The 50 best movies of all time, according to critics

Paramount Pictures/’The Godfather’‘The Godfather.’

Many of the notable lists that rank the greatest movies of all time – like the American Film Institute’s “100 Years … 100 Movies” from 1998 – have enlisted thousands of movie-industry names to come up with a consensus on established classics.

When film critics are the only factor taken into account for such a list, however, the results skew in unexpected directions.

To find out which films have been the most critically acclaimed over time, we turned to the reviews aggregator Metacritic for this ranking, which scores films by their composite critical reception.

The resulting list includes modern masterpieces, like “Moonlight” and “Pan’s Labyrinth,” in contention with classics like “The Godfather.”

Here are the 50 best movies of all time, according to the critics on Metacritic:


50. “Pulp Fiction” (1994)

‘Pulp Fiction’

Critic score: 94/100

User score: 9.1/10

Plot summary:“The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster’s wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.”


49. “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962)

United Artists

Critic score: 94/100

User score: 8.3/10

Plot summary: “A former prisoner of war is brainwashed as an unwitting assassin for an international Communist conspiracy.”


48. “Taxi Driver” (1976)

‘Taxi Driver’/Columbia Pictures Corporation

Critic score: 94/100

User score: 7.0/10

Plot summary: “A mentally unstable veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action, while attempting to liberate a twelve-year-old prostitute.”


47. “45 Years” (2015)

BFI

Critic score: 94/100

User score: 7.5/10

Plot summary: “A married couple preparing to celebrate their wedding anniversary receives shattering news that promises to forever change the course of their lives.”


46. “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (1962)

Paramount Pictures

Critic score: 94/100

User score: N/A

Plot summary: “A senator, who became famous for killing a notorious outlaw, returns for the funeral of an old friend and tells the truth about his deed.”


45. “Dunkirk” (2017)

Warner Bros.

Critic score: 94/100

User score: 8.4/10

Plot summary: “Dunkirk opens as hundreds of thousands of British and Allied troops are surrounded by enemy forces. Trapped on the beach with their backs to the sea they face an impossible situation as the enemy closes in.”


44. “Before Midnight” (2013)

Sony Pictures Classics

Critic score: 94/100

User score: 8.3/10

Plot summary: “We meet Jesse and Celine nine years on in Greece. Almost two decades have passed since their first meeting on that train bound for Vienna.”


43. “WALL-E” (2008)

Disney / Pixar

Critic score: 95/100

User score: 8.9/10

Plot summary: “In the distant future, a small waste-collecting robot inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind.”


42. “Faces Places” (2017)

Cohen Media Group

Critic score: 95/100

User score: 6.2/10

Plot summary: “Director Agnes Varda and photographer/muralist J.R. journey through rural France and form an unlikely friendship.”


41. “A Separation” (2011)

Sony Pictures Classics

Critic score: 95/100

User score: 8.8/10

Plot summary: “A married couple are faced with a difficult decision – to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer’s disease.”


40. “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012)

Annapurna Pictures

Critic score: 95/100

User score: 6.8/10

Plot summary: “A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L.s Team 6 in May 2011.”


39. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1938)

RKO Radio Pictures

Critic score: 95/100

User score: 6.8/10

Plot summary: “Exiled into the dangerous forest by her wicked stepmother, a princess is rescued by seven dwarf miners who make her part of their household.”


38. “Double Idemnity” (1944)

Paramount

Critic score: 95/100

User score: 8.1/10

Plot summary: “An insurance representative lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator’s suspicions.”


37. “I Am Not Your Negro” (2017)

I Am Not Your Negro – Velvet Film Company

Critic score: 95/100

User score: 5.4/10

Plot summary: “Writer James Baldwin tells the story of race in modern America with his unfinished novel, Remember This House.”


36. “The Social Network” (2010)

Sony

Critic score: 95/100

User score: 8.2/10

Plot summary: “Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg creates the social networking site that would become known as Facebook, but is later sued by two brothers who claimed he stole their idea, and the co-founder who was later squeezed out of the business.”


35. “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940)

20th Century Fox

Critic score: 95/100

User score: N/A

Plot summary: “A poor Midwest family is forced off their land. They travel to California, suffering the misfortunes of the homeless in the Great Depression.”


34. “Toy Story” (1995)

Disney / Pixar

Critic score: 95/100

User score: 9.0/10

Plot summary: “A cowboy doll is profoundly threatened and jealous when a new spaceman figure supplants him as top toy in a boy’s room.”


33. “Carol” (2015)

The Weinstein Company

Critic score: 95/100

User score: 7.9/10

Plot summary: “An aspiring photographer develops an intimate relationship with an older woman in 1950s New York.”


32. “Beauty and the Beast” (1991)

Disney

Critic score: 95/100

User score: 8.8/10

Plot summary: “A young woman whose father has been imprisoned by a terrifying beast offers herself in his place, unaware that her captor is actually a prince, physically altered by a magic spell.”


31. “Spirited Away” (2001)

Disney

Critic score: 96/100

User score: 9.0/10

Plot summary: “During her family’s move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and spirits, and where humans are changed into beasts.”


30. “Gravity” (2013)

Critic score: 96/100

User score: 7.8/10

Plot summary: “A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.”


29. “Mean Streets” (1973)

Warner Bros.

Critic score: 96/100

User score: N/A

Plot summary: “A small-time hood aspires to work his way up the ranks of a local mob.”


28. “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951)

Warner Bros.

Critic score: 96/100

User score: N/A

Plot summary: “Disturbed Blanche DuBois moves in with her sister in New Orleans and is tormented by her brutish brother-in-law while her reality crumbles around her.”


27. “Ratatouille” (2007)

Disney / Pixar

Critic score: 96/100

User score: 8.6/10

Plot summary: “A rat who can cook makes an unusual alliance with a young kitchen worker at a famous restaurant.”


26. “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964)

Columbia Pictures

Critic score: 96/100

User score: 8.3/10

Plot summary: “An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically try to stop.”


25. “The Maltese Falcon” (1941)

Warner Bros.

Critic score: 96/100

User score: 7.7/10

Plot summary: “A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette.”


24. “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968)

Paramount Pictures

Critic score: 96/100

User score: 8.6/10

Plot summary: “A young couple move into an apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbours and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins to control her life.”


23. “Manchester by the Sea” (2016)

Claire Fogler

Critic score: 96/100

User score: 8.2/10

Plot summary: “A depressed uncle is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.”


22. “12 Angry Men” (1957)

Critic score: 96/100

User score: 9.5/10

Plot summary: “A jury holdout attempts to prevent a miscarriage of justice by forcing his colleagues to reconsider the evidence.”


21. “12 Years a Slave” (2013)

Fox Searchlight

Critic score: 97/100

User score: 8.0/10

Plot summary: “In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.”


20. “Ran” (1985)

Rialto Pictures

Critic score: 96/100

User score: 8.3/10

Plot summary: “In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other…and him.”


19. “American Graffiti” (1973)

Critic score: 97/100

User score: 8.3/10

Plot summary: “A couple of high school grads spend one final night cruising the strip with their buddies before they go off to college.”


18. “Psycho” (1960)

Paramount Pictures

Critic score: 97/100

User score: 9.4/10

Plot summary: “A Phoenix secretary embezzles $US40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man, Norman Bates under the domination of his mother.”


17. “Some Like It Hot” (1959)

United Artists

Critic score: 97/100

User score: 8.6/10

Plot summary: “When two male musicians witness a mob hit, they flee the state in an all-female band disguised as women, but further complications set in.”


16. “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” (2008)

Bac Films

Critic score: 97/100

User score: 8.0/10

Plot summary: “A woman assists her friend in arranging an illegal abortion in 1980s Romania.”


15. “Gone With The Wind” (1940)

MGM

Critic score: 97/100

User score: 8.5/10

Plot summary: “A Southern belle struggles with the devastation of the Civil War and Reconstruction. This classic won 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.”


14. “My Left Foot” (1990)

Miramax

Critic score: 97/100

User score: 8.4/10

Plot summary: “True story of cerebral palsied Christy Brown, who overcame his illness and poverty to become an accomplished artist, poet and writer.”


13. “Hoop Dreams” (1994)

Critic score: 98/100

User score: 8.2/10

Plot summary: “A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional.”


12. “All About Eve” (1950)

20th Century Fox

Critic score: 98/100

User score: 8.7/10

Plot summary: “An ingenue insinuates herself into the company of an established but ageing stage actress and her circle of theatre friends.”


11. “North by Northwest” (1959)

MGM

Critic score: 98/100

User score: 8.1/10

Plot summary: “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.”


10. “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006)

New Line Cinema

Critic score: 98/100

User score: 8.6/10

Plot summary: “In the falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.”


9. “Moonlight” (2016)

A24

Critic score: 99/100

User score: 7.2/10

Plot summary: “A timeless story of human connection and self-discovery, ‘Moonlight’ chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighbourhood of Miami.”


8. “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948)

Warner Bros.

Critic score: 99/100

User score: 8.7/10

Plot summary: “Fred Dobbs and Bob Curtin, two Americans searching for work in Mexico, convince an old prospector to help them mine for gold in the Sierra Madre Mountains.”


7. “Singin’ In The Rain” (1952)

MGM

Critic score: 99/100

User score: 8.9/10

Plot summary: “A silent film production company and cast make a difficult transition to sound.”


6. “Three Colours: Red” (1994)

The Criterion Collection

Critic score: 100/100

User score: 7.9/10

Plot summary: “Final entry in a trilogy of films dealing with contemporary French society concerns a model who discovers her neighbour is keen on invading people’s privacy.”


5. “Boyhood” (2014)

‘Boyhood’/Universal

Critic score: 100/100

User score: 7.7/10

Plot summary: “The life of Mason, from early childhood to his arrival at college.”


4. “Casablanca” (1943)

Warner Bros.

Critic score: 100/100

User score: 9.3/10

Plot summary: “A Casablanca, Morocco casino owner in 1941 shelters his former lover and her husband, a Czechoslovakian freedom fighter, from the Nazis.”


3. “Rear Window” (1954)

Paramount

Critic score: 100/100

User score: 8.9/10

Plot summary: “A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.”


2. “The Godfather” (1972)

Critic score: 100/100

User score: 9.2/10

Plot summary: “The ageing patriarch of an organised crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.”


1. “Citizen Kane” (1941)

Critic score: 100/100

User score: 8.5/10

Plot summary: “Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance.”

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