3 x 10

The International Herald Tribune has an article today that lists the American Film Institute‘s “10 Top 10”, which is the AFI’s top 10 films in each movie genre: Animation, Epics, Courtroom Drama, Fantasy, Gangster, Mystery, Science Fiction, Sports, Romantic Comedy, and Westerns (where on earth is Horror?).

As expected, I have quibbles with the lists, and in particular I notice the strong emphasis on films made before the 1980s. I think it’s an indication of the greying of the AFI’s membership, rather than a true reflection of the merits of films in recent decades. For instance, I can’t understand why Gladiator doesn’t feature in the Epics Top 10 (they could chuck out Titanic instead).

So, here’s my favourite 10 for Animation, Fantasy and Science Fiction – but, all these films have been made since 1977. I haven’t numbered them as many are too close to call.


  • Toy Story
  • Spirited Away
  • Toy Story 2
  • Finding Nemo
  • The Incredibles
  • Lilo and Stitch
  • Akira
  • Monsters Inc.
  • Princess Mononoke
  • The Iron Giant

The Animation category is by far the strongest field in the last few decades. There has been a welcome emphasis on the importance of storytelling, often combined with lashings of humour. Animation overlaps with the science fiction and fantasy genre as well, which makes this a tricky one to whittle down. There is also a huge amount of Anime, much of Miyazaki’s oeuvre, and other treats such as Les Triplettes de Belleville which unfortunately don’t make the cut. People might be surprised that Shrek isn’t in my top ten. It would make my top twenty, however.


  • The Princess Bride
  • The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring
  • Labyrinth
  • Highlander
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Night Watch
  • Big Trouble in Little China
  • Videodrome
  • The Purple Rose of Cairo
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

The Fantasy section is difficult because it depends on one’s definition of the genre. I’ve included films underpinned by a surreal or fantasy element. There was a slew of films I didn’t mention such as Legend, The Chronicles of Narnia, City of Lost Children, Being John Malkovich, The Fountain, Willow, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Beastmaster, and Krull (several of these are guilty pleasures). Fantasy often edges strongly into horror too. Again, I’ve had to make a call about what element I thought was dominant. There are a bunch of Asian films that could be included here. The AFI, no surprise, is focused on American films, but I’m not.

Science Fiction

  • Alien & Aliens
  • Bladerunner
  • Matrix
  • Terminator 2
  • Pitch Black
  • Brazil
  • 12 Monkeys
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Robocop
  • A Scanner Darkly

The science fiction category was particularly difficult for me to squeeze down to ten. I wanted to mention Star Wars, Primer, E.T., Red Planet, Back to the Future, Donnie Darko, Dark City, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), The Prestige, Cube, The Thing, X2, Total Recall, Time Bandits, and Predator for instance. It was interesting to note how much of science fiction overlaps with horror, and sometimes, fantasy. In that list I tried to privilege the science fiction trope over other elements.

Of course, much of this comes down to my taste in films. I like weird and quirky, but mostly I like a compelling story. There are certain films that tug on my imagination in strange ways, so I’ve selected with my preferences to the forefront.

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