American Movie

This page is devoted to an examination of American feature films, both as a consideration of those movies which can be regarded as somehow significant and as an appreciation of the value of movies as primary-source historical documents of twentieth-century American life and culture. An attempt has been made to compile a list which can in some sense encompass the entire American Movie Experience by developing, year-by-year, a long, thick, unbroken chain of cinematic storytelling (and the stories and storytellers behind those stories) into a larger, interconnected Story of American Film. This is not a “Best of” list or an attempt to present a “closed canon” (which I am in no respect qualified to do in any case). Rather, the composition has been informed primarily by a spirit of inclusivity, and is likely far from complete. I have made an effort to limit the list to a maximum of 5 to 10 feature-length films per year, and to be aware of each film’s general availability, for purely practical reasons.

1913

Judith of Bethulia

1914

The Avenging Conscience

The Squaw Man

Tillie’s Punctured Romance

1915

The Birth of a Nation

The Cheat

1916

Intolerance

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

1917

The Little American

Wild and Woolly

1918

Stella Maris

The Whispering Chorus

1919

Broken Blossoms

Male and Female

1920

The Mark of Zorro

Way Down East

Within Our Gates

1921

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Kid

Little Lord Fauntleroy

The Marriage Circle

The Sheik

1922

Foolish Wives

Nanook of the North

Orphans of the Storm

Robin Hood

1923

The Covered Wagon

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Our Hospitality

Safety Last

The Ten Commandments

1924

Greed

The Iron Horse

Sherlock, Jr.

Thief of Bagdad

1925

The Big Parade

The Gold Rush

The Freshman

The Phantom of the Opera

Seven Chances

1926

Ben-Hur

The Black Pirate

The Son of the Sheik

Sparrows

1927

The General

The Jazz Singer

The Kid Brother

Sunrise

Wings

1928

The Crowd

The Docks of New York

The Last Command

Steamboat Bill, Jr.

The Wind

1929

The Broadway Melody

Hallelujah

The Virginian

1930

Abraham Lincoln

All Quiet on the Western Front

Animal Crackers

Little Caesar

1931

Cimarron

City Lights

Dracula

Frankenstein

The Public Enemy

1932

Freaks

Grand Hotel

Horse Feathers

I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang

Me and My Gal

Scarface

Shanghai Express

The Sign of the Cross

Tarzan, the Ape Man

Trouble in Paradise

1933

42nd Street

The Bitter Tea of General Yen

Cavalcade

Duck Soup

Footlight Parade

Gold Diggers of 1933

King Kong

Queen Christina

She Done Him Wrong

Sons of the Desert

1934

The Gay Divorcee

It Happened One Night

It’s a Gift

Of Human Bondage

The Thin Man

1935

Captain Blood

Les Miserables

Mutiny on the Bounty

A Night at the Opera

Top Hat

1936

Dodsworth

The Great Ziegfeld

Modern Times

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

My Man Godfrey

1937

The Awful Truth

The Life of Emil Zola

Lost Horizon

Make Way for Tomorrow

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Stage Door

1938

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Angels With Dirty Faces

Bringing Up Baby

Jezebel

You Can’t Take It With You

1939

Destry Rides Again

Gone With the Wind

Gunga Din

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Ninotchka

Only Angels Have Wings

Stagecoach

The Wizard of Oz

The Women

1940

Fantasia

The Grapes of Wrath

The Great Dictator

His Girl Friday

The Mortal Storm

The Philadelphia Story

Pinocchio

Rebecca

1941

Balls of Fire

Citizen Kane

Dumbo

How Green Was My Valley

High Sierra

The Lady Eve

The Maltese Falcon

Sergeant York

Sullivan’s Travels

The Wolf Man

1942

Bambi

The Major and the Minor

The Magnificent Ambersons

Mrs. Miniver

The Pride of the Yankees

To Be or Not to Be

Yankee Doodle Dandy

1943

Casablanca

The Ox-Bow Incident

Shadow of a Doubt

1944

Double Indemnity

Going My Way

Laura

Lifeboat

Meet Me in St. Louis

1945

The Lost Weekend

Mildred Pierce

Spellbound

They Were Expendable

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

1946

The Best Years of Our Lives

The Big Sleep

Gilda

It’s a Wonderful Life

The Killers

My Darling Clementine

Notorious

The Postman Always Rings Twice

The Stranger

1947

The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer

Dark Passage

Gentleman’s Agreement

Miracle on 34th Street

Out of the Past

1948

Fort Apache

I Remember Mama

Key Largo

Letter from an Unknown Woman

Louisiana Story

The Paleface

Red River

Rope

The Search

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

1949

Adam’s Rib

All the King’s Men

Gun Crazy

The Heiress

White Heat

1950

All About Eve

The Asphalt Jungle

Cinderella

Rio Grande

Sunset Boulevard

Winchester ’73

1951

The African Queen

An American in Paris

The Big Carnival

The Day the Earth Stood Still

A Place in the Sun

Strangers on a Train

A Streetcar Named Desire

1952

The Bad and the Beautiful

The Greatest Show on Earth

High Noon

The Quiet Man

Singin’ in the Rain

1953

The Big Heat

From Here to Eternity

I Confess

Pickup on South Street

Roman Holiday

Shane

1954

On the Waterfront

Rear Window

Salt of the Earth

Silver Lode

A Star is Born

1955

Artists and Models

Bad Day at Black Rock

East of Eden

Kiss Me Deadly

The Man from Laramie

The Man With the Golden Arm

Marty

The Night of the Hunter

Rebel Without a Cause

1956

Anastasia

Around the World in Eighty Days

The Bad Seed

Bigger Than Life

Forbidden Planet

Giant

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The Killing

The Man Who Knew Too Much

The Searchers

1957

12 Angry Men

A Face in the Crowd

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Paths of Glory

1958

The Defiant Ones

I Want to Live!

Touch of Evil

Vertigo

1959

Anatomy of a Murder

Ben-Hur

North by Northwest

Rio Bravo

Sleeping Beauty

Some Like It Hot

1960

The Apartment

One-Eyed Jacks

Psycho

Spartacus

1961

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

The Hustler

Judgment at Nuremberg

West Side Story

1962

Dr. No

Lolita

The Manchurian Candidate

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Ride the High Country

To Kill a Mockingbird

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

1963

America America

The Birds

Charade

The Great Escape

How the West Was Won

Hud

1964

Dr. Strangelove

Fail-Safe

Marnie

My Fair Lady

1965

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

The Pawnbroker

The Sound of Music

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold

1966

The Sand Pebbles

Seconds

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

1967

Bonnie and Clyde

Cool Hand Luke

The Graduate

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

In the Heat of the Night

The Jungle Book

1968

2001: A Space Odyssey

Bullitt

Night of the Living Dead

Planet of the Apes

Rosemary’s Baby

1969

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Easy Rider

Midnight Cowboy

True Grit

The Wild Bunch

1970

Five Easy Pieces

Little Big Man

M*A*S*H

Patton

Woodstock

1971

Dirty Harry

Fiddler on the Roof

The French Connection

Harold and Maude

The Last Picture Show

McCabe and Mrs. Miller

Shaft

1972

Cabaret

Deliverance

The Godfather

1973

American Graffiti

Badlands

The Exorcist

The Long Goodbye

Mean Streets

Serpico

Sleeper

The Sting

1974

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Blazing Saddles

Chinatown

The Conversation

The Godfather, Part II

1975

Dog Day Afternoon

Jaws

Nashville

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

1976

All the President’s Men

The Front

Network

Rocky

Taxi Driver

1977

Annie Hall

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Killer of Sheep

Saturday Night Fever

Star Wars

1978

Dawn of the Dead

Days of Heaven

The Deer Hunter

Grease

Halloween

1979

Apocalypse Now

Kramer vs. Kramer

Manhattan

The Muppet Movie

Norma Rae

1980

Airplane!

The Empire Strikes Back

Friday the 13th

Ordinary People

Raging Bull

1981

Body Heat

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Reds

1982

Blade Runner

E.T.

Sophie’s Choice

Tootsie

1983

The Big Chill

A Christmas Story

Koyaanisqatsi

El Norte

Return of the Jedi

The Right Stuff

Risky Business

Scarface

Terms of Endearment

1984

Amadeus

Beverly Hills Cop

Blood Simple

Ghost Busters

The Natural

A Nightmare on Elm Street

The Terminator

This Is Spinal Tap

1985

Back to the Future

The Breakfast Club

Out of Africa

The Purple Rose of Cairo

1986

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Platoon

Salvador

Top Gun

1987

Broadcast News

Empire of the Sun

Full Metal Jacket

Good Morning, Vietnam

Housekeeping

Moonstruck

The Princess Bride

Raising Arizona

The Untouchables

Wall Street

1988

Die Hard

A Fish Called Wanda

Mississippi Burning

Rain Man

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

1989

Batman

Do the Right Thing

Driving Miss Daisy

The Little Mermaid

Say Anything

When Harry Met Sally

1990

Dances with Wolves

Edward Scissorhands

Goodfellas

Miller’s Crossing

Pretty Woman

1991

Beauty and the Beast

Boyz ‘N the Hood

JFK

The Silence of the Lambs

Thelma and Louise

1992

A Few Good Men

Glengarry Glen Ross

The Player

Reservoir Dogs

Unforgiven

1993

Groundhog Day

Jurassic Park

Philadelphia

Schindler’s List

Short Cuts

1994

Ed Wood

Forrest Gump

The Lion King

Natural Born Killers

Pulp Fiction

The Shawshank Redemption

1995

Braveheart

Clueless

Dead Man Walking

Se7en

Toy Story

1996

The English Patient

Fargo

Independence Day

Scream

1997

Boogie Nights

Good Will Hunting

The Ice Storm

L.A. Confidential

Titanic

1998

American History X

Dark City

Happiness

Pleasantville

Saving Private Ryan

Shakespeare in Love

The Thin Red Line

The Truman Show

1999

American Beauty

The Blair Witch Project

Fight Club

Magnolia

The Matrix

The Sixth Sense

Three Kings

2000

Gladiator

Memento

The Patriot

Requiem for a Dream

Traffic

2001

A Beautiful Mind

The Fellowship of the Ring

The Majestic

Moulin Rouge!

The Royal Tenenbaums

2002

Adaptation

Chicago

Road to Perdition

Spider-Man

The Two Towers

2003

Finding Nemo

House of Sand and Fog

Lost in Translation

The Return of the King

2004

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Finding Neverland

Garden State

Million Dollar Baby

The Passion of the Christ

2005

Brokeback Mountain

Crash

Good Night, and Good Luck

Junebug

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

2006

Borat

The Departed

Little Children

United 93

2007

The Assassination of Jesse James

Gone Baby Gone

No Country for Old Men

There Will Be Blood

Zodiac

2008

Changeling

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

Frost/Nixon

Frozen River

Gran Torino

Shotgun Stories

WALL•E

2009

Avatar

Away We Go

Capitalism: A Love Story

The Hurt Locker

The Informant!

Inglourious Basterds

Watchmen

2010

127 Hours

The Fighter

Inception

The Social Network

The Town

Toy Story 3

Winter’s Bone

2011

Super 8

The Tree of Life

X-Men: First Class

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