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Citizen Kane beats Godfather to be the Greatest American Film

india Updated: Jun 22, 2007 13:49 IST
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Citizen Kane, Orson Welles' powerful portrait of an unscrupulous media baron, beat back an assault from The Godfather, on Wednesday to retain its title as the greatest American film.

Film critics, historians and experts voted Kane as the top US film for the second time in a decade in a poll conducted by the American Film Institute. The results were revealed in a three-hour CBS special 100 Years, 100 Movies, 10th Anniversary Edition.

The Godfather, which ranked third in the original poll of 100 great films a decade ago, moved up a notch to second place while Casablanca slipped to number three.

Also in the top 10 were a surprising Raging Bull at number four, up 20 places from a decade ago. Singin' in the Rain was in fifth place, Gone With The Wind was sixth followed by Lawrence of Arabia, Schindler's List, Vertigo and The Wizard of Oz.

Vertigo, the Hitchcock film starring James Stewart, rose to 9th place after placing 61st in the original poll.

"American film has always reflected and, in many respects, defined who we are," said AFI president and chief executive Jean Picker Firstenberg.

She credited the spreading popularity of the DVD with spurring interest in silent films and in often neglected masterpieces like John Ford's The Searchers, which went from 96 on the original list to 12 this year.

For the first time, D.W. Griffith's silent masterpiece Intolerance was voted onto the list as was Buster Keaton's The General while Charlie Chaplin's poignant City Lights rose from 76 to 11 on the list.

But Griffith's racist 1915 film Birth of a Nation fell off the list entirely because of its now unpopular ideology, despite its history of technical innovations.

Of the 43 newly eligible films released from 1996 to 2006, only Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (50), Saving Private Ryan (71), Titanic (83) and The Sixth Sense (89) made the cut.

Other new additions to the list include Cabaret (63), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (67), The Shawshank Redemption (72), All The President's Men (77), Spartacus, (81) and A Night at the Opera (85).

Among those films that did not make the list were: Fantasia, Doctor Zhivago, Birth of a Nation, The Jazz Singer, My Fair Lady, From Here to Eternity and An American in Paris.

AFI film historian Pat Hansen said it seemed that musicals took the biggest hit.

"Musicals seemed out of favor and were replaced by more popular films like Titanic and Saving Private Ryan," she said.