People love arguing about movies. They love debating what the best American movie is, what the best horror movie is, what the best mystery movie is, and—perhaps the most contested cinematic topic of all—what the best Star Wars movie is. If you want to know if you’re on the right side of history, you can always turn to Rotten Tomatoes, the immensely popular movie review aggregator.
Rotten Tomatoes culls together reviews from film critics to create a by-consensus score for each film. The top-rated films are “certified fresh,” while the low-rated ones are deemed “rotten.” The site’s list of top films of all time ranks movies by a wide variety of factors, including number of reviews, the year it came out, and the genre it falls under. That’s why Rotten Tomatoes’ top 50 films aren’t all rated 100 percent, and why not every movie with a 100-percent rating made the cut. (Hey, you can’t argue with math, right?) So, without further ado, grab a bag of popcorn and a cozy seat, and peruse the top movies on Rotten Tomatoes.
Black Panther (2018); 97 percent
Yes, Black Panther is a superhero movie based on a comic book—but it’s a truly awesome one. Actually, according to reviewers, it’s the most awesome one.
Starring a majority black cast centered around T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Black Panther gave movie audiences something totally fresh (the prior 17 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe star white superheroes). As a result, it brought in a global haul of more than $1.3 billion, making it the ninth highest grossing film of all time. Oh, and it also snagged Oscars for Best Costume Design, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design.
Lady Bird (2017); 99 percent
At its core, 2017’s Lady Bird is about the relationship between a mother and a daughter (Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan, respectively)—both of whom are stubborn, independent, and opinionated. The film centers on Ronan’s character, a senior in high school in 2002 who just wants to move on to bigger and better things (preferably outside of her hometown of Sacramento, California). After its release, critics from the National Board of Review, the American Film Institute, and Time magazine instantly deemed it one of the best films of that year. At the Golden Globes, the film won Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) and Ronan won Best Actress (Motion-Picture Musical or Comedy).
The Wizard of Oz (1939); 98 percent
According to the Library of Congress, The Wizard of Oz—the commercially successful adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz—is the most watched film in all of history. Though the 1939 film, starring Judy Garland, didn’t snag any Academy Awards (Gone With the Wind earned the majority of those awards that year), the movie still became iconic in its own right.
Citizen Kane (1941); 100 percent
Citizen Kane is considered by many critics to be the best movie ever made. Starring screen legend Orson Welles, Citizen Kane, released in 1941, shattered precedents by deploying innovations in cinematography, editing, narrative structure, and music. The film centers on newspaper magnate Charles Foster Cane, who was loosely based on journalism tycoons William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. It was nominated for Academy Awards in nine categories, though it only won the Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay), for a script by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Welles.
BlacKkKlansman (2018); 96 percent
Based on the biographical novel Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth, this 2018 film follows Colorado Springs Police Department’s first African American police officer as he sets out to expose the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan during the 1970s. Directed by Spike Lee and starring John David Washington and Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman was admired by critics who praised its exploration of both current and past events—and how they’re inextricably related. BlacKkKlansman ultimately won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, a first for Lee.
Get Out (2017); 98 percent
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, smashed box office records. It also made Peele the first black writer to win the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The film stars Daniel Kuulaya as a black man who travels with his white girlfriend to meet her family. If you haven’t seen it, we won’t spoil anything, but, needless to say, things aren’t as they seem. After all, Get Out isn’t billed as a horror for no reason!
The Third Man (1949); 99 percent
In 1999, the British Film Insitute named Orson Welles’ The Third Man the best British film of all time. With the 1949 film, Welles yet again proved to be an industry trailblazer, using a combination of lighting, music, and camera techniques to set a dark mood for a movie about post-World War II Vienna. The film received one Academy Award and fittingly, it was for Best Cinematography.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015); 97 percent
This post-apocalyptic action film is set in a rough desert where water and petrol are scarce commodities. To survive, Max (Tom Hardy) and Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) have to unite to flee a crazed cult leader. Upon its release, the film was widely praised by critics who enjoyed the lively pace of an action film that also managed to squeeze in some humor and feminist ideals. Mad Max: Fury Road won six Academy Awards for Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing, breaking the record for the most wins for an Australian film.
Moonlight (2016); 98 percent
This coming-of-age drama film follows three crucial stages in the life of a black gay man, including the physical and emotional abuse experienced as a child. Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unpublished semi-autobiographical play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, the film explores what life looks like for many people of color in the LGBTQIA+ community. Moonlight was praised by many critics for going where no other film had gone before.
After its release in 2016, the film won the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, along with a Best Supporting Actor win for Mahershala Ali. In turn, Moonlight became the first film with an all-black cast, the first LGBTQIA+ film, and the second-lowest-grossing film domestically (behind The Hurt Locker) to win the Oscar for Best Picture.
Inside Out (2015); 98 percent
With a superstar voice cast featuring Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Diane Lane, and Kyle MacLachlan, and a compelling and thought-provoking plot, Inside Out is considered one of the best animated films to come out of the 21st century.
The movie follows a young girl named Riley Andersen as her five personified emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust—try to help her process a family move from Minnesota to San Francisco. Praised for its open dialogue about the way emotions change as you mature, Inside Out received a plethora of awards upon its 2015 release, including a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Award, Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Wonder Woman (2017); 93 percent
Based on the iconic DC Comics character, this superhero movie starring Gal Gadot brought high-octane feminine power into the world of superheroes. Oh, and it also received a ton of rave reviews from critics in the process. After it was released in 2017, the film set numerous box office records, proving just how much audiences wanted to see a female superhero in the spotlight. In fact, Wonder Woman performed so well that there’s a sequel slated to come out in 2020.
Metropolis (1927); 99 percent
Released in 1927, Metropolis is often praised by critics for pioneering science fiction as a film genre. The German silent film, directed by Fritz Lang, is set in a futuristic urban utopian society. Though it was lauded for its complex visual effects and enchanting imagery, Metropolis earned some flack for its naiveté about the bigger message that it was sending to audiences around the world about classism.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920); 100 percent
This 1920 silent German horror film was dubbed the “first true horror film” by famed critic Roger Ebert. The movie—about an insane, murderous hypnotist—has also been praised by other critics for paving the way for other cult films and arthouse productions. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari‘s cinematography is also incredibly dark and angular, creating an entire ambiance that was new to audiences during the time it was released.
All About Eve (1950); 100 percent
All About Eve—based on the 1946 short story, “The Wisdom of Eve,” by Mary Orr—boasts an impressive cast, including Bette Davis as the titular character, along with Marilyn Monroe and Barbara Bates. The story follows Davis’ Eve, an aging star who is threatened by the presence of a new, younger woman in her life.
After being praised by critics right after its release in 1950, All About Eve received a record-breaking 14 Academy Award nominations, winning six of them, including Best Picture. It’s also the only movie to earn four Academy Award nominations for its female stars—two Best Actress nods for Davis and Anne Baxter, and two Best Supporting Actress ones for Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter.
It Happened One Night (1934); 98 percent
This 1934 American romantic comedy was lauded so much by critics everywhere that it became the first of only three films to have ever won all five major Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. In fact, It Happened One Night, which stars Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, is so significant that it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1993.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982); 98 percent
For many, this film ranks among the best feel-good movies out there—and for good reason. After E.T.’s 1982 release, director Steven Spielberg was praised for his a truly timeless story of love and friendship. It was beloved so much by critics and audiences alike that, for 11 years, it held the record of being the highest-grossing film of all time (Spielberg broke his own record with Jurassic Park). In 1994, it was also selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
A Quiet Place (2018); 95 percent
This post-apocalyptic horror film was directed by The Office’s John Krasinski, who also stars in the movie alongside his wife, Emily Blunt. The film follows a family of four trying to evade blind extraterrestrials with acute hearing. It’s an eerily silent movie, as the family attempts to outsmart the creatures.
Awards voters loved the film, too; A Quiet Place received several notable nominations, including a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, Producers Guild of America Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for Blunt, which she later won.
Coco (2017); 97 percent
Inspired by the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead, Coco centers around a 12-year-old boy who is accidentally transported to the Land of the Dead. The film was praised for its respectful handling of Mexican culture—and even became the first film with a nine-figure budget to feature an all Latino cast (albeit, voice cast). Coco went on to earn many awards, including two Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (“Remember Me”), and the Best Animated Film award at the BAFTAs and Golden Globes, too.
Dunkirk (2017); 92 percent
Written, directed, and produced by Christopher Nolan, this movie thoughtfully, viscerally depicts the 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II. Due in large part to its ensemble cast—which included many big names, like Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Hardy—Dunkirk managed to captivate audiences everywhere with its poignant recounting of such a historic event. To date, Dunkirk is the highest-grossing World War II film (even surpassing Saving Private Ryan), making $526 million worldwide. The film received eight Academy Award nominations, ultimately taking home the awards for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Film Editing.
Spotlight (2015); 97 percent
Released to widespread critical acclaim in 2015, Spotlight is a biographical drama that follows The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team in 2001, as they investigate the cases of widespread and systematic child sex abuse by numerous Catholic priests in the Boston area. The film stars Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams, and received numerous awards for its superb retelling of a true and captivating story—including the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.
Selma (2015); 99 percent
This historical drama recounts the 1965 voting rights marches in Alabama between Selma to Montgomery, led by Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, Hosea Williams, and John Lewis. The film was released just two months before the 50th anniversary of the march—and then re-released on the actual date of the march, March 20, to commemorate the historic legacy of this act.
Critics sang the film’s praises. Richard Roeper of the Chicago-Sun Times, for example, deemed Selma “an important history lesson that never feels like a lecture. Once school is back in session, every junior high school class in America should take a field trip to see this movie.”
Casablanca (1942); 97 percent
Perhaps still remaining one of the most quotable movies in all of history, Casablanca still shines bright decades after its release. Starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, this romantic drama set against the backdrop of World War II exceeded expectations by going on to win Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s still considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time.
Eighth Grade (2018); 99 percent
Released in 2018, Eighth Grade is a dramedy written by Bo Burnham and starring Elsie Fisher. It was hailed by critics for its peek inside the mind of a 14-year-old girl as she prepares for her first year of high school. Throughout the movie, Burnham captures the essence of the typical Generation Z struggles, including social media addiction, mental health issues, and struggles with sexuality—along with the timeless woes that come with getting older. Despite encountering trouble as he tried to fund the film, Burham was vindicated when Eighth Grade received a bunch of award nominations upon its release, including a Golden Globe nomination for Fisher and Writers Guild and Directors Guild of America Awards for Burnham.
Modern Times (1936); 100 percent
In 1936, Charlie Chaplin wrote, directed, and stars in Modern Times—a film that help cement his mark in cinematic history. The film centers on his Little Tramp character, a bumbling but generally good-hearted guy trying to survive in the industrial era. More than just a comedy, the film provides an intelligent narrative on the desperate employment and economic situations during the Great Depression. Decades later, in 1989, the Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
The Big Sick (2017); 98 percent
This 2017 romantic comedy is loosely based on the real-life events of married couple Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, with Nanjiani playing himself and Zoe Kazan playing Gordon. As its name suggests, this story centers around the trials and tribulations of an inter-ethnic couple who must deal with their cultural differences after Kazan’s character falls severely ill. The Big Sick was one of the most acclaimed films in 2017, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Paddington 2 (2017); 100 percent
Live-action/animated comedy film Paddington 2 reconnected audiences with the beloved character Paddington Bear, created by Michael Bond. This British film starring Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, and Hugh Grant in live-action roles was warmly received by the press, eventually earning three BAFTA nominations for Best British Film, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role, for Grant.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017); 91 percent
Upon its release in 2017, Star Wars: The Last Jedi became the highest grossing film of the year, as well as the seventh highest grossing film of all time in North America. (No big.) Not only that, but the film scooped up four nominations at the 90th Academy Awards, including Best Original Score and Best Visual Effects, as well two BAFTA nominations—no small feat considering the fact that Star Wars films generally don’t snag nominations.
The Godfather (1972); 98 percent
Decades after its release, The Godfather still manages to top nearly every list of the best films of all time. In case you somehow missed this cherished piece of cinema, the film centers on a fictional New York crime family and stars Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, and Diane Keaton. The film was the highest grossing movie of 1972, and, for a short time, the highest grossing film ever. It won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor (Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay for Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo. And yes, it was also chosen for preservation by the Library of Congress.
Arrival (2016); 94 percent
Based on the 1998 short story, “Story of Your Life,” by Ted Chiang, Arrival follows a linguist (Amy Adams) enlisted by the U.S. Army to communicate with aliens—all in order to avoid going to war with them. Upon its release, Adams was lauded by critics for her captivating performance and later, Arrival won an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing.
La Grande Illusion (1937); 97 percent
This 1937 war film is considered by many to be one of the greatest French movies ever created. In fact, after watching it, Orson Welles said that La Grande Illusion would be one of two films that he would bring with him “on the ark.” Directed by Jean Renoir, La Grande Illusion centers on class relationships among a small group of French officers who are prisoners of war during World War I. Due to its open discussion about French and German class systems, the film was banned in both countries for a time after its release.
Logan (2017); 93 percent
Outranking all of the other nine installments of the X-Men film series, Logan is the third and final movie in the Wolverine trilogy. The film features Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart reprising their roles as Wolverine and Charles Xavier, respectively. But this installment proves to be far bleaker than its predecessors: Wolverine is aging, and thus no longer invincible, and Xavier is severely ill. Together, though, they work to defend a young mutant girl named Laura from the baddies.
After its release in 2017, critics praised the film for containing more depth and emotion than most superhero films. Logan also became the first live-action superhero film to ever be nominated for a screenwriting Oscar. Not only that, but the film grossed more than $619 million worldwide, becoming the fifth highest grossing R-rated film ever.
Call Me by Your Name (2017); 95 percent
This coming-of-age romantic drama is actually the third and final installment in a thematic trilogy called “Desire” by director Luca Guadagnino. Set in northern Italy in 1983, Call Me By Your Name follows the summer romance between 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and a 24-year-old graduate student (Armie Hammer). It deftly navigates the parade of feelings that come along with a first love—especially as it relates to the LGBTQIA+ community. Due to its open and poignant exploration of love and homosexuality, the film picked up accolades for its screenplay, including an Academy Award, a Critics’ Choice Award, a BAFTA, and a Writers Guild of America Award.
The Shape of Water (2017); 92 percent
Released in 2017, The Shape of Water is a romantic dark fantasy film that follows the romance between a mute cleaner at a high-security government laboratory (Sally Hawkins) and a captured humanoid amphibian creature (Doug Jones). Directed by Guillermo del Toro, the film was praised by critics for both its visually captivating scenes and the precision and warmth of Hawkins’ performance. As a result, The Shape of Water won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Production Design, and Best Original Score.
Incredibles 2 (2018); 94 percent
Considering the fact that the first Incredibles was a commercial success and favorite among moviegoers in 2004, it makes sense that the much-anticipated 2018 sequel would be just as beloved by critics and fans. With the same magic of the first film and the same charming ensemble voice cast—led by Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, and Samuel L. Jackson—audiences all over the world flocked to see the second Incredibles installment. The film grossed more than $1.2 billion worldwide, becoming the fourth highest grossing film of 2018, the second highest grossing animated film ever, and the 15th highest grossing film of all time.
Singin’ in the Rain (1952); 100 percent
Singin’ in the Rain is one of the most beloved musicals of all time. With this take on 1920s Hollywood, the 1952 film’s stars, Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds, danced and sang their way straight to superstardom.
Leave No Trace (2018); 100 percent
Based on Peter Rock’s novel My Abandonment, Leave No Trace is a drama directed by Debra Granik and starring Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie as an Iraq War veteran and his daughter who have taken to living in the woods in Oregon. Throughout the film, both struggle with their own relationship to society. Though small in scale, Leave No Trace received plenty of critical acclaim after its debut in 2018, with many citing the performances from Foster and McKenzie as groundbreaking and captivating.
Psycho (1960); 97 percent
Often considered one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films, Psycho has long been a favorite among movie critics. If you haven’t seen it, the film centers on Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a secretary who stole money from her employer, and Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), the owner of the Bates Motel, where Crane stays after fleeing her job. At the time of its release, Psycho was considered groundbreaking for its ability to set a new level of acceptability for violence, deviant behavior, and sexuality in American cinema. In 1960, the film earned four Academy Award nominations, though it did not end up securing any wins.
Gravity (2013); 96 percent
Gravity follows two American astronauts, played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, who find themselves stranded in outer space. In 2013, the movie garnered major critical acclaim, particularly for Emmanuel Lubezki’s breathtaking cinematography, Steven Price’s musical score, and Bullock’s heroic performance. The film won seven Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, and Best Visual Effects.
Laura (1944); 100 percent
This American film noir starring Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, and Vincent Price is about the murder investigation of a highly successful advertising agent, Laura Hunt. The American Film Institute named the 1944 movie one of the 10 best mystery films of all time, and the Library of Congress added it to the National Film Registry.
Boyhood (2014); 97 percent
Filmed over the course of 12 years and using the same cast (Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelai Linklater, and Ethan Hawke), Boyhood follows one boy (Coltrane) as he becomes a young man. The film was praised by critics for its performances, emotional depth, and raw character development—and the sheer scope of director Richard Linklater’s cinematic process. At the Golden Globe Awards, Boyhood won Best Motion Picture—Drama, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress for Arquette, along with another Oscar win for Arquette in the supporting actress category.
A Hard Day’s Night (1964); 98 percent
During the height of Beatlemania, director Richard Lester made A Hard Day’s Night, starring all four Beatles—Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. Released in 1964, the musical comedy film portrays 36 hours in the lives of the Beatles—including escaping hordes of fans, reading books, and riding bicycles. Long after Beatlemania dissipated, the film is still considered a classic, and a trailblazer for musical movies.
The Maltese Falcon (1941); 100 percent
Released in 1941, John Huston’s directorial debut, The Maltese Falcon, was the first major film noir, according to Panorama du Film Noir Américain. The film, which follows a private investigator (Humphrey Bogart) and his femme fatale client (Mary Astor), was nominated for three Academy Awards. Decades later, it too was added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.
Manchester by the Sea (2016); 96 percent
Starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea is an American tragedy about a man (Affleck) grappling with the death of his brother, along with earlier events in his life through a series of flashbacks. Empire critic Phil de Semlyen called the film “masterfully told and beautifully acted” and compared Affleck’s performance to that of Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront. The film won Academy Awards for Best Actor for Affleck and Best Original Screenplay.
Argo (2012); 96 percent
This historical drama, directed by and starring Ben Affleck, was adapted from the book by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operative Tony Mendez, The Master of Disguise. Argo follows Mendez and a group of CIA agents as they rescue six U.S. diplomats from Tehran, Iran, during the Iran Hostage Crisis under the guise of filming a science fiction film. Also starring Alan Arkin (whose performance was adored by critics), George Clooney, and Bryan Cranston, the film received a host of awards, including Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.
12 Years a Slave (2013); 95 percent
Directed by Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave won praise from film critics for its dark depiction of the lives of slaves during the 19th century. The film was based upon the events described in the 1853 memoir Twelve Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup, a black man who was born free in New York but later kidnapped by two conmen in 1841 and sold into slavery.
Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Northup, while other real people involved in the book—like Edwin and Mary Epps and Patsey—were played by Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, and Lupita Nyong’o, respectively. Though the film itself received quite a bit of critical acclaim, it was the breakout performance from Nyong’o that won most of the accolades. She earned an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in her first feature film role.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017); 92 percent
Thor: Ragnarok is the 17th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the third installment in the Thor franchise. It follows the God of Thunder across multiple planets as he tries to prevent Ragnarok (the apocalypse, in Norse mythology) from happening. Yes, there’s nonstop action and an all-star cast—including Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, and Anthony Hopkins—but the real standout is the direction from Taika Waititi, who brought a level of fun and humor to the film that wasn’t seen in superhero movies previously. With a 92 percent score, it’s safe to say critics responded positively.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938); 100 percent
This Technicolor swashbuckler film starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, and Claude Rains tells the age-old tale of Robin Hood, a Saxon knight during the Crusades who leads a group of rebels to fight the rich and powerful. Critics praised the performances, musical score, and direction in the film, which ultimately earned three Academy Awards. Decades later, in 1995, the Library of Congress selected the film for preservation by the National Film Registry.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937); 98 percent
For many, this Disney classic is still a favorite. Based on the German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first full-length cel-animated (or hand-drawn) feature film and the earliest Disney animated feature. At the time of its release in 1937, it became the highest-grossing film ever, earning $8 million. When adjusted for inflation, it’s still one of the top performers at the U.S. box office. Walt Disney won an honorary Academy Award for the film in 1938, and decades later, the American Film Institute ranked it among the 100 greatest American films ever and the greatest American animated film of all time.
King Kong (1933); 98 percent
Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes as the fifth-greatest horror film of all time (and one of the first, at that), King Kong tells the tale of a spectacularly large ape-like creature who falls in love with an American woman sacrificed to him by native people living on the remote island in which he dwelled. And though King Kong did not win any Academy Awards itself, the movie’s special effects were so revolutionary that they’re part of the reason the Academy created the Best Visual Effects Award in 1938. Years later, the American Film Institute including King Kong on its list of the 100 greatest American films and the Library of Congress also selected it for preservation.
Nosferatu (1922); 97 percent
Based on the classic novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, 1922’s Nosferatu is a German expressionist horror film directed by F.W. Murnau and starring Max Schreck as the main character, a vampire named Count Orlok. Any success the film did have upon its release in 1922 was quickly overshadowed by the fact that it was an unauthorized adaption of the book. Stoker’s heirs sued the filmmakers, and the court ruled that all copies of the film had to be destroyed. However, a few were safely stowed away—which is how Nosferatu still remains one of the most popular horror films to this day.
Renowned film critic Roger Ebert adding it to his list of “The Great Movies,” saying: “I admire it more for its artistry and ideas, its atmosphere and images, than for its ability to manipulate my emotions like a skillful modern horror film. … Nosferatu remains effective: It doesn’t scare us, but it haunts us.” And to get a side of laughs with your scares, check out these 20 Funniest Things About Horror Movies That Make No Sense.
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