AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition


Citizen Kane 062007

(Note: If you are simply here for the complete list of films on AFI’s 100 Years . . . 100 Movies list, you can find that at the end of this article.)

I was completely prepared to write about how we need time to evaluate films. According to the marketing campaign, the main reason the list was re-evaluated was to consider the films made in the past ten years, to see if they could hold up to the greats. I was going to point out how the National Film Registry does not even consider films less than a decade old. Imagine my surprise to find that, of the 23 films on the list that did not appear on the 1997 list, only 4 of them were made in the past ten years. I still think that the greatness of a film can only be judged after a number of years, but I will be fair and note that AFI instead took this opportunity to add forgotten films. After the jump, you will find a list of the films that are new to the list, along with their ranks on the current list.

The General (1927) – #18
Intolerance (1916) – #49
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001) – #50
Nashville (1975) – #59
Sullivan’s Travels (1941) – #61
Cabaret (1972) – #63
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) – #67
Saving Private Ryan (1998) – #71
The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – #72
In the Heat of the Night (1967) – #75
All the President’s Men (1976) – #77
Spartacus (1960) – #81
Sunrise (1927) – #82
Titanic (1997) – #83
A Night at the Opera (1935) – #85
12 Angry Men (1957) – #87
The Sixth Sense (1999) – #89
Swing Time (1936) – #90
Sophie’s Choice (1982) – #91
The Last Picture Show (1971) – #95
Do the Right Thing (1989) – #96
Blade Runner (1982) – #97
Toy Story (1995) – #99

I only added the ranks as a matter of interest. I think you have to take the list holistically and not worry about individual rankings. I am going to assume I do not have to make a defense of listmaking and the general idea of a film canon. The matter has been hotly debated over the past decade, and the natural geek in me enjoys the exercise. Instead, I think I will talk about lists on a personal level.

Lists seem ubiquitous these days and everyone seems to be ranking all sorts of things. I actually don’t recall being aware of the exercise before the AFI list came out in 1997. At the time, I was unaware of Sight & Sound. I knew that most film critics made a Top Ten list every year, but that’s about it. At the time, I had been an avid moviegoer for a few years, but I didn’t delve into older films too much. It just seemed that I had no idea what to watch. I had seen Citizen Kane and The Godfather, but my viewings were somewhat random beyond that.

The AFI list opened a lot of films for me that I probably wouldn’t have watched if not for the list: Network, Jaws, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Taxi Driver spring to mind. I had intended to watch all 100 films on the list, which led to several aborted attempts. I kept trying to combine the exercise with other lists I wanted to tackle, such as all the Best Picture winners and the highest rated films on IMDb. The AFI list indirectly led to the Film Chronology series, which I have not abandoned. (I’m just very busy these days, between moving, the Bar Exam and job hunting.) Of course, I don’t like the idea of such a high-profile list being limited to American films, but the point is that the list is meant as a starting point. For those who have never been introduced to the world of older films, they give people some films they should look at. So I hope that others will make their lists of 100 films to provide a different perspective.

Anyway, my original point was that I think the group of films added to the list are a fine group of movies overall. Sure, I may not like all the films that have been added (and I have not seen most of them), but I will argue that the list of films added, on the whole, is better than the list of the films that are no longer on the AFI list. To prove my point, the films cut along with their 1997 rank:

Doctor Zhivago (1965) – #39
The Birth of a Nation (1915) – #44
From Here to Eternity (1953) – #52
Amadeus (1984) – #53
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) – #54
The Third Man (1949) – #57
Fantasia (1940) – #58
Rebel Without a Cause (1955) – #59
Stagecoach (1939) – #63
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) – #64
The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – #67
An American in Paris (1951) – #68
Wuthering Heights (1939) – #73
Dances with Wolves (1990) – #75
Giant (1956) – #82
Fargo (1996) – #84
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) – #86
Frankenstein (1931) – #87
Patton (1970) – #89
The Jazz Singer (1927) – #90
My Fair Lady (1964) – #91
A Place in the Sun (1951) – #92
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) – #99

Sure, there are some omissions that are just crazy, but I think, on the whole, the AFI did a better job this time than they did ten years ago. Of course, all the films on both this list and the decade-old list are fairly popular. But, I think that’s okay. It would be nice to give recognition to smaller, less-heralded films, but that’s why I think more people need to make lists. More points of view are always a good thing. Anyway, as promised, here is the AFI list in its entirety. I typed this by hand, so please forgive any typos.

1. Citizen Kane (1941)
2. The Godfather (1972)
3. Casablanca (1942)
4. Raging Bull (1980)
5. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
6. Gone With the Wind (1939)
7. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
8. Schindler’s List (1993)
9. Vertigo (1958)
10. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
11. City Lights (1931)
12. The Searchers (1956)
13. Star Wars (1977)
14. Psycho (1960)
15. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
16. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
17. The Graduate (1967)
18. The General (1927)
19. On the Waterfront (1954)
20. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
21. Chinatown (1974)
22. Some Like It Hot (1959)
23. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
24. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
25. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
26. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
27. High Noon (1952)
28. All About Eve (1950)
29. Double Indemnity (1944)
30. Apocalypse Now (1979)
31. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
32. The Godfather Part II (1974)
33. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
34. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)
35. Annie Hall (1977)
36. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1941)
37. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
38. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
39. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
40. The Sound of Music (1965)
41. King Kong (1933)
42. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
43. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
44. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
45. Shane (1953)
46. It Happened One Night (1934)
47. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
48. Rear Window (1954)
49. Intolerance (1916)
50. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
51. West Side Story (1961)
52. Taxi Driver (1976)
53. The Deer Hunter (1978)
54. M*A*S*H (1970)
55. North by Northwest (1959)
56. Jaws (1975)
57. Rocky (1976)
58. The Gold Rush (1925)
59. Nashville (1975)
60. Duck Soup (1933)
61. Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
62. American Graffiti (1973)
63. Cabaret (1972)
64. Network (1976)
65. The African Queen (1951)
66. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
67. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
68. Unforgiven (1992)
69. Tootsie (1982)
70. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
71. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
72. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
73. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
74. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
75. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
76. Forrest Gump (1994)
77. All the President’s Men (1976)
78. Modern Times (1936)
79. The Wild Bunch (1969)
80. The Apartment (1960)
81. Spartacus (1960)
82. Sunrise(1927)
83. Titanic (1997)
84. Easy Rider (1969)
85. A Night at the Opera (1935)
86. Platoon (1986)
87. 12 Angry Men (1957)
88. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
89. The Sixth Sense (1999)
90. Swing Time (1936)
91. Sophie’s Choice (1982)
92. Goodfellas (1990)
93. The French Connection (1971)
94. Pulp Fiction (1994)
95. The Last Picture Show (1971)
96. Do the Right Thing (1989)
97. Blade Runner (1982)
98. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
99. Toy Story (1995)
100. Ben-Hur (1959)

6 responses to “AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition

  1. As usual half the selections stink.

  2. The AFI lists, this one and the genre lists, have some value as starting points for cinema neophytes, but I wouldn’t say they have any real value as critical rankings. True, some of the movies that were added to the 100 Movies list are fine films, but some of the movies that were dropped are also fine films while many indifferent films survived from the first list. To take possibly the most egregious example, Titanic was added and The Third Man was dropped. A serious argument may be made that The Third Man is the greatest film ever made. That argument cannot be made for Titanic. There are many other side by side comparisons of what is on the list to what is not that reflect unfavorably on the AFI list.

    My assessment of the AFI list-making project is that the selections are compromised by nostalgia, ignorance (to put it another way, voting on reputation rather than a fresh critical assessment) and a pervasive methodology problem of how to weight artistic merit versus cultural significance. The AFI list has genuine value in promoting film literacy, but anyone watching these films expecting to see the masterworks of English language filmmaking is in for a severe disappointment.

  3. Honestly, why is Titanic on this list?

  4. I agree with the above comments. But these lists are really just for fun, right? My bigger complaints than anything about omissions is that Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, Network, and Chinatown are way too low (I’d have Chinatown #1, but that’s just me). I fail to see how Raging Bull can be #4 and Goodfellas way down at 92. I realize that the main thing in common on these two is the director, but looking at them side-by-side, this makes no sense. I am curious about their methodology.

    Anyway, I posted some comments on my blog as well ( At least this gets people talking…

  5. I will admit I was truly shocked to see The Third Man dropped.

    As for Titanic, I don’t love the film, but I don’t hate it as much as other people. I think it’s one of those films where the cultural significance of the film is so overwhelming that you cannot deny it. I was expecting Titanic to make the list. It’s like Forrest Gump. Like it or not, it’s part of film history. You just have to accept it and move on.

  6. I liked Forrest Gump when it came out. Upon a second viewing I realized how cut and paste it was as well as how crazy bad it was. I think it looked to be a good film in the first half and then went out of control- I Would say Baby Boomers and nostalgia for their youth is what made this film be put on the list.

    AS far as Titantic- It is almost 2 films in one. It is a love story that is smaltzy and over the top , but it is also a film about the story of the Titanic. It is a film about a great historical tragedy made very realistically and using ficticious people to make it real to the average modern person- who cannot fathom the impact it had at the time of the real incident.
    This is I believe the reason it made the list.
    Let me tell you I hate Celine Dion, but I still cry when I hear that damn song because of the movie’s impact on me.


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