Since my February update, I have gone from having seen 40 to 51 of the films on the AFI 100 list. (If you’re not familiar, it’s fun.. take the quiz! When I started, I’d only seen 23 of the films on the list. My two favs from this update were The Apartment and Double Indemnity, both by Billy Wilder. I’ve gone on separate tangents from the original list, watching so many films by both Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock – I have found that I am a huge fan of pretty much everything either director has made. (You can see everything else I’ve been watching via my running movie highlight on my instagram page!)
I have to be honest, some of these are a slog. I’m getting to the point where I have to watch movies I don’t really want to see. So I try to spread those out… a few every month. For example, I don’t typically love mobster flicks or Westerns so The Searchers and On the Waterfront weren’t my favorite. (I did however, really enjoy Goodfellas, and I thought that the second Godfather was much more enjoyable than the first.)
I think what I love must about this little challenge is that it’s really opened my eyes to how amazing classic films are. It also really shows you that nothing is truly original… everything these days is inspired by something old. You can see previous AFI updates here: February and September!
AFI 100 Update: May
All the President’s Men
I watched this with a friend who is a history buff, and if you are not a history buff / don’t fully remember the Watergate Scandal, I would recommend that you do the same! Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford (they are such babies!) play Car Bernstein and Bob Woodward (the two journalists who broke the Watergate scandal and brought down the Nixon presidency). This was dense but so interesting and I felt a little smarter after watching it. I was particularly struck by how different journalism was in the seventies vs. now. The amount of going door to door, using the phone book… the sheer volume of paper! This was streaming on HBO when I watched it.
This one (directed by Billy Wilder, who I am realizing I absolutely adore as I make my way through this list) was very funny. I want to point that out as a lot of the films on the list are really dark… this is a lighter one. Jack Lemmon plays a young, ambitious employee. So ambitious that he lets the higher-ups at his company use his apartment to entertain their extramarital affairs. Things get complicated when he realizes the sweet elevator attendant he has a crush on (played by a young Shirley Maclaine) is the mistress of the guy who just helped him get promoted.
Another Billy Wilder film, and wow, this may be my favorite (thus far?)! I feel like this film was the inspiration for so many of the twisty thrillers I love so much. Fred MacMurray stars as a lovestruck insurance agency, helping an unhappy wife to escape her husband. All they have to be together is do is commit a little insurance fraud with a side of casual murder. Should be fine, right?! This is twisty and fun – a slow burn… pay attention to every single word!
On the Waterfront
Alright, we are getting to the point in my AFI 100 journey where I have realized that I can’t just watch all the movies I want (and to be honest a lot of films on the list are not super interesting to me… particularly the Westerns and mob flicks!). I did not love this, but it’s an incredible performance by Marlon Brando, who plays an ex-fighter who witnesses a murder. He’s forced to choose between family (his brother is a part of the corrupt union responsible for the murder) and doing what is right (standing with the dead man’s sister and their local priest to testify).
It Happened One Night
One of the original romcoms! Claudette Colbert plays a spoiled heiress who has run away from her tycoon father. After jumping ship (literally, off of her father’s yacht), she flees to New York (via bus – I will tell you that buses in the 1930s looked quite glam?) becoming friendly with a cynical (but charming) reporter, Peter Warne (played by Clark Gable who is an absolute dreamboat as always). Things take a turn when the two find themselves falling for each other (but refusing to admit it). I watched this with a girlfriend and really loved it!
Fun fact – Rolling Stone ranked this film the number one movie of the nineties. I can’t believe (and neither can any of my friends) that I hadn’t ever seen this. My parents were pretty careful about what they let me watch and then by the time I got to college I was already way behind on movies. But I loved this, and cannot believe it was based on a true story. From his earliest days, Henry Hill knows he wants to be a gangster. So he starts out working at the cab stand, which turns into much more. He becomes addicted to a life of glamour, ignoring all of the pain he’s causing. I don’t tend to love mob flicks (you know I still feel guilty for being only medium on The Godfather) but really enjoyed this.
Raging Bull ranks SO high on the list but had no appeal to me (Robert De Niro plays a boxer with violent tendencies, in and out of the ring). I have been trying to watch some of the films on the list that appeal to me less (they can’t all be Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock), and this was top of the list. I didn’t love it. But De Niro gives an incredible performance and it was fun to think about his career longevity… this came out 42 years ago, when De Niro was just 36 years old.
Similar to Raging Bull, this was one of the ones I had been really putting off (but it ranks #12!!!). As a general rule, I just don’t enjoy Westerns, but I actually didn’t mind this one as it had a really interesting plot. John Wayne plays Eastern Edwards. It’s just after the Civil War and he’s returned home to Texas, only to have his brother’s family killed + abducted by members of the Comanche tribe. Along with his nephew Martin (played by Jeffrey Hunter, who looks so much like James Marsden that I was doing double takes the whole film), he embarks on a mission to track down his niece Debbie.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
You know I love Jimmy Stewart… (he is in SO many of these!) This is a political comedy about a young and inexperienced (idealistic) senator Jefferson Smith. Smith “goes to Washington,” mentored by his father’s friend, Senator Paine. Turns out though, Paine is corrupt. And when Senator Smith refuses to go along with Paine’s corrupt plans, Paine and other senior senators conspire to discredit Smith. Smith (along with his beautiful secretary Saunders) retaliate.
Star Wars IV: A New Hope
I had been putting this off because I stupidly thought that IV was the fourth one and that I’d have to watch four movies just to check this off the list. But phew, it is the first! I know, I know… it is really weird that I’ve never seen this. But we just didn’t watch a lot of TV and movies when I was a kid. I enjoyed it! In fact, I might even watch more of them; we will see.
The Godfather, Part 2
I had also been putting this off but liked it sooooo much better than the first one. In the second one, there are dual timelines. We get to know more about Vito Corleone as a young immigrant to the US (played by Robert De Niro!), while seeing his son Michael Corleone take over. I especially loved the sets (you’re transported from Italy to New York to Lake Tahoe), and I liked that Diane Keaton had a bigger role in this one.
HERE’S THE FULL LIST!
The starred ones, I’d already watched before I started this little goal.
- Citizen Kane (1941)
- The Godfather (1972)
- Casablanca (1942)
- Raging Bull (1980)
- Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
- Gone with the Wind (1939)
- Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
- Schindler’s List (1993)*
- Vertigo (1958)
- The Wizard of Oz (1939)*
- City Lights (1931)
- The Searchers (1956)
- Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977)
- Psycho (1960)*
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
- Sunset Boulevard (1950)
- The Graduate (1967)*
- The General (1927)
- On The Waterfront (1954)
- It’s a Wonderful Life (1947)*
- Chinatown (1974)*
- Some Like it Hot (1959)
- The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
- E.T. : The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)*
- To Kill a Mockingbird (1963)
- Mr. Smith goes to Washington (1939)
- High Noon (1952)
- All About Eve (1950)
- Double Indemnity (1944)
- Apocalypse Now (1979)
- The Maltese Falcon (1941)
- The Godfather Part 2 (1974)
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938)
- Annie Hall (1977)*
- The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
- The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
- The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
- Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)
- Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music (1965)*
- King Kong (1933)
- Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
- The Midnight Cowboy (1969)
- The Philadelphia Story (1940)
- Shane (1953)
- It Happened One Night (1934)
- A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
- Rear Window (1955)
- Intolerance (1916)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
- West Side Story (1961)
- Taxi Driver (1976)*
- The Deer Hunter (1979)
- M*A*S*H (1970)
- North by Northwest (1959)*
- Jaws (1975)*
- Rocky (1976)*
- The Gold Rush (1925)
- Nashville (1975)
- Duck Soup (1933)
- Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
- American Graffiti (1973)
- Cabaret (1973)
- Network (1976)*
- The African Queen (1952)
- Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)*
- Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
- Unforgiven (1992)
- Tootsie (1982)
- A Clockwork Orange (1972)
- Saving Private Ryan (1998)*
- Shawshank Redemption (1994)
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
- Silence of the Lambs (1991)*
- In the Heat of the Night (1967)
- Forrest Gump (1994)*
- All the President’s Men (1976)
- Modern Times (1936)
- The Wild Bunch (1969)
- The Apartment (1960)
- Spartacus (1960)
- Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
- Titanic (1997)*
- Easy Rider (1969)
- A Night at the Opera (1935)
- Platoon (1986)
- 12 Angry Men (1957)
- Bringing Up Baby (1938)
- The Sixth Sense (1999)*
- Swing Time (1936)
- Sophie’s Choice (1983)
- GoodFellas (1990)
- The French Connection (1971)
- Pulp Fiction (1994)*
- The Last Picture Show (1971)
- Do the Right Thing (1989)
- Blade Runner (1982)*
- Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
- Toy Story (1995)*
- Ben-Hur (1959)
I think you will actually enjoy both Citizen Kane and Casablanca when you watch them and they should be next on your list. Casablanca is totally romantic and surprisingly funny. Worth it for the pop culture references alone, but entirely enjoyable. I’m confident you’ll like that one based on other ones you enjoyed. Citizen Kane is so much more watchable than you’d expect for the early time period! It’s notable for all the technical innovations but it’s also a really good story. I came away with a weird crush on young Orson Welles. Lawrence of Arabia is beautifully shot, but I am sad to say, I personally thought it was a huge slog. If you’re interested in a podcast “You Must Remember This” covers Hollywood history including the making of many of the films on this list. It’s smart but also gossipy and fun.
I wholeheartedly agree about Casablanca — it should totally be next on your list, Grace! I think you’ll love it. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time.
Also, I’ve seen all the mob movies — my husband is obsessed — and Goodfellas is definitely the best!
Thank you! I’m really excited to watch both.
I love this project so much! I’m trying to do something similar. How do you keep it going on nights when you just don’t feel like watching some more serious?
P.S. You need to watch Casablanca ASAP!
Thank you so much Drew! And I know!!!! I will. Soon! When I don’t want to watch something serious I don’t! I am not in any hurry to finish the list, this is just a fun goal.
Watch the next two Star Wars movies to complete the original trilogy (Empire Strikes Back & Return of the Jedi), but skip the rest!
I am planning on it!
I love reading your updates! When I first considered watching all of the movies, I think there were about 17 movies that I wasn’t interested in at all, but once I’d gotten further into the list I got committed to seeing all of them. The Westerns were a slog, but I was surprised by how much I liked nearly all of the war movies.
I know that On the Waterfront is supposed to be a great movie, but I was checked out after 10 minutes and just couldn’t get into it. I thought that I would love Raging Bull but found myself saying “is it over yet?” every 5 minutes. But on the positive side I would never have seen Goodfellas if not for this list and I loved it to pieces. Double Indemnity is in my personal top 10, maybe even my top 5.
It sounds like we have such similar taste in film!
I too love Jimmy Stewart, and I particularly love Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I watched African Queen not loo long ago because I remembered really loving it when I was a kid and I am sad to report that it didn’t quite hold up now that I am an adult (mostly Bogart’s character, Hepburn’s character remains eternal!)
I think I’m going to watch that one soon, intrigued!
The pay off for watching all of these movies – even the ones you don’t like – is that you will be aware of references to these movies in magazines, books, newspapers, conversations, etc. You will be amazed how much this group of movies are touchstones of common knowledge.
I so agree! Even only halfway in, I have felt that way.
I’ve also been making my way through the list and so fun to see your progress as well. It started with a Hitchcock binge for me. That lead into all things Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant and AFI 100. Side note: not to add to your list haha but I think you would love Notorious & Gaslight! Both a bit of mystery, film-noir, thrillers and Bergman.
I will have to agree with the others about Casablanca. It’s really fantastic and unbelievable how many quotes are from that movie. Ingrid Bergman’s performance is wonderful and this was a rabbit hole that lead me to her other movies and career. Surprisingly, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre has me still thinking about it. One of those “western” movies that I wasn’t looking forward to but ended up enjoying. I’ll be curious to see your review! Bogart is phenomenal but I suggest watching him in Casablanca first. I also just watched Chaplin’s Modern Times which was so lovely and wild how relatable it is all these years later. Just a joy to watch. Can’t wait to see what you watch next!
Thanks also for the Unspooled recommendation! I’ve been digging into each one after I tick them off the list.
Thank you so much for all the recs!!
Hi Grace! I also love Jimmy Stewart. Have you seen, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation? I believe Maureen O’Hara is also in it. It is so fun and lighthearted and just a great movie and parts really made laugh out loud. I think its a good one to watch when you want something classic with great actors but not heavy.
I have not but I will add that to the list. Thanks for sharing!!
Where is Greed(1925), a ground breaking film that is more relevant now than ever.
I didn’t make the list 🙂
The Apartment is my daughter’s favorite movie; Billy Wilder was her inspiration to get into “the business”! I also highly recommend Dr. Strangelove (so funny), African Queen (the movie that made me love Bogey), and 12 Angry Men (such great acting). Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on more of these movies. Enjoy!
Oh I love that!!! Thank you so much for adding your recs!
Have you read a book called Mr Wilder and Me by Jonathan Coe? I loved it! Enjoying these updates 🙂
We have a joke in my house that if Goodfellas is on, you have to watch it. It’s so good. I really loved Casino too. Love this project of yours. So many great films.
On a side note: are the popup ads getting bigger? I try and discreetly look at blogs when I’m at work and these flashing banners are making it too obvious. lol.
Oh no, I’m not sure! You can always hit the x button to make them go away quickly. Sorry about that – I don’t have much control over them. I can flag specific advertisers (i.e. trump!) and have asked them not to do the over the top huge ones!
I also did not enjoy the Godfather but really loved Goodfellas! It Happened One Night is one of my favorite old movies. These updates are always so fun! A movie theater by me does “flashback cinema” movie showings twice a week (one movie, two showings), which is where I saw both the Godfather and Goodfellas, actually! A fun way to watch not-new movies (although it’s hard to beat the comfort of home and cheaper snacks!!).
I hear that!!! I felt the same way. And how fun that you can see older films in the theater!
I’m not a huge fan of westerns either, but the The Searchers stands out because its such a strong visual reference for so many other films (that doorway shot, and the opening shot of the woman stepping out on the porch to look out at the arriving rider). Fun project you are doing!
You are right, it is visually stunning!!