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Critics Pick the Best Movies of the Last 25 Years

In celebration of Rotten Tomatoes’ 25th anniversary, we asked critics to submit their top films and TV shows released in the past 25 years!

Critics’ top movies since the Tomatometer’s inception reflect various titles and tastes; each represents the state of the industry and popular culture, from timeless classics to technical feats. They include iconic award-winners like Parasite and Mad Max: Fury Road. Beside those are hits from beloved directors like Barry Jenkins, Quentin Tarantino, Jordan Peele, the Wachowskis, and the Coen brothers. Epics like The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Black Panther, and Paddington 2 also share their ranks.

Here’s how it worked: We sent out a survey to individually approved Tomatometer critics, asking them to choose (in no particular order) their top five movies and top five TV series released in the last 25 years. Then, we tallied their votes, narrowed down the most popular 25 titles, and voila! We have our lists.

To see which television series made the cut, check out the list of Critics’ Freshest TV Picks from the Last 25 Years, too!

Archival curation for this feature was done by Tim Ryan, Rob Fowler, and Dom.

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 118996%
Critics Consensus: With exhilarating action and a surprising amount of narrative heft, Mad Max: Fury Road brings George Miller's post-apocalyptic franchise roaring vigorously back to life.
Synopsis: Years after the collapse of civilization, the tyrannical Immortan Joe enslaves apocalypse survivors inside the desert fortress the Citadel. When... [More]
Directed By: George Miller

#2

Parasite (2019)
99%

#2
Adjusted Score: 124947%
Critics Consensus: An urgent, brilliantly layered look at timely social themes, Parasite finds writer-director Bong Joon Ho in near-total command of his craft.
Synopsis: Greed and class discrimination threaten the newly formed symbiotic relationship between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan.... [More]
Directed By: Bong Joon Ho

#3

Mulholland Dr. (2001)
84%

#3
Adjusted Score: 93842%
Critics Consensus: David Lynch's dreamlike and mysterious Mulholland Drive is a twisty neo-noir with an unconventional structure that features a mesmerizing performance from Naomi Watts as a woman on the dark fringes of Hollywood.
Synopsis: A dark-haired woman (Laura Elena Harring) is left amnesiac after a car crash. She wanders the streets of Los Angeles... [More]
Directed By: David Lynch

#4

The Dark Knight (2008)
94%

#4
Adjusted Score: 108622%
Critics Consensus: Dark, complex, and unforgettable, The Dark Knight succeeds not just as an entertaining comic book film, but as a richly thrilling crime saga.
Synopsis: With the help of allies Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman (Christian Bale) has... [More]
Directed By: Christopher Nolan

#5
Adjusted Score: 114868%
Critics Consensus: A singularly rich period piece, Portrait of a Lady on Fire finds stirring, thought-provoking drama within a powerfully acted romance.
Synopsis: In 1770 the young daughter of a French countess develops a mutual attraction to the female artist commissioned to paint... [More]
Directed By: Céline Sciamma

#6
#6
Adjusted Score: 99694%
Critics Consensus: An exquisitely shot showcase for Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung that marks a somber evolution of Wong Kar-wai's chic style, In the Mood for Love is a tantric tease that's liable to break your heart.
Synopsis: In 1962, journalist Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and his wife move into a Hong Kong apartment, but Chow's... [More]
Directed By: Kar-Wai Wong

#7

Spirited Away (2001)
96%

#7
Adjusted Score: 104222%
Critics Consensus: Spirited Away is a dazzling, enchanting, and gorgeously drawn fairy tale that will leave viewers a little more curious and fascinated by the world around them.
Synopsis: 10-year-old Chihiro (Daveigh Chase) moves with her parents to a new home in the Japanese countryside. After taking a wrong... [More]
Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki

#8

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
95%

#8
Adjusted Score: 105173%
Critics Consensus: Pan's Labyrinth is Alice in Wonderland for grown-ups, with the horrors of both reality and fantasy blended together into an extraordinary, spellbinding fable.
Synopsis: In 1944 Spain young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her ailing mother (Ariadna Gil) arrive at the post of her mother's... [More]
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro

#9

The Matrix (1999)
83%

#9
Adjusted Score: 93854%
Critics Consensus: Thanks to the Wachowskis' imaginative vision, The Matrix is a smartly crafted combination of spectacular action and groundbreaking special effects.
Synopsis: Neo (Keanu Reeves) believes that Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), an elusive figure considered to be the most dangerous man alive, can... [More]

#10
#10
Adjusted Score: 110134%
Critics Consensus: Impeccably scripted, beautifully directed, and filled with fine performances, The Social Network is a riveting, ambitious example of modern filmmaking at its finest.
Synopsis: In 2003, Harvard undergrad and computer genius Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) begins work on a new concept that eventually turns... [More]
Directed By: David Fincher

#11
#11
Adjusted Score: 104944%
Critics Consensus: Bolstered by powerful lead performances from Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, and Tommy Lee Jones, No Country for Old Men finds the Coen brothers spinning cinematic gold out of Cormac McCarthy's grim, darkly funny novel.
Synopsis: While out hunting, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds the grisly aftermath of a drug deal. Though he knows better, he... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 100987%
Critics Consensus: Widely touted as a masterpiece, this sparse and sprawling epic about the underhanded "heroes" of capitalism boasts incredible performances by leads Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano, and is director Paul Thomas Anderson's best work to date.
Synopsis: Silver miner Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) leads a hardscrabble life with his son, H.W. (Dillon Freasier). When he hears about... [More]
Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson

#13

Get Out (2017)
98%

#13
Adjusted Score: 120487%
Critics Consensus: Funny, scary, and thought-provoking, Get Out seamlessly weaves its trenchant social critiques into a brilliantly effective and entertaining horror/comedy thrill ride.
Synopsis: Now that Chris and his girlfriend, Rose, have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend... [More]
Directed By: Jordan Peele

#14

Moonlight (2016)
98%

#14
Adjusted Score: 117591%
Critics Consensus: Moonlight uses one man's story to offer a remarkable and brilliantly crafted look at lives too rarely seen in cinema.
Synopsis: A look at three defining chapters in the life of Chiron, a young black man growing up in Miami. His... [More]
Directed By: Barry Jenkins

#15
Adjusted Score: 115811%
Critics Consensus: Led by an outstanding Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once lives up to its title with an expertly calibrated assault on the senses.
Synopsis: Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as Daniels, the film is a hilarious and big-hearted sci-fi action... [More]
Directed By: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert

#16

Magnolia (1999)
82%

#16
Adjusted Score: 93368%
Critics Consensus: An eruption of feeling that's as overwhelming as it is overwrought, Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia reaches a fevered crescendo and sustains it thanks to its fearlessly committed ensemble.
Synopsis: On one random day in the San Fernando Valley, a dying father, a young wife, a male caretaker, a famous... [More]
Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson

#17

Whiplash (2014)
94%

#17
Adjusted Score: 108818%
Critics Consensus: Intense, inspiring, and well-acted, Whiplash is a brilliant sophomore effort from director Damien Chazelle and a riveting vehicle for stars J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller.
Synopsis: Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is an ambitious young jazz drummer, in pursuit of rising to the top of his elite... [More]
Directed By: Damien Chazelle

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 105735%
Critics Consensus: Smart, funny, and profoundly melancholy, Inside Llewyn Davis finds the Coen brothers in fine form.
Synopsis: In 1961 New York City, folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is at a crossroads. Guitar in hand, he struggles... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#19
Adjusted Score: 100803%
Critics Consensus: Full of eye-popping special effects, and featuring a pitch-perfect cast, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring brings J.R.R. Tolkien's classic to vivid life.
Synopsis: The future of civilization rests in the fate of the One Ring, which has been lost for centuries. Powerful forces... [More]
Directed By: Peter Jackson

#20

Zodiac (2007)
90%

#20
Adjusted Score: 100832%
Critics Consensus: A quiet, dialogue-driven thriller that delivers with scene after scene of gut-wrenching anxiety. David Fincher also spends more time illustrating nuances of his characters and recreating the mood of the '70s than he does on gory details of murder.
Synopsis: In the late 1960s and 1970s, fear grips the city of San Francisco as a serial killer called Zodiac stalks... [More]
Directed By: David Fincher

#21
#21
Adjusted Score: 103015%
Critics Consensus: A classic Tarantino genre-blending thrill ride, Inglourious Basterds is violent, unrestrained, and thoroughly entertaining.
Synopsis: It is the first year of Germany's occupation of France. Allied officer Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) assembles a team... [More]
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino

#22

The Tree of Life (2011)
85%

#22
Adjusted Score: 97130%
Critics Consensus: Terrence Malick's singularly deliberate style may prove unrewarding for some, but for patient viewers, Tree of Life is an emotional as well as visual treat.
Synopsis: In this highly philosophical film by acclaimed director Terrence Malick, young Jack (Hunter McCracken) is one of three brothers growing... [More]
Directed By: Terrence Malick

#23

Paddington 2 (2017)
99%

#23
Adjusted Score: 112935%
Critics Consensus: Paddington 2 honors its star's rich legacy with a sweet-natured sequel whose adorable visuals are matched by a story perfectly balanced between heartwarming family fare and purely enjoyable all-ages adventure.
Synopsis: Settled in with the Brown family, Paddington the bear is a popular member of the community who spreads joy and... [More]
Directed By: Paul King

#24

Black Panther (2018)
96%

#24
Adjusted Score: 126113%
Critics Consensus: Black Panther elevates superhero cinema to thrilling new heights while telling one of the MCU's most absorbing stories -- and introducing some of its most fully realized characters.
Synopsis: After the death of his father, T'Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place... [More]
Directed By: Ryan Coogler

#25

Arrival (2016)
94%

#25
Adjusted Score: 115690%
Critics Consensus: Arrival delivers a must-see experience for fans of thinking person's sci-fi that anchors its heady themes with genuinely affecting emotion and a terrific performance from Amy Adams.
Synopsis: Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) leads an elite team of investigators when gigantic spaceships touch down in 12 locations... [More]
Directed By: Denis Villeneuve

 

photo: Jasin Boland/©Warner Bros. Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection