IMDb’s Top 250 Movies list is a regularly updated list of the most popular films ever made as rated by regular IMDb voters. As you might expect there’s a lot of the usual suspects on there including The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather and err, The Usual Suspects with mainstream and big budget titles dominating. We’ve cast our eye over the list and picked out the Arrow releases which have been rated the highest to look at why they’ve become so popular with audiences and how the art of cult endures.
All ratings placings correct as of July 25th 2022.
53. Cinema Paradiso
A celebration of youth, nostalgia and cinema itself, Cinema Paradiso is a film always likely to be looked on favourably by critics but has also found a hugely appreciative popular appeal too. Salvatore (Jacques Perrin) is a film-maker who returns to his hometown to attend the funeral of the local cinema projectionist Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) and recalls the friendship the two of them enjoyed growing up.
The film hasn’t lost any of it’s poignancy, aided by a memorable score from legendary composer Ennio Morricone (Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, Once Upon a Time in America). This was the beginning of a fruitful partnership between Morricone and director Giuseppe Tornatore with the two going on to work with each other several times including Tornatore’s follow-up Everybody’s Fine (1990).
There are two notable versions of the film, the 124 minute theatrical cut and the 174 minute director’s cut which was Tornatore’s intended version of the film before it was cut for international audiences. Both capture the magic of what makes the film so popular with it’s reflections on friendship, adolescence and first love.
Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is kidnapped and held in a hotel room like-cell for 15 years with no idea of who is responsible and the reason behind it. Once released he vows to seek vengeance for his imprisonment and murdered wife, intending to deliver savage justice to his captors with a deadline of only 5 days.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre aside, it’s hard to think of a film so synonymous with a hardware tool than Oldboy is with a hammer. The quintessential revenge film full of brutal violence, a thrilling one-shot action sequence and an unspeakable act with an octopus, Oldboy continues to shock and gain new fans every passing year.
A huge breakout hit for director Park Chan-Wook (JSA, The Handmaiden), Oldboy helped consolidate interest in the West for Korean and Asian cinema in the early 2000’s and found passionate advocates such as Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs). It is undoubtedly a modern classic and has come to be regarded as one of the greatest neo-noir films of all time with it’s incredible story that surprises and impresses in equal measure. It may be the most ‘cult’ title in this list which is testament to how well it has broken through to receive wider acclaim.
96. The Hunt
A powerful Scandi drama from director Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, Far From the Madding Crowd) and starring Mads Mikkelsen (Rogue One, Casino Royale), The Hunt is perhaps the least well known on this list. Mikkelsen in one of his most gripping performances is Lucas who works at a nursery in a small village where he is wrongly accused of sexually abusing one of the children in the class. Panic subsequently ensues for everyone involved and the ramifications stretch far and wide.
We see long held relationships become fractured and uncertainty sink into previously warm friendship groups. We witness the changes in Lucas’ life with almost surgical precision from director Vinterberg making it impossible to turn away. It’s wonderfully shot with the cinematography making the most of the changing Danish seasons and the script delivering highly emotional and fraught scenes throughout.
Nominated for an Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globe and multiple winner at the Cannes Film Festival on release, the film’s critical acclaim has never been in doubt and it’s popularity with audiences has begun to increase over the years by positive word-of-mouth.
105. The Apartment
From Billy Wilder, one of the Golden Age of Hollywood’s most beloved directors, came The Apartment, a romantic comedy with a somewhat controversial subject matter involving extramarital affairs. Jack Lemmon (Some Like It Hot, The Odd Couple) plays Bud, a lowly office worker who curries favour with his superiors by allowing them the use of his apartment for their illicit trysts.
The film received huge plaudits at the time, not least of which for Shirley McLaine (Being There, Terms of Endearment) whose sparkling performance as Fran earned her numerous awards including a BAFTA and Golden Globe.
It’s easy to see why it’s so loved – a team of actors on top of their game working with a magnificent script and sublime direction from Wilder. Some of the moral outrage directed at the film on release has certainly softened over time and what remains is a surprisingly tender and charming film that continues to delight.
121. Bicycle Thieves
Bicycle Thieves has enthralled audiences for more than 70 years with a simple piece of storytelling exquisitely shot and performed. Antonio (Lamberto Maggiorani), desperate for a job, manages to gain employment putting up cinema posters. His joy is short-lived however when the bicycle he needs to carry out his duties is stolen and what follows is an equally heart-warming and heart-breaking journey with Bruno (Enzo Staiola), his expressive young son, as they trawl through the streets of Rome searching for what was lost.
Director Vittorio De Sica (Miracle in Milan, Shoeshine) collaborated with screenwriter Cesare Zavattini to capture a perfect example of Italian Neorealism, a genre that flourished in the 1940s emphasising the struggle of the working classes. Following the principles of neorealism and determined to make the film as realistic as possible, De Sica assembled a cast mostly comprised of amateurs without formal acting training and would shoot some street scenes without the permission of the authorities in Rome.
It’s no mystery why the love for Bicycle Thieves endures and why it’s still highly rated as one of the greatest films ever made. There is a both a universal and timeless appeal to the themes explored in the film and combined with De Sica’s delicate direction, it will continued to be admired for many years to come.
158. The Thing
The greatest remake of all-time? It’s a contender. The Thing has established itself as one of the best science-fiction horror films helped by some of the tensest scenes in cinema and phenomenal special effects. A group of American researchers stationed in Antarctica discover that The Thing is among them, an extra-terrestrial shape-shifting being that assimilates and replicates whatever it kills. Trapped together in the barren icy landscape, the group become consumed with paranoia as anyone of them could be the next to go.
Released in North American cinemas just two weeks after E.T. (1982), the film struggled at the box office with audiences clearly favouring a more friendly alien at that time but it would later develop a cult following. A prequel followed in 2011 starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Birds of Prey, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) but hasn’t made quite the same impact as the 1982 version.
Director John Carpenter and star Kurt Russell had previously worked together on Escape from New York and would continue to partner numerous times later including Big Trouble in Little China. The Thing arguably remains one of the biggest highlights of both their careers and remains as fascinating today as it ever did.
Newsreader Howard Beale (Peter Finch) announces he’s being forced to retire due to low ratings on his show so lets his audience know he intends to commit suicide on air. A media circus goes into full effect and Beale’s exasperation with the world around him resonates with a dissatisfied audience.
Featuring an all-star cast of Faye Dunaway (Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown), William Holden (The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Wild Bunch) and Robert Duvall (The Godfather, THX 1138), it was the lesser known Finch who stole the show with an electrifying performance as the emotionally worn-out Beale for which he posthumously won the Best Actor Academy Award.
Network is not based on a true story but it’s easy to think it might be. Like many great satires, it does a masterful job of predicting the future. The power of television news media and it’s insatiable thirst for ratings are all writ large here. Similarly, beleaguered newsreader Howard Beale was not a real person but the character rings true even in present day and explains why Network has and will remain a popular choice with audiences.