Thursday, June 19, 2008

America's (AFI's) 10 Greatest Films in 10 Classic Genres

I was unable to catch the CBS special that was on Tuesday since I was studying for my French and English finals, but I am happy to announce that the list is available online.

Some great choices here and there. It was completely expected that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Searchers, Raging Bull, Vertigo, The Wizard of Oz, 2001: A Space Odyssey (can you believe I've NEVER seen 2001?), The Godfather, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Lawrence of Arabia top their respected genres.

Well, I was hoping Gone with the Wind would top the epic list, but hey, Lawrence of Arabia is not too shabby either. I do not think Lawrence of Arabia reaches the entertaining stamina and grand melodrama of Gone with the Wind, but it is a very good film, perhaps because of Peter O'Toole's charismatic and convincing performance as T.E. Lawrence.

But I would never have guessed that City Lights would top the romantic comedies list. I don't think I know a single person who would watch City Lights and think, "Wow, what a great romantic comedy!" Although Annie Hall would have been a more conventional and expected choice (it still came in #2), Roman Holiday defines (for me, at least) what the romantic comedy genre is all about. Its ending is every bit as bittersweet as the ending to City Lights, but Roman Holiday is far more romantic and comedic than City Lights. Roman Holiday is one of my all-time favorite movies.

Jerry Maguire is a...sports movie? Like someone once said on IMDb, it's a "chick flick disguised as sports movie." That movie isn't about sports. It discusses the subject of what it takes to be a football player with sacchrine ooze, but it doesn't actively discuss the harsh determination required to be an athlete in the way say, Raging Bull and Rocky do. I actually think it would have been more appropriate to place Jerry Maguire in the romantic comedy list, just because it really is a romantic comedy. They could have replaced Sleepless In Seattle (You've Got Mail is much better, IMO) with Jerry Maguire. But hey, I have a weird soft spot for Jerry Maguire. The film is so unbelievably corny, but Cameron Crowe's fluff works.

I'm not the most avid viewer of the western genre, but it has been growing on me. How do I know? I absolutely adore the top four movies on the list. The Searchers is a wonderful film, and I remember being absolutely surprised on how entertaining and suspenseful the film is, especially at its climax. I also love High Noon, not only for Gary Cooper's incredible performance, but for Grace Kelly not being a mere damsel-in-distress but a strong woman who is able to defend herself in a man's genre. Shane is a great movie, if only for Alan Ladd's fantastical coolness in the film. I can go on forever about Unforgiven. It is my favorite western film. Clint Eastwood delivers one helluva performance, on-screen and off-screen in the director's chair. And I can't say enough about Gene Hackman's villainous turn...all I can really say is, HE'S AMAZING. I'm slowly becoming a huge Hackman fan.

I'm definitely not the biggest fan of The Wild Bunch, but just how cool is that iconic image of the film? William Holden rules.

Oh, To Kill a Mockingbird. I love that movie (and book) to pieces. Glad to see it top the courtroom drama list. And I wish Back to the Future is slightly higher on the sci-fi list because really, it's probably the most fun I've ever had watching a film.

But I wish Scarface would somehow roll of this planet and suddenly evaporate into a black hole. What is so great about that movie anyway other than the unintentionally funny parts? I mean, I realize how iconic it is, but not even Al Pacino's performance and Michelle Pfeffier's beautiful presence could save that mess of a movie. And I do love Pacino a whole lot and I'm glad to see both Godfather films make the list.

Enough of my pointless little rant. What are your opinions on AFI's newly unveiled list?


  1. I'm not a huge Western fan either and I haven't seen most of the films on that section of the list, but you must see Red River if you haven't already. It's brilliant.

    The Mystery section is probably my favourite part. Blue Velvet, Laura, The Third Man, North By Northwest. I'm unsure of how all these are connected, but they're damn fine films.

    Oh, hell yeah, Witness for the Prosecution mentioned in Courtroom Drama. Love that film. Marlene Dietrich is so great in it.

    One gripe, where's the Musical selection? Pah.

  2. Catherine, thanks for the recommendations!

    I think AFI didn't make a musical list because they already compiled a list of 25 greatest musicals two years ago (

  3. I'm going to second Red River (John Wayne's first great performance and Monty Clift is also pretty amazing) and Witness for the Prosecution(not only does Dietrich give her greatest performance, but the banter between Laughton and Lanchester is hilarious).

    I also was confused by City Lights inclusion as a romantic comedy. Don' get me wrong, it's one of the five greatest films EVER, but the comedy doesn't really stem from the relationship between the Tramp and the Blind Girl. Most of the funny stuff happens either with the millionaire or just the Tramp. Basically, it's a funny romance film, but not a romantic comedy.

  4. not trying to be difficult, but 'the 10 commandments' was flat out one of the worst movies ever made. anyone who puts it on any but the garbage list has immediately lost all credibility.

    i will also put in a plug for 'paths of glory', an early kubrick (anti)war movie, that should be at the top of theae movie catewgory.

  5. Richard, I completely disagree. The Ten Commandments was EPIC for its time and is still pretty epic today. And it's definitely not the worst movies ever made.

    But of course, it's all a matter of opinion.

    I'll look into Paths of Glory. I really have to start watching some Kubrick.

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