In 1998, the American Film Institute unveiled its first list of the 100 best American films under the name "100 Years… 100 Movies." In the discussion that followed, nearly everyone seemed to agree on two things:

1) It definitely contained 100 movies

2) The list kind of sucked

Sure, most of the movies were good but where was the guiding philosophy? The films seemed to have been picked because very few could object to the choices. It was like a list of best ice cream flavors that touched on chocolate, vanilla, and maybe mint but would never acknowledge anything so off-the-beaten-path as pistachio, much less New York Superfudge.

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In the decade that followed the AFI just couldn't stop making lists (and TV specials to go with those lists). On the heels of "100 Years… 100 Movies" came "100 Years… 100 Stars" (which focused on actors), "100 Years… 100 Laughs" (which focused on comedy), "100 Years… 100 Cheers" (which focused on… oh who the hell knows?), and so on. Clearly fluff, they did little to instill a sense that the AFI list had any legitimacy when it came to, you know, actually talking about great films.

Now, nine years later, comes "100 Years… 100 Movies–10th Anniversary Edition." Selected as before by 1500 of "AFI's experts," it's listed in full after a still from The Searchers. And for a detailed comparison with the original chart, you can't do better than this Wikipedia page.

The original was a lot of fun to mock. This is potentially even more fun. Note, as Roger Ebert did, that one of the '97 list's cooler choices, Fargo has disappeared entirely. I will say this, as I said the first time around: You could do a lot worse. A budding cinephile with a Netflix account would do well to watch every film on this list. Well, maybe not The Shawshank Redemption (Full disclosure, I haven't seen every film on here myself.)

But you have to go deeper. Here's the thing: Citizen Kane's a great movie, maybe even great enough to be the undisputed champ year after year whenever such lists are made. It should be watched and watched again. But it's not the be-all, end-all. Keep going forward Welles' filmography and you won't find a film as good, but you'll find films every bit as fascinating. (It's kind of a nutty vanity piece, but I wouldn't trade the Chartres monologue in F For Fake for anything.)

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And so on. I don't know if anyone other than AFI is thinking of this as the new canon, but it is—to damn it with faint praise—a fairly good representation of 100 American films generally held in high esteem. Just by virtue of being a list of films, a great populist medium, it's less loaded with white elephant art, to borrow Manny Farber's phrase, than comparable lists for other mediums. But it still leaves much of what makes film great left in the shadows.

A few notes before we get to the list:

- Does anyone really still think Gone With The Wind is a great film? I'm convinced that, as generations pass, its reputation will plummet. I'm surprised it hasn't already, unless the AFI's council of 1500 is weighted heavily toward octogenarians.

- It's good to see more silent films creeping on there. Maybe all the bitching about the last list led The General to rocket from nowhere to #24>

- Steven Spielberg is now the most-represented director. Bullshit or accurate? I'm a fan, but is he really responsible for 5% of the greatest American films?

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The List:

1. Citizen Kane (1941) 2. The Godfather (1972) 3. Casablanca (1942) 4. Raging Bull (1980) 5. Singin' in the Rain (1952) 6. Gone With the Wind (1939) 7. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) 8. Schindler's List (1993) 9. Vertigo (1958) 10. The Wizard of Oz (1939) 11. City Lights (1931) 12. The Searchers (1956) 13. Star Wars (1977) 14. Psycho (1960) 15. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) 16. Sunset Boulevard (1950) 17. The Graduate (1967) 18. The General (1927) 19. On the Waterfront (1954) 20. It's a Wonderful Life (1946) 21. Chinatown (1974) 22. Some Like It Hot (1959) 23. The Grapes of Wrath (1940) 24. E.T. — The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) 25. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) 26. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) 27. High Noon (1952) 28. All About Eve (1950) 29. Double Indemnity (1944) 30. Apocalypse Now (1979) 31. The Maltese Falcon (1941) 32. The Godfather, Part II (1974) 33. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) 34. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) 35. Annie Hall (1977) 36. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) 37. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) 38. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) 39. Dr. Strangelove (1964) 40. The Sound of Music (1965) 41. King Kong (1933) 42. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) 43. Midnight Cowboy (1969) 44. The Philadelphia Story (1940) 45. Shane (1953) 46. It Happened One Night (1934) 47. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) 48. Rear Window (1954) 49. Intolerance (1916) 50. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) 51. West Side Story (1961) 52. Taxi Driver (1976) 53. The Deer Hunter (1978) 54. MASH (1970) 55. North by Northwest (1959) 56. Jaws (1975) 57. Rocky (1976) 58. The Gold Rush (1925) 59. Nashville (1975) 60. Duck Soup (1933) 61. Sullivan's Travels (1941) 62. American Graffiti (1973) 63. Cabaret (1972) 64. Network (1976) 65. The African Queen (1951) 66. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) 67. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) 68. Unforgiven (1992) 69. Tootsie (1982) 70. A Clockwork Orange (1971) 71. Saving Private Ryan (1998) 72. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) 73. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) 74. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) 75. In the Heat of the Night (1967) 76. Forrest Gump (1994) 77. All the President's Men (1976) 78. Modern Times (1936) 79. The Wild Bunch (1969) 80. The Apartment (1960) 81. Spartacus (1960) 82. Sunrise (1927) 83. Titanic (1997) 84. Easy Rider (1969) 85. A Night at the Opera (1935) 86. Platoon (1986) 87. 12 Angry Men (1957) 88. Bringing Up Baby (1938) 89. The Sixth Sense (1999) 90. Swing Time (1936) 91. Sophie's Choice (1982) 92. Goodfellas (1990) 93. The French Connection (1971) 94. Pulp Fiction (1994) 95. The Last Picture Show (1971) 96. Do the Right Thing (1989) 97. Blade Runner (1982) 98. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) 99. Toy Story (1995) 100. Ben-Hur (1959)

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