The 100 Greatest Warner Bros. Movies (30-21)

Few studios are as essential, consistent, and prestigious as Warner Bros. They’ve been around since damn near the beginning and have been pivotal in every major sea change. Bogie had an incredible film noir hot steak with four iconic titles in quick succession in the ’40s and Brando was redefining what acting was in A Streetcar Named Desire. The ’60s had game changers like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Bonnie and Clyde and the ’70s ushered in the age of the auteur that lasted up until Nolan jumped ship for his latest project. The next four decades after that, they grabbed pop culture by the throat and never let go. Blade Runner, Gremlins, Beetlejuice, The Goonies, The Matrix, and Harry Potter are just a handful of seminal fandom favorites released within that period that helped change the landscape of cinema and pop culture as a whole and looking at what they have coming down the pike, it doesn’t seem like they’re slowing down any time soon.

These are the 100 Greatest Warner Bros. Movies of All Time.*

*This list does not include direct-to-video releases or films from New Line Cinema prior to its merger with Warner Bros. in 2008, nor does it include third-party films or films Warner gained the rights to as a result of mergers or acquisitions.

30. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) and George (Richard Burton) are just like that couple you know that either get really pointed in their comments to one another after one too many drinks or have been together for so long, they have no problem airing their dirty laundry for everyone to see. The kind of couple that seem to get off on causing the biggest scene in public because misery loves company and their the most miserable people alive. Whatever love and affection was there has long since eroded and all that’s left is the rot. The kind of couple you only invite to important things if you absolutely have to and never without a huge party of people. Because like a grapefruit in a fruit salad, they will ruin everything around them given the opportunity. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is the cinematic equivalent of being locked in the same room with that couple for two hours. It’s an endurance test of barbed comments, unforgivable insults, secrets that should never be revealed and more venom than a 800 lbs cobra. Watching two people, who once loved one another, delight in tearing the other down like every successful insult was worth a point as if there was a winner at the end, is the least appealing thing in the world to anyone who’s ever lived it but since that couple is played by the never better real life couple of Burton and Taylor, it’s impossible to take your eyes off the screen.

Sailor Monsoon

29. The Iron Giant (1999)

In the thick of the Disney Renaissance, The Iron Giant wasn’t an immediate home run. But over the past 30 years, it has steadily gained traction as people realized it for what it is: one of the greatest animated films of all time. Disney movies had (and mostly still have) a formula of mostly being sort of musical fairy tales. Brad Bird boldly ignored those conventions and created a much more mature tale, while capturing the wonder of childhood. The film perfectly balances adventure, heart, and comedy while exploring mature themes such as death, purpose, and free will. The titular giant has gained a resurgence in pop culture such as Ready Player One and Ted Lasso in recent years as the film rose from a box office flop to a cartoon classic.

Jacob Holmes

28. Arthur (1981)

Arthur spends his time with booze and whores. His dad has a wife lined up for him that he keeps rejecting – until it’s her or being cut off from $750,000,000. Then he goes shopping and falls in love with a shoplifter. A film so great, my only complaint I have with it, isn’t even the film’s fault. This thing was nominated for damn near every goddamn Oscar in the book but they couldn’t throw one to Liza fucking Minnelli? Dudley Moore and John Gielgud are fantastic in their respective roles (especially Gielgud who steals every scene in the film. Seriously, he should be arrested for straight-up taking the film away from every other actor) but, and maybe I’m in the minority here but I don’t think their roles were that difficult to pull off.

One’s a comedic drunk and the other is a sardonic butler. Now, the actors do everything in their power to keep them from becoming one-note and cliche but the heavy lifting was already done for them. There are plenty of performances they could’ve pulled from to help craft their characters. Minnelli on the other hand has to create her character from the bottom up and has to make you fall in love with her with considerably less screen time than either of them. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say she’s the glue that keeps the film together but she is definitely its secret weapon. She’s funny, she’s sassy and she’s immediately lovable. She was robbed of an Oscar nom, goddamn it! Oh, and the rest of the film is pretty great too.

Sailor Monsoon

27. Lethal Weapon (1987)

There aren’t enough movies with badass dudes doing badass shit in them nowadays. But that’s ok. The 1980s got you covered. And there’s no better place to start than with Richard Donner’s 1987 film, Lethal Weapon starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Both of these badass dudes do plenty of badass shit for pretty much the entire movie, and it’s about as badass as shit can get in a movie. Certainly more badass than just about any shit you’ll see in a movie in 2023. So the next time you got a hankering for some badass shit, pop Lethal Weapon into the old VCR, and let Danny and Mel carry you away to a time when there were still badass dudes around willing to do some badass shit in the name of the law or whatever. 

Billy Dhalgren

26. All the President’s Men (1976)

I have a journalism degree. It’s been years since I stepped foot in a newsroom, but I spent the first years of my post-college life as a copy editor at various Texas newspapers. Now, this was the mid-2000s, not the ‘70s, but swap the typewriters for Macs and change the hairstyles and clothes a bit and the rest of All the President’s Men is pretty much on par with the realities of working in a newsroom as I recall them. Of course, few stories turn out to be as historic as the one Woodward and Bernstein were chasing down, but the tedium of the hunt and the cynicism of seasoned editors are pretty universal. The film does an excellent job of taking us along on this ride without glamorizing or overdramatizing it. The cast, led by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, does a phenomenal job across the board. Jason Robards as Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee is a particular favorite of mine, a role for which he won a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

R.J. Mathews

25. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

I grew up watching Mad Max. In particular, I’ve seen The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome dozens of times. And I could not imagine anyone playing Max Rockatansky but Mel Gibson. By the end of Fury Road I couldn’t imagine anyone but Tom Hardy. The most purely action Action movie I’ve ever seen, it also has characters that are perfectly rendered in the most economical of strokes. The series has always been full of memorable characters (with Hugh Keays-Byrne playing two of them – Toecutter in the original Mad Max and Immortan Joe in Fury Road), but nobody – sorry Tina Turner – comes close to making the impact that Charlize Theron does as Imperator Furiosa.

Filmmaker George Miller came back the property he’d created after most people thought it had been mined for all of its gold already, and showed that not only was there more story to tell, that it was possible to make the fourth film in a series the best one. It’s a film that always comes to mind when people ask about a perfect movie. Fury Road is perfect.

“Oh what a day… what a lovely day!” To watch Fury Road again.

Bob Cram

24. Beetlejuice (1988)

It would be very easy for Beetlejuice not to work. Michael Keaton delivers a performance that is right on the line of making you hate Beetlejuice, but instead, you love him. Winona Ryder helps keep the story from going off the rails and we get some of the wackiest afterlife visuals ever put on screen.

Jacob Holmes

23. The Dark Knight (2008)

Here’s a confession for you – I’ve only seen The Dark Knight once. I know, I know, but I loved it so much that I couldn’t bring myself to see it again and risk having to re-assess it as somehow less than it had become in my head. That reluctance was only reinforced by The Dark Knight Rises, which I didn’t really enjoy. I dunno, maybe I need to sit down and watch all three of the Nolan films back to back and just see how it hangs together as a trilogy.

ANYWAY. Batman Begins was (and is) a great Batman movie, but it lacks that certain something that makes The Dark Knight particularly special – and that’s Heath Ledger as the Joker. All the other elements – including Christian Bale’s Dark Knight – are excellent, but it’s the Joker that elevates the whole film. As Alfred (Michael Caine) says, “Some men just want to watch the world burn,” and Ledger’s unhinged, legendary portrayal of the clown prince of crime is a once-in-a-generation performance (until, some will say, Joaquin Phoenix – argue amongst yourselves about that).

If I’ve got any real complaints about the film it’s that it’s too jam-packed and rushed to do justice to everything it wants to do. I’ll always feel bad that Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent didn’t get the full treatment. Other than that, though, the characters, the story, the action – for me, The Dark Knight is still the best Batman movie ever made.

Bob Cram

22. Cool Hand Luke (1967)

What we think of cool, begins with Brando and ends with Newman. One redefined the nature of cool and the other perfected it. Their personas demanded a new type of anti-hero to cater to their specific kind of cool. Brando ushered in the era of the leather jacket wearing hoodlum, whereas Newman put his own twist on the lovable rogue. Used to be the anti-hero was a bad guy we secretly liked. Then, with Brando, we got a bad guy we didn’t like. And with Cool Hand Luke, we get a good guy who becomes a bad guy because he doesn’t like us. This is a biblical allegory that asks “what if Jesus resented the apostles for making him their Messiah against his will?” The film is about a man who refuses to conform to authority, and instead chooses to live life on his own terms. Set in a Southern prison in the 1950s, Cool Hand Luke follows Luke Jackson (Newman), a rebellious and charismatic prisoner who becomes a symbol of hope and defiance for his fellow inmates. Throughout the film, Luke challenges the prison system, his captors, and even himself, by performing small acts of rebellion that ultimately lead to his downfall. In one of the most iconic scenes of the film, Luke brags to his fellow inmates that he can eat 50 hard-boiled eggs in one hour. His boast is met with one of the more famous lines in the movie: “Nobody can eat 50 eggs.” The inmates bet him all their money that he can’t do it and I’ll leave it for you to find out whether or not he does, but I’ll just say, Luke will never turn down a bet, doesn’t always mean he’ll succeed. And fail he does. In a crucial scene, he fails bad and publicly. His followers start to have doubts that their savior might just be a regular dude. And that’s when the film goes from a good allegory to a pitch perfect condemnation on hero worship. It’s the type of character study only the 60s could produce and a character only Newman could play.

Sailor Monsoon

21. Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Million Dollar Baby is crammed full of clichés and tropes. It’s an underdog story, featuring an elderly man with an estranged daughter. He crosses paths with a woman who has her own family issues and is in desperate need of a father figure. In saying all that, it’s a great example of tropes being done right. They are popular tried and tested story elements for a reason. Eastwood gives the classic grizzly performance we are accustomed to and Hilary Swank deservedly picked up the best actress academy award for her turn as the extremely likable aspiring boxer. The climax is devastating but helps elevate emotions to a different level. It’s a heartfelt, feel-good tearjerker. 

Lee McCutcheon

40-31 | 20-11

What are some of your favorite Warner Bros. movies? Maybe they’ll show up later in the list!