AFI Top 100: Bringing Up Baby

Each week, this column will cover one film on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest American films of all time, covering my general thoughts on the film and whether or not I think it belongs on the list. You can also see my personal ranking here. This week’s film is #88 on the list: Bringing Up Baby (1938).

Bringing Up Baby is a delightful romantic comedy which mostly succeeds due to the chemistry between the two leads, Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. Not to discount the script entirely, but the film feels at times like a series of somewhat insular comedic set pieces that rely on absurd misunderstandings and chance encounters, and some are more effective than others. Unlike the two more mature and superior Hawks/Grant collaborations that immediately follow it, Bringing Up Baby’s characters are far less complex, and it takes the unbridled charisma of the two leads to bring it to life. Hawks’s pitch perfect sense of comedic timing also does the film some favors, but when it comes down to it, this is not his strongest effort.

Does It Belong on the List?

Definitely not! On most days, His Girl Friday is my favorite film of all time and Only Angels Have Wings isn’t far off, so I’d be overjoyed with either of those replacing it.

AFI Top 100

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