Monday, June 25, 2007

100 Best Things to Do in the Dark

The AFI is at it again, so I must be too. I put together a list to respond to their first dismal attempt at the top 100 American films back in 1998, and although they've made some improvements (like recognizing comedy as the true American genre, followed closely by horror, therefore horror comedies are the true American product--see, Raimi, Sam), so I thought I'd go and revise my old list, which I never posted on my blog. (It was on my website in the days before blogging was cool. Or even done.)

Therefore I post this list, knowing lists are silly, but this is my version, so it's my silly. There's a whole different list for international films and docs, because each are foreign in their own ways. And as I said last time I apologize to all films not-yet-seen or forgotten. I do not apologize if your favorites aren’t here, though--go make your own list.

1. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 58)
2. Touch of Evil (Welles, 58)
3. Night of the Hunter (Laughton, 55)
4. The Shop Around the Corner (Lubitsch, 41)
5. Citizen Kane (Welles, 41)
6. The Band Wagon (Minnelli, 53)
7. The Awful Truth (McCarey, 37)
8. Rear Window (Hitchcock, 54)
9. Chinatown (Polanski, 74)
10. Once Upon a Time in America (Leone, 84)
11. All About Eve (Mankiewicz, 50)
12. Manhattan (Allen, 79)
13. Strangers on a Train (Hitchcock, 51)
14. The Lady Eve (Sturges, 41)
15. Sherlock, Jr. (Keaton, 24)
16. Days of Heaven (Malick, 78)
17. Duck Soup (McCarey, 33)
18. Bonnie and Clyde (Penn, 67)
19. Blue Velvet (Lynch, 86)
20. Casablanca (Curtiz, 42)
21. Nashville (Altman, 76)
22. Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock, 43)
23. The Godfather, Part II (Coppola, 74)
24. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Altman, 71)
25. Laura (Preminger, 44)
26. Top Hat (Sandrich, 35)
27. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Curtiz & Keighley, 38)
28. Bringing Up Baby (Hawks, 38)
29. Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick, 64)
30. Singin’ in the Rain (Donen & Kelly, 52)
31. Letter from an Unknown Woman (Ophuls, 48)
32. Easy Living (Leisen, 37)
33. To Sleep with Anger (Burnett, 90)
34. Annie Hall (Allen, 77)
35. In a Lonely Place (Ray, 50)
36. The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah, 69)
37. Melvin and Howard (Demme, 80)
38. Miracle at Morgan’s Creek (Sturges, 44)
39. It’s a Wonderful Life (Capra, 46)
40. North by Northwest (Hitchcock, 59)
41. The Big Sleep (Hawks, 46)
42. Paths of Glory (Kubrick, 57)
43. The Stunt Man (Rush, 80)
44. The Third Man (Reed, 49)
45. Simple Men (Hartley, 92)
46. Notorious (Hitchcock, 46)
47. Broken Blossoms (Griffith, 19)
48. It Happened One Night (Capra, 34)
49. Long Day’s Journey into Night (Lumet, 62)
50. The Searchers (Ford, 56)
51. Written on the Wind (Sirk, 56)
52. Trouble in Paradise (Lubitsch, 32)
53. A Streetcar Named Desire (Kazan, 51)
54. Sunrise (Murnau, 28)
55. The Bride of Frankenstein (Whale, 35)
56. Adam’s Rib (Cukor, 49)
57. The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles, 42)
58. The General (Keaton, 27)
59. Meet Me in St. Louis (Minnelli, 44)
60. Network (Lumet, 76)
61. Some Like It Hot (Wilder, 59)
62. Sullivan’s Travels (Sturges, 41)
63. Red River (Hawks, 48)
64. Lolita (Kubrick, 62)
65. A History of Violence (Cronenberg, 05)
66. The Women (Cukor, 39)
67. Double Indemnity (Wilder, 44)
68. Sweet Smell of Success (Mackendrick, 57)
69. The Godfather (Coppola, 72)
70. Trust (Hartley, 91)
71. Kiss Me Deadly (Aldrich, 55)
72. Woman in the Window (Lang, 44)
73. Stranger than Paradise (Jarmusch, 84)
74. Only Angels Have Wings (Hawks, 39)
75. The King of Comedy (Scorsese, 83)
76. Zelig (Allen, 83)
77. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Huston, 48)
78. The Crimson Pirate (Siodmak, 52)
79. Something Wild (Demme, 86)
80. Anatomy of a Murder (Preminger, 60)
81. The Manchurian Candidate (Frankenheimer, 62)
82. Stagecoach (Ford, 39)
83. My Man Godfrey (LaCava, 36)
84. Johnny Guitar (Ray, 54)
85. A Face in the Crowd (Kazan, 57)
86. Drugstore Cowboy (Van Sant, 89)
87. A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick, 71)
88. The Gold Rush (Chaplin, 25)
89. The Naked Spur (Mann, 53)
90. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Nichols, 66)
91. Pennies from Heaven (Ross, 81)
92. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Spielberg, 77)
93. Bigger than Life (Ray, 56)
94. Diner (Levinson, 82)
95. Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 76)
96. The Evil Dead II (Raimi, 87)
97. Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 94)
98. Nightmare Alley (Goulding, 47)
99. Dead Man (Jarmusch, 97)
100. Repo Man (Cox, 84)

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15 Comments:

Blogger Mike said...

Solid list, with the usual canonical entries.

Plus, the first three really highl;ight the dark underbelly of America's supposedly white bread existemce in the mid-to-late 50's. That decade may be my favorite for movies, especially when you include international faves.

Anyhow, I have to ask: what is the freakin' fascination with Once Upon A Time In America. I admit I liked it the first time I saw it, when I was 18 or so. But the last couple times I thought it was suprisingly weak. A lot of smoke, but very little fire.

I'd love to hear your explanation.

4:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Typical movie snob list. Only one film made in the last 15 years.

10:01 AM  
Blogger George said...

Hey, I'm a snob, not just a movie snob.

And the list definitely skews earlier, as it's hard to tell how for the ages a work is until it ages. I might blog, but I do believe in some perspective.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Trekking Left said...

Hey, Evil Dead II made the list! Thanks for that.

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The AFI list reflects greatness; your list reflects a very narrow personal taste.

2:03 PM  
Blogger George said...

anon 2:03--

Personal yes (I admitted that in my intro). Narrow, no. Evil Dead II and Trouble in Paradise and Long Day's Journey into Night are about as different a threesome as you can get, and nary a one makes the AFI list.

As for greatness, can you say with a straight face that a list that includes Sound of Music and Titanic and has not one Lubitsch film can pretend it knows anything about film?

2:27 PM  
Blogger Marty said...

The AFI list reflects the consortium of status quo-ers, who, apparently don't know what "American" means, since there are seven British films, and who decided that everyone must be white to be great? Any list is flawed. (George, where's Harold and Maude? And at least one Spike Lee? But I quibble.) At least this list includes Jarmusch and Lynch and Van Sant, arguably three of the best American directors of their generation. And at least it leaves off the Ku-Klux-Klan-loving Birth of a Nation. But to say that the list is "narrow" is absurd.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Tessitura said...

I think it just proves that alot of really shitty movies come out these days...take a look where we are headed...we have crappy popular tv shows like american idol and shows in which people do battle...but with FOOD! they just don't make'em like they used to.

WV mqrpuvvn

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The truth is that taste in cinema is no different than taste in food or wine.

There may be some "vintages" or "cuisines" with a broad appeal, but in the end it is all about how a film personally interacts with the specific viewer.

No individual can fairly critique another person's list, but can only compile their own list instead.

My list would include films I enjoyed for the story line alone, as well as ones where the filmmakers sheer handicraft is amazing.

In the end our personal enjoyment is the only valid benchmark for our determination of greatness.

3:50 PM  
Blogger George said...

Good points, Anon 3:50.

Oh, Mike, a big reason I love OUATIA is that I first saw it at the Biograph in Chicago so truly felt in touch with America's gangster roots. But I also love the way it questions history, puzzles what it means to be American, captures an era. Plus the last chapter of my nonfiction thesis is on it.

If I can find an electronic version of it I'll ship it to you.

Marty, I sort of don't like Harold & Maude--it would make my all over-rated list, even though I forgot it when I did try to make one.

5:09 PM  
Blogger Marty said...

Fair enough. I'll have to make my own list, I guess, but it would be mostly counter-culture. I'd put Citizen Kane in my most overrated. I know that's cinetatographical blasphemy, since it's the most influential movie technically in history. It's shots are extraordinary, art, but who cares about the story? His avant garde work was better because he wasn't burdened by narrative. Since Gummo would probably be in my top ten, I should just shut up. Damn you Bertrand Augst and that avant garde film class. But one day, George, you'll see that Maude is just hot. Plus I used to like to hike down to the Cliff House ruins where they filmed part of it.

11:25 PM  
Blogger MCConfrontation said...

Any top 100 list without "The Big Lebowski" is basically worthless. Just my opinion.

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

I, too, if compiling a list (I mostly watch video, now, make no pretense anymore to "keeping up"), would have to include the inspired work that first irritated me when I watched it in the theater: The Big Lebowski.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never got The Sound of Music until I watched it with my 7 year-old daughter. I think for many girls under 10, that movie might rank first, easily. So paying attention to that demographic might explain AFI's ranking.

I miss Ninotchka, That Uncertain Feeling, but my list might start from Lubitsch and work out from their. Is The Third Man British or American? Just got back from a visit to Vienna, and watched that, sent chills.

7:33 AM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

you ought to try to post a list of the 100 Best American Comedies, since I do believe that in the devolution of American Film, that's where we're going. American drama and American Exceptionalism don't go well together. Even something like The Departed only makes sense as farce.

9:57 AM  

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