What makes a movie great? Is it the beauty of it all, that glowing cinematic quality? If it stands the test of time, staying relevant and interesting, is that great? There is more to a great movie than how it looks or how it is received by the general population. The latest installment in the "Twilight" series will gross more in its first weekend than the cost of its own production, but that doesn't make it great. Not that that means it isn't great, it still could be.
Doling out a "best movie ever" moniker to cover the entire world since the inception of film could prove a more divisive decision than even the latest presidential election. Even if a list of five films was given as a multiple choice option, it would be no surprise to see a resulting five-way tie, depending on the list of course. Good art and bad art are often indiscernible. As with all things, good and bad are merely a reflection of popular decision more than anything else. Da Vinci may have formulaically interpreted beauty, but there is still plenty of room for flexibility. That said, there are certain qualifications that often determine what is "the best." The first, as previously stated, tends to be popular appeal.
For film, we move from there into the realm of emotion, another sphere of impossible ambiguity. "Did the film have emotional impact?" The more resounding a "yes" reply, the higher that film flies ("Shawshank Redemption", "Schindler's List", or "Titanic" maybe?) Movies that have no emotional impact have little to offer an audience and therefore elude greatness. Another criteria, to skim the cream off the top, has to be the quality of craftsmanship. Many different pieces must fit together to make a masterpiece of cinema: the cinematography, the performances, the writing, the scene direction to name a few. Each category has subcategories upon subcategories, all of which could be judged with equally unending scrutiny. In the end, the results would remain indeterminate by the very nature of art.
The best movie ever is a childhood dream, a fantasy of the mind. If such a prize is ever to be claimed, it will be claimed wrongfully and unjustly by some movie less deserving than it is emboldened by a fanatic following. It would take a more frenzied crowd than all the Potter-heads, twi-hards, and Beliebers put together to convince the remainder of the world that their opinions are invalid by comparison. For the world to whole-heartedly proclaim any cinematic work "the best movie ever," there would need to be a story that captured the existential qualities of all human-kind. "The Godfather", "Citizen Cane", "The Wizard of Oz" – these are crumbs on the path to the best movie ever, but the path winds and twists towards an overgrown forest with little evidence of ever ending.
Based on the criteria of Popular appeal, emotional coercion, and quality craftsmanship; to be the best movie ever a film would have to be the raw form of each. Any such film would be an anomaly of narration, a combination of light, color and sound that resonated perfectly with the human spirit. The best movie ever is whatever movie strikes the closest to that point for the individual watching it. For that reason, the world will not and cannot ever be capable of choosing the best movie ever.