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.


5 thoughts on “The AFI Top 100: Final Thoughts

    • Interesting idea. I’d only need 45 minutes to an hour for each album and could even listen at work or while exercising. Albums are a lost art. Not sure I could get through some of the rap albums on the list though!

  1. Here is the Entertainment Weekly list we discussed:,,20712079_20716628_21359787,00.html

    Time Magazine also has a good list, which has more indie/obscure ones:

    I think with AFI the thing to keep in mind is the context of the film at the time of release. All important to America in some way but clearly some hold up and some don’t. I appreciated how you handled that throughout.

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