Top Films

Following is a list of our all-time favorite films here at AHOAK—films we strongly recommend you experience. They are not films we simply like; they are films we also consider good, nay, brilliant. Regarding the link between liking a film and its actual value, Roger Ebert opines: “There is a larger question here. Does it make a movie “good” because you “like” it? No, it doesn’t, and I have liked a lot of bad movies. It is helpful to separate one’s immediate amusement from more lasting standards.”

To be sure, what counts as a standard is partly subjective. But some standards—e.g., compelling screenwriting, mise en scène, cinematography, editing, and so on—are more objective than others, in that they point to specific, identifiable filmic processes which most people can agree are representative of quality moviemaking. In our view, the films we have selected here can be considered of worth or merit when evaluated against such inter-subjective standards. That being said, to avoid rehashing more notable rosters, we have not only listed films we believe are good, but also films we look forward to revisiting. In addition to being exceptionally constructed, these films “speak to us” on a more personal level, and exude a certain je ne sais quoi, an intangible but engrossing timeless quality.

For ease of reading, the selected films have been divided within broad categories reflecting genre or medium. They are ranked in alphabetical order, all standing out equally. We also recognize that the films were chosen from our limited point-of-view; so, if you’ve experienced a film you’re shocked has not been included, let us know the title. We’d love to make our list more exhaustive!


Top Thought Provokers

12 Angry Men (Lumet, 1957)C.R.A.Z.Y. (Vallée, 2005)
71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls (Haneke, 1994) Dogville (von Trier, 2003)
Bonnie and Clyde (Penn, 1967) Elephant (Van Sant, 2003)
The Boys in the Band (Friedken, 1970) Empire of the Sun (Spielberg, 1987)
Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941) The Grey Zone (Nelson, 2001)
Gentleman’s Agreement (Kazan, 1947)The Hanging Garden (Fitzgerald, 1997)
Glengarry Glen Ross (Foley, 1992)Hard Candy (Slade, 2005)
L'histoire d'Adèle H. (Truffaut, 1975) The Hours (Daldry, 2002)
Inglorious Basterds (Tarantino, 2009) In the Company of Men (LaBute, 1997)
Inherit the Wind (Kramer, 1960)Spider (Cronenberg, 2002)
Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Tornatore, 1988; 123-minute cut) The Sweet Hereafter (Egoyan, 1997)
Scenes from a Marriage (Bergman, 1973; 168-minute cut)
Der siebente Kontinent (Haneke, 1989)
The Sweet Hereafter (Egoyan, 1997)
Trois couleurs : Bleu, Blanc, Rouge (Kieslowski, 1993, 1994, & 1994)
Victim (Dearden, 1961)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Nichols, 1966)

Top Laugh Inducers

Adam’s Rib (Cukor, 1949)Airplane! (Abrahams, Zucker, & Zucker, 1980)
Being There (Ashby, 1979)Bullets Over Broadway (Allen, 1994)
Born Yesterday (Cukor, 1950)Crimes of the Heart (Beresford, 1986)
Groundhog Day (Ramis, 1993) La grande séduction (Pouliot, 2003)
Harold and Maude (Ashby, 1971) It Happened One Night (Capra, 1934)
Harvey (Koster, 1950) It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Kramer, 1963)
It Happened One Night (Capra, 1934)Me and You and Everyone We Know (July, 2005)
The Lady Eve (Sturges, 1941)Much Ado About Nothing (Branagh, 1993)
Lolita (Kubrick, 1962) Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Almodóvar, 1988)
The Man Who Knew Too Little (Amiel, 1997) The Parent Trap (Swift, 1961)
Rat Race (Zucker, 2001) Raising Arizona (Coen & Coen, 1987)
Shaun of the Dead (Wright, 2004) Sånger från andra våningen (Andersson, 2000)
Tampopo (Itami, 1985)Spanglish (Brooks, 2004)
The Thin Man (Van Dyke, 1934)

Top Heart Warmers

(500) Days of Summer (Webb, 2009) Casablanca (Curtiz, 1942)
Away We Go (Mendes, 2009) Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (Jeunet, 2001)
Before Sunrise & Before Sunset (Linklater, 1995 & 2004) Latter Days (Cox, 2003)
Love Actually (Curtis, 2003) Love That Boy (Dorfman, 2003)
Paris, je t’aime (Various, 2006) Pillow Talk (Gordon, 1959)
Stranger Than Fiction (Forster, 2006) Pumpkin (Abrams & Broder, 2002)
Strictly Ballroom (Luhrmann, 1992)
Two for the Road (Donen, 1967)

Top Tension Raisers

Cape Fear (Thompson, 1962) Apollo 13 (Howard, 1995)
Duel (Spielberg, 1971) Charade (Donen, 1963)
M (Lang, 1931) Donnie Darko (Kelly, 2001)
The Manchurian Candidate (Frankenheimer, 1962) One Hour Photo (Romanek, 2002)
Mulholland Dr. (Lynch, 2001)Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Tykwer, 2006)
The Night of the Hunter (Laughton, 1955) What Lies Beneath (Zemeckis, 2000)
Rope (Hitchcock, 1942)
Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock, 1943)
Shutter Island (Scorsese, 2010)
Taken (Morel, 2008)
Tengoku to jigoku (Kurosawa, 1963)
Touch of Evil (Welles, 1958; 1998 restoration)
Wait Until Dark (Young, 1967)

Top Imagination Sparkers

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Gilliam, 1988)Batman Returns (Burton, 1992)
After Hours (Scorsese, 1985)Death Becomes Her (Zemeckis, 1992)
Altered States (Russell, 1980) Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1993)
Back to the Future (Zemeckis, 1985) Swiss Family Robinson (Annakin, 1960)
Dark City (Proyas, 1998)X-Men: The Last Stand (Ratner, 2006)
The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008)
District 9 (Blonkamp, 2009)
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (Spielberg, 1982)
Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1993)
El laberinto del fauno (del Toro, 2006)
Pleasantville (Ross, 1998)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981)
Spider-Man 2 (Raimi, 2004)
V for Vendetta (McTeigue, 2006)

Top Scream Extractors

The Descent (Marshall, 2005) The Cabin in the Woods (Goddard, 2012)
The Innocents (Clayton, 1961) Cube (Natali, 1997)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (Craven, 1984)

Top Toe Tappers

Chansons d’amour (Honoré, 2007) Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (Whedon, 2008)
Everyone Says I Love You (Allen, 1996) Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Mitchell, 2001)
Evita (Parker, 1996) Mary Poppins (Stevenson, 1964)
Fame (Parker, 1980) My Fair Lady (Cukor, 1964)
Moulin Rouge! (Lurhmann, 2001) Newsies (Ortega, 1992)
The Music Man (DaCosta, 1962) Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Donen, 1954)
Singin’ in the Rain (Kelly & Donen, 1952)The Sound of Music (Wise, 1965)
Victor Victoria (Edwards, 1982)

Top Motion Simulators

Hotaru no Haka (Takahata, 1988) Beauty and the Beast (Trousdale & Wise, 1992)
How To Train Your Dragon (DeBlois & Sanders, 2010) The Incredibles (Bird, 2004)
L'illusioniste (Chomet, 2010) Mary and Max (Elliot, 2009)
The Iron Giant (Bird, 1999) The Nightmare Before Christmas (Selick, 1993)
Lilo & Stitch (DeBlois & Sanders, 2002) Ratatouille (Bird & Pinkava, 2007)
Mary and Max (Elliot, 2009) Robin Hood (Reitherman, 1973)
Mononoke-hime (Miyazaki, 1997)Toy Story 2 (Lasseter, Brannon, & Unkrich, 1999)
Pinocchio (Sharpsteen & Luske, 1940)Up (Docter & Peterson, 2009)
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (Parker, 1999)
Toy Story 3 (Unkrich, 2010)
Up (Docter & Peterson, 2009)
Waking Life (Linklater, 2001)

Top Performances

Another Year (2010) — Lesley Manville as MaryAngels in America (2003) – Mary-Louise Parker as Harper Pitt
Born Yesterday (1950) – Judy Holliday as Emma 'Billie' Dawn Born Yesterday (1950) – Judy Holliday as Emma 'Billie' Dawn
Cabaret (1972) — Liza Minnelli as Sally BowlesEdward Scissorhands (1990) – Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands
Inglorious Basterds (2009) — Christoph Waltz as Colonel Hans Landa Fargo (1996) – Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson
Laurence of Arabia (1962) — Peter O’Toole as T. E. Laurence Hamlet (1996) – Kate Winslet as Ophelia
Midnight Cowboy (1969) — Dustin Hoffman as RatsoThe Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993) – Holly Hunter as Wanda Holloway
Scent of a Woman (1992) — Al Pacino as Lieutenant Colonel Frank SladeThe Shape of Things (2003) – Rachel Weisz as Evelyn Ann Thompson
Sophie’s Choice (1982) — Meryl Streep as SophieThe Squid and the Whale (2005) – Laura Linney as Joan Berkman
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) — Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) — Elizabeth Taylor as Martha

Top Nonfiction Films

The Celluloid Closet (Epstein & Friedman, 1995) Bowling for Columbine (Moore, 2002)
A Complete History of My Sexual Failures (Waitt, 2008)Bus 174 (Padilha & Lacerda, 2002)
My Date with Drew (Gunn & Herzlinger, 2004) Capturing the Friedmans (Jarecki, 2003)
F for Fake (Welles, 1973)Family Fundamentals (Dong, 2002)
Opération Lune (Karel, 2002)The Imposter (Layton, 2012)
Religulous (Charles, 2008) Jiro Dreams of Sushi (Gelb, 2011)
RIP!: A Remix Manifesto (Gaylor, 2008) Standard Operating Procedure (Morris, 2008)
Waking Sleeping Beauty (Hahn, 2009)Why We Fight (Jarecki, 2005)


Note: Most of the above titles are available in Canada through the online video rental service

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