By Genre

The Top 10 Feature Films by Genre

These lists represent an attempt to designate the 10 greatest films in a variety of genres, from major ones such as drama, comedy and science fiction to sub-genres such as time travel, war and sports. These sub-genres, especially journalism, could be described instead as simply “subjects.”

In two instances, I include categories (silent and foreign-language) that are more accurately described as “types” of film, rather than genres. (Also note the final list: the top 10 series or franchises.)

Drama
1. Gone With the Wind * (1939)
2. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest * (1975)
3. The Godfather * (1972)
4. On the Waterfront * (1954)
5. The Godfather, Part II * (1974)
6. Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise) FL (1945)
7. Wuthering Heights (1939)
8. East of Eden (1955)
9. Casablanca * (1943)
10. All the President’s Men (1976)

Comedy
1. Modern Times SlWS (1936)
2. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
3. The Circus Sl (1927)
4. Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
5. City Lights SlWS (1931)
6. Zelig (1983)
7. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
8. Arthur (1981)
9. Ed Wood (1994)
10. Bullets Over Broadway (1995)
Note: If The Graduate is labeled a comedy, it would top this list.

Suspense/Thriller/Horror/Mystery
1. Psycho (1960)
2. The Third Man (1949)
3. Dead of Night (1945)
4. The Exorcist (1973)
5. Les Diaboliques (The Devils) FL (1955)
6. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
7. The Stranger (1946)
8. Jaws (1975)
9. Vertigo (1958)
10. Duel TV (1971)

Romance
1. Gone With the Wind * (1939)
2. The Graduate (1967)
3. Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise) FL (1945)
4. Wuthering Heights (1939)
5. Casablanca * (1943)
6. Somewhere in Time (1980)
7. Atonement (2007)
8. City Lights SlWS (1931)
9. Splendor in the Grass (1961)
10. The Remains of the Day (1993)
Note: For a more detailed discussion of this list, see my Valentine’s Day blog.

Animated (full)
1. Pinocchio (1940)
2. Dumbo (1941)
3. Bambi (1942)
4. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
5. Alice in Wonderland (1951)
6. Toy Story (1995)
7. Fantasia (1940)
8. Lady and the Tramp (1955)
9. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
10. Loving Vincent (2017)

Digital Animation (full)
1. Toy Story (1995)
2. Toy Story 3 (3-D version) (2010)
3. Toy Story 2 (1999)
4. WALL-E (2008)
5. Monsters Inc. (2001)
6. Toy Story 4 (2019)
7. A Bug’s Life (1998)
8. Coco (2-D version) (2017)
9. Inside Out (3-D version) (2015)
10. Wreck-It Ralph (3-D version) (2012)

Science Fiction (non-superhero/comic book)
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
2. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977/80)
3. Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980/97)
4. Star Wars, or Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977/97)
5. Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi (1983/97)
6. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
7. Jurassic Park (1993)
8. Inception (2010)
9. Interstellar (2014)
10. WALL-E (2008)

Time Travel
1. Somewhere in Time (1980)
2. Predestination (2014)
3. Los Cronocrimines (Timecrimes) FL (2007)
4. Back to the Future (1985)
5. Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)
6. Groundhog Day (1993)
7. Time Bandits (1981)
8. Source Code (2011)
9. Tomorrowland (2015)
10. A Christmas Carol (1951)
Note: For a film to make this list, it must have time travel as the main theme or plot point. Interstellar and Arrival, therefore, are not included.

Musical (live action)    
1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
2. Oliver! * (1968)
3. Chicago * (2002)
4. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
5. The Muppet Movie (1979)
6. Mary Poppins (1964)
7. The Sound of Music * (1965)
8. Cabaret (1972)
9. West Side Story * (1961)
10. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Western
1. Once Upon a Time in the West (165-min version) (1969)
2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
3. Shane (1953)
4. Dances With Wolves (1990)
5. Unforgiven (1992)
6. There Will Be Blood (2007)
7. The Professionals (1966)
8. My Darling Clementine (1946)
9. The Wild Bunch (1969)
10. True Grit (2010)
Note: Not included here are films by Akira Kurosawa that could be considered westerns, such as Ran and The Seven Samurai.

Foreign Language (films not in English)
1. Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise) FL (1945): French
2. Les Diaboliques (The Devils) FL (1955): French
3. The Sorrow and the Pity FL (1969): French
4. Come and See FL (1985): Russian
5. Sansho the Bailiff FL (1954): Japanese
6. La Dolce Vita (The Good Life) FL (1960): Italian
7. La Regle du Jeu (The Rules of the Game) FL (1939/59): French
8. La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful) FL (1997): Italian
9. Ran FL (1985): Japanese
10. Ladri di Biciclette (The Bicycle Thieves) FL (1948): Italian

War
1. Gone With the Wind * (1939): American Civil War in the South
2. Atonement (1987): World War II in Europe
3. Lawrence of Arabia (most-recent restoration) * (1962): World War I in Africa
4. Bridge on the River Kwai * (1957): World War II in the Pacific
5. Dunkirk (2017): World War II in Europe
6. Doctor Zhivago (1965): World War I in Europe, Russian Revolution  and Russian Civil War
7. The Sorrow and the Pity FL (1969): World War II in Europe
8. Come and See FL (1985): World War II in Europe
9. Saving Private Ryan (1998): World War II in Europe
10. The Pianist (2002): World War II in Europe
Note: Included in this list are all war-themed films, not just those that feature combat.

Documentary
1. Harlan County U.S.A. (1976)
2. The Sorrow and the Pity FL (1969)
3. Bowling for Columbine (2002)
4. Hearts and Minds (1974)
5. The Act of Killing FL (2013)
6. Roger and Me (1989)
7. Fahrenheit 911 (2004)
8. Shoah FL (1985)
9. Among the Believers FL (2015)
10. Gates of Heaven (1978)

Sports
1. The Natural (1984): baseball
2. Field of Dreams (1989): baseball
3. Heaven Can Wait (1978): football
4. Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962): boxing
5. Cinderella Man (2005): boxing
6. The Hustler (1961): pool
7. Chariots of Fire * (1981): track
8. Million Dollar Baby * (2004): boxing
9. Olympia FL (1938): Olympics
10. Ford v Ferrari (2019): auto-racing
Note: While pool could be considered more a game than a sport, I include The Hustler because it has the themes and feel of a sports film.

Fantasy (live action)  
1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
2. Babe (1995)
3. Babe: Pig in the City (1998)
4. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (3-D version) (2002)
6. Mary Poppins (1964)
7. Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
8. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
9. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
10. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Note: I’ve placed the Star Wars films on the Science Fiction list, not the Fantasy list. Clearly, they could be included on both. If they were included on this list, the original trilogy would take up the #2, #3 and #4 spots.

Superhero and/or Comic Book (live action)
1. Unbreakable (2000)
2. Dick Tracy (1990)
3. Joker (2019)
4. Superman (1978)
5. The Avengers (2D version) (2012)
6. Doctor Strange (3D version) (2016)
7. Batman (1989)
8. Men in Black (1997)
9. American Splendor (2003)
10. The Addams Family (1991)
Note: This admittedly unconventional list draws not only from traditional comic-book and superhero movies but also from films with a comic-book theme, such as Unbreakable. Also included are films inspired by newspaper/magazine comics and serials but NOT films based on a single graphic novel.

Silent
1. Modern Times SlWS (1936)
2. The Circus Sl (1928)
3. City Lights SlWS (1931)
4. La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc) Sl (1928)
5. The Gold Rush Sl (1925)
6. The Kid Sl (1921)
7. The Artist SlWS * (2011)
8. The General Sl (1927)
9. Metropolis Sl (1926)
10. 7th Heaven SlWS (1927)
Note: This list includes both true silent films and those with a synchronized soundtrack but no dialogue (intertitles instead).

Journalism
1. All the President’s Men (1976)
2. Citizen Kane (1941)
3. Broadcast News (1987)
4. Network (1976)
5. The China Syndrome (1979)
6. Reds (1981)
7. His Girl Friday (1940)
8. Spotlight * (2015)
9. The Post (2017)
10. Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
Note: To make this list, journalism must be central to the plot of the movie, rather than the film simply featuring a character who is a journalist, such as La Dolce Vita. And because all documentaries are essentially journalism, this list includes only narrative-fiction films.

Series and Franchises
1. The Godfather trilogy (3 films from 1972 to 1990)
2. Star Wars and Star Wars Anthology (11 films from 1977 to 2019)
3. The “Up” series (1 short and 8 feature films from 1964 to 2019)
4. The Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts (Wizarding World) series (10 films from 2001 to 2018)
5. The Toy Story series (4 films from 1995 to 2019)
6. Marvel Cinematic Universe (23 films from 2008 to 2019)
7. Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit films (6 films from 2001 to 2014)
8. Trois Couleurs (The Three Colors trilogy) FL (3 films from 1993 to 1994)
9. The Indiana Jones series (4 films from 1981 to 2008)
10. The James Bond films (23 films from 1962 to 2012)
Note: To qualify, a series must have plot and/or characters in common, forming at least a semblance of an ongoing story or linked theme. Bergman’s Trilogy of Faith would not qualify; neither would similar series that have themes in common but which were not conceived as a series and have neither characters nor story in common. The Batman, first Spider-Man and Superman series do qualify, but they fall short on quality.

Also see my lists of the 30 greatest movie villains of all time, the 12 best Christmas movies, the four worst Christmas movies, the 10 best movies about art and artists, and the best and worst films of the Halloween franchise.

© 2020 MeierMovies, LLC

Top 10 image courtesy of iStockPhoto (#493633015 by Wetcake)