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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
The Fifty Greatest American Films 
Thursday, September 13th, 2007 | 01:25 pm [commentary, film]
Steve
One of the unfortunate after-effects of Imus getting shit-canned earlier this year is that his local affiliate, 1490 WARK, after simulcasting his old flagship station WFAN for a few months, finally replaced him with Morning in America, hosted by the clueless and smug Bill Bennett. Masochist that I am, I listen to Bennett’s show during my drive to early classes. This morning he asked for help from listeners in compiling a list for a book he is preparing. He wanted suggestions for the fifty greatest American movies. The first title he suggested right outta the box was Yankee Doodle Dandy. He also explicitly rejected The Godfather. That should give you an idea of the merit of the final list, whatever it turns out to be.

So I got to thinking, what are the 50 greatest American films? I know the AFI has produced lists of the 100 greatest films and ranked them by quality as determined by a poll of filmmakers and actors and critics, but I also know that the AFI list, like most other ranked lists of films (or songs or books or anything else) is full of shit.

Below is my list, just off the top of my head, of the 50 greatest American films. They don’t have to reflect the wonderful superiority of American life, culture, or history; they don’t have to be patriotic or have overtly American themes; shit, they don’t even have to take place in America. They just have to have been made by an American director, or for an American studio, or with an American audience in mind. So there. In chronological order, they are:

Greed (1924)
Sherlock Jr. (1925)
The General (1927)
Sunrise (1927)
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
City Lights (1931)
The Public Enemy (1931)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)
Of Mice and Men (1939)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Casablanca (1942)
My Darling Clementine (1946)
Notorious (1946)
Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
Out of the Past (1947)
The Third Man (1949)
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Roman Holiday (1953)
On the Waterfront (1954)
Rear Window (1954)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
The Searchers (1956)
Paths of Glory (1957)
Vertigo (1958)
The Hustler (1961)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Fail-Safe (1964)
The Graduate (1967)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
The French Connection (1971)
Harold and Maude (1971)
The Godfather (1972)
Chinatown (1974)
The Godfather, Part II (1974)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Taxi Driver (1976)
Martin (1977)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Raging Bull (1980)
The Right Stuff (1983)
Platoon (1986)
Unforgiven (1992)
Schindler’s List (1993)
Crumb (1994)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist (1997)

Comments, objections, etc.? Which ones did I leave out? Which absolutely have no fucking business on a greatest films list? How would your top 50 be different? It’s just my opinion, but I think it’s a pretty goddamn good list.
Comments 
Friday, September 14th, 2007 | 10:29 pm (UTC) - i have a few additions
Anonymous
that certainly is a pretty goddam good list, and it is almost impossible to cram all the good stuff into a list of 50. maybe it should be 50 greatest 1920-1955, 50 greatest 1956-1980, and 50 greatest 1981-present. there are three quirky films that i would include just because they are so unusual and so good. consider: Brazil (1985); Young Frankenstein (1974); (1989).
- Kevin, the arts council guy
Sunday, September 16th, 2007 | 12:47 am (UTC) - Re: i have a few additions
Kevin, my man. You're right that a top 50 list is a pain. I actually got up to like 65 before I counted up, and had to cut 15 out. If I did a top 100 list, or did as you suggested and went top 50 by several decades each, I'd have to put Brazil and Young Frankenstein in there. Speaking of Mel Brooks, The Producers (the original, not the musical remake) was in my original 65, but I cut it out to bring it down to 50.
Sunday, September 16th, 2007 | 01:48 am (UTC) - i left something out
Anonymous
dang, the one i somehow didn't get typed in (or a ghost deleted it) was "Rosalie Goes Shopping" from 1989. superior fluff. if you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and see it soon. set aside 90 minutes just to be amused by the universe you're in.
- Kevin, again. the arts council guy.
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