

Star Marlon Brando, who played Don Vito, was supposed to be in the flashback in "Part II" at a birthday party in his honor, according to IndieWire. Brando didn't show up for filming, so Coppola made it a surprise party instead and had him be greeted offscreen.