The best American movies ever made

Annie Hall was my talisman for a good long while

DO_THE_RIGHT_THINGOne of those lists, this from BBC Culture, of the 100 greatest American films. How many have I seen? They are marked thusly: *

100. Ace in the Hole (Billy Wilder, 1951)
99. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013) – the newest film on the list; felt that I “ought” to see it, but I just did not want to
98. Heaven’s Gate (Michael Cimino, 1980)
97. Gone With the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939) – I’ve seen parts of this on TV, but never from beginning to the end
96. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008) – the Daughter was four; wasn’t seeing much of anything
95. Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)
94. 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)
93. Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973)
92. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
91. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982)

90. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979) – I’ve seen large portions of this
89. In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950)
88. West Side Story (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, 1961) – some of my favorite music
87. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
86. The Lion King (Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, 1994)
85. Night of the Living Dead (George A Romero, 1968)
84. Deliverance (John Boorman, 1972)
83. Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)
82. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)
*81. Thelma & Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991)

80. Meet Me in St Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944) – seen much of this
79. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011) – I’m a bit surprised, as some folks HATED this movie
78. Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
77. Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)
76. The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)
75. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977) – I’ve seen two different iterations of this
74. Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994) – not that fond of this
73. Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976)
72. The Shanghai Gesture (Josef von Sternberg, 1941)
71. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993) – one of the first VCR tapes I ever purchased, so I could watch it over and over…

70. The Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli, 1953)
69. Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982)
68. Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)
67. Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)
66. Red River (Howard Hawks, 1948)
65. The Right Stuff (Philip Kaufman, 1983)
64. Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)
63. Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984)
*62. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) – this was ruined by Jack looking crazy already in the first scene
61. Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)

60. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
59. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Miloš Forman, 1975)
58. The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)
57. Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen, 1989)
56. Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)
55. The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967)
*54. Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)
53. Grey Gardens (Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, 1975)
52. The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
51. Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)

50. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
49. Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
48. A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 1951)
47. Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964)
*46. It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
45. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)
44. Sherlock Jr (Buster Keaton, 1924)
43. Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophüls, 1948)
42. Dr Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, 1964) – I NEED TO SEE THIS FILM
41. Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)

40. Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid, 1943)
39. The Birth of a Nation (DW Griffith, 1915) – again, I’ve seen much of it
38. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
37. Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959)
36. Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)
35. Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)
34. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)
*33. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974) – saw fairly recently
32. The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941)
31. A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974)

30. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
29. Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980) – saw relatively recently
28. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
27. Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975)
26. Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett, 1978)
25. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989) – the best picture of that year
24. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
23. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977) – my talisman for a good long while
22. Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1924)
21. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)

20. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990) – seen large segments
19. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
18. City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
17. The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925)
16. McCabe & Mrs Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)
15. The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)
14. Nashville (Robert Altman, 1975) – tried to watch on video a few years ago, but couldn’t get into it
13. North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
*12. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
11. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942)

10. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
9. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
8. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
7. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)
6. Sunrise (FW Murnau, 1927)
5. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
3. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
2. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
1. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941) – I took this out from the library several years ago, and fell asleep

Only 36 of 100. Not great. Need to see more Hitchcock, Altman and Chaplin.
Exploring Bollywood stereotypes and impact.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

5 thoughts on “The best American movies ever made”

  1. Well you beat me – I managed just 28, although it is possible that I have seen others and have forgotten them. Personally, I love the Hitchcock and Orson Welles films. I wondered why The Third Man wasn’t in there until I remembered that it was British!

  2. Hmmmm, I only managed 20 on the list, and could name quite a few I’ve seen that should have been listed. I’ve never understood the appeal of Citizen Kane. I found it dreadfully boring.

  3. Well, I guess that’s the English opinion on American films. I’ve seen 34 all the way through… wait, make that 35, I did see Vertigo. But yeah, some I’ve never even heard of, and some… Citizen Kane is to movies as Pink Floyd is to rock music, somewhat interesting but ridiculously overrated.

    As for Birth of a Nation, I can’t really criticize it because the only time I tried to watch the whole thing was in a storefront theater in San Francisco, but a bunch of Commies broke in during the opening scenes and smashed the projector and destroyed the film, all the while chanting “Death to the Klan.” Controversial, yes, but is it anything more than propaganda for an obnoxious cause?

    I’m not sure Network, Thelma and Louise or Stagecoach belong on the list. and I wonder how 1970s movies like Taxi Driver and McCabe and Mrs. Miller would hold up today, haven’t seen them in a long time. But what about The Maltese Falcon or The Day The Earth Stood Still? If I was forced to choose number one it would have to be Casablanca, which is as perfectly formed as a story can get.

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