American Film Institute’s Top Ten Lists

Ah, the American Film Institute. Every now and then trivia question writers like to delve into these lists and torture poor, poor defenseless trivia players. What “villainous” character is the only non-human/non-animal? What animal is the only one listed as a “hero?” What movies beginning with the letter “C” are on the list of best comedies?

You never forget the first person you ever f—ed, and likewise, you never forget the first time you were f—ed by a particular trivia question! At least I don’t! And some questions leave a horrible taste that can linger for years and trigger Pavlovian responses in certain folks! Just last night, a friend of mine was playing Buzztime trivia and had a question about a president’s alma mater – which president graduated from Union College in 1848? I’m going to guess that the correct answer probably rubbed his… rhubarb a bit (though he won the game)! In the AFI’s case, I was f—ed by a final question in fall of 2012 at Red Rock Downtown Barbecue in Ypsilanti. I do not recall the question exactly (I wasn’t doing game recaps yet), but it was something about what legendary actress from the AFI list of best actors was still alive (or something to that effect). Fail…but after that, you better BELIEVE I made sure to start looking at these silly lists!

Well, consider yourself defenseless no more! Without further ado, here are some “top ten” lists of the best AFI films in a variety of genres… For a more detailed look at AFI lists, click here.

And the List…(best picture winners in red)



Being able to converse with animals is all part of Princessing 101…
  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937 (Disney)
  2. Pinocchio, 1940 (Disney)
  3. Bambi, 1942 (Disney)
  4. The Lion King, 1994 (Disney)
  5. Fantasia, 1940 (Disney)
  6. Toy Story, 1995 (Pixar/Disney)
  7. Beauty and the Beast, 1991 (Disney)
  8. Shrek, 2001 (Dreamworks)
  9. Cinderella, 1950 (Disney)
  10. Finding Nemo, 2003, (Pixar/Disney)

See a pattern? Most of these are Disney or Disney/Pixar joints. Pay special attention to the “odd one out.” This could be the one asked about in a trivia game! Also pay attention to the release years in case of a “put these in order” question! Also take note of any of these which may have had a live-action re-boot recently! Box office grosses are always a good thing to look at, too. The Lion King is the highest grossing of the films on this list, grossing $422.7 million domestically, $968.4 million worldwide.

Romantic Comedy 


A scene from Moonstruck, 1987
  1. City Lights, 1931
  2. Annie Hall, 1977
  3. It Happened One Night, 1934
  4. Roman Holiday, 1953
  5. The Philadelphia Story, 1941
  6. When Harry Met Sally, 1989
  7. Adam’s Rib, 1949
  8. Moonstruck, 1987
  9. Harold and Maude, 1971
  10. Sleepless in Seattle, 1993

Things to pay attention to here, two of these films featured Katharine Hepburn (The Philadelphia Story and Adam’s Rib), two of these featured actress Meg Ryan (When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle).


Jane Fonda in the 1969 film Cat Ballou. Confession time – I’ve always had a bit of a girl crush on Jane Fonda!


  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 and Mrs. Miller, 1971
  9. Stagecoach, 1939
  10. Cat Ballou, 1965



Paul Newman in the 1961 film The Hustler
  1. Raging Bull, 1980 (boxing)
  2. Rocky, 1976 (boxing)
  3. The Pride of the Yankees, 1943 (baseball)
  4. Hoosiers, 1986 (basketball)
  5. Bull Durham, 1988 (baseball)
  6. The Hustler, 1961 (pool/billiards)
  7. Caddyshack, 1980 (golf)
  8. Breaking Away, 1979 (bicycling)
  9. National Velvet, 1945 (horses/equestrian)
  10. Jerry Maguire, 1996 (football)



Roman Polanski in the 1974 film Chinatown – he directed the film and also appeared in it.
  1. Vertigo, 1958
  2. Chinatown, 1974
  3. Rear Window, 1954
  4. Laura, 1944
  5. The Third Man, 1950
  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



Hobbits hiding from black riders in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  1. The Wizard of Oz, 1939
  2. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2001
  3. It’s A Wonderful Life, 1947
  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 (sic), 1924
  10. Big, 1988



Malcolm MacDowell getting his comeuppance in A Clockwork Orange
  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. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956
  10. Back to the Future, 1985



A scene from The Godfather, Michael is hiding out in Sicily after making his first “hit.” Sorry…but I just LOVE these hipster fashions!
  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 the Nation, 1932
  7. Pulp Fiction, 1994
  8. The Public Enemy, 1931
  9. Little Caesar, 1931
  10. Scarface, 1983

Courtroom Drama


Jo Beth Williams and a portion of Dustin Hoffman’s head in a scene from Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, 1963
  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, 1958
  7. Anatomy of a Murder, 1959
  8. In Cold Blood, 1967
  9. A Cry In The Dark, 1988
  10. Judgment at Nuremberg, 1961



Scarlett O’Hara in one of her grittier moments from Gone With the Wind (1939)
  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

Lots of best picture winners here! More than in any other category!





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