Sunday, June 29, 2008


Maverick at the Movies will be recorded and broadcast from 89.5 KQAL FM in Winona, Minnesota, starting in the very near future. Details are soft at the moment, but the expansion is definite. The program will continue to be available on 89.7 KMSU FM in Mankato, Minnesota.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

AFI's Top 10 Genre Films

The American Film Institute has released yet another list, this one selecting ten different genres and identifying their picks of the ten greatest films in each of them. You can find the lists and supplementary material here.

The Lists:

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937
  2. Pinocchio, 1940
  3. Bambi, 1942
  4. The Lion King, 1994
  5. Fantasia, 1940
  6. Toy Story, 1995
  7. Beauty and the Beast, 1991
  8. Shrek, 2001
  9. Cinderella, 1950
  10. Finding Nemo, 2003

Not a bad list, although it's very Disney heavy and family friendly. I would prefer Beauty and the Beast closer to the top, if not at the top, since the animation in it is so well done. It also would be nice to see some more diverse films and pictures that aren't geared for children like South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut or Waking Life.


  1. The Wizard of Oz, 1939
  2. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2001
  3. It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946
  4. King Kong, 1933
  5. Miracle on 34th Street, 1947
  6. Field of Dreams, 1989
  7. Harvey, 1950
  8. Groundhog Day, 1993
  9. The Thief of Bagdad, 1924
  10. Big, 1988

The top half of the list is fairly predictable and it's nice to see a film like The Thief of Bagdad included here. I'm also happy that they looked beyond sword and shield fantasy like Lord of the Rings and include Field of Dreams and It's a Wonderful Life. Big and Groundhog Day are a surprise. They are not bad films but I think something with more depth to it like The Fountain would be nice to see here instead.


  1. The Godfather, 1972
  2. Goodfellas, 1990
  3. The Godfather Part II, 1974
  4. White Heat, 1949
  5. Bonnie and Clyde, 1967
  6. Scarface: The Shame of a Nation, 1932
  7. Pulp Fiction, 1994
  8. The Public Enemy, 1931
  9. Little Caesar, 1930
  10. Scarface, 1983

This is probably the best list. I'm very happy to see both versions of Scarface here. I think The Departed was actually superior to Goodfellas, but at this point it's probably too recent of a film to make an AFI list just yet.

Science Fiction

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968
  2. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, 1977
  3. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, 1982
  4. A Clockwork Orange, 1971
  5. The Day The Earth Stood Still, 1951
  6. Blade Runner, 1982
  7. Alien, 1979
  8. Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991
  9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956
  10. Back to the Future, 1985

Any one of these are terrific examples of science fiction, but I would take the original Terminator over the sequel and Robocop over Back to the Future. Star Wars really does not belong on this list; the film is a fantasy with high technology, and should be on that list instead, probably in place of Miracle of 34th Street. Similarly, Alien is primarily a horror film.


  1. The Searchers, 1956
  2. High Noon, 1952
  3. Shane, 1953
  4. Unforgiven, 1992
  5. Red River, 1948
  6. The Wild Bunch, 1969
  7. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969
  8. McCabe & Mrs. Miller, 1971
  9. Stagecoach, 1939
  10. Cat Ballou, 1965

A pretty solid list, although I would recommend Dances With Wolves in place of Cat Ballou and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in place of Shane. I would love to see Soldier Blue, Tombstone, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance here as well.


  1. Raging Bull, 1980
  2. Rocky, 1976
  3. The Pride of the Yankees, 1942
  4. Hoosiers, 1986
  5. Bull Durham, 1988
  6. The Hustler, 1961
  7. Caddyshack, 1980
  8. Breaking Away, 1979
  9. National Velvet, 1944
  10. Jerry Maguire, 1996

I question placing Jerry Maguire on this list. Although it is about a sports agent, the football is primarily in the background. Also, Raging Bull is primarily a bio-pic, one of the genres ignored by the AFI.


  1. Vertigo, 1958
  2. Chinatown, 1974
  3. Rear Window, 1954
  4. Laura, 1944
  5. The Third Man, 1949
  6. The Maltese Falcon, 1941
  7. North By Northwest, 1959
  8. Blue Velvet, 1986
  9. Dial M for Murder, 1954
  10. The Usual Suspects, 1995

The distinction between this list and the gangster film get a little muddled with films like The Usual Suspects, Chinatown, and Blue Velvet.

Romantic Comedy

  1. City Lights, 1931
  2. Annie Hall, 1977
  3. It Happened One Night, 1934
  4. Roman Holiday, 1953
  5. The Philadelphia Story, 1940
  6. When Harry Met Sally ..., 1989
  7. Adam’s Rib, 1949
  8. Moonstruck, 1987
  9. Harold and Maude, 1971
  10. Sleepless in Seattle, 1993

This is a very specialized category and there is not much I can challenge, although I would suggest Napoleon Dynamite in place of Sleepless in Seattle. I am happy to see Harold and Maude here.

Courtroom Drama

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962
  2. 12 Angry Men, 1957
  3. Kramer Vs. Kramer, 1979
  4. The Verdict, 1982
  5. A Few Good Men, 1992
  6. Witness for the Prosecution, 1957
  7. Anatomy of a Murder, 1959
  8. In Cold Blood, 1967
  9. A Cry in the Dark, 1988
  10. Judgment at Nuremberg, 1961

Another highly specialized genre. Not much to argue with here although Judgement at Nuremberg at number ten could probably be flipped with A Few Good Men at number five.


  1. Lawrence of Arabia, 1962
  2. Ben-Hur, 1959
  3. Schindler’s List, 1993
  4. Gone With the Wind, 1939
  5. Spartacus, 1960
  6. Titanic, 1997
  7. All Quiet on the Western Front, 1930
  8. Saving Private Ryan, 1998
  9. Reds, 1981
  10. The Ten Commandments, 1956

This list has several films that don't belong here. Schindler's List, Titanic, and Saving Private Ryan are solid movies but they are not epics. They do not have the kind of narrative scope becoming of the genre. Dances With Wolves, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, and Braveheart would be more appropriate.

Criticism of the AFI's List

As I have often said, I have problems with AFI and their lists. Like the MPAA, the AFI caters to studio and corporate interests with a preference for big Hollywood films by and staring major Hollywood figures. Hollywood is fine and big budget studio pictures are fine; I have no problem with large productions and I certainly would not dismiss a film because it made money. However, there are no independent films and some suspect titles on their lists. Last year's 100 Films list included The Sixth Sense and Titanic; while I do enjoy those films, I don't think they should be categorized next to Casablanca and Vertigo.

This particular list has some inherent problems. First, a lot of films, especially those made today, crisscross genres. For instance, Lord of the Rings is found on the fantasy list but it could easily qualify as an epic. Second, the selection of genres on this list is apparently arbitrary. Courtroom Drama and Romantic Comedy are very particular and do not match with the more general categories.

Alternative Lists

It's possible that the AFI ignored some genres, like Musicals, because they have dealt with the topic in another list, but in the cases of Horror and Documentary the AFI has refused to acknowledge them at all in their lists, and this is highly suspect because these genres are most independent of the studio system.

What follows are alternative lists for genres that the AFI ignored. These are not definitive list, just ten suggestions for each category, listed in no particular order. I've conformed to the AFI's rule of only American films.


  • Dreamgirls
  • Chicago
  • West Side Story
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • The Doors
  • Little Shop of Horrors, 1986
  • The Sound of Music
  • Pink Floyd: The Wall


  • Psycho, 1960
  • Jaws
  • The Hills Have Eyes, 1977
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Night of the Living Dead, 1968
  • Frankenstein, 1931
  • Halloween 1978
  • The Exorcist
  • The Thing, 1982


  • Stripes
  • Ghostbusters
  • Dumb and Dumber
  • Some Like It Hot
  • The Big Lebowski
  • Caddyshack
  • Duck Soup
  • Annie Hall
  • Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
  • The Gold Rush


  • Platoon
  • Apocalypse Now
  • The Thin Red Line, 1998
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • The Longest Day, 1962
  • Patton
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Coming Home
  • Full Metal Jacket
  • Letters from Iwo Jima


  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Die Hard
  • Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • The African Queen
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood
  • Kill Bill
  • Enter the Dragon
  • Lethal Weapon
  • Superman: The Movie
  • First Blood


  • Titanic
  • Romeo and Juliet, 1968
  • Gone With the Wind
  • The Graduate
  • Out of Africa
  • The English Patient
  • As Good As It Gets
  • An Officer and a Gentleman
  • Brokeback Mountain
  • From Here to Eternity


  • Vernon, Florida
  • Bowling for Columbine
  • When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts
  • The Fog of War
  • Hearts and Minds
  • When We Were Kings
  • Woodstock
  • Nanook of the North
  • Jazz, 2001
  • Why We Fight, 1943-45