"Greatest movies of all time" is a phrase that's tossed around a lot, but has admittedly subjective meaning. One film critic might say a certain film is one of the greatest movies of all time, while another will not. You'll just have to go see it for yourself to make that determination. Perhaps the real point of film critics is to trick you into seeing a movie whether you normally would have anyway or not. Perhaps this "Greatest Movies" thing is just a marketing ploy, or perhaps each time the phrase is utilized, the person means well, but because it's so overused, it's meaning has become eroded.

If a film critic says a movie is great, he's hoping you'll actually believe because he gets paid to tell people about movies, that his opinion actually should carry weight. Sometimes this backfires. There are some people who read Roger Ebert's film reviews at the Chicago Sun Times simply to determine which movies not to see. If he likes it, they don't go. If he doesn't like a movie, they give it a try and usually enjoy it. Most movie critics are sincere, but some are in cahoots somehow with one or more firms within the entertainment industry. It is pointedly impossible without viable evidence to be able to tell which film critics are sincere and which are not. They all gotta make money. They all gotta put food on their tables.

There are organizations which spit out a list of movies that they feel are the greatest of all time. The routine standard is a top ten list, or a hundred, but for the most part the actual number is arbitrary. It's practically impossible to say which movie is THE greatest. There's simply too many to choose from. I'm sure there's some logical reason for them wasting their time and yours. Truth is, if a close friend of yours tells you a movie is the greatest of all time, you'll probably take that a bit more seriously than complete strangers who acquire some level of celebrity by talking about movies by celebrities. It's all rather childish really.

And with all the above in mind, here's my list of the greatest movies of all time.

  • Always with Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, and John Goodman. Directed by Steven Spielberg. It's a romantic adventure about a dare-devil firefighting pilot who dies and haunts his friends from beyond the grave because he has to learn what a schmuck he was in real life before Audrey Hepburn will take him to heaven. Real schmaltzy and mushy, but a great feel-good film.
  • Citizen Kane directed and starring Orson Welles in a tale based loosely on the real life of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Needless to say this pissed Hearst off, and ruined Welles' career. From a cinematic standpoint, this film was decades ahead of its time. It was quite innovative, but not in a way that detracts from the story. Welles successfully created a feeling of immense nobility and corrupt power. You both love and hate Kane by the end. Welles puts you inside the head of the man and through the accounts of those around him, you understand how he got the way he was and why. This film is a slice of sheer brilliance.
  • Die Hard is incredible not because of the special effects or the acting or the use of Frank Sinatra music, though all those things help make it great. The true greatness of this film is in all the little touches and continuity incorporated in order to tell a fast paced film while keeping intimate inter-relationships alive and believable. It's a totally unrealistic story, weaved with intricate small touches that keep the audience from losing track of the story, and making them feel like they're in the middle of an exciting and deadly incident. The plot twists and surprises are ripe and never ending, and every time I see it again I always find something new. Finally, Bruce Willis' character does things that make sense. His actions don't seem to be just in order to perpetuate the script, but just seem humanly logical given the circumstances of the situation.
  • Excalibur is yet another rehash of the legendary celtic tales of King Arthur. It captures the regal flavor of the tales and simultaneously reveals unrealistic magic and the harsh reality of life in the dark ages. It's grandiose and over the top, but avoids falling into the trap of looking like a melodrama. Visually it's simply breath-taking, and the performance of Nicol Williamson as Merlin is a purely delicious experience. Liam Neeson's appearance as Gawain is also a thrill.
  • The Godfather is a film which personally I despise. Written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola with a plethora of incredible talent including Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, Abe Vigoda, and based on the novel by Mario Puzo. It is a testament to the decadence of absolute power and family loyalty even in the face of death and worse. It looks and sounds rich and lush, and is a favorite in the hearts of many. Despite this I can't stand it, because it elevates the concept of The Mafia and organized crime as if it were almost godlike. It does its job too well, but I reluctantly have to admit that makes it one of the greatest movies of all time.
  • Highlander stars Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery with Clancy Brown playing the bad guy. It's about immortals who battle throughout history in order to achieve a mythic prize of godhood, while living conspicuously among mere mortals. Great transitions from one time period to another, with incredible sword battles and also laced with lush visuals and slick humor. It bombed in the box office, but was discovered by film buffs when it found a reprieve of life in video rentals. The sequels and television series do not hold a candle to the original.
  • The Manchurian Candidate stars Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh and Laurence Harvey. Directed by John Frankenheimer, this film is about two Korean War veterans who start having nightmares about how they were treated while prisoners of war, and the consequences of their enemy's post-hypnotic suggestions. An intense political thriller that simultaneously pulls on the heart strings and both disturbs and elates the mind. A true masterpiece of its time.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail is yet another rehash of the King Arthur tales. However unlike Excalibur, this is a comedy that manipulates the mind of the audience and takes some interesting turns. The comedy minds behind Monty Python's Flying Circus were at the peak of their strength as a group and as individual talents. From this film is a wealth of great quotes, which diehard fans repeat incessantly even today, to the chagrin of people who have gotten sick of it. The movie itself is still a prime accomplishment of comedy, and the jewel crown of this comedy team's wealth of work.
  • Star Wars The first is still the best. Though made over twenty-three years ago, the repercussions of its affect on modern cinema can still be felt. Though on a deadline and tight budget, the special effects and cinematic vistas of sand dunes and space battles were unparalleled. It quite literally raised the bar on expectations in the theater. A space opera of sorts, the plot is complex but melodramatic. The characters are dynamic and larger than life while retaining a sense of humble realism. Despite the fact this story allegedly takes place a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, to the heart it feels much closer to home.
  • Zapruder Film is less than a half of a minute long, but has had more affect on modern society than any other movie ever made. Back in 1963 it was not as commonplace for people to have camcorders and televisions as it is today. People also tended to have a more wistful and loyal perspective on their world leaders. This historic event was the catalyst to arguable proof that there were conspiracies, lies and things happening behind the scenes of government which the public was not being told. It is an end of innocence for a society.

There's many more, and admittedly I probably overlooked one of your personal favorites, but that's the beauty of Everything2. You can add your own list of what you believe to be the greatest movies of all time. The more subjective input we can get, the better this node can objectively become. I'd rather read a bunch of lists of the greatest movies of all time from a bunch of people of different walks of life who are not getting paid by some faceless commercial interest, then to read one film critic's movie review and go with that.

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