Ten Greatest Films of All Time

Via:  Buzz of the Orient  •  4 weeks ago  •  24 comments

By:   Roger Ebert

Ten Greatest Films of All Time
This list of 10 greatest films were chosen by Roger Ebert in 1991.

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S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

Ten Greatest Films of All Time 


Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Hitchcock's "Notorious."

If I must make a list of the Ten Greatest Films of All Time, my first vow is to make the list for myself, not for anybody else. I am sure than Eisenstein's " The Battleship Potemkin " is a great film, but it's not going on my list simply so I can impress people. Nor will I avoid " Casablanca " simply because it's so popular: I love it all the same.

If I have a criterion for choosing the greatest films, it's an emotional one. These are films that moved me deeply in one way or another. The cinema is the greatest art form ever conceived for generating emotions in its audience. That's what it does best. (If you argue instead for dance or music, drama or painting, I will reply that the cinema incorporates all of these arts).

Cinema is not very good, on the other hand, at intellectual, philosophical or political argument. That's where the Marxists were wrong. If a movie changes your vote or your mind, it does so by appealing to your emotions, not your reason. And so my greatest films must be films that had me sitting transfixed before the screen, involved, committed, and feeling.

Therefore, alphabetically:

" Casablanca "

After seeing this film many times, I think I finally understand why I love it so much. It's not because of the romance, or the humor, or the intrigue, although those elements are masterful. It's because it makes me proud of the characters. These are not heroes -- not except for Paul Heinreid's resistance fighter, who in some ways is the most predictable character in the film. These are realists, pragmatists, survivors: Humphrey Bogart's Rick Blaine, who sticks his neck out for nobody, and  Claude Rains ' police inspector, who follows rules and tries to stay out of trouble. At the end of the film, when they rise to heroism, it is so moving because heroism is not in their makeup. Their better nature simply informs them what they must do.

The sheer beauty of the film is also compelling. The black-and-white closeups of  Ingrid Bergman , the most bravely vulnerable woman in movie history. Bogart with his cigarette and his bottle. Greenstreet and Lorre. Dooley Wilson at the piano, looking up with pain when he sees Bergman enter the room. The shadows. "As Time Goes By." If there is ever a time when they decide that some movies should be spelled with an upper-case M, " Casablanca " should be voted first on the list of Movies.

" Citizen Kane "

I have just seen it again, a shot at a time, analyzing it frame-by-frame out at the University of Colorado at Boulder. We took 10 hours and really  looked  at this film, which is routinely named the best film of all time, almost by default, in list after list. Maybe it is. It's some movie. It tells of all the seasons of a man's life, shows his weaknesses and hurts, surrounds him with witnesses who remember him but do not know how to explain him. It ends its search for "Rosebud," his dying word, with a final image that explains everything and nothing, and although some critics say the image is superficial, I say it is very deep indeed, because it illustrates the way that human happiness and pain is not found in big ideas but in the little victories or defeats of childhood.

Few films are more complex, or show more breathtaking skill at moving from one level to another.  Orson Welles , with his radio background, was able to segue from one scene to another using sound as his connecting link. In one sustained stretch, he covers 20 years between "Merry Christmas" and "A very happy New Year." The piano playing of Kane's young friend Susan leads into their relationship, his applause leads into his campaign, where applause is the bridge again to a political rally that leads to his downfall, when his relationship with Susan is unmasked. We get a three-part miniseries in five minutes.

" Floating Weeds "

I do not expect many readers to have heard of this film, or of  Yasujiro Ozu , who directed it, but this Japanese master, who lived from 1903 to 1963 and whose prolific career bridged the silent and sound eras, saw things through his films in a way that no one else saw. Audiences never stop to think, when they go to the movies,  how  they understand what a close-up is, or a reaction shot. They learned that language in childhood, and it was codified and popularized by D. W. Griffith, whose films were studied everywhere in the world -- except in Japan, where for a time a distinctively different visual style seemed to be developing. Ozu fashioned his style by himself, and never changed it, and to see his films is to be inside a completely alternative cinematic language.

" Floating Weeds ," like many of his films, is deceptively simple. It tells of a troupe of traveling actors who return to an isolated village where their leader left a woman behind many years ago -- and, we discover, he also left a son. Ozu weaves an atmosphere of peaceful tranquility, of music and processions and leisurely conversations, and then explodes his emotional secrets, which cause people to discover their true natures. It is all done with hypnotic visual beauty. After years of being available only in a shabby, beaten-up version usually known as "Drifting Weeds," this film has now been re-released in superb videotape and laserdisc editions.

" Gates of Heaven "

This film, not to be confused in any way with " Heaven's Gate " (or with "Gates of Hell," for that matter) is a bottomless mystery to me, infinitely fascinating. Made in the late 1970s by  Errol Morris , it would appear to be a documentary about some people involved in a couple of pet cemeteries in Northern California. Oh, it's factual enough: The people in this film really exist, and so does the pet cemetery. But Morris is not concerned with his apparent subject. He has made a film about life and death, pride and shame, deception and betrayal, and the stubborn quirkiness of human nature.

He points his camera at his subjects and lets them talk. But he points it for hours on end, patiently until finally they use the language in ways that reveal their most hidden parts. I am moved by the son who speaks of success but cannot grasp it, the old man whose childhood pet was killed, the cocky guy who runs the tallow plant, the woman who speaks of her dead pet and says, "There's your dog, and your dog's dead. But there has to be something that made it move. Isn't there?" In those words is the central question of every religion. And then, in the extraordinary centerpiece of the film, there is the old woman Florence Rasmussen, sitting in the doorway of her home, delivering a spontaneous monolog that Faulkner would have killed to have written.

" La Dolce Vita "

Fellini's 1960 film has grown passe in some circles, I'm afraid, but I love it more than ever. Forget about its message, about the "sweet life" along Rome's Via Veneto, or about the contrasts between the sacred and the profane. Simply look at Fellini's ballet of movement and sound, the graceful way he choreographs the camera, the way the actors move. He never made a more "Felliniesque" film, or a better one.

Then sneak up on the subject from inside. Forget what made this film trendy and scandalous more than 30 years ago. Ask what it really says. It is about a man ( Marcello Mastroianni  in his definitive performance) driven to distraction by his hunger for love, and driven to despair by his complete inability to be able to love. He seeks love from the neurosis of his fiancee, through the fleshy carnality of a movie goddess, from prostitutes and princesses. He seeks it in miracles and drunkenness, at night and at dawn. He thinks he can glimpse it in the life of his friend Steiner, who has a wife and children and a home where music is played and poetry read. But Steiner is as despairing as he is. And finally Marcello gives up and sells out and at dawn sees a pale young girl who wants to remind him of the novel he meant to write someday, but he is hung over and cannot hear her shouting across the waves, and so the message is lost.

" Notorious "

I do not have the secret of  Alfred Hitchcock  and neither, I am convinced, does anyone else. He made movies that do not date, that fascinate and amuse, that everybody enjoys and that shout out in every frame that they are by Hitchcock. In the world of film he was known simply as The Master. But what was he the Master of? What was his philosophy, his belief, his message? It appears that he had none. His purpose was simply to pluck the strings of human emotion -- to play the audience, he said, like a piano. Hitchcock was always hidden behind the genre of the suspense film, but as you see his movies again and again, the greatness stays after the suspense becomes familiar. He made pure movies.

" Notorious " is my favorite Hitchcock, a pairing of  Cary Grant  and Ingrid Bergman, with Claude Rains the tragic third corner of the triangle. Because she loves Grant, she agrees to seduce Rains, a Nazi spy. Grant takes her act of pure love as a tawdry thing, proving she is a notorious woman. And when Bergman is being poisoned, he misreads her confusion as drunkenness. While the hero plays a rat, however, the villain (Rains) becomes an object of sympathy. He does love this woman. He would throw over all of Nazi Germany for her, probably -- if he were not under the spell of his domineering mother, who pulls his strings until they choke him.

" Raging Bull "

Ten years ago, Martin Scorsese's " Taxi Driver " was on my list of the ten best films. I think " Raging Bull " addresses some of the same obsessions, and is a deeper and more confident film. Scorsese used the same actor,  Robert De Niro , and the same screenwriter,  Paul Schrader , for both films, and they have the same buried themes: A man's jealousy about a woman, made painful by his own impotence, and expressed through violence.

Some day if you want to see movie acting as good as any ever put on the screen, look at a scene two-thirds of the way through " Raging Bull ." It takes place in the living room of Jake LaMotta, the boxing champion played by De Niro. He is fiddling with a TV set. His wife comes in, says hello, kisses his brother, and goes upstairs. This begins to bother LaMotta. He begins to quiz his brother ( Joe Pesci ). The brother says he don't know nothin'. De Niro says maybe he doesn't  know  what he knows. The way the dialog expresses the inner twisting logic of his jealousy is insidious. De Niro keeps talking, and Pesci tries to run but can't hide. And step by step, word by word, we witness a man helpless to stop himself from destroying everyone who loves him.

" The Third Man "

This movie is on the altar of my love for the cinema. I saw it for the first time in a little fleabox of a theater on the Left Bank in Paris, in 1962, during my first $5 a day trip to Europe. It was so sad, so beautiful, so romantic, that it became at once a part of my own memories -- as if it had happened to me. There is infinite poignancy in the love that the failed writer Holly Martins ( Joseph Cotten ) feels for the woman ( Alida Valli ) who loves the "dead" Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Harry treats her horribly, but she loves her idea of him, he neither he nor Holly can ever change that. Apart from the story, look at the visuals! The tense conversation on the giant ferris wheel. The giant, looming shadows at night. The carnivorous faces of people seen in the bombed-out streets of postwar Vienna, where the movie was shot on location. The chase through the sewers. And of course the moment when the cat rubs against a shoe in a doorway, and Orson Welles makes the most dramatic entrance in the history of the cinema. All done to the music of a single zither.

" 28 Up "

I have very particular reasons for including this film, which is the least familiar title on my list but one which I defy anyone to watch without fascination. No other film I have ever seen does a better job of illustrating the mysterious and haunting way in which the cinema bridges time. The movies themselves play with time, condensing days or years into minutes or hours. Then going to old movies defies time, because we see and hear people who are now dead, sounding and looking exactly the same. Then the movies toy with our personal time, when we revisit them, by recreating for us precisely the same experience we had before. Then look what  Michael Apted  does with time in this documentary, which he began more than 30 years ago. He made a movie called "7-Up" for British television. It was about a group of British 7-year-olds, their dreams, fears, ambitions, families, prospects. Fair enough. Then, seven years later, he made "14 Up," revisiting them. Then came "21 Up" and, in 1985. " 28 Up ," and next year, just in time for the Sight & Sound list, will come " 35 Up ." And so the film will continue to grow... 42... 49... 56... 63... until Apted or his subjects are dead.

The miracle of the film is that it shows us that the seeds of the man are indeed in the child. In a sense, the destinies of all of these people can be guessed in their eyes, the first time we see them. Some do better than we expect, some worse, one seems completely bewildered. But the secret and mystery of human personality is there from the first. This ongoing film is an experiment unlike anything else in film history.

" 2001: A Space Odyssey "

Film can take us where we cannot go. It can also take our minds outside their shells, and this film by  Stanley Kubrick  is one of the great visionary experiences in the cinema. Yes, it was a landmark of special effects, so convincing that years later the astronauts, faced with the reality of outer space, compared it to "2001." But it was also a landmark of non-narrative, poetic filmmaking, in which the connections were made by images, not dialog or plot. An ape uses to learn a bone as a weapon, and this tool, flung into the air, transforms itself into a space ship--the tool that will free us from the bondage of this planet. And then the spaceship takes man on a voyage into the interior of what may be the mind of another species.

The debates about the "meaning" of this film still go on. Surely the whole point of the film is that it is beyond meaning, that it takes its character to a place he is so incapable of understanding that a special room--sort of a hotel room--has to be prepared for him there, so that he will not go mad. The movie lyrically and brutally challenges us to break out of the illusion that everyday mundane concerns are what must preoccupy us. It argues that surely man did not learn to think and dream, only to deaden himself with provincialism and selfishness. "2001" is a spiritual experience. But then all good movies are.


Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient    4 weeks ago

I have the greatest respect for the late Roger Ebert, for his having been the best and most knowledgable movie critic of all time.  I have seen seven of the movies on his list - Casablanca, Citizen Kane, La Dolce Vita, Notorious, Raging Bull, The Third Man and 2001: A Space Odyssey.  I would put all of those except for Raging Bull on my list of 10, for a lot of the same reasons, and I would add Schindler's List, The Godfather, High Noon, and if I may, the combination of Kurasawa's Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven.

By far, Casablanca has always been my favourite film of all time, not only for the reasons given by Ebert, but because so many of the actors were actual refugees from Nazi Germany, and because of the emotional depth and actual experiences of those actors in the film.  It is a fact that during the playing of “La Marseillaise” Yvonne's tears were not put on her cheeks with an eyedropper, they were the real thing.  Note this article which explains all about that scene, of the many levels, in the film:  LINK ->


When you read that article, you will understand why I feel about that movie the way I do and always did.


Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
1.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    4 weeks ago

This npr article explains and expands on my comment about refugees from Nazi Germany having roles in the film, and an actual source about Yvonne's tears. 

The real-life refugees of 'Casablanca' make it so much more than a love story


Casablanca also has one of the most prophetic quotes ever made in a film.  The movie was produced in the very early 1940s, while WW2 was raging.  Near the end of the film, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) says to Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart):  "Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win."

And a few years later, it did.

Professor Principal
2  JBB    4 weeks ago

My personal vote goes for LA Confidential for The Best Movie Ever...

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
2.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  JBB @2    4 weeks ago

Can you explain why?

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
3  seeder  Buzz of the Orient    4 weeks ago

Remakes have been made of many films, of many great films, and there is no doubt that Seven Samurai was a great film, even if not one of Ebert's choices, it is of other criitics.  Remakes can be good and of course they can be bad, but IMO The Magnificent Seven was a great remake of a great film. It is shown on TV now and then, and I never tire of watching it again.

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
4  seeder  Buzz of the Orient    4 weeks ago

I've indicated what I thought were 10 of the greatest movies of all time.  What does anyone else who is into watching great movies think they would put on such a list?

Professor Principal
5  Texan1211    4 weeks ago

My Top 10--in no particular order:

Field of Dreams

The Godfather

Rush Hour 1

Die Hard

The Natural

The Shawshank Redemption

Forrest Gump


On Golden Pond

The Sting

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
5.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Texan1211 @5    4 weeks ago

Pretty good choices.  I really like a lot of those as well.  But is there one that particularly stands out, like Casablanca does for me?

Professor Principal
5.1.1  Texan1211  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @5.1    4 weeks ago

Have to be Shaw shank redemption followed very closely by field of dreams.

I have always liked the main actors in both and can't seem to remember watching anything they were in that I didn't like.

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
5.1.2  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Texan1211 @5.1.1    4 weeks ago

Yeah, there are certain actors that can do no wrong.  Of your choices, I've liked Morgan Freeman in everything he's done, but I've got to make a confession - notwithstanding everything I've said above, I can watch the Jason Bourne movies over and over again. 

Freshman Silent
5.1.3  Dragon  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @5.1.2    4 weeks ago

We too will watch Jason Bourne movies over and over, also now John Wick movies. We also watch movies like Patriot Games, Hunt for Red October, Apollo 13 and movies like Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music over and over. Just watched Lilies of the Field again yesterday.

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
5.1.4  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Dragon @5.1.3    4 weeks ago

No matter how many times yoiu watch a movie, it's inevitable that you will see/hear/learn something you missed previously.  When I watch a movie more than once I start to automatically learn the dialogue, and think a whole dialogue through as I'm going to sleep or wake up during the night, in order to lull myself back to sleep.

Professor Principal
6  JohnRussell    4 weeks ago

The only of Eberts movies I would put in an all time top ten of mine is Casablanca. I have tried to watch Citizen Kane a few times and end up unimpressed. 

Some of my all  time favorites in no particular order

The Best Years Of Our Lives (maybe the most underrated movie ever, even though it won a bunch of Oscars)

Goodfellas (the best gangster movie ever made)

The Searchers

Saving Private Ryan

Million Dollar Baby


The Ten Commandments  (totally entertaining bible story)

Bridge Over The River Kwai


Apocalypse Now

White Heat (over the top gangsterism from James Cagney)

I will add one film I consider to be one movie, even though it is categorized as a tv min series. That would be Lonesome Dove, which in my opinion, is easily the best western of all time. 

Drinker of the Wry
Senior Expert
6.1  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  JohnRussell @6    4 weeks ago

Good list. I’ll have to find The Ten Commandments, I’m sure I have seen it but it’s the only one that I don’t remember.  Completely agree about Lonesome Dove.

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
6.1.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @6.1    4 weeks ago
I’ll have to find The Ten Commandments....

You might find them in a synagogue.  Sorry, I couldn't resist a little "wry" humour.

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
6.2  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  JohnRussell @6    4 weeks ago

All excellent movies, of course.  From you "I expected no less" (Major Heinrich Strasser).  Although the Lonesome Dove series commenced a couple years before I left Canada, I don't remember if I ever watched it. 

Professor Principal
6.2.1  JohnRussell  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @6.2    4 weeks ago
Although the Lonesome Dove series commenced a couple years before I left Canada, I don't remember if I ever watched it.

You should seek it out if you can. It is great. 

“Lonesome Dove” is simply a masterpiece of the western genre. The depiction of the harsh nature of the West makes for a realistic yet romantic miniseries, which took television audiences by storm with an average audience of 26 million homes, seven Emmy wins and two Golden Globe wins. “Lonesome Dove” transcends all expectations and delivers four visually stunning episodes. ‘Lonesome Dove’ proves to be one of the great westerns – Northern Star

Both Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones have never been better. 

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
6.2.2  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  JohnRussell @6.2.1    4 weeks ago

You did it, JR.  You got me hooked.  I just watched 2 episodes on bilibili, 'Part 1, Leaving' and 'Near the Platte River, Nebraska' (the one where the Lonesome Dove's sheriff's wife gives birth there).  I've always liked Tommy Lee Jones in all his movies, and of course Robert Duvall has never been anything less than perfect in any movie I've seen him in starting with Bo Radley.  It was a surprise to see Ricky Schroeder looking great as a young man.  I'll be spending more time watching episodes of that Western series that pulls no punches and it sure as hell ain't lilly white.  Fortunately I have a bunch here I can watch. 

Junior Quiet
7  afrayedknot    4 weeks ago

Great exercise, Buzz. As with any piece of art, it is purely subjective and there are really no right or wrong answers. My list is linked to those movies that if I stumble upon while flipping through stations, I’ll always stop and watch them reminiscing about why I love them so. In no particular order here you go:

2001: A Space Odyssey 

Best In Show

Bull Durham 

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Apollo 13

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s List

Life is Beautiful 

The Godfather 


and…Babette’s Feast (perhaps the sweetest movie I’ve ever seen, hard to find but worth discovering)

Thanks, again, Buzz…a nice diversion to be sure. Peace.

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
7.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  afrayedknot @7    4 weeks ago

I agree with your choices as being movies worth watching.  The only one I don't think I've seen is Babette's Feast.

Junior Quiet
7.1.1  afrayedknot  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @7.1    4 weeks ago

“The only one I don't think I've seen is Babette's Feast.”

It is a Danish film based on a book with the same title. It combines two of my loves…on the surface preparing an extraordinary dining experience, but doing so with little expectation in the appreciation of using your gift, but rather being totally satisfied in the process  And doing something special for your neighbors. 

It should be on any ‘foodies’ list. May watch it again this evening. Anyone seen it?

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
7.1.2  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  afrayedknot @7.1.1    4 weeks ago

Babette's Feast is available here on both bilibili and Yukou, but on both to see the movie properly requires a payment after the first 5 minutes, which I will not do.  However, many sections of it can be seen on Yukou and thankfully there are English subtitles so I can get somewhat of a picture of the movie.  Although IMDb does not have a complete synopsis, at least the storyline is posted so I can get the whole picture condensed to the essentials before watching the individual sections as fillers. 

Professor Guide
8  evilone    4 weeks ago

Picking 10 movies out of the thousands is really tough and subjective. The movies below are in no particular order, but all changed the way people made and watched cinema and had profound impact on the art. There are so many more I could switch these out with or add to the list.

Star Wars
Apocalypse Now
An American Werewolf in London
Night of the Living Dead
Seven Samurai
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

This list does confirm I'm a horror/sci nerd....

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
8.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  evilone @8    4 weeks ago

I've watched all of them - all are noteable movies, and I agree that they made some impact on the art of movie-making. 


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