Picking the top 10 greatest Hollywood movies from a treasure of countless mind-blowing films is a nearly impossible task.
To make this list, we divided all of Hollywood into the ten biggest genres: Action, Thriller, Horror, Drama, Superhero, Animated, Fantasy, Romance, Comedy, and Musical.
We’ll pick the greatest movies from each genre based on several aspects. How well did the critics acclaim it? How good is the film through the technical and narrative lens? Let’s get into the top 10 greatest Hollywood movies without further ado.
Table of Contents
Drama: The Godfather
This masterpiece of a story by Mario Puzo adapted for the big screen by director Francis Ford Coppola, is bound to be on the list. It went on to win three Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.
The movie focuses on the personal lives of characters like Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), Michael (Al Pacino), and many more. This allows the audience to overlook the characters as mafia members and instead sympathize with them as normal human beings.
The Godfather follows no grand events and plotlines throughout the movie. It focuses on the shift of power in an organization between generations. It manages to capture the audience for its unconventional runtime. Especially rare.
His performance might be the best acting as a Mafia leader to date. The dark yet comforting cinematography and a saddening soundtrack leave a lasting impact on the audience. Its editing is no less fabulous. Marlon Brando won the Academy Award for his performance as Don Vito Corleone.
The magnificence of The Godfather shaped cinema and acted as the benchmark for all the mafia films to come.
Honorable Mentions in Drama: Taxi Driver, The Social Network, and Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
David Fincher’s masterpiece Se7en (1995) was and will be a cult classic. This movie would attract audiences for a multitude of reasons. Some for its psychological thriller plot. Some for its dark cinematography and even its portrayal of the seven deadly sins.
The movie starts with two detectives. One who believes he has seen everything and the other who isn’t ready for what he’s about to see. The dark set design of the house, the grotesque death, and the word “Gluttony” carved on the wall set the tone of Fincher’s direction from the get-go.
Along with captivating performances, haunting yet astoundingly dark cinematography, and Oscar-nominated editing, it is a treat for the audience.
Moreover, the minimalist but meaningful dialogues of the nihilistic Somerset and aggressive Mills provide the audience with charisma and fluidity. After all, how can one forget the agony and pain of Mill’s “WHAT’S IN THE BOX?!”
Besides being a genuinely rounded movie, Se7en, apart from the film in the same genre, is its use of symbolism—incorporated in the movie through Dante’s Inferno, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
This literary addition makes the movie worthy of deeper analysis, captivating audiences.
Honorable Mentions in Thriller: Black Swan, Fight Club, Silence of the Lambs
Action: Terminator 2
Besides being a classic action blockbuster, Terminator 2 (1991) is a masterpiece in all aspects of an action film.
Unlike action-driven blockbusters, with little to no plot and substance, Terminator 2 provides captivating drama and second-to-none action sequences.
Throughout the movie, the audience realizes that the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), and John Connor (Edward Furlong) operate more in a familial way than as a team. This makes this action-packed treat a film for all ages.
To top it all off, director James Cameron’s mind-blowing use of CGI and visual effects makes Terminator 2 a state-of-the-art film in the genre. It has inspired countless sci-fi thrillers, including its sequels.
Staying true to the action genre of its era, along with masterfully incorporating science-fiction, Terminator 2 exceeds all expectations and leaves the viewers baffled.
Honorable Mentions in Action: The Matrix, Inception
Superhero: The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight doesn’t top the charts only as a comic book movie but as a thrilling action blockbuster. It is an enthralling crime drama and a heartbreaking tragedy.
Nolan’s superb direction makes this movie a redefining moment for superhero movies. Apart from its lack of comic book accuracy, The Dark Knight constructs an immersive crime-ridden Gotham City.
Along with a captivating arc for Batman and other characters. Throughout the movie, Nolan’s characters face moral and ethical dilemmas. Batman’s infamous retirement and Harvey Dent’s fateful fall to the dark side.
Christian Bale’s acting as both the caped crusader and the millionaire playboy prince of Gotham stays on the top of the list of many Batman fans.
Aaron Eckhart (Harvey Dent/Two-Face), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), Gary Oldman (Commissioner Gordan), and Michael Caine (Alfred) all gave a fantastic performance. However, one that stood and still stands unmatched was Heath Ledger’s terrific portrayal of the Joker.
Ledger’s terrifying acting as a psychopathic killer holds up as the best acting in a superhero movie and one of the best acting in all of cinema.
To top it all off, Nolan’s masterful use of visually pleasing cinematography, superb editing, and captivating dialogue makes this movie a complete package. And let’s not forget Hans Zimmer’s eerie yet immersive score that brings liveliness to the movie.
Honorable Mentions in Superhero: The Suicide Squad, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1
Fantasy: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
It would not be wrong to say that Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy truly captures the essence of Tolkien’s books. The Return of the King stands out as an epic fantasy film and gives this franchise a well-deserved farewell.
Jackson brings Middle Earth to life from its visually pleasing cinematography to its carefully developed sets and top-notch editing.
Tolkien was keen on nitty-gritty details, and Jackson stayed true to that. Jackson splendidly brought Minas Tirith, Osgiliath, Mordor, etc., to life in the most accurate way possible.
However, what sets The Return of the King apart from its prequels is its action as a final blow to the franchise. It has exceptionally awe-inspiring battle sequences with top-of-the-game choreographies, special effects, and soundtracks.
The first installment lacked this flair. Moreover, it provides a more linear and complete plot than the second installment, which left off in the middle of nowhere.
The Return of the King enthrallingly wraps off the journey of the fellowship. What was an end to the franchise served as the inspiration and beginning for all the fantasy movies to come.
Honorable Mentions in Fantasy: The Fellowship of the Ring, Harry Potter, and The Prisoner of Azkaban
Horror: The Shining
Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s arguably most notable literary work, The Shining, uses the psychological horror genre like never before.
Even though King calls the movie “a fancy car with no engine,” Kubrick’s “The Shining” redefines the horror genre while staying true to its traditional creepiness.
The movie tells a true story about cabin fever through the stay of Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson), his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and his son Danny (Danny Lloyd) in the closed-off Winters Overlook Hotel.
The arguably awful color palette of the Overlook Hotel cast a spell of anxiety and unease over the audience.
Everything from editing to sound-mixing to cinematography adds to the movie’s tension. Kubrick masterfully portrays the madness of the plot.
Along with the dreadful impact isolation can have on a human being through his almost infuriating yet visually splendid shots.
However, what sets this movie apart from its predecessors and successors is the otherworldly acting of the cast. Jack Nicholson, whom King himself criticized, gave an Oscar-worthy, most unsettling performance as the psychopathic Jack Torrence.
Shelley Duvall’s absolute top-notch portrayal of an overprotective mother was a by-product of Kubrick’s mistreatment of her on set.
Besides that moral question of whether it was right or wrong, it can be said that The Shining wouldn’t be what it is without Duvall’s performance.
Honorable Mentions in Horror: The Exorcist, The Lighthouse, Hereditary
Comedy: Shaun of the Dead
Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead is one of the only comedy movies capable of having an emotional core. It doesn’t necessitate being self-deprecating towards itself, such as in The Big Lebowski.
Unlike most comedy movies that only aim at making the audience laugh, Shaun of the Dead focuses on the filmmaking aspects, along with arguably every gig being a killer.
The premise drives the narrative along perfectly, and the screenplay is just majestically paced.
The characters and the cast’s splendid acting bring a unique flair to the movie. The characters are very genuine, humane, and understandable. They’re never demeaned for who they are, and they’re not made fun of but rather have fun with.
Shaun of the Dead provides a new take on zombie movies. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s masterful writing makes the audience unaware of what to expect. Zombies are treated as an inconvenience in daily life than apocalyptics.
Honorable Mentions in Comedy: Dumb and Dumber, The Big Lebowski
Romance: The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind treads on the grounds that most romance movies don’t, in fact, arguably none. It’s an unforgettable psychological romance drama that thought-provokingly deals with the themes of rational vs. irrational and the brain vs. the heart.
Thanks to Charlie Kaufman, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has one of the best screenplays ever. The story follows the different stages of the relationship of Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) and Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet).
Like every other romance movie, they both meet, fall in love, and are happy. However, when the relationship starts to get rocky, Clementine gets all her memories of Joel erased instead of talking it out.
Joel realizes he wants to keep those memories during the procedure and loves Clementine nonetheless. As revenge, Joel does the same. After this, the movie truly starts.
The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a true example of Maze Cinema. A technique where the story repeatedly recoils on itself, confusing the audience with the chronological state of events. Kaufman’s implementation of this technique confuses the audience.