Best Classic Movies of All Time

List No 3 (3 All)

The Best Classic Movies of All Time

Article 4min to read List 36 Films

Introduction to Classic Movies

The list of classic films is a selection of films that significantly shape the narrative method of cinema, which is described as the best, masterpiece, cult.Classic films are films in which the technical capabilities of the cinema are used in the creation of the film structure and narration method with an efficiency that has not been used before. Because of these qualities, they lead the films made after them.
Classic Movies

What is Classic Movie

The films that have become classics differ from their contemporaries in a revolutionary way. Due to their differences, these films may not have been given enough importance in their periods. Films that present these methods effectively for the first time, after the repetition/development of innovative methods with follower films, and their acceptance by the industry, are generally considered classic films.

Origin of the Term Classic

Brief History of Classic Movies

For the visual arts, the term classicism generally refers to the art of classical antiquity (10th century BC – 4th-5th century AD), particularly the imitation of “Greek art” and “Roman Art”.

At the same time, “Aegean Art” (25th century BC-11th century BC) and “Etruscan art” (7th century BC-1st century BC) are considered as previous reference points for classicism.Therefore, any architecture, painting or sculpture inspired by the art of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, for example given in the Middle Ages or later, is an example of classicism. These works are referred to as classical works under their own art discipline.

When we look at classical music, similar to the visual arts, there is Ancient Greek Art in its origin. The polyphony technique, which developed in the Middle Ages and Gothic periods, was integrated into music in the same period with the pressure of the church and palace. With the emergence of the Renaissance, instruments began to be used similarly to today’s techniques. The music that passes through this process begins to be described as classical (western) music.

While thousands of years of art disciplines were creating the concept of classical through past references, the situation was very different for the cinema that emerged at the end of the 20th century. Cinema emerged as a result of technological developments, it had no history, it was debatable whether it even fit the definition of art. It was necessary for the industry, producers and audiences to know the reference points and boundaries of cinema. This situation triggered the emergence of the concept of classical in cinema in an extraordinary way.

At the beginning of the 20th century, transferring the content and approaches that would create the concept of classical cinema from other art disciplines was seen as an option for the shooting of the first classical reference films of cinema. The first films, which were intended to be classic films and were considered as art films, were under the influence of theater and literature. The film d’art movement was the movement in which this situation was most evident. In the film d’art movement, it was thought that films with artistic value could only be shot by transferring classical theater and classical literature works to the cinema. However, in a short time, this approach did not produce results suitable for the purpose of creating classical cinema. What was presented to the audience as a movie was the footage reminiscent of works of theater and literature that was filmed more than a movie.

Cinema was characteristically the result of a technological development—the recording of motion by the camera and the motion of the camera. Due to this existential difference, classical cinema did not have clear references to the past, similar to other art disciplines. It was only when the cinema started to use its characteristic abilities that came from its own existence that it developed its methods of expression and created its own language. Classic films shot with this method and language set the limits of classical cinema. Film d’art and similar approaches soon disappeared.

The narrative method of cinema has undergone significant changes with the diversification of camera movements, the development of montage methods, the spread of sound cinema, the formation of the star system and the industrialization of cinema. In the early period of cinema, innovative directors emerged who showed courage and broke the stereotypes methods of expression borrowed from other art disciplines (such as literature, painting, theater). Despite all the criticisms these directors received, they developed the narrative methods of cinema, which are now known as classics.

The high production and distribution costs of films caused the first period of cinema to be more productive in the United States, France, Germany and England compared to the rest of the world. The language of cinema developed rapidly in these countries, with a high number of productions. With the developing cinema language, these countries, especially the United States of America, have started to produce classic films of cinema.

World wars, economic crises, famine, genocide, dictatorships, technological developments and related social, economic and cultural changes in the 20th century caused the proportional increase in modern art works within art disciplines. The films that are considered as classic films for cinema and the examples of modern cinema began to intertwine periodically.

Modern Classic Movies

The films, which are described as modern classics, emerged especially after the late 60s, with the increase of economic expansion and liberal approaches in the cultural field. Modern classical films have included approaches that will radically change the newly formed cinema under the influence of modern art.

Characteristics of Classic Movies

Films that have become classics are generally not the first films by their directors to use their innovative methods that bring the film to the status of a classic. Innovative methods are tried and developed by the directors within their filmography. The films, which contain the most accepted version of the innovative method by the cinema industry and its audience, become classics. Classic films are generally more financed in terms of budget than their contemporaries. They outperform their contemporaries in terms of production, acting and so on.

Because they are old-dated, it is important to do a period and region reading-research before watching classic movies. Knowing the political, military, economic and sociological situation in the region and the period when the film was shot can add many different layers to the film for the audience. Period and region readings also show the side that the film and its producers want to be positioned according to the effective conjuncture. In addition, knowing the technological turning points, which are of great importance for cinema, is necessary in order to realize the importance of the films and the innovations they bring.

Classic Movie List

*Films sorted by release year, from newest to oldest.

  1. Ran (1985) Akira Kurosawa
  2. Ran 1985 poster

    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.

    Trailer, info

  3. Taxi Driver (1976) Martin Scorsese
  4. Taxi Driver 1976 poster

    A mentally unstable veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action.

    Trailer, info

  5. The Godfather (1972) Francis Ford Coppola
  6. The Godfather 1972 poster

    The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty in postwar New York City transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant youngest son.

    Trailer, info

  7. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Stanley Kubrick
  8. 2001 A Space Odyssey 1968 poster

    After uncovering a mysterious artifact buried beneath the Lunar surface, a spacecraft is sent to Jupiter to find its origins – a spacecraft manned by two men and the supercomputer H.A.L. 9000.

    Trailer, info

  9. Persona (1966) Ingmar Bergman
  10. Persona 1966 poster

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

    Trailer, info

  11. Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) Robert Bresson
  12. Au Hasard Balthazar 1966 poster

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

    Trailer, info

  13. Blow-Up (1966) Michelangelo Antonioni
  14. Blow Up 1966 poster

    A fashion photographer unknowingly captures a death on film after following two lovers in a park.

    Trailer, info

  15. Onibaba (1964) Kaneto Shindô
  16. Onibaba 1964 poster

    Two women kill samurai and sell their belongings for a living. While one of them is having an affair with their neighbor, the other woman meets a mysterious samurai wearing a bizarre mask.

    Trailer, info

  17. Harakiri (Seppuku) (1962) Masaki Kobayashi
  18. Harakiri Seppuku 1962 poster

    When a ronin requesting seppuku at a feudal lord’s palace is told of the brutal suicide of another ronin who previously visited, he reveals how their pasts are intertwined – and in doing so challenges the clan’s integrity.

    Trailer, info

  19. The Exterminating Angel (El Ángel Exterminador) (1962) Luis Buñuel
  20. The Exterminating Angel El Angel Exterminador 1962 poster

    The guests at an upper-class dinner party find themselves unable to leave.

    Trailer, info

  21. Psycho (1960) Alfred Hitchcock
  22. Psycho 1960 poster

    A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.

    Trailer, info

  23. The 400 Blows (1959) François Truffaut
  24. The 400 Blows 1959 poster

    A young boy, left without attention, delves into a life of petty crime.

    Trailer, info

  25. Ben-Hur (1959) William Wyler
  26. Ben Hur 1959 poster

    After a Jewish prince is betrayed and sent into slavery by a Roman friend in 1st-century Jerusalem, he regains his freedom and comes back for revenge.

    Trailer, info

  27. Touch of Evil (1958) Orson Welles
  28. Touch of Evil 1958 poster

    A stark, perverse story of murder, kidnapping, and police corruption in a Mexican border town.

    Trailer, info

  29. The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet) (1957) Ingmar Bergman
  30. The Seventh Seal Det sjunde inseglet 1957 poster

    A knight returning to Sweden after the Crusades seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague.

    Trailer, info

  31. Wild Strawberries (Smultronstället) (1957) Ingmar Bergman
  32. Wild Strawberries Smultronstallet 1957 poster

    After living a life marked by coldness, an aging professor is forced to confront the emptiness of his existence.

    Trailer, info

  33. 12 Angry Men (1957) Sidney Lumet
  34. 12 Angry Men 1957 poster

    The jury in a New York City murder trial is frustrated by a single member whose skeptical caution forces them to more carefully consider the evidence before jumping to a hasty verdict.

    Trailer, info

  35. A Man Escaped (Un condamné à mort s’est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut) (1957) Robert Bresson
  36. A Man Escaped Un condamne a mort sest echappe ou Le vent souffle ou il veut 1957 poster

    A captured French Resistance fighter during WWII engineers a daunting escape from a Nazi prison in France.

    Trailer, info

  37. Godzilla (Gojira) (1954) Ishirô Honda
  38. Godzilla Gojira 1954 poster

    American nuclear weapons testing results in the creation of a seemingly unstoppable, dinosaur-like beast.

    Trailer, info

  39. Tokyo Story (1953) Yasujirô Ozu
  40. Tokyo Story 1953 poster

    An old couple visit their children and grandchildren in the city, but receive little attention.

    Trailer, info

  41. Sunset Boulevard (Sunset Blvd.) (1950) Billy Wilder
  42. Sunset Boulevard Sunset Blvd. 1950 poster

    A screenwriter develops a dangerous relationship with a faded film star determined to make a triumphant return.

    Trailer, info

  43. The Third Man (1949) Carol Reed
  44. The Third Man 1949 poster

    Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, Harry Lime.

    Trailer, info

  45. Rope (1948) Alfred Hitchcock
  46. Rope 1948 poster

    Two men attempt to prove they committed the perfect crime by hosting a dinner party after strangling their former classmate to death.

    Trailer, info

  47. Double Indemnity (1944) Billy Wilder
  48. Double Indemnity 1944 poster

    A Los Angeles insurance representative lets an alluring housewife seduce him into a scheme of insurance fraud and murder that arouses the suspicion of his colleague, an insurance investigator.

    Trailer, info

  49. The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) William A. Wellman
  50. The Ox Bow Incident 1943 poster

    When a posse captures three men suspected of killing a local farmer, they become strongly divided over whether or not to lynch the men.

    Trailer, info

  51. Citizen Kane (1941) Orson Welles
  52. Citizen Kane 1941 poster

    Following the death of publishing tycoon Charles Foster Kane, reporters scramble to uncover the meaning of his final utterance: ‘Rosebud.’

    Trailer, info

  53. The Great Dictator (1940) Charles Chaplin
  54. The Great Dictator 1940 poster

    Dictator Adenoid Hynkel tries to expand his empire while a poor Jewish barber tries to avoid persecution from Hynkel’s regime.

    Trailer, info

  55. Modern Times (1936) Charles Chaplin
  56. Modern Times 1936 poster

    The Tramp struggles to live in modern industrial society with the help of a young homeless woman.

    Trailer, info

  57. M (Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder) (1931) Fritz Lang
  58. M Eine Stadt sucht einen Morder 1931 poster

    When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt.

    Trailer, info

  59. Frankenstein (1931) James Whale
  60. Frankenstein 1931 poster

    Dr. Frankenstein dares to tamper with life and death by creating a human monster out of lifeless body parts.

    Trailer, info

  61. Un Chien Andalou (1929) Luis Buñuel
  62. Un Chien Andalou 1929 poster

    Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí present 16 minutes of bizarre, surreal imagery.

    Trailer, info

  63. The Passion of Joan of Arc (La passion de Jeanne d’Arc) (1928) Carl Theodor Dreyer
  64. The Passion of Joan of Arc La passion de Jeanne dArc 1928 poste

    In 1431, Jeanne d’Arc is placed on trial on charges of heresy. The ecclesiastical jurists attempt to force Jeanne to recant her claims of holy visions.

    Trailer, info

  65. Metropolis (1927) Fritz Lang
  66. Metropolis 1927 poster

    In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city’s mastermind falls in love with a working-class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.

    Trailer, info

  67. The General (1926) Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton
  68. The General 1926 poster

    After being rejected by the Confederate military, not realizing it was due to his crucial civilian role, an engineer must single-handedly recapture his beloved locomotive after it is seized by Union spies and return it through ene…

    Trailer, info

  69. Faust (Faust: Eine deutsche Volkssage) (1926) F.W. Murnau
  70. Faust Eine deutsche Volkssage 1926 poster

    The demon Mephisto wagers with God that he can corrupt a mortal man’s soul.

    Trailer, info

  71. Battleship Potemkin (1925) Sergei Eisenstein
  72. Battleship Potemkin 1925 poster 1

    In the midst of the Russian Revolution of 1905, the crew of the battleship Potemkin mutiny against the brutal, tyrannical regime of the vessel’s officers. The resulting street demonstration in Odessa brings on a police massacre.

    Trailer, info

Best Classic Movie Directors

  • Akira Kurosawa
  • Francis Ford Coppola
  • William Wyler
  • Orson Welles
  • Charles Chaplin
  • Fritz Lang
  • Carl Theodor Dreyer
  • Buster Keaton
  • F.W. Murnau
  • Sergei Eisenstein

Best Classic Movies Films

References and Further Reading