I have to be honest, I’m not the type of person who’s watched a lot of movies. It seemed like several times a year I’d hear “You’ve never seen that movie?!” in a shocked voice. Until recently there were probably more of those “everybody’s seen it” movies I hadn’t seen than that I had.
So I decided to put more of an effort into watching some of those all-time classics, mostly choosing from IMDb’s famous Top 250 movies list. I haven’t gotten very far (after going through and counting I’ve seen 35 of them), but over the past couple weeks I’ve concentrated on at least finishing out the top 10 (and I’ve actually finished the top 15 now).
To mark that accomplishment, I’m going to re-rank those movies that IMDb has in their top 10.
1: Fellowship of the Ring (IMDB 10)
The Lord of the Rings are one of those rare movies that are better than the books, and in this case it’s not even a contest. JRR Tolkien was a genius when it comes to creating this world, but he’s a terrible writer. I’ve never been able to make it all the way through despite trying multiple times.
You know those teen Bible translations where they write it in a way that young kids with short attention spans can understand? I need that for these books. And in a way, that’s what these movies are, as they take the amazing worldbuilding from the books and present them in a way that makes them a thrill to watch.
In my view you should take the trilogy as a whole rather than trying to rank each individual movie, since they’re all the same story and were even filmed all at once. If I had to rank them I actually prefer the Twin Towers most of all. But since it’s not in IMDB’s top 10 I have to go with my second favorite, the Fellowship of the Ring.
2: The Dark Knight (IMDB 4)
The Dark Knight was the most intense movie going experience I have ever had. With wall-to-wall action and never knowing what the Joker is going to do next, it absolutely belongs among the best movies of all time despite the film school professor’s protestations.
Of course those film school types don’t like it because it’s not particularly deep. There’s no real message or complicated character motivations. But as far as I’m concerned a great movie doesn’t have to have those things as long as it’s wildly entertaining, and the Dark Knight certainly is.
3: Return of the King (IMDB 7)
The Return of the King was my least favorite of the Lord of the Rings films. The battle of Minas Tirith wasn’t as intense as the battle of Helms Deep, and the hobbits continuing to Mount Doom wasn’t particularly special.
But it is part of the Lord of the Rings, which IMDB has as the greatest trilogy ever judging by their rankings of the individual movies (Twin Towers is #14), so it does have all the same strengths as the others. This trilogy is about as close to movie-making perfection as you can get, and it’s a much-watch even if you’re not into fantasy.
4: The Godfather Part 2 (IMDB 3)
5: The Godfather (IMDB 2)
It’s hard to decide between these two movies. If you liked the Godfather, you’ll like the Godfather Part 2. If, like Peter Griffin, you didn’t like it, you probably won’t like part 2 either.
Personally I liked it a lot, and it’s also one of those movies the film school professors would like as well. These are the epitome of “show, don’t tell”, as they don’t really give you much on the surface. You really have to pay attention and use your brain to understand what’s going on. Although it might be useful to have a printout of the names and who they are while watching, as it’s easy to lose track.
I rank Part 2 slightly higher because I like how young Vito gained power through means other than just fear, which they nicely contrast with the previous Don who was simply a jerk and threatened people into doing what he wanted. Vito realized it’s much better to use fear as a last resort, instead trying to build relationships so people feel legit loyalty to him. It gives his character a lot of depth since he’s both a good guy to people while also able to murder without hesitation. This also builds nicely on the opening scene from the first movie where he complains that a guy asks him for a favor even though he didn’t treat him as a friend.
6: The Shawshank Redemption (IMDB 1)
I first watched this movie in high school when my English teacher had us watch it, causing one of my good friends to go on a massive rant about how overrated it was and how much he hated it. Sorry friend, but I liked it.
There’s so much that’s great about this film to limit to just a few paragraphs, but one thing I appreciated was not revealing whether or not Andy had indeed committed the murder. It’s implied both that he did (with the opening scene being him outside the house with a gun) and that he didn’t (that the young kid had a cell mate that confessed to actually doing the crime).
7: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (IMDB 9)
I honestly wasn’t all that impressed with this movie. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but I don’t think it’s quite in the category of being among the greatest films ever.
When initially compiling this list I actually had it a bit lower, but there was one aspect to the film that was indeed so good that it was enough, by itself, to separate it from the other films below it. And that’s the soundtrack.
This movie may have the greatest soundtrack of any film ever. I firmly believe that because of the great score it convinced people it was better than it really is. I particularly liked the Ecstacy of Gold, which made a scene about a guy running around in a cemetery dramatic.
8: 12 Angry Men (IMDB 5)
My first introduction to this film wasn’t watching it, but rather my high school English teacher having us act it out in class (yes, the same English teacher that showed us the Shawshank Redemption). So maybe it was because it had already been spoiled for me, but I never thought this movie was anything more than decent.
I do like the story though. I think I’d rather repeat my high school experience by getting a group of friends together to act it out than to actually watch the movie again.
9: Schindler’s List (IMDB 6)
In 1993 Steven Spielberg directed both Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List. That’s one hell of a year for a director.
Although it feels sacrilegious to say, I didn’t think Schindler’s List was that great of a movie. Yes it’s a very emotional experience, but I would argue that it’s more because the Holocaust was such a horrible event that anything related to it will be emotional.
As far as the film itself goes it was merely decent. My big complaint was the lack of clarity on what exactly Schindler was risking by helping the Jews. He did show growth as a character throughout the film, but by the end shouldn’t he have been more worried about the other Nazis thinking he was treating the Jews too nicely?
The movie would have been better if he had been forced to make more hard choices. Like if he badly wanted to save some people, but was forced not to out of fear of public perception. Or that he was forced to mistreat some to maintain appearances. There was a little bit of that when he initially denied helping a woman’s parents, but he ended up openly helping them anyway without repercussion, which took away some of the tension.
10: Pulp Fiction (IMDB 8)
This was an easy choice for last place. This simply isn’t a very entertaining movie. It’s not a Last Jedi or Rise of Skywalker level disaster, but there just isn’t a lot there that’s fun to watch.
I know why it’s ranked highly though. It’s those damn film school professors. This is a movie that breaks a lot of rules and does a lot of things differently than most movies, so film geeks who watch a ton of movies view it as a breath of fresh air.
But in my opinion different isn’t the same as good. I’d much rather watch a more standard but fun movie like the Dark Knight than an innovative but boring movie like Pulp Fiction.