Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Wednesday, June 17, 1998 Published at 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK


Citizen Kane tops movie lists

Orson Welles' masterwork

Citizen Kane has been chosen the best American feature film of all time by a panel of 1,500 people from the film industry. . . and Bill Clinton.

The American Film Institute announced the results on Tuesday of a survey to determine the top 100 American films of all time.

It invited industry figures plus 50 individuals from across the US, the President and Vice President and their wives to choose from a shortlist of 400. They also held a poll on their web site.

Citizen Kane's chequered past

The winning film lost its makers $100,000 and though it won an Oscar for best screenplay, Mrs. Miniver was chosen best film in 1942. Incredibly, Orson Welles was only 26 when he directed and starred in the film.

Now, however, his tale of idealism corrupted is widely recognised as a masterpiece, not just in America but around the world.

The influential British magazine Sight and Sound polls critics across the world every ten years to find their top ten films. In 1952, Citizen Kane was just a runner-up, but in the three polls since, it has retained its top spot.

[ image: Five of Steven Spielberg's films were chosen]
Five of Steven Spielberg's films were chosen
Sight and Sound's deputy editor, Leslie Felperin, characterised the rest of the American Film Institute's list as "very cautious and conservative" and "a white, male list", weighted towards older films.

A few surprises

There were a few surprises among the AFI's top 10, however. Spielberg's Schindler's List is ninth, though it was released just five years ago, and Lawrence of Arabia is fifth, though many people would consider the film British, not American.

[ image: Star Wars is not as successful with critics as with the public]
Star Wars is not as successful with critics as with the public
Box office clout didn't count for much with the critics - Star Wars was 15th on their list, and ET was 25th though both did huge box office (and members of the public visiting the AFI's site voted Star Wars 5th best ever).

Despite continuing controversy over the film's treatment of the Ku Klux Klan as heroes, Birth of a Nation was 44th - the 83-year-old silent picture was also the oldest film chosen.

Ms Felperin acknowledges that the film "can be read as KKK propaganda," but feels it was right to include it as it was a landmark film in many ways.

Stephen Spielberg, with five films in the top 100, was the most successful director, followed by Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder with four apiece.

[ image: Robert De Niro starred in five of the top 100 films]
Robert De Niro starred in five of the top 100 films
Marlon Brando was the star in two top ten films - The Godfather and On the Waterfront - but James Stewart and Robert De Niro were arguably the top film actors, starring in five films each.

Katherine Hepburn led the actresses with four starring films.

The AFI's top ten:

Citizen Kane
The Godfather
Gone With The Wind
Lawrence of Arabia
The Wizard of Oz
The Graduate
On the Waterfront
Schindler's List
Singin' In the Rain

The top ten from visitors to the AFI's web site

Gone With The Wind
The Godfather
Citizen Kane
Star Wars
The Wizard of Oz
It's a Wonderful Life
Schindler's List
Ben Hur
Forrest Gump

What's your favourite film? Click here to e-mail us with your suggestion. Results will be published on Monday June 22.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage |

Entertainment Contents

TV and Radio
New Media
Internet Links

American Film Institute's Top 100 Films site

Orson Welles web site

Internet Movie Database's top 250 films

Sight and Sound

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.