The 100 greatest American films by BBC

"BBC Culture polled film critics from around the world to determine the best American movies ever made. The results are surprising – Gone With the Wind appears at 97."

- BBC


Weight: 75


Detractions

  1. Limited to single country or region (-25)

Films (100)

1. Citizen Kane

Directed by Orson Welles | 119 min | 1941|

Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance.

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2. The Godfather

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola | R | 175 min | 1972|

The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.

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3. Vertigo

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock | PG | 128 min | 1958|

A San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend's wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her.

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4. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Directed by Stanley Kubrick | G | 149 min | 1968|

Humanity finds a mysterious, obviously artificial object buried beneath the Lunar surface and, with the intelligent computer H.A.L. 9000, sets off on a quest.

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5. The Searchers

Directed by John Ford | 119 min | 1956|

A Civil War veteran embarks on a journey to rescue his niece from an Indian tribe.

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6. Sunrise

Directed by F.W. Murnau | 94 min | 1927|

A married farmer falls under the spell of a slatternly woman from the city, who tries to convince him to drown his wife.

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7. Singin' in the Rain

Directed by Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly | 103 min | 1952|

A silent film production company and cast make a difficult transition to sound.

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8. Psycho

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock | R | 109 min | 1960|

A Phoenix secretary steals $40,000 from her employer's client, goes on the run and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.

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9. Casablanca

Directed by Michael Curtiz | PG | 102 min | 1942|

In Casablanca, Morocco in December 1941, a cynical American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications.

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10. The Godfather: Part II

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola | R | 202 min | 1974|

The early life and career of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York is portrayed while his son, Michael, expands and tightens his grip on his crime syndicate stretching from Lake Tahoe, Nevada to pre-revolution 1958 Cuba.

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11. The Magnificent Ambersons

Directed by Orson Welles, Fred Fleck, Robert Wise | 88 min | 1942|

The spoiled young heir to the decaying Amberson fortune comes between his widowed mother and the man she has always loved.

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12. Chinatown

Directed by Roman Polanski | R | 130 min | 1974|

A private detective hired to expose an adulterer finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption and murder.

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13. North by Northwest

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock | 136 min | 1959|

A hapless New York advertising executive is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies, and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive.

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14. Nashville

Directed by Robert Altman | R | 159 min | 1975|

Over the course of a few hectic days, numerous interrelated people prepare for a political convention as secrets and lies are surfaced and revealed.

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15. The Best Years of Our Lives

Directed by William Wyler | 172 min | 1946|

Three World War II veterans return home to small-town America to discover that they and their families have been irreparably changed.

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16. McCabe & Mrs. Miller

Directed by Robert Altman | R | 120 min | 1971|

A gambler and a prostitute become business partners in a remote Old West mining town, and their enterprise thrives until a large corporation arrives on the scene.

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17. The Gold Rush

Directed by Charles Chaplin | 95 min | 1925|

A prospector goes to the Klondike in search of gold and finds it and more.

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18. City Lights

Directed by Charles Chaplin | 87 min | 1931|

With the aid of a wealthy erratic tippler, a dewy-eyed tramp who has fallen in love with a sightless flower girl accumulates money to be able to help her medically.

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19. Taxi Driver

Directed by Martin Scorsese | R | 113 min | 1976|

A mentally unstable Vietnam War veteran works as a night-time taxi driver in New York City where the perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge for violent action, attempting to save a preadolescent prostitute in the process.

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20. Goodfellas

Directed by Martin Scorsese | R | 146 min | 1990|

Henry Hill and his friends work their way up through the mob hierarchy.

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21. Mulholland Drive

Directed by David Lynch | R | 147 min | 2001|

After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.

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22. Greed

Directed by Erich von Stroheim | 140 min | 1924|

The sudden fortune won from a lottery fans such destructive greed that it ruins the lives of the three people involved.

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23. Annie Hall

Directed by Woody Allen | PG | 93 min | 1977|

Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the ditzy Annie Hall.

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24. The Apartment

Directed by Billy Wilder | 125 min | 1960|

A man tries to rise in his company by letting its executives use his apartment for trysts, but complications and a romance of his own ensue.

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25. Do the Right Thing

Directed by Spike Lee | R | 120 min | 1989|

On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone's hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence.

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26. Killer of Sheep

Directed by Charles Burnett | N/A | 83 min | 1978|

Stan works in drudgery at a slaughterhouse. His personal life is drab. Dissatisfaction and ennui keep him unresponsive to the needs of his adoring wife, and he must struggle against ...


27. Barry Lyndon

Directed by Stanley Kubrick | PG | 184 min | 1975|

An Irish rogue wins the heart of a rich widow and assumes her dead husband's aristocratic position in 18th-century England.

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28. Pulp Fiction

Directed by Quentin Tarantino | R | 154 min | 1994|

The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster's wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.

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29. Raging Bull

Directed by Martin Scorsese | R | 129 min | 1980|

An emotionally self-destructive boxer's journey through life, as the violence and temper that leads him to the top in the ring destroys his life outside it.

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30. Some Like It Hot

Directed by Billy Wilder | 120 min | 1959|

When two musicians witness a mob hit, they flee the state in an all-female band disguised as women, but further complications set in.

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31. A Woman Under the Influence

Directed by John Cassavetes | R | 155 min | 1974|

Mabel, a wife and mother, is loved by her husband Nick but her madness proves to be a problem in the marriage. The film transpires to a positive role of madness in the family, challenging conventional representations of madness in cinema.

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32. The Lady Eve

Directed by Preston Sturges | 94 min | 1941|

A trio of classy card sharps targets the socially awkward heir to brewery millions for his money, till one of them falls in love with him.

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33. The Conversation

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola | PG | 113 min | 1974|

A paranoid, secretive surveillance expert has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple he is spying on will be murdered.

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34. The Wizard of Oz

Directed by Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy, Norman Taurog, King Vidor | 102 min | 1939|

Dorothy Gale is swept away to a magical land in a tornado and embarks on a quest to see the Wizard who can help her return home.

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35. Double Indemnity

Directed by Billy Wilder | 107 min | 1944|

An insurance representative lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator's suspicions.

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36. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

Directed by George Lucas | PG | 121 min | 1977|

Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a wookiee and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire's world-destroying battle-station, while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader.

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37. Imitation of Life

Directed by Douglas Sirk | 125 min | 1959|

A struggling young actress with a six year-old daughter sets up housekeeping with a homeless black widow and her light-skinned eight year-old daughter who rejects her mother by trying to pass for white.

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38. Jaws

Directed by Steven Spielberg | PG | 124 min | 1975|

When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and a grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.

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39. The Birth of a Nation

Directed by D.W. Griffith | 165 min | 1915|

The American Civil War divides friends and destroys families, but that's nothing compared to the anarchy in the black-ruled South after the war.

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40. Meshes of the Afternoon

Directed by Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid | N/A | 14 min | 1943|

A woman returning home falls asleep and has vivid dreams that may or may not be happening in reality. Through repetitive images and complete mismatching of the objective view of time and space, her dark inner desires play out on-screen.

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41. Rio Bravo

Directed by Howard Hawks | 141 min | 1959|

A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold in jail the brother of the local bad guy.

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42. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Directed by Stanley Kubrick | PG | 95 min | 1964|

An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically try to stop.

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43. Letter from an Unknown Woman

Directed by Max Ophüls | 86 min | 1948|

A pianist about to flee from a duel receives a letter from a woman he cannot remember, who may hold the key to his downfall.


44. Sherlock Jr.

Directed by Buster Keaton | 45 min | 1924|

A film projectionist longs to be a detective, and puts his meagre skills to work when he is framed by a rival for stealing his girlfriend's father's pocketwatch.

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45. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Directed by John Ford | 123 min | 1962|

A senator, who became famous for killing a notorious outlaw, returns for the funeral of an old friend and tells the truth about his deed.

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46. It's a Wonderful Life

Directed by Frank Capra | PG | 130 min | 1946|

An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.

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47. Marnie

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock | 130 min | 1964|

Mark marries Marnie although she is a habitual thief and has serious psychological problems, and tries to help her confront and resolve them.

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48. A Place in the Sun

Directed by George Stevens | 122 min | 1951|

A poor boy gets a job working for his rich uncle and ends up falling in love with two women.

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49. Days of Heaven

Directed by Terrence Malick | PG | 94 min | 1978|

A hot-tempered farm laborer convinces the woman he loves to marry their rich but dying boss so that they can have a claim to his fortune.

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50. His Girl Friday

Directed by Howard Hawks | 92 min | 1940|

A newspaper editor uses every trick in the book to keep his ace reporter ex-wife from remarrying.

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51. Touch of Evil

Directed by Orson Welles | PG-13 | 95 min | 1958|

A stark, perverse story of murder, kidnapping, and police corruption in a Mexican border town.

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52. The Wild Bunch

Directed by Sam Peckinpah | R | 145 min | 1969|

An aging group of outlaws look for one last big score as the "traditional" American West is disappearing around them.

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53. Grey Gardens

Directed by Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Muffie Meyer | PG | 94 min | 1975|

An old mother and her middle-aged daughter, the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, live their eccentric lives in a filthy, decaying mansion in East Hampton.

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54. Sunset Boulevard

Directed by Billy Wilder | 110 min | 1950|

A hack screenwriter writes a screenplay for a former silent-film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity.

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55. The Graduate

Directed by Mike Nichols | 106 min | 1967|

A disillusioned college graduate finds himself torn between his older lover and her daughter.

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56. Back to the Future

Directed by Robert Zemeckis | PG | 116 min | 1985|

Marty McFly, a 17-year-old high school student, is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his close friend, the maverick scientist Doc Brown.

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57. Crimes and Misdemeanors

Directed by Woody Allen | PG-13 | 104 min | 1989|

An ophthalmologist's mistress threatens to reveal their affair to his wife, while a married documentary filmmaker is infatuated by another woman.


58. The Shop Around the Corner

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch | 99 min | 1940|

Two employees at a gift shop can barely stand one another, without realizing that they're falling in love through the post as each other's anonymous pen pal.

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59. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Directed by Milos Forman | R | 133 min | 1975|

A criminal pleads insanity after getting into trouble again and once in the mental institution rebels against the oppressive nurse and rallies up the scared patients.

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60. Blue Velvet

Directed by David Lynch | R | 120 min | 1986|

The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and a group of psychopathic criminals who have kidnapped her child.

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61. Eyes Wide Shut

Directed by Stanley Kubrick | R | 159 min | 1999|

A New York City doctor, who is married to an art curator, pushes himself on a harrowing and dangerous night-long odyssey of sexual and moral discovery after his wife admits that she once almost cheated on him.

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62. The Shining

Directed by Stanley Kubrick | R | 146 min | 1980|

A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future.

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63. Love Streams

Directed by John Cassavetes | PG-13 | 141 min | 1984|

Two closely bound, emotionally wounded siblings reunite after years apart.

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64. Johnny Guitar

Directed by Nicholas Ray | 110 min | 1954|

A strong willed female saloon owner is wrongly suspected of murder and bank robbery by a lynch mob, when she helps a wounded gang member.

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65. The Right Stuff

Directed by Philip Kaufman | PG | 193 min | 1983|

The story of the original Mercury 7 astronauts and their macho, seat-of-the-pants approach to the space program.

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66. Red River

Directed by Howard Hawks, Arthur Rosson | 133 min | 1948|

Dunson leads a cattle drive, the culmination of over 14 years of work, to its destination in Missouri. But his tyrannical behavior along the way causes a mutiny, led by his adopted son.

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67. Modern Times

Directed by Charles Chaplin | G | 87 min | 1936|

The Tramp struggles to live in modern industrial society with the help of a young homeless woman.

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68. Notorious

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock | 101 min | 1946|

A woman is asked to spy on a group of Nazi friends in South America. How far will she have to go to ingratiate herself with them?

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69. Koyaanisqatsi

Directed by Godfrey Reggio | 86 min | 1982|

A collection of expertly photographed phenomena with no conventional plot. The footage focuses on nature, humanity and the relationship between them.

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70. The Band Wagon

Directed by Vincente Minnelli | 112 min | 1953|

A pretentiously artistic director is hired for a new Broadway musical and changes it beyond recognition.

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71. Groundhog Day

Directed by Harold Ramis | PG | 101 min | 1993|

A weatherman finds himself living the same day over and over again.

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72. The Shanghai Gesture

Directed by Josef von Sternberg | 95 min | 1941|

A young woman, Poppy, out for excitement in Shanghai, enters a gambling house owned by "Mother" Gin Sling, a dragon-lady who worked herself up from poverty to buy the casino. Sir Guy ...


73. Network

Directed by Sidney Lumet | R | 121 min | 1976|

A television network cynically exploits a deranged former anchor's ravings and revelations about the news media for its own profit.

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74. Forrest Gump

Directed by Robert Zemeckis | PG-13 | 142 min | 1994|

Forrest Gump, while not intelligent, has accidentally been present at many historic moments, but his true love, Jenny Curran, eludes him.

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75. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Directed by Steven Spielberg | PG | 137 min | 1977|

After an encounter with U.F.O.s, a line worker feels undeniably drawn to an isolated area in the wilderness where something spectacular is about to happen.

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76. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

Directed by Irvin Kershner | PG | 124 min | 1980|

After the rebels have been brutally overpowered by the Empire on their newly established base, Luke Skywalker takes advanced Jedi training with Master Yoda, while his friends are pursued by Darth Vader as part of his plan to capture Luke.

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77. Stagecoach

Directed by John Ford | 96 min | 1939|

A group of people traveling on a stagecoach find their journey complicated by the threat of Geronimo and learn something about each other in the process.

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78. Schindler's List

Directed by Steven Spielberg | R | 195 min | 1993|

In German-occupied Poland during World War II, Oskar Schindler gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazi Germans.

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79. The Tree of Life

Directed by Terrence Malick | PG-13 | 139 min | 2011|

The story of a family in Waco, Texas in 1956. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence and struggles with his parents' conflicting teachings.

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80. Meet Me in St. Louis

Directed by Vincente Minnelli | 113 min | 1944|

In the year before the 1904 St Louis World's Fair, the four Smith daughters learn lessons of life and love, even as they prepare for a reluctant move to New York.

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81. Thelma & Louise

Directed by Ridley Scott | R | 130 min | 1991|

An Arkansas waitress and a housewife shoot a rapist and take off in a '66 Thunderbird.

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82. Raiders of the Lost Ark

Directed by Steven Spielberg | PG | 115 min | 1981|

Archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis.

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83. Bringing Up Baby

Directed by Howard Hawks | 102 min | 1938|

While trying to secure a $1 million donation for his museum, a befuddled paleontologist is pursued by a flighty and often irritating heiress and her pet leopard, Baby.

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84. Deliverance

Directed by John Boorman | R | 110 min | 1972|

Intent on seeing the Cahulawassee River before it's turned into one huge lake, outdoor fanatic Lewis Medlock takes his friends on a river-rafting trip they'll never forget into the dangerous American back-country.

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85. Night of the Living Dead

Directed by George A. Romero | 96 min | 1968|

A group of people hide from bloodthirsty zombies in a farmhouse.

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86. The Lion King

Directed by Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff | G | 89 min | 1994|

Lion cub and future king Simba searches for his identity. His eagerness to please others and penchant for testing his boundaries sometimes gets him into trouble.

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87. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Directed by Michel Gondry | R | 108 min | 2004|

When their relationship turns sour, a couple undergoes a procedure to have each other erased from their memories. But it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with.

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88. West Side Story

Directed by Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise | 152 min | 1961|

Two youngsters from rival New York City gangs fall in love, but tensions between their respective friends build toward tragedy.

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89. In a Lonely Place

Directed by Nicholas Ray | 94 min | 1950|

A potentially violent screenwriter is a murder suspect until his lovely neighbor clears him. But she begins to have doubts...

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90. A Clockwork Orange

Directed by Stanley Kubrick | X | 136 min | 1971|

In future Britain, charismatic delinquent Alex DeLarge is jailed and volunteers for an experimental aversion therapy developed by the government in an effort to solve society's crime problem - but not all goes according to plan.

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91. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Directed by Steven Spielberg | PG | 115 min | 1982|

A troubled child summons the courage to help a friendly alien escape Earth and return to his home-world.

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92. The Night of the Hunter

Directed by Charles Laughton, Robert Mitchum, Terry Sanders | 92 min | 1955|

A religious fanatic marries a gullible widow whose young children are reluctant to tell him where their real daddy hid $10,000 he'd stolen in a robbery.

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93. Mean Streets

Directed by Martin Scorsese | R | 112 min | 1973|

Following the life of a small-time hood who struggles with a moral crisis regarding his friends, family, business, and his conflicting religious beliefs.

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94. 25th Hour

Directed by Spike Lee | R | 135 min | 2002|

Cornered by the DEA, convicted New York drug dealer Montgomery Brogan reevaluates his life in the 24 remaining hours before facing a seven-year jail term.

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95. Duck Soup

Directed by Leo McCarey | 68 min | 1933|

Rufus T. Firefly is named president/dictator of bankrupt Freedonia and declares war on neighboring Sylvania over the love of wealthy Mrs. Teasdale.

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96. The Dark Knight

Directed by Christopher Nolan | PG-13 | 152 min | 2008|

When the menace known as the Joker wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham, the caped crusader must come to terms with one of the greatest psychological tests of his ability to fight injustice.

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97. Gone with the Wind

Directed by Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Sam Wood | G | 238 min | 1939|

A manipulative Southern belle carries on a turbulent affair with a blockade runner during the American Civil War.

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98. Heaven's Gate

Directed by Michael Cimino | R | 325 min | 1980|

A dramatization of the real-life Johnson County War in 1890 Wyoming, in which a sheriff born into wealth attempts to protect immigrant farmers from rich cattle interests.

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99. 12 Years a Slave

Directed by Steve McQueen | R | 134 min | 2013|

In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.

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100. Ace in the Hole

Directed by Billy Wilder | 111 min | 1951|

A frustrated former big-city journalist now stuck working for an Albuquerque newspaper exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to re-jump start his career, but the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus.

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