Year Released: 1939
It’s unlikely you’ll find many people that haven’t at least heard of this 1939 film starring John Wayne in his first major role, and the one that would launch his career. Adapted from a short story by Ernest Haycox, the motion picture follows a group of people riding through Apache territory.
Stagecoach was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning two; Best Supporting Actor and Best Music Scoring. The others that they were up for included Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography. Critics absolutely loved the film as much as audiences, which is evidenced by great reviews across the board, and a perfect rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Stairway to Heaven
Year Released: 1946
David Niven stars in this 1946 film, which was also released under the alternate title, A Matter of Life and Death. With a 97% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the film continues to make “best of” lists, despite it being filmed several decades ago.
Critic reviews were all very positive, for the most part. This includes a 2017 addition from Village Voice critic Alan Scherstuhl, which says that it “bursts with tantalizing ideas, surprising connections, suggestive flights of fancy.” And this isn’t the only film that Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell have teamed up on that have made our list. They’re also two of the people involved in Black Narcissus.
Steamboat Bill, Jr.
Year Released: 1928
An older film, and a rare silent one on our list with a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes is Steamboat Bill Jr., circa 1928. The picture stars film legend Buster Keaton, and contains his most famous on-screen stunt, where an entire house falls on him. It is said that this film actually inspired Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie – AKA the debut of Mickey Mouse.
The house stunt is hands-down the most widely recognized part of this film and has been recreated several times in other movies and television shows, including on MacGyver and Arrested Development. The film was featured in a book titled 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
Year Released: 2014
There’s a very interesting production tale behind this 165-minute film that was released in 2014. Written and directed by Richard Linklater, it took more than a decade to shoot, beginning in 2001 and wrapping up the year before it came out. The script was actually conceptualized throughout the years, as well, as they began with just basic plot points.
The film premiered at Sundance in 2014 and was released in theaters not long after. It won several awards, including the Silver Bear Award for Best Director at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival, and two Golden Globes, though it was nominated for five.
Year Released: 1933
Duck Soup is another one of the films on our list that didn’t do so hot in the box office but gained more recognition and appreciation as time went on. The Marx Brothers comedy follows some silly spies trying to stage a revolution in the small nation of Freedonia.
It has a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 50 reviews, and holds a 7.8/10 on IMDb. Roger Ebert gives it a 4/4, including in his review that he believes it to be the best of the Marx Brothers films.