The 100 Greatest Warner Bros. Movies (70-61)

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.

70. Empire of the Sun (1987)

There seems to be three categories of Spielberg film: the immediate masterpiece, the forgettable flop and the overlooked gem. Empire of the Sun is without a doubt, the best of the third category. Based on J.G. Ballard’s semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, the film tells the story of a young British boy named Jim (played by a very young Christian Bale) who lives in Shanghai with his wealthy parents during World War II. His privileged life is quickly upended when the Japanese invade and he’s separated from his parents. The rest of the film of the film follows his journey as he tries to survive in a world that’s increasingly more violent, unpredictable and inhumane. More than a simple story of survival, the film is a brilliant showcase for its young leads talents and leaves room for his costars (including John Malkovich and Ben Stiller of all people) to come in and just kill for a couple of minutes. Every character is memorable, each frame looks like a painting and the story will stick with you forever.

Sailor Monsoon

69. A Star Is Born (2018)

Let’s get the obvious out of the way – this movie has arguably the best original song out of any of the movies featured on this list. ‘The Shallows’ is a certified banger and Lady Gaga absolutely crushes it. Incredible singing pipes aside, she proves that she has what it takes to be a certified movie star. She brings an incredible screen presence and can freaking act her ass off. Gaga steals the show, but Bradley Cooper is nothing to sneeze at here. His performance is just about what you’d expect from him. However, it’s his directing that really shines here. What he’s able to pull off as a first-time director is no easy feat. Choosing to shoot and record the musical sequences live adds such a lived-in beauty to those scenes. This movie will take you on an emotional rollercoaster, but it’ll still have you coming back to singing ‘The Shallows’ over and over again.

Raf Stitt

68. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Who the hell asked for this? Making a sequel to Blade Runner probably made sense in the 1980’s or 90’s, but in 2017? When the original has been enshrined as one of the greatest one-and-done sci-fi films of all time? Whatever, I’m just glad that crazy person or persons was listened to, because Blade Runner 2049 is a fantastic film and worthy sequel to the original. I had my doubts, and I put off watching it for the longest time. Like an idiot.

It can be a little… sedate, if I’m honest, but dammit I love that director Dennis Villeneuve takes his time with it. Maybe I don’t need a half-dozen action sequences. Maybe I just need a story about humanity and empathy, shot in a maginifenctly imagined and gorgeous future. Before Blade Runner 2049 I didn’t want any more stories set in this fictional universe. Now I’d welcome more, if they’re all as beautiful, thoughtful and well-acted as this one.

Bob Cram

67. The Mission (1986)

If you ever wanted to see how badly a career can go south in Hollywood, just look at the filmography of the director of The Mission. Before this, he directed the critically acclaimed The Killing Fields and twenty years later, he directed the unwatchable torture porn disaster Captivity. His career takes such a sharp turn into awful, it’s almost whiplash inducing. Which is a shame because he showed so much promise with his first couple of features. Starring Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons, the film follows a Spanish Jesuit priest (Irons) who goes on a mission to convert the Guarani people of South America to Christianity in the 18th century. Along the way, he encounters a former slave and mercenary (De Niro) who becomes his assistant. The film is a compelling reflection on the complexities of colonialism, the clash of cultures and the power of faith. Scorsese would later mine similar themes in his film Silence, so if you’re a fan of that, this works as a perfect double bill. And just like that film, this film is absolutely stunning to look at. The cinematography is breath taking, capturing the beauty of the South American jungle as well as the grandeur of the mission itself. With two exceptional performances from its leads, some of the best cinematography of its era and a story rife with themes, the film might be the most underrated of the decade.

Sailor Monsoon

66. The Nice Guys (2016)

Shane Black is something of a one-trick pony. It just so happens his one trick—buddy cop action comedy—is very good. Bursting onto the scene with Lethal Weapon, the highest-priced screenplay at the time, Black made a name for himself as the Hollywood bigshot screenwriter. The man was even asked to punch up the script for Predator, which he wisely declined to do (and we’ll wisely decline to dwell on his The Predator).

Iterating on his initial Lethal Weapon success with Lethal Weapon 2, The Last Boy Scout, The Last Action Hero, The Long Kiss Good Night, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (his directorial debut), Shane Black had a winning formula: Action + Strong and Witty Characters = Fun. So, after a brief foray into the MCU, Black returned to this formula with 2016’s The Nice Guys, a buddy (not quite) cop action comedy. Our duo this go-around is played by Russell Crowe (a pathetic enforcer for hire) and Ryan Gosling (a drunk and disgraced PI) as they reluctantly team up to track down a missing DA’s rebellious daughter. Set in a glitzy if not grimy 1970s L.A. as our protagonists sleuth around the porn industry and navigate the tropes of the genre with aplomb, The Nice Guys delivers on every front: plotting, dialogue, acting (both Crowe and Gosling more than excel at the comedy on paper)—even Black’s direction has been honed to genuine greatness.

Sleuthing is fun enough on its own, but sleuthing the Shane Black way is possibly even more fun and, sadly, not abundant enough these days.


65. The Lego Movie (2014)

I’m a huge LEGO fan, but even I was hesitant when a film adaptation was announced. Thankfully, the creative geniuses that are Lord & Miller created a film that managed to capture the spirit of playing with LEGO as a child. We didn’t need The Lego Movie, but we’re a whole lot better off having it in our lives than not. The cameos are abundant but they (mostly) serve a purpose. The double-decker couch (so everyone can watch TV together and be buddies) is a great invention that I am still shocked isn’t on the market today. Audiences may have had enough of Chris Pratt in 2023, but his voice was perfect for the role of Emmet Brickowski, an everyman who is unsure of his place in the LEGO Universe.

I don’t even need to rewatch The Lego Movie to crack up at some of the film’s jokes. Just a line or two of dialogue popping into my head is all it takes to put a smile on my face. If we never get another LEGO movie I’ll be okay, because Lord & Miller already gave us the definitive adaptation.

(Side note: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is equally great. In fact, I’d argue it does a better job with the idea that you can use LEGO to build whatever you imagine.)

Marmaduke Karlston

64. Batman Returns (1992)

Is this peak Tim Burton? I’ll just leave that question out there for you to ponder. In the meantime, I’ll just rave about how special this movie is. First off, the Danny DeVito as Penguin casting is about as perfect as it gets. Next up, we’ve got Michelle Pfeifer’s Catwoman, which is one of the best comic book movie performances of all time hands down. Also, Batman is there there and he’s pretty cool too. This Gotham City pops in a way that is unmatched by any other comic book movie setting. It’s as much of a character as any of the ridiculous people who inhabit it. I know this list will say otherwise, but I’m open to the argument that this being the best Batman movie ever made.

Raf Stitt

63. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Danny Boyle doesn’t get the credit he deserves as one of the most fascinating directors of his time. His willingness to fully give himself over to the topic of whatever movie he’s making is truly awe inspiring. Slumdog Millionaire is no exception to that rule. This movie is confidently aware of its identity. Despite the seemingly fun and inventive form of the movie, it actually plays out in a very conventional fashion. That does not, however, mean that the movie is boring. The emotional weight is undeniable. The story is beyond captivating. Dev Patel is an absolute wonder in this break out role. All of those things are great, but what really sets this movie apart is the awesome ‘Paper Planes’ needle drop.

Raf Stitt

62. Prisoners (2013)

Focusing on the abduction of two young girls in Pennsylvania, Prisoners may seem like a basic thriller revolving around a kidnapping. Denis Villeneuve is better known for more experimental and unique movies, and he manages to make Prisoners stand out in the genre. Helped greatly by the A-list ensemble cast, Hugh Jackman is phenomenal as the father right on the edge of breaking point, as we watch just how far he is willing to go to protect his family. For me, it’s his best performance to date. Add in Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano, and you have a masterpiece on your hands. Prisoners features a number of scenes that were so engrossing, it made me forget I was watching a movie. I felt like I was in the story with the lead characters. It’s much more than just a run-of-the-mill thriller, thanks to the magic of Denis Villeneuve. 

Lee McCutcheon

61. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

“I know you are, but what am I?” The 1980s were a weird time. When else could a guy with a weird stage show about an eccentric man-child and a director with only a weird short film about a re-animated pet dog in his resume get the green light for a bizarre, absurdist version of Bicycle Thieves? I hadn’t heard of either Paul Rubens or Tim Burton when Pee-wee’s Big Adventure was released, but I knew they were going places after the joyous lunacy of that movie. (That soundtrack guy, Danny Elfman, also made an impression.)

A strange, but engaging, boy (man?) goes on a quest to find his stolen bicycle – a heavily modified Schwinn Western Flyer. He has a bunch of adventures and meets a lot of interesting people (including the ghost truck driver of my nightmares, Large Marge) along the way. It’s a simple enough story, but it’s the whimsy and silliness that carries the film. There’s an odd wholesomeness to the absurdity that endears the character to you. It also lets you buy in to such outlandish scenes as a biker gang, ready to kill Pee-wee for damaging their bikes, being so impressed with his dancing to The Champs’ “Tequila” in a pair of platform shoes that they give him a motorcycle of his own. Which he promptly crashes.

I can’t, even now, tell you why Pee-wee Herman works as a character or a film. He’s weird, he’s a grown man who acts like a child, and his world is a surreal 1950s-like place that also happens to exist alongside the real world. All I know is that it still entertains, after all this time, as an escape and an adventure that makes me smile. I sometimes wonder what sort of odd works of art we would have got out of Rubens had he not had his early ’90s fall from grace, but in the end, if Big Adventure had been all we got? It would have been enough.

Bob Cram

80-71 | 60-51

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