170 Greatest Films

Towards the beginning of my interest in film, I decided to put together a “checklist” of films I must watch, and I decided to make it a goal to watch them all by my 30th birthday, in November 2011. So in the summer of 2003, I browsed a few online lists of the greatest films (mostly American) ever made, such as American Film Institute’s original “100 Years … 100 Movies” list. Naturally, several films are repeated on multiple lists. In the end, 170 films rose to the surface.

Having seen the vast majority of these 170 films, there are some that are more deserving of the “greatest film” accolade than others. Of course, I’m not restricting my movie viewing solely to this list, as there are many films that I’ve seen that are deserving of a spot on this list. Nonetheless, this list is a great starting point. Here they are, in alphabetical order:

12 Angry Men (1957)
28 Up (1984)
42nd Street (1933)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
The African Queen (1951)
All About Eve (1950)
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
All the King’s Men (1949)
All the President’s Men (1976)

All the President’s Men (1976)

Amadeus (1984)
American Graffiti (1973)
An American in Paris (1951)
Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Annie Hall (1977)
The Apartment (1960)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Ben-Hur (1959)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
The Big Parade (1925)

The Big Parade (1925)

The Big Sleep (1946)
The Birds (1963)
The Birth of a Nation (1915)
Blade Runner (1982)
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Boyz N the Hood (1991)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Bringing up Baby (1938)
Broken Blossoms (1919)

Broken Blossoms (1919)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
The Caine Mutiny (1954)
Casablanca (1942)
Chinatown (1974)
Citizen Kane (1941)
City Lights (1931)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
The Color Purple (1985)
The Crowd (1928)

The Crowd (1928)

Dances with Wolves (1990)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Duck Soup (1933)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
East of Eden (1955)

East of Eden (1955)

Easy Rider (1969)
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Fantasia (1940)
Fargo (1996)
Field of Dreams (1989)
Floating Weeds (Ukigusa) (1959)
Forrest Gump (1994)
Frankenstein (1931)
The French Connection (1971)
From Here to Eternity (1953)

From Here to Eternity (1953)

Gandhi (1982)
Gates of Heaven (1978)
The General (1926)
Giant (1956)
Glory (1989)
The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather, Part II (1974)
The Gold Rush (1925)
Gone with the Wind (1939)
Goodfellas (1990)

Goodfellas (1990)

The Graduate (1967)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Great Expectations (1946)
Greed (1924)
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
High Noon (1952)
His Girl Friday (1940)
How Green Was My Valley (1941)
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)
In the Heat of the Night (1967)

In the Heat of the Night (1967)

In the Line of Fire (1993)
Intolerance (1916)
It Happened One Night (1934)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Jaws (1975)
The Jazz Singer (1927)
JFK (1991)
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
King Kong (1933)
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

La Dolce Vita (1960)
The Lady Eve (1941)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)
Lone Star (1996)
The Lost Weekend (1945)
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
M*A*S*H (1970)

M*A*S*H (1970)

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Modern Times (1936)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
My Darling Clementine (1946)
My Fair Lady (1964)
Nashville (1975)
Network (1976)
A Night at the Opera (1935)

A Night at the Opera (1935)

Ninotchka (1939)
North by Northwest (1959)
Notorious (1946)
On the Waterfront (1954)
One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Out of the Past (1947)
The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)
Paths of Glory (1957)
Patton (1970)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

A Place in the Sun (1951)
Platoon (1986)
The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
Psycho (1960)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
The Quiet Man (1952)
Raging Bull (1980)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Rain Man (1988)
Rear Window (1954)

Rear Window (1954)

Rebecca (1940)
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Red River (1948)
Rocky (1976)
Roman Holiday (1953)
Schindler’s List (1993)
The Searchers (1956)
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Shane (1953)
Sherlock Jr. (1924)

Sherlock Jr. (1924)

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
The Sound of Music (1965)
Stagecoach (1939)
A Star Is Born (1954)
Star Wars (1977)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Sunrise (1927)

Sunrise (1927)

Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Taxi Driver (1976)
Terms of Endearment (1983)
The Third Man (1949)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Tootsie (1982)
Top Hat (1935)
Touch of Evil (1958)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Trouble in Paradise (1932)

Trouble in Paradise (1932)

Unforgiven (1992)
The Untouchables (1987)
Vertigo (1958)
Viva Zapata! (1952)
West Side Story (1961)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Wuthering Heights (1939)
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

7 thoughts on “170 Greatest Films”

  1. This is quite the comprehensive list. You’re right — we do share quite a few in common. I will be bookmarking your list for ideas if I end up doing another movie project. Thanks for sharing!


  2. I’ve seen several of the movies on this list, not all of them, but quite a few. However, I have a huge problem with an omission on this list. Any list of the greatest movies ever that does not include The Shawshank Redemption is a flawed list. While it wasn’t on the original AFI list, I believe that it was on the revised list they did for the 10th anniversary.

    Good list and good luck with seeing all of them.


    1. Thanks! I agree that The Shawshank Redemption is amazing and is deserving of a spot on anyone’s top 100 list. You’re right that it was added to AFI’s 10th anniversary list. I didn’t revise my 170 list because I had already made significant progress with it. Several of the newly added films were actually already on my list. (They were among the remaining 70.) For whatever reason, none of my other sources listed Shawshank as a “best” film. Eventually, I’ll have to create my own top 100 list and feature Shawshank prominently. 🙂


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a film blog by Daniel Quitério

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