The Fifteen Greatest Years in Cinema History

afi top 100 560x373The American Film Institute (AFI) released its definitive list of the 100 greatest movies in cinema history back in 1998. Over the following ten years, until 2008, they continued releasing lists that have been considered the greatest rankings of all movie rankings. They released the best actors, songs, quotes, cheers, musicals, and even an updated list of the best 100 films in 2007. But those lists pertained to specific films, regardless of year or era in which they were released. Their concentration centers on the structure of the plot, the depths of the storylines, and the quality of performances to create magical pictures.

But what about the years instead of just the best films? How would AFI, or anyone, end up ranking certain years in cinema history as being the greatest overall? How would you even make a decision like that and what parameters should be used to determine the best of the best?

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For starters, the gross domestic box office is fundamental in determining how great of a year movies have had historically. And, although we agree it is important, we will use it as a partial parameter in our determination on which year was the greatest in movies ever. Another would be the quality of the films, which is about the number of awards and nominations mixed with overall public opinion. For example, 2007 was stacked with films such as No Country For Old Men, American Gangster, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood, Into the Wild, Gone Baby Gone, and Atonement. Are those films good enough to get 2007 into our list?

Another parameter we used was entertainment value versus critics rankings. So, although the critics hated Dumb and Dumber back in 1994, the public loved it. It was one of those films that could only happen once, and with the perfect actors to pull it off. But the silliness in the story was not enough to become a cinematic classic. However, we include movies that the public enjoys just as much as the award winning films. So here is our list of the 15 greatest years for movies, all time. Enjoy.

Note: Each year is listed with the Highest Grossing Film of that same year.

15) 2003: LOTR : Return of the King

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  • Academy Award for Best Picture
    • Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Winner), Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Lost in Translation, Mystic River, Seabiscuit
  • The Rest of the Best
    • Finding Nemo, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Matrix Reloaded, Elf, Anger Management, Bad Santa, 21 Grams, Kill Bill: Vol.1, X2: X-Men United

14) 1983: Return of the Jedi

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  • Academy Award for Best Picture
    • Terms of Endearment (Winner), The Big Chill, The Dresser, The Right Stuff, Tender Mercies
  • The Rest of the Best
    • Flashdance, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Staying Alive, Scarface, A Christmas Story, Easy Money, The Outsiders, Risky Business, Trading Places, Evil Dead

13) 1984: Ghostbusters

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  • Academy Award for Best Picture
    • Amadeus (Winner), A Passage to India, A Soldier’s Story, Places in the Heart, The Killing Fields
  • The Rest of the Best
    • Beverly Hills Cop, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Police Academy, Gremlins, The Karate Kid, The Terminator, Purple Rain, Footloose, Bachelor Party, Splash

12) 1997: Titanic

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  • Academy Award for Best Picture
    • Titanic (Winner), As Good As It Gets, Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential, The Full Monty
  • The Rest of the Best
    • The Fifth Element, Men in Black, Liar Liar, Spawn, Donnie Brasco, Amistad, Private Parts, The Saint, Face/Off, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

11) 1957: The Bridge on the River Kwai

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  • Academy Award for Best Picture
    • The Bridge on the River Kwai (Winner), 12 Angry Men, Peyton Place, Sayonara, Witness for the Prosecution
  • The Rest of the Best
    • Paths of Glory, A Farewell to Arms, The Seventh Seal, Old Yeller, Jailhouse Rock, Funny Face, The Spirit of St.Louis

10) 1987: Three Men and a Baby

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  • Academy Award for Best Picture
    • The Last Emperor (Winner), Broadcast News, Fatal Attraction, Hope and Glory, Moonstruck
  • The Rest of the Best
    • Full Metal Jacket, Good Morning, Vietnam, Beverly Hills Cop II, Lethal Weapon, Dirty Dancing, The Lost Boys, Spaceballs, Predator, RoboCop, The Princess Bride,Wall Street, The Untouchables

9) 1941: Sergeant York

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  • Academy Award for Best Picture
    • How Green Was My Valley (Winner), Blossoms in the Dust, Citizen Kane, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Hold Back the Dawn, One Foot in Heaven, Sergeant York, Suspicion, The Little Foxes, The Maltese Falcon

8) 1976: Rocky

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  • Academy Award for Best Picture
    • Rocky (Winner), All the President’s Men, Bound for Glory, Network, Taxi Driver
  • The Rest of the Best
    • The Omen, Silver Streak, The Enforcer, A Star is Born, King Kong, Midway

7) 1980: The Empire Strikes Back

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  • Academy Award for Best Picture
    • Ordinary People (Winner), Coal Miner’s Daughter, Raging Bull, Tess, The Elephant Man
  • The Rest of the Best
    • The Shining, Mad Max, Airplane!, The Blues Brothers, Stir Crazy, Popeye, Caddyshack, Friday the 13th, Urban Cowboy,

6) 1967: The Jungle Book

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  • Academy Award for Best Picture
    • In the Heat of the Night (Winner), Bonnie and Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Graduate
  • The Rest of the Best
    • The Dirty Dozen, Casino Royale, Cool Hand Luke, Valley of the Dolls, Camelot, To Sir, With Love

5) 1939: Gone With the Wind

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  • Academy Award for Best Picture
    • Gone With the Wind (Winner), Dark Victory, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights

4) 1999: The Phantom Menace

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  • Academy Award for Best Picture
    • American Beauty (Winner), The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense
  • The Rest of the Best
    • Toy Story 2, The Matrix, American Pie, The Blair Witch Project, Eyes Wide Shut, Fight Club, Office Space, Cruel Intentions, Any Given Sunday, Boys Don’t Cry, Princess Mononoke

3) 1988: Rain Man

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  • Academy Award for Best Picture
    • Rain Man (Winner), Mississippi Burning, The Accidental Tourist, Working Girl, Dangerous Liasons
  • The Rest of the Best
    • Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Big, Die Hard, Willow, Scrooged, Cocktail, Beetlejuice, Mystic Pizza, A Fish Called Wanda, Bull Durham, The Naked Gun, Twins

2) 1982: E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial

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  • Academy Award for Best Picture
    • Gandhi (Winner), E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, The Verdict, Missing, Tootsie
  • The Rest of the Best
    • An Office and a Gentleman, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Poltergeist, Porky’s, Star Trek II, First Blood, Blade Runner, Diner, The Road Warrior, Sophie’s Choice

1) 1994: Forrest Gump

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  • Academy Award for Best Picture
    • Forrest Gump (Winner), Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption
  • The Rest of the Best
    • The Lion King, Interview with the Vampire, The Crow, Clerks, Dumb and Dumber, The Santa Clause, Little Women, Speed, The Client, The Mask, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Natural Born Killers, Clear and Present Danger, True Lies