Dramatic elements elicit strong emotions and pull you into the intimate core of human relationships. Drama spans a range of genres including horror, thrillers, noirs, and comedy. Stacker recognizes that genre is meant to help describe and communicate the vibe of a film, not to serve as a limiting factor on what films can and cannot be. Dramas can center on heartwarming subjects—they’re often viewed with a tissue in hand, but they also take deep dives into serious subjects. They force audiences to grapple with issues of morality and the hard choices that govern what’s right and wrong.
The term melodrama has a bad rap as a description for films that are overwrought or sentimental. However, consider how the term “melos,” a Greek word for “music,” links with drama and becomes a word that captures the way sweeping scores and evocative musical soundtracks work in films that spark deep emotions. It’s a drama if it evokes powerful emotions across subjects such as law and order in Westerns, courtroom plots, or gangster narratives. Dramatic themes also show up in animated children’s films, classic romances, and dark histories.
If it puts knots in the belly, makes skin crawl, sets off fireworks, or gets the waterworks flowing, it’s a movie that’s indulging in drama in the most pleasurable sense. Drama undergirds suspense and fear, and it’s the element that makes the audience identify with characters. Dramas inspire empathy as well as critical thinking.
Stacker examined data from 5,000 top drama movies to come up with a Stacker score—a weighted index compiled from looking at ranked films on IMDb and Metacritic data. Ties were broken by whichever had the higher Metascore, and further ties were broken by whichever had more IMDb votes. If a movie did not have a Metascore, it was not considered. Every film on the list has been considered according to the cinematic history and development of drama. Here are the top 100 films guaranteed to move you.
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