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100 Good Movies

Updated on October 3, 2014
The Movie Poster for Citizen Kane
The Movie Poster for Citizen Kane

100 Good Movies

The goal of this hub is to list good movies that you may not have already seen. This is more of a quirky, personal favorites list than anything definitive. This is not intended to be a ranking, but I thought it would be a fun way to start a discussion of good movies in various genres.

Good Dramas

A drama is a serious movie, usually with true-to-life characters and plots. "Drama" is obviously a huge genre with lots of sub-genres, and this list of good dramas isn't meant to be inclusive, just representative. These are all good movies to see if you've never seen them before.

  1. The Big Chill - A 1983 Lawrence Kasdan ensemble piece. A group of baby boomer friends reunite after one of their clique dies. Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Tom Berenger, Jeff Goldblum, and lots of other famous people star.
  2. Cool Hand Luke - A 1967 Stuart Rosenberg film starring Paul Newman as a rebellious prisoner in Georgia. Cool Hand Luke is well known for Luke's allegorical similarities to Christ.
  3. Dances with Wolves - Kevin Costner directs and stars in this 1990epic Western drama. The movie won best picture. The Costner character is a Union soldier who develops a close relationship with an Indian tribe.
  4. Fail-Safe - Sidney Lumet's 1962 film has a lot of similarities to Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, but Fail-Safe is a drama, not a comedy. Walter Matthau and Henry Fonda star.
  5. Hard Eight - This one's a 1996 film from Paul Thomas Anderson. (He sometimes goes by PT Anderson, and he's better known for directing Boogie Nights and Magnolia. ) An aging gambler named Sydney befriends a younger man, John, who gets himself into trouble that only Sydney can help him get out of.
  6. Punch-Drunk Love - Paul Thomas Anderson also directs this 2002 piece with a rare dramatic performance from Adam Sandler. Barry Egan (Sandler) is a man with a temper problem who falls in love.
  7. The Shawshank Redemption - A 1994 film from Frank Darabont that's based on a Stephen King novella, "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption." It's an unexpectedly powerful and beautiful film about a man who is wrongly imprisoned and the friendship he forms with another prisoner.
  8. The Accidental Tourist - A 1988 drama from director Lawrence Kasdan starring William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, and Geena Davis. An emotionally disconnected travel writer (William Hurt) becomes even more emotionally disconnected after the death of his son. A dog trainer (Geena Davis) becomes emotionally involved with him. (Based on an equally excellent novel by Anne Tyler.)
  9. Affliction - A 1998 Paul Schrader film about a small town cop with daddy issues. Nick Nolte plays the cop; James Coburn is the daddy. This one's not at all uplifting, but it's very effective.
  10. Conversations with Other Women - A quirky 2005 showpiece for Aaron Eckhart and Helen Bonham-Carter. The movie is shown in split-screen--the left half of the screen is the movie from the perspective of one of the main characters, and the right half is from the perspective of the other. Sounds distracting and pretentious, but it somehow works.

The Movie Poster for Vertigo
The Movie Poster for Vertigo
The Movie Poster for Casablanca
The Movie Poster for Casablanca

Good Comedies

You could consider comedies to be the opposite of dramas. Instead of being serious, they're light-hearted and meant to make you laugh. The plotlines and characters are often unrealistic and exaggerated in order to generate more laughs. Some people prefer good comedy movies over dramas, but most movie fans love both genres.

  1. Raising Arizona - A 1987 movie from Joel Coen that stars Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter. Cage is a habitual criminal; Hunter is a cop. They fall in love, get married, and want children, but she's barren. So they kidnap a baby. It's funnier than it sounds.
  2. A Fish Called Wanda - Kevin Kline has never been funnier, and Jamie Lee Curtis has rarely been sexier. This one came out in 1988, and it involves four very different characters, a robbery, and the titular fish.
  3. The Hudsucker Proxy - A 1994 screwball comedy starring Tim Robbins. It's a remake (of sorts) of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, and it's far better than that other remake, Deeds . Another Coen Brothers movie.
  4. The 'Burbs - Tom Hanks stars in this movie as a suburbanite with some really strange new neighbors. Carrie Fisher and Bruce Dern co-star.
  5. Black Dynamite - A 2009 spoof of blaxploitation action films. The main character is a CIA agent who is avenging his brother's death and cleaning up drugs on the street.
  6. Broadcast News - A 1987 James L. Brooks film starring William Hurt, Albert Brooks, and Holly Hunter. It's about three characters who work in a television news department, and their love triangle.
  7. Educating Rita - Michael Caine stars as an alcoholic English literature professor who plays Dr. Dolittle to Julie Walters' Eliza. It's a 1983 film based on an English stage play.
  8. Family Business - This one is a comedy crime film about three generations of a crime family. Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman, and Matthew Broderick star, and the movie is surprisingly funny.
  9. His Girl Friday - A 1940 screwball comedy from Howard Hawks. Cary Grant stars as a hard-boiled newspaper editor who wants to get his ex-wife (Rosalind Russell) back. The rapid-fire dialogue was the inspiration for the dialogue style of the 80's television show Moonlighting.
  10. There's Something about Mary - The 1998 Farrelly Brothers movie that made Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz into big stars. Mary (Cameron Diaz) has many suitors and admirers, who all come into conflict in this hilarious and off-color classic.

Good Thrillers

Thrillers are movies that attempt to create a feeling of suspense in the audience. These movies are often movies in another genre with a suspense element tacked on--there are action thrillers, horror thrillers, and even comedy thrillers.

  1. Blue Velvet - David Lynch's 1986 film about a college student who becomes involved with a sexy torch singer. (He finds an ear in a field first though.) The movie is surreal and full of strange characters, especially Dennis Hopper's villain.
  2. Bad Influence - A 1990 film starring James Spader and Rob Lowe. A meek young man learns to be assertive because of a new mentor, but the new mentor turns out to be so evil as to be practically Satanic.
  3. Birthday Girl - A 2001 film starring Nicole Kidman as a Russian mail-order bride. The man who orders her is typically meek and mild-mannered, and she turns out to be more than he bargained for.
  4. Breakdown - A 1997 thriller starring Kurt Russell as an average guy driving cross country who has a run-in with a sinister JT Walsh.
  5. Dead Again - A 1991 thriller starring Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson. But Derek Jacobi steals the show as the stuttering antique dealer/hypnotist.
  6. The Fugitive - A 1993 remake of the old television show. Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford star.
  7. In the Line of Fire - An underrated 1993 thriller starring Clint Eastwood and John Malkovich. Clint Eastwood is an old secret service agent who is trying to protect the President while John Malkovich is trying to assassinate the President.
  8. Se7en - Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman co-star in this excellent David Fincher film. We watch this one every year at Halloween--my wife doesn't like monster movies, but more realistic stuff like serial killers doesn't seem to bother her.
  9. The Silence of the Lambs - Anthony Hopkins only spend 15 minutes or so on-screen in this one, but his performance is unforgettable. None of the sequels even come close to the greatness that is The Silence of the Lambs.
  10. North by Northwest - My favorite Hitchcock film, this one stars Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. He's framed for killing a man who doesn't even exist. James Mason is delicious as the villain, and the film's climax at Mount Rushmore is unforgettable. North by Northwest features a great score from Bernard Herrmann too.

Good Horror Movies

Everyone knows what horror movies are, and they're possibly the most popular genre in cinema. I could easily write a list of 100 great horror movies, but I'm just going to include ten of them here.

  1. Bubba Ho-Tep - Don Coscarelli directs this film based on Joe Lansdale's novella. It turns out that Elvis didn't really die; that was just an impersonator who had swapped identities with the King. Elvis (the real Elvis, played by Bruce Campbell) is in a nursing home, but everyone thinks he's just an Elvis impersonator. He has to team up with JFK (who's also in the nursing home, and who is black) in order to defeat a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy who's preying on the nursing home residents.
  2. Carrie - A classic Brian de Palma film starring Sissy Spacek. This one's based on the Stephen King novel. It's one of the scariest movies I've ever seen.
  3. Let the Right One In - This is the best vampire movie I've ever seen, bar none. (It's even better than Fright Night .) I haven't seen the American remake yet.
  4. The Omen - Great acting and a wonderful score. Don't bother with the recent remake--stick with the original 1976 version starring Gregory Peck.
  5. Paranormal Activity - This is one of the only horror movies that I'm willing to watch over and over again. And no matter how many times I see it, it still creeps me out.
  6. The Signal - This is sort of a zombie film, but only just sort of. It's a surprisingly well-crafted and well-written film, and worth seeing.
  7. An American Werewolf in London - Another horror movie I don't mind watching over and over again. Great music, and AWESOME transformation scenes.
  8. Body Snatchers - This one has been made in several different versions, and I'm being a little bit contrarian by listing the least well known version here. This is the 1993 version starring Gabrielle Anwar and Meg Tilly.
  9. Christine - If you love horror movies, then you already know who John Carpenter is. This is one of his better efforts, and it's based on a really cool Stephen King novel.
  10. The Fly - This one's a David Cronenberg film, and he's sometimes hit or miss. I didn't much like Dead Ringers , for example. But The Fly is undeniably great.

Good Westerns

One of the only art forms that originated in America is the western movie. (Jazz is one of the other ones.) I love Clint Eastwood AND John Wayne, but I also know that there are a lot of other options out there too.

  1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - This genre-redefining film stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Great songs from BJ Thomas round out the soundtrack.
  2. The Searchers - One of the greatest westerns ever made, and hugely influential. John Wayne's performance is stellar, and the John Ford direction is top notch.
  3. The Shootist - A friend of mine likes to describe this as John Wayne's Unforgiven, but it's probably more accurate to say that Unforgiven is Clint Eastwood's version of The Shootist. At any rate, it's a must-see, and much better than the oft-mentioned but overrated True Grit.
  4. Pale Rider - A "weird western" and a remake of Shane. Much better than the more-often-mentioned The Outlaw Josey Wales.
  5. Unforgiven - Eastwood is unforgettable in this film, but the entire ensemble cast is also unforgettable. I especially enjoy Gene Hackman's performance as Little Bill.
  6. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - Classic Jimmy Stewart/John Wayne western doesn't get much more classic than this.
  7. Shane - This might seem dated to some, but I still love it. The novel that it's based on is really solid too.
  8. The Quick and the Dead - Sam Raimi's direction is so interesting visually. I wish he'd make more westerns. I could live without Russell Crowe, but Gene Hackman is great, as always.
  9. High Noon - What can you say about this movie that hasn't already been said? It's SO great that if you haven't seen it yet, you should immediately move it to the top of your Netflix queue.
  10. The Big Country - This is an odd western starring Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, and Burl Ives, but it's one of the best-written films I've ever seen. Watch how Gregory Peck stubbornly REFUSES to prove himself to anyone.

Good Action Movies

Action movies consist of stunts and excitement. Realism is less important than excitement. Some action movies are also thrillers.

  1. Dirty Harry - None of the other movies in the series can compared with the Don Siegel directed original. For pure emotional power, this one excels.
  2. Assault on Precinct 13 - Not the remake, the John Carpenter original. It's about a bunch of bad guys laying siege to a police station. Great stuff.
  3. Die Hard - I can't think of a single list of "best action movies" that doesn't include Die Hard in the number one spot, and for good reason. One of Bruce Willis's finest performances, and Alan Rickman is a tremendous villain.
  4. Iron Man - The best of the recent flood of superhero movies, mostly because of Robert Downey Jr's. performance. Nothing deep or thought-provoking here, which is a plus for an action picture.
  5. The Rock - Imagine if the Sean Connery James Bond had been held in custody by the US government for 20 years, and then he has to help them take care of some terrorists holed up on Alcatraz. That's what The Rock is like. Good performance from Ed Harris here, too.
  6. Terminator 2: Judgment Day - Terminator was good too, but this is one instance where the sequel outdid the original. Lots of great action sequences to enjoy, and the movie sounds great if you have a good sound system.
  7. Kill Bill - I consider parts 1 and 2 to be one movie, albeit a very long one. I couldn't really pick a favorite from between the two. I have friends who are fans of kung fu movies who complain that Kill Bill is derivative, but I love it anyway.
  8. The Matrix - This movie would have been equally at home on the science fiction movies list, but the action is what makes The Matrix so interesting to watch. Dark City has the same premise, and it's a better movie, but The Matrix is still well worth watching.
  9. Predator - Another movie that would be equally at home on the science fiction list, but it's all about the action in Predator. This is not a film of ideas; it's a movie about deeds. Exciting, special effects laden deeds, at that.
  10. First Blood - The novel was way better than the movie, but that's comparing apples to oranges. This is Stallone's best action movie.

Good Fantasy Movies

Fantasy movies aren't limited to just sword and sorcery films. Any movie with an element of the fantastic would qualify, but they're usually not considered the same thing as horror movies.

  1. The Purple Rose of Cairo - Believe it or not, this was the first Woody Allen movie I ever saw. I've seen almost all of them since then, but The Purple Rose of Cairo still holds a special place in my heart.
  2. Big - Remember when Tom Hanks didn't take himself so seriously? This and Splash are good examples of early Tom Hanks comedy-fantasies.
  3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - It's a long movie, but it's well made. Cate Blanchett gives a fine performance, but the real credit in this movie goes to Brad Pitt, who was just amazing.
  4. Field of Dreams - Remember when Kevin Costner still made baseball movies? All the baseball movies that Costner starred in were great, but this is the only one that qualifies as a fantasy.
  5. Hook - This movie has an undeserved bad reputation--it's actually quiet good, and Robin Williams is perfect as Peter Pan.
  6. Defending Your Life - An unsung classic. Rip Torn is hilarious as the attorney character, and the afterlife has never been funnier on-screen. Albert Brooks is a great moviemaker--I just wish he'd make more movies.
  7. Groundhog Day - Not just one of my favorite fantasies, but also one of my favorite films of all time. Bill Murray's performance deserved a Best Actor nod from the Academy.
  8. The Lord of the Rings - I couldn't pick just one of these movies to list, so I'm including the entire trilogy. I read the novels several times as a young teenager, so my judgment might be colored by my love of the original story. But I wasn't disappointed.
  9. Time Bandits - I saw Time Bandits at the theater when I was a kid, and I loved it. Last week I watched it with my eight year old daughter, to see if the magic was still there, and I'm happy to say that it was. David Warner as "Evil" is great.
  10. Edward Scissorhands - This is essentially a warm and fuzzy retelling of Frankenstein. It's also one of the only Tim Burton movies worth seeing, but man, it's good.

Good Musicals

Musicals, to me, are a sort of subgenre of fantasy. In real life, people rarely burst into song, and if they do, they never finish it, or dance to it. And even more rarely do other people join in. But in the magic of the musical, this happens all the time, and it's a wonderful world to inhabit for 90 minutes.

  1. Singin' in the Rain - The greatest musical ever made, with a dynamite cast that includes Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Debbie Reynolds.
  2. Easter Parade - This is my personal favorite musical at the moment. Fred Astaire and Judy Garland are both wonderful, and the magic starts happening from the first second of the movie.
  3. Meet Me in St. Louis - This one is strange, because it doesn't really have a plot to speak of. But Judy Garland is beautiful and sings both "The Trolley Song" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." And that's more than good enough for me.
  4. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers - I didn't think I'd like this one, but I wound up enjoying it more than a lot of other musicals that I thought I'd like more.
  5. An American in Paris - Another classic starring Gene Kelly. I really like a lot of the songs in this one.
  6. Everyone Says I Love You - Woody Allen directs his only musical here, and it turns out just fine. The scene where Woody Allen and Goldie Hawn dance on the River Seine is movie magic--one of my favorite scenes in a musical.
  7. Beauty and the Beast - The best of all the Disney musicals, and the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. The animation is dazzling, and the songs are terrific.
  8. The Muppet Movie - "The Rainbow Connection" is still one of my favorite songs. And the many cameos are great, especially if you're old enough (or enough of a film buff) to remember all the stars who turned up.
  9. Grease - Nostalgia fuels my love for Grease. For one thing, my parents grew up during the 50s and 60s, so they could wax nostalgic while watching it. And I was a kid when Grease hit the big screen.
  10. Camelot - This was a flop, and some people dislike it, but it's one of my favorites. I thought Richard Harris was fine as King Arthur, and the set pieces are extraordinary.

Good Film Noir Movies

These used to be called melodramas, and some movie critics argue that noir isn't a genre at all. I've included both classic film noirs and neo noirs on my list, and I don't care if it's a genre or not--it's one of my favorite types of movies.

  1. The Big Sleep - Classic film noir doesn't get much more hard boiled than The Big Sleep. Humphrey Bogart stars as Phillip Marlowe.
  2. The Man Who Wasn't There - A quirky surprise from the Coen Brothers, starring Billy Bob Thornton. It's in black and white!
  3. Out of the Past - My favorite noir movie, with Robert Mitchum as a former private eye who can't escape his past. 
  4. Sunset Boulevard - William Holden is great in this, but Gloria Swanson steals the entire show as Norma Desmond. I remember watching Carol Burnett spoof this movie all the time on her show as a kid.
  5. Double Indemnity - Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck star, but Edward G. Robinson steals the movie. 
  6. Notorious - Wonderful Hitchcock movie starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. 
  7. Gun Crazy - This is a fantastic film with a surreal dreamlike quality, especially in the final scene. I'm surprised it's not better known.
  8. Memento - A movie should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but not necessarily in that order. I think Godard said that. Anyway, SEE this movie.
  9. The Long Goodbye - A real treat from director Robert Altman, starring Elliott Gould as Phillip Marlowe.
  10. Pulp Fiction - Tarantino's movie probably fits into all kinds of categories, but I'm glad to be able to include it on this list anywhere. It's less noirish than any of the other movies here, but it's still great.

Good Science Fiction Movies

Science fiction movies are often set in the future, but not always. They always have a strong element of technology or science that's critical to the plot and theme though.

  1. Moon - This is a quirky and low-budget gem starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey. It's one of the best written scifi movies I've ever seen.
  2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - The most melodramatic scifi movie I've ever seen. William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban chew up the scenery from start to finish. I've seen this movie probably 100 times, and I never tire of it.
  3. Starship Troopers - I know it's not faithful to the novel, but it's a good, fun film in multiple ways.
  4. A.I. Artificial Intelligence - A lot of people blame Stanley Kubrick for the darker aspects of the movie, and blame Stephen Spielberg for the more optimistic aspects, but I understand that much of that blame is placed wrongly. It's a visually stunning, well-written movie that's watchable repeatedly.
  5. Dark City - Much better than The Matrix , which has a similar premise. It's a beautifully filmed, film noir scifi film that should be on every film fan's shelf.
  6. Minority Report - I don't usually recommend movies that star Tom Cruise and are directed by Stephen Spielberg, but this one is so good, I had to include it.. (Those kinds of movies don't usually need any help finding viewers.)
  7. The Man Who Fell to Earth - David Bowie is well-cast as an alien trying to fit in here on earth.
  8. The Day the Earth Stood Still - Don't bother watching the lame remake starring Keanu Reeves; watch the original. It still holds up, and it's less dated than you might think.
  9. Event Horizon - A horror movie/science fiction mashup with Sam Neill. Some of the scenes in this one are really scary.
  10. The Thing - John Carpenter's masterpiece could just as easily have been included in the horror movies category, but it's also a masterful science fiction work. Wilford Brimley is exceptionally good.

What's Your Favorite Movie Genre?

What's Your Favorite Movie Genre?

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