Entertainment

The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time  

Ranker Film
245 votes 43 voters 38 items

List Rules Vote up the best intelligent movies, or those that are smart, clever, etc.

If there's one genre of movies that are often naturally intelligent or smart, it'd have to be drama. Of course, not all drama films could be classified as clever, deep, or thought provoking, but the idea of a drama in general is that it typically makes you think. Much like that of psychological thrillers, these types of movies are all about evoking emotion—you know, getting to the viewer's core. In other words, some of the best dramas to date are those that draw us in and send us through a whirlwind of thought and emotion, even if that means being a real tear jerker.

When it comes to the top or most popular intelligent dramas, the first few that come to mind may be Good Will Hunting, Fight Club, or the Shawshank Redemption. While these are all certainly some of the top smart dramas, there are plenty more where those came from. Yet, what is that classifies these as the best intelligent dramas films? Perhaps it's a combination of a great story, a perfect setting, and eye-opening dialogue. Whatever it is, the list of drama films below have it, but it's up to you to decide which movie did it best.

Check out the list of intelligent drama films below and help determine just which ones are the most clever, or the smartest. You can vote up your favorites, vote down any you don't like, and even add your own choices to the list. 

list ordered by
1
The Shawshank Redemption is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Morgan Freeman, Rita Hayworth, Tim Robbins
The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 American drama film written and directed by Frank Darabont and starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. Adapted from the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and ...more
2
Good Will Hunting is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Ben Affleck, Robin Williams, Matt Damon
Good Will Hunting is a 1997 American drama film directed by Gus Van Sant, and starring Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver and Stellan Skarsgård. Written by Affleck and ...more
3
Forrest Gump is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Tom Hanks, Kurt Russell, Sally Field
Forrest Gump is a 1994 American epic romantic-comedy-drama film based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Winston Groom. The film was directed by Robert Zemeckis and stars Tom Hanks, Robin ...more
4
The Green Mile is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Sam Rockwell
The Green Mile is a 1999 American fantasy drama film directed by Frank Darabont and adapted from the 1996 Stephen King novel of the same name. The film is told in a flashback format and stars ...more
5
Rain Man is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Valeria Golino
Rain Man is a 1988 American drama film directed by Barry Levinson and written by Barry Morrow and Ronald Bass. It tells the story of an abrasive and selfish yuppie, Charlie Babbitt, who ...more
6
The Departed is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin
The Departed is a 2006 American crime drama film directed by Martin Scorsese, and a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs. Irish Mob boss Francis "Frank" Costello (Jack ...more
7
A Beautiful Mind is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Jennifer Connelly, Russell Crowe, Ron Howard
A Beautiful Mind is a 2001 American biographical drama film based on the life of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics. The film was directed by Ron Howard, from a screenplay written by Akiva ...more
8
Gladiator is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Sheen
Gladiator is a 2000 American-British epic historical drama film directed by Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Ralf Möller, Oliver Reed, Djimon Hounsou, ...more
9
The Notebook is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling, James Garner
The Notebook is a 2004 American romantic drama film directed by Nick Cassavetes and based on the novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks. The film stars Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as a ...more
10
The Truman Show is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Jim Carrey, Paul Giamatti, Ed Harris
The Truman Show is a 1998 American satirical social science fiction comedy-drama film directed by Peter Weir and written by Andrew Niccol. The cast includes Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank, Laura ...more
11
Arrival is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Arrival is a 2016 American science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Eric Heisserer, based on the short story "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang. It stars Amy ...more
12
Hacksaw Ridge is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey
Hacksaw Ridge is a 2016 biographical war film about the World War II experiences of Desmond Doss, an American pacificist combat medic who was a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, refusing to carry ...more
13
The Prestige is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Scarlett Johansson, David Bowie, Hugh Jackman
The Prestige is a 2006 mystery drama film directed by Christopher Nolan, from a screenplay adapted by him and his brother Jonathan Nolan from Christopher Priest's 1995 World Fantasy ...more
14
Seven is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Morgan Freeman
Seven is a 1995 American psychological thriller film directed by David Fincher. The film stars Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, with Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey, John C. McGinley, and Kevin ...more
15
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotle... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Carrey
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 American romantic science-fiction comedy-drama film about an estranged couple who have each other erased from their memories, written by Charlie ...more
16
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a 2019 crime thriller film directed by Quentin Tarantino. A TV actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double (Brad Pitt) embark on an odyssey to make a name for ...more
17
Arctic is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir
Arctic is a 2018 Icelandic survival film directed by Joe Penna. After his rescue helicopter crashes, a man (Mads Mikkelsen) stranded in the Arctic must save an injured passenger and himself by ...more
18
Donnie Darko is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Drew Barrymore, Ashley Tisdale, Jake Gyllenhaal
Donnie Darko is a 2001 American supernatural drama film written and directed by Richard Kelly and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Noah Wyle, Jena ...more
19
The Sixth Sense is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Bruce Willis, Mischa Barton, Haley Joel Osment
The Sixth Sense is a 1999 American supernatural thriller film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The film tells the story of Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a troubled, isolated boy who ...more
20
Full Metal Jacket is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Stanley Kubrick, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey
Full Metal Jacket is a 1987 film directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay by Kubrick, Michael Herr, and Gustav Hasford was based on Hasford's novel The Short-Timers. The film ...more
21
The Machinist is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Ironside
The Machinist is a 2004 English-language Spanish psychological thriller film directed by Brad Anderson and written by Scott Kosar. The film stars Christian Bale with Jennifer Jason Leigh, John ...more
22
Looper is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Looper is a 2012 American science fiction action thriller film written and directed by Rian Johnson and starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Emily Blunt. In the film, time travel is ...more
23
The Red Sea Diving Resort is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Chris Evans, Haley Bennett, Michael K. Williams
The Red Sea Diving Resort is a 2019 Canadian-American biographical drama film directed and written by Gideon Raff. In 1981, Mossad agents work to rescue and evacuate Jewish-Ethiopians to Israel ...more
24
The Ground Beneath My Feet is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Valerie Pachner, Pia Hierzegger, Mavie Hörbiger
The Ground Beneath My Feet is a 2019 Austrian drama film directed by Marie Kreutzer. A business consultant, Lola (Valerie Pachner) is on the fast track to success when a tragic event forces her ...more
25
La La Land is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Intelligent Dramas of All Time
Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend
La La Land is a 2016 American romantic musical comedy-drama film written and directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, and Rosemarie DeWitt. The plot ...more