A lot of people think that the American Film Institute should shut up already with the lists, and they have a point: an ordered list of the "100 greatest" anything is bound to be so subjective as not to be worth much, especially when it's not clear why the people compiling the list should be seen as authorities. (The AFI's lists are compiled by "juries" of several hundred filmmakers, critics and historians.) But the lists (and accompanying TV specials) keep coming. The latest is the ungrammatical "AFI's 10 Top 10," a list of the 100 greatest American genre films organized by genre: animation, romantic comedy, western, sports (not really a genre, especially if you include Raging Bull
in it, but whatever), mystery, fantasy, science-fiction, gangster, courtroom drama, and epic. The complete selections can be found here
The lists are sometimes obvious (Alfred Hitchcock makes a 4 for 10 showing in "mystery," and if you can't guess their top three picks for "gangster" in order, you probably shouldn't be reading this blog), sometimes admirable (kudos for Terminator 2: Judgment Day
in "sci-fi"), sometimes irritating (The Wizard of Oz
as the greatest fantasy film of all time is rubbish), but the more relevant question is: what are they worth? The original "top 100" was a good conversation piece and a useful checklist. What are the rest of them supposed to be good for?
Also: they include "sports" as genre, but not horror. Screw you, AFI.