The Internet Movie Database is a wonderful thing. For anyone who works in film or obsesses over it as a fan, IMDb offers an unparalleled amount of information, from cast lists (particularly handy for those "where do I recognize that guy from?" moments) to nerdy trivia. If you want to learn about a movie, IMDb is the place to go.
The IMDb also has a rating system, allowing fans to score the films they watch on a scale of one to ten. Some have argued that this system is flawed and should be removed from the site, but, nonetheless, the IMDb rating system offers an interesting barometer of popular opinion. Previously, we perused the lower end of the IMDb rating system, discovering that Saving Christmas is considered the worst film ever made by IMDb users.
With this list, the plan is to look at the upper echelons of IMDb’s democratic movie-ranking system. Which movie is the best of all time, according to IMDb users? Which sci-fi film ranks highest? Which is considered the best superhero movie of all time? Which order do the Lord of the Rings films rank in?
To find out all these answers and more, read on, and discover the 20 Best Movies Ever Made (According to IMDb).
20 Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
The original Star Wars film, directed by George Lucas and released in 1977, just sneaks into the IMDb top 20 with a score of 8.6. This is the movie that launched one of the biggest franchises ever, and changed the blockbuster landscape in irreversibly major ways.
It’s also the film that launched the careers of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, with the three young leads slotting into a stellar cast. Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing brought some British prestige to the table, but it was the central trio that would carry the franchise forward in the films that followed.
Episode IV – which was only given the subtitle A New Hope retrospectively – is a film that blends small emotional moments (Luke staring out into the twin sunsets of Tatooine) with huge bombastic action (the Death Star run and the blast that follows). Truly, it’s one of the greatest movies ever made.
19 Seven Samurai
Seven Samurai, the 1954 adventure/drama movie from Akira Kurosawa, comes in at 19th on the "greatest films of all time" list, with an 8.7 IMDb score. It is the only foreign language film on this list, and also the longest film included, clocking in as it does at 3 hours and 27 minutes.
The plot sees a poor village of farmers banding together to hire seven ronin, samurai without masters, to battle a bunch of bandits that consistently steal their crops. Takashi Shimura, Yoshio Inaba, Daisuke Kato, Seiji Miyaguchi, Minoru Chiaki, Isao Kimura, and Toshiro Mifune play the seven titular samurais.
As well as being one of the best, this is also one of the most influential films of all time. The movie was remade as a western in 1971 under the title The Magnificent Seven (which, itself, was remade in 2016). Several films -- The Guns of Navarone, Sholay, and A Bug’s Life, for example -- have also borrowed the basic plot of Seven Samurai.
18 The Matrix
The Matrix ranks at 18th in this list, with a score of 8.7. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given the emphatically enthusiastic response that everyone’s first viewing of the film tends to induce.
The central concept, that the world we are living in is a computer simulation, is utterly engrossing. Not many films can make people doubt that the world around them even exists, but The Matrix very much has that ability.
The movie also has numerous memorable scenes, from the multiple openings at the start to the red pill/blue pill choice. The “I know kung-fu” sequence is also highly enjoyable, as are the manifold massive action scenes that follow it.
Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Hugo Weaving put in great performances, and the Wachowski siblings proved themselves as immensely talented writer-directors. You could argue that they’re still riding on this film’s success, enjoying a free-pass from Hollywood to explore any weird worlds that they want.
Goodfellas – also with an 8.7 score -- is placed just above The Matrix in IMDb’s rundown of the greatest films ever, as chosen by its users. Indeed, you’d expect to see this film on a list like this, given its status as cinematic master Martin Scorsese’s most widely loved film.
Ray Liotta stars a Henry Hill, a real-life mobster, who enjoys a glamorous life of organized crime. Film fans witness Hill at his height with the stunning Copacabana sequence, and then watch as everything falls apart. A twisty narrative of deaths and double-crosses unfolds, and trust ultimately breaks down between Henry and his partners in crime: Robert De Niro’s Jimmy and Joe Pesci’s Tommy.
Pesci, of course, gets the standout scene of the movie. The “funny how?” dialogue exchange that still defines his career to this day, which speaks volumes about its effectiveness.
16 One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
It wouldn’t be a "best movies ever" list without One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, would it? In fact, you might expect this one to rank higher. However, here it is, with a score of 8.7, at 16th in the league table. Milos Forman directed this 1975 drama, from a script by Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman (which was based on the novel by Ken Kesey and the play by Dale Wasserman).
Of course, none of those names are as closely associated with this stellar film than that of Jack Nicholson. The one-time Joker actor puts in the performance of his life here, utterly sizzling as R.P. McMurphy, a criminal that pleads insanity and ends up questioning the powers-that-be in a mental institution.
This film – with its impressive cast including Christopher Lloyd and Danny DeVito – proves that you don’t need action, effects, or even that many locations, in order to tell a compelling story.
15 The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers
The fifteenth greatest movie ever made, according to IMDb, is also the worst film of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Peter Jackson’s middle chapter, The Two Towers, is the first of his Middle Earth movies to feature on this list. With an 8.7 rating, it’s still performed very well, but it is interesting to note that it’s the least-loved of the LotR series.
The Two Towers features the iconic Battle of Helm’s Deep, the first proper scenes between Frodo and Gollum, the Ents storming Isengard, and the return from the dead of Gandalf (now clad in white). It’s still an impeccable piece of fantasy cinema, but many fans may be surprised to see it rank lower in this list than the other films in its franchise.
Like The Matrix, you could argue that Inception became such a favorite with film fans because it tapped into a cool concept – one that reaches past our real realms of perception – and displayed it using cutting-edge action cinema techniques. Christopher Nolan’s dreamscape drama ranks at thirteenth on IMDb’s list, with a rating of 8.7.
Leonardo DiCaprio leads an all-star cast, which features Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, and Cillian Murphy. The real star of the show is Nolan, though, who shows off his skills as a screenwriter (with a multi-layered plot conveying dreams within dreams) and a director (with the gravity-defying corridor sequence).
Inception’s ambiguous ending also earned the film a permanent place in the cultural consciousness, giving fans something to speculate over long after the credits had rolled.
13 Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
Rocking up at 13, with a score of 8.7, is the greatest Star Wars movie of all time (according to IMDb): The Empire Strikes Back. Most of the saga’s fans would probably agree with this IMDb user consensus, which places Episode V above every other film in the on-going franchise. (Return of the Jedi comes in at 74th on the greatest films ever list, if you were wondering.)
The Empire Strikes Back benefited from breaking up its core crew, with Luke sent to train with Yoda on Dagobah while Han, Chewie, and Leia visited Lando in Cloud City. One unforgettable piece of double-crossing later, and Han is frozen in carbonite and taken away by Boba Fett. Luke learns of his true parentage, shortly afterwards, and has his hand cut off by Darth Vader.
This all builds to the film’s bravely downbeat ending, which cements The Empire Strikes Back as the most daringly grown-up film in the Star Wars saga. It’s hard to imagine a new Star Wars film ever topping the popularity of Empire.
12 Forrest Gump
Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get. Forrest Gump has gone and gotten itself recognized as the 12th best film ever made, with IMDb’s users giving the movie an 8.8 score. Robert Zemeckis’ drama won six Oscars upon its release in 1994.
Tom Hanks gave a career-best performance in the title role, with Sally Field, Robin Wright, and Gary Sinise doing fine work in the supporting cast. The film’s quirky look at history – with Forrest living through Vietnam, JFK’s assassination, and much more – still strikes an emotional chord with audiences.
The film gave the world numerous quotable lines, from the aforementioned philosophically-tinged box of chocolates line to the endlessly shout-able “run, Forrest, run.” There’s never been another film like this, and there probably never will be.
11 The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
As the second Lord of the Rings film to chart on this list, The Fellowship of the Ring is the one that started it all. It began in the sumptuous greens of The Shire, and it ended in the dark caverns of Moria with the unforgettable Balrog battle. That’s an impressive amount of ground covered, proving that Peter Jackson did a damn fine job with this trilogy-starter.
Fellowship does the "getting the team together" stuff really well (“and my ax!”) without wasting time. It also has some brilliant action, and heaps of tension: those early Ringwraith pursuit scenes really are scary, especially for young audiences.
In short, this one was a masterclass from Jackson, his VFX team, and the impressive cast. Fellowship put a very strong foot forward, enabling one of the greatest trilogies ever to get underway effectively.
10 Fight Club
Kicking off the top ten in serious style is David Fincher’s 1999 thriller Fight Club, which has been given an 8.8 score by IMDb users. The film, of course, is a cult classic, revered by film fans around the globe for its gritty style, its sublime central performances, and its incredible third-act twist. Jim Uhl’s wonderful screenplay was based on the Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same name.
Ed Norton stars as the Narrator, an insomniac office worker who’s fallen prey to the "IKEA nesting instinct." Enter Brad Pitt as the impossibly cool Tyler Durden, an anarchistic soap manufacturer with an eye for chaos and no love for corporations. Tyler pushes the Narrator to his limits, as an underground punch-up ring escalates into large-scale destruction.
Helena Bonham Carter puts in a fine supporting turning as Marla Singer, the launderette-looting lady that gets caught between the two stars. Meat Loaf has a lot of fun with a small role too. However, Norton and Pitt are very much the main attraction, with their uneasy chemistry making for compelling viewing.
9 The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
Sergio Leone’s most iconic western -- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – ranks at 9th. The 1966 film has been given an 8.9 rating by IMDb users. Of course, the movie starred Clint Eastwood as Blondie (the good), Lee Van Cleef as Angel Eyes (the bad), and Eli Wallach as Tuco (the ugly).
The plot of the film is a simple one: each of the men wants to locate a hidden fortune, which has been buried in a remote cemetery. This stolen cache of Confederate gold sets in motion the central conflict, building up to the film’s iconic -- and incredibly tense -- Mexican standoff.
Truly, this is the king of Spaghetti Westerns, with Leone at the top of his game, Eastwood doing fine work, and Ennio Morricone supplying an excellent score. It’s no surprise that this is the highest-rated western on the IMDb.
8 The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King
IMDb users have voted The Return of the King as the best film in the Lord of the Rings series, and the eighth best movie of all time. Peter Jackson’s epic conclusion to his trilogy truly dazzles, with its impeccable special effects work combining with some stellar performances to create a highly impressive whole.
Although many still question the logic of this movie (particularly the supposed "plot hole" about Gandalf’s bird friends), it was an undeniably excellent end to one of the greatest film trilogies ever.
This is where Elijah Wood proved his worth as an actor, pushing Frodo into very dark territory. Additionally, Jackson delivered on the direction side, with some stunning action to cap off the series. Andy Serkis also amazes as Gollum, right down to his fiery final frame in the film.
7 Pulp Fiction
Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction comes in at seventh, with an 8.9 score. It’s Tarantino’s only entry in the top twenty, with Django Unchained ranked at 59th and Reservoir Dogs at 76th.
Pulp Fiction is a cult classic, beloved by film fans of all ages, which stars John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, and many more talented individuals. It’s a master class in screenwriting from Tarantino, as he intricately weaves together the lives of manifold mobsters and crooks.
Stand-out scenes include the Jackson and Travolta talking about French translations of the McDonalds menu, Travolta and Thurman dancing at the bar, Roth’s attempted diner robbery, The Wolf's clean up act, Bruce Willis talking about a watch, and Samuel L. Jackson reading very dramatically from the bible.
6 Schindler’s List
In at sixth is Schindler’s List, with Steven Spielberg’s 1994 war drama scoring an 8.9 rating from IMDb’s users. The film, of course, stars Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of hundreds of persecuted refugees during World War II, by employing them in his factories.
The movie is based on Schindler’s Ark, a novel by Thomas Keneally. Steven Zaillian adapted the book into a screenplay, which Spielberg then directed and produced. The film would go on to win hearts and minds around the world, picking up seven Oscars and 72 other awards.
Neeson does career-best work in the title role, leading a stellar cast that features Sir Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, and Jonathan Sagal. The film is the highest-rated war movie ever made, according to IMDb.
5 12 Angry Men
Sidney Lumet’s courtroom classic 12 Angry Man is the fifth best film of all time, with an 8.9 score from IMDb’s user base. The film’s 96-minute running time flies by, as an all-male jury attempts to reach a verdict on a tough case: an 18 year old boy from a slum is accused of stabbing his father to death. If the jury finds him guilty, a death sentence will follow.
Reginald Rose’s screenplay kicks off right in the middle of the action: 11 of the jurors already agree that the boy is guilty, with only Henry Fonda’s Juror 8 (none of them are given names) holding out. Juror 8 finds himself with a reasonable doubt, and spends the next hour and a half attempting to convince his peers that a guilty verdict cannot be fairly passed.
This movie proves that a strong script and some stellar performers are all you need to make a highly tense and endlessly watchable feature.
4 The Dark Knight
The second Christopher Nolan film on this list, and the only superhero movie to rank in IMDb’s top 20 best films ever made, is The Dark Knight, which has a rating of 9.0. (If you were wondering, The Dark Knight Rises is the next-best superhero film, ranking at 63rd. Then there’s Batman Begins at 115th and Logan is the highest ranked film based on a Marvel Comics character, placing at 176th on the list.)
It’s easy to see why The Dark Knight rose above all the other superhero movies in IMDb’s user rankings: Heath Ledger delivered one of the greatest villainous performances of all time here, putting his deranged spin on The Clown Prince of Crime. He was working from an excellent script from Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, which reimagined Batman’s nemesis as an unpredictable agent of chaos.
Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Gary Oldman all turned in strong performances -- and Nolan delivered solid direction for both the action scenes and the character material -- but Ledger absolutely stole the show.
3 The Godfather: Part II
The third-best movie of all time, with a score of 9.0, is Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather: Part II. This second chapter in the trilogy chronicled both the early days of Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro), and the criminal heyday of his son, Michael (Al Pacino), jumping back and forth in time to offer a truly unique viewing experience.
Copolla worked with Mario Puzo on the script, adapting the latter’s novel into a masterfully multifaceted movie, which would go on to win six Academy Awards. This is one of those rare times in movie history when the script, the direction, and the performances all lined up at the very highest level of quality.
Alongside Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, there are also strong performances from Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton and John Cazale. However, as you might have guessed, the film ranks slightly lower in this list than its predecessor...
2 The Godfather
The second best film of all time, according to IMDb’s users, is The Godfather. Francis Ford Coppola’s first film in the trilogy has a score of 9.2, and it also won three Oscars. As with the other two Godfather films, Coppola wrote it with novelist Mario Puzo, resulting in a brilliant slice of cinema history.
The Godfather is perhaps regarded as the best film in the series because of Marlon Brando’s excellent central performance as Don Vito Corleone. Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, and Diane Keaton all bring their A-game, but Brando is simply mesmerizing as the movie’s central crime lord: from his voice to his movements, Brando lives and breathes the role.
On many "best movies ever" lists, you’d find The Godfather ranked at number one. However, on IMDb’s leader board, it’s just been pipped to the post by another crime-related classic...
1 The Shawshank Redemption
The best movie ever made, according to IMDb, is The Shawshank Redemption. Frank Darabont’s 1994 prison escape drama was nominated for seven Oscars, but didn’t win any. IMDb’s users have honoured it with a 9.2 score, though, and it’s narrowly beaten The Godfather to this hallowed top spot.
Tim Robbins’ Andy and Morgan Freeman’s Red are the emotional core of this film, of course, with their friendship flourishing across several years in prison. Darabont adapted Stephen King’s novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption into the screenplay for the movie, creating in the process, one of the true cinematic classics.
The performances, the script and Darabont’s affectionate direction combined to make The Shawshank Redemption one of the most adored films on the planet. It’s a bittersweet movie, which blends darkness with friendship, and has a whole lot of heart. It would take something very special to knock it off this top spot.
Do you agree with IMDb’s list? How many of these films have you seen? Let us know in the comments.
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