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Movies that have been considered the greatest ever

While it is impossible to determine the greatest film of all time, it is possible to discuss the movies that have been regarded as the greatest ever. The important criteria for inclusion in this article is that the film is the "greatest" by some specific measure — be it a critics poll, popular poll, box office receipts or awards.

Table of contents

Films acclaimed by critics and filmmakers

Citizen Kane tops many critics' lists

Films acclaimed in audience polls

The Godfather tops the IMDb
  • The Godfather: has long stood atop IMDb's list of the top 250 films. Also voted number one by Entertainment Weekly readers. Number one in a Time Out Readers' poll in 1995.
  • The Godfather Part II: often considered better than the original; voted best film ever by TV Guide readers in 1998.
  • Casablanca (1942): widely cited as the greatest film of all time and voted as such by readers of the Los Angeles Daily News in 1997; also regarded the "best Hollywood movie of all time" by the influential Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide.
  • Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977): By readers of Empire magazine in November 2001. Also by voters in a Channel 4/FilmFour poll [1].
  • Dirty Dancing – In a poll organised by The Coca-Cola Company and Vue Cinemas 200,000 British respondants chose Dirty Dancing as their "best film ever" from a choice of 100 films weighted towards modern commercial films [2].

Films that have received the most Academy Awards

Ben Hur was the first film to win 11 Oscars

Ever since their inception in 1928, the Academy Awards (the "Oscars") have been seen as the most significant of the film award ceremonies. The first film to dominate an Oscars ceremony was Frank Capra's It Happened One Night at the 1935 ceremony. It was the first film to win five awards. Moreover it won the "Oscar grand slam" by winning Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay – a feat that has been repeated twice more – by One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1976 and Silence of the Lambs in 1992.

In the year that describes as "undoubtedly the most celebrated year in American film history" (1939), Gone With the Wind was nominated for thirteen awards and two special citations. It won eight of the Awards to beat It Happened One Night's record. All About Eve (1950) broke the nominations record with 14, and won in six categories.

Gigi was the film to break Gone With The Wind's record – winning in all nine of its nominated categories at the ceremony for films made in 1958. However its moment at the top was short-lived as the epic Ben-Hur went on to win 11 Oscars from 12 nominations the following year. Eleven Oscars remains the record. However this achievement has been equalled twice – by Titanic in 1997 with eleven awards from fourteen nominations. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won in all eleven of its nominated categories in 2003 in a piece of recognition that many interpreted as applying to the whole of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Biggest box office successes

Worldwide highest grossing films

Titanic broke box office records
  1. Titanic (1997): Currently the highest grossing film ever. It has taken $1,835,300,000 in box office receipts.
  2. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) $1,129,219,252
  3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) $981,400,000
  4. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) $926,600,000
  5. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers(2002) $924,700,000
  6. Jurassic Park (1993) $920,100,000
  7. Shrek 2 (2004) $880,871,036
  8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) $866,300,000
  9. Finding Nemo (2003) $865,000,000
  10. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) $860,700,000

Prior highest-grossing films

During the 1920s and 1930s D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation was considered to have been the greatest movie ever created
  • The Birth of a Nation (1915): Highest-grossing film until 1925. Director D.W. Griffith said in 1929 that the film had taken $10m worldwide. This has been reported as both an under-estimate and an over-estimate, and its true takings may never be known. In the 1920s the New York Mail described the movie as "the supreme picture of all time".
  • The Big Parade (1925). The highest grossing silent film of all time, taking $22m world wide.
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937): Highest grossing until 1939. Total gross $185m.
  • Gone With the Wind (1939): Highest grossing until 1966, when it was overtaken by the Sound of Music. Following a re-release in 1971, Gone With The Wind retook the lead for a further year. Current total gross $309.5m.
  • The Sound of Music (1965): Highest gross from August 1966 until the re-issue of Gone With The Wind in 1971. Current total gross £163m.
  • The Godfather (1972): Highest grossing until 1975. Current total gross £245m.
  • Jaws (1975): Highest grossing until 1977. Current total gross $470m.
  • Star Wars (1977): Highest grossing until January 1983. Current total gross $798m
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982): Highest grossing until 1993. Current total gross $757m. (Star Wars did not re-overtake ET until its re-release in 1997, by which time Jurassic Park had landed the top slot.)
  • Jurassic Park (1993): Highest grossing until 1997. Current total gross $920m.

Highest USA grossing film adjusted for inflation

Gone With the Wind is the highest grossing film ever, when adjusted for inflation

By adjusting for inflated ticket prices, the popularity of films released at different times can be compared. This list estimates the number of admissions for each film by using the average ticket price at the time of each release [3].

  1. Gone With the Wind (1939): nine Academy Awards, National Film Registry, when adjusted for inflation is still the highest grossing film ever. The film has had at least four substantial releases worldwide (in 1939, 1954, 1961 and 1971). The adjusted for inflation value of these releases is $3.8bn worldwide, $1.3bn in the United States (2004 dollars).
  2. Star Wars (1977)
  3. The Sound of Music (1965)
  4. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  5. The Ten Commandments (1956)
  6. Titanic (1997)
  7. Jaws (1975)
  8. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
  9. The Exorcist (1973)
  10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Films that are considered among the greatest in their particular genre

Animation (North American)

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) is the highest-grossing animated film of all time when adjusted for inflation. Without the effects of inflation, The Lion King (1994) is the highest-grossing "traditional" (hand drawn) animated film.
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991) is the only animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, a decade prior to the Academy establishing a separate Best Animated Feature category.

Anime (Japanese animation)


Computer animation


  • The Poseidon Adventure was voted best disaster movie in a consumer poll commissioned by UCI cinemas in May 2004.




  • Psycho: Alfred Hitchcock classic is considered the most important thriller of all time. Voted the best horror film by IMDb users. Tops AFI’s list of the 100 most thrilling American films.
  • Halloween: The original slasher was voted best horror film of all time by readers of SFX magazine in June 2004. Also was the most "profitable" film of all time (lowest production cost vs. highest box office gross) until surpassed in 1990 by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Before Halloween, the most profitable film was Easy Rider.


  • The Wizard of Oz The highest ranked musical on AFI's list of the 100 best American films and the Village Voice list of the 100 best films of the 20th century .
  • Singin' in the Rain The highest rated movie musical at the IMDb.
  • West Side Story Winner of the most Academy Awards of any movie musical (10).


  • Casablanca – Voted best American-based film in which there is "a romantic bond between two or more characters, whose actions and/or intentions provide the heart of the film’s narrative" by the AFI.

Science fiction

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey, a popular and influential film directed by Stanley Kubrick. The highest ranked science fiction film (#11) on the Village Voice 100 Best films of the 20th century list; selected by the late Gene Siskel as his choice of the best film ever.
  • Blade Runner – Initially avoided by North American audiences it was popular internationally and has become a cult classic. Voted the best science fiction film by a panel of scientists assembled by the British newspaper The Guardian in 2004. [5]



In particular countries



  • Spring in a Small Town (小城之春): This 1948 film was voted the best Chinese film ever by Hong Kong Film Awards Association in 2005.



United Kingdom

United States

See also


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