Making sense of the AFI's 'Top 10 Films in 10 Genres' list |

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Making sense of the AFI's 'Top 10 Films in 10 Genres' list


Boriskarloff_lAnyone watch the American Film Institute’s annual CBS special last night, in which the AFI revealed its lists of the “10 Greatest Films in 10 Classic Genres”? The full list is at, though if you don’t want to register, you can also see the list here, complete with a breakdown of the most represented directors and stars and such. As always, the AFI list prompts both quibbles and assent. First the quibbles, including one major beef: No horror? Horror’s not a classic genre? (That sound you hear is Boris Karloff, pictured, spinning in someone else’s grave.) Neither is the musical? Or film noir? What gives? And among the genres themselves, the romantic comedy list is especially disappointing. (Sleepless in Seattle is one of the 10 best romantic comedies ever? Better than Ninotchka, Trouble in Paradise, The Lady Eve, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, Some Like It Hot, or His Girl Friday? Shoot me now.) City Lights is indeed a great film, but the essence of romantic comedy is sparkling dialogue, which is nonexistent in Chaplin’s silent. And in Westerns, they found room for the unwatchable Cat Ballou but not for The Magnificent Seven, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Tombstone, Destry Rides Again? (Or Sergio Leone’s spaghetti classics, but then, they were ineligible – this is the American Film Institute, the rest of the world be damned.)

On the plus side, a lot of truly great movies are on the list; any list that encourages viewers to rediscover The Thief of Baghdad, the 1932 Scarface, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Annie Hall, Harold and Maude, The Verdict, Witness for the Prosecution, Anatomy of a Murder, In Cold Blood, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Reds is doing a great service. Still, as much as I love old classics, there’s something a little depressing about how old this list skews. The most recent No. 1 movie in any of the AFI’s chosen genres is 1980’s Raging Bull, which means it’s been nearly three decades, according to the AFI, since anyone has so completely redefined a genre. What recent movies are great enough to dominate their genres the way the ones on this list do? And which filmmakers working today (save for Spielberg and Scorsese) are ambitious enough and talented enough to knock any of these movies from their perches? Who will dare to try, and who might actually succeed?

Your turn: I’m sure you have plenty of favorites that made the list, and plenty more that didn’t (What, the sci-fi list doesn’t feature a single Star Trek movie?) Share your picks below.

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