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BBC’s 100 Greatest American Films List Includes ‘The Dark Knight,’ ‘Heaven’s Gate,’ ‘Chinatown,’ ‘Tree Of Life,’ And More

BBC's 100 Greatest American Films List Includes 'The Dark Knight,' 'Heaven's Gate,' 'Chinatown,' 'Tree Of Life,' And More

Perspective is a funny thing. Some films that are regarded as instant classics later become regarded as overrated as the years go on, while movies that may have flopped initially gain cultural relevancy through the lens of time. Still, there are other films whose place in the canon remains unshakeable. And when diving into BBC Culture‘s list of the 100 Greatest American Films, it is worth keeping that in mind.

The top ten films are hardly much of a surprise. The only thing that changes over the years, depending on the poll, is whether Orson Welles‘ “Citizen Kane” or Alfred Hitchcock‘s “Vertigo” lands on top. The choices made by critics from around the world are intriguing, even if the rules are broad (the films didn’t have to made by an American or even shot in the United States). Perhaps the biggest example of a movie gaining a new narrative is Michael Cimino‘s “Heaven’s Gate.” Once seen as a prime example of directorial hubris, and known as the movie that destroyed a major studio, it sneaks onto the list at #98, while “The Deer Hunter” didn’t make the list at all.

Apocalypse Now” brings up the rear at #90, while Steve McQueen‘s “12 Years A Slave” still resonates a couple of years on, jumping into the rankings near the bottom. “25th Hour” and “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind” are great examples of contemporary American classics, while no doubt there will be lots of bickering about whether or not Christopher Nolan‘s “The Dark Knight” should be on here at all. And while “Forrest Gump” is a punching bag for many, it would seem many critics and writers polled for this list secretly love it.

So take a look below and bring the debate to our comments section. You can read full writeups of the top 25 right here.

BBC Culture’s 100 Greatest American Films
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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This is just pretty much a silly list… I mean, seriously. This isn’t a list about the "greatest" films (which I read as "best"; it’s a list about the favourite films (which is a VERY DIFFERENT list!) of whoever made up this list. So many of the greatest left off; so many "fun" films added.


@DORIS and DAVE: someone needs to start a petition to get con air on this list.


it’s so crazy, women aren’t even a minority!


@ M.D yep, and even sadder that aside from yourself no one – incl. myself even noticed. I do think though that it’s the rampant, male privilege at the movies that’s killing the medium, it’s become a real bore. Television’s far more inclusive for women and other minorities and also seems to be cashing in on that fact.


Where is Badlands?

M. D

It’s sad that in a list of 100, there is only one name that belongs to a woman (shared for Grey Gardens, 1975). Its the XXI century, seriously time to update info., society and start appreciating women’s place in art.


@DORIS Agreed about Con Air.


in all seriousness, this is such an obvious list. I mean… everyone’s supposed to like these movies, they’re the ones everyone mentions. Where are the genuinely fun, exciting, wild choices? Speed! Jurassic Park! Anything but these tired old antiques.


LOL I like most of these films very much but the BBC’s choice to privilege these mostly obvious choices in a "List of 100 Greatest American Films" just reflects their stodginess. Canon is so important to them.


where’s Con Air?


Not a bad list, but Marnie! Marnie!! in the top half of the list, it doesn’t even make the top half of my ranking of Hitchcock films


The Dark Knight deserves its place on that list. Maybe you are looking at it as a superhero film, who knows. Nolan puts more effort into his films that most directors. He MAKES movies, he doesn’t film some shots and let CGI do the rest. Any of his films deserves to be on any list of greats.

Tony Zhou

Jagernauth’s elitist attitude is getting unbearable. Almost as unbearable as the endless Fincher-stroking comments. So glad The Social Network isn’t on there. The Dark Knight is on there….and you people still think critics are important. What a joke.


Look at all these snobs wanting to remove one of the greatest action films of all time…


Forrest Gump??? Look at all the movies that it’s above of in the list. Meet Me in St Louis?? Some great choices, some choices that I just can’t understand


There Will Be Blood and Fargo should get a shout over a lot of those, but not many shocks


remove koyaanisqatsi?! you must be joking. basically everything you said i agree with. forrest gump higher than apocalypse now? garbage. this list shouldn’t be taken seriously. why doesn’t the playlist just post the imdb top 250?


Where is On the Waterfront?

Nathan Duke

I’d remove Heaven’s Gate, The Dark Knight, West Side Story, Meet Me in St. Louis, Koyaanisqatsi, Marnie, A Place in the Sun and Grey Gardens and replace them with The Mortal Storm, anything by the Coen Bros., anything by Paul Thomas Anderson, Zodiac and Bonnie and Clyde (seriously, how did that not make the list?). I’d also move up Blue Velvet, Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Bringing Up Baby and Apocalypse Now.


Switch The Dark Knight with Inception. Or the Social Network. Why is The Lion King the only animated film? No Toy Story or Snow White? Boo. I’m still very happy with this list. I love the picks of Do the Right Thing and The Shining.


Gone With the Wind is listed way too low.


Good list, The Dark Knight shouldn’t be on there but hard to fault any of the others…

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