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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

hurry up and watch the old AFI 100: there’s a new one coming

Has it really been ten years since the American Film Institute named the AFI 100, its top 100 films from the first century of filmmaking? It has, and for the 10th anniversary, the AFI is … what? They’re doing a new list? Damn, I haven’t gotten through the first 100 yet!

Well, the AFI ain’t waiting for me. On Wednesday, June 20, the AFI will announce a new AFI 100, and we’ll all have to start all over again with a new list of films to watch.

Actually, no, I don’t think we will. See, there aren’t all that many new films nominated this time around that either weren’t nominated last time or aren’t already on the old AFI 100. Some are older films that somehow have taken on a new luster; most are films released since the first AFI 100 was assembled. I think we can make some educated guesses about how the new top 10 — let’s say top 10 just to keep it manageable — will look.
(If you really want to get serious about this, you can enter enter the contest the AFI is sponsoring: guess the new top 10 and win a widescreen HDTV. Since I just indulged myself a bought a lovely new HD widescreen, I’ll recuse myself. But feel free to steal my ideas from here.)

Okay, here’s what the current top 10 of the current AFI 100 looks like:

1: Citizen Kane (1941)
2: Casablanca (1942)
3: The Godfather (1972)
4: Gone with the Wind (1939)
5: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
6: The Wizard of Oz (1939)
7: The Graduate (1967)
8: On the Waterfront (1954)
9: Schindler’s List (1993)
10: Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

I seriously doubt this list will change at all. But if you wanna talk about “movies that changed the way we look at movies” — which is what the AFI list has been saying to me for 10 years — then there are a few new nominees that might have a chance of landing in the top 10. They are:

Being John Malkovich (1999)
The Matrix (1999)
• all three Lord of the Rings films (2001-4)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)

My new top 10, incorporating these films would look like this:

1: Citizen Kane (1941)
2: Casablanca (1942)
3: The Godfather (1972)
4: Gone with the Wind (1939)
5: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
6: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) [to pick just one of the trilogy]
7: Brokeback Mountain (2005)
8: Being John Malkovich (1999)
9: Schindler’s List (1993)
10: The Matrix (1999)

As I said, I don’t see the top 10 changing much, if at all, but I do think it’s fair to say that a movie like Brokeback Mountain shook us up as much as The Graduate probably did. (I don’t remember — I hadn’t been born yet. But people go on about The Graduate like it was earthshattering.) And The Matrix is as much about coping with technology as Singin’ in the Rain is, right?

I dunno. I look back at 1999 and I see a movie year as great as 1939 was — the other 1999 nominees for the new AFI 100 are Fight Club, The Insider, and The Sixth Sense — but we might be too close to those movies and that time right now for enough perspective.

And I certainly think it’s way too soon to be thinking about another AFI 100. Give it a quarter century, minimum.

(For a complete list of all 400 nominated films, go here.)

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  • Dang. I’ve only seen 22 of the AFI Top 100 movies (original list).

    I agree that it’s too soon to make a new Top 100 list. Seems like the AFI are just trying to keep their name in the press.

  • Josh Gilchrist

    I doubt any of those films you mentioned will crack the Top 10, unless they want to go the popular and pseudo-intelligence route and put the Lord of the Rings films on there. It would really piss me off if they did that since I believe it’s one of the most overrated set of films ever set to celluloid. But, there will likely be changes. Don’t be surprised if the already picked films switch around a bit. That’s what usually happens on these. Godfather or Casablanca could very well be #1

  • MaryAnn

    Don’t be surprised if the already picked films switch around a bit. That’s what usually happens on these. Godfather or Casablanca could very well be #1

    That could happen, too. But it doesn’t seem to me that enough time has passed since the last time this list was assembled for the general consensus on these older films to have changed all that much.

  • MBI

    *Seems like the AFI are just trying to keep their name in the press.*

    Gasp! How could you even suggest such a thing?

  • Josh Gilchrist

    Always remember that these are popularity contests. I remember Ebert saying once that, if you were to ask him what his favorite film is, the answer would change depending on what his mood is. Here are a list of some other films that could make the list this time which did not qualify last time, ones in bold are the ones that I think will make it, although none of these will likely break into the Top 10

    Titanic
    Saving Private Ryan
    Shakespeare in Love
    American Beauty
    Gladiator
    Traffic
    Fellowship of the Ring
    A Beautiful Mind
    Chicago
    Two Towers
    Return of the King
    Million Dollar Baby
    Brokeback Mountain

  • *Seems like the AFI are just trying to keep their name in the press.*

    Gasp! How could you even suggest such a thing?

    Call me a cynic.

    I said, call me a cynic! ;-)

  • MBI

    Here’s something they could do instead of rehashing old lists: A list of 100 greatest actors, and throw out the bullshit restriction about having to have a screen credit before 1950. Seriously, who the hell needs to watch Claudette Colbert movies that aren’t It Happened One Night? Or Barbara Stanwyck movies that aren’t Double Indemnity?

    Or here’s one that they haven’t even tried to tackle, best directors. That would be a good list, wouldn’t it?

  • MaryAnn

    Good ideas, MBI. Perhaps I’ll take them up. Not that I have anywhere near the standing of the AFI, but still, it could be fun…

  • Lis

    Barbara Stanwyck movies that aren’t Double Indemnity?

    If you haven’t seen some of Barbara Stanwyck’s comedies – The Lady Eve, Ball of Fire (now playing on Hulu!) or The Mad Miss Manton – you are missing a real good time!

  • Seriously, who the hell needs to watch Claudette Colbert movies that aren’t It Happened One Night? Or Barbara Stanwyck movies that aren’t Double Indemnity?

    Seriously, don’t knock ’em if you haven’t tried ’em. You might get a lot out of ’em than you might think.

    Besides, being a movie buff who isn’t at all interested in watching old movies is a lot like being a gourmet who’s only interested in eating out at restaurants that are within walking distance…

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