The American Film Institute began as a presidential authorization by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 to establish film as essential to American identity. For more than half a century, AFI has pursued its mission to educate and inspire, naming Gregory Peck as the inaugural first chair of the Board of Trustees, with George Stevens Jr. as director and CEO; recording the first 100 years of American film (a project that began in 1968) in the AFI Catalog of Feature Films (long before the existence of IMDb); collaborating with the Louis B. Mayer Library, founded in 1969, dedicated to supporting AFI Conservatory studies and housing the AFI Archive; and initiating the movement for film preservation in the United States with its 1973 restoration of director Frank Capra’s 1937 classic picture “Lost Horizon.” Today, the Library of Congress houses the AFI Collection of more than 60,000 films gathered by the Institute.
In 1998, AFI began curating movie lists to celebrate excellence in the art form. With a goal of inspiring personal, passionate discussions about what makes a great film, alongside charting the evolution of cinema, they’ve released a series of televised countdowns to honor the best of the best in various genres and themes, kicking things off with a special presentation (and a corresponding 10-part, nearly 8-hour-long documentary) called AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Movies” to reveal an unprecedented, centennial commemoration of the first 100 Years of filmmaking. Chosen by a blue-ribbon panel of AFI historians, judging such factors as critical recognition, major award winners, popularity over time, historical significance, and cultural impact, this first list would be one of many that undoubtedly inspired The Massie Twins to seek out a wide range of previously undiscovered pictures (as well as to formulate their own personal Top 100!). See below for the lists, as well as complete reviews for every title!