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12 Best Anthology Movies of All Time

August 20, 2018
7 min read

The anthology (also known as an omnibus film, package film, or portmanteau film) is a subgenre of movies where a number of short films are connected together by an interlocking event, a single theme or a common character. Sometimes directed by one single filmmaker, and at other times each short movie within the film is directed by a different filmmaker. This style of storytelling in films can be seen as early as Edmund Golding’s 1932 feature, ‘Grand Hotel’ and  If I Had a Million (also 1932), featuring segments directed by a number of directors. Sometimes there is a theme, such as a place (e.g. New York Stories, Paris, je t’aime), a person (e.g. Four Rooms), or a thing (e.g. Twenty Bucks, Coffee and Cigarettes), that is present in each story and serves to bind them together. Now that you know what they are, here is the list of top anthology movies ever — all of them have multiple storylines. You can watch some of these best anthology movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.

12. Coffee And Cigarettes (2003)

This 2003 anthology by renowned filmmaker Jim Jarmusch is a vignette of 11 short stories connected through a common element-conversations over coffee and cigarettes. The eleven short films are built on one another, giving a cumulative effect at the end. Discussions revolve around medical knowledge, the use and abuse of coffee and cigarettes, and in each of the vignettes, a common motif of black and white tiles can be found in one way or another.

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11. To Each His Own Cinema (2007)

A massive collaborative project, ‘To Each His Own Cinema’ is an anthology of 34 shorts films made by esteemed filmmakers from all over the world. This film was commissioned on the 60th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival and includes contributions by Abbas Kiarostami, David Lynch, Wong Kar-Wai, Takeshi Kitano, Wim Wenders, Ken Loach and Lars Von Trier among others. Each filmmaker was invited to express “their state of mind of the moment as inspired by the motion picture theatre”.

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10. Sin City (2005)

This 2005 American neo-noir crime anthology film was based on comic book writer Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name. The movie was written, directed and produced by Miller and Robert Rodriguez. There are three major plots with four characters each of whom is trying to solve her/his problems and fight corruption in the fictional town of Basin City, Washington. The movie stars Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis in major roles. Its groundbreaking visuals helped the movie receive positive reviews from both critics and audiences.

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9. Cloud Atlas (2012)

Based on the Pulitzer-nominated book of the same name, 2012’s Cloud Atlas by The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer. The movie is based on how actions of six different lives connect and have an effect on each other for centuries. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Jim Broadbent star in this epic science fiction film which is also the most expensive indep0endent movie of all time. The movie premiered at the 37th Toronto International film festival and immediately polarised critics, some loving and some disliking the film with equal intensity.

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8. Short Cuts (1993)

This 1993 anthology film directed by legendary filmmaker Robert Altman stars an ensemble cast consisting of Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Jason Leigh, Madeleine Stowe, Chris Penn, Jack Lemmon and Frances McDormand. The movie is based on nine short stories and a poem by Raymond Carver. The movie traces the lives of 22 different characters whose lives interact through chance and luck. The movie received positive reviews and has a 95% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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7. Amores Perros (2000)

This 2000 anthology thriller directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu revolves around a car crash at Mexico City which connects three lives. One about a student who gets involved in dogfighting, another about a model who has injured her leg, and the third one about a hitman. Dogs are a common motif in the three stories along with violence. The film was instantly loved by critics and ended up winning major awards like the BAFTA and Best Film at Tokyo Film Festival.

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6. Fantasia (1940)

Probably Disney’s boldest movie till date, this 1940 fantasy anthology film is where Walt Disney blended animal imagery with classical music. The movie consists of eight animated sequences set to classical music conducted by  Leopold Stokowski, seven of which are performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra, the music being used was by composers like Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Stravinsky. Though the movie was positively received by critics it lost out on a European viewership due to the ongoing Second World War.

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5. Babel (2006)

Babel Movie - Brad Pitt

A movie that’s loved and loathed in equal measure, ‘Babel’ got nominated for Best Picture, but it was largely due to Iñárritu’s previous brilliant efforts — ’21 Grams’, ‘Amores Perros’ — that had went largely unrecognized. The main criticism against the film is that it is manipulative and schmaltzy. Well, I certainly disagree. I have watched the film several times, and every single time I have loved it. The way Iñárritu interconnects all the stories occurring in different parts of world to bring out the theme of barriers of communication is really commendable. And did I mention, ‘Babel’ features one of my favorite movie scores of all time ?

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4. 21 Grams (2003)

Naomi Watts 21 Grams

Iñárritu didn’t turn out to be this daring filmmaker overnight — many are giving him the credit now, after ‘Birdman’ and ‘The Revenant’. The truth is, he was always a brave director, who wasn’t afraid to experiment. In ’21 Grams’, he turned the concept of editing on its head. He proved that a film doesn’t have to have a linear narrative — or for that matter, narrative in any order — for it to work. I am sure, there is some method to his madness, but it is nothing short of genius in the way ’21 Grams’ unfolds in a haphazard manner — or so it seems — and yet, manages to first engage you and then, affect and move you.

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3. City of God (2002)

This epic Brazillian anthology crime drama follows the lives of two boys from childhood, one of them becoming a photojournalist and the other a drug dealer as they grow up in an extremely violent and sadistic environment. The plot is based on real events and depicts the growth of crime in Rio de Janeiro between the late 60s and the 80s. The movie was positively received by critics and fans and TIME magazine included it among the 100 best movies of all time.

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2. Chunking Express (1994)

This 1994 film by acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai helped put him on the international scene when Quentin Tarantino’s company Rolling Thunder Pictures bought the rights to distribute this film throughout America. The film is divided into two stories each of which involves a young police officer in Hong Kong and his love life. Aesthetically shot with Wong’s stylistic shots and his brilliant use of life, the movie has now become a cultural icon, receiving worldwide critical acclaim.

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1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Probably the most influential film of the 90s, Pulp Fiction was an anthology film of three different stories with some common characters. Directed by Quentin Tarantino, and written by him and Roger Avery, the movie won the Best Screenplay award at the ’95 Oscars and also the ’94 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. One of the stories involves two hitmen on a job, the second one is about one of those hitmen and the wife of their boss, with the third one about a boxer who has upset this boss in question.

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