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What is the Greatest Movie Ever: Lawrence of Arabia

Updated on April 2, 2013
Lawrence of Arabia poster
Lawrence of Arabia poster

Greatest Movie Ever vs. Best Movie Ever

I have already written an article arguing that "Jaws" is the best movie of all-time.

Now, I'm going to have a little fun and nitpick the semantic differences between the word "best" and the word "greatest" as it applies to phrases like "the greatest movie of all-time" or "the best movie of all-time". Are there any practical, actual differences between the two words? Probably not, but for the purposes of this article, I'm going to create a few.

"Best", as it applies to the phrase "the best movie of all-time", means that the movie is both critically and financially successful because "best" implies that their is a social component to the qualification. Therefore, the public has more of an influence over what is "best". "Greatest" has more of an objective tone than "best". Things that are the "greatest" are often determine by panels of experts. Things that are "best" are usually open to the public. For example, the "best" president and the "greatest" president are probably not the same man because the "best" president is more of a popularity contest while the "greatest" president is probably determined by a panel of historians.

So while I have argued that "Jaws" is the best movie of all-time, I am not going to argue that it is the greatest movie of all-time. So what is the greatest movie of all-time? Let's revisit the "Citizen Kane" vs. "Casablanca" debate I posed in the other article.

Citizen Kane (1956 RKO rerelease Poster)
Citizen Kane (1956 RKO rerelease Poster)

When talking about the best film of all-time, I lean toward "Casablanca" if my choice is between that film and "Citizen Kane". However, when differentiating between "best" and "great" and discussing the "greatest" film of all-time, the argument clearly falls on the side of "Citizen Kane". In terms of influence and critical respect, there's no competition between the two films. "Citizen Kane" is the clear winner.

However, would I consider it the greatest film of all-time? Although I don't, I have no issue with those that do. It's like arguing that George Washington is the greatest president of all-time instead of, say, Abraham Lincoln. In that argument, you're picking the man who set the precedents and had undeniable influence over just about every president who followed. "Citizen Kane" is certainly the first great modern film, so in that regard, it must be given consideration as possibly the greatest film of all-time.

In picking my selection though, there is a certain element of watchability included. To me, "Citizen Kane" seems just dated enough to make its influence less palpable and its appeal

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My pick for greatest movie of all-time is David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia".

The first time I ever saw "Lawrence of Arabia" was when it was re-released, so I saw it in 70mm in a large theater and I was fairly close to the front of the theater. There's something about seeing "Lawrence of Arabia" that makes one appreciate everything that's great about the cinema and that's why I'm picking this film. It's truly a film and it's not nearly as significant watching it at home. I remember quite distinctly being overwhelmed by the scene where Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) emerges from the desert. It's everything that's great about that movie embodied in one moment. You know right there whether you love movies or not.

"Lawrence of Arabia" is epic and it's everything that's great about movies. This movie is grand. If you've seen it in a theater, you remember it. This is the kind of movie director David Lean made. It was also the film that made Peter O'Toole a star and it's a performance that's truly amazing. Then you add in actors like Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, Jose Ferrar, and Claude Rains.

"Lawrence of Arabia" is a big movie. It's grand. It's spectacular. If you don't love it, you don't love movies.


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  • Steve Lensman profile image

    Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

    If I had to pick between Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Gone With the Wind or Lawrence of Arabia for Greatest Film Ever Made, I would "lean" towards Lawrence as the best, an incredible film.

    The Godfather is up there too as one of the most perfect films I've ever seen.

    My own personal favourite, William Wyler's Ben-Hur, is pretty good too. Watched it on blu-ray at the weekend. Beautifully remastered.

    Voted Up and interesting.