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.
80. V for Vendetta (2006)
For some, Hugo Weaving will always be Agent Smith or Elrond of Rivendell. To me, he will always be V, the Guy Fawkes mask-wearing vigilante whose quest for vengeance inspires a nation to revolt against a corrupt fascist government. Directed by James McTeigue from a screenplay by the Wachowskis, V for Vendetta is based on a serialized graphic novel of the same name from the late ‘80s. I haven’t read the graphic novel, but I’m a huge fan of this movie. Weaving’s voice is magic, somehow managing to give a bigger-than-life personality to an unmoving plastic face. Natalie Portman turns in a lovely performance as Evey, and the bad guys are more than suitably evil. I’m always struck by Stephen Rea’s quietly contemplative Chief Inspector Finch. His steady presence helps root the plot firmly in the territory of “feels too real to be comfortable” that I think most dystopian works are going for.
79. Magic Mike (2012)
At first glance, Magic Mike seems like a frivolous film about hot guys shaking their… assets. And yes, there are plenty of hot guys shaking all kinds of things. What I remember vividly about the film’s release is how much fun it was to see in the theater, yes, with many women. Many, many women. But the story of an all-male revue mentoring a young, up-and-coming stripper was surprisingly deep, providing substance to the half-naked grinding. Soderbergh directs his cast with finesse, drawing some pretty remarkable performances from all of them, especially the film MVP, Matthew McConaughey.
78. Blazing Saddles (1974)
If you’re looking for classy, intellectual humor, then Blazing Saddles is not the movie for you. If rage thinly disguised as satire wrapped in a cocoon of the ludicrous and topped with a cowboy hat is your brand of entertainment, then look no further than Mel Brooks’ 1974 masterpiece. The film was unapologetically raunchy and irreverent, using parody to challenge stereotypes and highlight the absurdity of racism. It also aims to dismantle the romance of Westerns, taking classic tropes of the genre and decimating them with glee. Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder lead a formidable cast, including Madeline Kahn, Slim Pickens, Harvey Korman, and Dom DeLuise — all of whom attack their roles with gusto.
77. Batman Begins (2005)
When people talk about Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, they are almost always talking about The Dark Knight. With Heath Ledger’s turn as the Joker, the movie has a serious tone that sets it apart from every other Batman film.
And while The Dark Knight may have the better villain and the better performance (maybe the best of any superhero movie), Batman Begins remains my favorite of the three Nolan films.
Origin stories get old. How many times do we need to see Bruce Wayne become the Batman? We all know the story—even non comic book readers are familiar with it. But Nolan manages to make us interested in what we’ve already seen. He pulls us in with his unique vision of this story. It’s gritty, it’s more realistic than we’ve ever seen the Bat onscreen…and it’s fun. Batman Begins is just a lot of fun. And I would pick it over The Dark Knight to rewatch every time.
76. Private Benjamin (1980)
Playing like a female version of Stripes, Private Benjamin is another wacky comedy about a strong willed independent who goes into the military but the military doesn’t change her, she changes the military! Or it would be if Goldie Hawn didn’t have complete control over her image and knew exactly how to play against it. For years and years, she was always looked at as the “dumb blonde” and since her roles reflected as much, people just assumed she was. But Hawn, like many other performers, was just good at a particular role. She found her niche and rolled with it but unlike other actors who played similar parts, she was actually smart. You don’t have a career in Hollywood that’s lasted for 50 years if you’re only good at one thing. Private Benjamin was the film and role that proved that her career up to that point had been an act.
There have been about a million fish-out-of-water stories set in the military but not one of them comes close to having as strong a narrative arc as this one does. This was her movie star role but she’s not the only one giving a movie star caliber performance in this. The entire supporting cast is made up of scene-stealers and comedic assassins. If Hawn was wired differently, she easily could’ve spun this into a Police Academy-esque franchise. But thank god she thinks like an artist and not a businessman. Dumb blonde my ass.
75. Watchmen (2009)
Most film fans either love or hate Watchmen. Zack Snyder either made a visually striking adaptation of a beloved comic book that people lose themselves in, or he made a movie that is so slavishly faithful to the comic book visuals that he completely missed the point of the source material (because Zack Snyder is a dude bro who is too stupid to get the super deep shit Alan Moore was laying down in the book—according to the haters).
I know Watchmen has its flaws. And, sure, it would have been cool if it had stuck to the original ending. But it is so gorgeously rendered and meticulously put together and it’s just such an interesting world that I can’t help but want to visit it again and again. If that places me along the dumb dude bros, so be it.
74. True Romance (1993)
True Romance couldn’t feel any more like a film with Tony Scott’s directing and Quentin Tarantino’s writing. And the fact it feels so uniquely like their baby is definitely a good thing. The two entities amalgamate so well together, delivering a wonderfully entertaining romantic crime caper. The highlight of the film has to be the infamous ‘Sicilians’ scene. Two of the generation’s greatest talents, Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken, have a sit-down. Hopper’s character does all he can in the face of adversity to get under Walken’s proud Sicilian character’s skin (tasteless or not). Even with the orchestral melodies accompanying proceedings, the tensions are unbearably sky-high. If this was a list of the greatest Warner Bros scenes, it would surely be at the top.
73. It (2017)
Ignoring the much-maligned Chapter Two, It (2017) was quite successful in capturing the heart of what is arguably Stephen King’s most famous novel. What makes this movie so good is the cast. All the younger actors embodied their characters, and I’ve always said that King writes childhood and childhood relationships like no other. While Pennywise appears now and then to wreak havoc on their lives with some genuinely scary moments, the movie succeeds because the central core of the actors have lovely chemistry together, making their bond feel real. I adore coming-of-age films, and Andy Muschietti did an admirable job of bringing King’s beloved novel to the big screen.
72. Creed (2015)
This is one of those movies that shouldn’t work half as well as it does. Ryan Coogler took a big swing on a Rocky legacy sequel and ends up knocking it out of the park. Coogler is obviously the glue that holds all of this together, however, this movie doesn’t end up working as well as it does without the incredible buy-in from Sylvester Stallone. The power of his performance sneaks up on you throughout the duration of the movie and ends up fully captivating you when it’s all said and done. Even with Stallone’s stellar performance, this is undoubtedly Coogler’s movie. Bringing along his main collaborator, Michael B. Jordan, was a great piece of casting. The story is near perfect, and the inventive composition of the fight scenes elevate this to the level of all-time great boxing movie.
71. Klute (1971)
The first in director Alan J. Pakula’s “Paranoia Trilogy,” Klute is an intelligent neo-noir thriller about a high-priced call girl (Jane Fonda) that assists a detective (Donald Sutherland) in solving a missing-persons case. While there are some strong supporting performances from the likes of Charles Cioffi and Roy Scheider, Klute is Fonda’s movie. She carried Klute to the point where the film really should have been named after her character Bree instead of Sutherland’s detective. My point is that she definitely earned that Academy Award for Best Actress. Sutherland isn’t slacking though. He’s a cool and commanding presence throughout Klute and the scenes he shares with Fonda are some of the best. Klute is a film that I would have sadly overlooked if it hadn’t been released as part of the Criterion Collection in 2019. So, thank you, Criterion for yet again introducing me to another classic film.
90-81 | 70-61
What are some of your favorite Warner Bros. movies? Maybe they’ll show up later in the list!