The American Film Institute has spoken. In a special that aired on CBS tonight, they revealed the top 100 romantic films of all time. Number Three was West Side Story. Number Two was Gone With the Wind. And number One?
I can live with that.
The list was fascinating. I love these shows, not just for debating their choices but also for the trip down memory lane for wonderful films that I may not have seen in quite a while (I really want to watch From Here to Eternity right now) and the reminder of films that I really do need to see (The Quiet Man and The Goodbye Girl leap to mind). I didn’t even have as many quibbles with this list as I have with the previous AFI “Lists” (the 100 greatest movies, the 100 funniest comedies, the 100 most exciting action films). I am convinced that Kevin Costner has starred in two of the finest cinematic love stories of all time: Dances With Wolves and Bull Durham, which were not on the AFI’s list. One of my favorite cinematic love stories, believe it or not, is the Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service — the one Bond film in which Bond actually falls in love. I’ve also always had something of a soft spot for Somewhere in Time. And there’s the wonderful suspense-mystery-reincarnation-dual love story starring Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, Dead Again. I’m sure I could come up with a few more, given time.
As for films the AFI named which I would omit from their list, there weren’t a whole lot of these. I really don’t consider It’s a Wonderful Life a love story (and, to be frank, I don’t much like the film in the first place). If they had to include two Gene Kelly movies, Brigadoon or For Me and My Gal would have been a better choice than the colossally-overrated An American In Paris, an overlong film that suffers greatly in the love department because Leslie Caron is, to my eyes, completely uninteresting. She and Kelly have no chemistry together. I also can’t stomach Love Story, which I’ve always found treacly and overly manipulative. But my heart soared to see my single favorite musical, My Fair Lady, on the list. (One confusing thing about the show, though: why did they feel the need to have Jennifer Love Hewitt comment on every Audrey Hepburn film that was on the list? Were they symbolically trying to anoint Miss Hewitt as the next Miss Hepburn? Good lord, I hope not….)
I wonder if the AFI will do another list for next year. I’m not sure if there are any topics left that lend themselves to 100 films; perhaps a series of specials devoted to specific genres? I’d tune in to see the AFI’s Top 25 SF films, Top 25 Westerns, Top 25 Film Noir’s, et cetera.
(By the way, according to the AFI’s website the next recipient of the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award will be Tom Hanks.)