Top Movie Years Ever: Ranking the Best,



The history of film can easily be defined by the specific releases contained throughout the 12-month window. Some are more robust than others in terms of great movie releases in their respective year. While some years are generally best known for only a select number of truly “great” films, others have been home to ample amounts of masterpieces released in quick succession. A generally remarkable feature is the large swath in genres and cinematic styles that make up a successful year in film history.

This list will highlight some of the best years in the history of film and the projects that helped them receive their acclaimed status. Some years just had many great films released in a single year where one could go to a cinema every week and find something worth watching. Obviously, opinions will differ, but these years are agreed upon as having some amazing films released within them.

11 1984


Orion Pictures

Many films from 1984 remain beloved to this day. For comedic works, look to both Ghostbusters and Beverly Hills Cop. Additionally, films such as Footloose, Gremlins, and The Karate Kid have remained culturally memorable to this day. 1984 marked the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street, introducing audiences to Freddy Kruger. Though it can be argued that no film from 1984 has had more relevance to the cultural zeitgeist than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s breakout performance in The Terminator.

In terms of dramatic films, Amadeus would be considered to be among the best and proved as such by hauling in an impressive eight Oscars. As well, The Killing Fields took home three Oscars, including one for Haing S. Ngor’s incredible performance. Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas is another standout film from the year. 1984 also provided the final films of two incredible directors: David Lean’s A Passage To India and Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In America.

10 2022Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once

While some may argue that this is a “prisoner of the moment” type of selection, 2022 provided one of the strongest years in film history. The year is led by the award-winning masterpiece Everything Everywhere All at Once, a cinematic triumph in a plethora of ways. In terms of major blockbuster releases, the likes of Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar: The Way of Water, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever serve as massive triumphs both commercially and creatively.

Meanwhile, a plethora of notable directors released new entries that enhance their portfolio of cinematic classics. These include Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, Jordan Peele’s Nope, and Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin, though there are certainly more worth mentioning. And in terms of films for the whole family, both Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio and Marcel the Shell with Shoes On are two of the most poignantly resonant family-oriented films in a distinct period.

9 2012

Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, and Mark Buffalo in The Avengers

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

2012 was a year that seemed to have a great film in almost every single genre. Quite a few of its best had espionage-centric stories, like Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, and Skyfall, one of the best movies in the James Bond franchise. The year also saw the release of Lincoln, which won Daniel Day-Lewis his third Oscar through his much-acclaimed portrayal of the titular president. 2012 was a major year for superhero movies, as Christopher Nolan concluded his Batman films with The Dark Knight Rises, and the MCU became the biggest pop culture franchise on the planet with the release of The Avengers.

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2012 is also host to well-received romantic dramas Amour and Silver Linings Playbook. As well Ang Lee’s directorial triumph in the adventurous adaptation of Life of Pi deserves a distinct mention. Beasts of the Southern Wild is another great film from this year. And while Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master might not be a film designed for everyone, it does contain two wonderful performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

8 1982

A scene from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Universal Pictures

1982 was a great year for science fiction fans. The highest-grossing movie of the year, and for a while of all time, was E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. There were plenty of flavors of sci-fi that year, from horror sci-fi in John Carpenter’s The Thing, Ridley Scott’s noir sci-fi Blade Runner, or classic swashbuckling adventure with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This was also the year Disney released Tron, a breakthrough in special effects.

There was also the iconic horror film Poltergeist, the comedy Fast Time as Ridgemont High, and the action-packed Rocky III were all released this year as well. An Officier and a Gentlemen, Tootsie and the Best Picture winner Ghandi helped make 1982 an amazing year for movies.

7 1989

Do The Right Thing

Universal Pictures

It’s a challenge to determine where to begin when discussing 1989. Arguably the most notable place to start is with The Little Mermaid, the film that kicked off the Disney Renaissance that revitalized the animation and family film juggernaut. It is also very much worth mentioning two fantastic romantic comedies that came out this year that defined a generation of the genre: When Harry Met Sally and Say Anything.

It’s a true positive for the success of the year when the biggest performers at the box office were the conclusion of Steven Spielberg’s seminal trilogy with Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade and Tim Burton’s Batman, a film that served as a launching point for the superhero genre of film. Crimes and Misdemeanors and Steven Soderbergh’s debut film, Sex, Lies and Videotape, serve as high points in the world of serious dramas. Then there is Glory, one of the best US Civil War films ever made. One can’t forget to mention Dead Poets Society and My Left Foot, which earned Daniel Day-Lewis his first of three Oscars. All of this is without mention of perhaps the most influential film of the year: Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing.

6 1994

The Shawshank Redemption

Columbia Pictures

1994 saw the release of one of the most beloved movies Disney has ever put out. That film is, of course, The Lion King, which is still the highest-grossing hand-drawn animated movie. The second-highest-grossing film of the year was Forrest Gump, which was also the big winner at the Academy Awards that year thanks to the irreverent performance from Tom Hanks. For those looking for action movies, True Lies, Speed, and Leon: The Professional are among the best in the genre. 1994 was the year of Jim Carrey as the star had three movies open in the year: Dumb and Dumber, Ace Venture: Pet Detective, and The Mask. Titles like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Ed Wood, and Natural Born Killers further bolster the strength of 1994 in film.

And there is a definite need to mention three of the most memorable films of the year. The first is Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption, the emotionally gripping adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel that, while a box office bomb, was a critical favorite and has since become one of the most beloved movies of all time. The second was Quentin Tarantino’s magnum opus, Pulp Fiction, which left a huge impact on movies and proved that independent films could thrive at the box office. Kevin Smith’s debut film, Clerks, premiered at Sundance at the beginning of the year and introduced the world to the director’s unique voice.

5 1967

The Graduate

Embassy Pictures

1967 was a historically great year for movies and saw a major shift in Hollywood. The year saw the release of Bonnie and Clyde, which features a final shootout that’d be considered pretty violent when compared to modern standards. One must imagine what 1967 audiences thought of it. Audiences also saw the premiere of The Graduate, which was the highest-grossing film of the year and still receives ample amounts of praise to this day. These two films helped mark a shift in what would be defined as The New Hollywood leading to a run of young filmmakers that would redefine cinema.

The year also saw the release of In The Heat of The Night, which is the film where Sidney Poitier delivers his iconic line, “They call me Mr. Tibbs!” Cool Hand Luke is another 1967 great, featuring perhaps Paul Newman’s most memorable performance. Wait Until Dark, which is host to one of Audrey Hepburn’s best performances, also came out this year. The success of 1967 in film spanned internationally as well. Closely Watched Trains was produced in Czechoslovakia, and iconic French actress Catherine Deneuve had two of her more memorable films released this year: Belle De Jour and The Young Girls of Rochefort.

4 1975

A scene from Jaws

Universal Pictures

To show just how good 1975 was, let’s look at the films the Academy Awards nominated for Best Picture that year: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (the winner), Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon, Jaws, and Nashville. Most years, the Oscars are fortunate to have one or two unanimously strong nominees for the best picture. In 1975, every film nominated are generally considered to be cinematic masterpieces. On the international scene, Australia released the wonderfully haunting Picnic At Hanging Rock, Italy released Seven Beauties, and the Soviet Union released Dersu Uzala, directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa.

There are two other films worth mentioning when discussing 1975 in film, both of which have achieved immortality as beloved cult films. The first is The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is the longest-running theatrical release in film history. The other is considered to be one of the strongest contenders for the title of “funniest film ever made.” That film is, of course, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. With all that in mind, it’s hard to deny that 1975 was an incredible year for movies.

3 2007

Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men

A fair amount of discussion about the best films of 2007 centers around the two instant classics released that year: No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood. However, several other films deserve credit in this strong year of film. The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford has its devoted fans, and rightfully so. 2007 was also a great year for highly acclaimed directors between David Fincher’s release of the incredible Zodiac and arguably Tim Burton’s last truly “great” film with Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

2007 also saw the release of Into The Wild, Atonement, and Michael Clayton, all wonderful films. Comedy had a strong year from awards darlings like Juno to Edgar Wright’s second film Hot Fuzz and three Judd Apatow comedies in the form of Knocked Up, Superbad, and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. For animation, there’s Persepolis,Ratatouille, and the highly anticipated The Simpsons Movie. Other noteworthy releases in 2007 include Julie Taymor’s Beatles jukebox musical Across the Universe, the action spy film The Bourne Ultimatum, and the Disney classic Enchanted.

2 1999

Carrie-Anne Moss and Keanu Reeves in The Matrix

Warner Bros.

1999 was a robust year for the film industry. Audiences saw Toy Story 2, the revered first Pixar sequel. It also saw the debut of The Matrix, one of the most influential science fiction films ever made. While speaking about films influential to the medium heading into the 21st century, the Blair Witch Project was paramount in establishing the found-footage niche of the horror genre. In addition, The Sixth Sense was released, which not only earned M. Night Shyamalan Oscar nominations for Original Screenplay and Best Director but also contained one of the most memorable twists in film history.

The list of iconic and great movies from 1999 goes on. The Iron Giant, American Beauty, and The Talented Mr. Ripley, to name a few. Audiences got inside an actor’s mind in the Charlie Kaufmann-written surrealist comedy Being John Malkovich. Other greats include Magnolia, The Insider, and The Green Mile. And no list of great films from 1999 is complete without mention of the irreverent workplace comedy Office Space.

1 1939

The Wizard of Oz Dorothy


1939 is considered by many to be the best year in movie history, and when you look at all the classics that were released, it’s hard to argue against it. Many classics came out in 1939. Victor Fleming’s dramatic masterpiece Gone With The Wind is generally ranked amongst the best American films in history and still is the highest-earning film of all time, adjusted for inflation.

Audiences also bore witness to Judy Garland’s extremely memorable leading performance in The Wizard of Oz. James Stewart gave the best performance of his career with Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. Greta Garbo gave us one of her best performances in the comedy Ninotchka. Bette Davis did the same in Dark Victory. 1939 is also home to two great action films: John Ford’s Stagecoach and George Stevens’ Gunga Din. There are another dozen great films from this year worth watching from the year, but given how strong the year is, it’s almost impossible to list them all.

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