Why ‘Gone With The Wind’ isn’t a great film any more

Empire’s 100 greatest films list has no pre-1940 movies. Yet ‘Hot Fuzz’ makes it

We all love a list. Right? No we don’t. We hate lists. Nothing gets us more worked up than the latest chart of best mushroom dishes, nicest capital cities or greatest films of all time.

Last week, the New York Times triggered much fury by rating the best movies of the 21st century. There Will be Blood was at number one. Fair enough. Spirited Away made number two. We can live with that. But Million Dollar Baby in third place? What had the Grey Lady been smoking?

A day or so later, Empire magazine surprised few by confirming that, in their most recent readers poll, The Godfather had scored first place. It's not everyone's favourite. But it's a reasonable choice. The picture featured an array of the era's greatest actors – Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall – in a signature emanation of post-classical Hollywood. That will do.

The top 10 as voted by readers of Empire

  1. The Godfather (1972)
  2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  3. The Dark Knight (2008)
  4. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  5. Pulp Fiction (1994)
  6. Goodfellas (1990)
  7. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  8. Jaws (1975)
  9. Star Wars (1977)
  10. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The subsequent release of Empire's full top 100 triggered greater levels of dyspepsia. I would argue against the inclusion of Captain America: Civil War at number 79, but, truth be told, I can barely remember a thing about last year's Marvel mash-up. Was that the one that ended up with a fight in a parking lot?

Nothing so new should be permitted space in an all-time chart. Surely, some settling of the furniture must be allowed before such consideration takes place.

The inclusion of the awful Fight Club as high as 17 was not unexpected. That does not mean, however, that I won't take another opportunity to reiterate my view that David Fincher's film is a pretentious wad of sludge that takes its silly men's rights subtext more seriously than some apologists pretend.

The arrival of Interstellar – a genuinely bad thing – in the top 50 confirms that if Christopher Nolan directed a Magic Roundabout film it would register in such a chart. They just love him.

The nerds long ago triumphed in online discussion. No such poll can be held without it being overrun with Hobbits, Jedi and Batmen. The Dark Knight is at number three. The Empire Strikes Back is at number two. Some Lord of the Rings film is at number 10. I think it was first one.

If you can be bothered to check, the list is at the end of this article. (Given the advance of the geeks, the omission from the top 100 of Star Wars: The Force Awakens slightly astonishes. Has the gloss already dulled on that film?)

All these things are likely to get a less franchise-friendly film buff into a righteous (and deserved) frenzy. He or she may also wearily point to the dearth of non-Anglophone films in the list. Hats off to the late Akira Kurosawa whose The Seven Samurai registers at 73. The middlebrow Amélie is also in the lower reaches.

The highest "foreign film" is Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth at a distant 55. I suppose this miserable result was to be expected. Films in another language have always been a minority interest.

No, what really boils the blood is the poor showing by films from the first half (and more) of the medium’s history. Only 10 percent of the 100 is from before 1960. Only four inclusions predate 1950.

Get this? Not one of these films premiered before 1940. Never mind relatively rarefied pleasures such as His Girl Friday, King Kong or Stagecoach. This electorate couldn't get even The Wizard of Oz or Gone With the Wind into the final list.

Well, obviously. The neophiles were too busy voting for Hot Fuzz or Guardians of the Galaxy. Maybe a fire engine went past and they lost their train of thought.

Is it just that "old films" are much older than they used to be? Towards the end of his career, Roger Ebert wearily observed that The Godfather was now more distant than was Casablanca when he began. There's something in that.

But there's also the fact that, not raised on broadcast TV, most online voters were never forced to sit before The Wizard of Oz or Ben Hur on a rainy bank holiday. Older film fans were forced to have a cinema education.

The news is worse than that. It is now more difficult to find older films even if you seek them out. The streaming services have run most video stores out of action and those streaming services (you know who I mean) have no interest in offering anything first released in the olden days.

The olden days now means before 1980, by the way. Oh well. The next time this poll is published Fight Club may seem too ancient to be worthy of consideration. That's something.

The top 100 films as voted by readers of Empire

100. Stand By Me (1986)
99. Raging Bull (1980)
98. Amélie (2001)
97. Titanic (1997)
96. Good Will Hunting (1997)
95. Arrival (2016)
94. Lost In Translation (2003)
93. The Princess Bride (1987)
92. The Terminator (1984)
91. The Prestige (2006)
90. No Country For Old Men (2007)
89. Shaun Of The Dead (2004)
88. The Exorcist (1973)
87. Predator (1987)
86. Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)
85. Léon (1994)
84. Rocky (1976)
83. True Romance (1993)
82. Some Like It Hot (1959)
81. The Social Network (2010)
80. Spirited Away (2001)
79. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
78. Oldboy (2003)
77. Toy Story (1995)
76. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
75. Fargo (1996)
74. Mulholland Dr. (2001)
73. Seven Samurai (1954)
72. Rear Window (1954)
71. Hot Fuzz (2007)
70. The Lion King (1994)
69. Singin' In The Rain (1952)
68. Ghostbusters (1984)
67. Memento (2000)
66. Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi (1983)
65. Avengers Assemble (2012)
64. L.A. Confidential (1997)
63. Donnie Darko (2001)
62. La La Land (2016)
61. Forrest Gump (1994)
60. American Beauty (1999)
59. E.T. — The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
58. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
57. Whiplash (2014)
56. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
55. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
54. Vertigo (1958)
53. Psycho (1960)
52. Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)
51. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
50. Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)
49. Trainspotting (1996)
48. The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
47. Interstellar (2014)
46. Citizen Kane (1941)
45. Drive (2011)
44. Gladiator (2000)
43. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
42. There Will Be Blood (2007)
41. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004)
40. 12 Angry Men (1957)
39. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
38. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
37. John Carpenter's The Thing (1982)
36. The Departed (2006)
35. The Shining (1980)
34. Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
33. Schindler's List (1993)
32. The Usual Suspects (1995)
31. Taxi Driver (1976)
30. Seven (1995)
29. The Big Lebowski (1998)
28. Casablanca (1942)
27. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966)
26. Heat (1995)
25. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
24. The Matrix (1999)
23. The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
22. Apocalypse Now (1979)
21. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
20. Die Hard (1988)
19. Jurassic Park (1993)
18. Inception (2010)
17. Fight Club (1999)
16. The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003)
15. Aliens (1986)
14. Alien (1979)
13. Blade Runner (1982)
12. The Godfather Part II (1974)
11. Back To The Future (1985)
10. The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)
9. Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope (1977)
8. Jaws (1975)
7. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
6. GoodFellas (1990)
5. Pulp Fiction (1994)
4. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
3. The Dark Knight (2008)
2. Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
1. The Godfather (1972)