Hot off the presses, here's the newly minted list of the 100 greatest American movies of all-time, at this time: 100 Ben-Hur 99 Toy Story 98 Yankee Doodle Dandy 97 Blade Runner 96 Do the Right Thing 95 The Last Picture Show 94 Pulp Fiction 93 The French Connection 92 Goodfellas 91 Sophie's Choice 90 Swing Time 89 The Sixth Sense 88 Bringing Up Baby 87 12 Angry Men 86 Platoon 85 A Night At the Opera 84 Easy Rider 83 Titanic 82 Sunrise 81 Spartacus 80 The Apartment 79 The Wild Bunch 78 Modern Times 77 All the President's Men 76 Forrest Gump 75 In the Heat of the Night 74 The Silence of the Lambs 73 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 72 The Shawshank Redemption 71 Saving Private Ryan 70 A Clockwork Orange 69 Tootsie 68 Unforgiven 67 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 66 Raiders of the Lost Ark 65 The African Queen 64 Network 63 Cabaret 62 American Graffiti 61 Sullivan's Travels 60 Duck Soup 59 Nashville 58 The Gold Rush 57 Rocky 56 Jaws 55 North by Northwest 54 M*A*S*H 53 The Deer Hunter 52 Taxi Driver 51 West Side Story 50 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 49 Intolerance 48 Rear Window 47 A Streetcar Named Desire 46 It Happened One Night 45 Shane 44 The Philadelphia Story 43 Midnight Cowboy 42 Bonnie and Clyde 41 King Kong 40 The Sound of Music 39 Dr. Strangelove 38 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 37 The Best Years of Our Lives 36 The Bridge on the River Kwai 35 Annie Hall 34 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 33 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 32 The Godfather Part II 31 The Maltese Falcon 30 Apocalypse Now 29 Double Indemnity 28 All About Eve 27 High Noon 26 Mr. Smith Goes to the Washington 25 To Kill a Mockingbird 24 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial 23 The Grapes of Wrath 22 Some Like it Hot 21 Chinatown 20 It's a Wonderful Life 19 On the Waterfront 18 The General 17 The Graduate 16 Sunset Blvd. 15 2001: A Space Odyssey 14 Psycho 13 Star Wars 12 The Searchers 11 City Lights 10 Wizard of Oz 9 Vertigo 8 Schindler's List 7 Lawrence of Arabia 6 Gone With the Wind 5 Singin' in the Rain 4 Raging Bull 3 Casablanca 2 The Godfather 1 Citizen Kane
For those of you keeping track at home, there are 22 new films on this list:
Toy Story Blade Runner Do the Right Thing The Last Picture Show Sophie's Choice Swing Time The Sixth Sense 12 Angry Men A Night at the Opera Titanic Sunrise Spartacus All the President's Men In the Heat of the Night The Shawshank Redemption Saving Private Ryan Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Cabaret Sullivan's Travels Nashville Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Intolerance The General
The movies they usurped are:
Doctor Zhivago Birth of a Nation From Here to Eternity Amadeus All Quiet on the Western Front The Third Man Fantasia Rebel Without a Cause Stagecoach Close Encounters of the Third Kind The Manchurian Candidate An American in Paris Wuthering Heights Dances With Wolves Giant Fargo Mutiny on the Bounty Frankenstein Patton The Jazz Singer My Fair Lady A Place in the Sun Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Generally, the changes made between the 1997 list and the 2007 one are fine. Sunrise, Do the Right Thing and The General are excellent additions of movies that were snubbed the first time around. And Toy Story and Fellowship of the Ring are crucial additions from the crop of movies released since the last list. But there are some glaring omissions. The biggest is L.A. Confidential, which is quintessentially American and one of the best American movies of the 1990s. And what about sex, lies, and videotape.? That movie essentially launched the modern American independent cinema. Or Terminator 2? Or Die Hard?
From the list of movies that have dropped out of the top 100, there are similar positives and negatives. Mutiny on the Bounty, Dances With Wolves and A Place in the Sun won't be missed. But how can you have a list of the best 100 American movies without The Birth of a Nation or The Jazz Singer? Citizen Kane, top of the list in '97 and '07, is lauded loudly for its technical achievements. Orson Welles wouldn't have been able to develop deep focus technique or extreme angle direction without D.W. Griffith creating the first long narrative film. And Welles wouldn't have been able to utilize the power of dialogue without Al Jolson telling audiences they hadn't heard anything yet. The only thing that could account for these glaring oversights is that voting was open to the public. The Birth of a Nation and The Jazz Singer are both stodgy and, more importantly, racist. The general public might have been more hesitant to excuse these films' sketchy histories because they're technical breakthroughs the way historians and scholars sometimes do. Plus, The Jazz Singer is still unavailable on DVD, creating the issue of popular familiarity in 2007 of a movie that's 80 years old.
Issues with AFI's 2007 list were certainly going to arise, either about placement of the movies on the list or what movies made it or didn't. But it was, personally, unexpected to be confronted with the deletion of two of the most important American movies from the list of the 100 best American movies. The 2007 list is a little less stuffy than the 1997 one, but the current list is far from perfect. There are at least two movies (The Sixth Sense and Saving Private Ryan) that could easily go and not be missed to allow for a correction of the gross oversight exclusion of The Birth of a Nation and The Jazz Singer.
For comparison's sake, here's the 1997 list:
1. Citizen Kane 2. Casablanca 3. The Godfather 4. Gone With The Wind 5. Lawrence Of Arabia 6. The Wizard Of Oz 7. The Graduate 8. On The Waterfront 9. Schindler's List 10. Singin' in the Rain 11. It's A Wonderful Life 12. Sunset Boulevard 13. The Bridge on the River Kwai 14. Some Like It Hot 15. Star Wars 16. All About Eve 17. The African Queen 18. Psycho 19. Chinatown 20. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest 21. The Grapes of Wrath 22. 2001: A Space Odyssey 23. The Maltese Falcon 24. Raging Bull 25. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial 26. Dr. Strangelove 27. Bonnie and Clyde 28. Apocalypse Now 29. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington 30. Treasure of the Sierra Madre 31. Annie Hall 32. The Godfather Part II 33. High Noon 34. To Kill A Mockingbird 35. It Happened One Night 36. Midnight Cowboy 37. The Best Years Of Our Lives 38. Double Indemnity 39. Doctor Zhivago 40. North By Northwest 41. West Side Story 42. Rear Window 43. King Kong 44. The Birth of a Nation 45. A Streetcar Named Desire 46. A Clockwork Orange 47. Taxi Driver 48. Jaws 49. Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs 50. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid 51. The Philadelphia Story 52. From Here to Eternity 53. Amadeus 54. All Quiet on the Western Front 55. The Sound of Music 56. M*A*S*H 57. The Third Man 58. Fantasia 59. Rebel Without a Cause 60. Raiders of the Lost Ark 61. Vertigo 62. Tootsie 63. Stagecoach 64. Close Encounters of the Third Kind 65. The Silence of the Lambs 66. Network 67. The Manchurian Candidate 68. An American in Paris 69. Shane 70. The French Connection 71. Forrest Gump 72. Ben-Hur 73. Wuthering Heights 74. The Gold Rush 75. Dances With Wolves 76. City Lights 77. American Graffiti 78. Rocky 79. The Deer Hunter 80. The Wild Bunch 81. Modern Times 82. Giant 83. Platoon 84. Fargo 85. Duck Soup 86. Mutiny on the Bounty 87. Frankenstein 88. Easy Rider 89. Patton 90. The Jazz Singer 91. My Fair Lady 92. A Place in the Sun 93. The Apartment 94. Goodfellas 95. Pulp Fiction 96. The Searchers 97. Bringing Up Baby 98. Unforgiven 99. Guess Who's Coming To Dinner 100. Yankee Doodle Dandy
(For the record, 60 of my 96 picks made it onto the final list.)