A List of Outstanding American Feature Films | Recommended Books

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A List of Outstanding American Feature Films

This list contains outstanding American feature length films, each one by a different director (with a few exceptions). The films are arranged chronologically. Readers will also want to check out critic Jonathan Rosenbaum's Top 100 American Movies.

I tried to make sure the list was full of comedies, musicals, thrillers and science fiction films.

Tillie's Punctured Romance (Mack Sennett, 1914)

Salomy Jane (Lucius Henderson, William Nigh, 1914)

Hypocrites (Lois Weber, 1915)

Alias Jimmy Valentine (Maurice Tourneur, 1915)

Young Romance (George Melford, 1915)

Intolerance (D.W. Griffith, 1916)

Tom Sawyer (William Desmond Taylor, 1917)

Daddy-Long-Legs (Marshall Neilan, 1919)

The Delicious Little Devil (Robert Z. Leonard, 1919)

The Busher (Jerome Storm, 1919)

The Mark of Zorro (Fred Niblo, 1920)

Within Our Gates (Oscar Micheaux, 1920)

Outside the Law (Tod Browning, 1921)

Camille (Ray C. Smallwood, 1921)

The Ace of Hearts (Wallace Worsley, 1921)

Miss Lulu Bett (William de Mille, 1921)

The Toll of the Sea (Chester M. Franklin, 1922)

Beyond the Rocks (Sam Wood, 1922)

The Young Rajah (Phil Rosen, 1922)

The Covered Wagon (James Cruze, 1923)

Beau Brummel (Harry Beaumont, 1923)

Scaramouche (Rex Ingram, 1923)

Souls for Sale (Rupert Hughes, 1923)

Our Hospitality (Buster Keaton, Jack Blystone, 1923)

Sherlock, Jr. (Buster Keaton, 1924)

Girl Shy (Fred Newmeyer, Sam Taylor, 1924)

Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1924)

The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925)

The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925)

Tumbleweeds (King Baggott, 1925)

The Rag Man (Edward F. Cline, 1925)

Hands Up! (Clarence Badger, 1926)

The Clinging Vine (Paul Sloane, 1926)

The Bat (Roland West, 1926)

Sunrise (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1927)

West Point (Edward Sedgwick, 1927)

The Kiss (Jacques Feyder, 1929)

Broadway (Paul Fejos, 1929)

Thunderbolt (Josef von Sternberg, 1929)

Shooting Straight (George Archainbaud, 1930)

Union Depot (Alfred E. Green, 1931)

Shanghai Express (Josef von Sternberg, 1932)

Horse Feathers (Norman Z. MacLeod, 1932)

Hell's Highway (Roland Brown, 1932)

Lady Killer (Roy Del Ruth, 1933)

Wild Boys of the Road (William A. Wellman, 1933)

From Headquarters (William Dieterle, 1933)

Emergency Call (Edward L. Cahn, 1933)

The Black Cat (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1934)

Cleopatra (Cecil B. De Mille, 1934)

One Night of Love (Victor Schertzinger, 1934)

Massacre (Alan Crosland, 1934)

We Live Again (Rouben Mamoulian, 1934)

The Mystery of Mr. X (Edgar Selwyn, 1934)

The Phantom Empire (Otto Brower, B. Reeves Eason, 1935)

Captain Blood (Michael Curtiz, 1935)

To Beat the Band (Benjamin Stoloff, 1935)

Fury (Fritz Lang, 1936)

Swing Time (George Stevens, 1936)

My Man Godfrey (Gregory La Cava, 1936)

Double Wedding (Richard Thorpe, 1937)

The Great Garrick (James Whale, 1937)

History Is Made at Night (Frank Borzage, 1937)

Internes Can't Take Money (Alfred Santell, 1937)

Parnell (John M. Stahl, 1937)

The Man Who Found Himself (Lew Landers, 1937)

The Patient in Room 18 (Bobby Connolly, Crane Wilbur, 1938)

California Frontier (Elmer Clifton, 1938)

Suez (Allan Dwan, 1938)

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Frank Capra, 1939)

The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)

The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)

His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)

Fantasia (Ben Sharpsteen, 1940)

Seven Sinners (Tay Garnett, 1940)

Swamp Water (Jean Renoir, 1941)

I Wake Up Screaming (H. Bruce Humberstone, 1941)

Sullivan's Travels (Preston Sturges, 1942)

True To Life (George Marshall, 1942)

Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942)

I Married a Witch (René Clair, 1942)

It Started With Eve (Henry Koster, 1943)

Ministry of Fear (Fritz Lang, 1943)

The Gang's All Here (Busby Berkley, 1943)

Going My Way (Leo McCarey, 1944)

Mr. Skeffington (Vincent Sherman, 1944)

And Now Tomorrow (Irving Pichel, 1944)

Fallen Angel (Otto Preminger, 1945)

The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)

Golden Earrings (Mitchell Leisen, 1947)

The Exile (Max Ophuls, 1947)

Magick Lantern Cycle (Kenneth Anger, 1947-1969)

Letter From an Unknown Woman (Max Ophuls, 1948)

He Walked By Night (Anthony Mann, 1948)

The Street With No Name (William Keighley, 1948)

The Naked City (Jules Dassin, 1948)

White Heat (Raoul Walsh, 1949)

Intruder in the Dust (Clarence Brown, 1949)

Criss Cross (Robert Siodmak, 1949)

The Lawless (Joseph Losey, 1950)

Stars in My Crown (Jacques Tourneur, 1950)

Panic in the Streets (Elia Kazan, 1950)

Stromboli (Roberto Rossellini, 1950)

The Tattooed Stranger (Edward Montagne, 1950)

The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 1951)

Pat and Mike (George Cukor, 1952)

Singin' in the Rain (Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly, 1952)

On Dangerous Ground (Nicholas Ray, 1952)

Julius Caesar (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1953)

Crime Wave (André de Toth, 1953)

Little Fugitive (Morris Engel, Ruth Orkin, Ray Ashley, 1953)

Calamity Jane (David Butler, 1953)

Niagara (Henry Hathaway, 1953)

Studio One: An Almanac of Liberty (Paul Nickell, 1954)

Demetrius and the Gladiators (Delmer Daves, 1954)

Them! (Gordon Douglas, 1954)

Private Hell 36 (Don Siegel, 1954)

The Big Combo (Joseph H. Lewis, 1955)

The Phenix City Story (Phil Karlson, 1955)

Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1955)

This Island Earth (Joseph M. Newman, 1955)

Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)

Prince of Players (Phillip Dunne, 1955)

Seven Men From Now (Budd Boetticher, 1956)

Giant (George Stevens, 1956)

Forbidden Planet (Fred M. Wilcox, 1956)

Reprisal! (George Sherman, 1956)

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (Frank Tashlin, 1957)

The Incredible Shrinking Man (Jack Arnold, 1957)

Joe Dakota (Richard Bartlett, 1957)

Tomahawk Trail (Lesley Selander, 1957)

A Time to Love and a Time to Die (Douglas Sirk, 1958)

Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)

Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)

Merry Andrew (Michael Kidd, 1958)

Some Came Running (Vincente Minnelli, 1959)

Deux hommes dans Manhattan / Two Men in Manhattan (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1959)

Men into Space: Moon Probe & Moon Landing (Walter Doniger, 1959)

Dog Star Man (Stan Brakhage, 1959-1963)

The Flower Thief (Ron Rice, 1960)

Sergeant Rutledge (John Ford, 1960)

The Dick Van Dyke Show (Carl Reiner, 1960)

Cheyenne: Gold, Glory and Custer (George Waggner, 1960)

Night Tide (Curtis Harrington, 1961)

Homicidal (William Castle, 1961)

The Pit and the Pendulum (Roger Corman, 1961)

The Explosive Generation (Buzz Kulik, 1961)

The Devil at 4 O'Clock (Mervyn LeRoy, 1961)

In Search of the Castaways (Robert Stevenson, 1962)

Lilies of the Field (Ralph Nelson, 1963)

Flaming Creatures (Jack Smith, 1963)

Shock Corridor (Samuel Fuller, 1963)

The Virginian: The Evil That Men Do (Stuart Heisler, 1963)

The Outer Limits: The Forms of Things Unknown (Gerd Oswald, 1964)

Seven Days in May (John Frankenheimer, 1964)

The Trouble With Angels (Ida Lupino, 1965)

Billie (Don Weis, 1965)

Miss Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees (Marshall Flaum, 1965)

What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (Blake Edwards, 1966)

Fahrenheit 451 (François Truffaut, 1966)

Doctor, You've Got to be Kidding (Peter Tewksbury, 1967)

Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967)

Annie Get Your Gun (Clark Jones, Jack Sydow, 1967)

The Power (Byron Haskin, 1967)

The Virginian: Bitter Harvest (Don McDougall, 1967)

The Virginian: Ah Sing vs. Wyoming (Charles S. Dubin, 1967)

Star Trek (Joseph Pevney, 1966-1968) (Pevney did 14 of the best episodes)

Planet of the Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

Tarzan: The Four O'Clock Army (Alex Nichol, 1968)

The Immortal Story (Orson Welles, 1968)

Run a Crooked Mile (Gene Levitt, 1969)

The Andersonville Trial (George C. Scott, 1970)

Zabriskie Point (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1970)

WR: Mysteries of the Organism (Dusan Makavejev, 1971)

Two Lane Blacktop (Monte Hellman, 1971)

Incident in San Francisco (Don Medford, 1971)

Support Your Local Gunfighter (Burt Kennedy, 1971)

Ten Days Wonder (Claude Chabrol, 1971)

Avanti! (Billy Wilder, 1972)

Junior Bonner (Sam Peckinpah, 1972)

Sounder (Martin Ritt, 1972)

1776 (Peter H. Hunt, 1972)

Birds of Prey (William A. Graham, 1973)

A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974)

The Questor Tapes (Richard A. Colla, 1974)

The Nickel Ride (Robert Mulligan, 1974)

Journey From Darkness (James Goldstone, 1975)

Farewell to Manzanar (John Korty, 1976)

The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicholas Roeg, 1976)

3 Women (Robert Altman, 1977)

Providence (Alain Resnais, 1977)

Otto, Zoo Gorilla (Dugan Rosalini, 1977)

Ishi: The Last of His Tribe (Robert Ellis Miller, 1978)

Superman (Richard Donner, 1978)

Melvin and Howard (Jonathan Demme, 1980)

Grease 2 (Patricia Birch, 1982)

The Year of Living Dangerously (Peter Weir, 1982)

Missing (Constantin Costa-Gavras, 1982)

Tron (Steve Lisberger, 1982)

Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)

Don't Cry, Its Only Thunder (Peter Werner, 1982)

My Favorite Year (Richard Benjamin, 1982)

Tex (Tim Hunter, 1982)

Valley Girl (Martha Coolidge, 1983)

Eddie and the Cruisers (Martin Davidson, 1983)

Choices of the Heart (Joseph Sargent, 1983)

Places in the Heart (Robert Benton, 1984)

Streets of Fire (Walter Hill, 1984)

Romancing the Stone (Robert Zemeckis, 1984)

Dreamscape (Joseph Ruben, 1984)

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension (W.D. Richter, 1984)

Johnny Dangerously (Amy Heckerling, 1984)

The Last Starfighter (Nick Castle, 1984)

A Year of the Quiet Sun (Krzysztof Zanussi, 1984)

Mask (Peter Bogdanovich, 1985)

Tuff Turf (Fritz Kiersch, 1985)

Misfits of Science (James D. Parriott, 1985)

An Early Frost (John Erman, 1985)

Maurice (James Ivory, 1986)

Parting Glances (Bill Sherwood, 1986)

Off Beat (Michael Dinner, 1986)

Good Morning, Babylon (Taviani Brothers, 1987)

Student Exchange (Mollie Miller, 1987)

Back to the Beach (Lyndall Hobbs, 1987)

La Bamba (Luis Valdez, 1987)

Mannequin (Michael Gottlieb, 1987)

Eyes on the Prize (Henry Hampton, 1987, 1990)

Hairspray (John Waters, 1988)

Stand and Deliver (Ramon Menéndez, 1988)

Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988)

Twins (Ivan Reitman, 1988)

The Ryan White Story (John Herzfeld, 1989)

Field of Dreams (Phil Alden Robinson, 1989)

Dances With Wolves (Kevin Costner, 1990)

Ghost (Jerry Zucker, 1990)

Peacemaker (Kevin S. Tenney, 1990)

Hamlet (Franco Zeffirelli, 1990)

Don't Tell Her It's Me (Malcolm Mowbray, 1990)

Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991)

The Rocketeer (Joe Johnston, 1991)

True Identity (Charles Lane, 1991)

Separate But Equal (George Stevens, Jr., 1991)

Beauty and the Beast (Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise, 1991)

Salmonberries (Percy Adlon, 1991)

Zebrahead (Anthony Drazan, 1992)

Thunderheart (Michael Apted, 1992)

Sister Act (Emile Ardolino, 1992)

Baraka (Ron Fricke, 1992)

Swing Kids (Thomas Carter, 1993)

Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey (Steven M. Martin, 1993)

Guarding Tess (Hugh Wilson, 1994)

Hackers (Iain Softley, 1995)

Ghosts of Mississippi (Rob Reiner, 1996)

Tornado! (Noel Nosseck, 1996)

Amistad (Steven Spielberg, 1997)

Kundun (Martin Scorsese, 1997)

Red Corner (Jon Avnet, 1997)

In & Out (Frank Oz, 1997)

Isamu Noguchi: Stones and Paper (Hiro Narita, 1997)

Big Monday (Michael T. Rehfield, 1998)

New Rose Hotel (Abel Ferrara, 1998)

The Rat Pack (Rob Cohen, 1998)

Pleasantville (Gary Ross, 1998)

My Date With the President's Daughter (Alex Zamm, 1998)

Big Daddy (Dennis Dugan, 1999)

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch, 1999)

Hit and Runway (Christopher Livingston, 1999)

Unbowed (Nanci Rossov, 1999)

Man of the Century (Adam Abraham, 1999)

Before Night Falls (Julian Schnabel, 2000)

The Color of Friendship (Kevin Hooks, 2000)

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (Aviva Kempner, 2000)

Songcatcher (Maggie Greenwald, 2000)

All Over the Guy (Julie Davis, 2001)

Shrek (Andew Adamson, Vicky Jenson, 2001)

Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002)

Unconditional Love (P. J. Hogan, 2002)

Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (Charles Burnett, 2003)

Stuck On You (Bobby and Peter Farrelly, 2003)

Paycheck (John Woo, 2003)

Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore, 2004)

Primer (Shane Carruth, 2004)

All the Ships at Sea (Dan Sallitt, 2004)

Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)

Because of Winn-Dixie (Wayne Wang, 2005)

Guess Who (Kevin Rodney Sullivan, 2005)

Homecoming (Joe Dante, 2005)

Mardi Gras: Made in China (David Redmon, 2005)

Fantastic Four (Tim Story, 2005) & Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (Tim Story, 2007)

An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim, 2006)

High School Musical (Kenny Ortega, 2006)

Firehouse Dog (Todd Holland, 2007)

The Great Debaters (Denzel Washington, 2007)

The Last Mimzy (Bob Shaye, 2007)

The Jane Austen Book Club (Robin Swicord, 2007)

Hairspray (Adam Shankman, 2007)

My Blueberry Nights (Wong Kar-wai, 2007)

Ocean of Pearls (Sarab Neelam, 2008)

White Collar (Bronwen Hughes, 2009)

Howl (Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, 2010)

Class (David S. Cass, 2010)

The Santa Suit (Robert Vaughn. 2010)

Museum Hours (Jem Cohen, 2012)

10 Buildings That Changed America (Dan Protess, 2013) & 10 That Changed America (Dan Protess, 2016)

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (Henry Louis Gates Jr, Sabin Streeter, Jamila Wignot, Phil Bertelsen, Leslie Asako Gladsjo, 2013)

The Graduates/Los Graduados (Bernardo Ruiz, Pamela Aguilar, Katia Maguire, 2013)

Moby-Dick (Frank Zamacona, Leonard Foglia, 2013)

Silent Night (Eric Simonson, 2013)

Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning (Dyanna Taylor, 2014)

The Normal Heart (Ryan Murphy, 2014)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Anthony and Joe Russo, 2014)

The Big Short (Adam McKay, 2015)

The Raising of America: The Signature Hour (Christine Herbes-Sommers, 2015)

Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, 2015)

Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

What Was Ours (Mat Hames, 2016)


Recommended Books on English Language Film

People who read film history books and articles, will learn 100 times more than folks who rely on "hearing about" films. Reading the following books is an eye-opening experience. It is easy, fun, and will give one a vaster better knowledge of film.

Film History

Andrew Sarris - The American Cinema (1968). Landmark history of classical Hollywood feature films. A masterpiece and a must-read!

Sheldon Renan - An Introduction to the American Underground Film (1967). History of experimental movies. Informative, lively, concise. (Available free on-line at http://archive.org/details/introductiontoam00rena )

Jean-Pierre Coursodon - American Directors (1983). In-depth, idea-rich look at major Hollywood directors.

Genres

Film Noir Reader (1996); Film Noir Reader 2 (1999). Both edited by Alain Silver and James Ursini. Outstanding collections of essays on this genre. An ideal introduction to genre studies in film.

The Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection (1976), edited by Chris Steinbrunner and Otto Penzler. THE history of the mystery genre. Tons of info on mystery films. Long out of print - look in used book stores. A great book, loved by mystery fans, rarely read by film people.

John Baxter - Science Fiction in the Cinema (1970). An informed survey.

B Movies

Guides to the depths of Hollywood. Full of movies you've never heard of. The ideal gift for those George Sherman and Lew Landers fans out there...

Don Miller - B Movies (1973).

Arthur Lyons - Death on the Cheap, The Lost B Movies of Film Noir (2000). Lyons is a well-known writer of the Jacob Asch private eye novels.

Television

Christopher Wicking and Tise Vahimagi - The American Vein: Directors and Directions in Television (1979). An auteurist look at American TV.

Stephen E. Whitfield, Gene Roddenberry - The Making of Star Trek (1968). Inside look at the creation of the great TV series.

Technique and Creative Crafts

Leonard Maltin - The Art of the Cinematographer (1971, 1978). Interviews and studies of cinematographers, the people who light and photograph films.

Richard Corliss, editor - The Hollywood Screenwriters (1972).

Elizabeth Leese - Costume Design in the Movies (1976). Beautiful.

Barry Salt - Film Style and Technology: History and Analysis (1983, 1992). By a maverick thinker trying to promote the "scientific" study of movies.

Lutz Bacher - The Mobile Mise en Scene (1978). History of the technology and theory of camera movement.

David Bordwell - On the History of Film Style (1997). Eye-opening look at "depth staging" and other visual techniques of film.

Picture Books

Howard Mandelbaum and Eric Myers - Screen Deco (1985). Gorgeous look at Art Deco art direction in 1920's and 1930's Hollywood. I love Art Deco!

Daniel Blum - A Pictorial History of the Silent Screen (1953). Collection of stills from silent movies. A favorite browsing book.

Joe Franklin - Classics of the Silent Screen (1959).

Richard Koszarksi - The Astoria Studio and its Fabulous Films (1983).

Interviews

Peter Bogdanovich - Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors (1998).

Andrew Sarris - Interviews with Film Directors (1967).

Charles Higham - Hollywood Cameramen (1970).