AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies: 10 Years and Still Kinda Lame
(For a comparison of the two lists, go here.)
While I applaud the hearty listmaking spirit of a respectable organization like the AFI, let's face it: their 100 Years... 100 Movies list was always kinda blah. Sure, it had plenty of masterpieces on it, but the whole affair was a bit conventional, a bit boring, and a bit too filled with films that won accolades when they were released but today (or rather, in 1998) are less respected, and for good reason.
Recently, the AFI released a 10th Anniversary List, an updating of their top 100 movies. Basically, they took a list that was kinda blah and replaced it with a list that is... kinda blah.
Well, maybe that's unfair. You can decide for yourself. Here are the movies that are no longer on the list, including the ranking each film used to have:
39. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
44. The Birth of a Nation (1915)
52. From Here to Eternity (1953)
53. Amadeus (1984)
54. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
57. The Third Man (1949)
58. Fantasia (1940)
59. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
63. Stagecoach (1939)
64. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
67. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
68. An American in Paris (1951)
73. Wuthering Heights (1939)
75. Dances With Wolves (1990)
82. Giant (1956)
84. Fargo (1996)
86. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
87. Frankenstein (1931)
89. Patton (1970)
90. The Jazz Singer (1927)
91. My Fair Lady (1964)
92. A Place in the Sun (1951)
99. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
And here are the movies that have been added:
18. The General (1927)
49. Intolerance (1916)
50. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
59. Nashville (1975)
61. Sullivan's Travels (1941)
63. Cabaret (1972)
67. Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
71. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
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)
83. Titanic (1997)
85. A Night At The Opera (1935)
87. 12 Angry Men (1957)
89. The Sixth Sense (1999)
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)
To be fair, some good decisions were made here in the cuts, IMHO. Movies like Wuthering Heights, Dances With Wolves, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, etc. are relatively well-made films but don't really belong on a list like this.
Of course, they also cut Amadeus and The Manchurian Candidate, which is disheartening, and The Third Man, which is borderline appalling.
Is the new list a better crop of films? Probably, but along with new additions that should have always been on the list like Cabaret, 12 Angry Men, and Do the Right Thing, we get Fellowship of the Ring, Titanic, and The Sixth Sense.
Just so you don't think I'm a neophobe, I do love The Shawshank Redemption and Toy Story, and while A Night at the Opera and Swing Time are fun, entertaining films, I don't think either one deserves to be on here.
As a side note, I'm not sure how I feel about the exclusion of Birth of a Nation and The Jazz Singer. It seems like the AFI cares much less about historical significance this time around, despite the fact that they still claim it is one of their criteria. Neither of those is a particularly great film, but their historical significance cannot be denied... so I'm torn.
I think some of the ranking changes are very telling. Raging Bull and Vertigo, two overrated films IMHO, push The Graduate and On the Waterfront off the top 10. In fact, I believe the AFI is trying to make its list more internationally respected, without really understanding anything about international film criticism. Case in point: The top 15 films here look much more like the Sight and Sound poll than they did before, with the inclusion of Vertigo (which jumped up 52 places in ranking), The Searchers (which jumped up 84 places), Raging Bull, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Godfather's shift up to #2 in the rankings (personally, I think I prefer Casablanca). However, the top 15 also includes Star Wars. Need I say more?
Sorry, AFI. You may have included Sunrise this time around, but as long as Titanic remains on it, I think the real film snobs will still see your list as a little silly. You may have trimmed some of that old-timey American melodrama - Giant and A Place in the Sun are gone - but Rocky is still on here.
Look, AFI, all I'm saying is, somewhere in the 123 films on both of your 100 Movies lists, you've got almost 100 great films. Sure, terrific American films like Touch of Evil, My Darling Clementine, Night of the Hunter, Cool Hand Luke, Paths of Glory, The Conversation, and The Magnificent Ambersons are still missing from both, but you've got a solid foundation here. Things still aren't amazing, but they're getting better. Maybe we'll still see improvements in the 20th anniversary version, and maybe by the 40th you'll get it right. I'll keep my eyes open.