erik lundegaard

My Top 10 American Movies, as of July 28, 2015

My Top 10 American movies: Thin Red Line, Breaking Away, The Insider

The dark side of the American dream: war, profits, and the death of the working class. None of these movies wound up on the BBC list.

I'll have a few more posts about that BBC list of the top 100 American movies as chosen by 62 international critics, but, as a reminder, each of the 62 chose their own top 10, with No. 1 being worth 10 points, 2 worth nine points, and so on. Since I'm a bit critical of the list, I thought I'd come up with my own Top 10. Haven't done it in a while. And never from a wholly American perspective. 

It's not easy. This is what the BBC says about its process:

What defines an American film? For the purposes of this poll, it is any movie that received funding from a US source. The directors of these films did not have to be born in the United States – in fact, 32 films on the list were directed by film-makers born elsewhere – nor did the films even have to be shot in the US. ... Critics were encouraged to submit lists of the 10 films they feel, on an emotional level, are the greatest in American cinema – not necessarily the most important, just the best. These are the results.

I went after movies that say something deep and real about life. And if they say something deep and real about American life, all the better. “The Godfather,” after all, is about the dark side of the American dream (first line: I believe in America) and so is “All the President's Men.” I guess most of these films are, now that I think about it. Even “Breaking Away.” It's lighthearted in tone but it's about the death of the blue-collar working class. It's about owning your epithet (nothing is more American than that), and, in a very funny way, it's about the American talent for reimagining yourself—in this case as a non-American; as an Italian. 

I also tried to pick movies that I've watched at least five times and would like to watch again. Like right now.

Enough gab:

My Rank Movie Director BBC Rank
1 The Thin Red Line (1998) Terrence Malick n/a
2 The Godfather (1972) Francis Ford Coppola 2
3 The Insider (1999) Michael Mann n/a
4 Casablanca (1943) Michael Curtiz 9
5 Annie Hall (1977) Woody Allen 23
6 Breaking Away (1979) Peter Yates n/a
7 All the President's Men (1976) Alan J. Pakula n/a
8 Amadeus (1984) Milos Forman n/a
9 Singin' in the Rain (1952) Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly 7
10 Monkey Business (1931) Norman McLeod n/a

Immediate thoughts:

  • It's a very '70s-centric list but it could have been more so: “Chinatown,” “Cuckoo's Nest,” “Love and Death,” “Jaws,” “The Godfather Part II.” The '70s were a good decade for American film and I was coming of age during it. 
  • Six of my 10 aren't on the BBC's top 100.
  • When will “The Thin Red Line” get its due? When will “The Insider”? (I have no hope that “Breaking Away” will ever get its due.)

Feel free to post your Top 10 (or 5, or 3) below. 

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Posted at 06:40 AM on Tue. Jul 28, 2015 in category Movies - Lists  

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