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The 100 best drama movies of all time, according to critics

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As a cinematic genre, “drama” has taken many forms over the decades.

The list we compiled here is based on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, and includes the site’s most critically acclaimed films featuring a “drama” tag. This resulted in a list that spans classic drama films, contemporary dramas, and dramadies of all sorts.

The list ranks movies by an adjusted critical score that Rotten Tomatoes derived from a weighted formula to account for the variation in number of reviews for each film. Therefore, the list favors more recent critically acclaimed films that have more reviews.

It includes classic dramas like “Citizen Kane” and “Taxi Driver” along with recent titles like the best-picture winners “Spotlight” and “Moonlight.”

At the top, there’s a conspicuous lack of movies made in the 1980s and 1990s, with the highest-rated titles being either old films or contemporary ones.

Here are the 100 best drama films of all time, according to critics on Rotten Tomatoes:

SEE ALSO: The 100 best horror movies of all time, according to critics

100. “The Artist” (2011)

Critic score: 95%

Audience score: 87%

What critics said: Sometimes cinema should just be pure, unadulterated joy, and The Artist is precisely that, in every wordless frame.” — Times (UK)

99. “‘The Conformist” (1970)

Critic score: 98%

Audience score: 91%

What critics said: The Conformist is celebrated for cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s tumbling autumn leaves, but its emotional impact involves a tumbling soul.” — Time Out

98. “The Red Shoes” (1948)

Critic score: 96%

Audience score: 92%

What critics said: Blending impressionist art and expressionist film, blurring the barriers between theatre and cinema, body and camera, reality and dream, drawing equally on the avant-garde and the classical.” — Time Out

97. “I, Tonya” (2017)

Critic score: 89%

Audience score: 88%

What critics said: Robbie’s screen presence makes her seem, at first blush, more suited to play Kerrigan. But just a few minutes into I, Tonya, I found myself captivated by the anger and blunt physicality that define Robbie’s performance.” — Vulture

96. “Au Hasard Balthazar” (1966)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 86%

What critics said: If one were looking for a perfectly realized film, Au Hasard Balthazar would be as likely a candidate as any.” — AV Club

95. “La Dolce Vita” (1960)

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 90%

What critics said: It is an awesome picture, licentious in content but moral and vastly sophisticated in its attitude and what it says. — The New York Times

94. “Schindler’s List” (1993)

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 97%

What critics said: It’s a stunning achievement, a film that re-creates the Holocaust not as something abstract, but as felt knowledge.” — Boston Globe

93. “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)

Critic score: 93%

Audience score: 95%

What critics said: The most well-loved of all Christmas movies.” — Chicago Tribune

92. “Apocalypse Now” (1979)

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 94%

What critics said: Apocalypse Now is not merely the greatest film to come out of the Vietnam experience but one of the great works about the madness of our times.” — Guardian

91. “Blade Runner 2049” (2017)

Critic score: 87%

Audience score: 81%

What critics said: From the grayed-out countrysides over which the sky has closed like a lid; to the drizzly neon decadence of Los Angeles; to the Ozymandian wreckage of Las Vegas-the film is a visual splendor of the first order.” — The Atlantic

90. “Nightcrawler” (2014)

Critic score: 95%

Audience score: 85%

What critics said: A gritty urban comedy noir, a scathing, ‘Network’-worthy disembowelment of television newsgatherers that will leave you craving a shower. — San Diego Reader

89. “Anatomy of a Murder” (1959)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 91%

What critics said: It is the best courtroom melodrama this old judge has ever seen. — The New York Times

88. “Battleship Potemkin” (1925)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 86%

What critics said: “A work of straightforward emotion and pulse-quickening tension. — Salon

87. “Gone with the Wind” (1939)

Critic score: 92%

Audience score: 93%

What critics said: Undoubtedly still the best and most durable piece of popular entertainment to have come off the Hollywood assembly lines. — The Atlantic

86. “Carol” (2015)

Critic score: 94%

Audience score: 74%

What critics said: ‘Carol’ possesses the same quiet, catlike powers of its magnetic title character: It swirls around to ambush you … and make you swoon. — The Washington Post

85. “The Leopard” (1963)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 89%

What critics said: A magnificent film, munificently outfitted and splendidly acted by a large cast dominated by Burt Lancaster’s standout stint in the title role. — Variety

84. “Cool Hand Luke” (1967)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 95%

What critics said: A caustically witty look at the American South and its still-surviving chain gangs, with Newman in fine sardonic form as the boss-baiter who refuses to submit and becomes a hero to his fellow-prisoners. — Time Out

83. “The Godfather, Part II” (1974)

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 97%

What critics said: An admirable, responsible production, less emotionally disturbing than its predecessor, but a grand historical epic studying the nature of power in the United States’ heritage. — The Hollywood Reporter

82. “Phantom Thread” (2018)

Critic score: 91%

Audience score: 70%

What critics said: If Anderson’s The Master was a swirling miasma, Phantom Thread is an unforgiving dress. It presents an ideal and even inspires wonder, but it does make breathing difficult, and heaven help you if all you want is to have a good time.” — San Diego Reader

81. “Paterson” (2016)

Critic score: 96%

Audience score: 71%

What critics said: A filmmaker telling his story in pictures and the limitlessness of control he brings to his art. What more can one ask of cinema? — San Diego Reader

80. “Star Trek” (2009)

Critic score: 94%

Audience score: 91%

What critics said: A movie that, against all odds, has miraculously resurrected a wheezing but beloved franchise. — The Washington Post

79. “Roman Holiday” (1953)

Critic score: 98%

Audience score: 94%

What critics said: For lovers of romantic comedies through the ages, ‘Roman Holiday’ remains a favorite.” — ReelViews

78. “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” (1977)

Critic score: 93%

Audience score: 96%

What critics said: “Not a film to be written about, it’s an experience. It’s that rare experience for both adults and kids that shortchanges neither. Go — and enjoy. — Boston Globe

77. “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 88%

What critics said: “‘The Grapes of Wrath’ is just about as good as any picture has a right to be; if it were any better, we just wouldn’t believe our eyes. — The New York Times

76. “Tokyo Story (Tôkyô monogatari)” (1953)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 93%

What critics said: The way Ozu builds up emotional empathy for a sense of disappointment in its various characters is where his mastery lies. — Time Out

75. “Hidden Figures” (2017)

Critic score: 93%

Audience score: 93%

What critics said: An assertion of humanity and civil rights that is pure cinematic nourishment for soul. — Tribune News Service

74. “The Last Picture Show” (1971)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 90%

What critics said: Director Peter Bogdanovich has seen Anarene, Texas, in the cinematic terms of 1951 — the langorous dissolves, the strong chiaroscuro, the dialogue that starts with bickering and ends at confessional.” — Time

73. “Double Indemnity” (1944)

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 95%

What critics said: This shrewd, smoothly tawdry thriller, directed by Billy Wilder, is one of the high points of nineteen-forties films. — The New Yorker

72. “L.A. Confidential” (1997)

Critic score: 99%

Audience score: 94%

What critics said: A movie bull’s-eye: noir with an attitude, a thriller packing punches. It gives up its evil secrets with a smile. — Chicago Tribune

71. “On the Waterfront” (1954)

Critic score: 98%

Audience score: 95%

What critics said: It’s hard to deny that Marlon Brando’s performance as a dock worker and ex-fighter who finally decides to rat on his gangster brother (Rod Steiger) is pretty terrific. — Chicago Reader

70. “Rashômon” (1951)

Critic score: 98%

Audience score: 93%

What critics said: Its virtues are still plentiful: Kurosawa’s visual style at its most muscular, rhythmically nuanced editing, and excellent performances. — Time Out

69. “The Wages of Fear” (1953)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 95%

What critics said: The film’s extended suspense sequences deserve a place among the great stretches of cinema. — Chicago Sun-Times

68. “The Hurt Locker” (2009)

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 84%

What critics said: Like every war before it, the U.S. invasion of Iraq has generated its share of movies. But ‘The Hurt Locker’ is the first of them that can properly be called a masterpiece. — Miami Herald

67. “Open City” (1946)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 92%

What critics said: A world cinema landmark, but that dusty, respectful word does not do justice to a film that has not lost its power to surprise and even shock. — Los Angeles Times

66. “The Death of Stalin” (2018)

Critic score: 96%

Audience score: 77%

What critics said: The Death of Stalin is actually a lot like Veep, except with gulags and executions.” — Dallas Morning News

65. “Creed” (2015)

Critic score: 95%

Audience score: 89%

What critics said: It’s an invigorating piece of nostalgia that fuels a bigger adrenaline rush with its climax than any big-budget blockbuster could provide. — The Atlantic

64. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2” (2011)

Critic score: 96%

Audience score: 89%

What critics said: When the movie was over, a young boy sitting behind me said, “That was great!” He was satisfied, and rightly so. — The New Yorker

63. “Chinatown” (1974)

Critic score: 99%

Audience score: 93%

What critics said: Roman Polanski’s American made film, first since ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ shows him again in total command of talent and physical filmmaking elements.” — Variety

62. “The Wrestler” (2008)

Critic score: 98%

Audience score: 88%

What critics said: This sad, strong beast of a film keeps us pinned to the mat with the strength of its compassion and the overpowering force of its central performance. — Houston Chronicle

61. “Kind Hearts and Coronets” (1949)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 94%

What critics said: Robert Hamer’s 1949 film is often cited as the definitive black, eccentric British comedy, yet it’s several cuts better than practically anything else in the genre.” — Chicago Reader

60. “Army of Shadows (L’Armée des ombres)” (1969)

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 94%

What critics said: “From the first sight of German soldiers goose-stepping past the Arc de Triomphe to a postscript that spells out the fate of characters whose moral confusion is all too real, ‘Army of Shadows’ is a movie of its time — and ours. — Rolling Stone

59. “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951)

Critic score: 98%

Audience score: 90%

What critics said: Brando’s performance as Stanley is one of those rare screen legends that are all they’re cracked up to be.” — The Washington Post

58. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017)

Critic score: 90%

Audience score: 86%

What critics said: Watching it is like having your funny bone struck repeatedly, expertly and very much too hard by a karate super-black-belt capable of bringing a rhino to its knees with a single punch behind the ear.” — Guardian

57. “The Big Sleep” (1946)

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 91%

What critics said: Arguably the high-water mark of Hollywood’s love affair with the infinitely slippery possibilities of the English language.” — Time Out

56. “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962)

Critic score: 98%

Audience score: 93%

What critics said: “Remains one of the most intelligent, handsome, and influential of all war epics.” — Chicago Reader

55. “12 Angry Men (Twelve Angry Men)” (1957)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 97%

What critics said: This is a film where tension comes from personality conflict, dialogue and body language, not action. — Chicago Sun-Times

54. “The Babadook” (2014)

Critic score: 98%

Audience score: 72%

What critics said: A deftly inventive and psychologically charged horror story that trades on the ways in which the prospect of maternal failure can be just as fearsome a boogeyman as any monster under the bed. — Buzzfeed

53. “The Dark Knight” (2008)

Critic score: 94%

Audience score: 94%

What critics said: An exceptionally smart, brooding picture with some terrific performances. — CNN

52. “Brooklyn” (2015)

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 87%

What critics said: Although not without moments of sadness and tragedy, ‘Brooklyn’ is sublimely uplifting and life affirming. — ReelViews

51. “The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups)” (1959)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 94%

What critics said: One of the first glistening droplets of the French New Wave.” — Time Out

50. “Jaws” (1975)

Critic score: 98%

Audience score: 90%

What critics said: A grisly film, often ugly as sin, which achieves precisely what it set out to accomplish-scare the hell out of you. — Newsweek

49. “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 93%

What critics said: Greed, a despicable passion out of which other base ferments may spawn, is seldom treated in the movies with the frank and ironic contempt that is vividly manifested toward it in ‘Treasure of Sierra Madre.’ — The New York Times

48. “Vertigo” (1958)

Critic score: 96%

Audience score: 93%

What critics said: It’s as much a wonder of suspense as it is a catalogue of the director’s themes and an allegory for his own art of enticement-and for the erotic pitfalls of his métier. — The New Yorker

47. “Rebecca” (1940)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 92%

What critics said: “It is the finest job of direction accomplished by a master director and may justly be called Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece. — New York Daily News

46. “Hell or High Water” (2016)

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 88%

What critics said: A film with the sort of sweeping grandeur that today’s filmmakers rarely aspire to, let alone fulfill.” — Wall Street Journal

45. “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 89%

What critics said: From such grisly materials the popular cinema is rarely drawn. The film is monumental in the courage that risked its manufacture. — Time

44. “Taxi Driver” (1976)

Critic score: 98%

Audience score: 93%

What critics said: Like Werner Herzog’s ‘Aguirre’ or Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now,’ ‘Taxi Driver’ is auteurist psychodrama. — Village Voice

43. “War for the Planet of the Apes” (2017)

Critic score: 93%

Audience score: 84%

What critics said: The best summer blockbuster in years, a smart, thoughtful, confrontational and challenging allegory for a world run amok. — Detroit News

42. “Seven Samurai (Shichinin no Samurai)” (1956)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 97%

What critics said: The greatest movie ever made about warriors and battle.” — Chicago Reader

41. “Touch of Evil” (1958)

Critic score: 96%

Audience score: 92%

What critics said: “It was Orson Welles’s last Hollywood film, and in it he makes transcendent use of the American technology his genius throve on; never again would his resources be so rich or his imagination so fiendishly baroque. — Chicago Reader

40. “Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette)” (1949)

Critic score: 98%

Audience score: 94%

What critics said: “So well-entrenched as an official masterpiece that it is a little startling to visit it again after many years and realize that it is still alive and has strength and freshness. — Chicago Sun-Times

39. “M” (1931)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 95%

What critics said: Lang’s movie is that rare thing, a nail-biting soul-searcher. While ‘M’ steers clear of analyzing deviance, it is startling in its musings on which punishment fits an inhuman crime. — Philadelphia Inquirer

38. “Alien” (1979)

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 94%

What critics said: A screamingly spooky sci-fi tale with more than a few echoes of ‘The Thing’ but echoes which enhance rather than detract. — New York Daily News

37. “The Battle of Algiers (La Battaglia di Algeri)” (1967)

Critic score: 98%

Audience score: 95%

What critics said: “It uses realism as an effect, documentary as a style. You feel that you’re really there, and you can’t help but be moved.” — Village Voice

36. “The Night of the Hunter” (1955)

Critic score: 99%

Audience score: 90%

What critics said: A garish, unbelievable but fairly exciting nightmare.” — Time

35. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017)

Critic score: 92%

Audience score: 88%

What critics said: Marvel has finally started to figure out what the future of superhero movies might look like. — IndieWire

34. “La La Land” (2016)

Critic score: 91%

Audience score: 81%

What critics said: I’m hoping that ‘La La Land’ will be a hit for the ages, for all ages. It’s a film that re-enacts, with rare originality, a classic role for the movie medium — escapist entertainment in troubled times. — The Wall Street Journal

33. “Rear Window” (1954)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 95%

What critics said: “It’s one of Alfred Hitchcock’s inspired audience-participation films: watching it, you feel titillated, horrified, and, ultimately, purged. — The New Yorker

32. “The Florida Project” (2017)

Critic score: 96%

Audience score: 79%

What critics said: The Florida Project is a song of innocence and of experience: mainly the former.” — Guardian 

31. “Sunset Boulevard” (1950)

Critic score: 98%

Audience score: 95%

What critics said: “One of Wilder’s finest, and certainly the blackest of all Hollywood’s scab-scratching accounts of itself. — Time Out

30. “Repulsion” (1965)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 86%

What critics said: “Roman Polanski’s first English-language film is still a creepy little horror masterpiece.” — Entertainment Weekly

29. “Baby Driver” (2017)

Critic score: 93%

Audience score: 86%

What critics said: Put in your metaphorical earbuds, turn the key in the ignition, and enjoy the cinematic highlight of the summer so far. — The Atlantic

28. “Argo” (2012)

Critic score: 96%

Audience score: 90%

What critics said: “Let’s just say that the movie’s final section is so nail-bitingly tense, thanks to a skillful combination of acting, writing and crosscutting, that it puts Affleck in the big leagues as a director.” — The Wrap

27. “Manchester by the Sea” (2016)

Critic score: 96%

Audience score: 77%

What critics said: “The sadness of ‘Manchester by the Sea’ is the kind of sadness that makes you feel more alive, rather than less, to the preciousness of things.” — Boston Globe

26. “The Maltese Falcon” (1941)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 91%

What critics said: “Frighteningly good evidence that the British (Alfred Hitchcock, Carol Reed, et al.) have no monopoly on the technique of making mystery films.” — Time

25. “12 Years a Slave” (2013)

Critic score: 95%

Audience score: 90%

What critics said: “Every scene of ’12 Years a Slave,’ and almost every shot, conveys some penetrating truth about America’s original sin.” — Dallas Morning News

24. “Boyhood” (2014)

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 80%

What critics said: “The closest thing to a lived life that fictional cinema has yet produced.” — St. Louis Post-Dispatch

23. “Leave No Trace” (2018)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 81%

What critics said: It covers difficult ground, but to say it leaves no trace would be a lie. It definitely makes its mark.” — Detroit News

22. “Gravity” (2013)

Critic score: 96%

Audience score: 80%

What critics said: “Unfolding as a series of terrifying object lessons in Newtonian physics, the movie lends new meaning to the phrase ‘spatial geometry.'” — The Atlantic

21. “Call Me By Your Name” (2017)

Critic score: 95%

Audience score: 86%

What critics said: You may not realize how strong the acting is until you replay the movie in your head later.” — Boston Globe

20. “La Grande illusion (Grand Illusion)” (1938)

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 93%

What critics said: “This elegy for the death of the old European aristocracy is one of the true masterpieces of the screen.” — The New Yorker

19. “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)

Critic score: 93%

Audience score: 87%

What critics said: The idea of pairing the oft-dull Thor with a series of oddball companions is an inspired, if necessary, move — so much so that it’s baffling it has taken Marvel this long to smarten up.” — Globe and Mail

18. “The Godfather” (1972)

Critic score: 98%

Audience score: 98%

What critics said: “Francis Ford Coppola has made one of the most brutal and moving chronicles of American life ever designed within the limits of popular entertainment.” — The New York Times

17. “Arrival” (2016)

Critic score: 94%

Audience score: 82%

What critics said: “Amy Adams is a miracle worker-she makes us believe in this mesmerizing mindbender about alien communication, directed with searching mind and heart by Denis Villeneuve. — Rolling Stone

16. “Logan” (2017)

Critic score: 93%

Audience score: 90%

What critics said: “The only problem with calling it the boldest and most affecting superhero flick in many years is that it’s barely a superhero movie at all.” — NPR

15. “Casablanca” (1942)

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 95%

What critics said: “Across seven decades, the Humphrey Bogart-Ingrid Bergman starrer has emerged as Americans’ default favorite movie.” — The Hollywood Reporter

14. “The Shape of Water” (2017)

Critic score: 92%

Audience score: 72%

What critics said: Del Toro’s willingness to court absurdity and bad taste serves to guarantee his integrity, proving he hasn’t entirely gone respectable.” — The Age (Australia)

13. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (2017)

Critic score: 91%

Audience score: 44%

What critics said: Rian Johnson’s middle chapter in the current Star Wars trilogy is the epic you’ve been looking for. Capped by Mark Hamill in the performance of his career, it points the way ahead to a next generation of skywalkers – and, thrillingly, to a new hope.” — Rolling Stone

12. “Spotlight” (2015)

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 93%

What critics said: “It’s not a stretch to suggest that ‘Spotlight’ is the finest newspaper movie of its era, joining ‘Citizen Kane’ and ‘All the President’s Men’ in the pantheon of classics of the genre.” — The Washington Post

11. “Selma” (2015)

Critic score: 99%

Audience score: 86%

What critics said: ‘Selma’ focuses on the one thing we don’t expect in a movie about Martin Luther King Jr. – his doubts – and Oyelowo comes through with a deeply felt and quite brilliant performance. — Boston Globe

10. “A Quiet Place” (2018)

Critic score: 95%

Audience score: 83%

What critics said: “There are moments when the movie takes us firmly by the hand and escorts us down a darkened path, and they lead to one of the most profound of communal pleasures: the sound of a movie audience screaming as one.” — Slate

9. “Dunkirk” (2017)

Critic score: 92%

Audience score: 81%

What critics said: Masterful visual storytelling on an epic scale.” — NPR

8. “Metropolis” (1927)

Critic score: 99%

Audience score: 92%

What critics said: “A fully realized work of art whose influence on science fiction, set design and symbolism can scarcely be put into words.” — St. Louis Post-Dispatch

7. “All About Eve” (1950)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 94%

What critics said: “Joseph Mankiewicz was Hollywood’s midcentury master of comic drama, and All About Eve, from 1950, was one of his signal achievements.” — The New Yorker

6. “Wonder Woman” (2017)

Critic score: 93%

Audience score: 88%

What critics said: “The moviegoing world deserves the best that Hollywood can deliver, and this time we’ve pretty much got it.” — The Wall Street Journal

5. “Moonlight” (2016)

Critic score: 98%

Audience score: 79%

What critics said: “A disarmingly, at times almost unbearably personal film and an urgent social document, a hard look at American reality and a poem written in light, music and vivid human faces.” — The New York Times

4. “BlacKkKlansman” (2018)

Critic score: 96%

Audience score: 83%

What critics said: The filmmaker rips from the headlines, but the struggles remain the same.” — Slate

3. “Citizen Kane” (1941)

Critic score: 100%

Audience score: 90%

What critics said: “More than a great movie; it is a gathering of all the lessons of the emerging era of sound.” — Chicago Sun-Times

2. “Lady Bird” (2017)

Critic score: 99%

Audience score: 79%

What critics said: A heartfelt coming-of-age story that perfectly captures the bittersweet transition from adolescence to dawning adulthood.” — Village Voice

1 “Black Panther” (2018)

Critic score: 97%

Audience score: 79%

What critics said: Whether or not this is the best film Marvel Studios has made to date — and it is clearly in the discussion — it is by far the most thought-provoking.” — The Atlantic