I'm just as dumb as the American Film Institute

June 19th, 2008

Yesterday the American Film Institute released a new series of lists, “AFI’s 10 Top 10.” It’s a pretty simple premise: Top 10 films across 10 genres: animation, romantic comedies, western, sports, mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, gangster, courtroom drama, epic.

It’s also the most bone-headed series of lists ever produced by the AFI. It’s virtually impossible to divide all the different kinds of stories produced both inside and outside Hollywood into 10 genres. Why “romantic comedy”? Why not “slacker comedy”? Or “T&A comedy”? And by what logic is “Back to the Future” on the science fiction list, “Caddyshack” on the sports list and “Field of Dreams” on the fantasy list?

Lists, while ultimately meaningless, are fun. Previous AFI lists have gotten it better, at least dividing up the categories along broader, sensible divisions. In “100 Laughs” any comedy is considered — from “Annie Hall” to “Animal House.” Interestingly enough, some that made the romantic comedy list don’t even clock in on the 100 laughs list (“Roman Holiday”). So according to the AFI, “Annie Hall” is a much better comedy than “City Lights,” but not as good of a romantic comedy.

Also, since when is animation a genre? In other words, these 10 Top 10 lists makes no sense whatsoever.

So in that spirit, here’s the Josh 10 Top 10, across 10 genres that matter to me. Unlike the AFI list I have no pretension — this is a stupid exercise, so here are my stupid lists.

10. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (1990)
9. “The Crow” (1994)
8. “X-Men” (2000)
7. “Unbreakable” (2000)
6. “Batman Begins” (2005)
5. “Iron Man” (2008)
4. “Spider-Man” (2002)
3. “The Incredibles” (2004)
2. “X2: X-Men United” (2003)
1. “Spider-Man 2” (2004)


10. “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (2003)
9. “Kill Bill Vol. 2” (2004)
8. “Ghostbusters” (1984)
7. “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)
6. “The Princess Bride” (1987)
5. “Star Wars” (1977)
4. “King Kong” (1933)
3. “Run Lola Run” (1998)
2. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)
1. “Back to the Future” (1985)

Stoner Comedy

10. “Mallrats” (1995)
9. “Outside Providence” (1999)
8. “Friday” (1995)
7. “Beerfest” (2006)
6. “Dazed and Confused” (1993)
5. “Knocked Up” (2007)
4. “Clerks” (1994)
3. “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982)
2. “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle” (2004)
1. “Animal House” (1978)*  


High School

10. “Porky’s” (1982)
9. “Back to the Future” (1985)
8. “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (2005)
7. “Rushmore” (1998)
6. “Carrie” (1976)
5. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986)
4. “The Breakfast Club” (1985)
3. “Donnie Darko” (2001)
2. “Superbad” (2007)
1. “Election” (1999)

Coming of Age

10. “Billy Madison” (1995)
9. “The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys” (2002)
8. “Star Wars” (1977)
7. “Son of Rambow” (2008)
6. “The Graduate” (1967)
5. “Diner” (1982)
4. “Ghost World” (2001)
3. “The Sandlot” (1993)
2. “Almost Famous” (2000)
1. “Stand By Me” (1986)


10. “Jurassic Park” (1993)
9. “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989)
8. “Saving Private Ryan” (1998)
7. “Catch Me if You Can” (2002)
6. “Munich” (2005)
5. “Jaws” (1975)
4. “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977)
3. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)
2. “Schindler’s List” (1993)
1. “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial” (1982)


Movies based on, about or somewhat relating to video games
(note: quality severely drops off after #6)

10. “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” (2001)
9. “Super Mario Bros.” (1993)
8. “Resident Evil” (2002)
7. “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” (2001)
6. “The Wizard” (1989)
5. “War Games” (1983)
4. “The Matrix” (1999)
3. “The 40-Year Old Virgin” (2005)
2. “Pirates of the Caribbean” (if you buy into the theory that these movies borrow liberally from the Monkey Island games) (2003, 2006, 2007)
1. “The King of Kong: A Fist Full of Quarters” (2007)

Romance That A Guy Can Stomach 

10. “One, Two, Three” (1961)
9. “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (2008)
8. “There’s Something About Mary” (1998)
7. “Chasing Amy” (1997)
6. “Back to the Future” (1985)
5. “Annie Hall” (1977)
4. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004)
3. “High Fidelity” (2000)
2. “The Princess Bride (1987)
1. “Grosse Pointe Blank” (1997)

 Based on a True Story

10. “The Miracle Worker” (1962)
9. “Shattered Glass” (2003)
8. “October Sky” (1999)
7. “Stand and Deliver” (1988)
6. “Ray” (2004)
5. “Catch Me If You Can” (2002)
4. “Goodfellas” (1990)
3. “Chariots of Fire” (1981)
2. “Adaptation” (2002)
1. “Ed Wood” (1994)


(Yup. Just like Blockbuster, I’m actually going to dump every movie made outside of America into one category, limited to only a few, namely the ones I’ve actually seen).

10. “Chicken Run” (England, 2000)
9. “Y tu mamá también” (Mexico, 2001)
8. “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” (England, 1979)
7. “Mars Turkey” (Israel, 2001)
6. “Geroppa!” (Japan, 2003)
5. “Meatballs” (Canada, 1979)
4. “Europa, Europa” (Germany, 1990)
3. “Chariots of Fire” (England, 1981)
2. “Good Bye Lenin!” (Germany, 2003)
1. “Run Lola Run” (Germany, 1998)

Staff writer Josh Eiserike can be reached at 703-878-8072.


* Yes, we can debate whether or not “Animal House” is a stoner comedy. Wikipedia says it’s not, but “PCU” is. For my money, “Animal House” is a much better “PCU,” so for our purposes, it is.

4 comments to “I'm just as dumb as the American Film Institute”

  1. I’m extremely surprised that Superbad beat out Ferris Bueller and The Breakfast Club.

    And I wonder if Mars Turkey is the best Israeli film out there–have you seen Lelechet al Mayim (“Walk on Water”, overrated) or Sof HaOlam, Smola (“Turn Left a the End of the World”, underrated)?

  2. Unlike sports, I can actually write intelligently about this one.

    First, the entire premise is that I’m making dumb lists. My original idea was to make 10 categories and have Back to the Future top each one (which turned out to be a lot harder, filling slots 2-10).

    But on that note, I enjoy Ferris Bueller better than the others (except Election), but Superbad is a better movie about high school. Let me break it down:

    The Breakfast Club is a movie about five different kids realizing they’re the same. That’s all well and good, but I never liked how a) Anthony Michael Hall had to smoke pot in order to be accepted and for everyone to open up to each other, even worse, b) how Judd Nelson and Molly Ringwald and Emilio Estevez and Ally Sheedy pair off in the end (only after Sheedy gets a makeover). Totally dishonest.

    Ferris Bueller is a movie about a trickster kid who helps his loser friend come to terms with his problems. It’s essentially a wish-fulfillment fantasy. Ferris has no real problems, the universe unfolds to his needs and the only reason Sloan is in the movie is so we wouldn’t think Ferris is gay for Cameron. She’s useless.

    Superbad is a movie about two friends who are going to different colleges. The whole McLovin story arc is more wish fulfillment, but the main story, between Jonah Hill and Michael Cera, works on all levels. The alcohol was the MacGuffin– they didn’t need it to get the girls to like them. Unlike the Breakfast Club, the end is left much more ambiguous for both of them– yeah, they pair off, but I don’t believe for a second that girl is hanging out with Jonah Hill for any more than pity. The ending with the escalator is as perfect an ending as you could want… unless it’s Matthew Broderick throwing a Pepsi at a limo in Washington, D.C.

    The point of the foreign films wasn’t really to rate them but list 10 that I liked, admitting my ignorance along the way. Still, Mars Turkey is my favorite Israeli movie (the opening sequence alone is as good as anything Tarantino writes). I’ve seen “Turn Left At The End Of The World,” but not “Walk on Water.” Thought it was okay, nothing spectacular.

  3. You claim that animation isn’t a genre (I completely agree), but the only 3 animated films that make it onto your list of 100 movies are “The Incredibles” (great!), “Chicken Run” (good), and “Final Fantasy” (haven’t seen it, don’t really want to).
    Come on, dude, at the very least throw some Miyazaki into the foreign film category! And personally I’d find some way to sneak Ratatouille in there… maybe Stoner Comedy?

    But yeah, I’m with you 100% on that Spielberg list… just finally saw Kingdom of the Crystal Skull last weekend (it took forever to get here)… not my favorite by long shot, but fun in parts. What did you think?

  4. Yeah, you’re totally right about Miyazaki (and, come to think of it, “Triplets of Bellview,” which I probably spelled wrong), but the point was to make fun of the fact that we, as Americans, don’t have a chance to see a lot of foreign flicks– unless we go out and look for them.

    I haven’t actually seen Final Fantasy– it’s damn near impossible to make a video game movie list. If you’re talking exclusively BASED on video games, I think the best one out there is Tomb Raider, which is a pretty shitty movie. So I just made it bigger and dumber.

    I would, upon further reflection, add “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” to the “Based on a true story” list.

    But I enjoyed Indiana Jones. Didn’t love it, but had a good time. Had its flaws, but certainly better than Temple of Doom. Mike Radosh’s wife (yup, dude got married) spent the better part of Saturday night trying to convince me that Raiders is the worst of the four. Ummm… no.