AFI Top 100: Sophie’s Choice

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 #91 on the list: Sophie’s Choice (1982).

Sophie’s Choice is one of the more surprising inclusions on this list. Not that it’s particularly bad (depending on who you ask), but it has virtually no cultural impact aside from the titular choice which is still glibly used to refer to a difficult decision. Its acclaim is almost entirely centered around Meryl Streep’s performance, but Kevin Kline delivers a characteristically strong performance as well; their dynamic is what makes the film engaging for its lengthy two and a half hour runtime. The film works best as a relationship drama between the two, with Peter MacNicol serving as the audience surrogate peering into their fiery and often deeply unhealthy partnership. It’s far less compelling when it focuses on Sophie’s history as a prisoner at Auschowitz, which feels more like superfluous character development rather than a thoughtful thematic foundation. On its surface, it may seem like generic Oscar bait, but Sophie’s Choice is actually more entertaining and emotionally affecting than one would imagine.

Does It Belong on the List?

It’s much better than I thought it would be, but absolutely not.

AFI Top 100

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