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.
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 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)
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)
Like many parents of young children, I’ve spent a lot of this time of quarantine watching Disney +. A lot of time.
There are a lot of questions to puzzle over in the Frozen franchise. Was Anna included in Elsa’s seclusion or not? She sings as though she’s never been outside the castle, and yet she has a horse and seems to know her way around the kingdom. Why would she be included? And who enforced that rule after her parents’ deaths? For that matter, Elsa’s delayed coronation implies a period of regency, yet no one in Frozen or Frozen II appears to have played that role. There are no advisers or ministers to manage the kingdom while Elsa and Anna go off on their adventures — the royal siblings appoint outsiders Prince Hans of the Southern Isles and Grandpa Troll to watch over Arendelle.
But the biggest mystery in the world of Arendelle is the economy.
The Duke of Wesleton calls Arendelle his “most mysterious trade partner.” What is so mysterious? What goods does Wesleton trade with Arendelle? What are the “riches” Wesleton plans to exploit?
Arendelle is based on the nation of Norway in the early 19th Century. The Disney Wiki uses information from the short sequel Frozen Fever to narrow the setting down to an exact month:
The time period for Frozen is set in July 1839. In the upper left-hand corner of the geographical map shown in Frozen Fever, it is suggested by a set of Roman numerals that the year in which Anna turned nineteen was 1840. (MDCCCXL is the exact numeral order.)
The Economic History Association article on the Economic History of Norway tells us more about this era:
During the last decades of the eighteenth century the Norwegian economy bloomed along with a first era of liberalism. Foreign trade of fish and timber had already been important for the Norwegian economy for centuries, and now the merchant fleet was growing rapidly. Bergen, located at the west coast, was the major city, with a Hanseatic office and one of the Nordic countries’ largest ports for domestic and foreign trade.
When Norway gained its independence from Denmark in 1814, after a tight union covering 417 years, it was a typical egalitarian country with a high degree of self-supply from agriculture, fisheries and hunting.
Norway’s economy didn’t really take off until 1842, just after the events of Frozen. This was due to trade liberalization and the decision by farmers to switch from arable land to livestock production. Exports of timber, fish, and ships also skyrocketed.
But real-world Norwegian economic history isn’t reflected in what we see in the film.
When Wesleton sees Prince Hans handing out blankets, he angrily confronts him saying:
“Are we just expected to sit here and freeze while you give away all of Arendelle’s tradeable goods?”
Blankets? Blankets are Arendelle’s main export?
An article at The Fandomentals concludes ice is Arendelle’s primary export:
From the get-go, ice is established as an important industry. And for good reason. As our main man Frederic Tudor showed us around the turn of the 19th century, ice can be quite a valuable commodity. Before the establishment of the ice trade, it was only an item for the aristocracy. But harvesting and storing it in a large quantity allows for the preservation of foods throughout the year without an over reliance on salt, which also in-turn reduces dependency on expensive spices that were used to balance a meal’s flavor-profile.
As strange as it seems, Frozen very much presents ice as the center of Arendelle’s economy.
This presents a disturbing possibility. King Agnarr sequesters his daughter Elsa and tells her not to use her powers. He says this is because he wants to protect his other daughter, Anna. This rationale never really makes sense to most viewers. And why erase Anna’s memory as well? That hardly seems necessary.
But these actions *do* make sense if King Agnarr is trying to protect his country’s economy.
Imagine you’re Prime Minister of Kuwait. Your economy is heavily dependent on exporting oil. Then one day, a girl is born who starts running around, creating oil out of thin air. And not just a little bit of oil — she can generate enough oil to fill a palace ballroom in less than a minute.
If you let her, she’ll give free oil to everyone. Prices will plummet. Your nation’s businesses will collapse, and unemployment will skyrocket. People like Kristoff will starve to death. Within months, your subjects will be brandishing pitchforks at the palace door.
So you lock her up.
One day, when she’s older and can understand, you’ll let her use her power. An inexhaustible supply of oil can bring your nation great riches, as long as it’s properly managed.
In the meantime, you’ll go on a secret voyage to learn more about exactly how the girl got her powers. Obviously, no one else can be trusted with this knowledge — you and your spouse will have to go yourselves.
Hopefully, the boat is waterproof.