The AFI 100 Project

I just discovered that, late last year, the American Film Institute revised their List of the 100 Greatest Movies of All-Time [pdf]. Looking over the list, I was a little surprised at how many I have never seen.

Here’s the breakdown, with films I’ve seen in green, films I haven’t seen in red, and films I have seen but don’t really recall well in yellow:

  1. Citizen Kane (1941)
  2. The Godfather (1972)
  3. Casablanca (1942)
  4. Raging Bull (1980)
  5. Singin’ In The Rain (1952)
  6. Gone With The Wind (1939)
  7. Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)
  8. Schindler’s list (1993)
  9. Vertigo (1958)
  10. The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
  11. City Lights (1931)
  12. The Searchers (1956)
  13. Star Wars (1977)
  14. Psycho (1960)
  15. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  16. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
  17. The Graduate (1967)
  18. The General (1927)
  19. On The Waterfront (1954)
  20. It’s A Wonderful life (1946)
  21. Chinatown (1974)
  22. Some like It Hot (1959)
  23. The Grapes Of Wrath (1940)
  24. E.T. The Extra-terrestrial (1982)
  25. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
  26. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)
  27. High Noon (1952)
  28. All About Eve (1950)
  29. Double Indemnity (1944)
  30. Apocalypse Now (1979)
  31. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  32. The Godfather Part Ii (1974)
  33. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
  34. Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)
  35. Annie Hall (1977)
  36. The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)
  37. The Best Years Of Our lives (1946)
  38. The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948)
  39. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
  40. The Sound Of Music (1965)
  41. King Kong (1933)
  42. Bonnie And Clyde (1967)
  43. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
  44. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
  45. Shane (1953)
  46. It Happened One Night (1934)
  47. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
  48. Rear Window (1954)
  49. Intolerance (1916)
  50. The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)
  51. West Side Story (1961)
  52. Taxi Driver (1976)
  53. The Deer Hunter (1978)
  54. M*a*s*h (1970)
  55. North By Northwest (1959)
  56. Jaws (1975)
  57. Rocky (1976)
  58. The Gold Rush (1925)
  59. Nashville (1975)
  60. Duck Soup (1933)
  61. Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
  62. American Graffiti (1973)
  63. Cabaret (1972)
  64. Network (1976)
  65. The African Queen (1951)
  66. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
  67. Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
  68. Unforgiven (1992)
  69. Tootsie (1982)
  70. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  71. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
  72. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  73. Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969)
  74. The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
  75. In The Heat Of The Night (1967)
  76. Forrest Gump (1994)
  77. All The President’s Men (1976)
  78. Modern Times (1936)
  79. The Wild Bunch (1969)
  80. The Apartment (1960)
  81. Spartacus (1960)
  82. Sunrise (1927)
  83. Titanic (1997)
  84. Easy Rider (1969)
  85. A Night At The Opera (1935)
  86. Platoon (1986)
  87. 12 Angry Men (1957)
  88. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
  89. The Sixth Sense (1999)
  90. Swing Time (1936)
  91. Sophie’s Choice (1982)
  92. Goodfellas (1990)
  93. The French Connection (1971)
  94. Pulp Fiction (1994)
  95. The Last Picture Show (1971)
  96. Do The Right Thing (1989)
  97. Blade Runner (1982)
  98. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
  99. Toy Story (1995)
  100. Ben-hur (1959)

And so, my New Year’s Resolution: to rid the above list of red. In other words, my goal, in 2008, is to watch these 41 movies:

  • A Night At The Opera
  • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • All About Eve
  • The Apartment
  • The Best Years Of Our lives
  • Bonnie And Clyde
  • The Bridge On The River Kwai done!
  • Bringing Up Baby done!
  • Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid
  • Cabaret
  • City Lights done!
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Double Indemnity
  • The French Connection done!
  • The General
  • The Gold Rush
  • High Noon
  • In The Heat Of The Night
  • Intolerance
  • It Happened One Night
  • King Kong done!
  • The Last Picture Show done!
  • Midnight Cowboy
  • Modern Times
  • Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
  • Nashville done!
  • On The Waterfront done!
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • The Searchers
  • Shane
  • Singin’ In The Rain
  • Some like It Hot
  • Sophie’s Choice done!
  • Sullivan’s Travels
  • Sunrise
  • Sunset Blvd.
  • Swing Time
  • The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre
  • The Wild Bunch
  • West Side Story
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy done!

And then, time permitting, start in on:

  • The African Queen
  • American Graffiti
  • Annie Hall
  • Ben-hur
  • Duck Soup
  • Gone With The Wind
  • The Graduate
  • The Grapes Of Wrath
  • It’s A Wonderful life
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • North By Northwest
  • Psycho
  • Rear Window
  • Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs
  • The Sound Of Music
  • Vertigo
  • Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

Okay! Well, that probably ain’t happening. But we’ll see how close I get.

* * *

50 comments.

  1. When the original list came out (10 years ago?) I started working my way down that list, too– and you’d be surprised how long it takes to attempt to watch about 75 movies. It was overwhelming at the time, so I gave up… but the way you’ve color coded the list makes me want to see how many “reds” I have and then try it again. This time around I have the luxury of Netflix and my local library, so I already feel even more inspired. Thanks!
    Jules
    House of Jules

  2. You have some good stuff on your unwatched list. It’s interesting how few comedies made it into the AFI top 100 list. Unless you count Sopie’s Choice.

  3. Good luck! I’d say watch 5, 16, 26, or 78 when you feel like giving up. They are great movies and should give you a second wind. 53 and 82 are also fabulous films but demand more from their audience, at least in my opinion.

  4. I also did this with the original AFI list back in the day, and I think I still have my copy somewhere in a box (with titles highlighted as I saw them). Of this incarnation I’ve seen all but 19, though I think I fare a little worse with the old list.

    There are some fantastic movies in this set of movies, but surprisingly a few real stinkers, in my opinion (The Deer Hunter, Nashville, The Apartment).

    Here are the ones I’ve seen that you haven’t seen that I predict you will enjoy:

    A Streetcar Named Desire
    All About Eve
    Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid
    Double Indemnity
    The French Connection
    The Philadelphia Story
    Singin’ In The Rain
    Sunset Blvd.
    The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre

    And be sure to see Double Indemnity on as big a screen as you can. You wouldn’t think it would make a difference, but I’ve seen it on video and in the theater and it’s so much more immersive when blown up. I’d say the same of Casablanca, but you’ve already seen that.

  5. My brother attempted to watch the list when it first came out. This was also the summer of our family’s road trip across the USA! With a tiny tv in the back seat, we sat through more of these than I remember. Lawrence of Arabia still reminds me of Indiana.

  6. I’m not sure how or why but we have a copy of West Side Story (maybe it was $3 at Fred Meyer?). Anyway, my 15 year old daughter and I loved watching clean-cut gang members doing pirouettes while deserting their stabbing victims and running away from the cops. She convinced my nephews (15 & 17) to watch it one night–I was skeptical but they were all pretty enthralled with it. I think they were able to recognize Romeo & Juliet story-lines they’ve seen in more modern movies.

    Plus they totally love to refer to the Jets and Sharks with regard to anything gang-related now.

  7. I’m not sure how or why but we have a copy of West Side Story (maybe it was $3 at Fred Meyer?). Anyway, my 15 year old daughter and I loved watching clean-cut gang members doing pirouettes while deserting their stabbing victims and running away from the cops. She convinced my nephews (15 & 17) to watch it one night–I was skeptical but they were all pretty enthralled with it. I think they were able to recognize Romeo & Juliet story-lines they’ve seen in more modern movies.

    Plus they totally love to refer to the Jets and Sharks with regard to anything gang-related now. Me–I’m all “Warriors, come out and playay”.

  8. I set out to watch all the AFI movies in 2005 and wrote some really deep and thoughtful reviews. I think I watched one or two that I’ve never gotten around to blogging about, so that means I’ve seen about 77 or so out of 100. I keep meaning to pick it back up again…

    Good luck! You have some really good movies left to watch (and some I really didn’t like, too).

  9. And just in case the sarcasm did not come through, those reviews weren’t very deep at all. Mostly I did things like complain about Clark Gable’s moustache, or lack thereof.

  10. OMG! Double Indemnity is awesome! Fred McMurrary as a cold-hearted, cracking-wise insurance adjuster/murderer. Forget about all that My Three Sons crap. Watch this one first. The dialog will put an irrepressible grin on your face. :o)

  11. It’s a little hard to take that list seriously. There seems to be an enormous skew towards old – very old! – films… and then there’s Titanic. Would it be a better idea to look at a combined-source (IMDb? Rotten Tomatoes? Metacritic?) top 100 instead?

  12. Singing in the Rain is a pretty damn funny flick. It’s actually aged fairly well. Even the people breaking into song isn’t all that noxious. Put it in the top of the queue. Do it now!

  13. I’m trying to make my way through my last fifteen or so, and I am getting NO support from the Internets.
    “Nooo,” they whine, “Don’t watch Sophies Choice! It’s saaaaadddd…” So, there’s a reason I haven’t seen some of my fifteen yet.

    And watch Some Like It Hot right after Singing in the rain. Maybe we should watch Sophies Choice together in some type of online support group.

  14. Delurking to say that you must watch All About Eve and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Bette Davis in the former and Elizabeth Taylor in the latter — wow, just wow.

    Classics, they are.

    Thanks for your lists.

  15. Matthew, I’m jealous. You have so many great movies to look forward to, and I don’t. I wish I hadn’t already seen so many of these, just so I could watch them all for the first time… again.

  16. Oh man. And I used to think you were so cool. Start with Sunset Blvd. first.

  17. Oh man. And I used to think you were so cool. Start with Sunset Blvd. first.

  18. Start with The Deer Hunter, then quit.

  19. Sorry, I couldn’t continue after seeing King Kong in red. I…I don’t know what to say. That might explain why you’re a defective yeti…the others all get together Saturday nights and watch the greatest of the giant primate tragedies.

    It is truly one of the best movies ever. Shakespearean.

  20. Some of those movies are so fully ingrained in our collective subconscious, I don’t know if I’ve actually seen them, or heard about them so much I feel as though I have. (Chinatown, West Side Story…) Good luck making your way down the list.

  21. Apparently the first step in making a great film is to use black and white film 60 years ago.

  22. I would like to protest the inclusion of Shane in this list. I was so grateful my teacher never actually made us watch the whole thing, it was bad. High Noon though, that is a bloody BRILLIANT movie. Philadelphia Story too.

  23. The Bridge on the River Kwai is one of my favorite movies. People who only know Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan would do well to watch his older works, and see how amazing he was.

  24. Oh man, you’ve got some great movies on that “To See” list. You’re going to have a fantastic year!

  25. I would move Maltese Falcon, Bridge on the River Kwai and Snow White to the top…

  26. Hey, if you finish this list, you can move on the the Guardian’s 1,000 Films to See Before You Die!

    http://film.guardian.co.uk/1000films/0,,2108487,00.html

    I’ve only seen 196 of them so far. And I’m already over 30. Uh oh.

    As for the AFI list, I’ve seen a pathetic 50. I’d like to see the rest. But I agree with the commenters who are excited for you — the original King Kong really is great, and I love love LOVE Singin’ in the Rain and Butch Cassidy. So very good.

  27. I’m surprised nobody else mentioned this… but TiVo has a thing called a Guru Guide… and one of the guides is the AFI Top 100 films.

    http://www.tivoblog.com/archives/2007/08/27/afi-top-100-tivo-guru-guide/

    If you own a Tivo series 2 or 3, and are interested in the AFI Top 100 films, add this Guru Guide to your list, and the movies on this list will start flowing in.

    BaBoop!

  28. Wow. I’ve only seen 3 of the top 10.

  29. Interesting – you have an IE oriented blog, I never realized that until now.

    On Firefox, the list of films is in black and white, and I thought at first there was a joke involved until I played back the page in IE.

  30. The Philadelphia Story is totally great, if only to see Jimmy Stewart play blind stinking drunk. Awesome.

  31. I think there are only eight on the list I haven’t seen, and one of them is Toy Story, which doesn’t belong on there at all. There are a few stinkers on there, as Nathan said, but the ones he mentioned aren’t among them. The Apartment is a solidly good movie, Deer Hunter is excellent, and Nashville is nothing less than the best film of the ’70s.

    If you’re looking for the dross on the list, start with Titanic and Forrest Gump.

  32. As much as I love movies, some of the top 100 don’t interest me at all… That being most of the ones I hav enot seen and yet – I should see them as well. That’s a more worthwhile new-years-resolution (to me) than a lot of the standard BS resolutions out there (lose weight, stop smoking, etc)

  33. I was really surprised “Papillion” (Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman) didn’t make that list. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time.

    David

  34. Bringing Up Baby is the funniest film ever made. Unless you’re one of those people who thought they talked too fast on West Wing or Gilmore Girls.

    And for the person who said, “Apparently the first step in making a great film is to use black and white film 60 years ago.”

    Sorry, they can’t all be Scooby Doo Two: Monsters Unleashed. Maybe after nap time you can watch a big boy movie.

  35. “It’s interesting how few comedies made it into the AFI top 100 list.”

    Dr. Strangelove, Some Like It Hot, Tootsie, MASH, Toy Story? Also, The General is hilarious. Seriously, it’s funnier than any comedy out in theaters today. You can even watch it online!

    http://www.archive.org/details/TheGeneral

  36. You obviously don’t watch much of the TCM channel – So many of your movies to be watched are great classics, and I hope you have an appreciation for classic film. Just watching Barbara Stanwyck descend the staircase with alluring anklet sparkling seductively at Fred MacMurray is a great moment in film.

    Enjoy and good luck with your goal.

  37. @Jens Fiederer: Interesting – you have an IE oriented blog, I never realized that until now. On Firefox, the list of films is in black and white, and I thought at first there was a joke involved until I played back the page in IE.

    No conspiracy here, you just need to push Refresh to get the latest stylesheet. Presumably you didn’t have it cached in IE.

    A general solution to this problem (which really ought to be fixed with browser-server last-modified communication) is to append a GET string to the end of the stylesheet include in the HTML, so href=”/style.css?20080113″. This will still be cached, but you can modify the string to dish out the new version. (Of course, this is only helpful if you’re a publisher, and even then only if you have access to modify the include.)

  38. I suggest you watch them in chronological order, to soak in the progressing state of the art. Or maybe start on each end and work your way toward the middle a’la Lady and the Tramp. Good luck finding Sunrise though (I’ve never seen it).

  39. Look for Sunrise in your college library – that’s where I saw it and Intolerance. (Sunrise was the best of the two.)

  40. I think you should add Sullivan’s Travels to your list as well. Otherwise I agree with Nathan. Although I really think The Lady Eve or Miracle at Morgan Creek are better Preston Sturges movies. Sullivan’s Travels paired with O Brother Where Art Thou? would make a fine evening’s entertainment.

    Mostly I find the list pretty debatable even though I’ve seen 85 of them. I find it hard to sit through Chaplin movies so I haven’t seen any of them.

  41. For your red-green color blind readers, you might want to pick some other colors. I can’t tell the difference between your “red” and “green.” May I suggest blue? Or a dark red and a light green?

  42. Wow! That’s a great list of ‘still need to sees!” Little chance of getting bored with it!

    I suggest adding two reds and one yellow to have a Marx brothers night with friends some time. Hilarious!

  43. I’ve been plowing my way through this list as well…To Kill A Mockingbird is in a red mailing envelope on top of my TV right now waiting to be watched. I am up to 57/100

    …and Bringing up Baby is great, IMHO

  44. Hey MikeJ, I didn’t realize I had such a hard-to-remember name!

    I think the AFI list gives a lot of credit to movies which are historically and culturally important, which is harder to do today than it was in 1950.

    My favorite movie is Seven Samurai, but I also love Terminator 2. I think I’m allowed to disagree with this list.
    For example, I challenge anyone to tell me how the Wizard of Oz (#10) is better than The Matrix.

  45. Taken as a standalone sentence, Russell’s “Lawrence of Arabia still reminds me of Indiana” may be my favorite blog comment of all time. And I’ve never been to Indiana.

    Mr. DY, you’re in for a treat when you get to Butch and Sundance. That’s one of those movies that I can’t turn away from when I stumble onto it while channel-flipping.

    Same with “Rear Window,” if you get that far into the yellows. Mmmm, Grace Kelly …

  46. Let it be known that I, heretofore a total lurker, despise The Philadelphia Story with my entire being, and I warn you against it. Also, do not be deceived by High Society which is just the same story in drag.

  47. Am I crazy, or does this list not include a single Audrey Hepburn movie? Bizarre. At a minimum they should have “Roman Holiday”, and if you haven’t seen it already you can consider it recommended. Charade is also worthwhile – Cary Grant, Walter Matthau, James Coburn… good stuff.

    Note for The Queen: Need someone to say “Yes, watch Sophie’s Choice”? Consider it done. One of the must-see early Meryl Streep movies.

  48. To those commenting on the fact that most movies on the list are old: that makes perfect sense. Say you make a good movie every 3 or so years, with the rest of the movies those years being crap. Then it stands to reason that if you look at the top 100 movies of all-time, most of them are going to be older than you.

    But to anyone saying that any modern movie is crap, i must object. they just have to mature a bit to become proper classics. Titanic is well on its way to classicdom, and I can see some other new movies that will, in 50 years or so, be seen as pretty damn good.

  49. I’m startled–startled, I say–that the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time contains no films not in English, and by my count) three that aren’t American.

  50. Just wait until you see The Searchers. You will wonder who compiled this list. There are 20 westerns that easily surpass it. It makes episodes of Bonanza look like high-quality acting. Just wait.