ByJon Negroni, writer at
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Jon Negroni

Opinions are fun, but they tend to alienate people and make them feel less good about the opinion they have. Which is why "Top X" lists tend to be so polarizing and addicting to read. We love getting a glimpse into how other people are wrong. Or right, depending on what's chosen.

This is why BBC Culture decided to cultivate their "Top American Movies" list in a different way. Normally, a team of editors will collaborate on such things, but BBC instead polled film critics from around the world to create the following list.

Do we all approve of this list?
Do we all approve of this list?

Think of it like the Oscars meets SurveyMonkey meets MailChimp. Minus that last one. Let's take a look at where BBC landed on the "The 100 Greatest American Films" along with some of my commentary and general takeaways.

Note: The original article states that an American film is defined as such if it is funded by a U.S. source. It does not mean the film had to be directed by an American. The film doesn't even have to be shot in the U.S. for it to fit this category.

A few things you'll notice on this list:

  • There is only one animated film that made the cut.
  • The most recent film on this list is from 2013.
  • Only one superhero film made the list.
  • The oldest film on this list is from 1915.
  • Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, Billy Wilder, and Alfred Hitchcock all tie as the director with the most films on this list. They all have five movies on here.
  • No Wes Anderson movies made this list, which is...just...I don't even know how that happened.

100. Ace in the Hole (Billy Wilder, 1951)

99. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)

The most recent film to make the cut, 12 Years a Slave is certainly a film you need to see before you die. Just make sure your favorable opinion of Michael Fassbender is solid before jumping into this one.

98. Heaven’s Gate (Michael Cimino, 1980)

97. Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)

Though Gone with the Wind is one of the most successful and iconic films of all time, it's quite low on this list.

96. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)

Widely regarded as the greatest superhero film of all time, The Dark Knight just barely makes this list to prove that.

95. Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)

This Marx Brothers classic is another iconic film that edges into the rankings.

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)

89. In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950)

88. West Side Story (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, 1961)

87. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)

Jim Carrey's arguably best "serious" movie happens to be American gold as well. "Spotless Mind" is his only film on here.

86. The Lion King (Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, 1994)

Lion King is the first film I remember seeing in theaters, and it's cultural impact can't be understated. Apparently, film critics agree because it is the only animated film on this list.

85. Night of the Living Dead (George A Romero, 1968)

The zombie film from before zombies were "cool" is here, proving that Romero nailed it on the first try.

84. Deliverance (John Boorman, 1972)

83. Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)

82. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)

This is the only Indiana Jones to make this list, but certainly not the only Spielberg blockbuster.

81. Thelma & Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991)

This is Ridley Scott's only film to make the list, strangely. Not even Alien managed to get on here. Another snubbed director, as you'll notice, is Michael Mann.

80. Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944)

79. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)

78. Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)

77. Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)

76. The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)

Unlike many comprehensive "Top" lists, this one doesn't lump franchise movies in with each other.

75. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977)

74. Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994)

This is the only Tom Hanks movie on this list, which is strange since it's not even his best one. Still, Forrest Gump is an achievement that goes beyond the sum of its parts.

73. Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976)

72. The Shanghai Gesture (Josef von Sternberg, 1941)

71. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)

This is Bill Murray's only film to make the cut, but if we only get one, I'm glad it's this.

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, 1965)

64. Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)

63. Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984)

62. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

The Stanley Kubrick classic based on a Stephen King classic still terrifies audiences to this day and serves as one of Jack Nicholson's best performances of all time, if not the best.

61. Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)

Thanks to Kubrick, Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise manage to make this list (just barely).

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)

In recent news, Michael J. Fox has refused to be part of any attempt to reboot the classic '80s franchise.

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)

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)

The oldest film on this list came out nearly 10 years before the second oldest would emerge.

38. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)

The world's first true blockbuster paved the way for pretty much every event movie you've ever seen.

37. Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959)

36. Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)

To some, it's not the best Star Wars movie. But it's certainly the most important.

35. Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)

Until very recently, I was completely unaware of this classic noir film, which essentially crafted the genre as we know it.

34. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)

33. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)

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)

Arguably Robert De Niro's most critical role, this film is a far cry from his most recent boxing movie, Grudge Match.

28. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)

Tarantino's sophomore effort is considered by many to be his best film yet, which is certainly saying something. This is also the only Tarantino film to make this list, at the expense of Reservoir Dogs if you ask me.

27. Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975)

26. Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett, 1978)

25. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)

24. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)

23. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)

The movie that introduced New York as a "character."

22. Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1924)

21. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)

20. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)

19. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

If you haven't seen Taxi Driver or Goodfellas yet, prepare to have your opinion of De Niro forever changed.

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)

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)

This marks The Godfather Part II as the greatest American sequel of all time, and I have a hard time disagreeing with that.

9. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)

The most quotable film of all time lands in the top 10.

8. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

Keep going. There's still one more Hitchock film on this list if you can believe it.

7. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)

Home to not one, but two of my favorite dance-song numbers of all time, Singin' in the Rain inspired a bustling genre of movies about making movies.

6. Sunrise (FW Murnau, 1927)

This marks Sunrise as the greatest American love story on film, and for good reason.

5. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)

Unsurprisingly, this John Wayne classic nabs the "greatest western" slot on this list.

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

Also unsurprising, Kubrick's science fiction movie is the definitive American sci-fi (and beyond if you ask me).

3. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)

More thriller than love story, Vertigo grabs the title for best Hitchcock film.

2. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)

To be clear, The Godfather not only created the mafia genre. It defined how the mafia would be perceived and operated for decades to come. This is a film that literally changed reality and inspired true events, rather than the other way around.

1. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

Yeah, alright. Though it's become a cliche to consider Citizen Kane the best movie of all time (American or otherwise), film critics continue to herald the film as the unchallenged paragon for movies.

To explore more of the process and reasoning behind how this list was formed, click here to view the original article on BBC Culture.

One quick question...Where the heck is The Departed? If there are any directors, actors, or movies you think should be added to this list, let me know in the comments below.


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