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 #6 on the list: Gone with the Wind (1939).
Cutting to the chase, let’s just eradicate the notion that Gone with the Wind still remains one of the greatest films of all time. In addition to the obvious controversy of its glamorization of slave owners in Civil War Era America, it simply doesn’t stand up to the many American classics (and should-be classics) in the eight decades since its release. That’s not to say it’s entirely antiquated or unenjoyable: most notably, the gorgeous, sweeping cinematography still holds up to modern standards and the set design is deliciously extravagant. Aside from its stunning filmmaking, the characters are fascinatingly flawed, even if they’re one-dimensional. Scarlett O’Hara isn’t the typical heroine one might expect from a ‘30s romance film; she’s portrayed essentially as a petulant teenager. Those anticipating a boring “homework” film can rest assured, the film’s dense plot, lush production values, and nimble pacing keep it engaging for the lengthy runtime, but, unlike some other revered classics of the era, it’s not as revelatory as it must have been at the time.
Does It Belong on the List?
Once again, I have to commit an act of cinematic heresy and kick off a renowned classic.