When the AFI released their original 100 Years...100 Movies in 1998, I watched the television special and was glued to the TV to find out the results. When the 10th anniversary edition appeared with 23 different movies, it flew by me with barely a notice. Since my current marathon is digging into movies from this list, it seemed like the right time to check out the updates. I didn't expect there to be any major shifts, so it was a surprise to notice such dramatic changes. For this Top 5, I've included some interesting changes for me that represent improvements. While I understand that any rankings that contain such a large group of entries are hardly concrete, it's great to see these movies getting the attention. I was stunned to see the poor spots (or lack of any placement) in the original version. I know were other moves in the 2007 release, but these are some of the big ones.
5. Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing Joins the List at #96
Although it's sitting near the bottom, it's refreshing to see Spike Lee's stunning 1989 film within this fine group. It remains one of the pivotal movies about modern race relations, and the issues it addresses are just as pressing today. Lee takes his time and creates the environment of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood before revealing the many cracks underneath the surface. He shows how the tensions that are always present reach new heights on the hottest day of the summer. Looking at its spot, it's remarkable to note the powerhouse films that reside in the 90s. That segment includes Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, and Blade Runner, and I expect all to move up when another list appears in the future.
4. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Moves up 15 Spots to #34
While rising 15 spots might not seem significant, I'm glad to see the continued appreciation for Walt Disney's landmark 1937 film. He nearly bankrupted the company to make the feature-length animated movie, and the success changed Disney and the industry forever. Viewed today, it's still an impressive production and doesn't feel like a 75-year-old creation. I believe that Snow White deserves to be even higher on this list, but I appreciate the forward movement. It's sad to note that the only other animated film in the entire 100 is Toy Story at #99. Given this trend, it's amazing that this key picture actually is moving forward. It feels a bit like a consolation price to an undervalued genre, but it's still a positive upgrade.
3. Buster Keaton Debuts with The General at #18
When I realized that one of the key figures in silent film was missing from the original list, I kept re-reading it to ensure that I hadn't missed him. How was The General missing? While I don't consider it his best movie, it's still a classic that deserves a place in this collection. On a related note, Charlie Chaplin had three pictures in the original group, but none were higher than The Gold Rush at #74. That's crazy! Thankfully, the 2007 version did correct this problem. Getting back to Keaton, the combination of physical comedy and remarkable stunts makes him one of the signature artists of film history, not just from the silent era. It's great to see him as part of the new list, especially at such a prime spot.
2. The Searchers Improves 84 Spots to #12
Another head-scratching moment was trying to find John Ford's remarkable western in the first AFI list. It ended up barely making it at #96, which was 63 spots below High Noon. I have nothing against Fred Zinnemann's effective film, but that disparity is pretty shocking. I don't believe that The Searchers is perfect, and the 12th spot might be a bit high. However, it deserves a much better placement than near the bottom. It's not like this is a new movie. It was released way back in 1956! It includes one of John Wayne's best performances as Ethan Edwards because he brings a raw intensity to his standard demeanor. This recognition for such an influential film corrects one of the stranger misses from the 1998 list.
1. Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull Enters the Top 10 at #4
When I review the top 10 films in the 2007 rankings, one movie stands apart from the rest of the group. It isn't even my favorite Scorsese picture, but Raging Bull is a striking piece of film making. The only other movie in this group that wasn't part of the top 10 in 1998 is Vertigo at #9. Although it's impossible to quantify what makes the "best" film, both of these examples represent a stunning artistic vision. Seeing this film appear right after Citizen Kane, The Godfather, and Casablanca is pretty amazing. I love all of those picks, but they're more conventional in the context of this type of ranking. I'm hoping that a future edition will include more examples that seem cut from a different mold than the expected choices.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about this list. Do you agree that these are positive upgrades? You should also check out past Top 5 Lists if you've missed them.