62 Movies That Deserved a Better Shake

I promise that I am going to watch Fred Astaire dancing his heart out soon and provide my feedback, but I thought that for just a moment, I’d pause and talk briefly about 62 movies that are NOT on the AFI top 100 list. Some came out after 2007 and thus could not have been included on the list as published, but surely deserve consideration for any updated list. Some came out before 2007 and I think are clearly superior to at least a few of the films that I have already seen at the bottom end of the list. Presented in no particular order, here they are:

Doubt (2008) – the story of a 1960s Catholic priest who may or may not have sexually assaulted a young boy who may or may not have wanted him too. Virtuoso performances by the late Phillip Seymour-Hoffman, Viola Davis and Meryl Streep. An outstanding film.

Animal House (1978) – call it low brow if you want, but this story of a flailing fraternity is pure comedic genius, including John Belushi’s best performance.

Fantasia (1940) – a pure work of art that got me interested in classic music as a young kid, this animated masterpiece is timeless.

Amadeus (1984) – the story of Mozart’s all-too-short life is as captivating now as it was 35 years ago when it came out.

Groundhog Day (1993) – the brilliant Bill Murray’s finest film and the pinnacle of high-brow, subtle comedy.

Caddyshack (1980) – Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield kill in the laugh fest.

Black Panther (2018) – the best super hero movie ever made – visually stunning, brilliant action and has actual social commentary.

Moneyball (2011) – One of the most fascinating true stories of the past 20 years and one that changed sports forever. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are outstanding.

The Usual Suspects (1995) – I know we are all supposed to hate Kevin Spacey now, but it’s hard to argue with his performance in this brilliant mystery/drama about the mythical Kaiser Soze.

Clerks (1994) – Kevin Smith’s first and best film. Yes, some of the acting is bad and yes, some of the plot makes no sense, but the jokes are edgy and Smith spawned a revolution around what can be done with a handheld camera and $20,000.

The Social Network (2010) – a brilliant and thought provoking look at the founding of Facebook with the brilliant dialogue-writing of Aaron Sorkin.

Us (2019) – Jordan Peele’s second film is disturbing and thought-provoking and Lupita N’yongo gives the performance of a lifetime. Peele has grown into what we hoped M. Night Shamalan would be.

A Few Good Men (1992) – a brilliant courtroom drama that gave us “you can’t handle the truth!” Jack Nicholson’s best showing since Chinatown.

School Daze (1988) – in my opinion, Spike Lee’s best film, although Do the Right Thing, which did make the AFI list is close. This one is more complex and more thought provoking to me.

The Truman Show (1998) – a film that has aged extremely well in the age of social media shows Jim Carrey delivering a dramatic performance few knew he was capable of.

Her (2013) – a thought provoking and beautifully shot film about a sentient AI and the complexities of love and relationships. You realize how great an actress Scarlett Johansen is when you can’t see her and she still kills.

Quiz Show (1994) – the true story of the rigging of the game show 21 gives us brilliant insight into human weakness and the naivetĂ© of the 1950s.

Fargo (1996) – this charming North Dakota whodunnit from the Cohen Brothers should never have been dropped from the top 100 list.

Good Will Hunting (1997) – this story of an abused, depressed and brilliant teenager showed the acting brilliance of Robin Williams and Matt Damon and the screenwriting brilliance of Damon and Affleck.

Rain Man (1988) – the story of an autistic man and his arrogant brother is both highly quotable “10 minutes to Wapner”, touching and enlightening.

The Crying Game (1992) – although the movie suffers from some pacing problems, Forrest Whitaker and Miranda Richardson deliver epic performances and the great surprise completely upended my world the first time I saw it.

The Hangover (2009) – similar to Animal House, it doesn’t speak to a higher purpose, but never fails to make me laugh when I see it.

Mary Poppins (1964) – it’s not a deep film, but it is delightful fun and brilliantly acted and sung. If I’m going to include Fred Astaire dancing on my list, I don’t see why this wouldn’t make the cut.

Airplane! (1980) – arguably the most complete comedy ever made. Uproariously funny and unafraid of taboo, this movie stands the test of time.

The Exorcist (1973) – this movie absolutely terrified me the first time I saw it. The Catholic Church gave this horror film positive reviews, attesting to its theological accuracy. I realize by today’s CGI standards it may not scare the same, but, for me, it still holds up.

Norma Rae (1979) – Sally Fields’ best acting performance about small town unionization and feminism is an important period piece and worth a watch feminists and everyone else 40 years later.

Scent of a Woman (1992) – Al Pacino’s most touching role is a little bit cliched but brilliant nonetheless.

The Full Monty (1997) – as funny, touching and smart a film as you will find. Made on a shoestring budget, the tale of some unemployed and flabby Brits who dream of launch on all nude male revue is as good an independent film as has been made.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012) – Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are electric and brilliant in this uplifting dramadey about mental illness, family and Philadelphia.

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) – Kal Penn’s comedic timing is brilliant and in spite of perpetual absurdity, this celebration of New Jersey, marijuana and friendship is as touching as it is funny.

The Matrix (1999) – a movie way ahead of its time, The Matrix is full of action and sobering commentary about technology that Hawking would have loved, in spite of some scientific absurdities.

Fight Club (1999) – a truly original movie that deals with split personalities, Occupy Wall Street-esque themes and masculinity with a dark brilliance.

Full Metal Jacket (1987) – it is just downright disqualifying to the AFI list that this absolutely brilliant movie about the Vietnam war and the Marines didn’t make the cut.

Reservoir Dogs (1991) – Quentin Tarantino’s first major film includes the same type of brilliant dialogue as Pulp Fiction in much more scaled down set – it has the feel of a single-scene play from hell but every minute is captivating.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) – everything about this film is funny and smart. As funny now as it was 44 years ago.

Ghostbusters (1984) – okay, I’m a sucker for Bill Murray. But who didn’t love this film that spawned, sequels, an animated series and a 2010’s reboot?

Ferris Buller’s Day Off (1986) – the slacker’s manifesto for Generation X still holds up as a vibrant celebration of cutting class, outsmarting the grown ups and young love.

Wall-E (2008) – it’s rare an animated film can cover pollution, technological dependence, obesity, love and courage so completely. In fact, Wall-E is the only film I know that has that much to say and is still undeniably entertaining for all ages.

The Sound of Music (1965) – a movie that is at once feel-good and deeply socially conscious, dealing with religion, love and escaping the Nazis.

Barbershop (2002) – a brilliant combination of the story of a neighborhood business and much deeper social commentary. Unafraid, this film deals with everything from reparations to the definition of blackness to education. It is stunning how relevant it is today.

Friday (1995) – before Chris Tucker became a born again christian, he was one of the funniest guys alive and he does not disappoint in this story of one day on a block in Compton.

The Da Vinci Code (2006) – anything formally condemned by the Catholic Church is probably worth watching, as this film was. Tom Hanks is brilliant in this thriller about a murder in Paris.

Back to the Future (1985) – this movie is pure 80’s despite being set mostly int he 1950s. A prime Michael J Fox portrays Marty McFly, a slightly daft, slightly arrogant teen that we can all relate to as he attempts to “fix” his parents lives and prevent his mentor’s death.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) – Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill are absolutely brilliant in the true story of the excess and greed of penny stock flippers.

V for Vendetta (2005) – a compelling Orwellian tale of government control and rebellion, this film is both wholly original and strikingly raw.

Trainspotting (1996) – this deeply disturbing look at heroin addiction left me with a pit in my stomach but is somehow at times charming, funny and sad.

Finding Nemo (2003) – this touching story of love, loss and courage, told through the lens of fish is simply a masterpiece.

The Big Lebowski (1998) – this film spike the sale of White Russians and spawned a generation of slacker comedies. It is worth another watch 21 years later.

The Princess Bride (1987) – a wonderful story of true love, combat and human perseverance, you’d be lying if you said you didn’t watch it whenever it came on TV.

Cool Hand Luke (1967) – the story of a man on the chain gang is full of hilarity, iconic imagery and bitterness. It is brilliant.

Deadpool (2016) – Ryan Reynolds is simply brilliant in this hilarious and absurd comedy that pokes fun at the superhero genre while somehow also staying true to it.

The Bourne Identity (2002) – serious action, serious mystery and a great performance delivered by Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, this film spawned a generation of sequels, but the original is by far the finest in the series.

This Is Spinal Tap (1984) – this parody of a documentary of a rock band is both hilarious and iconic. Who hasn’t wanted to turn it up to 11?

The Hustler (1961) – Paul Newman is fantastic as billiards great Fast Eddie Felson, a role he would later reprise in 1986’s The Color of Money, which was more financially successful but not nearly as good of a film.

Apollo 13 (1995) – the geek in me loved the science, the history student in me loved the too-absurd-to-be-true-but-it-is plot and the film buff in me appreciated the virtuoso performance by Tom Hanks.

Shrek (2001) – Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy are charming and brilliant in this touching and deep story of an ogre grappling with his identity.

Boogie Nights (1997) – this is the movie in which we discovered that Mark Wahlberg could act, that Heather Graham was insanely hot and that 1970s porn was full of drugs and problems (okay, we knew two of those three things already, but still). Brilliantly written, acted and shot, this movie is just fantastic – you’re a star, you’re a star, you’re a star.

The Blues Brothers (1980) – this ode to blues, rock and oddly-fitted suits makes me smile and laugh ever time I see it.

Night of the Living Dead (1968) – it is hard to understand in 2019, but this movie absolutely terrified people when it came out and it is still a fascinating period piece.

Why didn’t these movies make the AFI cut? I have a few theories

  1. Bias against comedies and animated films – precious few of either of these genres make the list. Even the comedies that do make the list, such as Annie Hall are of the dramatic comedy variety.
  2. Bias towards older films – I understand that movies have to be appreciated relative to the period that they were made, but including The French Connection but leaving off The Usual Suspects is ridiculous. Including Ben Hur but excluding The Matrix is non-sensical.
  3. The AFI “experts” play it safe – they go with the tried and true. The films that have always appeared on lists. But there have been a lot of great movies made in the past 30 years that deserve more consideration.
  4. My own bias towards faster pacing and character development – maybe these are by-products of growing up with 80s and 90s cinema, but I struggle to get behind movies where I can’t relate to the characters or where the scenes meander for long periods with no discernible purpose. Maybe it’s just me.

At any rate, by and large the films look like they get better as I get higher up the list (Titanic not withstanding, can’t wait to write my review of that snooze-fest). I promise I’m getting behind some 1930s dancing in my next post!

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