100 best films of all time, according to critics
For over 100 years, there have been movies and paid movie reviewers, better known as film critics. In fact, the first film critic, W.G. Faulkner, began churning out weekly reviews as early as January 1912. Since then, movie criticism has retained countless core consistencies while simultaneously evolving to keep pace with the medium itself. During this time, the two respective arenas have developed what some might call a symbiotic relationship. Movies often, but not always, depend on solid reviews to succeed, and movie critics rely on the emergence of new films to keep their jobs.
Furthermore, there have been periods of history during which the exchange of ideas between critics and artists have spawned new conventions or artistic movements. For example, the French film magazine, Cahiers du Cinéma—where both François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard worked as writers—played a vital role in the creation of French New Wave Cinema, which subsequently influenced a legion of auteurs. Meanwhile, there have also emerged a handful of famous critics over the decades, including Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert, whose unique interpretations of classic films have occasionally been heralded as works of art unto themselves.
Opinions are everywhere nowadays, but film critics still hold a certain amount of sway over how works are perceived. That might have people wondering: what are the best movies of all time, according to critics? For the answer, Stacker went to Metacritic, where movies are given a score based on its critical reception. Counting down from #100, here are the best films of all time, according to the critics.
#100. Apocalypse Now Redux
Release date: Aug. 3, 2001
When making his iconic Vietnam War movie, 1979’s “Apocalypse Now," director Francis Ford Coppola endured many psychological and physical setbacks. It’s then no surprise that over two decades passed before he revisited the film, releasing this unabridged, digitally restored version in 2001, which included a host of previously cut scenes. Meanwhile, the original story remained intact. It’s about a soldier (Martin Sheen) who’s sent into the heart of the Cambodian jungle to assassinate a rogue colonel (Marlon Brando).
Release date: Jan. 28, 2015
This French-Mauritanian drama from Abderrahmane Sissako takes place in the dunes outside the West African city of Timbuktu and centers on a cattle herder and his family. As Jihadists reign terror just miles away, the family lives a life of peace and solitude. However, after the cattle herder accidentally kills a fisherman, he gets arrested by the new regime and thrown into a world of violence and chaos.
#98. The Florida Project
Release date: Oct. 6, 2017
Set in the shadows of Walt Disney World, this 2017 Sean Baker film takes place at a rundown Orlando motel, where 6-year-old Moonee and her mom, Halley, live on a month-to-month basis. As Halley struggles to make ends meet, Moonee and her friends make do with their impoverished surroundings, conjuring up a fantasy world of their own. Like Baker’s previous works, the movie takes an unglorified approach toward its subject matter, but retains a discernible sense of humanity. For the most part, critics and audiences alike took warmly to the film, proving that a modern movie doesn’t necessarily have to be formula-driven or candy-coated to succeed.
Release date: June 20, 1974
This award-winning classic takes place in 1937 Los Angeles. It follows private investigator J.J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson) as he takes on a supposed adultery case. Gittes is later embroiled in a murderous scheme that involves the city’s water supply. Often pointed to as an absolute masterclass in filmmaking, “Chinatown” accordingly features top-shelf writing, directing, and acting alike. Actress Faye Dunaway and Hollywood icon John Huston co-star.
#96. Brother's Keeper
Release date: Sept. 9, 1992
Exploring a range of prescient themes, this 1992 documentary centers on the trial of Delbert Ward, who’s been accused of murdering his own brother. As the story unfolds, Ward’s competence and motives are called into question. Meanwhile, the town of Munnsville, New York—which previously considered Ward and his family to be outcasts—rallies to support him. It all makes for taut, acclaimed viewing, to say the least.
#95. The Favourite
Release date: Nov. 23, 2018
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos brings his twisted surrealist style to this historical drama, which takes place in 18th-century England and stars Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. In the film, a surrogate stateswoman (Weisz) takes a servant (Stone) under her wing, who soon begins to demonstrate political ambitions of her own. Critics have been raving about the work since it opened the New York Film Festival in the last week of September. Come November, audiences nationwide will get to see what all the fuss is about.
#94. 35 Shots of Rum
Release date: Sept. 16, 2009
This acclaimed French film made its North American premiere at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, where it cemented director Claire Denis’ status as a modern master, according to the critics. Driven by powerful performances and a contemplative atmosphere, the film details the tight bond between a father and his daughter, which gets complicated by the arrival of a handsome young bachelor. However, to the rave reviews, audience reactions were mixed.
Release date: Feb. 6, 1987
Filmmaker Oliver Stone took his career to the next level with this award-winning movie from 1987, which was loosely inspired by his own experiences during the Vietnam War. It centers on a young soldier named Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen), who finds himself facing conflict on all conceivable fronts during his first tour of duty. In addition to earning $135 million at the box office, “Platoon” won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
#92. The Class
Release date: Dec. 19, 2008
Based on a riveting book by François Bégaudeau, this 2008 French film finds the author playing a semi-fictionalized version of himself. Specifically, the movie recounts Bégaudeau’s experiences as an inner city school teacher in Paris, who seeks a middle ground between himself and his racially mixed, underprivileged classroom. The fact that “The Class” was such a big hit with the critics must have been extra rewarding for Bégaudeau, as he himself has been a professional film critic during various points in his life.
#91. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Release date: Nov. 30, 2007
Artist Julian Schnabel rose to fame as a painter before achieving success as a filmmaker in the 1990s and beyond. Among his best cinematic works is this French biographical drama from 2007, which tells the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a magazine editor who undergoes a stroke and subsequently suffers from “locked-in syndrome." While Bauby’s cognitive abilities are fully operational, he’s unable to move virtually any part of his body except for his left eye. In addition to chronicling Bauby’s condition, the movie takes viewers inside his mind, where a lifetime of memories await.
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