Earlier this year the American Film Institute re-voted their top 100 American movies of all time. The first list, compiled in 1998 sparked a great discussion, several TV specials and got people talking about some old classics they hadn’t seen in a while. This year that list was updated to see how the films of the last 10 years would be ranked and to see how our tastes in culture had changed. Please see my posting dissecting some of the differences and similarities of both lists – HERE.
There was much discussion from bloggers and fanboys out there – some more passionate and angered than others. Therefore Daily Film Dose spearheaded another vote, using the same guidelines and same short list of films used by the AFI. The result is what I’ve called the “FANBOY 100”. We can now put rest speculations of how the fans may have voted for their favourite films, in comparison to the AFI’s. The major difference of this list is that the Fanboys were allowed the choice of moving off the 400-film short list for as many selections as possible. The AFI allowed only five, which, in my opinion, cuts down the votes significantly. Funny enough, even with the allowance of as many free selections, all of the films below were on the 400 short list.
The survey is still not 100% scientifically accurate. The mere fact that there’s a shortlist influences voters to a large degree. Enjoy and discuss.
Francis Coppola’s masterpiece still reigns supreme as filmed-entertainment of the highest order. Michael Corleone’s character arc from naïve and innocent war-hero to corrupted sadistic maniac is the highest bar for writing and acting. Coppola made the story into a film about family, so it’s fitting, amid all the gangster politics, the first two films boiled down to a story of two brothers and the fateful decision made by Michael which dooms them both forever. Placement on the AFI List: #2
“Psycho” reached only number 14 on the AFI list, but the fans think it’s number 2. Generally considered the first modern horror film, Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece is a manipulative piece of cinema, and Hitchcock at his most devious. He sets up a road chase film like his previous “North by Northwest” but instead pulls the rug from under us by killing off his heroine midway through the film. We, as the audience, have no idea what to expect next. “Psycho” is often imitated, never duplicated. Placement on the AFI List: #14
The major line-jumping of “Pulp Fiction” is likely due to the voting demographic – which is much younger, pop-culture savvy and modern. “Pulp Fiction” is the definitive film of our current generation. Thirteen years later, its influence is still being felt today. “Pulp Fiction” not only won the Palme D’Or, it cracked the $100million domestic box office barrier (unheard of for an indie film back then) and was nominated for all the major Oscars – and taking one home for writing. What makes “Pulp Fiction” so unique and so influential? It was the heart and soul of Tarantino put onto film – a film junkie who devoured the medium. He was able to make a film on his own terms, his way, with relatively complete freedom. Special films like this should be celebrated as often as possible. The fans have spoken. Placement on the AFI List: #94.
“Casablanca” ranked #3 on the AFI, and here it comes in at #4. Therefore it’s safe to say fans and critics/historians alike are in agreement, “Casablanca” is a great film for everybody. In fact, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like the film. What is the attraction to “Casablanca”? It was a cookie-cutter studio film that rose to the top as the best and greatest example of the entertaining value of the Hollywood formula – a tight script which practically invented the screenwriting template, dynamic and attractive stars (Bogart and Bergman), and top notch supporting players (Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Claude Rains). Placement on the AFI List: #3
Believe it or not, I received a lot of hate mail about this film. For the many of you who revere the film, there’s a whole lot of ‘anti-Kaners’ out there, but not enough to excise it from the top 5. Kane is still influential, though not untouchable. AFI picked it twice in a row as the top film. Technically the film is brilliant and innovative. Everyone should watch the special features and listen to Roger Ebert’s commentary on the DVD. The film is a magic show. Welles, in his youth, was a magician, and his sleight of hand in evident all over the film. No matter how many times you see it, “Citizen Kane” can always be re-discovered. Placement on the AFI List #1.
“Schindler’s List” is also consistently a favourite among critics and fans. Upon its release Spielberg was praised for maturing as a director and telling an adult story, an important story, without his traditional artifices. Indeed, the palpable realism is powerful, but Spielberg’s eye is always present. Watch for some of his signature movements and compositions hidden in the handheld ‘verite’-style camerawork. Placement on the AFI List: #8.
Scorsese was very popular with the fans. The AFI voters had “Raging Bull” as his masterpiece, but the fans obviously love the Liotta, De Niro, Pesci and Sorvino gangsters better. And I agree. While “Raging Bull” rages with anger and fury, “Goodfellas” is more fun, energetic and audience-pleasing. Who can forget the awesome moment when Henry Hill, who has been narrating the film in voiceover, suddenly turns to camera in his trial, breaks the fourth wall and talks to camera? It’s a risky device, but it’s so natural for Scorsese and only elevates the film to awesome brilliance. Congrats Marty. Placement on the AFI list #92!
Coppola is the man. Two films in the top ten, and one more standing by at #11. The legend and awe of “Apocalypse Now” grows and grows. It’s the epitome of the pure sacrifice filmmakers give to their films. Coppola took years off his life making it, and though it garnered a Palme D’Or and some Oscar nods, it was the fanboys who helped put the film on its high pedestal. You should all be given credit, and a pat on the back. Placement on the AFI list #30.
To Kubrick fans, it will come as no surprise that this film tops his other films, including “2001” and “A Clockwork Orange”. It’s the benchmark for black comedies – The "Citizen Kane” of black comedies. Virtually untouchable, razor-sharp and flawless. Placement on the AFI List # 39.
“Star Wars’” influence speaks for itself. I need not say anymore. Placement on the AFI List #13.
I thought “Raiders” might top “Schindler’s” in the fan voting, but I was wrong. If people thought “Star Wars” was fun, exuberant adventure cinema, Spielberg and Lucas miraculously topped it with “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Like Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction”, it’s a film made by a couple of filmmakers who devoured a different type of cinema in their youth – the B-movie adventure serial. Lucas and Spielberg mashed up “Tarzan”, “Buck Rodgers”, “Flash Gordon” and more to create the iconic franchise. Placement on the AFI List #65.
The second “Godfather” film is the high bar for film sequels. In Part II the film turns even darker than the somber ending of the first film. Michael Corleone has morphed into a sadistic killer and an unemotional robot. There is very little semblance of the same character we were introduced to in the first film. Perhaps the most remarkable scene in the film is the second to last scene, when Coppola flashes back to the dinner table scene where we see Connie meet Carlo. Not only do we get to see Sonny again, but we get to see Michael before he was corrupted and tempted by the dark side. And we’re also reminded of one of the biggest ‘what ifs’ in cinema history. What if Brando reprised the role as Vito Corleone for that scene? We can only dream. Placement on the AFI List #32
“Taxi Driver” was Scorsese’s major breakthrough film. Though “Mean Streets” and “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” brought him critical attention, Scorsese became a household name with “Taxi Driver”. The film works because of the trifecta of talent – Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Paul Schrader. It’s the definitive film for cinematic loners. Placement on the AFI List #52
“Jaws” was a sensation in 1975. Not only was it then the most successful film of all time, it gave birth to the summer blockbuster tent pole films that now finance practically everything in mainstream Hollywood. Under immense pressure and stress of a skyrocketing budget, schedule delays, a mechanical shark that didn’t work and a doubting studio, Spielberg, like Coppola in “Apocalypse Now” put his creativity to the test and came out a winner. Placement on the AFI List #56.
There’s a reason “Shawshank” is tied for the top-rated film on the IMDB, just about everybody loves the film. Darabont’s interpretation of Stephen King’s short story is part prison film, part Capra fantasy. Morgan Freeman’s earnest voiceover sets the tone early, but it’s the surprising second act turn that elevates the film to greatness. Though it was nominated for seven Oscars, the film wasn’t really discovered by the public until its video release. Word of mouth quickly turned this film into a classic.
Like “Shawshank”, just about everybody loves “Cuckoo’s Nest.” It’s a simple story so thoroughly entertaining and satisfying with solid star-making performances, dramatic plot twists and an ample dose of the 50's/60’s rebellious attitude. Aside from the anchor elements of Ken Kesey’s novel, Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher, for me, the heart of the film is ‘Chief’ the gentle giant mute who ends the film with possibly the most tearjerking yet uplifting endings of all time. It brings chills to my skin each and every time I watch it. Placement on the AFI List #33.
A slew of serial killer films have been released since “Silence of the Lambs” – including three Lector sequels/prequels. Aside from David Fincher’s equally impressive “Se7en” “Silence of the Lambs” still rocks its competition. The film is only one of three films to win all four major Oscar categories – Actor, Actress, Picture, Director, Screenplay. But the fact it performed so well as a genre film at awards season is incredible. Placement on the AFI List #74.
"Clockwork" is the second favourite Kubrick film for the fans. The success of this film is staggering as well. Despite the family-unfriendly subject matter, and having a protagonist who rapes and murders people and gets away with it, the film was Warner Bros’ highest-grossing film of that year. Is that a testament to the times or the power of the film? A bit of both I suspect. Few films and filmmakers since have been able to make such subject matter a commercial success. Placement on the AFI List #70.
This comes as no surprise to me that “Rear Window” is the second favourite Hitchcock film for the fans. “Vertigo” is revered by the international critics, but “Rear Window” trumps “Vertigo” as popular cinema. The concept is so simple and effective – a wheelchair bound emasculated man has only a window through which to view and interact with society. We all can relate to Jimmy Stewart in the film because there’s a voyeur in all of us. Placement on the AFI List #48.
The name “The Wizard of Oz” has so much cache it was an almost automatic inclusion on the list. It is a wonderful film, and the top musical on the list. But it’s not the musical numbers that make the film great – it’s the fantastical new world Dorothy enters, perfectly represented by the famous door opening transition from black & white to colour. Placement on the AFI List #10.
This is the most telling entry. In the AFI List “Star Wars” placed #13 – “Empire Strike Back” was non-existent. Clearly the voters (critics, historians etc) lumped all the “Star Wars” into one and named the first film as the best. Now “Empire” gets to be represented as a separate and distinct ‘great’ film unto its own. Placement on the AFI List – nil.
After so many years “E.T.” still captures the fans' hearts as a story about a friendship between a boy and Reeces Pieces-loving alien. Placement on the AFI List #25
“Chinatown” established its own subgenre of noir films. “L.A. Confidential” is the only worthy rival to “Chinatown’s” crown as the noir-king. An interesting double bill would be David Lynch’s subversive “Mulholland Drive”. Placement on the AFI List #19
Stanley’s Kubrick’s existential sci-fi still divides some people, but at #24, it’s still a popular and powerful film and a benchmark for the genre. Placement on the AFI List #15
“Raging Bull” made a major jump into the AFI top 5, but according to the fans, it’s not his most popular film. It’s as much a violent and disturbing film about domestic abuse as it is about boxing. It’s a tough film to watch, and clearly not as fun or audience-friendly as “Goodfellas”. Placement on the AFI List #4
The honourable presence of Gregory Peck anchors this important film about civil rights in the segregated U.S. South. It made many top 5 lists, especially among women. Placement on the AFI List #25.
Even though we are long gone from the 60’s for the young Fanboy voters, “The Graduate” is still relevant as a statement of the transition period from youth to adulthood. Nichols’ direction is as fresh and fun as it was 40 years ago. Placement on the AFI List #17.
Frank Capra’s quintessential Christmas film is seen by new audiences every year. As soon as the film ceases to be relevant to our lives broadcasters won’t play it on television every year. And there’s no indication that that will happen any time soon. Placement on the AFI List #20.
This is the second most notable entry – David Fincher’s neo-cult classic “Fight Club”. Most critics and audiences dismissed the film as nihilistic excess when the film was originally released. But for film junkies under 20, it’s grown in stature to be the “Taxi Driver” of their generation. Placement on the AFI List – nil.
“Vertigo” in critics’ circles in generally considered Hitchcock’s masterpiece. In the recent AFI list it jumped to #9 and placed #2 in the last ‘Sight and Sound’ poll. Clearly fans aren’t as enamored with the film as critics. Placement on the AFI List #9
There were many cries afoul when “Fargo” got knocked off the new AFI list. The fans have spoken again and the Coens are represented with a respectable #30. Placement on the AFI List – nil
Again, some respect for what still is the inflation-adjusted box office champion of all time. Placement on the AFI List #6
This is not one of my favourite Hitchcock films, but hey, it’s not my list. Hitchcock’s espionage romp across the USA has some particularly wonderful suspense sequences, specifically the famous and fabulous crop duster scene. Placement on the AFI List #55.
I thought the recency effect of the huge popular franchise might dominate and propel the Rings films higher than this. But #33 is a respectable number for a new entry into cine-history. Placement on the AFI List #50.
A critical fave of the AFI voters, David Lean’s epic just doesn’t seem to have the likeability with the fans. With reduced attention spans, perhaps it’s the 227 mins running time. Placement on the AFI List #7.
Kubrick’s horror masterpiece didn’t even crack the AFI Top 100. But since fans are not genre phobic, and “The Shining” is generally considered one of the greatest horror films of all time, it’s not surprising it’s up to #36. Placement on the AFI List – nil.
This is the only Woody Allen to make either list His other great films – “Crime and Misdemeanors” and “Manhattan” received some good quality vote counts, but just couldn’t crack the 100. Placement on the AFI List – #35
One of the great fan films of all time gets some much needed respect. Thanks voters for counting this 80’s classic. Placement on the AFI List – nil
This film is routinely considered the greatest musical of all time. The male-centric youth who dominated the voter demographic has something to do with the difference in placements with the AFI list. Placement on the AFI List #5.
Fans and critics both love this film. It’s quality noir about the dark side of Hollywood and celebrityism. Placement on the AFI List #16.
Sidney Lumet’s chamber-drama is a classic film – essentially an investigative crime film told entirely within a jury room. It’s a brilliant concept executed perfectly thanks to a great team of actors led by the soft-spoken Henry Fonda. Placement on the AFI List #87.
If the sequels had been more successful “The Matrix” would have scored higher. Up until “Reloaded” and “Revolutions” came out the first “Matrix” was the “Star Wars” of the computer/internet generation. Even with the extreme negative reaction to the other two the first film has survived as an influential film. Placement on the AFI List – nil.
Steven Spielberg’s powerful film re-invented the modern war film and established the new cinematic language of war. Every battle scene from here on in will be compared to the first 25 mins of “Saving Private Ryan”. Placement on the AFI List #71.
“Blade Runner” has grown into one of the all-time great sci-fi films, standing side-by-side with “Star Wars” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Ridley Scott combines stunning visual effects with an existential story about the nature of humanity. Placement on the AFI List #97.
Jackson’s achievement in making each LOTR chapter bigger and better is a triumph. His use of CGI, trick photography, costume design and all other forms of in-camera special effects to achieve his vision is astonishing. And to think he made them all at the same time. It's mind-boggling. Placement on the AFI List – nil.
Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” and “Alien” is one of the great career one-two punches in cinema. Two sci-fi films, completely different in style – one, a monster film masquerading as sci-fi and the other a film noir masquerading as sci-fi. Genius. Placement on the AFI List – nil.
Like “Shawshank Redemption” this Gondry/Kaufman concoction, in a very short time, has become many people’s favourite film. It’s a great film, but the immense popularity of this little gem definitely took me by surprise. Placement on the AFI List – nil.
Men in drag is classic go-to humour. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis did it better than anybody. But it’s Marilyn Monroe who’s magnetic and impossible to take your eyes off. Placement on the AFI List #22
"American Beauty” didn’t make the AFI List despite being a generational-defining film for many people. Perhaps it’s Mendes’ arguably declining work since this debut film. Placement on the AFI List – nil.
“Forrest Gump” is finally bested by “Pulp Fiction”. But the earnest audience-pleaser actually ranked higher in the Fanboy list than either AFI List. Placement on the AFI List #76.
Click HERE to continue for films 51-100.