Here are the 10 greatest movies from blockbuster favourites and cult classics, to epic dramas and raucous comedies.
10. The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)
It may feature monsters, wizards and plucky little fellas with furry feet, but The Lord Of The Rings isn’t a fairy tale. Which is why Peter Jackson’s adaptation worked so well; from this note-perfect first instalment, it was treated exactly as Tolkien intended — as a historical epic which just happens to be set in an alternative world.
9. Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope (1977)
It’s nuts: we’re now as far, far away from the release of Star Wars as 1977 audiences were from Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. And yet George Lucas’ cocktail of fantasy, sci-fi, Western and World War II movie remains as culturally pervasive as ever. It’s so mythically potent, you sense in time it could become a bona-fide religion.
8. Jaws (1975)
Forty-two years young, and Spielberg’s breakthrough remains the touchstone for event-movie cinema. Not that any studio these days would dare put out a summer blockbuster that’s half monster-on-the-rampage disaster, half guys-bonding-on-a-fishing-trip adventure. Maybe that’s why it’s never been rebooted. Or just because it’s genuinely unsurpassable.
7. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
In ’81, it must have sounded like the ultimate pitch: the creator of Star Wars teams up with the director of Jaws to make a rip-roaring, Bond-style adventure starring the guy who played Han Solo, in which the bad guys are the evillest ever (the Nazis) and the MacGuffin is a big, gold box which unleashes the power of God. It still sounds like the ultimate pitch.
6. GoodFellas (1990)
Where Coppola embroiled us in the politics of the Mafia elite, Martin Scorsese drew us into the treacherous but seductive world of the Mob’s foot soldiers. And its honesty was as impactful as its sudden outbursts of (usually Joe Pesci-instigated) violence. Not merely via Henry Hill’s (Ray Liotta) narrative, but also Karen’s (Lorraine Bracco) perspective: when Henry gives her a gun to hide, she admits, “It turned me on.”
5. Pulp Fiction (1994)
If Reservoir Dogs was a blood-spattered calling card, Pulp Fiction saw Quentin Tarantino kick our front door off its hinges — and then get applauded for doing it with such goddamn panache. It wore its numerous influences on its sleeve (from The Great Train Robbery to Psycho via Kiss Me Deadly and Karate Kiba) and yet felt utterly, invigoratingly fresh and new. We happy? Yeah, we happy.
4. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The warm, leathery embrace of Morgan Freeman’s narration... The reassuringly Gary Cooper-ish rumple of Tim Robbins’ face... Odd that a movie which features such harshness and tragedy should remain a feel-good perennial — even odder when you consider it was a box-office flop on release. Few directorial debuts are so deftly constructed; no surprise, then, that Frank Darabont’s yet to top it.
3. The Dark Knight (2008)
Easily as influential on the genre as that other summer ’08 comic-book movie, Iron Man, Christopher Nolan’s Batman sequel works wonders because he never saw it as a superhero film. It’s closer to a Michael Mann crime epic — except instead of Pacino and De Niro in a diner, you get a bloke dressed as a bat and a psychotic clown in a police interrogation room. With, er, Aaron Eckhart as Val Kilmer...
2. Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The original “this one’s darker” sequel, and by far the strongest of the saga. Not just because the baddies win (temporarily), or because it Force-slammed us with that twist (“No, I am your father”). Empire super-stardestroys thanks to the way it deepens the core relationships — none more effectively than Han and Leia’s. She loves him. He knows. And it still hurts.
1. The Godfather (1972)
Well, if Stanley Kubrick described it as "possibly the greatest movie ever made," who is anyone else to argue? Francis Ford Coppola's gangster-movie-redefining adaptation of Mario Puzo's Mafia novel is the Empire Greatest Movies Poll No. 1 incumbent, and for a very good reason. It sits right at the juncture between 'classic' and 'modern' cinema; it feels respectably venerable, while at the same time vibrant and vital — not a dry, cinematic relic that you feel obliged to bow before, but a hot-blooded, living god that you embrace.