AFI American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Films

 

The following films from the beginning of cinema to 1996 were voted on and out of the thousands of possible selections, the top 100 films were as follows:

Note: I have highlighted films I recommend you watch only once in this paper.

 

#1  Citizen Kane, 1941 (Welles starred, directed, produced, and co-wrote with Herman Mankewitz---as we proceed to list the 100 top films you will note that a significant number of them will have one person serving more than one responsibility for the creation of the product.  You will also notice that certain names keep popping up as they are significantly over-represented in the creation of these 100 films.  Citizen Kane was nominated for best picture but lost to How Green Was My Valley which in my opinion was the superior film.  So how in the world did they make Kane #1 and didn't include Green anywhere in the list of 100?  Kane was the more innovative film and one that helped change the way we make movies.  Green was a great film that told a far more honest and meaningful story.  That helps explain why Kane is #1 but doesn't begin to explain why Green is left off the list.  This is an excellent example of how any list will inevitably rank some films higher than others because opinions as to greatness will always vary.  Green not only beat out Kane that year, it also beat out The Maltese Falcon!  So, go see How Green Was My Valley and judge for yourself.)

 

#2 Casablanca, 1942  (Bogart and Bergman starred…we will see that Bogart’s name pops up in film after film as we go through the 100.  However, the following are great films of Bogart's that didn't make it on the list: The Caine Mutiny, 1954; Sabrina, 1954; and Sahara, 1943.  All three of them are better than some of the ones that did get on the list.  Casablanca won for best picture and the director, Curtiz, also won the Academy Award.)

 

#3 The Godfather, 1972 (Brando and Pacino starred, F.F. Coppola Directed and Co-wrote.  Brando got the Academy Award as Best Actor and the film was given the award as best film of the year.  We will see both Brando and Pacino popping up again and again on this list of 100.  Great films of Brando that don't show up on the list are: Viva Zapata!, 1952; and Last Tango in Paris, 1972.  Brando was born in 1924 and after being expelled from military academy, he attended the Dramatic Workshop in New York and began acting on stage.  "In 1947, Brando exploded into Broadway stardom with his forceful l portrayal of the brute Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams's 'A Streetcar Named Desire.'  His naturalistic style of acting and his casual, mumbling delivery, under the guidance of Elia Kazan, also heralded the arrival of 'the Method' as a fashionable style of acting." Film Encyclopedia, p., 167.).

 

#4 Gone With the Wind, 1939 (Gable and Vivien Leigh starred.  It won as best picture and best director.  To win as best picture it had to beat out Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Wizard of Oz, and Wuthering Heights---all of which made it on the top 100 list!  Clark Gable was born William Clark Gable in 1901 and died in 1960.  "He left school at 14 to work in a tire factory in Akron. There he saw his first play and began working evenings backstage as a call boy for no pay." Film Encyclopedia, p. 540.  He worked his way up to bit parts but then his father, an oil driller, took him off to the oil fields to do "real" work for a living.  When Gable turned 21 he left his father and started acting.  But He didn't get very far and had to become a lumberjack to survive.  But he stuck with his dreams and continued to act whenever he could.  He finally in 1930 got a screen test at MGM!  But, they didn't think much of him and turned him away.   Within a year of this disappointment, he had worked in a dozen films and was on his way to becoming one of our most famous stars.  Some consider his finest movie to be The Misfits in which he did most of his own stunts and helped bring on a heart attack which ended his life before the movie opened.  Vivien Leigh, born Vivian Mary Hartley in 1913, married Laurence Olivier, one of the greatest stage and screen stars of all times.  Leigh, as we will see, won an Oscar for Gone With the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire.  She was a great actress but was plagued by poor health due to tuberculosis, physical exhaustion, and manic-depressive/bipolar disorder through much of her career.)

 

#5 Lawrence of Arabia, 1962 (O’Toole, Guinness, & Sharif starred with Lean Directing.  It was voted best picture and Lean won as best director.  Peter O'Toole, born in Ireland in 1932, grew up in England where his father was a racetrack bookmaker.  At 14 he quit school and worked as a messenger and copy boy for a newspaper and eventually worked his way up to being a cub reporter.  At 17 he made his stage debut and eventually started making movies.  However, he was relatively unknown when he was picked for the lead in Lawrence of Arabia, which made him a star at age 30.  Other great films that he made include Becket and The Lion in Winter.  Sir Alec Guinness was born Alec Guinness de Cuffe in 1914 in London.  He passed away in 2000.  He started out as an advertising copywriter and made his stage debut in 1934.  My favorite film by Guinness is one he starred in and wrote the Oscar nominated screenplay for: The Horse's Mouth.  As you will see from the number of times he appears on this list of 100, Guinness was one of the greatest actors ever to grace the stage and screen.  If you care to know more about him you can read his autobiography Blessings in Disguise.  Omar Sharif was born Michael Shalhoub in 1932 in Egypt and was a star of Egyptian movies when he was picked to star in Lawrence of Arabia.  He is also a world famous bridge player who has won many international tournaments.)

 

#6 The Wizard of Oz, 1939 (Judy Garland starred.  If you have not seen this wonderful movie at least two times, then I would wonder what cave you have been hiding in?  Judy was born Frances Gumm in 1922 and made her stage debut at 3 and was a seasoned performer by age 5.  "When she sang 'Over the Rainbow' in her distinctive trembling, emotion-choked voice with a built-in throb, an instant legend was born.  She won a special Oscar as "the best juvenile performer of the year" for the role that had originally been intended for Shirley Temple."  The child star was made into a drug addict by the studio when they put her on pills to deal with the stress and her weight.  She married five times and spent a lot of time seeing psychiatrists, attempting suicide, and living an often miserable life.  So sad that her personal life had little of the joy she gave her audiences both in the films and through her songs.   Her death in 1969 was related to a drug overdose.  Her daughter is Liza Minnelli.)

 

#7 The Graduate, 1967 (Hoffman and Bancroft starred with Mike Nichols directing.  Nichols won as best director.  The top movie that year was In the Heat of the Night (starring Rod Steiger who also won for best actor) which didn't make it to the list of 100 even though it beat out three films that did make it---including Bonnie & Clyde and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.  Rod Steiger is one of our finest actors.  He starred with Brando in On the Waterfront and with Sharif in Doctor Zhivago, which both made the list of 100;  but the film I loved the most that he made was The Pawnbroker.  As we will see, Dustin Hoffman will show up on the list of 100 more than once as he is rightfully considered one of our greatest actors.  Besides the ones of his that are on the list, others that I particularly admire include: Straight Time and Kramer vs. Kramer.  He may very well create additional great films as he continues to turn in outstanding performances.  Anne Bancroft, born Anna Maria Louse Italiano in 1931, has been an actress and dancer since the age of four.  Married to comedy director, writer, and producer Mel Brooks, she has made a number of fine films including: The Pumpkin Eater, The Miracle Worker, The Turning Point, and Agnes of God.)

 

#8 On the Waterfront, 1954 (Brando again with Eva Marie Saint starring and Kazan directing.  Brando and Kazan both walked away with the Academy Award that year.  Elia Kazan appears on our list of 100 more than once but some of his greatest films didn't make the list but should have.  They include such wonderful movies as: Gentleman's Agreement, Viva Zapata!, Splendor in the Grass, East of Eden, and the marvelous semi-autobiographical America, America based on his own novel about this life of his Uncle.  Kazan was born Elia Kazanjoglou in 1909 in Istanbul.  He was four when his Greek parents emigrated to the US.)

 

#9 Schindler’s List, 1993 (Speilberg directing and co-producing.  He won the Academy Award for directing and it was voted the top film that year.)

 

#10 Singin’ in the Rain, 1952 (fabulous musical starring Gene Kelly who also co-directed.  It has the most joyful dance scene ever filmed where Kelly is singing in the rain.  It lost the award for best picture to The Greatest Show on Earth, which did not make in onto the list of 100.)

 

#11 It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946 (Stewart and Donna Reed star and just about everyone has seen it during the Christmas season at least 10 times.  Frank Capra directed, produced, and co-wrote this film.  James "Jimmy" Stewart was born in 1908 and graduated from Princeton with a degree in architecture.  Friends encouraged him to become an actor.  "A gawky, gangling young man with a slow, hesitating drawl and a shy country-boy manner, Stewart was an oddity among Hollywood's leading men and a challenge to casting directors.  But the oddity was soon revealed as a unique asset." Film Encyclopedia, p. 1307.  During World War Two he flew 20 missions over Germany as a bomber pilot and came out a full colonel and rose to brigadier general in the Air Force Reserve.  No other actor has ever matched that feat.  He also remained a bachelor until age 41 and remained married for 45 years until she passed away in 1994 and he followed her in 1997.  Few actors have ever provided us with as fine a role model for how they lived their off screen lives.  My favorite movie of his is Harvey.)

 

#12 Sunset Boulevard, 1950 (William Holden & Gloria Swanson star with Billy Wilder directing and co-writing.  It lost out as best picture to All About Eve.  Holden was born William Franklin Beedle, Jr. in 1918 and died in 1981.  The big turning point in his acting career came with his role as the tough maverick hero of Billy Widler's Stalag 17 (1953) which should be on the list of 100.  He won the best actor Oscar for that role.)

 

#13 The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1957 (Holden & Guinness again with another directed by Lean.  It was voted best picture, Lean got best director, and Guinness walked away as best actor that year at the Academy Awards.)

 

#14 Some Like It Hot, 1959 (Wonderful comedy with Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon directed, produced, and co-written by Billy Wilder---his co-writer is I.A.L. Diamond.  That was the year of Ben-Hur and big budget dramas almost always beat out comedies.  However, this was the superior film and it is correctly in spot #14 whereas Ben-Hur is in spot #72.)

 

#15 Star Wars, 1977 (Another one that just about everyone has seen one or more times.  I remember standing in long lines with my two sons when it opened and how it blew everyone away!  No one thought that anything like this was possible until Lucas showed us how it could be done.  Kubrick had opened the door years earlier but it was Lucas that demonstrated just how exciting a ride you could take in space.  Harrison Ford became a star thanks to this one and once again we see Alec Guinness starring with George Lucas directing and writing.  It lost the top picture spot that year to Annie Hall but you will notice on this list it correctly wins over Annie.)

 

#16 All About Eve, 1950 (Bette Davis starred with Joseph Mankewitz directing and writing.  It won for best picture and best director.  It is hard to believe that this is the only movie of Bette Davis on the list of 100 as she was one of our greatest actresses.  Her early career did not lead to instant success.  Born Ruth Elizabeth Davis in 1908, she decided on an acting career when she was a freshman in high school.  She was rejected as a student by Eva Le Gallienne, fired from her first professional engagement with a stock company, and failed her first screen test.  "Through her hard work and perseverance "her forceful personality began glowing through her roles." Film Encyclopedia, p. 336.  She died in 1989 and was considered by many as the "first lady of the American screen.")

 

#17 The African Queen, 1951 (Bogart and Hepburn in one of the most glorious romantic on-location films ever made with John Huston directing and co-writing with Agee.  Bogart walked away with the Academy Award as best actor.  That year was a tough one as all the nominated films found their way on to this 100 list---An American in Paris won over African Queen, A Place in the Sun, and A Streetcar Named Desire.  I strongly believe that Queen should have been crowned King that year and I am glad that it is higher on the list than the other three.  If I were voting I would have placed it far higher than #17.  Katherine Hepburn was marvelous, as was Bogart in this film.  Hepburn was born in 1907 and educated at Bryn Mawr.  "The second of six children of a distinguished New England family (her father was a noted surgeon and her mother an early crusader for birth control), she was brought up in an atmosphere of complete spiritual freedom and Spartan physical discipline." Film Encyclopedia, p. 620.  Her strong minded assertive personality was always in your face when you saw her and loved her in her many memorable roles.  She won three Oscars and was nominated 8 more times!  Her Oscar for The Lion in Winter was well deserved and that film should have been among the top 100.)

 

#18 Psycho, 1960 (Janet Leigh is the victim, Tony Perkins the psycho character---the film was considered so scary people ever since have been afraid to take a shower!  Hitchcock directed and produced.  The Apartment won as best picture that year and is only #93 on this list.  I think their places should be switched in the listing.)

 

#19 Chinatown, 1974 (Jack Nicholson as a detective, Faye Dunaway as the victim, and Director turned actor John Huston as the rich villain with Polansky directing and Robert Towne writing all together created one of the greatest detective love stories of all time.  Godfather II beat Chinatown that year but both of them are deservedly ranked among the top films.  Nicholson, born in 1937, had an alcoholic for a father who deserted the family.  As you will see, he is on the list of 100 a number of times.  The great films that he made that didn't get on the list include: Five Easy Pieces, The Last Detail, and Ironweed---all of which he was nominated for by the Academy.  His more recent films, including As Good as it Gets will most likely make future lists of great films as he continues to make outstanding movies.  Faye Dunaway, born 1941, is on the list of 100 several times.  The movie I most admire her for is Barfly, 1987, where she plays a down and out alcoholic.)

 

#20 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975 (Nicholson again with Milos Forman directing and Michael Douglas producing created out of Ken Kesey’s novel the greatest movie ever made about mental illness.  Voted best movie, Nicholson won as best actor and Forman won as best director.  The film beat Spielberg's Jaws which is another great film.)

 

#21 The Grapes of Wrath, 1940 (Henry Fonda at his best directed by John Ford based on Steinbeck’s great novel bring to you the feel of the Great Depression with all of its injustices and economic oppression.  John Ford won the Academy Award for best director.  Ford was one of our greatest directors.  He was born Sean Aloysius O'Feeney in 1895.  He started as a set laborer and appeared as an extra in Griffith's The Birth of a Nation in 1915 and became a director in 1917.  Besides The Grapes of Wrath, my favorite film of his is How Green Was My Valley.  He died in 1973 with 50 years of continually high-quality work to his credit.  "When Orson Welles was asked…which American directors appealed to him most, he replied: 'The old masters..By which I mean John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford.'" Film Encyclopedia, p. 475.)

 

#22 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968 (Kubrick directed, produced, and co-wrote this masterpiece.  Kubrick, born 1928, died in 1999, and left behind a body of work much admired by other directors.  As a child he was encouraged by his physician father to take up photography as a hobby and at age 17 he was a staff photographer for Look magazine.  He quit this excellent position in 1950 and began making films.   Beside 2001 he has one two other films on the list of 100, A Clockwork Orange and Dr. Strangelove, but I consider some of his other films worthy of being on the list, films such as: Paths of Glory, Spartacus, Full Metal Jacket and even his more recent Eyes Wide Shut may one day make it to the list along with The Shining.)

 

#23 The Maltese Falcon, 1941 (The great detective film noir was being shot at the same time as Citizen Kane and in some respects is a greater movie than Kane by a greater director.  Bogart stars with John Huston directing and writing.)

 

#24 Raging Bull, 1980 (The first but not the last pairing on our list of actor DeNiro and director Scorsese.  Paul Schrader helped write this one.  DeNiro won the Academy Award for best actor.  That year the best picture award went to Ordinary People and Redford also won as best director---yet this great film didn’t make it to the list!  Others that year that were nominated for best picture and should have made it to the list are Tess, Coalminer's Daughter, and The Elephant Man.  DeNiro gets on the list a number of times, however, the movie that should have made it in which he starred is The Mission.  Other really fine DeNiro films not on the 100 list include Brazil and Bang the Drum Slowly.  However, like Nicholson, DeNiro is still making great movies that will add to his considerable achievements and are likely to show up on top movie lists of the future.)

 

#25 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, 1982 (Here comes Speilberg again, this time directing and co-producing.  The film lost out as best picture to Gandhi and Ben Kingsley won as best actor in his role as Gandhi---yet here again this great film didn't get on the list?  That was the year of Missing and The Verdict which were also deservedly nominated for best picture but didn't make on the 100 list.  Tootsie was also nominated that year and did make it on the list.)

 

#26 Dr. Strangelove, 1964 (Nothing dealing with the cold war can touch this great and scary comedy.  The film stars Peter Sellers playing multiple roles and George C. Scott with Kubrick directing, producing, and co-writing.  It lost best picture to My Fair Lady, which is correctly, ranked #91 way below Dr. Strangelove.  My Fair Lady also beat out Zorba the Greek, which I definitely think should have made it on to the list of 100.)

 

#27 Bonnie and Clyde, 1967 (For better or worse, this film changed the way violence would be depicted in the movies.  The film would not have been brought to the screen without Warren Beatty’s efforts and he stars along with Faye Dunaway and Gene Hackman---this movie significantly enhanced the careers of everyone associated with it.  Arthur Penn directed and Beatty produced.)

 

#28 Apocalypse Now, 1979 (This takes the Conrad novel Heart of Darkness and sets it in the midst of the Viet Nam war.  Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, and Brando star and Coppola directs, produces, and co-writes with John Milius.  That year Kramer vs. Kramer won as best picture and its director Benton won and its star Dustin Hoffman won.  So where is Kramer vs. Kramer on this list?  Other great nominated films that year were All That Jazz and Norma Rae.)

 

#29 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1939 (Stewart again with Frank Capra directing and producing.  Capra won the Academy Award for best director.  Capra was born in 1897 in Sicily and died in 1991.  At the age of six he moved with his family to California where his father struggled to support his family as an orange picker.  He sold newspapers and played a banjo in honky-tonks to help support the family and pay for his education.  He graduated as a chemical engineer and went into the Army and when he came out he drifted around selling books door dot door and playing poker for a living.  He got involved in the movie industry and went through a number of lean years before becoming one of the greatest directors.  His son is a film producer and his grandson is an assistant director.)

 

#30 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948 (Bogart again being directed again by Huston.  Huston also has his father Walter Huston in this movie.  They are in Mexico with gold fever driving them over the edge.  It is based on the great B.Traven novel.  Hamlet starring Oliver won that year as best picture but Huston won as best director.)

 

#31 Annie Hall, 1977 (Woody Allen stars, directs, and co-writes this one which is usually what he does.  Diane Keaton also stars.  Annie won as best picture and Woody walked away as best director.  To do that they beat out Star Wars, which we have already seen, is correctly ranked higher in this list than Annie.  The Turning Point was also nominated as best picture that year and stars Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine.)

 

#32 The Godfather Part II, 1974 (This is the only movie that was a sequel that made it on the top 100 list.  It stars Pacino, DeNiro, Keaton and is directed by Coppola who also produced and co-wrote.  It won as best picture and Coppola won as best director.  Besides Chinatown it beast out two other fine films that were nominated as best picture---Lenny starring Dustin Hoffman and The Conversation starring Gene Hackman.  Interestingly, The Conversation is another Coppola product that he directed and wrote.)

 

#33 High Noon, 1952 (Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly starred with Fred Zinneman directing and Carl Foreman writing.  Cooper won as best actor.)

 

#34 To Kill A Mockingbird, 1962 (This is a wonderful movie about racism and injustice.  A black man is innocent and Gregory Peck defends him.  One of the things that brings this movie alive is that Peck’s children are involved in the story.  Robert Duvall has a supporting role as he did in the Godfather movies.  This film was nominated for best picture but lost to Lawrence of Arabia.  Peck won for best actor.  Duvall was born in 1931 the son of an admiral.  He won the best actor Oscar in 1983 for Tender Mercies and also in 1980 for The Great Santini---both fine films that should be on the list.  The Apostle is a film he put together in 1998 and will one day make it on to a list of great films perhaps along with some other fine films he has yet to make as he continues to do outstanding work.)

 

#35 It Happened One Night, 1934 (Gable and Colbert star in the lovely movie directed by Frank Capra.  Capra won as best director.)

 

#36 Midnight Cowboy, 1969 (Hoffman and Voight in a tragic story set in New York City which helps you appreciate the underbelly of the big city.  It won as best picture and Schlesinger won as best director.  It beat out Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, which is, ranked #50 in this list.  John Voight, born 1938, the son of a golf pro of Czech descent, got involved in acting in high school.  Midnight brought him into the spotlight.  Other great films of Voight's are: Deliverance, Conrack, Coming Home, and Runaway Train.)

 

#37 The Best Years of Our Lives, 1946 (Frederic March stars with William Wyler directing.  Won as best picture and best director and best actor.  Wyler was one of Hollywood's most successful directors.  He was born in 1902 in Alsace, then part of Germany, and died in 1981.  "He studied the violin at the National Music Conservatory in Paris.  It was there in 1922 that he met Carl Laemmle, who was the head of Universal Pictures and a distant cousin of Wyler's mother, and who offered him a job with his company….Wyler…apprenticed as prop man, grip, script clerk, cutter casting director, and assistant director…before making his debut as director in 1925, at age 23.  A perfectionist and a taskmaster, he filed many takes of every shot until he was satisfied that he had achieved a desired effect or nuance.  Many performers who resented his tyranny on the set later found themselves grateful for the Oscars they won for their performances in his films." Film Encyclopedia, p. 1484. )

 

#38 Double Indemnity, 1944 (Barbara Stanwyck stars with Billy Wilder directing.  He also co-wrote with Raymond Chandler.  It lost best picture to the pleasant Bing Crosby musical, but relatively insignificant film, Going My Way which didn't even make it on the list of 100 even though it was the big hit of 1944 at the Oscars.)

 

#39 Doctor Zhivago, 1965 (Sharif again being directed again by Lean in another sweeping story that requires, as does Lawrence of Arabia, a big screen to fully appreciate what Lean was able to do.  Lost out in the Oscar race to The Sound of Music, which is listed correctly in spot #55 of this list.)

 

#40 North by Northwest, 1959 (Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint star in this thriller by Hitchcock who directs and produces as he typically did.)

 

#41 West Side Story, 1961 (This musical, set in New York City, stars Natalie Wood and is directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins.  It won as best picture and Wise got the best director award.  It beat out Judgment at Nuremberg and The Hustler, neither of which made it on the list of 100 and both of them should have!)

 

#42 Rear Window, 1954 (Suspense and murder as viewed by Stewart and Grace Kelly through his window with Hitchcock directing and producing.)

 

#43 King Kong, 1933

 

#44 The Birth of a Nation, 1915 (D.W. Griffith at his best in terms of directing but at his worst in terms of his racism.  He directed, produced and co-wrote it so he no one to blame it on.)

 

#45 A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951 (Brando again!  Also stars Vivien Leigh and is directed by Kazan and is based on the Tennessee Williams play.)

 

#46 A Clockwork Orange, 1971 (Kubrick directing, producing, and writing again.  The French Connection was the big winner that year but it only made it to #70 on the list.)

 

#47 Taxi Driver, 1976 (DeNiro teaming up with Scorsese again and this time Jodie Foster also stars and Paul Schrader writes.  Schrader makes the list twice but also should have made it a third time for his screenplay for The Last Temptation of Christ, Scorsese's outstanding but controversial film based on Kazanzakis' novel.)

 

#48 Jaws, 1975 (This is a powerful movie that shows you how three men have very different ways of dealing with their fears.  After this film came out people became afraid of the water.  It stars Dreyfus, Roy Scheider, and Shaw and is another Speilberg masterpiece.  Dreyfus is on outstanding actor and appears on the list several times.  Other fine films of his include: The Goodbye Girl, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Tin Men, Mr. Holland's Opus, and The Competition.  However, I consider his finest work was the role he played of a quadriplegic in Whose Life Is It Anyway?)

 

#49 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937 (Disney)

 

#50 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969 (Redford and Newman at their best in this great Western directed by George Roy Hill and written by William Goldman.  It is hard to believe that Redford and Newman only appear this one time on the list of 100 given that they are two of our greatest stars.  My guess is that future lists are more likely to list them numerous times.  Newman and Redford also were teamed together in The Sting.  Some of my favorite Newman films are: The Hustler, Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Absence of Malice, The Verdict (he was nominated for all of the foregoing as best actor), and The Color of Money for which he won best actor.  He also directed, starred and co-produced the fine film Sometimes a Great Notion which is based on a Ken Kesey novel.  Some of my favorite Redford films include: Brubaker, The Candidate and All the President's Men in which he costarred with Dustin Hoffman.  However, one of my favorite films of all time is Redford's Jerimiah Johnson.  Redford has also directed a number of fine films, some of which he has also starred in including Ordinary People, The Milagro Beanfield War, A River Runs Through It, and The Horse Whisperer. Goldman is one of the best writers in the business with many credits plus he has been often called in as a script doctor who has the onerous task of trying to fix a screenplay someone else wrote.  His credits include All the President's Men, Marathon Man, The Great Waldo Pepper, Heat, The Princess Bride, Misery, Absolute Power, The Ghost and the Darkness.  Future lists are likely to have more Goldman movies.)

 

#51 The Philadelphia Story, 1940 (Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, and Jimmy Stewart all at their best under the direction of the great George Cukor.  Stewart won as best actor.)

 

#52 From Here to Eternity, 1953 (World War II story without the emphasis on battle scenes starring Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, and Montgomery Clift.  Voted best picture that year and Zinneman got the best director award.  Lancaster only appears once on the list which I feel will be changed in future lists as his body of work is impressive.  Lancaster was born in 1913 and died in 1994.  "The son of a postal clerk, he grew up in the tough East Harlem section of Manhattan's Upper East Side.  Excelling in basketball and other high school sports, he enrolled at NYU on an athletic scholarship but soon after quit college to form the Lang and Cravat acrobatic team with his pint-sized childhood friend Nick Cravat.  For several years they toured with circuses and appeared in vaudeville and nightclubs.  Bookings were sparse and in 1941 Lancaster took a job as a salesman in a Chicago department store and later as a refrigerator repairman." Film Encyclopedia, p. 781.  After serving in World War Two he acted in a stage play and was noticed and began his film career.  Other fine Lancaster films include: Elmer Gantry, Birdman of Alcatraz, Atlantic City, The Rainmaker, and Judgment at Nuremberg.)

 

#53 Amadeus, 1984 (If you want to begin to understand what it might be like to be a genius, watch this story of the life of Mozart.  Milos Forman directs again with Paul Schrader again doing the writing.  Voted best picture that year with Forman winning best director and Abraham best actor.  Forman was born in 1932 in Czechoslovakia and raised by his Jewish professor of education father and his Protestant wife---he lost both of them to Nazi concentration camps and was raised by relatives.  He was making movies in his native land when the Russians invaded in 1968 and since he was out of the country at the time he came to America instead of returning---Europe's loss, our gain.  As you have seen by now, American cinema is deeply indebted to Europeans who have come here to perform their art in front of or behind the camera.)

 

#54 All Quiet on the Western Front, 1930 (This is the greatest war movie ever made and it is so in part because it is based on the hero being a German soldier in World War One.  Stars Lew Ayres who became a conscientious objector after this film and wouldn’t fight in World War Two.  He did serve in the medical corps and distinguished himself under fire.   Based on the great Erich Maria Remarque novel, All Quiet won as best picture that year and Milestone won as best director.  Milestone was born in Russia in 1895 as Lev Milstein and died in 1980.  He came to America as a young man and served in the Army in World War One where he learned to make movies.  When he got out of the Army he went to Hollywood.)

 

#55 The Sound of Music, 1965 (Voted best movie of the year, Andrews sings up a storm and Wise walked away with the best director award.)

 

#56 M*A*S*H, 1970  (Great Korean War dark comedy that became the long running television show.  The movie starred Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould and was directed by Robert Altman.  Nominated as best picture it lost out to Patton another war flick.  Other Altman films worth examining include Nashville, The Player, and McCabe and Mrs. Miller.)

 

#57 The Third Man, 1949 (Set in post-war torn Europe this mystery thriller stars Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten and was directed by Carol Reed who also co-produced.  It was written by Graham Greene.)

 

#58 Fantasia, 1940 (Disney)

 

#59 Rebel Without a Cause, 1955 (This is the film that made James Dean a star and furthered Natalie Wood's career.  It was directed and co-written by Nicholas Ray---real name Raymond Nicholas Kienzle and in no way related to India's greatest director Satyajit Ray creator of the fascinating Apu Trilogy.)

 

#60 Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981 (Harrison Ford starred and Spielberg directed and George Lucas co-wrote this rip roaring adventure yarn.  It lost best picture to Chariots of Fire which didn’t' make the 100 list.  Reds was also nominated that year and Beatty won the best director Oscar but Reds also didn't make it to the list of 100.)

 

#61 Vertigo, 1958 (Stewart again with Hitchcock again directing and producing.)

 

#62 Tootsie, 1982 (Hoffman in a great comedy with a very serious message about how we are sexists.  Jessica Lange won best supporting actress for this film.  She should one day get on to a similar list as she is one of our finest actresses.  Her other films that you should definitely watch include Frances, which also was a 1982 and she was nominated for best actress for that film but lost that award to Meryl Streep for Sophie's Choice a really great film.)

 

#63 Stagecoach, 1939 (This is the Western where John Wayne became noticed with John Ford directing.)

 

#64 Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1977 (Richard Dreyfus is great in this one which is where we see Spielberg at his very best directing and writing.)

 

#65 The Silence of the Lambs, 1991 (Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins with Jonathan Demme directing.  Won for best picture, best actress, best actor, and best director!)

 

#66 Network, 1976  (Sorry, but this one is way better than a lot of the ones rated above it in this "contest"!  Holden, Dunaway, Duvall, and Peter Finch provide us with a wonderful inside view of television amoral behavior.  Sidney Lumet directed with Paddy Chayefsky writing a marvelous script.  Finch won as best actor.  Although Rocky won best picture, the listing correctly puts Network above Rocky giving it #78.)

 

#67 The Manchurian Candidate, 1962 (Frank Sinatra, Janet Leigh and others star in this one which I don't think will be found on future top 100 lists.)

 

#68 An American in Paris, 1951 (Gene Kelly in a great musical directed by Minnelli and written by Alan Jay Lerner.  Won best picture that year.)

 

#69 Shane, 1953 (Alan Ladd stars in this Western with George Stevens directing and co-producing.  This is another that I think will fall off the list over time.)

 

#70 The French Connection, 1971 (Gene Hackman is great as the detective willing to go crazy to catch the bad guy in the cops and robbers epic set in New York City.  Roy Scheider is also in it.  Won as best picture, best director for Friedkin, best actor for Hackman.)

 

#72 Ben-Hur, 1959 (William Wyler directed this epic starring Chuck Heston with Jack Hawkins and others riding chariots and all that jazz.  Won best picture, Wyler won for best director and Heston for best actor.)

 

#73 Wuthering Heights, 1939 (Laurence Olivier directed by William Wyler.)

 

#74 The Gold Rush, 1925 (Chaplin starring, directing, producing, and writing.)

 

#75 Dances with Wolves, 1990 (Kevin Costner stars, directs, and produces this wonderfully insightful vision of the frontier and native Americans.  Won for best picture and Costner won as best director.  It correctly beat out Goodfellas.)

 

#76 City Lights, 1931 (Chaplin starring, directing, producing, and writing.)

 

#77 American Graffiti, 1973 (Dreyfus, Ron Howard, Harisson Ford when they were still teenagers with George Lukas directing and co-writing it and F.F. Coppola as co-producer---all of these individual became major players after this film.  The Sting starring Redford and Newman won as best picture but didn't even make the list of 100 when it should have as it is a wonderful film.)

 

#78 Rocky, 1976 (Stallone not only starred, he wrote it as well.  So maybe he is not as dumb as he appears to be???  It won as best picture but shouldn't have.)

 

#79 The Deer Hunter, 1978 (DeNiro again this time under the direction of Cimino who also co-produced and co-wrote.  This is an early glimpse of Meryl Streep as she starts to demonstrate just how marvelous an actor she is.  It won best picture with Cimino getting the best director award.  It beat out the fine film Coming Home which starred Voight who won best actor and Jane Fonda who won best actress.)

 

#80 The Wild Bunch, 1969 (So Bonnie and Clyde in 1967 brought lots of blood and violence to a gangster film and Peckinpah, who directed and co-wrote, showed that he could out-bloody Beatty in this Western.  I still can't imagine how this Western got on the list and The Magnificent Seven didn't???)

 

#81 Modern Times, 1936 (Chaplin again starring, directing, producing, and writing.  Paulette Goddard also starred.)

 

#82 Giant, 1956 (James Dean, Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson star in another George Stevens directed and co-produced film.  Stevens won best director.)

 

#83 Platoon, 1986 (Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, and Wilem Dafoe star in Stone's version of Viet Nam gone wrong.  Stone directed and wrote.  Won best picture and best director.  It beat out The Mission, which I consider a finer film starring DeNiro and which I predict will one-day show up on a list of the top 100.)

 

#84 Fargo, 1996 (Strange tale of kidnapping and murder.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, but doubt if it will be on future lists.  It got on this list because it was recently released when the voting occurred.)

 

#85 Duck Soup, 1933 (Marx Brothers at their wild and funny best.)

 

#86 Mutiny on the Bounty, 1935 (Clark Gable as the mutineer and Charles Laughton as the Captain.  In 1962 Brando was the mutineer and even more recently Mel Gibson was with Anthony Hopkins playing Captain Bligh.  Based on a real life event, the Gibson version is by far the more enjoyable to watch thanks to the glorious color and modern film techniques.  However, if you are a die hard cinema purist, then go ahead and watch the black and white 1935 version as it is really great and in 1935 was voted best picture.)

 

#87 Frankenstein, 1931 (The monster story.)

 

#88 Easy Rider, 1969 (Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, and Dennis Hopper star.  Fonda and Hopper were the ones who really put this generation defining low budget film together.  Hopper directed, Fonda and Hopper helped Terry Southern write.  But it was Nicholson who used the film to help establish himself and his career really took off whereas Fonda, despite the tremendous name recognition, went nowhere and Hopper was locked into support roles or off-beat films.  Proves nothing is predictable in this biz.)

 

#89 Patton, 1970 (George C. Scott play Patton and Patton from then on is more like George C. Scott than he was like himself.  This is another great film where Coppola helped do the writing but not the directing.  Scott won for best actor and Schaffner won as best director.)

 

#90 The Jazz Singer, 1927 (On the list because it was the film that helped end the silent film era.)

 

#91 My Fair Lady, 1964 (Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison in this lovely musical directed by George Cukor and written by Alan Jay Lerner.  Voted best film of the year with Rex Harrison winning best actor and Cukor best director.)

 

#92 A Place in the Sun, 1951 (Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor at her stunning best.  George Stevens directed and produced.  Stevens won best director.)

 

#93 The Apartment, 1960 (Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine star and I would have put this one much higher on the list than #93.  Billy Wilder directed, produced,  and co-wrote with I.A.L. Diamond.  Wilder won best director and the movie was voted best film of the year.  That year Burt Lancaster correctly won best actor for his outstanding performance in Elmer Gantry.)

 

#94 Goodfellas, 1990 (Another gangster film again starring DeNiro teaming up again with Scorsese who directed and co-wrote.)

 

#95 Pulp Fiction, 1994 (This film helped resuscitate Travolta's career and is just one of many great roles for Samuel L. Jackson.  I think in future lists we will see more of Jackson.  Quentin Tarantino directed and co-wrote.  It lost out for best film to Forest Gump.  Another film nominated that year was The Shawshank Redemption, which is one of my favorites starring Morgan Freeman.)

 

#96 The Searchers, 1956 (John Wayne and John Ford team up again in another Western.  The girl Wayne is searching for is Natalie Wood.)

 

#97 Bringing Up Baby, 1938 (Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn directed by Howard Hawks.)

 

#98 Unforgiven, 1992 (Clint Eastwood stars and directed and produced.  Gene Hackman is the bad guy and Morgan Freeman is Eastwood's friend in this Western.  Freeman is an outstanding actor who we will see on future lists of great films.  Unforgiven won as best picture and Eastwood won as best director.)

 

#99 Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, 1967 (Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey are the parents and Sidney Potier is asking their daughter's hand in marriage.  Helped people think about their racist attitudes.  Stanley Kramer directed and produced.)

 

#100 Yankee Doodle Dandy, 1942 (James Cagney, who more often than not played tough guys in the movies, is a song and dance guy here.  Walter Huston is also in the movie.)

 

Well folks, that's all!  What a fantastic list of marvelous movies!  I hope you start watching those you have never seen and watching again and again those you have seen and need to review.  The more you watch a really great film the more you begin to understand why it is great.

 

This list of 100, like every list, is flawed as is reflected by my comments above.  It also was hard to believe that no  Sean Connery or Michael Caine or Richard Burton and only one Olivier film found its way on to the list.  I assume that this is in part because they were great British actors.  However, I strongly recommend that you correct this flaw by watching some of their films.  Suggested are: Connery---The Wind and the Lion, The Man Who Would Be King (with Michael Caine), Outland, The Name of the Rose, and The Untouchables.  Caine---Educating Rita, The Ipcress File, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Cider House Rules, Quills, and Little Voice.  Burton---Who's Afraid of Virginia  Woolf?, Equus, and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold . Olivier--- The Entertainer.

 

Each year the British Academy of Film has an award ceremony and the films they award are often the same as the ones that get the Oscar.  However, the differences are important.  Films they awarded (and that I have yet to mention above) that the American Academy missed that you should put on your list of must-see films are: The Bicycle Thief, The Lavender Hill Mob, Forbidden Games, Wages of Fear, Richard III, Room at the Top, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, A Taste of Honey, Ballad of a Soldier (a great Russian film), Tom Jones, A Man for All Seasons, Sunday, Bloody, Sunday, Day for Night, Alice Doesn't Live  Here Anymore, Manhattan, The Killing Fields, The Purple Rose of Cairo, A Room with a View, Dead Poets  Society, and The Commitments.

 

If you have been keeping track, you will now see that I have added 127 films to the list! That shows you how hard it is to limit a list to only 100! As we look over the AFI list above, certain patterns come into view.  DeNiro and Stewart are in five films each!  Bogart, Kate Hepburn, Nicholson, Dunaway, and Holden are each in four of the films.  Then in three films each are Gable, Guinness, Hoffman, Brando,  Harrison Ford, Natalie Wood, Cary Grant, Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfus, and Chaplin.  However, no one will ever find themselves in Chaplin's place because he stars, directs, produces, and writes all three of those top 100 films!  The group of actors that were in at least two gets larger: Welles, Vivien Leigh, Sharif, Saint, Janet Leigh, M. Clift, Donna Reed, Gene Kelly, Liz Taylor, Joseph Cotten, James Dean, George C. Scott, Duvall, Keaton, Grace Kelly, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Pacino, Roy Scheider and Jodie Foster (actually several of these people were in more than two but not in lead roles).

 

When you consider that thousands of films have been made, for just a handful of actors to dominate the top 100 says several things.  One, really great actors are rare.  That in part explains why they can command such outrageous salaries.  But it also says that movies are collaborative endeavors.  You get to act in a great movie sometimes because of factors other than talent---you have a great friend who is a director, for example.  However, no great director will damage their film by hiring less than the best actor available.  As we see from the following listing, patterns also exist amongst directors.

 

Speilberg is the only director with five films on the list.  Billy Wilder has four films on the list as does Hitchcock.  Those with three films on the list are William Wyler, Forman, Stevens, Chaplin, Scorsese, John Huston (he is also on the list as an actor as is his father Walter and his daughter Angelica may well get on a future list), Kubrick, John Ford, George Lucas, and Lean.  Those with two are: Kazan, Capra, Wise, Coppola (he is also on the list with screenwriting for films he didn't direct), Cukor, and Zinneman.   Once again, a rather small number of great directors dominated the list.

 

We don't see the dominance in the area of writers in part because such a large number of the films on the 100 list were written by their directors.  However, Paul Schrader and I.A.L. Diamond each have written two of the films on the list.

 

You will also see patterns for cinematographers.  For example, one of the great ones was Gregg Toland who was responsible in the short 44 years he lived for creatively handling the cinematography on for films that made it to the list of 100---Wuthering Heights, The Grapes of Wrath, Citizen Kane, and The Best Years of Our Lives.

 

For me, the key message from all of the above is that: If you want to be involved in the movie business, you had better work very hard at developing all of your skills.  Read, write, travel, develop yourself into a capable human being that understands yourself and others.  Become a well-rounded human being.  Cream rises to the top.  And, on your way to the top, be nice to everyone you meet, because life as well as the movies is a collaborative adventure.