America's 100 Greatest Thrillers
100 YEARS...100 THRILLS


by American Film Institute (AFI)




The American Film Institute in Los Angeles, California,, in mid-June 2001 made a definitive selection of the 100 greatest American "heart-pounding" and "adrenaline-inducing" films of all time, as determined by more than 1,800 actors, directors, screenwriters, historians, studio executives, critics, and others from the American film community, from 400 nominated films.

Note: The films that are marked with a yellow star are the
films that "The Greatest Films" site has selected as the 100 Greatest Films

AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills
  1. Psycho 1960
  2. Jaws 1975
  3. The Exorcist 1973
  4. North by Northwest 1959
  5. The Silence of the Lambs 1991
  6. Alien 1979
  7. The Birds 1963
  8. The French Connection 1971
  9. Rosemary's Baby 1968
  10. Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981
  11. The Godfather 1972
  12. King Kong 1933
  13. Bonnie and Clyde 1967
  14. Rear Window 1954
  15. Deliverance 1972
  16. Chinatown 1974
  17. The Manchurian Candidate 1962
  18. Vertigo 1958
  19. The Great Escape 1963
  20. High Noon 1952
  21. A Clockwork Orange 1971
  22. Taxi Driver 1976
  23. Lawrence of Arabia 1962
  24. Double Indemnity 1944
  25. Titanic 1997
  26. The Maltese Falcon 1941
  27. Star Wars 1977
  28. Fatal Attraction 1987
  29. The Shining 1980
  30. The Deer Hunter 1978
  31. Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977
  32. Strangers on a Train 1951
  33. The Fugitive 1993
  34. The Night of the Hunter 1955
  35. Jurassic Park 1993
  36. Bullitt 1968
  37. Casablanca 1942
  38. Notorious 1946
  39. Die Hard 1988
  40. 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968
  41. Dirty Harry 1971
  42. The Terminator 1984
  43. The Wizard of Oz 1939
  44. E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial 1982
  45. Saving Private Ryan 1998
  46. Carrie 1976
  47. Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956
  48. Dial M for Murder 1954
  49. Ben-Hur 1959
  50. Marathon Man 1976
  51. Raging Bull 1980
  52. Rocky 1976
  53. Pulp Fiction 1994
  54. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 1969
  55. Wait Until Dark 1967
  56. Frankenstein 1931
  57. All the President's Men 1976
  58. The Bridge on the River Kwai 1957
  59. Planet of the Apes 1968
  60. The Sixth Sense 1999
  61. Cape Fear 1962
  62. Spartacus 1960
  63. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962
  64. Touch of Evil 1958
  65. The Dirty Dozen 1967
  66. The Matrix 1999
  67. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 1948
  68. Halloween 1978
  69. The Wild Bunch 1969
  70. Dog Day Afternoon 1975
  71. Goldfinger 1964
  72. Platoon 1986
  73. Laura 1944
  74. Blade Runner 1982
  75. The Third Man 1949
  76. Thelma & Louise 1991
  77. Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991
  78. Gaslight 1944
  79. The Magnificent Seven 1960
  80. Rebecca 1940
  81. The Omen 1976
  82. The Day the Earth Stood Still 1951
  83. The Phantom of the Opera 1925
  84. Poltergeist 1982
  85. Dracula 1931
  86. The Picture of Dorian Gray 1945
  87. The Thing from Another World 1951
  88. 12 Angry Men 1957
  89. The Guns of Navarone 1961
  90. The Poseidon Adventure 1972
  91. Braveheart 1995
  92. Body Heat 1981
  93. Night of the Living Dead 1968
  94. The China Syndrome 1979
  95. Full Metal Jacket 1987
  96. Blue Velvet 1986
  97. Safety Last! 1923
  98. Blood Simple 1984
  99. Speed 1994
  100. The Adventures of Robin Hood 1938

Facts (and Commentary) about the 100 Greatest Thrillers chosen:
  • Stanley Kubrick had five films on the list, including A Clockwork Orange (# 21), The Shining (# 29), 2001: A Space Odyssey (# 40), Spartacus (# 62) and Full Metal Jacket (# 95).

  • By decade, two films came from the '20s, five from the '30s, 10 from the '40s, 15 from the '50s, 21 from the '60s, 22 from the '70s, 14 from the '80s and 12 from the '90s.

  • Harrison Ford tied with Claude Rains as the actor with the most movies in the top 100, at four apiece. Ford appeared in Raiders of the Lost Ark (# 10), Star Wars (# 27), The Fugitive (# 33) and Blade Runner (# 74), while Rains appeared in Lawrence of Arabia (# 23), Casablanca (# 37), Notorious (# 38) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (# 100).

  • The 400 nominated films included those not normally associated with the thriller genre, such as comedies, action/adventure films, fantasy films, westerns, sports films, war films, and horror films (e.g., Ghostbusters (1984), The Wizard of Oz (1939), Hoosiers (1986), Full Metal Jacket (1987), and The Karate Kid (1984)).

  • Some of the nominated and winning films could be considered less thrillers than gripping dramas, such as The Godfather (# 11), Lawrence of Arabia (# 23), Casablanca (# 37), and 12 Angry Men (# 88). Ben-Hur (# 49) has two suspenseful scenes - the sea galley battle and the famed chariot race, but most of the film cannot be considered thrilling. Westerns such as High Noon (# 20), The Wild Bunch (# 69), and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (# 54) seem slightly out of place on the list, as do the classic horror films. War films (The Great Escape (# 19)), and boxing films (Rocky (# 52) and Raging Bull (# 51)) may also have thrilling elements, but they are essentially dramas.

  • Where are the "adrenaline-inducing" components throughout Laura (# 73) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (# 86)?

  • Political thrillers, such as The Day of the Jackal (1973), The Parallax View (1974), Fail-Safe (1964), Seven Days in May (1964), Crimson Tide (1995), The Hunt for Red October (1990), and In the Line of Fire (1993), are conspicuously absent, as are the big-budget espionage thrillers of the 60s: The Train (1965), Von Ryan's Express (1965), Operation Crossbow (1965), and Where Eagles Dare (1969).

  • There's little representation for erotic thrillers, such as Angel Heart (1987), Basic Instinct (1992), Body Double (1984), Bound (1996), Don't Look Now (1973), Jagged Edge (1985), Klute (1971), No Way Out (1987), The Big Easy (1987), Sea of Love (1989), The Grifters (1990), The Last Seduction (1994), Wild Things (1998), etc.

  • Definitive thrillers missing from the final list of 100 are: Ernest B. Schoedsack's The Most Dangerous Game (1932), Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly (1955), Buster Keaton's The General (1927), George Stevens' Gunga Din (1939), John Huston's The African Queen (1951) and The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Fritz Lang's Fury (1936), Man Hunt (1941), and The Woman in the Window (1944), Robert Siodmak's The Spiral Staircase (1945), Anatole Litvak's Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), Raoul Walsh's White Heat (1949), Ted Tetzlaff's The Window (1949), Richard Fleischer's The Narrow Margin (1952), Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Ida Lupino's The Hitch-hiker (1953), Lewis Allen's Suddenly (1954), William Wyler's The Desperate Hours (1955), John Sturges' Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), Robert Aldrich's The Flight of the Phoenix (1966) and Twilight's Last Gleaming (1977), Coppola's The Conversation (1974), and Don Siegel's Charley Varrick (1973) and Escape From Alcatraz (1979).

  • Other notable "thriller" omissions: D.O.A. (1950), Call Northside 777 (1948), Night Moves (1975), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1985), Charade (1963), Play Misty for Me (1971), Se7en (1995), The Usual Suspects (1995), Natural Born Killers (1994), Dressed to Kill (1980), Blow Out (1981), Witness (1985), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Heat (1995), L.A. Confidential (1997), Hackers (1995), Red Rock West (1993), Black Sunday (1977), The Firm (1993), The Cell (2000), and Aliens (1986) (better for 'heart-pounding' effects than the original film). And Michael Mann's Manhunter (1986) is perhaps more gripping than The Silence of the Lambs (# 5).

  • Since the definitive action films Die Hard (# 39) and Speed (# 99) are included in the final list, why not others, such as Lethal Weapon (1987), Con Air (1997), The Rock (1996), Face/Off (1997), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), True Lies (1994), Airport (1970), The Towering Inferno (1974), Earthquake (1974), Air Force One (1997), Point of No Return (1993), and more.

  • Non U.S.-made, feature-length fiction films that would have been perfect for this list include: M (1931), The Wages of Fear (1952), Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938) and The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935), Point Blank (1967), Panic in the Streets (1950), Repulsion (1965), Peeping Tom (1960), Blow-up (1966), Mad Max 2 - aka The Road Warrior (1981), Rififi (1954), The Long Good Friday (1980), John Woo's The Killer (1989), and Run Lola, Run (1998).


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