The American Film Institute is redoing its top 100 list for its 10 anniversary, so in response to this announcement, I thought I would provide my top 5 films that should have made the original list, but didn't.
The General (1927)
Buster Keaton's silent masterpiece is the best silent film ever made in my opinion. It has just about anything you could ask for in a film: hilarious comedy, thrilling action, tender romance, and a really cool train crash. Even though the bulk of the film is a train chase, the pace never slows and Keaton never repeats himself.
Sullivan's Travels (1941)
A Hollywood director sets out to find out how the Real Man lives in order to make a Steinbeckesque film on the suffering of humanity, but instead learns that most people just want a good laugh. The film is a riot all the way through, and yet there is truth to be found in it as well. I just wish some of the great directors of the 1970s had watched this film a few more times; maybe then we wouldn't have had quite so many depressing films from the 70s.
The Great Escape (1963)
Based on the true story of a large-scale prison break from a Nazi POW camp, The Great Escape takes its time building up to the climactic breakout, going into detail about all the different things that have to go just right in order for the plan to succeed. The film sports an A-list cast, headed by Steve McQueen in his greatest role. While the sobering end is shocking, it is in no way forced.
The Sting (1973)
I love the twists and turns the story takes, and it is great fun showing it to people who have not seen it yet. Never before or since has a con been as much fun to pull off. If you haven't seen this film yet, I would be more than willing to show it to you.
The Princess Bride (1987)
Few films have as many things going for them as this film does: a great story, a clever screenplay, quotable dialog, memorable characters, hilarious jokes, thrilling action, a beautiful love story, and the greatest sword fight ever filmed. I can watch this film over and over, and still it is entertaining. I fully expect this film to make the AFI 100 list at some point, but I may have to wait 20 years or so for it to happen.
Since I'm adding 5 films to the AFI 100 list, I should take five films off, so without much thought on my part, here are the five films that must surrender their spots: The Searchers (1956), Easy Rider (1969), Midnight Cowboy (1969), Goodfellas (1990), and Unforgiven (1992).