Can You Guess the Most Popular Movies of All Time From the Plotline?


By: William J. Wright

7 Min Quiz

Image: Paramount Pictures / 20th Century Fox / Lightstorm Entertainment

About This Quiz

The world is in love with movies. The medium that director and film theorist Jean Luc Godard called "truth at 34 frames per second" has romanced, seduced, repelled and thrilled us for more than a century, and although television and the internet have tried to steal us away, we've always come back to our true love. As simple escapism or as high art, a good film captures the imagination; a great film becomes a part of the soul.

No less an authority than the late Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert said, "Every great film should seem new every time you see it." It's those perennially new, unforgettable films that we've endeavored to collect for this quiz. From critical darlings to audience favorites, blockbuster hits to cult classics, you'll find them all here. What follows is a sampling across the broad spectrum of cinema with no preference to genre, budget, box office receipts or accolades. From the art house to the grindhouse, we've tried to put together something for cinephiles of all stripes. The movies you'll find here among the most popular ever made, but bear in mind, this is no way a complete list, we're sure to have skipped a favorite or two.

Pick out a good seat and make sure you have your popcorn and candy because the house lights are going down.  It"s time to settle in for the opening credits, cinephiles, because this challenge is just for you. Can you guess the most popular movies of all time from their plotlines?

Three fired scientists open a paranormal investigation and elimination business in New York in this 1984 comedy. Can you name it?

Co-written by stars Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis and starring comedy icon Bill Murray, "Ghostbusters" became a worldwide phenomenon upon its release in the summer of 1984. Based on Aykroyd's lifelong fascination with the paranormal, the film is an outrageous blend of comedy, horror and sci-fi.


The spoiled daughter of a rich plantation owner faces life, love and tragedy in this Civil War epic. Can you name this classic film?

Adapted from Margaret Mitchell's bestselling 1936 novel, "Gone With the Wind" remains one of the most popular and profitable films ever produced. In addition to honors for Best Picture and Best Direction, the film earned its star Vivian Leigh an Academy Award for Best Actress.


Los Angeles underworld characters indulge in murder, mayhem and bristling dialogue in this nonlinear '90s anthology. Can you name this movie?

Indie wunderkind Quentin Tarantino followed up his bloody and critically acclaimed debut "Reservoir Dogs" with the over-the-top crime anthology "Pulp Fiction." With its hip, pop culture-laden dialogue, intense visuals and perfect ensemble cast, "Pulp Fiction" remains Tarantino's masterpiece.


Against all odds, a small-time boxer gets a shot at the heavyweight championship in this 1976 drama. Can you name this box office hit?

Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone, 1976's "Rocky" established the up-and-coming actor as an American cinematic superstar. Garnering Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director and a nomination for Stallone's script, "Rocky" spawned a film franchise that continues to this day.


Can you name the classic 1942 film in which a nightclub owner must help his ex-lover and her rebel husband escape the Nazis?

Based on an unproduced stage play titled "Everybody Comes to Rick's," "Casablanca" stars Humphrey Bogart in his most recognizable role as expatriate club owner Rick Blaine. When his old flame arrives seeking help for herself and her resistance-fighter husband, Rick's life changes forever.


Can you name the 1975 film about a giant great white shark that terrorizes a New England resort town?

Director Steven Spielberg virtually created the summer blockbuster with this 1976 horror film based on Peter Benchley's book. A near Hitchcockian exercise in suspense, Spielberg wisely kept the shark offscreen for much of the film amping up the thrills and scaring a generation out of the water.


An ill-fated romance blooms against the backdrop of one of the greatest disasters of the early 20th century in this 1997 drama. Can you name this film?

Director James Cameron struck gold in 1997 with his dramatic retelling of the events surrounding the 1911 sinking of the RMS Titanic. Starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio as doomed lovers who cross class lines to find romance, "Titanic" split critical opinion but swept up at the box office.


An alien botanist is stranded on earth in a suburban neighborhood in this heartwarming 1982 sci-fi fantasy. Can you name this movie?

One of the greatest films of the 1980s, "E.T. the Extraterrestrial" was an instant hit when it was released in '82. Surpassing "Star Wars" as the highest-grossing film of all time, a record it held until 1993 when another Spielberg hit "Jurassic Park" would best it. "E.T." is a decade-defining film.


Can you name the popular '80s sci-fi comedy in which a teen travels back in time with the help of an eccentric scientist?

Robert Zemeckis' 1985 sci-fi comedy "Back to the Future" has become an indelible piece of the pop culture landscape. Starring Michael J. Fox as accidental time traveler Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as the eccentric-but-brilliant scientist Doc Brown, the film was followed by two sequels.


A novice FBI agent seeks the advice of a serial killer in this 1991 thriller. Can you name this film?

Based on Thomas Harris' 1988 novel, "The Silence of the Lambs" stars Jodie Foster as FBI profiler Clarice Starling who's on the trail of serial killer "Buffalo Bill." Enlisting the aid of the brilliant, cannibalistic murderer Hannibal Lecter, Starling must stop Bill before he kills again.


Can you name the war epic in which a squad of Rangers is sent on a deadly mission to retrieve a sole surviving son from combat after the invasion of Normandy?

Director Steven Spielberg makes his second appearance on this list with his 1998 World War II epic, "Saving Private Ryan." Hailed for its graphic handling of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, Spielberg spared no expense in recreating the Omaha Beach landing in painstaking detail.


This one's for all the musical fans. Can you name the movie in which a family of singers flees Nazi-occupied Austria for a new life in Switzerland?

One of the most beloved musicals of all time, 1965's "The Sound of Music" is based on a true story. Adapted from Maria von Trapp's autobiographical book "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers," "The Sound of Music" began as a successful stage musical before being made into a film.


Can you name the 1994 blockbuster in which an intellectually disabled man is witness to some of the greatest moments in 20th-century history?

Loosely based on author Winston Groom's 1986 novel, "Forrest Gump" was the breakout hit of 1994. Despite its status as one of the highest and fastest-grossing movies of all time, the Oscar-winning film is considered a financial failure thanks to high exhibitors' fees and "creative" accounting.


A veteran actress gets more than she bargained for when she takes an opportunistic ingenue under her wing in this drama from 1950. Can you name it?

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz from a 1946 short story by Mary Orr, "All About Eve" was a critical and audience favorite on its release in 1950. Winning the Academy Award for Best Picture, the film saw Bette Davis come into her own as a mature actress at the top of her form.


A young girl's soul is at stake in a showdown between good and evil in this shocking horror film from 1973. Can you name this genre classic?

Often cited as the scariest movie of all time, "The Exorcist" is a landmark of horror cinema. Director William Friedkin employed unorthodox methods to get visceral reactions from his cast including randomly firing blanks and striking one cast member across the face.


A cyclone sweeps a Kansas farm girl away to a fantasy land in this beloved musical adventure from 1939. Can you name this movie?

Now a beloved classic, "The Wizard of Oz" based on L. Frank Baum's children's books, did not turn a profit for MGM until its re-release in 1949. Finding new life as an annual television event when it began airing on networks in 1959, it's thought to be the most seen film in history.


There's a new sheriff in town in this 1974 sendup of the Western genre. Can you name this comedy classic?

Cleavon Little stars as an unlikely sheriff sent to save the town of Rock Ridge from a dastardly attorney general in Mel Brooks' 1974 comedy hit "Blazing Saddles." Lampooning the racist undercurrent of early Westerns, "Blazing Saddles" is much more than a madcap laugh-fest.


A Vietnam vet slowly loses his sanity on the streets of New York in this 1976 thriller. Can you name this gripping and violent film.

Robert De Niro stars as Travis Bickle, a disturbed vet who takes a job as a cabbie in Martin Scorsese's violent thriller "Taxi Driver." Struggling with the sleaze and corruption of the city, Bickle violently takes matters into his own hands when he meets Iris (Jodie Foster), a child prostitute.


Can you name the 1994 prison drama in which a wrongly convicted man forms a lifelong friendship with a fellow prisoner while meticulously planning an escape?

"The Shawshank Redemption," based on a Stephen King novella, was a box office bomb on its initial release but has since gone on to widespread popularity. King, known for his horror stories, has found himself in arguments with fans of the uplifting film over his authorship of the story,


Can you name this 1981action-adventure about an archeologist on a quest to save a religious relic from the Nazis?

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas further cemented their reputations as cinematic juggernauts with 1981's "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Based on Lucas' concept and directed by Spielberg, "Raiders" introduced moviegoers to adventurer Indiana Jones and launched a franchise to rival "Star Wars."


A computer programmer becomes the leader of a rebellion when he discovers that humanity is trapped in an artificial reality in this action-packed sci-fi film from 1999. Can you name this influential movie?

Written and directed by the Wachowski siblings, 1999's "The Matrix" advanced the art of computer-generated special effects to new heights while popularizing the science-fiction subgenre cyberpunk among mainstream audiences. Wildly influential, the film spawned two sequels and an animated anthology.


In the 22nd century, the indigenous population of an alien moon is threatened by colonial exploitation of their natural resources. Can you name this animated film?

James Cameron brought 3-D digital filmmaking to a whole new level with this immersive science fiction adventure. Defying all expectations, "Avatar" was a box-office-record-breaking success that won over both critics and audiences.


A silent film actress has trouble transitioning to talkies in this romantic 1952 musical. Can you name this film?

Legendary song-and-dance man Gene Kelly directed and stars in this 1952 musical. When silent film couple Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagan) make the move to talkies, only one has the pipes for the job. To save the film, chorus girl Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) must cover for the vain Lina.


In this 1941 drama, a reporter tries to unravel the mystery of a wealthy newspaper publisher's dying words. Can you name this innovative film?

Considered by generations of scholars and cinephiles as the greatest film ever made, "Citizen Kane" sadly marked the early peak of a brilliant filmmaker's career. Although Orson Welles would continue to make films, he never again had the artistic freedom to make a movie like "Citizen Kane."


A couple of jazz musicians dress in drag to throw gangsters off their trail in this classic comedy from 1959. Can you name this movie?

Controversial because of its inclusion of crossdressing, Billy Wilder's "Some Like It Hot" broke taboos like no film ever before. Starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe, "Some Like It Hot" is an all-star romp that changed staid Hollywood attitudes.


An angel shows a good man what life would be like had he never been born in this beloved holiday classic from 1946. Can you name this film?

Starring Jimmy Stewart as down-on-his-luck everyman George Bailey, "It's a Wonderful Life" bombed on its initial release in 1946 and marked a career downturn for its director Frank Capra. Nevertheless, the film was nominated for five Oscars, and thanks to TV syndication, has become a holiday perennial.


A police detective with a fear of heights becomes obsessed with a mysterious woman in this 1958 thriller. Can you name this film?

Starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak, Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" is one of the celebrated filmmaker's career-defining films. Although it received mixed reviews on its initial release, "Vertigo" is now regarded as one of the greatest films in cinematic history.


The leader of a youth gang in a dystopian near-future undergoes a radical treatment to end his violent ways in this 1971 film. Can you name it?

"A Clockwork Orange," directed by Stanley Kubrick from Anthony Burgess' book stars Malcolm McDowell as Alex, a teen sociopath and gang leader who's addicted to "ultra-violence" and Beethoven. Broaching the subjects of violence, individuality and morality, Kubrick's film offers no easy answers.


The reluctant youngest son of a Mafia family becomes its leader in this multigenerational crime drama. Can you name this popular film from 1972?

Based on Mario Puzo's 1972 novel, "The Godfather" directed by Francis Ford Coppola is a tour de force. Starring Marlon Brando as aging crime boss Vito Corleone and Al Pacino as his youngest son, Micheal, this film is a complex masterwork of cinematic storytelling rivaled only by its 1974 sequel.


This religious epic dramatizes the biblical Book of Exodus. Can you name this blockbuster from 1956?

Iconic director Cecil B. DeMille pulled out all the stops for his final and most successful film. Remaking his silent 1923 version of "The Ten Commandments," the legendary filmmaker employed an all-star cast featuring Charlton Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as Pharaoh Rameses II.


A mysterious monolith holds the key to human evolution in this 1968 science-fiction epic. Can you name this groundbreaking film?

With realistic special effects that hold up to the present day, Stanley Kubrick's 1968 sci-fi opus presents the most realistic depiction of space travel ever captured on film. Based on Arthur C. Clarke's 1951 short story "The Sentinel," "2001" still has the power to capture modern imaginations.


An actress tries to help a woman with amnesia unlock the secret of her identity in this surreal, modern film noir. Can you name this bizarre film?

Filmmaker David Lynch originally conceived his 2001 film "Mulholland Drive" as a television show for ABC. Unhappy with Lynch's pilot, the network pulled the plug on the series. Undaunted, the director rewrote and reshot the pilot as a feature. Many critics cite the film as the best of the 2000s.


A soldier is sent on a mission to take down a Special Forces colonel with a god complex in this harrowing drama set during the Vietnam War. What is the name of this film?

Francis Ford Coppola's war epic "Apocalypse Now" was nearly a personal apocalypse for its director. Met with a typhoon that destroyed his sets, a lead actor's heart attack and an erratic, uncooperative Marlon Brando, Coppola took nearly four years to complete the film and almost lost his career.


Can you name the 1977 film in which a farm boy embarks on an adventure in a galaxy far, far away?

One of the most popular films of all time, 1977's "Star Wars" spawned an entertainment empire that thrives into the 21st century. Director George Lucas drew inspiration from legends, mythology and the sci-fi serials of decades past to redefine cinema for a generation.


A washed-up silent-film star taps a failed writer to help her stage a comeback in this 1950 film noir. Can you name this movie?

Considered by many critics to be the best movie about Hollywood ever made, Billy Wilder's darkly comedic film noir "Sunset Boulevard" courted much controversy from movie insiders upon its 1950 release. Studio head Louis B. Mayer famously accused Wilder of disgracing the film industry.


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