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Fun Friday–AFI’s Top Ten Top Tens

Friday, June 20, 2008


This week, the American Film Institute named their top ten movies in ten categories. As with most of their lists, some I agree with, some I’ve never seen, and some I totally disagree with. The titles in bold are ones I’ve seen:

“AFI defines ‘animated’ as a genre in which the film’s images are primarily created by computer or hand and the characters are voiced by actors.”
1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
2. Pinocchio (1940)
3. Bambi (1942)
4. The Lion King (1994)
5. Fantasia (1940)
6. Toy Story (1995)
7. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
8. Shrek (2001)
9. Cinderella (1950)
10. Finding Nemo (2003)

My take: I would have placed Cinderella at the top of the list, not because of the quality of the animation, but because of the impact the movie has had on generations of girls ever since it came out. I can understand why Snow White is at the top of the list, because it ushered in the era of full-color, full-length animated feature films. The one on this list that I feel shouldn’t be here is Fantasia. But that’s because it has no storyline. I’m sure they put it on here based on the technical quality of the animation.
“A genre where live-action characters inhabit imagined settings and/or experience situations that transcend the rules of the natural world. By presenting dreamlike realms where fairies flourish, witches scheme and pigs fly, fantasy demands that audiences believe in magic and hope for wishes to come true.”
1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
3. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
4. King Kong (1933)
5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
6. Field of Dreams (1989)
7. Harvey (1950)
8. Groundhog Day (1993)
9. The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
10. Big (1988.)

My take: Hello? Where is Superman? The Princess Bride? I liked The Wizard of Oz when I was a kid, but I guess because we saw it so often on TV, I grew very tired of it. I love the LOTR trilogy, so no argument there. My problem is with the inclusion of It’s a Wonderful Life. I hate that movie.
“A genre that centers on organized crime or maverick criminals in a twentieth century setting. Profit-minded and highly entrepreneurial, the American gangster is the dark side of the American dream. The gangsters’ lifestyles are portraits in extremes, with audiences cheering their excesses and reveling in their demise.”
1. The Godfather (1972)
2. Goodfellas (1990)
3. The Godfather Part II (1974)
4. White Heat (1949)
5. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
6. Scarface: The Shame of a Nation (1932)
7. Pulp Fiction (1994)
8. The Public Enemy (1931)
9. Little Caesar (1930)
10. Scarface (1983)

My take: Obviously I’m not a Gangster Movie aficionado. I struggled through watching the Godfather series. I did love the syndicated TV series The Untouchables back in the early 1990s.
“A genre that marries a scientific or technological premise with imaginative speculation. Whether it’s a flying saucer whirling through space or a gleaming city on a distant planet, at the core of all science fiction is the provocative question, ‘What if…?’, science fiction presents stories and situations that tap our brightest hopes and darkest fears about what might, one day, turn out to be true.”
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968.)
2. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
3. ET the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
4. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
5. The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
6. Blade Runner (1982)
7. Alien (1979)
8. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
10. Back to the Future (1985)

My take: Is Back to the Future science fiction or fantasy? I have to say that I totally disagree with 2001 being the best film in this genre—it’s so boring. I do agree with only the original Star Wars movie being on this list. It was not only groundbreaking, but it was the best. I think I would replace A Clockwork Orange with Jurassic Park and I would replace 2001 with Serenity.
“A genre of films set in the American West that embodies the spirit, the struggle and the demise of the new frontier. Brimming with subtext and mythology, westerns offer iconic images of a time gone by and perhaps a time that never was. A man of action with an unspoken code of honor, the western hero faces gun-toting opponents, hostile natives, lawless towns, the harsh forces of nature, and the encroachment of civilization. But the westerner keeps going, drawn to the freedom of the open plains and the promise of a new life.”
1. The Searchers (1956)
2. High Noon (1952)
3. Shane (1953)
4. Unforgiven (1992)
5. Red River (1948.)
6. The Wild Bunch (1969)
7. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
8. McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
9. Stagecoach (1939)
10. Cat Ballou (1965)

My take: I saw Unforgiven shortly after it came out on video, and hated it. Of course, I’ve never been a Clint Eastwood fan, so no help there. If I had to choose Westerns that I’d put on a list like this, I don’t think I could come up with ten, but I’d have to go with Silverado as my #1 pick, then Fort Apache, Three Amigos, The Magnificent Seven, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and, even though I now find it annoying, Dances with Wolves.
“Whether smashing a ball into the outfield, landing a right hook in the final round or crossing a finish line to the roar of a crowd, sports movies create myths and larger-than-life heroes. The stakes in sports may be simple—someone wins and someone loses—but cheering for a character who faces adversity and aims for the top is an exhilarating reminder of the power of the human spirit.”
1. Raging Bull (1980)
2. Rocky (1976)
3. The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
4. Hoosiers (1986)
5. Bull Durham (1988.)
6. The Hustler (1961)
7. Caddyshack (1980)
8. Breaking Away (1979)
9. National Velvet (1944)
10. Jerry Maguire (1996)

My take: Jerry Maguire is one of the most annoying, most over-rated movies ever made (this is coming from someone who can’t stand Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger, mind). My favorite sports movie is Remember the Titans. What I find totally unbelievable is that the #1 movie on this list isn’t Brian’s Song. Another one I’d put on my list is Mystery, Alaska. I caught it on one of the movie channels I get, and it was great. Oh, and I’d probably have to include The Game Plan on my list too.
“Steeped in the unpredictability of human nature and wrapped in a tangle of plot twists, mysteries inhabit a world where the secrets are dark and the agendas well hidden. Unlike the open-endedness that characterizes so much of real life, a movie mystery delivers the ultimate satisfaction of a solution in the final reel.”
1. Vertigo (1958.)
2. Chinatown (1974)
3. Rear Window (1954)
4. Laura (1944)
5. The Third Man (1949)
6. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
7. North By Northwest (1959)
8. Blue Velvet (1986)
9. Dial M for Murder (1954)
10. The Usual Suspects (1995)

My take: Again, can you tell this is a genre I don’t gravitate toward? I guess if I’m going to watch a mystery, I prefer a lighter British mystery, such as the Miss Marple TV movies.
“Romantic comedy spares no one in chronicling the horror and humiliation, the hope and despair, the agony and ecstasy of Cupid’s arrow. Wrapped in fantasy and charm, laced with funny little truths about the human condition, romantic comedies remind us that we’re all susceptible to that crazy thing called love.”
1. City Lights (1931)
2. Annie Hall (1977)
3. It Happened One Night (1934)
4. Roman Holiday (1953)
5. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
6. When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
7. Adam’s Rib (1949)
8. Moonstruck (1987)
9. Harold and Maude (1971)
10. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

My take: The Philadelphia Story should be at the top of this list! The ones that I love which aren’t listed are 10 Things I Hate About You, The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer, Bringing Up Baby, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, While You Were Sleeping, and You’ve Got Mail.
“Innocent until proven guilty. These four words inspire stories where the outcome may be the difference between life and death. The drama inherent in the theatre of a courtroom—the accused enters, prosecution and defense state their case, and a jury deliberates—all build to the moment when a verdict is read.”
1. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
2. 12 Angry Men (1957)
3. Kramer vs Kramer (1979)
4. The Verdict (1982)
5. A Few Good Men (1992)
6. Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
7. Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
8. In Cold Blood (1967)
9. A Cry in the Dark (1988.)
10. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

My take: Um . . . yeah. Oh—wait, I do have a favorite in this category (because the one I have seen on that list is definitely not a favorite): A Time to Kill. It’s the only Grisham-novel-turned-movie that I’ve watched multiple times.
“A genre of large-scale films set in a cinematic interpretation of the past. Their scope defies and demands—either in the mode in which they are presented or their range across time. A bloody sword fight in an ancient coliseum; carnage on an open battlefield; a country on the eve of revolution. With sweeping interpretations of turbulent times, epics depict characters that, whether nobly heroic or shamefully depraved, are living life on the grandest of scales.”
1. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
2. Ben-Hur (1959)
3. Schindler’s List (1993)
4. Gone With the Wind (1939)
5. Spartacus (1960)
6. Titanic (1997)
7. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
8. Saving Private Ryan (1998.)
9. Reds (1981)
10. The Ten Commandments (1956)

My take: Missing from this list are Gladiator, Braveheart, Glory, and Master and Commander. I totally disagree with the inclusion of GWTW and Titanic on this list—I passionately dislike both of those movies.

  1. Friday, June 20, 2008 7:55 am

    Animation: Good point about Cinderella. I’ve seen all of those films (and many other animated ones, of course!) and I think I’d really have a hard time ranking them.
    Fantasy: Haha, well you know I completely agree with you about It’s a Wonderful Life! I LOATHE that movie!!
    Gangster: Oh dear…I don’t think I’ve seen any of those movies…I must be even less of a gangster aficianado than you!
    Science Fiction: I like sci-fi but as to this list, yay for Star Wars…and that’s about all I have to say about that. LOL!
    Western: I’ve seen most of these. Love The Searchers and High Noon and Stagecoach (I actually like the 2nd remake of Stagecoach as well with Ann-Margaret…which is probably sacriligous…I think I spelled that wrong…or something). The original Unforgiven with Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn is really good!! I’ve never seen the Clint Eastwood film, so I don’t know how much of the story (besides the title) was retained for the “remake” (if it actually was a remake of the earlier movie). And Cat Ballou is awesome!! Probably the only movie where I actually really like Jane Fonda (haha).
    Sports: Lots of sports movies I like aren’t on this list. The Pride of the Yankees is a good one, though.
    Mystery: Well you know I like the lighter British fare, but this list is chock-full of classics!! Love, love, LOVE Vertigo, Rear Window, The Maltese Falcon, North by Northwest (AMAZING movie!!), and Dial M for Murder. I also really like Midnight Lace…it’s similar to Dial M but I think I probably like it even more that Hitchcock film. Sad that movies like The Thin Man and Shadow of a Doubt didn’t make the top 10!
    Romantic Comedy: I’d probably come up with a wildly different top 10! Did you ever see The Major and the Minor? That’s a good one…kind of in the same vein as The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer.
    Courtroom Drama: Don’t really have strong feelings about this category…but Mockingbird, 12 Angry Men, and Judgement at Nuremberg are all excellent films.
    Epic: Oh my gosh I LOATHE Lawrence of Arabia…but my dad could watch that movie on a constant loop. LOL! I’m kind of surprised Gandhi’s not on the list…another of my dad’s favs. I think Ben-Hur should be first personally. And is The Ten Commandments #10 just because “ten” is in the title? LOL! And it’s just laughable that Titanic is on this list.


  2. greyfort permalink
    Friday, June 20, 2008 8:11 am

    Of the ones that you haven’t seen:

    You should see Groundhog Day – its pretty funny.

    The Day the Earth Stood Still. Classic!

    Shane (that’s so overblown with importance. Boring. Feel asleep watching it)

    You haven’t seen North by Northwest?!? You so need to see it!


  3. Friday, June 20, 2008 8:35 am

    Oh, Ruth! You made me think of another movie that I’m surprised didn’t make the top ten epics: PATTON, which is one of my dad’s favorites.


  4. Friday, June 20, 2008 9:10 am

    I saw bits and pieces of the show the other night. Now seeing the list in its entirety, the first thing that strikes me is that I’m a bigger movie fan than I thought. Even in categories that had you asked, I’d have thought I wouldn’t be familiar with the films, like Westerns and Epics, I’ve seen at least 5 of the 10 films. Way too much movie watching as a youngster. Guess it was books or movies for me.

    I don’t agree with all of the choices either. Lawrence of Arabia? Yuck. And you can pretty much keep the Science Fiction category.


  5. Friday, June 20, 2008 10:37 am

    @ Kaye: Oooh, good point about Patton…my dad LOVES that movie too!


  6. Friday, June 20, 2008 10:44 am

    Hate and loathe are surprisingly strong words to describe how some of you feel about It’s A Wonderful Life. While it’s far from my favorite movie, I’m curious to know what is it that so turns you off about it.


  7. Ty Huls permalink
    Friday, June 20, 2008 2:37 pm

    From the above listed movies I like the God Father, Titanic very much and from ather movies I have not seen a lot. so, I donot want to say anything about them.


  8. Friday, June 20, 2008 3:25 pm

    I think it’s a riot how you dislike the “popular” movies. I’m guessing it’s because you’ve watched a wider selection than most people. I do think Braveheart should have been on the list, as well as You’ve Got Mail. And I definitely think Rocky should have been #1 on sports. I don’t watch gangster movies or mysteries much either.


  9. Friday, June 20, 2008 3:50 pm

    Ummm . . . G, I think you mean popular movies YOU’ve seen and like! Because there are several popular movies I’ve mentioned above: Star Wars, LOTR, Gladiator, The Princess Bride . . .

    And to try to answer Lori’s question . . . I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that I don’t like about It’s a Wonderful Life, except for the fact that I find it sappy, boring, and utterly annoying (kind of like The Notebook and other movies in that same vein).

    And Ruth–how could you let me forget that STARDUST should have been on the fantasy movie list!


  10. Friday, June 20, 2008 7:18 pm

    Love this post Kaye. If I could recommend a few of the of the movies on the AFI list that you have not seen yet; Groundhog Day, Cat Ballou, Bull Durham, Breaking Away, Chinatown, Rear Window, It Happened One Night, Moonstruck, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lawrence of Arabia and Spartacus. Looking at this group I enjoyed every one of them and would watch them again in a moment. If they all have anything in common, it is: a great story, they made me laugh or cry, and engaged the human spirit. Have fun, Laurel Ann


  11. Friday, June 20, 2008 9:57 pm

    Sigh…I like GWTW and I LOVE IAWL. And I can’t believe El Dorado and Rio Bravo didn’t make the list of westerns.


  12. Saturday, June 21, 2008 6:53 pm

    I agree with you about Silvarado. It is such an overlooked movie and yet it is so good. I also don’t like It’s A Wonderful Life and I don’t understand the appeal.


  13. Jess permalink
    Sunday, June 22, 2008 11:21 am

    Please, please, please watch The Searchers. It is such an amazing movie. Is he going to save her or kill her? Is John Wayne God, or are John Wayne and Marty each aspects of God? It’s dramatic, and then, five seconds later, it’s hilarious. John Wayne’s son makes a cameo, Ward Bond is amazing, and poor ol’ Moz just needs his rocking chair.


  14. Jess permalink
    Sunday, June 22, 2008 11:28 am

    Oh, and what is with Titanic? I watched parts of it on TV a few months ago while housesitting, and the script is just AWFUL.
    Oh, and Blade Runner has one of the romantic movie moments ever.
    But don’t watch Goodfellas. Just don’t.


  15. Monday, June 23, 2008 8:52 am


    I agree about Titanic. It was very depressing. And the spitting scene? How bonding… how romantic. 🙂


  16. Monday, June 23, 2008 8:57 am

    Not only that, but the whole premise, to me, was ridiculous. I know they were trying to make it a Romeo and Juliet-type story, but as that’s always been one of my least favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, I guess that’s why it didn’t resonate with me.

    But the costumes are gorgeous!


  17. Monday, June 23, 2008 2:34 pm

    AAAHH!! Obviously I haven’t watched Stardust in a while. That’s nearly an unforgivable omission on my part! Must be losing my mind…LOL! And I completely agree with everything you said about It’s a Wonderful Life – sappy, boring, trite, cliched, annoying…all of those are terrific adjectives to describe the movie IMO. 😛


  18. Thursday, June 26, 2008 2:06 pm

    Bladerunner is deserving of being on the Sci-Fi list, though it should be a little higher. It was very groundbreaking at the time.

    And WHY is The Little Mermaid not on the animation list? It deserves a spot simply because it saved the medium. If that movie hadn’t been made and started the Disney Renaissance, half that list wouldn’t even be there. Without Mermaid there would have been no Beauty and the Beast and certainly no Lion King.

    Seabiscuit should be on the sports list before Jerry Maguire IMO. Superb acting and one of the greatest true American sports stories ever.

    Dial M For Murder should be MUCH higher than #9. #4 at least.

    And Philadelphia Story should be before Roman Holiday, and quite possibly #1 on the list.

    A Few Good Men deserves to be on the list, I think it’s ranked about right.

    Schindler’s List should be #1 on the Epic list. He is the only Gentile buried in a Jewish cemetery in Israel and was given the highest honor that Israel can bestow. I personally think that movie is Spielberg’s masterpiece. And I would definitely put Gladiator on the list in place of Titanic. The real story of what happened with the Titanic is far more interesting than that stupid movie. (yes, I hate it and I’ve never even seen the whole thing!)

    I’m surprised Patton or Exodus isn’t on the Epic list.

    It’s A Wonderful Life is alright, but White Christmas and Holiday Inn are WAY better.


  19. Friday, March 20, 2009 11:28 pm

    Where was The Untouchables with Kevin Costner and Sean Connery? One of my faaaavorites. Sean Connery is INCREDIBLE.

    Have I mentioned that I DETEST Titanic???

    Silverado is my favorite Western,


    Superman was painfully missing,

    And I’m just skipping over the archives, BTW. 😉


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