Introduction

MeierMovies is a rating and ranking system, and film-review archive, for feature-length, theatrically released motion pictures. I designed this site to both rate (0-5 stars) and rank (200 greatest and 27 worst; and top 10 by genre) all the theatrically released motion pictures I have had the privilege to see. The site also contains separate lists for theatrically released short films, and features and shorts released on TV, on the Web or direct to video/DVD.

Cameron and Malcolm master shot 2011

Cameron and Malcolm McDowell in 2011

What defines greatness? When considering how to rate a movie, I turn first and foremost to simple quality, emotional impact and artistic vision. In other words, regardless of when the movie was made and what the budget was, quite simply: Is it a good film? Next, one should show respect for movies that broke new ground, made a cultural impact and provided inspiration for the next generation of filmmakers, even if they may not hold up as well today. (Intolerance among early silent films and King Kong among early talkies come to mind, although the former film gets no better than 2 ½ stars here while the latter actually gets a slight thumbs-down, mostly for the atrocious acting, even when compared with many of its contemporaries.) Similarly, films are given some credit if they “did it first,” so to speak. So, in short, all appropriate criteria are considered: quality through the eye of a modern audience, influence, artistic contribution to society, superb craft, etc. By placing the emphasis primarily on quality while still considering those other factors, I hope I’ve managed to both successfully judge the true greatness of a film AND keep an open mind that many cinematic styles have existed (and, therefore, should still be embraced today) since Charles Tait shot The Story of the Kelly Gang in Australia, in 1906, introducing the world to what we describe today as “feature-length” movies.

I’ve tried to reject the temptation to give a movie a high rating just because society pressures one to do so. “Oh, don’t you just love Citizen Kane,” often comes from the mouths of the film critic, even though many of those  critics couldn’t really tell you why they like it. Therefore, you may see some surprising ratings on this list. Billy Wilder and Quentin Tarantino certainly aren’t done any favors here, as I believe they are both overrated. Conversely, Charlie Chaplin and Stanley Kubrick, two of my favorite directors, do quite well. In rare instances, I’ve given a film a lower-than-expected rating because of simple poor taste. Yes, it’s often good to push the boundaries of normality and standards, especially in so-called “art films” (a term I hate because, after all, aren’t all films art?), but crossing those boundaries simply for shock value doesn’t get a movie any extra credit here. And also in extremely rare instances, I’ve penalized a movie if it wildly distorts the historical events it’s based on. Artistic license is one thing, but one can’t help deducting perhaps a half-star from Battleship Potemkin, for instance, for its blatantly false propaganda. (Its influence and artistry, especially for the 1920s, is unquestioned, however.)

Chaplin in City Lights

Considering his talents as a motion picture pioneer, actor, director, writer, composer, editor and producer, Charlie Chaplin, shown here in “City Lights,” is my pick as the greatest film talent of all time. (Copyrighted photo is used under fair use.)

The Star Rating section lists feature films by rank (top 200) and then by quality (by star rating), from Gone With the Wind through Manos: The Hands of Fate. The Yearly section lists movies chronologically, from 1912’s From the Manger to the Cross to today’s films, letting you know the REAL best pictures of those years. (Hint: The Academy usually got it wrong.) The A-Z page lists features alphabetically. Then there is the Director list, a selection of cinema’s most famous directors and their movies, ranked from best to worst. Another section lists the top 10 feature movies by Genre. You will also find a section comparing rating scales, in addition to my movie reviews. I also recommend exploring some truly original pages: my lists of theatrically released short films (40 minutes or less), which you can find under the “short lists” tab on the menu bar. Lastly, don’t miss my Television list, which highlights some of the best, most famous and most infamous TV and Web shows, TV (or direct-to-video) movies, and short films and music videos that never got a theatrical release.

Remember, if you don’t see a movie on this list, that doesn’t mean I’ve rejected it or passed judgment in any sense. It simply means I haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it in a format or place that would allow me to rate it fairly. (By the way, I never pass off film-viewing responsibilities to anyone else. I see every movie myself.)

Motion pictures on my feature-film lists must be more than 40 minutes long (the minimum length of a feature according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Film Institute and the British Film Institute) and must have been released to a paying public in theaters. (A general release is not required; a limited release is enough. However, if a film has played only festivals, it must have played at least two major ones to qualify.) Movies originally aired on or intended for television, or intended for a video-only, DVD-only or Blu-ray-only release, are eligible if they meet all the other criteria.

If movies contain alternate versions, roadshow versions or directors’ cuts, the versions rated here are the original theatrical-release versions, unless otherwise noted, keeping in mind a film’s original version might also be its roadshow version.  If movies were originally released to theaters in both 2-D and 3-D, the versions rated here are indicated in parentheses after the movie title, with the exception of those from the 1950s and 1960s, which are the 2-D versions, unless otherwise noted. (If I’ve seen both 2-D and 3-D versions, the version rated here is the better of the two, which, in almost all cases of recent films, is the version consistent with the way the movie was shot and intended to be seen, i.e., 2-D if shot in 2-D and 3-D if shot in 3-D.)

Gone with the wind

Because of its immense contribution to popular culture, its drama, its emotion, its groundbreaking use of color and cinematography, and its sheer quality in every department, even judging by contemporary standards, “Gone With the Wind” is my pick as the greatest film of all time. It also happens to be the highest-grossing film, when adjusted for inflation, and one of just four films to win 11 Academy Awards. (It’s usually credited with 10, but it actually received 11 if you include the eight competitive awards and three special ones.) (Photo copyright Selznick/MGM, included under fair use.)

Movies typically labeled as pornographic are eligible if they meet all other criteria, unless they appeared in only those theaters reserved for hardcore pornography or “stag” films. Sexploitation and other softcore porn films, often shown at drive-ins in the 1960s and 1970s following the collapse of the Production Code, are also eligible if they meet all the aforementioned criteria.

Movies recorded in several languages (as was common in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s) do not carry the FL designation. The version rated here is the English dub. Movies recorded principally in one foreign language carry the FL designation. The version rated here is the original foreign-language version accompanied by English subtitles. French, Spanish, Italian and German films are alphabetized by their original, foreign-language titles. Films in all other languages are alphabetized by their closest English equivalents, when applicable.

Ratings are based on a 0-5 scale, with ¼-star increments. If a movie receives 2 ½ stars or more, that amounts to a thumbs-up rating. If a movie receives 2 ¼ stars or fewer, that’s a thumbs-down. However, if a film is rated from 2 to 3 stars (the average range), take my thumbs-up and thumbs-down ratings with a grain of salt, as those judgments are somewhat subject to my own viewing experience, personal background and taste, which may be vastly different from your own. I’ve simply done the best I can to predict the reaction of the typical, somewhat intelligent, adult movie-goer, keeping in mind that adults should always try to embrace their inner child and sense of wonder, especially when viewing an animated film.

Lastly, don’t forget to check out the Key, which will guide you through my colors and symbols.

So now that we’ve covered all the technical stuff, sit back and enjoy the site! And feel free to share your constructive feedback by commenting on one of my blogs or by e-mailing me at MeierMovies@aol.com.