In 2007, the American Film Institute revised their previous 1998 list of the 100 best American films of all time. This column will explore my thoughts on some films I’ve selected from this list, mostly following along with the Unspooled Podcast, which inspired my journey to complete the AFI Top 100. You can also follow my progress with my ranking and watchlist. This week’s film is The Gold Rush (1925), #58 on the list.
The Gold Rush is the 2nd oldest film on the AFI top 100 list, just behind D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (which is coming up soon) made nearly a decade earlier, but it doesn’t really feel a century old. Sure, the lack of color and sound date the film, but there’s no diminishing Chaplin‘s overflowing charisma or the sense of excitement in those elaborate set pieces in the cabin. The final one in particular, where the entire building teeters over the edge of a cliff, is so undeniably thrilling and inventive, there’s no question that Chaplin’s talent lies just as much behind the camera as it does in front of it. Early cinema can often feel like homework, but The Gold Rush certainly doesn’t.
Does it belong on the list?
I will ardently defend the inclusion of silent films on the list, but three films from Chaplin is excessive when Buster Keaton only has one (not a great one either) and Safety Last! is egregiously absent. I haven’t seen Modern Times yet, but I prefer City Lights to this one, so I say no.