The Best Classic Movies From Every Decade

By Doug Norrie | Updated

Best Movies Of The 30s: #1 Gone with the Wind (1939)

It’s sometimes difficult for older movies to hold up to the test of time. But with lines like, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”, characters Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), and the Civil War as a backdrop the movie has endured as seemingly timeless. 

Best Movies Of The 30s: #2 The Wizard of Oz (1939)

There’s a reason this story still resonates decades later and the characters have become as iconic as any the big screen has ever seen. It’s a fantastical story with a pretty simple idea. There’s no place like home, friends are all you need, and we all have challenges to overcome.

Best Movies Of The 40s: #1 Citizen Kane (1941)

Often cited as the greatest movie of all time, Orson Welles pulled the trifecta here, writing, directing, and starring in a film that took a look at the life of Charles Foster Kane through the lens of his last words. Audiences were taken on a journey to learn about Rosebud while also seeing things on film that were firsts at the time.

Best Movies Of The 40s: #2 Casablanca (1942)

When it comes to the best classic movies, Citizen Kane and Casablanca are often running side-by-side. Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine is caught between a woman he loves and her husband whom he’s trying to help escape the Nazis.

Best Movies Of The 50s: #1 Seven Samurai (1954)

Akira Kurosawa directed a film that would go on to inspire numerous others the world over. A group of heroes, a town to protect, and a filming style that would be copied countless times after.

Best Movies Of The 50s: #2 North by Northwest (1959)

This won’t be the only time we see Alfred Hitchcock on this list. His career spanned decades and he brought classics to more than one. North by Northwest will keep viewers on the edge of their seats even now decades later with a case of mistaken identity and a chase across the country.

Best Movies Of The 60s: #1 Psycho (1960)

Speaking of Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho started off the 1960s with a terrifying bang, killing off the main character early and making generations afraid to get in the shower. The movie still resonates as terrifying and became one of the most influential ever.

Best Movies Of The 60s: #2 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

The Sergio Leone movie went on to define the Western film while giving audiences some of the coolest cinematography at the time. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly had Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach on the hunt for gold and was as violent as it got during this time.

Best Movies Of The 70s: #1 The Godfather (1972)

 You know a movie is a classic and an all-timer when they make movies about how those movies were made. Francis Ford Coppola with a script by Mario Puzo brought the mafia to life with The Godfather, a sweeping tale about family and power.

star wars

Best Movies Of The 70s: #2 Star Wars (1977)

 The film that started it all in a galaxy far, far away. George Lucas’s space opera introduced us to Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader, and a world that is still spawning more stories decades later.

Best Movies Of The 80s: #1 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

As far as classic movies go, we had to have at least one alien invasion movie in here. And sure, it wasn’t so much an invasion as a cute tale of friendship and love that Steven Spielberg brought into our homes with a glowing finger, some candy, and the coolest bike chase ever.

Best Movies Of The 80s: #2 The Princess Bride (1987)

This movie is as funny now decades later as it was when it came out in the 1980s. The love story of Westley and Buttercup, the swashbuckling, the one-liners, and a tale of revenge are all wrapped up in a hilariously classic film.

Best Movies Of The 90s: #1 The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption is a prison movie that’s really about friendship and the understanding of pressure and time. That’s at the core of Frank Darabont’s adaptation of the Stephen King story that shows the life of two men as they navigate the decades behind bars only to finally find freedom.

Best Movies Of The 90s: #2 Pulp Fiction (1994)

Quentin Tarantino had to make the list before it was all said and done, and why not have it be with the movie that really put him on the map? Pulp Fiction would become the center of the zeitgeist for the 90s in a movie that’s almost multiple flicks in one ultra-cool tale.

Best Movies Of The 2000s: #1 Lord Of The Rings

The third movie in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy brought this story to its epic conclusion. It was hard to imagine ever doing Tolkien’s masterpiece justice on the big screen, but this was as close as it got when Frodo and Sam finally make it to Mount Doom.

Best Movies Of The 2000s: #2 The Dark Knight (2008)

Christopher Nolan began to redefine how we think about comic book movies with The Dark Knight, a flick that gave Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne a real moral conflict while also introducing us to maybe the best villain ever put on the big screen in Heath Ledger’s Joker.