Best Films For Each Year 1888-2011by metters | created - 14 Feb 2012 | updated - 15 Feb 2012 | Public
I've tried to pick the best film for each year since the birth of cinema. The choice of films has been based importance, influence, quality and sometimes just personal preference. A couple of years around the early 1900s I've missed out, because if I haven't seen or heard of any film from that year I'd prefer to skip the year than pick a film I've not heard of at random. Some years had an obvious choice, other years needed a more difficult decision, with 2, 3 or even more films for some years. There are bound to be some disagreements, but hey-ho this is just my opinion.
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1. Roundhay Garden Scene (1888)
Not Rated | 1 min | Documentary, Short
In the garden, a man asks his friends to do something silly for him to record on film.
These 2 seconds of celluloid film represent the first time moving images were captured on film, creating an industry that would take over the culture of hundreds of millions of people. From this to The A-Team in just 122 years!
Director: William Friese-Greene
3. Monkeyshines, No. 1 (1890)
Not Rated | 1 min | Short, Comedy, Family
One of W.K.L. Dickson's laboratory workers horses around for the camera.
Notable for being the first film from the Edison company, which would go on to pioneer cinema techniques in the early years.
4. Dickson Greeting (1891)
Not Rated | 1 min | Short
"A little while ago there was a great convention of women's clubs of America. Mrs. Edison is interested in women's clubs and their work and she decided to entertain the Presidents of the ... See full summary »
I always imagine him as saying "Welcome to the movies"
7. Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (1894)
1 min | Documentary, Short
8. Employees Leaving the Lumière Factory (1895)
1 min | Documentary, Short
A man opens the big gates to the Lumière factory. Through the gateway and a smaller doorway beside it, workers are streaming out, turning either left or right. Most of them are women in ... See full summary »
Director: Louis Lumière
The first short from the Lumiere Brothers, who would bring movies to the masses in France and lead to the Europeans domination of films for the next 2 decades.
10. The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight (1897)
20 min | Documentary, News, Sport
The first known feature film! A very unusual filmed record of the Corbett-Fitzsimmons fight originally ran over 90 minutes in length.
As the description states, notable as being the first feature length film, running at a mammoth 90 minutes, when nearly all other films of the day were little over 1 minute.
13. The Enchanted Drawing (1900)
2 min | Animation, Short, Comedy
A cartoonist defies reality when he draws objects that become three-dimensional after he lifts them off his sketch pad.
One of the earliest and most influential examples of animation, although it would be another 14 years until Gertie The Dinosaur that the animations featured a recognisable personality.
15. A Trip to the Moon (1902)
TV-G | 13 min | Short, Adventure, Fantasy
A group of astronomers go on an expedition to the Moon.
The entire sci-fi genre began with this film.
16. The Great Train Robbery (1903)
TV-G | 11 min | Short, Action, Western
A group of bandits stage a brazen train hold-up, only to find a determined posse hot on their heels.
17. The Whole Dam Family and the Dam Dog (1905)
5 min | Short, Comedy, Family
The Whole Dam Family and The Dam Dog is a popular fad which has been widely advertised by lithographs and souvenir mailing cards, and has recently been made the subject of a sketch in a New... See full summary »
18. San Francisco: Aftermath of Earthquake (1906)
1 min | Documentary, Short, History
Footage shot not long after the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco is edited together so that more than one scene and more than one vantage are included. We see fire raging. We see burned-out... See full summary »
21. Frankenstein (1910)
Unrated | 16 min | Short, Horror, Sci-Fi
Frankenstein, a young medical student, trying to create the perfect human being, instead creates a misshapen monster. Made ill by what he has done, Frankenstein is comforted by his fiancée ... See full summary »
The first time this legendary creature appeared on the screen.
22. Dante's Inferno (1911)
68 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Loosely adapted from Dante's Divine Comedy and inspired by the illustrations of Gustav Doré the original silent film has been restored and has a new score by Tangerine Dream.
Not Rated | 78 min | Crime, Drama, Horror
Prevented from dating his sweetheart by his uncle, a young man turns his thoughts to murder.
24. The Birth of a Nation (1915)
Not Rated | 195 min | Drama, History, War
The Stoneman family finds its friendship with the Camerons affected by the Civil War, both fighting in opposite armies. The development of the war in their lives plays through to Lincoln's assassination and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan.
Votes: 18,713 | Gross: $10.00M
Not Rated | 197 min | Drama, History
The story of a poor young woman, separated by prejudice from her husband and baby, is interwoven with tales of intolerance from throughout history.
26. Cleopatra (1917)
125 min | Biography, Drama, History
The story of Cleopatra, the fabulous queen of Egypt, and the epic romances between her and the greatest men of Rome, Julius Caesar and Antony.
27. Chase Me Charlie (1918)
Chase Me Charlie was an anthology consisting of excerpts from several of Chaplin's short films made for the Essanay Company, including The Tramp, Shanghaied, In the Park and The Bank.
Not Rated | 90 min | Drama, Romance
A frail waif, abused by her brutal boxer father in London's seedy Limehouse District, is befriended by a sensitive Chinese immigrant with tragic consequences.
31. Nosferatu (1922)
Unrated | 81 min | Fantasy, Horror
Vampire Count Orlok expresses interest in a new residence and real estate agent Hutter's wife.
The birth of horror films, and still one of the best.
32. Safety Last! (1923)
Not Rated | 70 min | Comedy, Thriller
When a store clerk organizes a publicity stunt, in which a friend climbs the outside of a tall building, circumstances force him to make the perilous climb himself.
Votes: 14,583 | Gross: $0.62M
34. The Lost World (1925)
Unrated | 106 min | Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
The first film adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic novel about a land where prehistoric creatures still roam.
Votes: 3,713 | Gross: $0.55M
A milestone in special effects, with the stop-motion animated dinosaurs being brought to life with a realism never seen before.
35. Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed (1926)
Not Rated | 81 min | Animation, Adventure, Fantasy
A handsome prince rides a flying horse to far-away lands and embarks on magical adventures, which include befriending a witch, meeting Aladdin, battling demons and falling in love with a princess.
36. Metropolis (1927)
Not Rated | 153 min | Drama, Sci-Fi
In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.
Votes: 126,150 | Gross: $0.03M
One of the greatest films ever made; will always be relevant and will always be a stunning example of the medium.
37. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Not Rated | 114 min | Biography, Drama, History
In 1431, Jeanne d'Arc is placed on trial on charges of heresy. The ecclesiastical jurists attempt to force Jeanne to recant her claims of holy visions.
Votes: 31,275 | Gross: $0.02M
40. City Lights (1931)
G | 87 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
With the aid of a wealthy erratic tippler, a dewy-eyed tramp who has fallen in love with a sightless flower girl accumulates money to be able to help her medically.
Votes: 125,612 | Gross: $0.02M
Although 1931 was tough, between this and Frankenstein, ultimately Chaplin's film had to take it with it's perfect balance of comedy and sentiment, a remarkably difficult balance to achieve.
41. The Mummy (1932)
TV-PG | 73 min | Fantasy, Horror
A living mummy stalks the beautiful woman he believes is the reincarnation of his lover.
Another tough choice between The Mummy and Freaks. But in the end The Mummy wins it for Jack Pierce's revolutionary make-up techniques.
42. King Kong (1933)
Not Rated | 100 min | Adventure, Horror, Sci-Fi
A film crew goes to a tropical island for an exotic location shoot and discovers a colossal ape who takes a shine to their female blonde star. He is then captured and brought back to New York City for public exhibition.
Votes: 69,368 | Gross: $10.00M
44. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Not Rated | 75 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
Mary Shelley reveals the main characters of her novel survived: Dr. Frankenstein, goaded by an even madder scientist, builds his monster a mate.
46. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
G | 83 min | Animation, Family, Fantasy
Exiled into the dangerous forest by her wicked stepmother, a princess is rescued by seven dwarf miners who make her part of their household.
Votes: 149,105 | Gross: $184.93M
47. Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations (1938)
Not Rated | 111 min | Documentary, Sport
The document of the 1936 Olympics at Berlin.
This, along with Part 2 (Festival Of Beauty), marked the birth of modern documentary film-making techniques, many of which are still used today. This is a purely visual feast that presents the sports in a more intimate was than anyone had managed previous.
48. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Not Rated | 129 min | Comedy, Drama
A naive man is appointed to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate. His plans promptly collide with political corruption, but he doesn't back down.
Votes: 85,844 | Gross: $9.60M
49. The Great Dictator (1940)
G | 125 min | Comedy, Drama, War
Dictator Adenoid Hynkel tries to expand his empire while a poor Jewish barber tries to avoid persecution from Hynkel's regime.
50. Dumbo (1941)
Approved | 64 min | Animation, Drama, Family
Ridiculed because of his enormous ears, a young circus elephant is assisted by a mouse to achieve his full potential.
Votes: 96,325 | Gross: $1.60M
Some people may disagree, and put Citizen Kane at the top of the list for 1941, Dumbo wins it for me. Cinema is essentially for entertainment, and there's nothing more entertaining than the little elephant who learnt to fly.
51. Casablanca (1942)
PG | 102 min | Drama, Romance, War
In Casablanca in December 1941, a cynical American expatriate encounters a former lover, with unforeseen complications.
Votes: 429,703 | Gross: $1.02M
The most beautiful and mesmerising romances to be captured on screen. Highly regarded as one of the best, and rightly so.
55. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
PG | 130 min | Drama, Family, Fantasy
An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.
Votes: 312,441 | Gross: $7.27M
56. Black Narcissus (1947)
Not Rated | 101 min | Drama
After opening a convent in the Himalayas, five nuns encounter conflict and tension - both with the natives and also within their own group - as they attempt to adapt to their remote, exotic surroundings.
57. Rope (1948)
Approved | 80 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
Two young men strangle their "inferior" classmate, hide his body in their apartment, and invite his friends and family to a dinner party as a means to challenge the "perfection" of their crime.
58. The Third Man (1949)
Not Rated | 93 min | Film-Noir, Mystery, Thriller
Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, Harry Lime.
Votes: 127,375 | Gross: $0.45M
59. Harvey (1950)
Not Rated | 104 min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
Due to his insistence that he has an invisible six foot-tall rabbit for a best friend, a whimsical middle-aged man is thought by his family to be insane - but he may be wiser than anyone knows.
62. Gojira (1954)
Not Rated | 96 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
American nuclear weapons testing results in the creation of a seemingly unstoppable, dinosaur-like beast.
Votes: 21,569 | Gross: $2.42M
In a year also featuring Rear Window, Dial M For Murder and On The Waterfront, 1954 presented a difficult choice. But as a horror/sci-fi fan I cannot ignore the achievements of this film, and the influence it has spawned throughout the world.
63. Diabolique (1955)
Not Rated | 117 min | Crime, Drama, Horror
The wife and mistress of a cruel headmaster conspire to kill him; after the murder is committed, his corpse disappears, and strange events begin to plague the two women.
66. Horror of Dracula (1958)
Approved | 82 min | Horror
Jonathan Harker begets the ire of Count Dracula after he accepts a job at the vampire's castle under false pretenses.
This narrowly edges out Vertigo, because as the first major Hammer film it represents a resurgence in British film making and in horror films, that would lead to Night Of The Living Dead 10 years later and the rise of the horror genre in the 70s.
67. North by Northwest (1959)
Not Rated | 136 min | Action, Adventure, Mystery
A hapless New York advertising executive is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies, and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive.
Votes: 243,492 | Gross: $13.28M
68. Peeping Tom (1960)
Not Rated | 101 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller
A young man murders women, using a movie camera to film their dying expressions of terror.
Votes: 24,323 | Gross: $0.08M
Although Psycho may (with good reason) be regarded as one of the best films of all time, let alone 1960, Peeping Tom knocks it off the list with its voyeurism - seeing the murders through the eyes of the killer is more unsettling than anything in Psycho. A film so far ahead of it's time director Michael Powell's career never recovered, because people just didn't get it.
70. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Not Rated | 129 min | Crime, Drama
Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his children against prejudice.
71. The Birds (1963)
PG-13 | 119 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery
A wealthy San Francisco socialite pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Northern California town that slowly takes a turn for the bizarre when birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people.
Votes: 142,477 | Gross: $11.40M
Special mention should be given to The Haunting, as a perfect example of how to give an audience scares without having the need to show a monster on screen.
72. A Hard Day's Night (1964)
G | 87 min | Comedy, Music, Musical
A "typical" day in the life of The Beatles, including many of their famous songs.
Votes: 34,095 | Gross: $13.78M
A burst of pure joy and energy onto the cinema screens, and the perfect embodiment of what Beatlemania was. And anyone who's seen Albert & David Maysles' documentary The Beatles First US Visit will recognise that this film is perhaps more realistic than you may first think|
74. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
R | 178 min | Western
A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery.
Votes: 559,069 | Gross: $6.10M
75. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
R | 111 min | Action, Biography, Crime
Bonnie Parker, a bored waitress falls in love with an ex-con named Clyde Barrow and together they start a violent crime spree through the country, robbing cars and banks.
Opened up a whole new grim world of realistic crime violence.
76. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
G | 149 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi
Humanity finds a mysterious, obviously artificial object buried beneath the Lunar surface and, with the intelligent computer H.A.L. 9000, sets off on a quest.
Votes: 481,427 | Gross: $56.95M
Despite the undoubted quality of Rosemary's Baby and the game-changing Night Of The Living Dead, 1968 is trumped by 2001: A Space Odyssey. I don't think it needs any further explanation.
79. The French Connection (1971)
R | 104 min | Action, Crime, Drama
A pair of NYC cops in the Narcotics Bureau stumble onto a drug smuggling job with a French connection.
A tough call between this and A Clockwork Orange. As good as A Clockwork Orange is, it is too mired by the hype and controversy around it. The French Connection, however, represents a new manner of film making that is more rough, documentary-like, putting the audience at the centre of the action in a way that would inspire such shaky-cam films as Blair Witch, Cloverfield and Trollhunter.
81. The Wicker Man (1973)
R | 88 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller
A police sergeant is sent to a Scottish island village in search of a missing girl whom the townsfolk claim never existed. Stranger still are the rites that take place there.
Votes: 53,352 | Gross: $0.06M
A very tough choice for 1973, from three of the best and most influential horror films ever made; films that were not simply examples of the genre, but which represented horror crossing over into the mainstream. My ultimate choice of The Wicker Man, over The Exorcist and Don't Look Now, is essentially just down to personal preference. I just like it better.
82. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)
Not Rated | 110 min | Biography, Drama, History
Herzog's film is based upon the true and mysterious story of Kaspar Hauser, a young man who suddenly appeared in Nuremberg in 1828, barely able to talk or walk, and bearing a strange note.
Some people think The Godfather Part II should be here for 1974. But as my favourite director, Werner Herzog has to be in this list somewhere. Again, this is just personal preference.
83. Jaws (1975)
PG | 124 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller
A local sheriff, a marine biologist and an old seafarer team up to hunt down a great white shark wrecking havoc in a beach resort.
Votes: 461,234 | Gross: $260.00M
84. Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
R | 91 min | Action, Crime, Thriller
A police sergeant and an unlikely band of criminals defend a closing LA precinct office on New Years Eve against an army of gang members.
Narrowly beats out Taxi Driver, but John Carpenter's incredibly tense story represents 'thriller' with effectiveness not seen since Hitchcock, and from this you can see the elements that would appear to even greater success in his horror films.
85. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
PG | 121 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a Wookiee and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire's world-destroying battle-station while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader.
Votes: 1,015,383 | Gross: $322.74M
A toss up between two of the classic sci-fi films, Star Wars or Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. At the end of the day nobody can deny the cultural influence this film has had.
86. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Unrated | 127 min | Action, Adventure, Horror
Following an ever-growing epidemic of zombies that have risen from the dead, two Philadelphia S.W.A.T. team members, a traffic reporter, and his television executive girlfriend seek refuge in a secluded shopping mall.
Votes: 97,174 | Gross: $5.10M
87. Apocalypse Now (1979)
R | 147 min | Drama, War
During the Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade Colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.
Votes: 497,330 | Gross: $83.47M
A year of many great films, with Life Of Brian, Alien and Scum all being personal favourites. But Coppola's nightmare of war is dizzying, nauseating and completely mesmerising.
88. Airplane! (1980)
PG | 88 min | Comedy
A man afraid to fly must ensure that a plane lands safely after the pilots become sick.
Votes: 176,032 | Gross: $83.40M
Another difficult year to choose from, with The Empire Strikes Back, The Elephant Man and The Blues Brothers all being worthy contenders. But Airplane wins out, with it's rapid-fire gags that maintain a constant good standard marking it a cut above the average comedy. Watch it, and be surprised about how many jokes have permeated into the popular subconscious.
89. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
PG | 115 min | Action, Adventure
Archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis.
Votes: 732,446 | Gross: $248.16M
At the last minute thought this should go on the list instead of Das Boot. Whereas Das Boot is a very good film - an intense experience of life aboard a German U-Boat - Raiders gets this year for the same reason as Dumbo in 1941: Pure entertainment factor. It is a film that never grows old, unlike Indi himself (unfortunately).
90. The Thing (1982)
R | 109 min | Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi
A crew in Antarctica finds a neighboring camp destroyed and its crew dead. Whatever killed them is nowhere to be found, unless it's hidden in plain sight.
Votes: 293,212 | Gross: $13.78M
As a Star Trek fan it's hard for me not to put The Wrath Of Khan here. But Trek didn't quite have the widespread impact that The Thing did, with it's innovations in special effects and showcasing how to make a tense, paranoid film.
92. Ghostbusters (1984)
PG | 105 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy
Three former parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost removal service.
Votes: 299,316 | Gross: $238.63M
I found this quite a difficult year to choose from. The Terminator, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Gremlins and Blood Simple are all superior examples of their respective genres. But ultimately Ghostbusters has the charm, humour and memorable gags that stand it apart from the others.
93. Back to the Future (1985)
PG | 116 min | Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi
Marty McFly, a 17-year-old high school student, is accidentally sent thirty years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his close friend, the maverick scientist Doc Brown.
Votes: 828,921 | Gross: $210.61M
94. The Fly (1986)
R | 96 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
A brilliant but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong.
Votes: 131,871 | Gross: $40.46M
Alien missed the list for 1979 to Apocalypse Now. And here too must Aliens miss a place, because I feel that for it's impact on cinema alone - it it's ground breaking make up effects and barely-veiled analogies to real life (i.e. the virus which slowly destroys the body) The Fly deservedly takes the pedestal for 1986.
96. Die Hard (1988)
R | 132 min | Action, Thriller
John McClane, officer of the NYPD, tries to save his wife Holly Gennaro and several others that were taken hostage by German terrorist Hans Gruber during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.
Votes: 654,986 | Gross: $83.01M
The modern action film, in all it's explosive glory, was born with Bruce Willis In A Vest Part 1, aka Die Hard.
97. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)
PG | 90 min | Adventure, Comedy, Music
Two seemingly dumb teens set off on a quest to prepare the ultimate historical presentation with the help of a time machine.
Votes: 91,668 | Gross: $40.49M
Concluding a decade of all-time great comedies that began with Airplane!, ends with Bill & Ted as they go on their most excellent historic adventure. The silliness is never too silly, and the laughs just keep coming. Touch of class added courtesy of George Carlin.
98. Goodfellas (1990)
R | 146 min | Biography, Crime, Drama
The story of Henry Hill and his life in the mob, covering his relationship with his wife Karen Hill and his Mob partners Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito in the Italian-American crime syndicate.
Votes: 813,175 | Gross: $46.84M
99. Terminator 2 (1991)
R | 137 min | Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
A cyborg, identical to the one who failed to kill Sarah Connor, must now protect her ten year old son, John Connor, from a more advanced cyborg.
Votes: 823,777 | Gross: $204.84M
100. Braindead (1992)
R | 104 min | Comedy, Horror
A young man's mother is bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey. She gets sick and dies, at which time she comes back to life, killing and eating dogs, nurses, friends, and neighbors.
Votes: 82,525 | Gross: $0.24M
Reservoir Dogs may have wowed the world with its release in 1992, but Braindead makes the list for it's sheer absurdity. Never before had comedy and horror been used together to such effectiveness, with a level of gore so repulsive and ridiculous, that you're laughing before you even notice the horror.