Top 50 Films of the last 3 decades: 1980 to 2011

The films are ranked in order from the best to the 50th best film in the past 30 years.

Criteria:

1) Film must be well-crafted and executed.
2) Extraordinary cinematography that enhanced the story being told.

3) Film resonates with the zeitgeist of the times.
4) The story is unique, creative, and meaningful.

5) If an older film, film feels like it could have been made today and speaks to the cultural/political issues of the times.

6) Film had significant cinematic impact; i.e., it influenced or even created an entire genre of films.

7) Film has significant cultural impact, either immediately or over time. I.e., film vernacular enters into pop culture. (least important factor, to protect small films and foreign films.)
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1.
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
After the rebels have been brutally overpowered by the Empire on their newly established base, Luke Skywalker takes advanced Jedi training with Master Yoda, while his friends are pursued by Darth Vader as part of his plan to capture Luke. (124 mins.)
Director: Irvin Kershner
 
2.
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
After rescuing Han Solo from the palace of Jabba the Hutt, the rebels attempt to destroy the second Death Star, while Luke struggles to make Vader return from the dark side of the Force. (131 mins.)
 
3.
Blade Runner (1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A blade runner must pursue and try to terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space and have returned to Earth to find their creator. (117 mins.)
Director: Ridley Scott
 
4.
The Matrix (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers. (136 mins.)
 
5.
Inception (2010)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
A thief, who steals corporate secrets through use of dream-sharing technology, is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a CEO. (148 mins.)
“ I didn't think it could be done, but Inception actually out-matrixed the Matrix. This is Christopher Nolan's masterpiece. An absolutely stunning cinematic achievement. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, and deeply moving. ” - Augustine99
 
6.
Groundhog Day (1993)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A weatherman finds himself inexplicably living the same day over and over again. (101 mins.)
Director: Harold Ramis
 
7.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A boy who communicates with spirits that don't know they're dead seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist. (107 mins.)
 
8.
Amélie (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
Amélie is an innocent and naive girl in Paris with her own sense of justice. She decides to help those around her and, along the way, discovers love. (122 mins.)
 
9.
Avatar (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A paraplegic marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home. (162 mins.)
Director: James Cameron
 
10.
Santa Sangre (1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A young man is confined in a mental hospital. Through a flashback we see that he was traumatized as a child... (123 mins.)
 
11.
Twelve Monkeys (1995)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet. (129 mins.)
Director: Terry Gilliam
 
12.
Titanic (1997)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A seventeen-year-old aristocrat falls in love with a kind but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic. (194 mins.)
Director: James Cameron
 
13.
Wanted (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
A frustrated office worker learns that he is the son of a professional assassin, and that he shares his father's superhuman killing abilities. (110 mins.)
 
14.
Dark City (1998)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A man struggles with memories of his past, including a wife he cannot remember, in a nightmarish world with no sun. (100 mins.)
Director: Alex Proyas
 
15.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
An account of Baron Munchausen's supposed travels and fantastical experiences with his band of misfits. (126 mins.)
Director: Terry Gilliam
 
16.
Brazil (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A bureaucrat in a retro-future world tries to correct an administrative error and himself becomes an enemy of the state. (132 mins.)
Director: Terry Gilliam
 
17.
Constantine (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Supernatural detective John Constantine helps a detective prove her sisters death was not a suicide, but something more. (121 mins.)
 
18.
The City of Lost Children (1995)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A scientist in a surrealist society kidnaps children to steal their dreams, hoping that they slow his aging process. (112 mins.)
 
19.
The Fall (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
In a hospital on the outskirts of 1920s Los Angeles, an injured stuntman begins to tell a fellow patient, a little girl with a broken arm, a fantastic story of five mythical heroes. Thanks to his fractured state of mind and her vivid imagination, the line between fiction and reality blurs as the tale advances. (117 mins.)
Director: Tarsem
 
20.
When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Harry and Sally have known each other for years, and are very good friends, but they fear sex would ruin the friendship. (96 mins.)
Director: Rob Reiner
 
21.
The Bourne Identity (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A man is picked up by a fishing boat, bullet-riddled and suffering from amnesia, before racing to elude assassins and regain his memory. (119 mins.)
Director: Doug Liman
 
22.
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
Ten years after initially meeting, Anakin Skywalker shares a forbidden romance with Padmé, while Obi-Wan investigates an assassination attempt on the Senator and discovers a secret clone army crafted for the Jedi. (142 mins.)
Director: George Lucas
 
23.
Frequency (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
An accidental cross-time radio link connects father and son across 30 years. The son tries to save his father's life, but then must fix the consequences. (118 mins.)
Director: Gregory Hoblit
 
24.
Raising Arizona (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
When a childless couple of an ex-con and an ex-cop decide to help themselves to one of another family's quintuplets, their lives become more complicated than they anticipated. (94 mins.)
Director: Joel Coen
 
25.
The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Three trappers protect a British Colonel's daughters in the midst of the French and Indian War. (112 mins.)
Director: Michael Mann
 
26.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Through a series of freak occurrences, a group of actors shooting a big-budget war movie are forced to become the soldiers they are portraying. (107 mins.)
Director: Ben Stiller
 
27.
Enchanted (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A princess, who is prepared to be wed, is sent away to New York by an evil queen, where she falls in love with a lawyer. (107 mins.)
Director: Kevin Lima
 
28.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
A bored married couple is surprised to learn that they are both assassins hired by competing agencies to kill each other. (120 mins.)
Director: Doug Liman
 
29.
Sin City (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A film that explores the dark and miserable town, Basin City, and tells the story of three different people, all caught up in violent corruption. (124 mins.)
 
30.
Wings of Desire (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
An angel tires of overseeing human activity and wishes to become human when he falls in love with a mortal. (128 mins.)
Director: Wim Wenders
 
31.
300 (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
King Leonidas of Sparta and a force of 300 men fight the Persians at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. (117 mins.)
Director: Zack Snyder
 
32.
L.A. Story (1991)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
With the help of a talking freeway billboard, a "wacky weatherman" tries to win the heart of an English newspaper reporter, who is struggling to make sense of the strange world of early-90s Los Angeles. (95 mins.)
Director: Mick Jackson
 
33.
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Belle, whose father is imprisoned by the Beast, offers herself instead, unaware her captor to be an enchanted prince. (84 mins.)
 
34.
Rushmore (1998)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
The extracurricular king of Rushmore preparatory school is put on academic probation. (93 mins.)
Director: Wes Anderson
 
35.
The Mummy (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
An American serving in the French Foreign Legion on an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Hamunaptra accidentally awakens a mummy. (125 mins.)
Director: Stephen Sommers
 
36.
The Rock (1996)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
A mild-mannered chemist and an ex-con must lead the counterstrike when a rogue group of military men, led by a renegade general, threaten a nerve gas attack from Alcatraz against San Francisco. (136 mins.)
Director: Michael Bay
 
37.
Jerry Maguire (1996)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
When a sports agent has a moral epiphany and is fired for expressing it, he decides to put his new philosophy to the test as an independent with the only athlete who stays with him. (139 mins.)
Director: Cameron Crowe
 
38.
The Frighteners (1996)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
After a tragic car accident that kills his wife, a man discovers he can communicate with the dead to con people. However, when a demonic spirit appears, he may be the only one who can stop it from killing the living and the dead. (110 mins.)
Director: Peter Jackson
 
39.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
Archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. (115 mins.)
 
40.
Back to the Future (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
Marty McFly, a 17-year-old high school student, is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his close friend, the maverick scientist Doc Brown. (116 mins.)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
 
41.
Ghostbusters (1984)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Three former parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost removal service. (105 mins.)
Director: Ivan Reitman
 
42.
The Natural (1984)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
An unknown comes out of seemingly nowhere to become a legendary player with almost divine talent. (138 mins.)
Director: Barry Levinson
 
43.
Lucas (1986)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
A socially inept fourteen year old experiences heartbreak for the first time when his two best friends -- Cappie, an older-brother figure, and Maggie, the new girl with whom he is in love -- fall for each other. (100 mins.)
Director: David Seltzer
 
44.
Tootsie (1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Michael Dorsey, an unsuccessful actor, disguises himself as a woman in order to get a role on a trashy hospital soap. (116 mins.)
Director: Sydney Pollack