Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Versus AFI: Top 10 of 100 Years… 100 Songs

Last month I completed the series I began back in January that examined and remarked on The American Film Institute and its recent proclivity to create lists. Specifically, the Top 10 variety in film. Unquestionably, the film organization’s prime purpose was to get people talking about film. Since I’ve been on a music bent this month, I decided to look back on AFI’s Top 100 Songs in American cinema. Broadcast as part of their 100 Years series, the AFI released this on June 2004 in a CBS TV special hosted by John Travolta (and where exactly was Olivia Newton John again?).

Still, the song catalog did comprise another Top 10, of sorts. Perhaps, I’m going through a bit of withdrawal for not having to assemble and reflect upon another set of AFI movie selections. But this did incorporate a pair of arts I spend a lot of time with, film and song. So I thought to close out November with one more motivated response that compared their (AFI) picks with a moviegoer (me). One definitely not part of their ‘experts’ or opinions that put these together.

I’m fully aware that readers’ mileage may vary (indeed, we know they will) when it comes to these selections. Fair enough. Either way, it’s going to be challenging as picking one above the other always is in such endeavors. You’re invited to add your own and/or disagree all you want in the comments or your blog site (all I ask is that you leave a link so we, the readers, can peruse). Shall we move on?


# Song Movie Year
1 Over the Rainbow
PERFORMER Judy Garland
MUSIC/LYRICS Harold Arlen/E. Y. Harburg
2 As Time Goes By
PERFORMER Dooley Wilson
MUSIC/LYRICS Herman Hupfeld
3 Singin’ in the Rain
MUSIC/LYRICS Nacio Herb Brown/Arthur Freed
4 Moon River
PERFORMER Audrey Hepburn
MUSIC/LYRICS Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer
5 White Christmas
MUSIC/LYRICS Irving Berlin
6 Mrs. Robinson
PERFORMERS Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel
7 When You Wish Upon A Star
PERFORMER Cliff Edwards
MUSIC/LYRICS Leigh Harline/Ned Washington
8 Way We Were, The
PERFORMER Barbra Streisand
MUSIC/LYRICS Marvin Hamlisch/Alan and Marilyn Bergman
9 Stayin’ Alive
MUSIC/LYRICS Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb
10 Sound of Music, The
PERFORMER Julie Andrews
MUSIC/LYRICS Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II

My List

1) Over the Rainbow, The Wizard of Oz [AFI #1] – it’s not much of a start when I completely agree with AFI’s #1 pick, but there it is. Victor Fleming’s (with various inputs from George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy, Norman Taurog, and King Vidor) grand musical fantasy brings it with this song. Judy Garland’s rendition of the ballad continues to stand the test of time, at least with this viewer (flying monkeys be damned).

2) As Time Goes By, Casablanca [AFI #2] – okay, I’m at it again. But my all-time favorite film, by Michael Curtiz, has to make it on to my movie/song list with Dooley Wilson’s heartfelt working of the 1931 Broadway stage number. How could it not? Like the one above, it’s a number that has endured enough to be used by the studio (Warner Bros.) as a fanfare since 1998. I’d say that certainly qualifies its high-ranking alone.

3) A Hard Day’s Night, A Hard Day’s Night – how can any self-respecting Beatles fan (I proudly raise my hand) not have this listed somewhere here? Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, with arrangement by the legendary producer George Martin, this song (and its introduction in Richard Lester’s film) influenced an entire generation. Want to know where the music video was really invented? Look no further than this film’s pop anthem.

4) Moon River, Breakfast at Tiffany’s [AFI #4] – okay, I promise this will be the last time on my list where I’ll agree with an AFI selection. But, damn it’s a good one. Even though my girl Audrey Hepburn wasn’t exactly an accomplished singer, she did it justice. Certainly enough that it received an Academy Award for Best Original Song in the Blake Edwards’ film. It remains one touching number.

5) When She Loved Me, Toy Story 2 – I admit I mist right up whenever I watch this sequence in John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, and Lee Unkrich’s sequel. Written by Randy Newman and sung by Sarah McLachlan, it’s a heartbreaking scene crystallized by this ballad. Nominated for Best Song in 2000, it inanely lost out to another Disney animated film, Tarzan (by Phil Collins forYou’ll Be in My Heart“). Idiots.

6)  Canzonetta Sull’aria, The Shawshank Redemption – written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and sung by Edith Mathis and Gundula Janowitz from the 1968 Berlin Opera recording. Just go here to see why this one registers with me.

7) Stormy Weather, Stormy Weather [AFI #30] – there’s a reason Lena Horne’s signature song is her signature song. You only have to watch her perform it in Andrew Stone’s 1943 film to realize why. No other cover for this Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler song compares, IMO.

8) Goldfinger, Goldfinger [AFI #53] – music/lyrics by John Barry, Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley. Admittedly, I picked another Shirley Bassey Bond song barely ahead of this in a James Bond post earlier this year. Still, there’s no way I cannot include this song. The one, like the Guy Hamilton film, that set the mark others are compared to for the entire OO7 movie series.

9) Superfly, Superfly – written and sung by Curtis Mayfield, this may be surprising to many of you, but hear me out. Yes, AFI did honor ‘Shaft’ by Isaac Hayes at #38 (and none for this). Yet, I think this one stood out more in this Gordon Parks, Jr. Blaxploitation gem that came a year later. The song, like the soundtrack, was one of the most influential for the 70s decade.

10) On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever), On a Clear You Can See Forever – music/lyrics by Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner. While Barbara Streisand has four songs in AFI’s 100 list (‘The Way We Were’, ‘People’, ‘Evergreen’, and ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’), it is this one, from Vincent Minnelli’s film, that still gets the hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end.

Note: the primary reason I could come up a list with only three the AFI picked was that I selected those tunes I could easily watch on film or just listen to individually in equal measure. There’s nothing at all wrong with ‘Singing in the Rain’, ‘White Christmas’, ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’, ‘The Way We Were’. I just have mine higher for that proviso. ‘Mrs. Robinson’ would be in my #11 slot, in fact. But I’d definitely have ‘Staying Alive’ much lower down. Hell, I’m the only one in my household who adores ‘The Sound of Music’. So there. 😉

What would be yours?

23 Responses to “Versus AFI: Top 10 of 100 Years… 100 Songs”

  1. ruth

    I LOVE your choices, Michael! You always do have an ear for great music. I love all the classic songs you mentioned here, Over the Rainbow, As Time Goes By, Moonriver, they’re all beautiful! I love that you included When She Loved Me, I never listen to that without crying!


    • le0pard13

      Oh, you’re very kind, Ruth. And I just had to include ‘When She Loved Me’, here. It’s had me in its spell ever since Toy Story 2 debuted. Many thanks.


  2. jackdeth72

    Hi, Michael and company:

    Definitely prefer your choices to the more predictable and safe selections of the AFI!

    ‘Superfly’ and the film’s soundtrack is Curtis Mayfield’s magnum opus. Where Issac Hayes was more of a one hit wonder.

    Can’t disagree at with ‘Stormy Weather’ or ‘A hard day’s Night’!

    Any of the songs in ‘The Big Chill”s soundtrack would rate Honorable Mention. Especially, ‘I Heard it Though the Grapevine’ and the funeral’s ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • le0pard13

      Great to hear you’re a fan of the Curtis Mayfield soundtrack, Kevin. I, too, love ‘The Big Chill’s soundtrack. So many great tunes there, especially Marvin Gaye’s 1968 classic. Thank you very much.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Cavershamragu

    Some real surprises there – i approve of all of them but ON A CLEAR DAY is really well worth singling out and A HARD DAY’S NIGHT still make me smile – great choices there, well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. mummbles

    Thank you for including “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story 2. If you can watch that song and not tear up or at least feel sad you didn’t pay attention during the entire movie. I just saw Goldfinger for the first time and that song deserves the high praise you have gave it. If I can add my own…how about Eye of the Tiger from Rocky or Falling Slowly from Once.

    Liked by 1 person

    • le0pard13

      Great to find another admirer of ‘When She Loved Me’, mummbles. ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and ‘Falling Slowly’ are wonderful additions! Many thanks, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Dan

    I can see why the AFI has picked those selections, many of which I agree with – particularly the AFI’s No. 1 (which is also yours Michael – good to see!). I think the “songs” that resonate most with me are the theme tunes I recall as a child experiencing cinema for the first time. Theme tunes that jump into my mind are – Ghostbusters, Axel F from Beverly Hills Cop, and both the Power of Love from Back To The Future and Johnny B Goode!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The Focused Filmographer

    I love your list more! what a fantastic post here man. Somewhere Over the Rainbow has a very special place in my heart (I may have to write about it soon) and am glad to see that it is #1 on both lists here. I still woulda added Singin’ in the Rain, but I don’t know which from your list I would replace instead.

    I love this post

    Liked by 1 person

    • le0pard13

      There’s no way you can have a list like this one without ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, IMO. I hated leaving off ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ from my list, but felt I needed to fit these in. Many thanks, T 😀


  7. Eric

    Good stuff here, Michael! I just watched Goldfinger last night and loved the theme — it’s also my favorite early Bond, based on what I have seen. Also dig the inclusion of “Superfly” which is such a great song.


    • le0pard13

      Goldfinger is a great one, alright. Film and song. Glad to find another who appreciates the genius of Curtis Mayfield. Thanks, Eric.


  8. Nigtingale

    1 “Money makes the world go round” From Cabaret
    2. “Raindrops keep falling on my head” Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
    3. “Strange Fruit” Lady Sings The Blues
    4. “You’re just to good to be true” Deer Hunter
    5. “The Third Man’s Theme” The Third Man
    6. “Stand by me” Stand by me.
    7. “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid
    8. “Alice’s Rest.” Alice’s Rest.
    9. “Ghostbusters” Ghostbusters
    10. ‘Que Sera, Sera’. The Man Who Knew Too Much

    Do these count since they aren’t all original to the movie?

    Liked by 1 person

    • le0pard13

      Wonderful. Great to see “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” from Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid on your list. One of my all-time favorite, but heartbreaking, scenes. Thank you! 🙂



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