Youâ€™ve probably heard that the American Film Institute just released a 10th anniversary edition of its â€œ100 Years…100 Moviesâ€ list, although theyâ€™re not calling it â€œ110 Yearsâ€¦100 Movies.â€ They also describe this as a list of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time, despite the fact that only American movies qualify.
Of course, the AFI often seemed to go out of its way to be idiotic about lists. The first list they did, in 1997, was useful and interesting. Then they started hunting for original list categories, and it quickly got silly. 100 Cheers? 100 Passions? Heroes and Villains? (Actually, by listing the heroes and villains side by side, they unintentionally created some interesting teams. Who wouldnâ€™t want to see Atticus Finch protect the world from Dr. Hannibal Lecter? Or Errol Flynnâ€™s Robin Hood fight the shark from Jaws?)
But the new list, once again going for simply the best American feature films of all time, returns some sanity to this whole enterprise. Such lists are invaluable for someone who has recently discovered the joys of classic cinema and wants to get acquainted with the best.Â And even for those of us who know the subject inside and out, this list shows the current consensus.
For instance, I expected the new list to reflect more new films than the old one, but that didnâ€™t happen. Of the 23 films on the list that hadnâ€™t made 1997â€™s, 14 were made before 1980. The two top-rated newly-added films, The General and Intolerance, are both silent. Citizen Kane held onto its place as the best American film of all time.
Of course youâ€™ll find plenty of boneheaded decisions on the list–thatâ€™s the nature of the beast. After all, this isnâ€™t a list of your 100 favorite American movies. It certainly isnâ€™t mine. But itâ€™s a reasonably good list.
Back in March, I offered a short list of my eight greatest films of all time. Five of those eight made the list, and two others didnâ€™t qualify on the grounds that they werenâ€™t American. Perhaps The Crowd didnâ€™t make it because itâ€™s silent, or because itâ€™s not on DVD, but it should have been there.