34 of the Most Iconic Movies of All Time — No Questions Asked!
If there's any group of people that history would consider uncontestable tastemakers, it's filmmakers. Their dreams, ideas, hopes, and stories have fed the masses unique, creative concepts while shaping and reshaping pop culture at the drop of a dime.
So, it's no surprise that you're here, reading this, hoping to learn more about the cinematic content that shapes how we perceive the world and ourselves.
Grab your popcorn: The most iconic movies of all time
It's the list you've been waiting for: The cinema icons, the legends, and the moments are here for your enjoyment and consumption. Here are the nominees that will have you saying, "Heartbreak feels good in a place like this."
1. Jurassic Park
In 1993, life found a way into the hearts and minds of everyone when this box office meteor smashed what we once thought was possible in cinema. Hold onto your butts: This one’s a hit.
This film tells the story of a flamboyant classical composer who's still loved to this day: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But it's also a story about Antonio Salieri, his one-sided rival whose envy of Mozart was all-consuming.
Jaws' staying power extends well beyond the cello and bass section of the orchestra that recorded the soundtrack. It's iconic for bringing the monster of the deep to the silver screen and single-handedly scaring people either into or out of being marine biologists.
4. A Clockwork Orange
Based on the novel by Anthony Burgess, this dystopian Kubrick classic is all about putting a magnifying glass on social and political issues in the ’60s, many of which are still relevant today. It's violent and disturbing, which is kind of the point. The vulgarity adds to its icon status, but it's certainly not for everyone.
5. Doctor Zhivago
Doctor Zhivago is a story about love and war. Although the movie's extensive runtime of over three hours has drawn criticism across time, its undeniably masterful storytelling solidifies it as one of the greatest movies ever.
6. My Fair Lady
If we're talking timeless classic movies of gay culture, then no list would be complete without the story of Eliza Doolittle. The rain in Spain may fall mainly on the plain, but this story about a Cockney working-class woman turned distinguished lady will always be in our hearts.
Based on the real tragedy of the Titanic (and not the nickname you gave your dildo), the film follows the fictional love story of Jack and Rose, who meet on the doomed vessel and fall for each other, only to have their romance cut short by one of history's greatest tragedies.
This historical drama starring Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix tells the harrowing tale of the Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridus. He eventually becomes enslaved but rises back to greatness by becoming a gladiator. It's a dramatic story about revenge with plenty of sweaty men — what's not to like?
9. Pulp Fiction
This film was an adrenaline shot to the chest for pop culture. It continues to ignite a firestorm of controversy, intrigue, and many mutha f-words thanks to Tarantino's shocking and heady approach to storytelling.
The Coen brothers weave a quirky, dark comedy with this title. With kidnapping, murder, and violence rampant throughout, Fargo manages to keep these Minnesota natives grounded in morbid hilarity — something that we can always get behind.
11. The Exorcist
No other film says American classic horror quite like The Exorcist. The movie explores demonic possession as two Catholic priests and a mother attempt to save a young girl from the grips of terror incarnate: the devil (better known for his role in Lil Nas X’s hit single, “Montero”)
12. Dances with Wolves
Our first Western on the list, this film is an adaptation of a novel by the same name. The story is told mainly through Lakota dialogue with English subtitles and is one of the only Westerns in history to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.
13. The Silence of the Lambs
If you're an avid horror watcher, movies like The Silence of the Lambs are your bread and butter. Hannibal Lecter, a cannibalistic serial killer, is a terrifying presence throughout the film despite Hopkin’s limited screen time. The gruesome film makes your skin crawl, cementing it as a can’t-miss thriller.
14. West Side Story
The 1961 film adaptation of this romantic musical takes us back to New York City in 1957, where two teenage gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, have an intense rivalry. The passion between Tony and Maria surpasses these societal borders in this dramatic, bombastic telling of how love can overcome all obstacles.
15. Forrest Gump
Run, gay, run! …to the couch and queue up Forrest Gump, if you haven’t seen it. There's genuinely no other movie quite like it. The charmingly innocent Forrest Gump finds himself smack dab in the middle of various historical events, and he’s often unwittingly responsible for their outcomes. Sound wild? It is.
16. The Sound of Music
This classic musical drama follows Maria, a young Austrian woman who becomes the governess to the seven Von Trapp children. She eventually earns their respect through kindness and patience while also catching the eye of Captain Georg Von Trapp.
17. The Wizard of Oz
As friends of Dorothy, we all already know how iconic this film is to queer culture. It's Isekai meets Americana in such a fantastical way; there's no chance this wouldn't make a list of the greatest films of all time.
18. Schindler's List
Schindler's List is an important historical drama and Spielberg hit based on an Australian novel titled Schindler's Ark. It centers on Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved over 1,000 Jewish people from the Holocaust. Profoundly emotional and spectacularly told, this film has a well-earned spot on any list of the most iconic movies ever.
19. Star Wars
When you think of big movies, you think of Star Wars. You could argue that any of the myriad sequels are iconic in their own right, but we'll say that the OG trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi) are the obvious picks if we're talking about the best movies.
20. Kill Bill
Much like Pulp Fiction — Tarantino's other enormous box office hit — Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 are each a gritty homage to cinema’s grindhouse glory days. Badass queens with katanas, a revenge story, campy gore — what more is there? How about a vehicle named the Pussy Wagon? Yep, this movie truly has it all.
Grease was already a classic musical; then, it got adapted into one of the greatest films of all time! Join Sandy, Danny Zuko, and their band of high school seniors as they learn about love and themselves throughout this ’50s-inspired musical romp.
22. The Matrix
This instant classic science fiction and action hybrid has insane staying power, influencing film and pop culture to this day. With the Wachowskis now publically out as transgender, the film’s philosophical exploration of identity takes on a whole new meaning.
Fern Gully walked so Avatar could run — and boy, did it run! This film shattered box office records when it came out and was one of the most talked about movies of all time. James Cameron tells an enchanting, otherworldly story about the moon Pandora as an allegory for how we treat our beautiful planet.
24. Dirty Dancing
Another classic American romantic drama, this film tells its story through the art of dance. Frances "Baby" Houseman falls madly in love with her dancing instructor and never gets put in the corner again. Isn't that lovely?
25. The Shining
Another pick from Stanley Kubrick, this time with torrents of blood and two creepy little twins serving Halloween costume inspiration for decades to come. The thriller is iconic for too many reasons: the cinematography, the soundtrack, and the absolutely mind-melting amount of screaming. Pick one; they're all valid.
26. Pretty Woman
Wait, you haven't seen Pretty Woman yet? Big mistake. Huge. Follow Julia Roberts as she portrays a woman from the red-light district on Hollywood Boulevard who captivates a high-society corporate bigwig. It's a rom-com with heart, soul, and sex appeal.
This supernatural comedy follows a team of “professional” paranormal investigators led by the charmingly aloof Bill Murray as they set out to eliminate ghosts in The Big Apple. It's a classic film with a banger theme song that’s required on any Halloween playlist.
28. The Breakfast Club
This is another ’80s gem that brings kids from across the social spectrum together for the ultimate bonding experience: detention. It's an enrapturing story that still resonates with audiences today.
29. The Notebook
If you want to look for movies that tug at your heartstrings, The Notebook will drag you by them for miles. It's considered by many to be the peak of the romance genre, with some tear-jerking, jaw-dropping performances by the cast to drive it all home.
30. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
This teen comedy follows Ferris Bueller, who fakes being sick to get out of school. In typical ’80s movie fashion, hilarity and hijinks ensue. It’s a heartwarming film with a powerful message: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
31. Fight Club
Are we breaking the first two rules by putting it on this list? Maybe, but it's worth it if it gets you to watch it. This movie is based on the acclaimed novel by Chuck Palahniuk and continues to grip the hearts and minds of many movie-goers even today.
Parasite is one of the most recent films on this list, but it holds its own among these cinematic titans. It's loved by critics and film buffs alike for its satirical yet bone-chilling portrayal of the ever-widening rift between the rich and poor.
33. The Lord of The Rings
Much like Star Wars, The Lord of The Rings films are all iconic in their own right. The Fellowship of the Ring is likely the clear victor for many here, but each entry is made better by its companions, so it's hard to choose! Easily one of the top movies to stream at home, where you can get comfy and settle in for a few (many) hours.
34. The Godfather
You won't find a list of the most iconic movies of all time without The Godfather on it. There's a reason for that: Many would go so far as to say it’s the greatest movie out there. That's up to personal taste, but there's no denying how much impact this masterpiece from Francis Ford Coppola has on our culture and cinema.
Find your movie night match on Grindr
Now that you’ve got your Letterboxd watch list filled out for the next year, why not find a cuddly hunk to share your small screen with? He’s waiting for you on Grindr. Just don’t be surprised if you’re preoccupied by the time the credits roll.