BBC Unveils the Top 100 American Films of All Time


It’s been a little while since we’ve had a new list of the all-time greatest films to argue about, so the BBC recently decided to put together one of their own. Strangely, they decided to focus on American films specifically and they looked to a panel of 62 international film critics in order to come up with a consensus. In other words, although the BBC is presenting this list, they excluded British films and the results don’t necessarily reflect a British perspective on the subject.

Anyway, the results seem to be mostly in line with what you would expect, especially when it comes to the top 25. There is plenty of Hitchcock, Kubrick and Wilder on here, and Citizen Kane topped the list as per usual. The choices also lean heavily on the ’70s, although there are a few more recent films on the list such as 12 Years a Slave, The Tree of Life and The Dark Knight. Do you see any surprises? What would you have added to the list? Check out the full top 100 list after the jump.

100. Ace in the Hole (Billy Wilder, 1951)
99. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)
98. Heaven’s Gate (Michael Cimino, 1980)
97. Gone With the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)
96. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
95. Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)
94. 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)
93. Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973)
92. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
91. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982)
90. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
89. In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950)
88. West Side Story (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, 1961)
87. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
86. The Lion King (Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, 1994)
85. Night of the Living Dead (George A Romero, 1968)
84. Deliverance (John Boorman, 1972)
83. Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)
82. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)
81. Thelma & Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991)
80. Meet Me in St Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944)
79. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
78. Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
77. Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)
76. The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)
75. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977)
74. Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994)
73. Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976)
72. The Shanghai Gesture (Josef von Sternberg, 1941)
71. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)
70. The Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli, 1953)
69. Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982)
68. Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)
67. Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)
66. Red River (Howard Hawks, 1948)
65. The Right Stuff (Philip Kaufman, 1965)
64. Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)
63. Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984)
62. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
61. Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)
60. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
59. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Miloš Forman, 1975)
58. The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)
57. Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen, 1989)
56. Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)
55. The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967)
54. Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)
53. Grey Gardens (Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, 1975)
52. The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
51. Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)
50. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
49. Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
48. A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 1951)
47. Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964)
46. It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
45. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)
44. Sherlock Jr (Buster Keaton, 1924)
43. Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophüls, 1948)
42. Dr Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
41. Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)
40. Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid, 1943)
39. The Birth of a Nation (DW Griffith, 1915)
38. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
37. Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959)
36. Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)
35. Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)
34. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)
33. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
32. The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941)
31. A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974)
30. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
29. Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)
28. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
27. Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975)
26. Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett, 1978)
25. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
24. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
23. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
22. Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1924)
21. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
20. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
19. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
18. City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
17. The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925)
16. McCabe & Mrs Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)
15. The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)
14. Nashville (Robert Altman, 1975)
13. North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
12. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
11. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942)
10. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
9. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
8. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
7. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)
6. Sunrise (FW Murnau, 1927)
5. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
3. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
2. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
1. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

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  • Sam

    Nice to see a couple of Altman movies pretty high up there, as well as a ton of Wilder.

    Kind of surprised to see Heaven’s Gate on the list. I know there’s been a growing appreciation of the movie over the years past its initial infamy, I guess I just didn’t know the appreciation of it had reached this level.

  • Jay Steneker

    Kinda surprised no Coen Brothers films are on the list, I thought at the very least Fargo would have made it. As for the rest of the list it’s as expected with the exception of maybe Heavens Gate .

  • Craig

    Dark Night is there, yet Heat that it borrows heavily from isn’t?

  • Deven Science

    Isn’t Koyaanisqatsi a Russian film?

  • Sean

    Nope. American director, American production. The title is a word from the Hopi language.

  • devolutionary

    Surprised at the lack of Film Noir on the list (other than Billy Wilder’s). A little surprised at how high they rated The Magnificent Ambersons.

  • Deven Science

    Interesting. Learned something today.

  • Colin

    Thelma & Louise?!

    Not Alien or Blade Runner, but fucking Thelma & Louise? Fuck this list.

  • Marnie? Really?

  • Adam Phillips

    I had to look up what “25th Hour” was. Back to the Future – higher than Raiders? Mulholand Drive and Eyes Wide Shut seem much too high – for me anyway – seems like trading on the names of the directors. Pulp Fiction should be higher and Star Wars :o). Pleasantly surprised by Ground Hog Day – but again better than Raiders?

  • Adam

    I don’t need a bunch of fucking doctor who’s telling me what the best American films are

  • I would have added Under the Skin to my list, for sure!

  • mikeyt34

    Decent list but some of the most obvious omissions would be “Shawshank Redemption”, “Rocky”, “Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid”, “Unforgiven”, “American Beauty”, “Saving Private Ryan”, and “The Silence of the Lambs”. Many of the films listed seem the list makers wanted to sound more sophisticated or movie savvy. Who gives a shit about films made before 1940? Not me.

  • Kenneth Serenyi

    I use these lists to find good movies I haven’t seen. How many more episodes until the newest Film Junk top 100’s? :)

  • Deven Science

    Under the Skin was a joint UK/US production I think, so I wonder if they disqualified it for that reason.

  • Matt the Kiwi

    Yeah, Marnie is shit and I love Hitchcock films. This is a weird choice.

  • Seriously. There are like a dozen other better Hitchcock films that could be on here besides that one.

  • Matt the Kiwi

    No love for Errol Flynn / Curtiz films? I dismiss this list entirely.

  • Matt the Kiwi

    The other aspect I find interesting about seeing several Hitchcock films on the list is that he never won an academy award. In fact I see very little coloration between this list and the Oscars Best Films.

  • Oh, I didn’t even think about that. That actually makes sense!

  • Rolf

    Kurosawa anybody?

    Way too much focused on American cinema.

  • LordAwesome

    There are at least 40 better Hitchcock films. Marnie is in his bottom five.

  • It’s all in the title: “… top 100 American films …”

  • Sam

    1940 seems like a ridiculously arbitrary cutoff mark. At least cutting it off with the advent of sound would make some sense, still ridiculous, but would make sense.

  • Lisa Naarseth Myklebust

    Heat is also 10 times better than that POS fascist propaganda.

  • Lisa Naarseth Myklebust

    100 films and no Rear Window. No The Dictator. No Alien. No Paul Thomas Anderson. No Coen Brothers. No Fincher. No Soderbergh No Jarmusch. Not a single fucking Wim Wenders or Gus Van Sant film.

    We could also talk about the films on this list that have nothing to do there (like The Dark Knight), but what’s the point? This list is bonkers.

  • Lisa Naarseth Myklebust

    Who cares? Honestly, who takes the Academy Awards seriously?

  • Lisa Naarseth Myklebust

    Yup. They include Marnie, but totally ignore Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, Rope, Lady Vanishes and Shadow of a Doubt. Marnie is not that bad of a film, but it certiainly is not among his best — not by a long shot.

  • Matt the Kiwi

    That was kinda my point. These sorts of lists are fun but they’re all as equally nonsensical as each other, or the Academy Awards or whatever. The filmjunk crews top 100 is far more relevant to me because I know the guys and their tastes so can make a better judgment as to which picks I’ll want to seek out myself. Great movies lists (like great movies) are all subjective. Be pretty boring otherwise.

  • kent88

    Have you ever explained to us why exactly you’re pretending to be a woman and why exactly you have like 10+ different accounts here?

    I think that could be a little more interesting than having to listen to your opinions. No offense.

  • Lisa Naarseth Myklebust

    How about you stop attacking me all the time with these lies? Is it hard for you to discuss with a woman — is that why you are claiming I’m a man?

  • Just curious, why do you feel DK is fascist propaganda?

  • Lisa Naarseth Myklebust

    I’ve done this discussion before, so I’ll just copy in what I previously wrote:

    Well The Dark Knight alone is full of pro-Bush views (one of them justifying spying on citizens), and has, quite rightly, been accused of being fascist. Nolan’s conservative views are present in almost every film of his (including his recent film Interstellar), and he leaves no doubt about it whatsoever with The Dark Knight Rises’ attack on socialism.

    Let’s look at The Dark Knight for now. This film has clear connotations to 9/11 and the “War on Terror”, for those who didn’t already get the point with the blatant 9/11-esque posters of the film. You have a city of criminals who have been so completely reduced in power by Batman’s intervention, that they in desperation resort to the Joker and his methods (terrorism). If the “terrorism” connection was not easy enough to get, Nolan (as he always does with his films) makes it very understandable with The Joker’s videotape of his executions (which is very similar to executions committed by extremist Islamists), or when Alfred and Bruce Wayne are discussing The Joker and his methods, and Alfred answers Wayne’s question of why The Joker does what he does:

    “Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

    This quote is very important, because it epitomizes two things:

    1. American policy against states that want to break free and independent from its sphere of influence and power – and that are usually stopped by being ‘bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with’.

    2. It is more or less a paraphrase of The Bush government, and later mainstream, propagandistic explanation (notice: “their doctrinal explanation”, not the actualy reason itself) of the terrorist acts that were committed against the US in September 2001. The actions were explained as unwarranted and fanatical actions of men who couldn’t be reasoned with, who just wanted to watch the western world burn. “They hate our freedom”, as Bush so manifestly put it.

    Then you have some clear justifications of the Patriot Act (which culminates in the “Dent Act”, as I mentioned). In on very important moment, Wayne decides to implement a technology on his mobile device that can spy on every citizen in Gotham in his strategy to catch The Joker (the representation of “terrorism”). And when the dispute about its ethical validity is mentioned by Fox, Batman (the wealthy vanguard and a member of the elite) justifies it by underlining its necessity; that he is forced to take these controversial steps to stop The Joker. Much like how Bush justified the Patriot Act, torture and other actions as the only necessary way to catch terrorists. But this is what is called “psychological complexity”. We see this in politically themed thrillers (Homeland, Munich, Zero Dark Thirty, American Sniper, etc.) all the time. Instead of giving a black/white image of the situation, we are instead given a more complex image – but in the end we can still make up our mind up about who to morally and ethically align to and not to. So for example what Batman does is not right, but in opposition to the Joker, it is completely justified. And the topic of surveillance isn’t left there for the audience to interpret; Nolan goes out of his way to unravel it himself. Surveillance might not be justified, but in times of war it is completely justified, as so many American politicians (and now even Obama) have said — especially after Snowden’s leaks.

    The hailing of American crimes continues in the scene where Lau travels to Hong Kong, and Batman and Dent are therefore not able to bring him to justice, as he is under Chinese jurisdiction. What does Batman do? He secretly enters China, abducts him, and brings him back to the US, so that they can charge him. The parallels to American violations of international law by unlawfully extending its jurisdiction to foreign countries, is hard to miss. Nolan’s justification of this crime, however, is what’s most disgusting.

    The paragraphs above contain only a few of many instances where deceit and lying of the population is justified “for the greater good”, a theme that is echoed in all of Nolan’s films. He conveys his shared reactionary view that a vanguard of elites should lead the stupid masses to a better life that they cannot conceive or construct on their own. That is why Batman spies on its citizens without its knowledge or permission. That’s why Dent lies and says he is the Batman. That’s why Batman takes the blame for the crimes at the end of the film: Batman takes upon himself the crimes and murders committed by Harvey Dent, the public prosecutor turned criminal, in order to maintain the trust of the public into the legal system. The idea is if the ordinary public were to learn how corrupted the legal system was at its very core, then everything would have collapsed, so he needs a lie to maintain order. People need to believe Dent was something he wasn’t.

    It is truly disturbing how the film elevates a lie into a general social principle: as if our societies can only remain stable and function if based on a lie, as if the truth — and this telling the truth is embodied in Joker — means destruction. Nolan shows, in short, how our civilization has to be grounded in a lie, and how one has to break the rules in order to defend the system. Even Commissioner Gordon, the characterization of an uncorrupt cop in a city full of corrupt cops, takes part in the lie at the end of the film (the second lie, after he fakes his own death).

    And this is only The Dark Knight. Nolan takes a big (and I mean BIG) step further with The Dark Knight Rises. He doesn’t even try to hide his symbolical parallels, when he peppers the film with catchphrases, like “peacetime”, “appeasement strategy”, “those who have too much”, etc. And in case you are in doubt, he explicitly casts “sustainable energy” as a doomsday weapon. His blatant attack on socialism (and Occupy Wall Street) is also very hard to miss.

  • kent88


    This is one of your creepier moments:

    I don’t know what’s most embarrassing. The fact that you have all your little pseudonyms (Lisa Naarseth Myklebust, La Menthe, Le Narrateur, Mack the Knife, Boris the Blade, Brick Top) conversing with each other or the fact that you’re all quoting SNATCH.

  • Wow, that was one massive answer! You make some valid points. Thanks!

  • Rolf

    F*ck… well, that explains it then :D

  • kent88

    Well, they’re not really his points, are they?

    Very, very conservative writers argued the same thing as early as July 2008. People remember that, right? That the whole “THE DARK KNIGHT as Bush apologia” theories originally stemmed from right-wing pundits.

    I wonder how that makes La Menthe feel. To know that he’s so in line with conservative columnists. They seem to read movies the exact same way.

    Maybe you should write for Breitbart, La Menthe?

  • B.J.

    All modern comic book movies are very, very reactionary and uber-conservative. It´s deeply troubling fascist ideology can be easily traced to their financing, nowadays done by huge multinational corporations and Wall Street, who are the epitom of totalitarianism.

  • Lisa Naarseth Myklebust

    “Originally stemmed from”. As if this is based on other people’s writings? How about you stop your personal attacks, kent88?

  • Lisa Naarseth Myklebust

    Jesus, you seriously have some serious issues. Now I’m suddenly La Menthe too? Don’t forget that I’m also Queen Elizabeth and the president of the United States!

  • kent88


  • Lisa Naarseth Myklebust

    Nice photoshopping, weirdo. That’s it. I’m getting tired of you stalking and attacking me all the time; I’ve had you reported.

  • kent88

    Oh, lighten up. I’m just joshing.

    I’m sure it’s all just a coincidence. I mean, sure, you’re all from Norway and you all have similar usernames and avatars, and you seem to frequent exactly the same websites, and share exactly the shame viewpoints on everything… but hey, probably just a coincidence.

    Oh, and if you want to change more of your account names. Please remember that the name for your original La Menthe account (gaynaldogayness) – which is a great name btw – is oddly similar to the account names for Boris the Blade (gaynaldogayness1), Le Narrateur (gaynaldogayness3) and Mack the Knife (gaynaldogayness2).

    You might wanna change that. I don’t know if you’d agree but it looks a tad suspicious.