The AFI Top 100: Final Thoughts

AFI_logoNow that I have completed watching the American Film Institute’s Top 100 American films I wanted to close the book on the project by providing a few general thoughts as well as offering up some of the biggest surprises (both good and bad) about the list. I do have to say right off the bat that I am a sucker for lists. I like to read them and then debate them and/or compare them to my own experiences, which is why this was a fun project. It should also be noted that lists are all the rage right now thanks to websites like BuzzFeed and Mental Floss and the emergence of listicles. It appears we all love a good list.

So, is the AFI Top 100 American Films a good list? I’d say yes, with some caveats. The biggest issue I have with the AFI list is that it was voted on by so-called film experts who tend to err on the side of tradition and safe. The AFI list is safe. There are really no indie films or quirky films anywhere to be found. And that’s a shame because I am a huge fan of quirky independent films. Additionally, because the AFI list was voted on by film makers it does not truly reflect the pulse of the viewing public. All you have to do to see the difference is to look at a list of top films as voted on by viewers, such as the 250 Best Films on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB). In the IMDB top 10 alone there are three films that didn’t even make the AFI Top 100 (The Dark Knight, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Fight Club). Note that the AFI list came out in 2007 and the IMDB list is current so a few films on the IMDB list weren’t even out when the AFI list was published including The Dark Knight and Fight Club, though I can assure you these two would not have made the AFI list regardless.

Another criticism I have with the AFI list is that it included far too many very old films…silent film old. Some of the silent films it included in its Top 100 list were downright bad films, and in my opinion the majority of the pre-war films on the list just don’t hold up. Just because something is old does not mean it’s great (see Zsa Zsa Gabor). But generally, the AFI list did a decent job. Looking back at my reviews I enjoyed the vast majority of the films on the list even if I didn’t always agree about their place on the list.

So, I said there were some surprises. Here are five films I hadn’t seen and loved (links to my reviews included):

And of course, here are a five films that I hadn’t seen but flat-out hated or otherwise didn’t think had a place on this list or any other list:

If you missed it, last week I posted a list of my favorite 25 films of all time and of course many of them were not on the AFI list.

So, there you have it – my AFI epic quest has come to a close. As I mentioned in my last post, I need a new project so if you have any ideas for a list for me to watch send it along.

Run credits. Fade to black.

Len’s 25 Favorite Films of All Time


Having just completed watching, in order, the American Film Institute’s Top 100 American films of all time, it begs the question:  what are my favorite movies of all time? There’s really no logic to a personal favorites list – there are many reasons for why a film etches itself into a person’s psyche enough to make it a favorite. I can tell you this, I love to laugh and so many of my favorites are comedies (how else do you explain the fact that Stripes is one of my all-time favorites). I also came of age in the 1980s, so there are tons of films from that decade amongst my favorites.

I make no apologies for loving films that aren’t considered great by critics. Critics measure films differently, as do each of us. Sometimes I’ll love a film simply because of the mood it creates. I do tend to go for films with great scripts, which is perhaps why some of the films on my list may not even be that well known…the dialogue may have captured my heart. Interestingly, only six of my top 25 are also on the AFI list. Not sure what that says about my taste, but then again I tend to go for the indies and the comedies and the AFI has a very poor sense of humor and hardly notices smaller “art” films. Again, taste is a funny thing. After all, I didn’t like Citizen Kane, the top film on the AFI list, and for some reason the AFI left Borat off its list which would definitely be in my top 100!

So, in alphabetical order, here are my 25 favorite films:

All The President’s Men (1976) — Made me want to be a writer.
Almost Famous (2000) – Cameron Crowe is one of my favorite writer/directors.
American Beauty (1999) – Alan Ball is one hell of a writer (see this and Six Feet Under if you don’t believe me)
Annie Hall (1977) — Perhaps the best American movie ever made and still Woody’s best
Baby, It’s You (1983) — My favorite John Sayles film, and that’s saying something given his incredibly underrated filmography
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) — Newman and Redford in American classic. Defined “buddy” pictures
Casablanca (1942) – #3 on the AFI list for a good reason. Here’s looking at you kid.
Diner (1982) — Beginning of Barry Levinson’s great career. Best ensemble cast ever put together.
Diva (1981) — Best French film ever made!
Empire of the Sun (1987) — Spielberg’s best kept secret! Is that a young Christian Bale? Why yes it is.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) — Dude, that’s my skull!
Field of Dreams (1989) — If you build it, he will come! No secrets here…this is my all-time favorite film.
Five Corners (1987) — Jodie Foster, Tim Robbins and John Turturro in John Patrick Shanley written gem you’ve probably never heard of let alone seen.
High Fidelity (2000) — Hard to pick a better John Cusack film. Written by Nick Hornby, one of my favorite authors so there you go.
Hope & Glory (1987) — Academy Award nominee for Best Picture by John Boorman.
Into the Wild (2007) – Incredible true story, great acting, great directing by Sean Penn and the most hauntingly beautiful soundtrack by Eddie Vedder to go with it
Lost in Translation (2003) – Sophia Coppola is a genius.
Manhattan (1979) — Woody’s second best. You’ll fall in love with Mariel Hemingway.
The Philadelphia Story (1940) — Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and James Stewart. Ahead of its time.
The Player (1992) — Have to watch several times to catch all the cameos!
Pulp Fiction (1994) – Quentin Tarantino is a sick fuck, but he’s brilliant.
The Right Stuff (1983) — Amazing cast, incredible screenplay and it’s all true!
Rocky (1976) – Invented the underdog story. Yo Adrian!
She’s Gotta Have It (1986) — Spike Lee’s hysterical first film is still my favorite, although I think Do The Right Thing is a better film. Either way Spike Lee is one of America’s top 2-3 directors.
Stripes (1981) — Don’t leave…all the plants will die!

This is my list and it probably contains some films you either hated or didn’t see. But that’s what makes film (and art in general) so great. These films speak to me. What films speak to you?