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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

the new AFI 100: fire up yer Netflix queue

Well, I was wrong. I guessed that the new AFI 100 — which was announced over three hours of clips and celebrity gushing last night on CBS — would be substantially the same as the old AFI 100. Boy, was I wrong. Only three films hold their original positions on the list: Citizen Kane (#1), The Godfather Part II (#32), and The Best Years of Our Lives (#37). Twenty-three other films are new to the list, including four of the 43 nominees from the ten years since the first list: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (#50), Saving Private Ryan (#71), Titanic (#83), and The Sixth Sense (#89).

The new top 10 looks like this:

1: Citizen Kane (1941) [no change]
2: The Godfather (1972) [was #3]
3: Casablanca (1942) [was #2]
4: Raging Bull (1980) [was #24]
5: Singin’ in the Rain (1952) [was #10]
6: Gone with the Wind (1939) [was #4]
7: Lawrence of Arabia (1962) [was #5]
8: Schindler’s List (1993) [was #9]
9: Vertigo (1958) [was #61]
10: The Wizard of Oz (1939) [was #6]

What’s gone from the top 10? The Graduate [was #7] and On the Waterfront [was #8]. Which are two of the films I predicted might fall out of the top 10. Hey, I’m grabbing at anything here.

What else is new on the list? Heck, what isn’t new?

18: The General (1927)
49: Intolerance (1916)
59: Nashville (1975)
61: Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
63: Caberet (1972)
67: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
72: The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
75: In the Heat of the Night (1967)
77: All the President’s Men (1976)
81: Spartacus (1960)
82: Sunrise (1927)
85: A Night at the Opera (1935)
87: 12 Angry Men (1957)
90: Swing Time (1936)
91: Sophie’s Choice (1982)
95: The Last Picture Show (1971)
96: Do the Right Thing (1989)
97: Blade Runner (1982)
99: Toy Story (1995)

(See the whole list here. And yes, I’ll update my listing ASAP, and maybe start reviewing some movie flicks.)

I know: You look at that list and you think, Wait, those movies weren’t on the first AFI 100? Which just brings up another thought: If this list is supposed to represent timeless greatness in the movie world, how could it have changed so much in only ten years? Like this: John Ford’s The Searchers moved up the list the most, all the way from #96 to #12. Has the stature of John Ford changed that much in a decade? Was there some revival of John Ford hysteria that I slept through? I’m not complaining about John Ford or his movies: I’m complaining, a little, about the authority of this list.

Which is silly of me. They’re just movies, right?

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  • Y’know, I had the opposite reaction; I felt that the changes were really pretty minor.

    I wrote my reaction in my LJ.

    While some of the movies changed positions, the vast majority of them remained on the list.

    I also don’t like the tendency for the first movie of a related series to always rank higher then the best movie of that series. Godfather II is a better movie than Godfather, and Empire Strikes Back (which isn’t even on the list) is a much better movie than Star Wars. In some ways, FOTR IS a better movie than ROTK, but I think those movies in particular need to be treated as one unit rather than individual flicks.

  • MaryAnn

    It’s not the up-and-downing that’s so shocking — except for that *Searchers* thing — so much as how many new films are on the list. I mean, 1936’s *Swing Time*? *A Night at the Opera*? What happened to make these films suddenly so much better regarded than they were?

    Maybe the fact that a lot of the new films are low on the list means they merely moved up a little from just below 100 to just above. But 1927’s *The General* at *#18*?! Wha’?

  • Josh Gilchrist

    While I did disagree some, I was just very happy they did not rank Titanic or LOTR any higher than they did. None of the LOTR films would even make my top 1000 list, let alone Top 100. I would like to see more animated films on the list. Pinochio, Bambi

  • Josh Gilchrist

    I was tickled to see all of the silent films on the list but WTF is up with leaving Birth of a Nation off this time? That was on the last list and it is a landmark in cinema. Hell, it’s at least in the top 10 in regards to the significance and how it inspired the film industry. It’s not on there for politically correct reasons and that pisses me off. And WTF is Sixth Sense doing on this list. Sure, it may be
    Shyamadingdong’s best film, but that’s like saying Kickboxer is Van Damme’s best film. I am tired of people saying Sixth Sense, or any Shyamalan film for that matter, have such great twist endings. It really shows the lack of intelligence and attention span that audiences have these days. Crap, am I the only one who figured out Bruce Willis was dead way before the film ended? I figured it out probably 30 minutes into the movie! I mean, the audience really has to be dense not to notice that NO CHARACTER is reacting or talking to the Bruce Willis character except for the damn kid who says he sees dead people! The scene that did it for me is when Willis is sitting in the boys house with the mother, waiting for the boy to arrive home. The mother makes no acknowledgment that he is there. When the boy gets home, he’s the only one who interacts with Willis.

  • MaryAnn

    Crap, am I the only one who figured out Bruce Willis was dead way before the film ended? I figured it out probably 30 minutes into the movie!

    I guessed from the trailer. :->

    But I still think it’s a brilliant movie — there’s a lot more going on than the “twist.”

    And this list is supposed to be as much about movies that had a great cultural impact as it is about “quality.” There’s no question that *Sixth Sense* had a great cultural impact — it’s all everyone was talking about that summer.

  • Josh Gilchrist

    Well, it came out the same summer as Blair Witch. I remember more talk about that film and I consider that film far superior. That film scared the shit out of me and had me sleeping with a light on when I was a 23 year old male at the time. I have never been fond of M. Night but Sixth Sense does have some very good stuff in terms of script and chemistry between Willis and Osment. I am just glad that people finally wised up to how much of a hack M. Night was. I think he is a great filmmaker but, as a storyteller, he’s crap. He should leave the story to someone else.

  • I’m less than impressed with the changes they made to the list.

    I can understand adding new films to the list (and by “new”, I mean significant films released since the last iteration of the list), injecting them into certain positions and adjusting everything else downward (since no film should move UP if you’re just adding new items to the list), pushing one film off of the Top 100 for every film that you add. (If you add 6 new films, for example, old films #95 – #100 should drop off.)

    But moving things up or down in the list for no apparent reason, and having films drop off of the list even though other, lower-ranked films stayed on the list, cheapens the definitiveness of the prior iteration of the list. To me, it looks a lot like pandering when someone fudges a list like this.

  • Will H.

    I think the Sixth Sense was mostly a great film because of the cultural phenomenon that popped up around it. I think it’s exactly what Shyamadingdong (JG that was hysterical) was going for.

    He actually hit it on the head last night when he said that the Sixth Sense would never do well now, because the ending would be all over the net right after the movie came out. I think that’s why his later films weren’t so successful. Or more likely it’s because they were just drivel to begin with.

  • MaryAnn

    I am just glad that people finally wised up to how much of a hack M. Night was.

    Clearly, he had one great film in him, and *Sixth Sense* was it.

    To me, it looks a lot like pandering when someone fudges a list like this.

    I’m not sure if there was active pandering involved, but it’s easy to see now how arbitrary these lists are.

  • Will H.

    Well, here’s a few that I think should have definitely been somewhere on the list. Debating this stuff could go on forever, but that’s really the point of lists isn’t it?

    The Last Temptation of Christ
    The Verdict
    The Sting
    Five Easy Pieces
    Cool Hand Luke
    Touch of Evil
    Spinal Tap
    The Hustler

    I didn’t cross reference them to see if any were on the previous list. Just wanted to give these movies their due!

  • MaryAnn

    *Fargo* was on old list, and dropped off this one.

    Hey, there’s always the 20th anniversary list coming up in 2017…

  • Josh Gilchrist

    I almost spit soda out of my mouth laughing reading Will’s post. I thought he put down Passion of the Christ. Good list though Will, especially since Touch Of Evil is my All time fav American film.

  • bats

    Is there a quick’n’dirty list of the films that fell off the original list? I’m too lazy to look.
    (Hopefully they held onto the second 100 list…)

  • bats

    I also think it’d be keen if AFI bit the bullet and did the 100 Worst Films — you know, have various actors and directors waxing eloquent on what’s necessary to make a stinker positively, gloriously reek.

  • JG, the Passion would be on my list of top snuff films.

    I just noticed that there were 4 Paul Newman flicks on the list I posted. I guess he kind of got the shaft on this one. I think Butch & Sundance is the only Newman film on the list. Too bad — I can’t think of a better American actor.

  • MaryAnn

    23 films dropped off the list:

    DR. ZHIVAGO (former #39)
    THE BIRTH OF A NATION (former #44)
    FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (former #52)
    AMADEUS (former #53)
    THE THIRD MAN (former #57)
    FANTASIA (former #58)
    REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (former #59)
    STAGECOACH (former #63)
    AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (former #68)
    WUTHERING HEIGHTS (former #73)
    DANCES WITH WOLVES (former #75)
    GIANT (former #82)
    FARGO (former #84)
    MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (former #86)
    FRANKENSTEIN (former #87)
    PATTON (former #89)
    THE JAZZ SINGER (former #90)
    MY FAIR LADY (former #91)
    A PLACE IN THE SUN (former #92)

  • Signal 30

    Clockwork Orange is a British film… they could always replace it with Night of the Living Dead, which when you look at it was The Wild Bunch of horror.

    Completely reinvented the genre.

  • misterb

    I want to ask who changed in the list of selectors as much as which movies are in or out. Ultimately, AFI may be a fancy name, but their top 100 is only more valid than my top 100 because their egos are bigger. As someone above posted, any film list that doesn’t include Spinal Tap is way too full of itself.

    In particular, I understand the historical reason for including silent films and other ancient relics, but frankly, they are close to unwatchable today. The pioneers of film deserve to have streets named after them, but their movies need to be gracefully retired to a senior’s category. Some art stands the test of time- perhaps Chaplin does – certainly the great movies of the 30’s, but most does not. Let’s trash the sentimentality and appreciate just how much production values have improved over the years; a lot of these movies – even Citizen Kane – just aren’t entertaining to today’s audience.

  • Josh

    The AFI’s list, while suspect at time, is much more valid than any of the lists that we could bring up. Would you place Citizen Kane high on your list? Do you understand why the AFI did? If you don’t, then I have proven my point. And Spinal Tap was on the AFI’s list of 100 best comedies. I think a lot of the bitching is taking place because there were too many movies on the list you guys haven’t watched. Watch the films first.

    Any by the way, the message behind Citizen Kane is even more important today than it was 60 years ago. The main reason it is ranked so high though because a lot of the tricks of the cinematic trade, in terms of lighting and cinematography, were originated there

  • What I sent to Roger Ebert as a comment to his version of this article:

    *According to the Motion Picture Association of America, more than 50 percent of moviegoers are under 27.

    It’s interesting that you note this, but then you don’t take it to the next logical step.

    If you group the AFI 100, counting the number of films by year, then graph it, you’ll find four obvious spikes:
    * movies made from 1939 to 1942 (7 of ’em)
    * movies made from 1960 to 1963 (7 of ’em, with 6 more between 1957 and 1959)
    * movies made from 1975 to 1977 (9 of ’em)
    * movies made from 1993 to 1995 (5 of ’em)

    Now subtract 27 from each of those years. That’s right, you get 1912, 1933, 1948, and 1966… precisely the years (within a year or three either way) the four major current American generations (and presumably, the film critics that are part of each) were born. Each spike starts when their generation turns 20, and ends when their generation turns 29. There are droughts between where there’s amazingly few “great” movies.

    These movies aren’t great because they’re great (although many of them are). They’re great because they’re the movies each generation was watching during their respective critical movie-watching period. They’re the movies we grew up watching and the ones that shaped us. That’s what makes them “great.”

    20 years from now, when AFI does its 2027 version of this list, with an exception or two, most of the large block of movies clustered from 1933 to 1944 (18 movies) will fall right off this list. 18 movies beloved by GenY and GenY movie critics will replace them.

    Only after the generation that holds “their” movies as beloved passes will we get a neutral assessment of which movies made between 1933 and 1944 are the truly great movies. Ditto each follow-on generation.

  • MaryAnn

    That’s an interesting critique, Jester, but it fails to acknowledge that since the arrival of television, new generations have grown up watching and being deeply affected by certain movies that were made decades before they were born.

    *The Wizard of Oz,* for instance, is a movie that I loved watching as a kid every Thanksgiving, when it would invariably air on commercial TV. And VHS and now DVD will be doing the same thing for future generations. I think it’s absolutely true that movies that we see at certain points of our lives do affect us more deeply than other films we see at other times would. But those movies can have been made at any time in the past — we only need to have stumbled across them at the right time.

  • Yep, that’s kinda my point. The truly truly great movies will survive the passing of their respective generations.

    Sunset Boulevard (#16) is my favorite whipping boy (well, girl, in this case) in this regard. When the last Silent Generation member dies, as does the last Boomer who formed a grotesque fascination with this movie after studying it at the feet of some Silent Generation critic that just loves loves loves it, who exactly from GenX is gonna champion this awful flick?

    Oh, that’s right. Nobody. ;-)

    One “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (#26) is worth a dozen “It Happened One Night”s (#46) and one “Singin’ In The Rain” (#5) is worth 50 “Swing Time”s (#90). The true classics will survive on this list for decades to come. The incidental flicks that populate the list just because each respective generation loves them will not and will be replaced.

  • bats

    Thanks for posting the drop-offs. Some I can see going the way of the dodo, others I’m somewhat surprised. I guess there only can be 100…

  • Jade

    It’s also kind of interesting that there’s
    absolutely no movies from 99 on, as if
    nothing made in the past seven years was
    good enough…which I guess can be debated.
    Some of the films that dropped off the list
    are questionable too (especially things
    that were so high up on the last one). And
    there’s only two animated movies, plus
    maybe a few too many westerns (some kind of
    resurrgence I wasn’t aware of?)

  • Jade

    Except Lord of the Rings, correction. Sorry.

  • Josh

    Jade, the quality of film is so bad now days that it did not suprise me that most of the films were older. Although, I consider 97, 98, and 99 wonderful years for cinema. Once the millenium hit, it all went to hell. There are some films from that time period I would place my own list,(Capote, Brokeback, Columbine..) but I can understand why the AFI stayed away from the era. My favorite film of the 90’s was The Truman Show but I was not upset that missed the list because I knew it would not be on there.

  • Whether a movie speaks to you or not has nothing to do with generational bias. I’ve seen a lot of old 1930s movies as of late that I can watch over and over yet I never felt the slightest compulsion to re-watch a more recent flick like “Rebel without a Cause,” even when I was an angst-stricken teenager. (Indeed, I watched it when I was an angst-stricken teenager and didn’t care for it a bit.)

    Yes, time does tend to separate the good movies from the bad. But arguing that we should wait for the viejos (old people) to die out before we can truly judge the merits of older movies is just silly.

  • Tonio, that’s the exact opposite of what I’m saying. By all means, view the movies on the AFI list that seem interesting to you, regardless of era. My point is that the majority of the 18 movies on the list between 1933 and 1944 won’t pass muster in 20 years. Most will fall away, but the true classics will remain.

    Which are the true classics? The ones that remain on the list after the generation that provided them passes, and after the following generations have judged them for themselves.

  • Jade

    Yeah, I guess you’re right Josh. It just would’ve been nice to have seen more than just LOTR on there. Maybe it’s just me. :) I’m a teenager, so I haven’t seen a lot of these yet. I hope to eventually, but it’s hard just keeping up with the new movies.

  • Jade

    As for Birth of a Nation, Roger Ebert wrote a pretty good essay about it for one of the Great Movies books. It’s hard for anyone to want to see it or even admit that it’s technical aspects are excellent because of the blatant racism that’s all over it.

  • Jade

    Personally I agree with Josh that more animated movies should be on there…especially since I don’t particularly like Titanic.

  • Josh

    I own Birth of a Nation on DVD. I wrote a commentary on it about 4 years ago for the paper here. Wrote it on MLK Day and said that, if we really want to learn from our past mistakes and live the vision of Dr. King, the film is very important to watch and critique. I asked that all high schools show the film to their classes

  • Okay, Jester, I get your point and I even agree.

    I suspect the worst problem with lists like this–in my opinion, anyway–is more the tendency to overvalue newer films (the so-called “instant classic” syndrome) than the tendency to overvalue older films.

    But, hey, time wounds old heels and all that jazz…

  • “Clearly, he had one great film in him, and *Sixth Sense* was it.”

    What the hell? Didn’t you pick Unbreakable as the best movie of its year? IMHO, Unbreakable was better than Sixth Sense.

  • Sorry, that should say “one of the best of its year.”

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