Wednesday, June 18, 2008

AFI Top Ten

So, AFI divided up the world of movies into ten categories, and picked the ten best movies in each category.

Yeah, who cares, right? This sorta thing is fun if to dismantle. The problem is that the categories are far too broad. Leading Lord of the Rings to be lumped in with Miracle on 34th Street. 'cause, you know, they're both fantasy.

No horror genre, with three appearances by horrors in the sci-fi category, no thriller or suspense category, no musicals, romantic comedy only (no screwball, farce, etc.), no superhero category (though that'd be a gimme for movies made in the past 10 years, which no critic wants to be seen lauding), no action, etc. etc. etc.

Well, it's all in fun, right? It would be interesting to see someone put some real work into studying genres and coming up with some insights. Things you might not know about famous movies:
  • Hitch regarded Psycho as a comedy.
  • Independence Day, while looking like a sci-fi action thriller, really follows the a lot of the tropes of the '70s disaster movie, and deliberately so. (This is also true of Mars Attacks!)
  • Joe Bob Briggs argues convincingly that Die Hard borrows heavily from the horror genre.
  • Sci-fi can be a very non-descriptive label: Alien is structurally really a slasher flick, Outland is very transparently High Noon, Blade Runner is really a noir detective story, Star Wars is a samuari picture (The Hidden Fortress, specifically), etc.
Just off the top of my head.

Classification can actually be pretty enlightening by making you think about genre conventions and how clever filmmakers can work against your expectations by showing you the trappings for one thing and having a different mechanic going on underneath.


  1. These lists are all very subjective. Very few people have seen all of the movies of a paticular genre. But it is a lot like baseball in that the fans often know more about it than the players. A real sci-fi fan proably sees more films over and over than any movie critic who only remembers the big hit movies. And of course there is the matter of personal taste. I would love to hear your lists of top ten because you really know your movies.

  2. The best part about peoples personal top ten lists is when they put an obscure film on it that you have never heard of and you can seek it out and watch it. Then you can get really cool movies that can become your personal favorites from a real person instead of some Rex Reed clone.

  3. Right on that one: More interesting lists are things like "the best ten movies you've never seen".

    Althouse had only seen all the sci-fi, curiously enough. I've seen all the animation, romantic comedies, only four of the westerns, seven of the sports movies, all the mysteries, all the fantasies, all the sci-fi except 2001 (I'll sit through it some day, I swear), seven of the gangster flicks--the old ones, seven of the courtroom dramas and just four of the epics.

    But it doesn't reflect that much about what I watch; it feels more like a coincidence.

    I was thinking of doing a more interesting "10 best" of narrow genres. "10 best post-apocalyptic movies", "10 best mixed live and animated", "10 best erotic musicals"...y'know, something narrow, and more apples-to-apples.

  4. I am currently working on several other obscure top ten lists. Top ten gambling movies. Top ten breast movies. Top ten movies with actresses I hate but will watch because the movie is cool. Top Ten good movies I won't watch because of the commie actors in it. You know stuff like that.


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