27 Years 27 Movies: The Greatest Films of All Time

AFI (the American Film Institute) recently updated their list of the 100 greatest movies of all time.

Not to be outdone, I present to you my list of the greatest films of all time.  You will notice their number one pick is absent from my list…however, there are some shared views.  During my first 27 years on this earth, I’ve watched a lot of films and loved many…but only a few make this list…

Please keep in mind, while I am very serious about many of the selections (the TOP TEN especially), many of the lower level selections are meant to be an amusing hodge-podge of sentimental favorites and off-the-wall films that you might not typically expect to find on such lists.

Without further adieu…David H. Schleicher presents his

27 Years 27 Movies: The Greatest Films of All Time:

27. The New World (2005, director: Terrence Malick). There have been other films in the past three or four years that have received 10/10 ratings from me for their entertainment value, but this is the only film from the past three or four years to have made this list.  It’s a film I have never really stopped thinking about.  It’s too transcendent to fully grasp on the first view (which is why I gave it a 9/10 initially), but it’s transcendent none the less, and shares many themes with the film that appears at Number One on my list.


26. Night of the Hunter (1955, director: Charles Laughton).  This American gothic chiller is one of my favorite films from childhood.  If it weren’t for the all-too-happy ending, it would rank much higher. 

25. The Elephant Man (1980, director: David Lynch).  Emotionally resonant and haunting true tale of John Merrick is one of the most devastating films I’ve ever experienced.


24. Airplane! (1980, director: Jim Abrams and David Zucker).  Who said everything on this list had to be serious?  This is the granddaddy of all spoof films, and it’s the best.  It’s the only film I can watch over and over and still laugh at every stupid sight gag and every dumb one-liner.   A special nod must go to the Naked Gun films, which as a trilogy were the most consistently funny examples of this under appreciated genre.  I never formally reviewed this film as it never warranted such a review.


23. Fargo (1996, director: Joel Coen).  Bittersweet black comedy about a botched kidnapping that leads to murder sentimentalizes and lampoons the upper Midwest lifestyle.  It’s all played dead seriously, but with those accents! 


22. American Beauty (1999, director: Sam Mendes).   I still have my doubts about how this will be viewed over time, but I suspect it could play very well as a satire in twenty years.


21. Memento (2000, director: Christopher Nolan).  This is the only gimmick film I know of where the gimmick (it’s told backwards from the point of view of a man suffering from short-term memory loss) works on every conceivable level.


20. Wet Hot American Summer (2001, director: David Wain).  Really?  My first year out of college I watched this about once a month.  It got me through a very rough time.  Who knew a send-up of those summer camp movies from the 1980’s that I hated would be so funny?  This features some of the best absurdist humor and jokes so dumb they are smart.  This is my generation’s cult comedy.


19. Gladiator (2001, director: Ridley Scott).  Past generations had their Cecil B. DeMille epics and Ben Hur.  My generation had this slickly produced bloody spectacle that entertained me on every level.


18. The Shining (1980, director: Stanley Kubrick).  This is the most artistic horror film ever made, and the best.


17. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000, director: Ang Lee).  For a brief moment, I believed people could fly.


16. The English Patient (1996, director: Anthony Minghella).  This film gets a bum rap these days, but it’s my generation’s version of a David Lean film, and I still love it.


15. Barry Lyndon (1975, director: Stanley Kubrick).  This is the best film ever made about 18th century Europe.


14. The Sweet Hereafter (1997, director: Atom Egoyan).  This is as austere, cynical, and heartbreaking a look at grief as I’ve ever experienced.


13. Braveheart (1995, director: Mel Gibson).  If Mel Gibson had stopped directing after this, I think it would be looked upon more favorably.  Still, it’s the most emotionally visceral film I can recall seeing in my lifetime.


12. Dr. Strangelove (1964, director: Stanley Kubrick).  It terms of satire played for laughs, this takes the cake.  As a political Cold War farce, this withstands the scrutiny of time with continued belly aches.


11. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, director: Steven Spielberg).  This is the best example of what I feel Spielberg has always stood for: that sense of awe and a humanistic view of the world at large.


10. Gone with the Wind (1939, director: multiple entities). I had the pleasure to see this on the big screen during its last re-release (circa 1999 if I recall correctly).  It can only be truly appreciated on the big screen.  Movies don’t get bigger than this.  A beautiful mess that had disaster written all over it.  Yet Hollywood dazzled us.  Still a classic by any means.


9. Goodfellas (1990, director: Martin Scorsese).  The best mob movie.  The best Scorsese movie.  Period.  End of discussion.  You think I’m being funny?


8. Zentropa (aka Europa) (1991, director: Lars von Trier).  Works shockingly well as a throw-back to post WWII-era espionage thrillers and as a shocking piece of avant-garde cinema.  Before he went Dogma, von Trier delivered his unnerving masterpiece. 


7. Shadow of a Doubt (1943, director: Alfred Hitchcock). Hitchcock routinely named this amongst all the films he ever made as his personal favorite.  Who’s to argue with the master?  This chiller hits all the right notes as it depicts true innocence uncovering true darkness set against the backdrop of the American Dream.  I have never written a formal review of this film.  It’s just that good.


6. Casablanca (1942, director: Michael Curtiz). It’s the underlying cynicism and the most quotable dialogue ever uttered on screen that make this classic hold up so well over the years.  It contains my favorite line ever, spoken by Claude Rains to Bogart, “I’d like to think you killed a man; it’s the romantic in me.”


5. Network (1976, director: Sidney Lumet). Satire is so hard to do with a straight face, but this eerily prophetic film still shocks and captivates today thanks to the smartest script ever written (thank you Paddy Chayefsky) and the greatest ensemble acting I’ve ever seen.


4. The Pianist (2002, director: Roman Polanski). This is the most brutally honest and gripping film ever made about surviving the Holocaust.


3. Paris, Texas (1984, director: Wim Wenders). Allegedly this was Kurt Cobain’s favorite film of all time.  Underrated and little seen, this is the type of slow-burning character piece that slips under your skin and haunts you for days afterwards.


2. Mulholland Drive (2001, director: David Lynch). This is where my “favorite” blurs with “the greatest.”  This fevered meditation on the power of film and the dreams of a tortured actress is the most artistic film about Hollywood ever made.  Lynch described it as “a Love Story in the City of Dreams.”  I agree.


1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, director: Stanley Kubrick).  Depicting man’s first contact with intelligent life outside of this planet, this is the ultimate example of film as art.  As such, I rank it as the greatest film of all time.



Honorable Mentions:

Upon more critical review on a different day with a longer list, these films may have made the cut:

King Kong (the 1933 version)

From Hitchcock: The Lady Vanishes, Rear Window, Vertigo 

From Spielberg: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan

From Scorsese: Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Departed

Others:  Freaks, A Streetcar Named Desire, Chinatown, Five Easy Pieces, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Annie Hall, Atlantic City, Gandhi, Secrets & Lies, Lost in Translation, 21 Grams

Films that always seem to appear on everyone else’s lists but will never appear on mine:

The Wizard of Oz, Psycho, Jaws, Star Wars, Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, any Musical or Disney film

Written by  David H. Schleicher


  1. Honorable Mentions:
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest ( Tim reminded me of that )
    Donnie Darko ( cult, gets better each time I see it )
    A River Runs Thru It ( Brotherly Love man, come on !! )

    Horse Apples, I added One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest to honorable mentions as for some reason that had completely slipped my mind…hmmm…maybe that should be there in the BIG 27 instead of, oh, I don’t know…AIRPLANE! The other two films you mention are good, but I don’t think stand up very well. –DHS

  2. 10. American History X
    9. 2001
    8. Sunset Blvd.
    7. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
    6. Shaun of the Dead (who can’t deny a good parody of zombie movies w/ British humor?)
    5. Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade
    4. Wag the Dog
    3. The Ice Storm
    2. Donnie Darko
    1. Trainspotting

    So I only did 10, big deal wanna fight about it? 🙂 Just multiply times 3 and you have my age.

    Heath, interesting choices. Last Crusdae over Raiders? I’m not so sure about that. Flip you number 10 and your number 1 and the list might have more weight. –DHS

  3. Oh, and Quiz Show, Goodfellas, Stand By Me, Apoc. Now, Network, 25th Hour, 2 Towers, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Mean Streets are near in my top 10.
    The one I truly debated being in my top was All the President’s Men.

    Heath, Network is so great. Glad to see someone else has seen it! 25th Hour was excellent as well, not so sure it should make an “all time” list, though. –DHS

  4. Well, I typically love movies about media……seeing I work in TV and I’m a now 3 time national award winner 🙂 Network is great, and if I ended up doing 30 movies, it would’ve been a top 20.
    As far as having Crusade above Raiders, it’s just personal reasons. My g’father and I had some great times watching that movie. I still think Trainspotting is a MUCH stonger film than American History X. As far as emotional impact, American History X is better.
    BTW, you really think that strongly of Mullholand Dr? Didn’t dig that one too much. Of course, I’m not big on David Lynch either. If you switched your number 23 with your number 2, I think your list may have more weight 🙂

    Heath, yeah I figured if anybody would’ve appreciated Network, it would be you. Nice comeback, my friend. –DHS

  5. Don’t get me wrong though Dave, I love some Fargo!!! My fiance watched that for the first time about 2 months ago. She typically doesn’t like slow movies like Simple Plan, Frailty and Fargo, but she really dug it, which impressed me!
    I was cutting a promo for Fargo about 4 years, and my boss wouldn’t let me show the foot in the woodchipper, even though he thought it was funny!!!
    Also, I was pleased to see 2001 as your top film. If there is any film that can be considered as a “work of art,” it’s 2001.
    BTW, Citizen Kane isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There’s stuff more modern that knocks its socks off! I would rather watch something crappy like, Behind Enemy Lines or something.

    Heath, ha ha ha, I don’t think I would ever “want” to watch Behind Enemy Lines, but I get your point. –DHS

  6. I forgot about Quiz Show. And what about BARTON FINK ?? Truly, a writer of your sex appeal could agree with the inner dimensional characters in that film.

    Horsie, I was never a huge Quiz Show fan. Barton Fink, yes, is great (and speaks to the writer in me for sure)…but I feel Fargo is the superior Coen Brothers’ film. –DHS

  7. Oh, we have very similar tastes, Sir. Not the least of which would be your (and likely my number one selection).
    Your little blog post just might inspire to do my own. If so, by all means I will give you props.

    Darshan, thank you kindly, sir. –DHS

  8. “I like to think that you killed a man; it’s the romantic in me,” isn’t a Bogart line. That was Claude Rains, in what was arguably the most infectiously delicious roles any actor has ever played – ever.

    I wrote a paper on Casablanca in college with a philosophy professor. We were going to try to get it published in a philosophy journal, but I ended up forgetting about it, and my prof. and I drifted apart. It was our contention that the characters in Casablanca make up the ultimate archetypes of the Western/American male ego…. and that Casablanca, as a whole, is a moral fable.

    In truth, its so much more than that… but I still think that every guy on the planet wants to be Rick.

    Personally though… I want to be Claude Rains.

    a. -Thank you so much for the correction. I have edited the original statement to show that Claude Rains spoke that line (to Bogart). Funny how memory can play tricks on you. –DHS

  9. What about Blue Velvet, The Third Man, Come and See, Stalker, Il Postino, Naked (Mike Leigh), Taxi Driver, Glengarry Glenross…?

    Taxi Driver did get an honorable mention, and I’ve had a notorious love/hate relationship with Blue Velvet over the years. The others you mention…none stick out in my mind with the exception of The Third Man, which like Citizen Kane I have studied and seen many clips from but never watched fully for a review. –DHS

  10. Oh, you’re a Kubrick fan (4 films in top 27) just like me! Why is A Clockwork Orange not included? 🙂

    The greatest film IMO would have to be GONE WITH THE WIND.

    Though I do love it, I actually find A Clockwork Orange to be a “lesser” Kurbrick piece. It’s still brilliant in many ways, but I would put that on his second tier (along with Paths to Glory, Spartacus, and Full Metal Jacket) while the four I ranked would be his top tier. –DHS

  11. Here’s my personal Top 27 (My 27 Greatest Films would be totally different)

    027. The Fall
    026. In the Mood for Love
    025. Breaking the Waves
    024. My Neighbor Totoro
    023. Pulp Fiction
    022. Fargo
    021. The Searchers
    020. Barry Lyndon
    019. GoodFellas
    018. City of God
    017. Blue Velvet
    016. A History of Violence
    015. Fight Club
    014. Apocalypse Now
    013. Killer of Sheep
    012. Punch-Drunk Love
    011. There Will Be Blood
    010. Memento
    009. Yi yi
    008. The Godfather
    007. Casablanca
    006. The Elephant Man
    005. Mulholland Drive
    004. Blade Runner
    003. Raging Bull
    002. A Clockwork Orange
    001. 2001: A Space Odyssey

    • I’m sorry you can’t get with musicals. These are definitely all-time great ones:

      1 All That Jazz
      2 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
      3 Singin’ in the Rain
      4 An American in Paris

      Each of these has their own special brilliance for their time. Any young person today who would view them would be very entertained and left feeling exalted. Even adults accustomed to contemporary styles and dialogue would still appreciate them.

      Of course today they can’t make a musical without messing it up because they have no inkling of what truly constitutes one.

      Thanks for sharing your expertise and your preferences. I’ll have to play a little catch-up to see some films with which I’m unfamiliar. Looking forward to it.


      Hey, thanks for stopping by, Noel! I agree that the older musicals had a more consistent quality and integrity. Many of the more recently celebrated ones (the wretched Moulin Rouge in particular) rely too heavily on post-modern type analysis and gimmicky meta-narrative constructs that take away from the fact that a musical is meant to be about the singing and dancing first and foremost. -DHS

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