In 2007, the American Film Institute revised their previous 1998 list of the 100 best American films of all time. This weekly column will explore my thoughts on select films 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 Sound of Music (2001), #40 on the list.
Transitioning from one genre I don’t care for (high fantasy) to another (musicals), I was apprehensive to finally watch The Sound of Music – yes, this is one of the final seven films in the AFI top 100 I hadn’t previously seen – but I was delighted to find that my trepidation was unwarranted. The Sound of Music is just as wonderful as I’d been assured all these years that I’d skillfully skirted it. For a nearly 3 hour film, it breezes by, with the pacing perfectly broken up with the timeless Rodgers & Hammerstein songs. I was taken aback by just how much music I recognized in the film. I knew just about every song, but had no clue they were all from The Sound of Music – specifically “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “My Favorite Things,” and “Do-Re-Mi” (my personal favorite). I was astonished to find myself singing along occasionally, and humming to myself at work the next day.
Focusing solely on the songs, as glorious as they are, does the film a disservice. After all, they only make up a fraction of the film’s runtime, and the remainder is just as strong. The characters are lush, with Julie Andrews’s Maria providing the film its bright, joyful foundation and a young, dashing Christopher Plummer playing Captain von Trapp as a rigid contrast to Maria’s gleeful spirit. The seven children are immediately distinct, each with their own character traits, and watching Maria slowly win them and Captain von Trapp over is one of the most heartwarming experiences I’ve had with a film in a while.