AFI’s action-packed night

Another American Film Institute 100 Years countdown has come and gone–and with it, the realization that Hollywood’s elite still prefer the films of yesteryear over the slick productions of today, even in the action/suspense genres.

AFI’s 100 Years…100 Thrills, the fourth installment in the countdown series, which has already rated the greatest films of all time, aired on CBS Tuesday night, hosted by action hero Harrison Ford. The show revealed the collective psyche of industry insiders: older is better.

Not surprisingly, Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho (1960) scored the number-one spot. Rounding out the top ten were: Jaws (1975); The Exorcist (1973); North By Northwest (1959); The Silence of the Lambs (1991); Alien (1979); The Birds (1963); The French Connection (1971); Rosemary’s Baby (1968); and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

How did 2000’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture–Gladiator–fare in the top 100? It didn’t make the list. What was the ranking for last year’s martial arts masterpiece Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Again, didn’t make the cut.

Is the AFI’s tally an accurate representation of America’s true feelings toward great works of film? According to a separate AFI poll, published on their Web site at, users, not insiders, were also given the chance to chose their top 10 list of thrillers, and the results skew much more recent.

While Psycho, Raiders, Jaws and The Exorcist landed on the public’s list, online users gravitated more toward the blockbusters than the black-and-whites. The entire Star Wars trilogy shot to the top, followed by the entire Indiana Jones trilogy and the first Jurassic Park.

In total, the average year of production of the AFI’s top 10 thrillers was 1968. The average year of production of online users’ top 10 was 1980.

Is the AFI concerned about the overall validity of their rankings? According to AFI director CEO Jean Picker Firstenberg, not in the least.

“AFI hopes this new list will spark another national dialogue and send a new generation of moviegoers to see these heart-pounding movies,” she told Reuters late Tuesday. “Creating a movie is the ultimate collaborative effort. When it all comes together, it is, in a word, thrilling.”

For their official rankings, the AFI polled more than 1500 members of the American filmmaking community, including actors, directors, producers, writers and more. No word yet on upcoming AFI 100 Years specials, but CBS spokeswoman Kate Fisher has told “I believe CBS plans to continue this tradition in years to come.”