Each curated list at FilmsRanked.com takes into account genre acclaim, prestige, popularity, and awards. They can serve as an introduction to a genre while also challenging film buffs who are looking to round out their knowledge.
America’s Favorite Christmas Movies
America loves its Christmas movies. We conducted a nationwide survey to ask a randomized sample of Americans what their favorite Christmas movies are of all time. They were free to answer any movie they wanted – we didn’t restrict their choices. Here’s what they said.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1965)
The stop-motion Christmas special has delighted children with its songs and stories for generations. It’s the longest continuously-running Christmas TV special for a good reason – the 55-minute movie packed with characters like the Abominable Snow Monster, Hermey the Dentist, and of course, Rudolph.
These characters struggle to fit in with a North Pole culture that is supposedly based on peace and joy but harbors stereotypes and rewards bullies. The film resonates with millions who relate to their story.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
The film won three Academy Awards and was nominated for Best Picture. This includes a Best Supporting Actor Award for Edmund Gwenn, the only person to win an Oscar for playing Santa Claus.
The 1994 remake with Richard Attenborough and Mara Wilson is good in its own right.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
This 1966 TV special is by far the best adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s 1957 classic children’s book. It’s not just the stellar voice acting by horror legend Boris Karloff or the class-A animation by legendary director Chuck Jones or even the beautifully evil bass performance of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch by Thurl Ravenscroft. The short film maintains the simplicity and touching beauty of the original story and serves as a corrective to the Grinch in all of us.
Home Alone (1990)
Macaulay Caulkin starred as Kevin McCallister, the youngest member of a large family preparing to vacation in Paris for the holidays. But the family rushes to the airport too quickly and leaves Kevin (wait for it…) home alone.
Kevin defends his house from burglars with his homemade booby traps straight out of childhood fantasies. And, of course, he learns a little lesson about Christmas along the way.
Die Hard (1988)
The answer, of course, is yes. Die Hard is set at a holiday party, for crying out loud. Christmas decor, music, and themes are all over this film. It even has a heartwarming ending. Just because it’s an action film doesn’t mean it’s not as holly jolly as the other movies on this list.
Bruce Willis stars as a cop who visits his wife at Nakatomi Plaza. Terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman in one of his best roles) and Willis’s character must stop them.
White Christmas (1954)
Although it’s best known for the titular song, White Christmas includes many standards. Some of those were previously most recognizable from their association with blackface. (Blue Skies, Minstrel Number)
The film was the biggest box office hit of 1954. Bing Crosby and composer Irving Berlin got a quarter of the profits each.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
Griswold wants to create the perfect Christmas for his family, but it never really works out. And when Cousin Eddie pulls up in an RV, things get even worse. At least he has that Christmas bonus coming?
The film encapsulates the feelings of pressure and lack of control that hit most of us at holiday time. And it gave us a way to describe that neighbor who — every year — goes just a little overboard with the Christmas lights.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
It’s a Wonderful Life is the paragon of James Stewart’s everyman “aw, shucks” heroism. It also tempers Frank Capra’s signature sentimentality with enough bitterness and realism that the fantasy resolution rings true with emotion.
A Christmas Story (1983)
Ralphie wants just one thing for Christmas, a Red Ryder Range 200 Shot BB gun. His parents’ response? “You’ll shoot your eye out!”
Ralphie participates in holiday festivities. But like most children, those presents under the Christmas tree are always at the top of his mind. He fantasizes about the BB gun and how he could use it to catch the bad guys. But will Ralphie’s Christmas dream actually come true?
The real world never lives up to our Christmas expectations, and Buddy learns this lesson the hard way. He refuses to let go of his optimism and hope, no matter how much it annoys his dad. Can Buddy rally New York into celebrating Christmas the way it is meant to be celebrated?
The 200 Greatest Fantasy Films of All Time
Fantasy is one of cinema’s oldest genres — Georges Méliès made beautiful magic in the 19th Century. But while filmmakers created indelible classics and unforgettable worlds through the 1900s, fantasy didn’t become a reliable blockbuster bet until the 21st Century. This list explores the evolution and milestones of fantasy films.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
The Wizard of Oz is the greatest fantasy film of all time, not only because of Judy Garland’s amazing voice, the lush Technicolor magic, and the captivating story.
The film is also a crucial piece of cinema culture, but also an iconic, irreplaceable part of American heritage. The Library of Congress believes it is the most-watched movie of all time, and the Smithsonian Museum of American History showcases many items from the film, including Dorothy’s ruby slippers.
The Two Towers (2002)
The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Return of the King (2003)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
The Princess Bride (1987)
Groundhog Day (1993)
The Thief of Bagdad (1940)
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
All the President's Men (1972)
Critics have long praised the film for its writing and acting. (Robert Redford & Dustin Hoffman are the leads) The two expertly portray the struggles of democracy’s guardians, its journalists.
But the film is #1 on this list for its examination of one of our republic’s most significant tests — what would it do with a president who broke the law to stay in power?
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
I’ll avoid any overt spoilers here. But “Manchurian candidate” is a well-known phrase, and it’ll get spoiled for you somehow if you don’t watch it soon.
The paranoid thriller is a must-see classic. It has an energy and relevance that gives it a ‘ripped from the headlines’ feel, even 50+ years later.
The musicians gather for a rally to support the fictional “Replacement Party” candidate Hal Phillip Walker. Walker’s campaign vehicle roams the streets, broadcasting barbs the candidate has made against the establishment. “Congress is composed of 535 individuals. 285 are lawyers. And you wonder what is wrong with Congress” is one.
Nashville is often seen as an oracle that prophesied the coming of the modern celebrity candidate. But Walker is never seen on camera. The stars are the singers, musicians, organizers, and groupies who come together to put on the show. No one is more important than anyone else in this film.
The War Room (1993)
The documentary gives a close-up look at the two men who were heralded as geniuses for giving Clinton a come-from-behind win. Pennebaker’s cinema verité style captures the energy and intensity of Clinton’s campaign. The documentary is never melodramatic, but there’s always a sense that the country’s future depends on what happens around the table.
Election tells the story of the race for student body president. Matthew Broderick plays a social studies teacher who sabotages the candidacy of the overachieving student Tracy Flick, played by Reese Witherspoon.
The film was a critical hit, but not all of it has aged well. The idea that there’s something wrong or annoying with an ambitious woman or girl is pretty sexist. And it’s really hard to root for the jock – played by Chris Klein – or for the creepy teacher. But it’s a film that has influenced a generation — Barack Obama called it his favorite political film.
Sean Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black both won Oscars for their work on the film.
Although Milk’s assassination bookends the film, the movie has an optimistic, hopeful tone. It was released in 2008 when the LGTBQ rights movement was on the ascent and seven years before the Supreme Court recognized marriage equality.
All the other films in the top ten are cynical takes on presidential elections or exaggerated comedies about running for class president. Milk tells the story of local municipal elections — ones mostly overlooked by the voters they directly affect.
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Napoleon Dynamite is a cult classic with an offbeat sense of humor, released in 2004 just as nerd culture started to become hip. Filmed on a tiny budget in Idaho, the indie comedy is a gentle break from the harsh satire found in the rest of the list.
Game Change (2012)
Julianne Moore portrays Palin with empathy and care. We see how the media coverage and the condescending attitude the McCain Campaign had toward her genuinely hurt. Most of us can recognize the feeling of being in over our heads that Moore evokes.
In a 2018 article for The Guardian, David Smith compares John McCain to John of Gaunt from Richard II, writing that he “spent his twilight years raging against the coarsening of civic life, he must have been aware that his legacy would include a decision that helped unleash the very forces he came to despise.”
Ed Harris shows us McCain’s weariness and regrets. His performance won one of the movie’s three Emmys.
The Candidate (1972)
But McKay finds himself drawn into the political game, and he changes more and more as he rises in the polls.
The Candidate is a direct forerunner of modern satires like Veep and House of Cards. Bill McKay is nowhere near as deceitful as the politicians in those shows. But that’s where the film’s bite comes from. It features behavior in “normal” politics from a candidate who is a basically good person and reminds us that this too, is “bullshit.”
Primary Colors (1998)
Like most of the films on this list, Primary Colors offers a cynical take on politics. We experience events through the eyes of an idealistic campaign worker who isn’t prepared to do what it takes to get Travolta elected.
Released just a couple of months after the Lewinsky scandal broke, it garnered Oscar nods for Kathy Bates and screenwriter Elaine May.
The 200 Greatest Horror Films of All Time
Horror is one of the most primal types of film. Perhaps some of the first stories humans ever told were of the horror genre, warning of the beasts and monsters that lurked outside at night. Now special effects and other narrative techniques work to bring tales of modern monsters to billions across the globe. This list of 200 greatest horror films is a guide for both a film neophyte wanting to see the best of the best and a film expert looking for a masterpiece she may have overlooked.
Naming Alien the Greatest Horror Movie of All Time is bound to be a bit controversial. Although nearly everyone agrees it qualifies as a horror movie, it’s quite a bit different than most other classics of the genre. It’s in space. It’s sci-fi. And there’s no real sense of the supernatural.
There are two stars in Alien: Sigourney Weaver and the alien. Weaver created a new type of action hero, giving depth to the type of role that usually lacks it. And the creature’s famous creation by H.R. Giger is the stuff of nightmares. Watch the movie again. It’s horrifying. And when you combine horror expert, film critic, popular appeal and award recognition, it’s the GOAT.
The Shining (1980)
Rosemary's Baby (1969)
28 Days Later (2002)
Get Out (2017)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The Wicker Man (1973)
The 200 Greatest Musicals of All Time
Musicals are movie-making at its most spectacular. They unify sight and sound, create performances of song, dance and story. They bring us back to films’ antecedents on stage and push the art form forward into the future. This list of 200 musicals is a guide for both a film neophyte wanting to see the best of the best and a film expert looking for a masterpiece she may have overlooked.
West Side Story (1961)
The Lion King (1994)
Singin' in the Rain (1951)
The Sound of Music (1965)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
La La Land (2016)
All That Jazz (1979)
An American In Paris (1951)
The 200 Greatest Westerns of All Time
The Old West has been a source of American mythology for well more than a century. The genre grew alongside the birth of cinema. The character of the “cowboy” is instantly recognizable across the globe – and is synonymous both with Hollywood and the United States itself. These 100 films explore the varied ways filmmakers have creatively used the Western and created these larger-than-life legends.
The Searchers (1956)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
High Noon (1952)
Rio Bravo (1959)
The 100 Greatest Superhero Films of All Time
Superhero films are a relative newcomer to the entertainment world. 80% of the films on this list were released in the 21st Century — by far the most recent-heavy list on the site. But the genre has already created some of Hollywood’s most indelible classics. I anticipate this list changing a lot as I update it every year.
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Avengers (2012)
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Iron Man (2008)
Wonder Woman (2017)
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928)
City Lights (1931)
The General (1926)
Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
The Gold Rush (1925)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)