What's Missing from List of Top 100 Movies

By David Sterritt, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, June 26, 1998 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

What's Missing from List of Top 100 Movies


David Sterritt, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


The results are in. According to 1,500 movie luminaries chosen by the American Film Institute, the greatest American film is "Citizen Kane," the 50th greatest is "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," and the 100th greatest is "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

Could anyone quarrel with such an audience-friendly list, compiled by the AFI to celebrate the first century of American cinema? Only a motion-picture grinch would try to second-guess it.

The voting criteria seem reasonable - historical significance, critical recognition, popularity, awards. And the contest serves a helpful purpose by reminding us that plenty of funny, touching, scary, uplifting, and all-around entertaining pictures were produced before most of us were born, and might delight us again if we'd give them a chance. That said, there are aspects of the list that deserve a closer look. Voters ranged from film-industry insiders to politicians, selecting from 400 choices on an AFI ballot. Not surprisingly, the outcome has the democratic virtues of accessibility and appeal. But is it news? Surely we already knew that "Casablanca" and "The Godfather" and "Gone With the Wind" (Nos. 2 through 4, respectively) are perennial favorites! Shouldn't the AFI be trying to spotlight more than the sheer popularity of famous movies? And if so, shouldn't the diversity, audacity, and occasional profundity of American cinema get more acknowledgment than a "greatest hits" approach is likely to provide? Taking the answer to be yes, there are three important areas where the AFI list comes up short. The voters might protest that they simply picked their favorites without worrying about details like dates or directors. Still, the ways in which their list "just happens" to be narrowly focused reveal aspects of our movie consciousness that could use broadening. Silent movies. Yes, most spectators regard silent films as relics of a bygone time. Yet they make up one-third of cinema's first century, and their heyday was marked by a steady stream of invention and surprise. Only five of the AFI choices are silent, and two of these - "Modern Times" (No. 81) and "The Jazz Singer" (No.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

What's Missing from List of Top 100 Movies
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?