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Best movie from the year you were born

Warner Bros.

Best movie from the year you were born

More than any other art form, cinema arguably remains the most culturally significant. A quality film straddles the full spectrum of sight and sound while serving as both a reflection of and catalyst to the cultural norms of its time. In that regard, a truly great film can be cherished not just for its writing, acting, directing, cinematography and music, but also as a visual documentation of the era in which it was released. Hence, the best movie from the year you were born is both a great film in and of itself, as well as an illuminating window into a personal history you definitely don’t remember. 

Curiously digging into your own past or not, there’s really no wrong reason to check out the best movie from the year you were born. To make your journey as seamless as possible, Stacker has compiled this list by ranking the best movie from each year since 1920 according to its IMDb rating. For the list, we focused on English-language feature films released in the U.S. If the movie was released between 1920 and 1960, it needed at least 1000 IMDb votes to qualify. If it was released after 1960, it needed at least 50,000 IMDb votes to make the cut. Check out the list to see if the top movie from your birth year has aged as gracefully as you have.

Paramount Pictures // Wikicommons

1920: Why Change Your Wife?

IMDb rating: 7.9

IMDb votes: 1,188

The first film on the list, “Why Change Your Wife?,” comes to us from acclaimed director Cecil B. DeMille. In the movie, a man leaves his wife for another woman, only to soon grow bored with his new spouse. Subsequently, the man falls back in love with his original wife, begging the titular question: why change your wife? The reason might very well be that the film's lead needed to learn to appreciate what he already had. Luckily for him, his first wife was the forgiving type.

Charles Chaplin // Wikicommons

1921: The Kid

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 82,351

Charlie Chaplin was perhaps the biggest star of the silent movie era, and “The Kid” remains one of his most iconic works. Written and directed by Chaplin, the movie centers on Charlie the Tramp, who takes an orphan under his wing and then must fight to keep him. According to legend, the on-screen dynamic between Chaplin and the orphan was directly inspired by the death of Chaplin’s own infant son, which occurred right before production began.

United Artists // Wikicommons

1922: Robin Hood

IMDb rating: 7.6

IMDb votes: 1,644

The story of Robin Hood is such a mainstay in the annals of cinema that an updated version is slated for release later this year. Meanwhile, the 1922 silent film version remains a veritable classic, in which the swashbuckling, medieval hero famously opposes a tyrant on behalf of the poor. With its $1.4 million budget, this was the most expensive movie of its time.

Janus Films

1923: Safety Last!

IMDb rating: 8.2

IMDb votes: 14,730

Look just beyond the names Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton on the silent era’s fame list and you'll find Harold Lloyd, one of the genre’s most accomplished talents. In “Safety Last!,” Lloyd gets in over his head as a young man forced to climb a tall building as part of a publicity stunt. Featured in the film is one of the silent era’s most famous scenes, in which Lloyd hangs from the hands of a huge clock.

Breve Storia del Cinema // Flickr

1924: Sherlock Jr.

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 24,727

Speaking of Buster Keaton: he makes his first appearance on this list with “Sherlock Jr.,” the story of a film projectionist whose dream of being a private investigator is put to the test after he’s framed for stealing a pocket watch. The movie is rife with stunts, gags and action sequences, one of which resulted in Keaton fracturing his neck.

Buster Keaton Productions

1925: Seven Chances

IMDb rating: 8.0

IMDb votes: 7,241

Keaton may have injured his neck in 1924, but that didn’t stop him from turning around and making 1925’s “Seven Chances.” In the film, he plays a man who must find a wife by 7 p.m. to be eligible for a sizable inheritance. Does he tie the knot in time? Watch to find out.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

1926: Brown of Harvard

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 1,289

In “Brown of Harvard,” an arrogant athlete comes to Harvard and soon finds himself squaring off against a rival over not just sports, but the affection of a professor’s daughter. This was the third big-screen adaptation of the famous 1906 stage play. Featured in the film is a young USC-lineman named Marion Morrison, who would later enjoy a legendary career in Hollywood under the name John Wayne.

Fox Film Corporation

1927: Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

IMDb rating: 8.2

IMDb votes: 35,172

A heralded classic to this day, 1927’s “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” tells the allegorical tale of a man whose innermost struggles are turned to flesh in the form of two women: one an evil seductress and the other a loyal wife. Released the same year as “The Jazz Singer” (i.e. the first “talkie”), “Sunrise” was Fox Studio’s first feature film to include a score.

Unknown // Wikicommons

1928: The Cameraman

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 8,390

Another triumph from screen legend Buster Keaton, “The Cameraman” tells the story of a bungling young romantic, who takes a job as a Hollywood cameraman in order to get closer to the woman of his dreams. As usual, Keaton’s timeless knack for physical comedy is on full display in the film, making it a perennial hit among subsequent generations.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

1929: Desert Nights

IMDb rating: 8.1

IMDb votes: 1,002

After kidnapping a man and stealing $500,000 worth of diamonds, a grifter and his accomplice end up stranded in the desert in 1929’s “Desert Nights.” The movie stars actor John Gilbert, who was considered one of the era’s greatest romantic leads. Off-screen, Gilbert’s life was no less romantic: he maintained a number of high-profile relationships and married four times before dying at the young age of 38.

Universal Pictures

1930: All Quiet on the Western Front

IMDb rating: 8.1

IMDb votes: 50,608

Based on a gripping anti-war novel from Germany, 1930’s equally harrowing “All Quiet on the Western Front” is easily among the most violent and uncompromising movies of its time. It takes place during WWI and follows a group of young German soldiers as they encounter terror and disillusionment while fighting for their country. This was the first film from Universal Studios to win the Oscar for Best Picture (then known as “Outstanding Production”). It would be 43 years before Universal released another Best Picture winner.

Charles Chaplin Productions

1931: City Lights

IMDb rating: 8.6

IMDb votes: 127,679

Even as talkies surged in popularity, Charlie Chaplin stuck to his silent era roots when making 1931’s “City Lights.” The result was one of Chaplin’s greatest achievements and arguably one of the best movies ever made. This film about a tramp who undergoes all sorts of ordeals to raise money for a beautiful blind girl was in production for more than three years before its completion.

Paramount Pictures

1932: Trouble in Paradise

IMDb rating: 8.2

IMDb votes: 10,768

Jealousy and romance compromise what was supposed to be a simple con in 1932’s “Trouble in Paradise.” Owing to Motion Picture Production Code enforcement issues, the movie was withdrawn in 1935, making it unavailable to view outside of museums and archival institutions for more than 20 years.


1933: Gold Diggers of 1933

IMDb rating: 8.1

IMDb votes: 5,876

In “Gold Diggers of 1933,” Broadway producer Barney Hopkins has everything he needs for a new hit show...except the financing. Enter the show’s unknown composer, who happens to come from a very wealthy family. What follows is tons of metaphorical gold-digging and no shortage of mishaps in this classic comedy musical from Mervyn LeRoy.

Columbia Pictures Corporation

1934: It Happened One Night

IMDb rating: 8.1

IMDb votes: 74,769

Directed by Frank Capra and starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, 1934’s “It Happened One Night" tells the story of a spoiled heiress who runs away from her family and falls in with an undercover reporter in search of a hot scoop. Colbert was so disappointed with the movie that she initially skipped out on the Oscars and had to be rushed to the event after winning Best Actress. Meanwhile, Gable gave his Best Actor statue to a young onlooker, saying it was the victory—not the physical award—that counted most.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

1935: A Night at the Opera

IMDb rating: 8.0

IMDb votes: 26,995

Renowned comedic team The Marx Brothers take aim at high society and hit the bullseye in 1935’s “A Night at the Opera.” In the movie, a young man sabotages an opera performance in order to star opposite his lover. This was the first Marx Brothers film to drop Zeppo Marx from the roster—he would go on to become a powerful Hollywood agent.

Charles Chaplin Productions

1936: Modern Times

IMDb rating: 8.5

IMDb votes: 167,890

Continuing his fight against the talkie tide, Charlie Chaplin released “Modern Times” in 1936 as a silent film with sound effects. In the movie, Chaplin’s tramp character struggles to keep pace with a modern industrial society. For a brief time, Chaplin considered making the film a talkie, but eventually determined it would only detract from the work.

Paramount Pictures

1937: Make Way for Tomorrow

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 5,512

The Depression loomed large in 1930s America and provided the backdrop for a broad range of important films. One of those films was 1937’s “Make Way for Tomorrow,” in which an elderly husband and wife lose their home, then part ways as they each search for shelter. The movie is so heartbreaking in its depiction of working class struggles that Orson Welles once said it would “make a stone cry.”

RKO Radio Pictures

1938: Bringing Up Baby

IMDb rating: 8.0

IMDb votes: 48,346

From director Howard Hawks came 1938’s “Bringing Up Baby,” starring Cary Grant as a paleontologist who puts up with a flighty heiress and her pet leopard in order to secure funding for his newest project. Playing the heiress is screen legend Katharine Hepburn, who had a near-fatal encounter with the leopard behind the scenes.

Selznick International Pictures

1939: Gone with the Wind

IMDb rating: 8.2

IMDb votes: 241,426

Based on Margaret Mitchell’s sweeping novel, 1939’s “Gone With the Wind” follows Scarlett O’Hara as she goes from pouty girl to tormented woman during the Civil War. Making the film was no easy task, with production experiencing all kinds of setbacks, including brutal clashes between various egos and personalities. Nevertheless, the movie remains the most profitable (when adjusted for inflation) in Hollywood history.

Charles Chaplin Productions

1940: The Great Dictator

IMDb rating: 8.5

IMDb votes: 160,186

In the midst of WWII, Charlie Chaplin released “The Great Dictator” after being directly inspired by contemporary figures and events. Tackling dual roles for the film, Chaplin plays both a Hitler-esque figure striving for world domination and a poor Jewish barber struggling to survive under the new regime. As Chaplin’s first official talkie, the 1940 film and its enduring legacy proved just how talented, versatile and topical the performer could be.

RKO Radio Pictures

1941: Citizen Kane

IMDb rating: 8.4

IMDb votes: 332,460

More than a mere milestone, Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” is the benchmark to which most other films aspire and a singular education in atmosphere, editing, cinematography, creativity and technique. In the film, Welles plays powerful newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane (modeled after William Randolph Hearst), whose unquenchable ambitions remain elusive even after his death. It’s reported that Welles was injured twice during the shoot, and that he drank so much tea it caused his skin color to change.

Warner Bros.

1942: Casablanca

IMDb rating: 8.5

IMDb votes: 434,494

Awash with unforgettable dialogue, 1942’s “Casablanca” tells the story of Rick Blaine (played by Humphrey Bogart), who runs a nightclub in Morocco that doubles as a haven for refugees during WWII. Surrounded by danger on all sides, Blaine enters a world of trouble after agreeing to help an old flame (played by Ingrid Bergman) evade the Nazis. While the screenplay might nowadays seem like the stuff of perfection, it wasn’t even completed when filming began, with some scenes being rewritten the same day they were shot.

Twentieth Century Fox

1943: The Ox-Bow Incident

IMDb rating: 8.1

IMDb votes: 17,522

In “The Ox-Bow Incident,” a makeshift posse debates whether or not to lynch three men accused of murder and theft. Based on a novel, the movie deftly explores themes of mob justice versus due process. Starring in the film is actor Henry Fonda, who enlisted in the Navy immediately after shooting completed.

Paramount Pictures

1944: Double Indemnity

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 112,436

Adapted by Billy Wilder from a novel by James M. Cain, “Double Indemnity” follows an insurance agent as he’s drawn into a lurid murder scheme by a mysterious femme fatale. The classic film noir was co-written by famous mystery writer Raymond Chandler, who frequently clashed with Wilder behind the scenes.

Twentieth Century Fox

1945: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

IMDb rating: 8.1

IMDb votes: 5,962

Betty Smith’s acclaimed novel “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” received the big screen treatment in 1945, with Elia Kazan at the helm. Both versions tell the story of a young woman who comes of age in a Brooklyn tenement during the early 1900s.

Liberty Films (II)

1946: It's a Wonderful Life

IMDb rating: 8.6

IMDb votes: 320,637

A perennial hit for the holiday season, Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” shows its protagonist what life would have been like had he never existed. The story takes place in a charming fictional town called Bedford Falls, which was based on Seneca Falls, NY. In honor of the movie, the real Seneca Falls hosts an annual festival and even has an “It’s a Wonderful Life” museum.

RKO Radio Pictures

1947: Out of the Past

IMDb rating: 8.1

IMDb votes: 26,576

When his past catches up to him, an ex-private eye must abandon his quiet country life for the big city, where danger and deception await. So goes 1947’s “Out of the Past,” starring Robert Mitchum in the lead role. In 1984, Hollywood released a remake under the name “Against All Odds.” In the remake, actress Jane Greer played the mother of the character she played in the original.

Warner Bros.

1948: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 89,796

There’s no honor among thieves in John Huston’s “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” It features two down on their luck men who let their paranoia get the best of them while hunting for gold in Mexico. Long-running TV show “The Simpsons” once parodied the film in the episode “Three Men and a Comic Book.”

Warner Bros.

1949: White Heat

IMDb rating: 8.2

IMDb votes: 22,762

Notable cinematic gangster James Cagney plays a trigger-happy psychopath with mommy issues in “White Heat.” After breaking out of prison, Cagney and his old gang plot a big heist at a chemical plant, though the caper doesn’t go exactly as planned. The film was directed by Raoul Walsh, marking the third time he and Cagney worked together.

Paramount Studios

1950: Sunset Boulevard

IMDb rating: 8.5

IMDb votes: 161,066

In 1950’s “Sunset Boulevard,” a struggling screenwriter is lured into the twisted world of a former silent movie star. What follows is a demented tale of jealousy, possession and delusion with an ultimately tragic finale. Silent movie star Erich Von Stroheim plays a butler in the film, a role he’d begrudge for years to come. Speaking of silent film stars, look for a cameo from Buster Keaton among other famous silent-era actors during a card game scene.

Paramount Pictures

1951: Ace in the Hole

IMDb rating: 8.2

IMDb votes: 21,971

On the heels of “Sunset Boulevard,” director Billy Wilder returned with “Ace in the Hole,” a black comedy about a big-city journalist who gets stuck with a beat in Albuquerque. Seeking a comeback, he lands a major story about a man trapped in a cave, only to lose control of the situation as it escalates into a full-blown media circus. Upon its debut, the film received a fairly substantial drubbing by critics, perhaps somewhat due to its hostile depiction of the press.

Warner Bros.

1952: Singin' in the Rain

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 174,871

The transition from silent films to talkies makes for glorious entertainment in the 1952 musical, “Singin’ in the Rain.” However, while the movie absolutely emanates positive vibes, things were reportedly quite grueling behind the scenes. Not only did Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor suffer dance-related injuries, but performer (and co-director) Gene Kelly was reportedly very demanding of his peers. In fact, Debbie Reynolds once said that completing this film and surviving childbirth were the two hardest experiences of her life.

Paramount Pictures

1953: Roman Holiday

IMDb rating: 8.1

IMDb votes: 111,190

Love is in the air in 1953’s “Roman Holiday,” in which a sheltered princess flees from her overseers and falls for an American journalist. Playing the lead roles are Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, two of old Hollywood’s biggest stars. Peck was so impressed with Hepburn’s performance that he insisted her name be put above the film title and accurately predicted her win for Best Actress at the Oscars.


1954: Rear Window

IMDb rating: 8.5

IMDb votes: 360,212

No list of best films is complete without Alfred Hitchcock, and “Rear Window” remains one of his best-known works. In the film, a wheelchair-bound photographer suspects that his neighbor might be a vicious murderer, and he gets in over his head by investigating the matter. As Hitchcock would later tell director Francois Truffaut during a now-famous interview, the film was inspired by two actual murder cases.

Paul Gregory Productions

1955: The Night of the Hunter

IMDb rating: 8.0

IMDb votes: 70,760

Set during the Great Depression, 1955’s “The Night of the Hunter” follows a vicious grifter as he preys upon a gullible woman in order to find out where $10,000 is hidden. The film endures as a gripping classic, namely thanks to a harrowing performance by actor Robert Mitchum. Meanwhile, rumor has it that Mitchum and director Charles Laughton argued bitterly behind the scenes.


1956: The Searchers

IMDb rating: 8.0

IMDb votes: 68,518

More than just an acclaimed John Wayne Western, “The Searchers” is celebrated as one of Hollywood’s greatest achievements. In the movie, Wayne plays Civil War veteran Ethan Edwards, who embarks on a perilous journey in order to save his niece from savage Comanches. Wayne was so enamored with the role that he named one of his own children after it.

Orion-Nova Productions

1957: 12 Angry Men

IMDb rating: 8.9

IMDb votes: 526,559

A lone holdout must convince a jury of his peers to reassess their guilty verdict in “12 Angry Men.” Screenwriter Reginald Rose came up with the story after serving on a jury in a 1954 manslaughter case. Before appearing on the big screen, Rose’s compelling drama first debuted as a live TV episode in CBS’ “Studio One” anthology series.

Alfred Hitchcock // Wikicommons

1958: Vertigo

IMDb rating: 8.4

IMDb votes: 286,058

Hitchcock is back on the list with 1958’s “Vertigo,” the story of a private investigator who falls in love with the woman he’s hired to follow. A relative disappointment upon its initial release, the film went on to earn substantial acclaim. It even knocked “Citizen Kane” off the top of the British Film Institute’s list of the “50 Greatest Films of All Time” in 2012.

Motion Picture Daily // Wikicommons

1959: North by Northwest

IMDb rating: 8.4

IMDb votes: 246,454

Alfred Hitchcock kept the hits coming in the late 1950s, as evidenced by 1959’s “North by Northwest.” In the film, a case of mistaken identity pits a New York ad executive (played by Cary Grant) against a group of foreign spies. Grant was reportedly so confused by the script that he didn’t know what the movie was about while filming it.

Shamley Productions

1960: Psycho

IMDb rating: 8.5

IMDb votes: 482,392

Hot on the heels of “North by Northwest” came Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” a game-changing cinematic experience if there ever was one. Not only is the slasher flick famous for both its shape-shifting story and brutal depiction of murder, it’s apparently the first film to ever feature a toilet flushing. It’s no surprise that Paramount executives were initially hesitant to finance “Psycho,” prompting Hitch to pay for the movie out of his own pocket.

Roxlom Films Inc.

1961: Judgment at Nuremberg

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 52,514

Four Nazi judges are tried for war crimes in 1961’s “Judgment at Nuremberg.” The action takes place in Nazi-occupied Germany in 1948 and deals with multiple nations as they try to move beyond the horrors of WWII. It’s worth noting that this film has nothing to do with the actual Nuremberg trials of 1946.

Universal International Pictures (UI)

1962: To Kill a Mockingbird

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 247,349

Based on Harper Lee’s timeless novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” finds Gregory Peck playing Atticus Finch, a small-town lawyer who defends an innocent black man in the Depression-era South. Robert Duvall also stars, spending six weeks away from sunlight in order to play the pale-skinned Boo Radley.

Mirisch Company, The

1963: The Great Escape

IMDb rating: 8.2

IMDb votes: 186,874

Action legend Steve McQueen helps lead a group of POWs out of a German war camp in 1963’s “The Great Escape." It’s all based on a real breakout at Stalag Luft III, which similarly featured lots of tunnel digging and meticulous planning. Unfortunately, 73 of the 76 real life escapees were captured just a few days after the breakout.

Columbia Pictures Corporation

1964: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

IMDb rating: 8.5

IMDb votes: 383,183

Black comedy doesn’t get much blacker than Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove,” which details a series of farcical events leading up to a devastating nuclear war. However, what ended up on screen was in some ways toned down from Kubrick’s original vision. For instance, an early cut of the film included a pie fight in the war room, and an early version of the script had aliens watching the whole ordeal from deep space.

20th Century Fox

1965: The Sound of Music

IMDb rating: 8.0

IMDb votes: 166,857

The hills were alive with “The Sound of Music” in 1965, when this smash hit was released to a wildly receptive audience. The film tells the story of Maria (played by Julie Andrews), who leaves a convent to help raise a Naval officer’s seven unruly children. The officer was played by Christopher Plummer, who hated working on the film so much that he commonly referred to it as “The Sound of Mucus.”

Warner Bros.

1966: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

IMDb rating: 8.1

IMDb votes: 60,858

Directed by Mike Nichols, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” centers on the bitter feud between a middle-aged married couple, which plays out before the eyes of their younger guests. Real-life husband and wife team Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor play the outspoken, belligerent couple. The two would divorce in 1974, remarry in 1975, and then divorce again in 1976, suggesting they were downright perfect for the roles.’

Warner Bros. Entertainment

1967: Cool Hand Luke

IMDb rating: 8.2

IMDb votes: 133,472

Based on a novel by ex-convict Don Pearce, 1967’s “Cool Hand Luke” tells the story of an easygoing Southern man sentenced to two years in prison, where he refuses to abide by the built-in codes of conduct. To keep a certain level of testosterone in the air, director Stuart Rosenberg didn’t allow any of the actor’s wives on set and even separated actress Joy Harmon from the rest of the cast.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

1968: 2001: A Space Odyssey

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 488,243

Kubrick returns to the list with “2001: A Space Odyssey.” This time around, the aliens definitely made it into the finished product, even if their presence is only inferred. Specifically, the movie deals with a mysterious monolith which appears time and again during crucial evolutionary moments in the history of mankind. The design of the monolith underwent numerous changes before Kubrick and writer Arthur C. Clarke settled on the sleek, black rectangle that appears in the film.

Twentieth Century Fox

1969: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

IMDb rating: 8.1

IMDb votes: 171,124

Two outlaws find themselves on the run after a botched robbery in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” The film stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford in the title roles and is based on the real life adventures of two gangs in the late 19th century. In 1991, a team of scientists excavated what they hoped were the real bones of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but DNA tests suggested otherwise.

Twentieth Century Fox

1970: Patton

IMDb rating: 8.0

IMDb votes: 83,281

1970’s “Patton” follows celebrated (and controversial) General George S. Patton as he whips troops into shape during WWII. The film opens with a famous speech that was based on actual speeches by the real-life military figure. Actor George C. Scott famously championed the role, after actors John Wayne and Burt Lancaster were passed over. Future president Ronald Reagan also expressed interest in the part, though the offer never came his way.

// Wikicommons

1971: A Clockwork Orange

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 634,358

A movie so controversial that it would make even today’s audiences blush, Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” features an ultra-violent criminal who’s arrested, physically conditioned to avoid crime, then released back into society. It all takes place in a twisted futuristic landscape where law and order have fallen by the wayside. The film was one of just two X-rated movies to earn a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards, the other being “Midnight Cowboy.”

Paramount Pictures

1972: The Godfather

IMDb rating: 9.2

IMDb votes: 1,313,968

As impactful today as it was the year you were born (presuming you were born in 1972), “The Godfather” is the quintessence of classic cinema. The movie centers on the Corleone crime family, whose members struggle to maintain power against a sea of rivals. Marlon Brando stars as the family patriarch, turning in a performance for the ages. And to think that Brando was reading off cue cards the whole time.

Zanuck/Brown Productions

1973: The Sting

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 198,831

Paul Newman and Robert Redford pair up again in 1973’s “The Sting,” playing two grifters who team up for the ultimate con. Originally, Newman’s character was written as a minor part, but things shifted naturally once the actor was attached to the role.

Paramount Pictures

1974: The Godfather: Part II

IMDb rating: 9.0

IMDb votes: 907,141

After helming the first “Godfather” movie, director Francis Ford Coppola was so exhausted that he didn’t want to sign on for a sequel. Nevertheless, he and writer Mario Puzo soon found themselves compelled to tell parallel stories about two Corleone men coming into power, and “The Godfather: Part II” was born, possibly the same year you were.

Fantasy Films

1975: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

IMDb rating: 8.7

IMDb votes: 762,362

Leaping from page to screen in 1975 was “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” in which Jack Nicholson stars as a rabble-rousing criminal sent to a mental institution. Once there, he rallies his fellow patients against an oppressive nurse. Author Ken Kesey was originally involved in the production, but he left after just two weeks over creative differences and never once watched the resulting film.

Columbia Pictures Corporation

1976: Taxi Driver

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 581,788

From director Martin Scorsese came 1976’s “Taxi Driver,” which follows a Vietnam War veteran (played vividly by Robert De Niro) who starts driving a New York City cab, slowly losing his mind in the process. The film’s most iconic moment involves De Niro talking to himself in a mirror and saying the line: “You talkin’ to me?” As it turns out, the line was improvised by the famous actor, who’d heard Bruce Springsteen utter it at a concert just days before.’’


1977: Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

IMDb rating: 8.6

IMDb votes: 1,035,722

Before the sequels, theme park attractions, conventions, spin-offs, video games and Happy Meal toys, there was an ambitious 1977 movie about a space war between interplanetary rebels and an evil empire. That movie was “Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope,” and it changed cinema forever. However, one has to wonder if the phenomenon would’ve been the same had the movie been released under its early working title, “Adventures of the Starkiller as Taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars.” Seriously, that was the name given to the second draft of the screenplay.

Salt Lake Film Society

1978: The Deer Hunter

IMDb rating: 8.2

IMDb votes: 262,624

In 1978’s “The Deer Hunter,” a group of small-town friends are forever changed while serving in the Vietnam War. The three-hour-long film stars Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep among others, and it won five Academy Awards. While never intended as an authentic depiction of the Vietnam War, the movie was nevertheless chastised by war correspondents and veterans alike, who claimed the movie’s liberties would improperly influence public perception surrounding the recent ordeal.

Brandywine Productions

1979: Alien

IMDb rating: 8.5

IMDb votes: 655,688

A space crew finds itself in deadly territory after taking in a hostile species in 1979’s “Alien.” The movie raised the bar for both the horror and action genres and introduced audiences to an iconic heroine named Ripley. Also introduced was an acid-spewing, double-jawed monster designed by artist H.R. Giger. The artist’s original design called for the alien to sport a translucent body, but the body was changed to black after complications arose during production.


1980: Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

IMDb rating: 8.8

IMDb votes: 965,932

Widely considered the best installment in the “Star Wars” franchise, “Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back” finds Luke Skywalker and the rebels continuing to battle against Darth Vader and the Empire. The movie features stunning locations, various intergalactic creatures and one major reveal at the end. Additionally, “The Empire Strikes Back” uses more stop-motion animation than any other film in the series.’

Paramount Pictures

1981: Raiders of the Lost Ark

IMDb rating: 8.5

IMDb votes: 741,504

While still riding high on the success of “Star Wars,” filmmaker George Lucas (along with director Steven Spielberg) helped conceive a treasure-hunting archaeologist named Indiana Jones. In “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Jones is hired to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis can get their hands on it. Three sequels would follow, with a fifth film slated for release in 2019.

The Ladd Company

1982: Blade Runner

IMDb rating: 8.2

IMDb votes: 566,320

Ridley Scott’s arthouse answer to “Star Wars,” 1982’s “Blade Runner” finds Harrison Ford playing a futuristic bounty hunter tasked with capturing four renegade replicants (i.e. artificially created humans with advanced strength and limited life spans). The movie was loosely based on a story by author Philip K. Dick, though the screenwriters and director took the work in a different direction. That might have something to do with the fact that Ridley Scott never actually finished reading the source material.


1983: Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 789,092

Capping off the original “Star Wars” trilogy was 1983’s “Episode VI - Return of the Jedi,” in which Luke Skywalker squares off against Darth Vader in a final battle. While Richard Marquand is technically credited as the film’s director, it’s said that George Lucas was on set every day, overseeing virtually every aspect of the production. Lucas’ tireless dedication would ultimately contribute to the end of his marriage to Marcia Lucas, who won an Oscar for her editing work on “Episode IV - A New Hope.”

The Ladd Company

1984: Once Upon a Time in America

IMDb rating: 8.4

IMDb votes: 249,800

A master of the spaghetti Western genre, Sergio Leone tackled a different terrain in 1984’s “Once Upon a Time in America.” It follows the story of Jewish gangsters who come up on New York’s mean streets during the Depression, then reunite later in life. When the movie originally premiered at Cannes, it clocked in at 229 minutes, though that runtime was significantly shortened for the initial U.S. theatrical release. Years later, director Martin Scorsese oversaw the restoration and release of an extended, 251-minute cut.

Universal Pictures

1985: Back to the Future

IMDb rating: 8.5

IMDb votes: 841,355

One of the most enduring mainstream classics of all time, 1985’s “Back to the Future” follows rebellious teenager Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) as he travels back in time, disrupting and threatening his own existence in the process. Doc Brown (played by Christopher Lloyd) helps set Marty down the right path. In an early version of the script, Doc Brown had a chimp sidekick named Shemp.

Twentieth Century Fox

1986: Aliens

IMDb rating: 8.4

IMDb votes: 553,577

If Ridley Scott’s “Alien” was an unsettling horror movie set in space, James Cameron’s 1986 sequel “Aliens” was a full-blown action flick, complete with space marines, advanced firepower, and hordes of acid-spewing monsters. In the film, Ripley wakes up 57 years after her initial encounter with a deadly alien, only to find out that humans have colonized the moon where the alien was first discovered and that contact with the base has been lost.


1987: Full Metal Jacket

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 553,476

Legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick tackles the horrors of modern warfare in 1987’s “Full Metal Jacket,” which divides its time between boot camp and active duty. The movie famously stars R. Lee Ermey as a drill instructor who constantly berates his squad in order to turn them into cold-blooded killers. Ermey—a former drill instructor in real life—was initially hired as a consultant on the film. However, he was cast in the iconic role after submitting a 15-minute audition video of him shouting insults at a group of extras while dodging tennis balls and oranges.

Twentieth Century Fox

1988: Die Hard

IMDb rating: 8.2

IMDb votes: 664,586

This was the movie that launched Bruce Willis’ career as an A-list action star. 1988’s “Die Hard” pits vacationing NYPD officer John McClane against a group of international terrorists within a Los Angeles skyscraper. Known for its witty banter and uncompromising violence, the film helped pave the way for many others of its kind, including some direct sequels. To create believable gunfire, director John McTiernan and a weapons specialist designed more realistic blanks. Apparently, the blanks were so loud during a specific scene that Bruce Willis suffered permanent partial hearing loss in his left ear.

Paramount Pictures

1989: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 581,238

Thrill-seeking archaeologist Indiana Jones is back in 1989’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” This time around, Jones reunites with his father as he searches for the Holy Grail, hoping to find it before the Nazis do. Featured in the film is a brilliant tank chase scene, in which actor Harrison Ford did some of his own stunts.

Warner Bros.

1990: Goodfellas

IMDb rating: 8.7

IMDb votes: 823,961

Depicting three decades in the life of an American gangster, Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” reinvented style and substance alike, to the point of directly inspiring a slew of subsequent films and genres. The movie is based on the book “Wiseguy” by Nicholas Pileggi. When Scorsese originally left a message expressing interest in the book, Pileggi didn’t call the director back because he thought someone was pulling his leg. Thankfully, the two eventually connected and even worked together again on 1995’s “Casino.”

Strong Heart/Demme Production

1991: The Silence of the Lambs

IMDb rating: 8.6

IMDb votes: 1,018,080

Based on Thomas Harris’ best-selling novel, “The Silence of the Lambs” tells the story of FBI agent Clarice Starling, who consults with brilliant serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter in order to catch a different serial killer. Playing Lecter with eerily effective precision is actor Anthony Hopkins, whose presence dominates the film, even if his character is only on-screen for a grand total of 16 minutes.

Live Entertainment

1992: Reservoir Dogs

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 755,760

Legendary filmmaker Quentin Tarantino burst onto the scene with 1992’s “Reservoir Dogs,” the story of a group of strangers culled together for a bank robbery. Rife with brutal violence, unforgettable dialogue, compelling characters and indisputable style, the movie remains one of Tarantino’s tightest and best works. Meanwhile, there was so much fake blood on set that actor Tim Roth got stuck to the floor when the fake blood congealed under his back.

Universal Pictures

1993: Schindler's List

IMDb rating: 8.9

IMDb votes: 989,411

Turning away from the kid-friendly fare he was previously known for, Steven Spielberg debuted “Schindler’s List” in 1993. The film centers on Oskar Schindler, a greedy German businessman who ends up saving more than 1,000 Jews during the Holocaust. Spielberg refused to accept a salary for directing the film or take in any of the movie’s profits (which instead went to a foundation), saying to do so would be akin to taking “blood money.”


1994: Pulp Fiction

IMDb rating: 8.9

IMDb votes: 1,501,400

Just two years after “Reservoir Dogs” premiered, Tarantino unleashed what is arguably his greatest work: “Pulp Fiction.” Utilizing similarly unconventional (and novelistic) narrative devices, the film tells three interconnected Los Angeles stories in violent and frequently humorous fashion. Actress Uma Thurman plays a gangster’s wife named Mia Wallace, a role she was initially reluctant to accept. In order to convince Thurman to take the part, Tarantino read the entire script to her over the phone.

Cecchi Gori Pictures

1995: Se7en

IMDb rating: 8.6

IMDb votes: 1,164,535

A crazed serial killer uses the seven deadly sins as his muse in 1995’s “Se7en.” Directed by David Fincher, the relentlessly dark film stars Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as the detectives tasked with catching the killer before he strikes again. Rumors of a sequel persisted in the wake of the film’s success, but Fincher was against the idea, saying “I would have less interest in that than I would in having cigarettes put out in my eyes.”

PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

1996: Fargo

IMDb rating: 8.1

IMDb votes: 513,770

Filmmakers Ethan and Joel Coen (known as the Coen brothers) are no strangers to classic cinema, and 1996’s “Fargo” finds the acclaimed duo in top form. Blending crime drama and black comedy to brilliant effect, the movie centers on a kidnapping plot gone awry in the Midwest. William H. Macy was so eager to play Jerry Lundegaard that he jokingly threatened to shoot the Coen Brothers’ dogs if they didn’t give him the part.

Be Gentlemen Limited Partnership

1997: Good Will Hunting

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 696,582

Before Matt Damon was a super spy and Ben Affleck a caped crusader, the two teamed up to write and star in 1997’s “Good Will Hunting,” which centers around an underachieving boy genius who is sent down the right path by a passionate psychologist. While campaigning for the Academy Awards, Damon and Affleck sent a copy of their script to each voter, who was then invited to determine which parts were improvised and which parts weren’t.


1998: Saving Private Ryan

IMDb rating: 8.6

IMDb votes: 1,009,148

Steven Spielberg wasn’t finished detailing the horrors of WWII until he released 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan,” in which a group of soldiers advance behind enemy lines in order to save a paratrooper. Striving for authenticity, the main actors went through tactical training and a 10-day boot camp before shooting began.

Fox 2000 Pictures

1999: Fight Club

IMDb rating: 8.8

IMDb votes: 1,530,971

Based on the cult novel by Chuck Palahniuk, 1999’s “Fight Club” centers on a group of marginalized misfits who use fighting and anarchy as cathartic outlets in an overly modernistic society. Palahniuk was inspired to write the tale after participating in an actual brawl while on a camping trip with friends. Both the book and film were disappointments upon their initial releases, but have since earned massive followings.


2000: Gladiator

IMDb rating: 8.5

IMDb votes: 1,107,239

Redefining the sword-and-sandal epic for the modern era, Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” stars Russell Crowe as Maximus, a military general betrayed by Rome’s new emperor. Seeking revenge, Maximus becomes a gladiator known as The Spaniard, who must earn his way into the Roman Colosseum, one battle at a time. And to anyone seeing the film for the first time: yes, those are real tigers.

New Line Cinema

2001: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

IMDb rating: 8.8

IMDb votes: 1,392,593

With a massive budget, stunning set locations and copious amounts of CGI technology at his disposal, director Peter Jackson kicked off his “The Lord of Rings” trilogy with 2001’s “The Fellowship of the Ring.” In the film, two hobbits—Frodo and Sam—embark on a perilous quest to destroy an all-powerful ring, which grants ultimate control to its owner. Rife with groundbreaking effects and memorable performances, the trilogy would go on to break a number of Academy Awards records.

New Line Cinema

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

IMDb rating: 8.7

IMDb votes: 1,237,719

Continuing the adventures of Frodo and Sam as they attempt to destroy an all-powerful ring, “The Lord of the Rings: The Towers” introduces a shifty creature named Gollum, who was brought to life using stunning CGI. Speaking of Gollum, did you know that The Beatles expressed interest in creating their own adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy in the 1960s, with John Lennon attached to play the devious creature? According to legend, the popular band even approached Stanley Kubrick for the job. After Kubrick declined, the project quickly fell apart, but one has to wonder what a Kubrick-directed “Lord of the Rings” adaptation starring The Beatles would have looked like.

New Line Cinema

2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

IMDb rating: 8.9

IMDb votes: 1,367,235

Peter Jackson capped off his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy in spectacular style with 2003’s “The Return of the King,” in which Frodo and Sam reach the last leg of their journey while the forces of good and evil do epic battle. In addition to sweeping at the Oscars and earning more than a billion dollars at the box office, this film reportedly holds the record for the highest body count in a single movie.

Focus Features

2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 755,101

Representing a partnership between brilliant screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and singular auteur Michel Gondry, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” tells the story of a couple who fall out of love and take extreme measures to move past the heartbreak. Specifically, the couple (played by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) resorts to a medical procedure that erases one another from each other’s memories. As anyone familiar with either Kaufman or Gondry would suspect, the film takes a surrealist approach to its subject matter, while nevertheless retaining a profoundly emotional core.

Warner Bros.

2005: Batman Begins

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 1,099,197

The Batman franchise was presumed dead after 1997’s disastrous “Batman and Robin,” but it was resurrected in 2005 by Christopher Nolan, who, along with actor Christian Bale, took a decidedly grimmer approach to the source material. The film was “Batman Begins,” which goes into the caped crusader’s backstory before pitting him against a villain (formerly a psychiatrist) known as The Scarecrow. Seeking inspiration, Nolan drew from a well of influences, including Richard Donner’s “Superman: The Movie,” as well as various Frank Miller comics.

Warner Bros.

2006: The Departed

IMDb rating: 8.5

IMDb votes: 985,693

Based on a Chinese film called “Infernal Affairs,” Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” follows both an undercover cop as he infiltrates the Irish mob and an undercover criminal as he climbs the ranks inside the Boston Police Department. Bringing the material to life is an impressive range of A-list talent, with actor Leonardo DiCaprio delivering some of his best work. Meanwhile, screenwriter William Monahan and Scorsese himself both claim they never actually saw the movie upon which “The Departed” is based.’

Paramount Vantage

2007: No Country for Old Men

IMDb rating: 8.1

IMDb votes: 699,251

Once again demonstrating absolute control over character, action and setting, the Coen Brothers served up “No Country for Old Men” in 2007. The film takes place near the Texas-Mexico border in 1980 and tells the story of a semi-resourceful man who comes upon $2 million in drug money. He then finds himself in the crosshairs of a ruthless killer. To depict a border crossing scene in the film, an entire Texas-Mexico border station was built from scratch and meticulously designed to match the border as it appeared in 1980.

Warner Bros.

2008: The Dark Knight

IMDb rating: 9.0

IMDb votes: 1,884,186

More than just the second installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, “The Dark Knight” is widely considered the greatest comic book adaptation ever made. That’s in no small part thanks to Heath Ledger’s menacing turn as The Joker, who torments Gotham with a series of elaborate, deadly pranks. Of course, not everyone was feeling the performance, at least not in terms of its extremity. In fact, the Joker’s brutal actions involving an eyeball and pencil prompted a record number of complaints in the UK.

Universal Pictures

2009: Inglourious Basterds

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 1,015,532

Turning his eye toward a group of WWII-era Nazi killers, Quentin Tarantino delivered “Inglorious Basterds” in 2009. One of the film’s characters is Donny Donowitz, better known as “The Bear Jew.” Comedic actor Adam Sandler was originally attached to the role, but he dropped out to make “Funny People,” with director Eli Roth taking the part instead.

Warner Bros.

2010: Inception

IMDb rating: 8.8

IMDb votes: 1,670,098

Christopher Nolan dives beneath the proverbial surface in 2010’s “Inception,” in which a group of dream hackers secretly penetrates subconscious worlds in order to access secret information or change outcomes. Bolstered by its mind-bending effects and multi-leveled action sequences, the film raked in more than $800 million at the global box office. Featured in the movie is a famously ambiguous ending, which has prompted no shortage of interpretations from cinephiles, scholars and even actor (and cast member) Michael Caine.


2011: Warrior

IMDb rating: 8.2

IMDb votes: 373,989

In 2011’s “Warrior,” actor Tom Hardy plays a marine-turned-martial artist named Tommy Conlon, who enlists the help of his father while training for a major MMA tournament. Meanwhile, Tommy’s brother Brendan, a former MMA fighter, decides to get back into the ring, putting the two brothers on a collision course. Packing the film’s harrowing themes into one tight package is the movie’s adjoining tagline: "Family is worth fighting for."

Warner Bros.

2012: The Dark Knight Rises

IMDb rating: 8.4

IMDb votes: 1,280,289

Christopher Nolan continued his reign as a champion of modern cinema with 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises.” The final installment in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy sees the caped crusader squaring off against Bane, a vicious terrorist played by Tom Hardy. The film’s final fight scene occurs during the day and marks the first time Batman is shown in costume during daytime hours in both Nolan’s trilogy and the Burton/Schumacher series that came before it.

Red Granite Pictures

2013: The Wolf of Wall Street

IMDb rating: 8.2

IMDb votes: 927,079

After earning accolades for his numerous depictions of gritty mob bosses, director Martin Scorsese turned his attention to criminals of the white collar variety in 2013’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.” The movie is based on the real life exploits of Jordan Belfort, who raked in millions by operating various “pump and dump” schemes. Not only does Belfort himself make a cameo in the film, but he personally taught lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio how to roll around on the floor and drool after taking too many Quaaludes.

Paramount Pictures

2014: Interstellar

IMDb rating: 8.6

IMDb votes: 1,137,004

After probing the deepest regions of the mind in “Inception,” director Christopher Nolan set his sights on the furthest stars in 2014’s “Interstellar.” In the movie, Earth is on the brink of climate disaster, prompting a team of explorers to search the galaxy in hopes of a solution. The film presents some mind-bending concepts about space and time to say the least, many of which are supported by scientists (and some of which are not).

Element Pictures

2015: Room

IMDb rating: 8.2

IMDb votes: 259,761

After being abducted and impregnated by a demented kidnapper, a woman raises her son while still in captivity in 2015’s “Room.” Featuring a harrowing performance by Brie Larson as the mother and Jacob Tremblay as her son, the movie presents a gripping and dangerous fight for survival as the two captives plot their escape. The film is based on a book by Emma Donoghue, who also wrote the script.

Cross Creek Pictures

2016: Hacksaw Ridge

IMDb rating: 8.2

IMDb votes: 295,404

Returning to the director’s chair after a 10-year hiatus, Mel Gibson delivered 2016’s “Hacksaw Ridge,” featuring a conscientious objector who saves numerous lives during an intense WWII battle. Based on a true story, the film goes to shocking extremes in its depiction of wartime violence while incorporating a surprising number of accurate details.

Blueprint Pictures

2017: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

IMDb rating: 8.3

IMDb votes: 105,825

If you’re reading this list, the odds are that you were not born in 2017. But that also means there’s a good chance you’re old enough to watch Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” the story of a woman who rents three billboards and uses them to condemn the local police. It was a method sound enough to inspire some real-life demonstrators to do the very same thing.

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