American Film Institue Releases their Top 100 Films of All Time

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Last week, the American Film Institute released their latest top 100 American films of all time. While it is arguable that the list is a marketing ploy since it is accompanied by promotions from AOL, Best Buy and Moviefone, it at least brings attention to some great films that younger generations have yet to see.

All my favorite critics weighed in with their takes on the list with Jim Emerson celebrating the arrival of Nashville on the list, Keith Phillips over at the A.V. Club pointing out that the list “kinda sucked,” and Roger Ebert stating “lists like these cry out to be disagreed with.” So, in the spirit of dissent, let me jump into the fray of film geeks with opinions.

What bothers me most about this list is that the ballot of 400 movies from which to select is predetermined, and although I have combed AFI’s website, I still can’t figure out who gets to decide which movies make it onto the ballot. But, despite making it onto the ballot, even great movies like Fargo and The Third Man were bumped as lesser movies (as far as this film geek is concerned) such as The Sixth Sense arrived on the list.

Notably absent from the list were any movies by David Lynch, The Coen Brothers, Jim Jarmusch, or Terrence Malick, all directors who have made films essential to gaining a complete picture of American cinema. But the list isn’t all bad. This year, the list includes more silent films, which were mostly ignored in the first list AFI put out in 1998. All critique aside, the AFI’s top 100 serves a purpose — it makes me want to go home and watch a movie, but if you are looking for a must-see list to get your cinefile on, I recommend this one. It is far more wide-ranging and (gasp) even has foreign films in the mix which the AFI list lacks as it limits itself to American films. Unlike every other comparable national film institution, the American Film Institute restricts its focus to films of its own nationality.

Go here to check out both the 1998 and 2007 lists and let your inner film geek out and tell us what you think about them!

—Martha Pettit

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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