1. To Kill a Mockingbird: The only courtroom drama to make the original top 100 list. It's the definitive parable about bravery and justice in our culture, and Atticus Finch was also named the #1 hero on AFI's list
2. 12 Angry Men, Sidney Lumet: The definitive courtroom drama, in my opinion. The simple premise of 12 men slowly being swayed by one reasonable man with a conscience embodies everything about our legal system into drama. Plus, it made the list
3. Inherit the Wind, Stanley Kramer-The courtroom speech practically made Spencer Tracy's career. I've heard actors and writers use the term an "Inherit the Wind speech" to describe a monologue so enthralling that it can be the hallmark of one's career
4. The Verdict, Sidney Lumet-One of Paul Newman's great roles, one of Lumet's great pictures
5. Anatomy of a Murder, Otto Preminger-A cult favorite that's been growing in reputation as one of the best films not to make the AFI top 100
6. Judgement at Nuremburg, Stanley Kramer-It was a seminal event, and the film had an all-star cast that earned Oscar nominations for practically everyone, and at least one Oscar win
7. Kramer vs Kramer, Robert Benton-This film beat out Apocolypse Now for an Oscar (which made the AFI list very high up and is unanimously hailed as brilliant) and yet, film buffs haven't named Kramer vs Kramer as a humongous Oscar mistake, which means the film must have some merit. It awarded Oscars to Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman, and gave a win to a nobody director over Francis Ford Copolla
8. A Few Good Men, Oliver Stone-One of the classics of the '90s that has still held up as has Oliver Stone's career. A hint that this might do well tonight is that Jack Nicholson's "You Can't Handle the Truth" speech was selected on AFI's top 100 quotes list.
The last 3 are between Man for All Seasons, Paths to Glory, and People vs Larry Flynt
9. Paths to Glory, Stanley Kubrick-The only Kubrick film that I personally can really get into, features one of those "Inherit the Wind speeches" expertly delivered by Kirk Douglas (who is still alive and serving as a TV panelist for the event, hint hint)
10. People vs Larry Flynt, Milos Forman-Sounds like a somewhat unconventional and offbeat choice the AFI could go for just to spice it up a little. The picture earned Milos Forman an Oscar nomination even though the film wasn't nominated.
I wouldn't be surprised if this one made it:
11. Man for All Seasons, Fred Zimmerman-This did get the director his second Oscar and won a Best picture award, and few Oscar buffs have labelled that as a mistake either. It's hard to count a Best picture winner out.
Sports films are a really, really difficult category to predict considering that the vast majority of sports films are not critically revered so even while Bill Durham, Field of Dreams, Bad News Bears, and Hoosiers might be the favorite film of all time for a lot of average joes, they weren't up there in terms of critical respect, so with that being said, it's easiest to start with the few films that are up there in terms of critical respect. After that I could go with films that won or were nominated for an Oscar (Chariots of Fire, Million Dollar Baby won, Seabiscuit, Breaking Away were nominated), I could go to films that are cult favorites, or I could go to films that embody the spirit of sport:
1. Raging Bull, Martin Scorsesee-It's Scorsesee's best picture and Scorsesee is like a God to many in the film community. Raging Bull was ranked as high as #4 on the AFI top 100 list last year.
2. Rocky, William Advelson-I could see Rocky taking best picture because Rocky is like the ultimate sports picture and Raging Bull is not necessarily a sports' film but about a man's demise. Rocky did make the top 100 list both times.
3. Hoosiers-Hoosiers features a legendary actor, Gene Hackman, and it was ranked #1 on ESPN for all-time sports films
4. Field of Dreams, Phil Alden Robinson-Field of Dreams is definitely everything a sports film should be, a favorite of many sports' enthusiasts and it has some commentary underneath the surface about the innocence of sport and the times. According to Mast and Ciwan's History of Film textbook, that escape into politics in the period was a step toward fantasy and to confront political and economic corruption was to dismantle the myth. Kevin Costner's character's efforts to personally heal himself through building a baseball field is metaphorical for healing the problems of the 20th Century. so it's got all that going for it.
5. The Natural, Barry Levinson-Well, I know it's considered a high mark in Barry Levinson's and Robert Redford's careers. People who were willing to bash Barry Levinson on a message board one day, stayed away from the natural.
6. The Freshman, Harold Lloyd-Pretty much every sports movie owes a debt to this silent film and every physical comic owes a debt to Harold Lloyd. His film pulls out all the stops and is a masterpiece, but it's up to the AFI to do their homework and be familiar enough with Lloyd to vote him in.
7. Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood-1) Clint Eastwood is hot 2) This film won an Oscar with few complaints and it's hard to deny an Oscar winner its due. It's also a film that transcends just the genre of sports.
8. The Champion, Ron Bozman-Kirk Douglas was in it, and gave one of his best performances, and it won 10 Oscars. Classics usually hold more sway when it comes down to it.
9. Slapshot, George Roy Hill: I feel like this film has enough critical pedigree (Paul Newman, George Roy Hill) and cult fans (I've heard questions about Slapshot be used in pub trivia nights on multiple occasions) to push it into the top 10. Plus, it's not about boxing.
10. Any Given Sunday, Oliver Stone: There's the option here of going with the cult favorites or the critically revered, but how about the film whose quality is just plain damn good. That's what Any Given Sunday is and although this would be a surprising pick, it might not be too late to appreciate the film's merits.
11. Karate Kid, John Alvedson-One of the most commercially successful films of the '80s, spawned a number of sequels, and got Pat Morita an Oscar nom. The main question is: was the film any good? I personally saw it when I was young, I don't know how I'd respond to it if I rewatched it, and don't have time to find out