Undoubtedly, the IMDb Top 250 is an excellent place to discover a range of beloved, popular movies, both old and new. It’s made up of the highest-rated movies of all time, according to the users of IMDb. It stands out from other similarly-sized movie lists, given most of those are selected by movie critics or even just individuals.
However, it is far from the be-all and end-all of great movies. For one thing, it’s only 250 movies which, while a lot, can never fully encompass all the great movies ever made. Further, there are some great movies that, for whatever reason, haven’t got quite enough high ratings to earn themselves a spot in the top 250. All have relatively high ratings — some likely hovering just outside the top 250 — but none quite have the ratings needed for a spot in that coveted list (despite their greatness).
Updated on November 14th, 2022, by Hannah Saab:
The list of movies that are in the top 250 IMDb picks is constantly changing, in large part due to new releases, re-evaluations of classics, and general shifts in audiences’ tastes. With recent incredible movies like All Quiet on the Western Front garnering high scores on the platform, it’s the perfect time to discover more films that deserve to be in the IMDb top 250 but aren’t (yet).
‘The Worst Person in the World’ (2021)
Probably the best film ever made about a quarter-life (or maybe “third-life”) crisis, The Worst Person in the World centers on Julie (Renate Reinsve), a young woman struggling with where to go in life and who to experience it with. It’s split into several chapters that all stand as different scenes on their own while adding up into a great whole by the end, sort of like a great album, in a way.
It tells its story with plenty of humor and heartbreak, blending comedy, drama, and romance to perfect effect. Nothing feels phony or dramatic, and the acting is some of the best you’ll see in any film from the last decade. It has a respectable 7.8 on IMDb but deserves even higher.
‘Yi Yi’ (2000)
The sprawling family drama Yi Yi has an 8.1/10 rating on IMDb, with just under 25,000 ratings. Films need a rating of at least 8.0 and more than 25,000 ratings before they can get into the site’s top 250, so Yi Yi may get in there eventually.
It would fit in that list well, given it’s one of the greatest films of the 21st century so far. The movie’s nearly three-hour runtime may be one reason it’s taken some time to build up the number of ratings needed, but make no mistake: it’s a near-perfect film with or without a spot on the list, with its emotional story, beautiful visuals, and perfect acting from its entire cast.
Threads are one of the most brutally downbeat and horrifying films. It takes a shockingly realistic look at Britain right before, during, and after nuclear war decimates the world population, imagining in stark detail just what would happen to those forced to live in a post-apocalyptic world.
In a list of popular movies voted by users of a site like IMDb, it’s understandable why a film like Threads only has 16,000 ratings. Still, those who did work up the courage to watch it have sung its praises, as it currently sits at an 8.0/10 average rating. It’s perhaps the best film condemnation of nuclear war of all time, and it retains its immense power now, just the same as it did almost 40 years ago.
‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ (2012)
It’s generally assumed that The Godfather Parts 1 and 2, Goodfellas, and Once Upon a Time in America are considered the greatest gangster films of all time (maybe Scarface, too, if you love the 1980s). And they are. But another more recent film deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those classics, and its name is Gangs of Wasseypur.
This two-part crime epic tracks three generations over about five hours, spanning decades while telling the story of an intense rivalry between two crime families in India. It’s packed with action, tension, humor, a thrilling and unpredictable plot, and every kind of emotion you could want out of a movie. With an 8.2/10 rating, it should have a place somewhere within the top 250, but unfortunately, it’s not to be.
‘All That Jazz’ (1979)
Director Bob Fosse got personal with All That Jazz, his best film in a short but impressive body of work. It’s an autobiographical story about a workaholic, pill-popping, frenzied womanizer of a man (Roy Scheider) who splits his time between numerous projects and constantly being on the edge of totally burning out.
Musicals are a little under-represented in the IMDb top 250, and while this doesn’t have a huge number of traditional song and dance numbers, it is technically a musical. It’s that a turnoff to some on IMDb, then so be it, but then they’re missing out on one of the most inventive and visually stunning films of all time.
‘Days of Heaven’ (1978)
Terrence Malick’s second feature film, Days of Heaven, is a movie that’s light on plot but heavy on beautiful cinematography and awe-inspiring music (courtesy of Ennio Morricone). It tells the story of a man (Richard Gere) who gets his girlfriend (Brooke Adams) to marry a dying (but wealthy) farmer (Sam Shepard), hoping they can then claim his inheritance.
The film primarily takes place in and around a farm, with many scenes being shot in the magic hour (just around sunrise or sunset). This gives it a unique look that’s hard to forget, and despite having a loosely told, minimal story, it remains a very absorbing watch.
‘The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover’ (1989)
With a solid — but not super high — IMDb rating of 7.5/10, it’s admittedly clear why The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover isn’t in the IMDb top 250. It’s a confronting and provocative film about the wife (Helen Mirren) of a ruthless gangster having an affair with a man she meets at the gangster’s favorite restaurant.
It doesn’t pull any punches regarding the cruelty of its main antagonist and does contain some potentially upsetting stuff. But it’s also thrilling and unlike anything else for anyone with the stomach. Its technical qualities and powerhouse performances undoubtedly make it a deserved cult classic.
‘Children of Men’ (2006)
Children of Men looks towards the (now not so distant) future of 2027, a world where global infertility means the human race is threatening extinction. Ex-activist Theo Faron (Clive Owen) embarks on a quest to protect a woman, Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), who miraculously has become pregnant from various forces who want to obtain her and her baby for malicious reasons.
It’s one of those films near the top 250, but with a 7.9/10 average rating, it misses out. It’s a relentlessly intense and powerful film, with some incredibly well-executed long takes that make the film’s rollercoaster narrative all the more impactful.
‘Boogie Nights’ (1997)
A look at the ups and downs of life in the adult film industry from the late 1970s to the early 1980s, Boogie Nights is a riveting, fast-paced drama with a great cast and ranks among the best films from famed director Paul Thomas Anderson.
It’s certainly a little out there and potentially boundary-pushing, given its premise. For that reason, it may not appeal to everyone. But with a 7.9/10 average, it’s not too far off a spot in the top 250. With a slight uptick in 10/10 ratings from more users, it could one day be a big, bright, shining star within that list.
‘Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters’ (1985)
A Japanese-American co-production about Yukio Mishima (portrayed by Ken Ogata), a writer and political activist from Japan, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters depicts his life story in broad strokes, with some liberties taken for artistic and dramatic effect.
Though it may not be 100% historically accurate, such liberties are ultimately for the best, as they help Mishima stand out from other biopics. It’s a visually bold and excellently scored film and has the potential to leave a significant impact on those who watch it.
‘Perfect Blue’ (1997)
A monumental work in Japanese animation, it’s surprising that Perfect Blue isn’t part of IMDb’s top movies alongside Spirited Away and Your Name. The animated film follows a popular member of a J-pop idol group, who decides to pursue a career in acting. She’s soon bothered by what seems to be an obsessed stalker.
The psychological thriller serves as a masterclass for creating an intense story that will make audiences question fantasy and reality, much in the same way the protagonist does. With its gorgeous visuals and remarkable narrative, it’s a certified classic that holds up well, but apparently not well enough to get into the IMDb 250 with its 8.0 rating.
‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ (2009)
Director Wes Anderson‘s iconic masterpiece, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is rightly part of the top 250 IMDb movies. His 2009 stop-motion comedy, Fantastic Mr. Fox, isn’t too far behind at 7.9/10, but unfortunately doesn’t make the cut. The stunning film follows the titular character played by George Clooney, as he boldly goes against three farmers who are hunting down his family.
The painstaking work that went into creating each immaculate frame in the film is worth it, as it is a crucial reminder of the way cinema can push the boundaries of art. It may be a children’s story based on Roald Dahl‘s eponymous 1970 novel, but the movie can be enjoyed by the whole family thanks to its beautiful visuals and surprising emotional depth.
‘Get Out’ (2017)
With a whopping 604,000 ratings on IMDb, there’s no denying that Get Out is a massively popular film. Jordan Peele‘s directorial debut is an instant classic that has an impressive (but lacking) 7.7 rating on the platform. It stars Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington, who meets his girlfriend’s parents for the first time in Upstate New York.
Chris soon realizes that Rose Armitage’s (Allison Williams) parents’ strange behavior and over-accommodation point to something sinister. It’s a movie with a powerful twist, and those who have never seen it should watch it knowing as little as possible about the plot. Peele’s ability to deliver biting commentary on racism and obvious talent for creating horror movies are easy to see in this renowned film.
Denis Villeneuve‘s award-winning films, Prisoners and Incendies, are firmly part of the top 250 on IMDb. Fans of the auteur will likely agree that the mind-bending sci-fi drama film Arrival should be there, too. Starring Amy Adams as Louise Banks, it’s centered on the linguist’s experiences after she’s called upon by the government to interact with and study extraterrestrial beings.
Both a grand commentary on humanity’s shortcomings and a tender portrait of the intimate things that keep people going, Arrival is an alien film unlike any other. With a 7.9 on the platform, it’s possible it will make it onto the list someday, as it’s a breathtaking masterpiece that deserves more attention.
‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ (2022)
Already being cited alongside the best war movies ever made, All Quiet on the Western Front is an instant classic that does justice to the eponymous 1929 novel by Erich Maria Remarque. Sitting at a comfortable 7.9 on the platform, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say it could very well be part of IMDb’s 250 in the coming years.
Set in 1917, three years into the First World War, the film follows 17-year-old Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer) as he enlists in the Imperial German Army with his school friends. War is not at all what they expect, and the film doesn’t waste any time in depicting the horrors of the battlefield in a raw, brutal, and genuinely disturbing way. It’s a movie that’s harrowing, painful to watch, and is, unfortunately, both necessary and relevant today.