Photo: Headlines of Today
Top 25 Hollywood movies of all time. Photo: Headlines of Today

The popcorn's been popped, the sweatpants are on, and the evening is your oyster. Your next challenge: Figuring out exactly which of the great movies available to you is the one you're going to commit to tonight. No matter what you're looking for—romance, drama, comedy—there are certain movies that, if you haven't seen yet, now's the perfect time for.

After all, if the past couple of months cooped up in our homes has taught us anything, it's that there's nothing better than a movie to take us to a place that's far, far away from our current one. These are modern classics, the best of the best, the movies that millions of people are most likely jealous that you get to see for the first time. There are a few that might be outside your comfort zone, and a couple that'll introduce you to cultures and environments you know nothing about. This list may be long, but FOMO is eternal. Now's the perfect time to catch up on the films that your friends can't believe you haven't seen yet.

Here are the 25 Hollywood films absolutely everyone should see (and if you've seen them, ones to watch again and again).

1. The Godfather

Photo: Britannica
Photo: Britannica

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $626,025,500

Famous quote: "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse." — Don Corleone

The Godfather came into this world, in the form of Mario Puzo's novel, as pulp. In a feat of creative alchemy arguably unsurpassed before or since, Coppola and his collaborators turned the Mafia melodrama into popular art that satisfies on every possible level -- as a family drama, a crime saga, a visual and musical ravishment and an impeccable evocation of a historical period.

Godfather is 42 years old, meaning anyone who saw it when it came out in 1972 is pushing 60 or older. This suggests its narrative power, extraordinary performances and mythic values register as strongly for younger viewers as they did at the time. The film also happens to stand at the precise midpoint between the arrival of sound films and the present. It is both classical and modern, traditional in its storytelling and contemporary in its critical perspective. It's a film that does it all. — Todd McCarthy.

2. The Wizard of Oz

Director: Victor Fleming

Cast: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $32,950,500

Famous quote: "Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!" — Dorothy

"If I was on a desert island, I'd bring The Wizard of Oz with me," says Elizabeth Daley, dean of the USC School of Cinematic Arts. "It always makes me feel alive. I could watch it over and over." And people have, generation after generation. In fact, it's the most-watched film of all time, according to the Library of Congress, thanks to regular showings on broadcast television since the mid-1950s (and on cable since the '90s). That's not including sequels and prequels, which Hollywood keeps releasing each decade like swarms of flying monkeys. The most recent, Oz the Great and Powerful, starring James Franco as a hunky young wizard, grossed more than $230 million domestically. That yellow brick road clearly is made of gold.

3. The Godfather: Part II

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $202,374,900

Famous quote: "There are many things my father taught me here in this room. He taught me: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." — Michael Corleone

Arguments over which Godfather is greater, the first or second, began as soon as the sequel was released. The first film has the edge among this poll's respondents, but Part II has die-hard fans as well. "It's one of those movies," says producer Albert Berger, "that has every element of cinema working at the highest level. And it's entertaining, and it says something about our country."

4. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Photo: Newsweek
Photo: Newsweek

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace

Domestic lifetime gross: (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $989,737,100

Famous quote: “Be good.” — E.T.

It's the first Spielberg film on the list but hardly the last (he has seven). And it totally makes sense that E.T. would be his most popular because it's basically The Wizard of Oz in reverse. Think about it: A 3-foot-tall munchkin lands on Earth, where he's befriended by a trio of locals (and their little dog) who help him the phone to no-place-like-home until, at the end, where does E.T. go in his spaceship? That's right -- over the rainbow. "I never thought of that before," said Spielberg a few years ago when the theory was presented to him. "Do you mind if I steal that?"

5. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $344,621,600

Famous quote: “Well, I don’t think there is any question about it. It can only be attributable to human error. This sort of thing has cropped up before, and it has always been due to human error.” — Hal

It was the first outer-space movie to take outer space -- and special effects -- seriously (so seriously Kubrick had the sets destroyed after production to make sure they didn't turn up in subsequent inferior sci-fi films). Sure, it creaks beside its successors, including Close Encounters and Star Wars, but 2001 does have one of the most famous match-cuts in movie history (the bone turning into a spaceship). And even though the smooth-talking computer in the film has an operating system that's 46 years old, people still want to own it: The HAL 9000 app on iTunes has been downloaded an estimated quarter-million times.

6. Star Wars

Director: George Lucas

Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation 2014): $1,136,162,800

Famous quote: "Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid." — Han Solo

Star Wars set the bar for lots of things: special effects, box-office receipts, the incorporation of mythological storytelling structure, the number of aliens that can fit comfortably into a bar. But its real legacy is The Deal: Lucas negotiated rights to both the merchandising and the sequels -- deemed worthless by Fox in 1977, but today they are worth billions.

7. Raiders of the Lost Ark

Photo: Ultimate Classic Rock
Photo: Ultimate Classic Rock

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation 2014): $614,823,400

Famous quote: "You want to talk to God? Let's go see him together, I've got nothing better to do." — Indiana Jones

Dreamed up while George Lucas and Spielberg were vacationing in Hawaii, Raiders indulged Lucas' desire to make an old-fashioned serial and scratched Spielberg's itch to make a globe-trotting James Bond film (incredibly, the 007 producers had turned down his services). When Jeff Bridges said no to the role of Indiana Jones (initially named Smith) and Tom Selleck couldn't get out of his Magnum P.I. contract, Lucas turned to his Han Solo.

**Read more: Best Movies on HBO Max: Updated List for March, 2021!

8. Gone With the Wind

Director: Victor Fleming

Cast: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $1,592,000,000

Famous quote: “I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.” — Scarlett

It's still the longest film to win best picture (nearly four hours) and the first to have an African-American cast member win an Oscar (Hattie McDaniel). Ironically, its only surviving star is Olivia de Havilland, 97, whose character was the main one to die.

9. To Kill a Mockingbird

Director: Robert Mulligan

Cast: Gregory Peck, Robert Duvall, Mary Badham, Phillip Alford

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): No numbers available

Famous quote: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view ... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” — Atticus Finch

More than 50 years later, this is still a pitch-perfect portrait of race and rural America during the Great Depression. No wonder it's Superman's favorite movie (according to Clark Kent's Wikipedia page, at any rate).

10. Apocalypse Now

Photo: Hollywood Reporter
Photo: Hollywood Reporter

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Cast: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $249,848,900

Famous quote: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” — Kilgore

Harvey Keitel got fired. Brando showed up overweight and unprepared. Sheen had a heart attack and nearly died. And storms destroyed many of the sets. Has a better film ever been made from worse circumstances?

11. It's a Wonderful Life

Director: Frank Capra

Cast: James Stewart, Donna Reed

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): No numbers available

Famous quote: “Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.” — Zuzu Bailey

It was Capra's favorite, and Stewart's, too, but it bombed when it first was released. Like George Bailey, though, it got a second chance, becoming a holiday classic thanks to endless Christmas TV showings.

12. Chinatown

Director: Roman Polanski

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $124,295,200

Famous quote: " 'Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough." — Noah Cross

This is the first of three Nicholson films to make the 100. But he's beaten by Robert Duvall and Robert De Niro (both with four) and by Marlon Brando and Harrison Ford (with five apiece).

13. The Silence of the Lambs

Photo: Roger Ebert
Photo: Roger Ebert

Director: Jonathan Demme

Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $247,200,400

Famous quote: "A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti." — Hannibal Lecter

The only horror film ever to win best picture. It also won best director, adapted screenplay, actress and actor (for Hopkins' 25-minute turn, the second-shortest performance to win that trophy behind Peter Finch's in Network).

14. Singin' in the Rain

Directors: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly

Cast: Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $1,741,800

Famous quote: "Lina. She can't act, she can't sing, she can't dance. A triple threat." — Cosmo Brown

Reynolds once said that making this film and giving birth were the two hardest things she'd ever done. Kelly reportedly was a tyrant on the set.

15. Blade Runner

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $74,672,700

Famous quote: "Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave." — Batty

Despite studio tinkering (adding a voiceover, slapping in aerial footage shot for Kubrick's The Shining to give the ending a sunny feel), it remains the ultimate noir, sci-fi detective movie.

16. The Empire Strikes Back

Photo: BBC
Photo: BBC

Director: Irvin Kershner

Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $627,743,400

Famous quote: "No. I am your father." — Darth Vader

An almost Shakespearean tragedy. The hero loses a hand but gains a father. And his best friend is frozen solid. Try and imagine the second installment of another giant sci-fi franchise that ends on such a downer. Go ahead.

17. American Beauty

Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $198,483,000

Famous quote: "Remember those posters that said, ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life?’ Well, that's true of every day but one — the day you die." — Lester Burnham

Chevy Chase, Kevin Costner, and John Travolta all reportedly were considered for the part of Lester Burnham (which, incidentally, is an anagram for "Humbert learns," one of the film's many hat tips to Lolita).

18. When Harry Met Sally

Director: Rob Reiner

Cast: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $186,114,700

Famous quote: “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” — Harry Burns

Talk about great acting. According to sources on the set, Crystal and Ryan hated each other's guts. (Although Crystal denies it, saying he and Ryan had a great working relationship.)

19. Fight Club

Photo: Entrepreneur
Photo: Entrepreneur

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $57,957,800

Famous quote: “Welcome to Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club!” — Tyler Durden

Bonham Carter's line after her sex scene with Pitt -- "That was the best f-- I've had since grade school" -- was a replacement. The original, more offensive line: "I want to have your abortion."

20. Psycho

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $339,626,800

Famous quote: “They're probably watching me. Well, let them. Let them see what kind of a person I am. I'm not even going to swat that fly. I hope they are watching... they'll see. They'll see and they'll know, and they'll say, ‘Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly…’” — Norman Bates

Hitch's serial killer thriller was a shocker -- but not just because of the shower scene. It was the first film to show a toilet.

21. Alien

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, John Hurt

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $250,359,100

Famous quote: “You are my lucky star. You... Lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky.” — Ripley

When they shot the film's most famous scene -- the alien bursting through Hurt's chest -- the filmmakers didn't tell the cast what would happen. The horror on their faces is real.

22. Toy Story

Photo: Empire
Photo: Empire

Director: John Lasseter

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $349,191,900

Famous quote: “To infinity, and beyond!” — Buzz Lightyear

Each CGI frame took from four to 13 hours to render, nearly as long as the last iPhone update.

23. Titanic

Director: James Cameron

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $1,021,633,200

Famous quote: “I'll never let go, Jack. I'll never let go.” — Rose

Both were the biggest of their day (882 feet for the vessel; $200 million for the film). But the boat sank, while the film went on to become the second-largest grosser in history (after Avatar).

24. Jurassic Park

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $686,198,500

Famous quote: “Hold on to your butts.” — Ray Arnold

There was a four-way bidding war for Michael Crichton's novel: Warner Bros. wanted it for Tim Burton, Fox liked it for Joe Dante, Columbia chased it for Richard Donner, but Universal won for Spielberg.

25. The Dark Knight

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger

Domestic lifetime gross (adjusted for inflation, 2014): $591,181,400

Famous quote: “Some people just want to watch the world burn.” — Alfred Pennyworth

Ledger took the Joker very seriously, even applying his own face paint before each shot.

After all, there are other movie lists. Lots and lots of others. So many lists, you couldn't list them all. But this is the first to ask the entertainment industry itself to pick its choices for the best pictures ever made. In May, THR sent an online ballot all over town — to every studio, agency, publicity firm and production house on either side of the 405. Not everybody was initially thrilled to participate, according to Hollywood Reporter.

"I reject the idea," Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan told THR. "To me, it's the equivalent of having a party-size bag of Nacho Doritos, then being told to eat only five." In the end, though, he sent in his favorites (one of which is 1961's Yojimbo), as did a total of 2,120 industry members, including Fox chief Jim Gianopulos, Disney's Alan Horn, director Gary Ross, producer Frank Marshall, Warners' Sue Kroll, agent Robert Newman, attorney John Burke, filmmaker John Singleton and many more. These are the results: the greatest movies ever made, according to Hollywood.

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