The BBC Reveals Their “100 Greatest American Films” List

     July 21, 2015

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When it comes to art, “greatest” lists are guides. They’re not meant to be definitive. Getting angry about why film was included while another was snubbed is pointless, and it’s far better to look at a list as a way to point you towards things you’ve have read or heard or seen. I saw plenty of classic films in college partly because I had the AFI Top 100 list as a guide.

And now I have another guide to help me fill in some blind spots with the BBC’s recently released “100 Greatest American Films” list. The BBC polled 62 international film critics by asking them to each list their Top 10 U.S. films; the only criteria for being a “U.S. film” was receiving funding from a U.S. source. “Each critic who participated submitted a list of 10 films,” reports the BBC, “with their pick for the greatest film receiving 10 points and their number 10 pick receiving one point. The points were added up to produce the final list.”

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Image via Warner Bros.


Citizen Kane continues to be the reigning champ in U.S. cinema, and the BBC’s Top 10 shares six selections with AFI’s “100 Years…100 Movies”. Here’s the Top 20 from the BBC’s list:

  1. 1. Citizen Kane
  2. 2. The Godfather
  3. 3. Vertigo
  4. 4. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  5. 5. The Searchers
  6. 6. Sunrise
  7. 7. Singin’ in the Rain
  8. 8. Psycho
  9. 9. Casablanca
  10. 10. The Godfather Part II
  11. 11. The Magnificent Ambersons
  12. 12. Chinatown
  13. 13. North by Northwest
  14. 14. Nashville
  15. 15. The Best Years of Our Lives
  16. 16. McCabe & Mrs Miller
  17. 17. The Gold Rush
  18. 18. City Lights
  19. 19. Taxi Driver
  20. 20. Goodfellas

Also worth noting:

  • The newest movie on the list 12 Years a Slave (2013) while the oldest movie on the list is Birth of a Nation (1915).
  • The list contains three sequels: The Godfather Part II, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Dark Knight
  • Billy Wilder, Steven Spielberg, and Stanley Kubrick tied for most films with each director having five of their works land on the list.
  • There are no films by David Fincher, the Coen Brothers, Michael Mann, Paul Thomas Anderson, and such is the nature of lists: plenty of omissions.

Click here for the BBC’s full list.

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