These days, the American film industry seems to be primarily dominated by Pixar, Marvel, and Judd Apatow (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but once, silver screen legends James Stewart, Ingrid Bergman, and Marlon Brando haunted the screen, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock.
As BBC found, film critics largely point to the period between the 1940s and mid-1970s as the most fruitful era of the big screen. An editor named Christian Blauvult at the British company spoke to 62 film editors from around the world and asked them to name their top 10o American films, and as it turned out, most were dated mid-20th century. Only a handful of films that made it to the list were created after 2000, including 2001’s Mulholland Drive (in 21st place), as well as 2008’s The Dark Knight and 2013’s 12 Years A Slave, which both landed towards the bottom of the Top 100 list.
As the BBC noted, all sorts of critics were polled, including newspaper editors, magazine writers, academics, and even a handful of bloggers. Each film on every Top 10 response was given points accordingly: the #1 pick was awarded 10 points, and the #10 pick received 1 point.
The criteria for “American” was tricky. The film could be directed by a non-native director and even made overseas, as long as it was commissioned by an American studio. “In fact,” as the BBC wrote, “32 films on the list were directed by film-makers born outside the US, reflecting America’s immigrant identity.”
Here are the top 25 films selected:
25. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
24. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
23. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
22. Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1924)
21. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
20. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
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)
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)
Here are all 100 results, via BBC.
Alyssa Pereira is a music writer, web producer, and pop culture blogger for CBS stations in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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