Top 20 Dramatic Films
from the US / UK

(April 8, 2000)
In most other categories, be it adventure, comedy or western films, a selection of the cream of the genre is merely a tough choice. For this Top 20 Dramatic Films list, even limiting my choice to a selection of only North American and United Kingdom productions, has ended up being quite a task. Dramas at their best can either touch you, or fascinate you, or bring something to the table that you can relate to in your life or of the lives of people around you. At their worst they can just leave you cold. And the distinction between them is not always easy to define.

There have also been a vast quantity of excellent dramatic films over Cinema's 100 year history. In the end, I've chosen the ones that I felt were most representative of such a large period, and yet are still as powerful or interesting now as they were when they were first released. Due to the constant blend of genres, though, I've been using a very arbitrary (read subjective) way to define a film that can be seen as a drama, versus a thriller, or a comedy, or a war movie. Chinatown I've taken as a neo-noir crime story so it's not included in this list, for example, but it is found in the Top 20 Thrillers, Mystery & Film Noir list. 

I'll be tweaking this list for months to come, that's for sure!

The Top 20 Dramatic Films from the US and the UK:

  • All the President's Men (1976)
  • Citizen Kane (1941)
  • The Color Purple (1985)
  • Dances With Wolves (1990)
  • The Deer Hunter (1978)
  • Do the Right Thing (1989)
  • Fight Club (1999)
  • From Here to Eternity (1953)
  • The Godfather I & II (1972/1974)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  • Hamlet (1996)
  • Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  • The Lost Weekend (1945)
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
  • One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
  • Paris, Texas (1984)
  • Raging Bull (1980)
  • The Right Stuff (1983)
  • Taxi Driver (1976)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Other Dramatic Films from the US and the UK worthy of note:

  • Goodfellas (1990)
  • Hannah and her Sisters (1986)
  • It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
  • Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
  • Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
  • The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
  • Lone Star (1996)
  • Malcolm X (1992)
  • Network (1976)
  • On the Waterfront (1954)
  • The Piano (1993)
  • Remains of the Day (1993)
  • Schindler's List (1993)
  • Sunset Boulevard (1950)

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