Following on from yesterday’s post listing the SFX top 100 sci-fi and fantasy authors, I thought this list was also relevant.

Via S F Signal, here we have the American Film Institute’s top ten films in ten genres. The ten genres are Animation, Romantic Comedy (a genre that even has a title that makes me cringe), Western, Sports, Mystery, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Gangster, Courtroom Drama and Epic. The two that interest me the most are, naturally, Fantasy and Sci-Fi.

The top 10 Science-Fiction Films are:

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)

And the top 10 Fantasy Films are:

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)

I’m kind of bemused by both lists. Let’s take the sci-fi list first. All worthy films, certainly. All classics. But why on Earth (or elsewhere) would Blade Runner be so far down? And why Terminator 2? Sure, it wasn’t bad as sequels go, but the original Terminator was a groundbreaking film and it doesn’t make the list at all.

As for the fantasy list, why is Lord of the Rings second? It should count the whole trilogy as a single movie and put it in first place. Nothing in film comes even close to it as far as an example of great movie making is concerned. And Groundhog Day and Big? Are these AFI people taking the piss? Of all the great fantasy movies out there, even the ones that are great because they’re just so cheesy, they pick these two for their top ten? I’m appalled.

The awards are very American-centric, though, which might help to explain it a bit. Not surprisingly, being the American Film Institute, I suppose. AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale said:

AFI’s 10 TOP 10 will serve as the ultimate guide to the very best in 10 of America’s most beloved film genres. Over the past decade, this series has sparked a national debate each year about what makes a great American movie, and why—ultimately driving audiences to discover and rediscover the classics of American film.”

Whatever. The selection process was by jury. This year, the jury was asked to choose up to 10 movies per genre from what they called a comprehensive list. To compile the final list, AFI distributed a ballot with 500 nominated movies (50 per genre) to a jury of over 1,500 leaders from the creative community, including film artists (directors, screenwriters, actors, editors, cinematographers), critics and historians. AFI asked jurors to consider the following criteria in their selection process:

Narrative format, typically over 60 minutes in length.

English-language film with significant creative and/or production elements from the United
States. Additionally, only films released before January 1, 2008 will be considered.


AFI defines “fantasy” as a genre where live-action characters inhabit imagined settings and/or
experience situations that transcend the rules of the natural world.

AFI defines “science fiction” as a genre that marries a scientific or technological premise with
imaginative speculation.


Formal commendation in print, television and digital media.

Recognition from competitive events including awards from peer groups, critics, guilds and
major film festivals.

Including success at the box office, television and cable airing, and DVD/VHS sales and rentals.

A film’s mark on the history of the moving images through visionary narrative devices, technical
innovation, or other ground breaking achievements.

A film’s mark on American society in matters of style and substance.

So, it was a pretty detailed selection process. But still, I disagree.