The American Film Institute announced its highly subjective list of the Top 100 American movies of all time last night. Now that the hype has passed, the scrutiny can begin.
To celebrate its 100th birthday, AFI, which preserves movies and trains filmmakers, asked 1,500 critics, actors, directors, Industry types and high-profile fans (President Clinton, included) to pare down a roster of 400 flicks to find the best.
When the results were announced Tuesday, the usual suspects finished on top. The best: Citizen Kane, Orson Welles' 1941 classic about a sled-missing publisher. That was followed by Humphrey Bogart's WWII-backdropped love-triangle classic Casablanca at No. 2; the Francis Ford Coppola Mob-family opus The Godfather, also a classic, charted at third. (His follow-up, The Godfather, Part II was the only sequel on the list at No. 32.)
Notice that word "classic" pops up four times, and it doesn't seem that repetitive.
Heck, it also describes the rest of the Top 10: Gone with the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, The Wizard of Oz, The Graduate, On the Waterfront, Schindler's List and Singin' in the Rain.
And you can't take anything away from the people recognized over and over again, either.
Steven Spielberg ended up as the director with the most films chosen, five--Schindler's List, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (25), Jaws (48), Raiders of the Lost Ark (60) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (64). Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder were next with four apiece.
Katharine Hepburn led the ladies, appearing in four of the films--The African Queen (17), The Philadelphia Story (51), Bringing Up Baby (97) and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (99). Natalie Wood, Diane Keaton and Faye Dunaway tied for second with three each.
As for male thesps--would you believe this?--character actor Ward Bond (the Harry Dean Stanton of his day) had bit parts in seven of the films--Gone with the Wind, It's a Wonderful Life (11), The Grapes of Wrath (21), The Maltese Falcon (23), It Happened One Night (35), The Searchers (96) and Bringing Up Baby. Leading men Jimmy Stewart and Robert De Niro were each in five. Marlon Brando was the only star to score two Top 10 flicks (The Godfather, On the Waterfront).
Of course, with such a highly subjective endeavor, you won't please everybody.
Buster Keaton, as masterful a silent star as Charlie Chaplin, is nowhere to be found. No Greta Garbo, either. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers failed to register. Innovative filmmakers like Preston Sturges and Busby Berkeley--synonymous with the lavish movie musical--didn't make the cut. No black directors were represented.
Star Wars (15) notched a spot, Blade Runner didn't. Best Picture Oscar also-rans Fargo (84) and Pulp Fiction (95) found spots, but recent winners like The English Patient and Braveheart were no shows. Frankenstein (87) was there, blood-sucking buddy Dracula was dissed.
And just in case you want to know why the hell Titanic was left off the list, it was ineligible. Only American films made between 1896 and 1996 were considered.
The complete list