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Jonathan Rosenbaum's Alternate 100

First things first: This is not a list of Jonathan Rosenbaum's favorite American movies. If it were, about a quarter of the films that appear on the American Film Institute's Top 100 would be here, but with this list, Rosenbaum consciously avoids any overlapping at all. The list was drawn up in 1998 in reaction to his and his friends' dismay at the AFI list, all the ensuing hoopla and the general impression that "the list was just business as usual, symptomatic of an increasingly dumbed-down film culture that continues to outflank our shrinking expectations."

That typically take-no-prisoners quote comes from the excellent essay Rosenbaum wrote to accompany, explain and elaborate on his choices. Must-reading. If it whets your appetite for more, and it probably will, the Chicago Reader, where Rosenbaum is the house critic, regularly posts and archives his reviews.

There, too, are generous excerpts from his latest book, Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Conspire To Limit What Films We Can See; that title alone will give you a basic idea of where Rosenbaum is coming from, but it's only half the picture. Rosenbaum is concerned with the social and political context of a film (and with public reaction to a film once it comes out) and he certainly doesn't shy from the polemical, but he also never loses sight of the impact a movie can have as a personal experience and of how differently we may read a movie at different points in our lives. Rosenbaum freely admits that his own autobiography, which plays a supporting role in a few of his many books, has also shaped this list:

Ace in the Hole/The Big Carnival (1951, directed by Billy Wilder)

An Affair to Remember (1957)

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Avanti! (1972, directed by Billy Wilder)

The Barefoot Contessa (1954)

The Big Sky (1952, directed by Howard Hawks)

Bigger Than Life (1956, directed by Nicholas Ray)

The Black Cat (1934, directed by Edgar G. Ulmer)

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Broken Blossoms (1919)

Cat People (1942, directed by Jacques Tourneur)

Christmas in July (1940, directed by Preston Sturges)

Confessions of an Opium Eater (1962, directed by Albert Zugsmith)

The Crowd (1928, directed by King Vidor)

Dead Man (1995)

Do the Right Thing (1989)

The Docks of New York (1928, directed by Josef von Sternberg)

Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer (1974, directed by Thom Anderson)

11 x 14 (1976, directed by James Benning)

Eraserhead (1978, directed by David Lynch)

Foolish Wives (1922)

Force of Evil (1948, directed by Abraham Polonsky)

Freaks (1932)

The General (1927)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Gilda (1946)

The Great Garrick (1937, directed by James Whale)

Greed (1925, directed by Erich von Stroheim)

Hallelujah, I'm a Bum (1933)

The Heartbreak Kid (1972)

Housekeeping (1987, directed by Bill Forsyth)

The Hustler (1961)

Intolerance (1916)

Johnny Guitar (1954, directed by Nicholas Ray)

Judge Priest (1934, directed by John Ford)

Killer of Sheep (1978, directed by Charles Burnett)

The Killing (1956)

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

The Ladies' Man (1961, directed by Jerry Lewis)

The Lady From Shanghai (1948)

Last Chants for a Slow Dance (1977, directed by Jon Jost)

Laughter (1930, directed by Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast)

Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948, directed by Max Ophüls)

Lonesome (1929, directed by Pál Fejös)

Love Me Tonight (1932, directed by Rouben Mamoulian)

Love Streams (1984, directed by John Cassavetes)

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942, directed by Orson Welles)

Make Way for Tomorrow (1937, directed by Leo McCarey)

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Man's Castle (1933, directed by Frank Borzage)

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944, directed by Vincente Minnelli)

Mikey and Nicky (1976, directed by Elaine May)

Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

My Son John (1952, directed by Leo McCarey)

The Naked Spur (1953, directed by Anthony Mann)

Nanook of the North (1922)

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

The Nutty Professor (1963)

The Palm Beach Story (1942, directed by Preston Sturges)

Panic in the Streets (1950, directed by Elia Kazan)

Park Row (1952, directed by Samuel Fuller)

The Phenix City Story (1955, directed by Phil Karlson)

Point Blank (1967, directed by John Boorman)

Real Life (1979)

Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1971, directed by Jonas Mekas)

Rio Bravo (1959)

Scarface (1932, directed by Howard Hawks and Richard Rossen)

The Scarlet Empress (1934)

Scarlet Street (1945)

Scenes From Under Childhood (1970, directed by Stan Brakhage)

The Scenic Route (1978, directed by Mark Rappaport)

The Seventh Victim (1943, directed by Mark Robson)

Shadows (1960)

Sherlock Jr (1924)

The Shooting (1967)

The Shop Around the Corner (1940, directed by Ernst Lubitsch)

The Sound of Fury/Try and Get Me! (1950, directed by Cy Endfield)

Stars in My Crown (1950, directed by Jacques Tourneur)

The Steel Helmet (1951, directed by Samuel Fuller)

Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

The Strawberry Blonde (1941, directed by Raoul Walsh)

Sunrise (1927, directed by F.W. Murnau)

Sylvia Scarlett (1935, directed by George Cukor)

The Tarnished Angels (1958, directed by Douglas Sirk)

That's Entertainment! III (1994, directed by Bud Friedgen and Michael J. Sheridan)

This Land Is Mine (1943, directed by Jean Renoir)

Thunderbolt (1929, directed by Josef von Sternberg)

To Sleep With Anger (1990, directed by Charles Burnett)

Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son (1969, directed by Ken Jacobs)

Track of the Cat (1954, directed by William Wellman)

Trouble in Paradise (1932, directed by Ernst Lubitsch)

Vinyl (1965, directed by Andy Warhol)

Wanda (1971, directed by Barbara Loden)

While the City Sleeps (1956, directed by Fritz Lang)

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957, directed by Frank Tashlin)

Woodstock (1970)

The Wrong Man (1957, directed by Alfred Hitchcock)

Zabriskie Point (1970, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)

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