B. B-LIST: AFTER AFI 100, THE REST OF THE AMERICAN CANON

After the AFI 100 “A-list,” this is the rest of the American canon through 2015, indicated by box-office records, influence, and/or positions on well-renowned Top 10 and Top 50 lists. This is presented chronologically to let this list serve as a secondary “narrative” of American cinema. As a term, “B-list” should be considered somewhat tongue-in-cheek; in fact, the total of the Rotten Tomatoes scores of this list is slightly higher than that of the “A-list.” The more salient point is that if you have seen all of the motion pictures on this list and the AFI 100, people will say that you have seen the basic building blocks of American cinema…a notion that the next list (the counter-canon) challenges.

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B1. Intolerance (Griffith, 1916) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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“Seeing youth drawn to youth, Miss Jenkins realizes the bitter fact that she is no longer part of the younger world.”

Griffith’s follow up to The Birth of a Nation was set during four distinct historical periods (the fall of Babylon, Christ’s era, the St. Bart’s massacre of 1572, and modern times) and linked by a motif of a mother and child; this established wider possibilities for the splendor and ambition of American-financed historical “epics”; for about a decade, it was Europe’s favorite American film

Influenced by: Italian historical epics, 19th-century literature

Influenced: Hollywood casting conventions, Pickford Studios, European masters from Lang to Eisenstein

B2. The Thief of Bagdad (Walsh, 1924) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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“Happiness must be earned.”

Probably pitched as The Sheik (1921) meets Robin Hood (1922), this combined and multiplied the virtues of each, resulting in the definitive 1920s swashbuckling action movie, Douglas Fairbanks’ favorite of his own motion pictures, and the film that helped make Anna May Wong the first Chinese-American celebrity; based very loosely on a story from “One Thousand and One Nights”

Influenced by: Hollywood’s then-standard backlot “Arab kit” (scimitars, turbans, flying carpets, etc); Fairbanks’ catlike physicality

Influenced: at the time, adventure films; eventually, one of the foundations of the blockbuster

B3. Greed (von Stroheim, 1924) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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“Don’t you lay your fingers on that sack!”

This film dramatizes and problematizes the American Dream, showing a lower-class miner working his way up to dentistry, only to be undone by his appetites for women and fortune; the director shot 85 hours, condensed it to 8; MGM released a 2 ½ hour cut and destroyed most of the other footage, turning this excellent film into the “fort/da” of film history, fascinating because it’s there and it isn’t

Influenced by: camera innovations; social Darwinism; films like Intolerance; von Stroheim’s understanding of America and Hollywood, onscreen and off

Influenced: Eisenstein, Renoir, von Sternberg, Welles, Del Toro, Sontag, Hawks, Kurosawa, May, etc

B4. The General (Keaton, 1927) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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“He’s a disgrace to the South.”

Keaton’s best-remembered film shows Chaplin’s great stone-faced rival at his best and funniest as a Confederate soldier attempting to recover a stolen train and the woman who has stolen his heart; the death-defying stunts that Keaton perform with aplomb involve a handcar, a boneshaker bicycle, railroad ties, telephone-pole-sized lumber, and the elaborate destruction of a bridge

Influenced by: vaudeville, Keystone films, Fatty Arbuckle, Charlie Chaplin

Influenced: this film did so poorly that Keaton never again enjoyed complete filmmaking freedom, but later, this film and Keaton influenced postmodernists and comedians from Billy Wilder to Woody Allen

B5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (Murnau, 1927) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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“Then overturn the boat…it will look like an accident.”

At the first Academy Awards, this pioneer of synced sound became the first and last winner of Unique and Artistic Picture; with this tale of a man choosing between rural sweetness and urban materialism, Murnau and writer Carl Mayer proved that the idiosyncratic formal devices of German Expressionism could succeed on a mainstream, melodramatic American canvas

Influenced by: German Expressionism, French Impressionism

Influenced: avant-garde envelope-pushing artists

B6. Morocco (von Sternberg, 1930) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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“What am I bid for my apple, the fruit that made Adam so wise? On the historic night, when he took a bite, they discovered a new paradise.”

Maybe the first studio sound film to be as fluidly assembled and paced as the great silents, an early sound film to relegate local brown people to the background, a maintainer of Arab stereotypes, but most notable for minting and popularizing the pansexual persona of Marlene Dietrich, the queerest famous icon of the 1930s, who, among other things, here kisses a woman while wearing a top hat and tails

Influenced by: Dietrich and Von Sternberg’s artistry as established in German films

Influenced: Gary Cooper became a symbol of America, Dietrich became an oasis for the gender-fluid before that term existed

B7. Dracula (Browning, 1931) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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“There are far worse things awaiting man than death.”

Along with Frankenstein, which came out later in 1931, this film began Hollywood’s legendary “horror cycle,” established Universal as equal to the other “major studios,” and proved the valence of literature-based German Expressionism in sound cinema (the filmmakers studied Nosferatu and borrowed several things); Dracula cast a, ahem, shadow over the century

Influenced by: Bram Stoker’s novel and Nosferatu, but only up to a point, because this film made the Count more of a suave aristocrat

Influenced: few had heard of vampires or Transylvania; the iconography of blood, crosses, and castles seeped into the American imagination

B8. Scarface (Hawks, 1932) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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“Listen, Little Boy, in this business there’s only one law you gotta follow to keep out of trouble: Do it first, do it yourself, and keep on doing it.”

The violent story of Tony Camonte’s obviously Al Capone-like rise through Chicago gangland (Tony inspired by a neon sign saying “The World is Yours”), this film is often considered the best of the three most (in)famous pre-Code gangster pictures, and of them probably most responsible for the more vigorous censorship applied by the Production Code Administration in 1934

Influenced by: Capone’s story and reputation, Little Caesar (1931), The Public Enemy (1931)

Influenced: Among other things, Howard Hughes (producer) and Ben Hecht (writer) loomed over 30s and 40s Hollywood

B9. Trouble in Paradise (Lubitsch, 1932) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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“I have a confession to make to you: You like me. In fact, you’re crazy about me.”

By this time, Lubitsch’s work in silent German comedies was already legendary, but with this caper about two rival thieves teaming up to scam a rich woman, Lubitsch proved he could work similar magic with rapid-fire English dialogue, setting the pace and style for decades of comedies to come, though the Hays Code would neuter some of this film’s friskiness

Influenced by: less Chaplin/Keaton, more drawing-room stage comedies of the period

Influenced: the screwball comedy, particularly in terms of deadpan delivery and bourgeois trappings

B10. Gold Diggers of 1933 (LeRoy, 1933) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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“Petting in the park? Bad boy. Petting in the dark? Bad girl. First you pet a little, then let up a little, then you get a little kiss.”

This is a very pre-Code film about four young poor women, living together, trying to break into Broadway showbiz; the film is richly entertaining and useful for students of 1930s’ feminism and economics, both of which are humorously engaged; as well, Busby Berkeley’s kaleidoscopic musical numbers came into full flower

Influenced by: the flurry of Broadway-based films of the early sound period, but mostly as contrast

Influenced: musicals; the Busby Berkeley style is widely renowned, sometimes condemned as female objectification, sometimes called symbolic of Roosevelt-era politics (individualism pressed into collectivism)

B11. Top Hat (Sandrich, 1935) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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“Heaven, I’m in heaven
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek.”

Most financially successful of the ten Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers pairings, this film, with its elegance, screwball romance, five original Irving Berlin songs, and Art Deco-inspired Big White Set, stands as a pinnacle of Depression-era counter-programming; the “cheek to cheek” dance sequence has since symbolized a certain wedding-cake-esque glamour

Influenced by: Flying Down to Rio(1933), The Gay Divorcee(1934), Roberta(1935) 

Influenced: perhaps all future cinematic duet dances

B12. A Night at the Opera (Wood, 1935) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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“I have here an accident policy that will absolutely protect you no matter what happens. If you lose a leg, we’ll help you look for it.”

The Marx Brothers’ biggest hit came after they left behind Zeppo, Paramount Pictures, and unironic musical numbers, here focusing on lampooning opera professionals as well as all other targets within reach; the “stateroom scene” where they all fall out of a cramped cabin became a comedy benchmark

Influenced by: Monkey Business; Irving Thalberg, the MGM wunderkind who gave them free rein to do what they wanted

Influenced: the Marx Brothers’ spirit of creative anarchism reverberated through Warner Bros. cartoons and all of culture

B13. Swing Time (Stevens, 1936) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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“Lucky, please don’t feel bad. You still got me. Course I ain’t a young and pretty girl. I ain’t even a girl, but I’ll stick. I’ll never leave you.”

Of the ten Astaire-Rogers pairings, this is considered the best by dance experts; probably Jerome Kern’s music was never used better in a film; the plot is about gambling, and the whimsical story here of Lucky finding Penny has resonated throughout culture

Influenced by: previous Astaire-Rogers films; 1930s codes; perhaps George Stevens’ confidence

Influenced: this is one of the leading examples of why Fred and Ginger are part of even the briefest versions of cinema history

B14. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Curtiz, 1938) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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“I’ll condemn anything that leaves the task of holding England to outlaws like me.”

Despite many, many later versions, this particular film remains the best loved Robin Hood by a mile; the cast here rises to the new Technicolor format by bounding onto the screen with a gusto and full-blooded spirit that period pieces don’t always have; Curtiz’s agile, impatient camerawork came into its own here

Influenced by: 1920s’ swashbucklers, though Australian roustabout Errol Flynn remakes the type into his own image

Influenced: action movies; anyone who ever wanted to take from the rich to give to the poor

B15. The Great Dictator (Chaplin, 1940) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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“I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery.”

Chaplin finally bowed to industry imperatives (this being his first real sound film) with a story that he knew his friends like Gandhi and Einstein would like, a sort of Prince and the Pauper of fascism; released while the U.S. was still officially at peace with Germany, this film is somehow both too proselytzing and not strident enough, but became his biggest (and final) hit

Influenced by: Chaplin’s long-established humanism; the war in Europe

Influenced: among other things, probably every comic from Tina Fey to Larry Sanders who agreed to lampoon their political doppleganger

B16. The Shop Around the Corner (Lubitsch, 1940) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B17. His Girl Friday (Hawks, 1940) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B18. Pinocchio (Sharpsteen, Hand, 1940) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B19. The Lady Eve (Sturges, 1940) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B20. Sullivan’s Travels (Sturges, 1940) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B21. The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles, 1942) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B22. Meet Me in St. Louis (Minnelli, 1944) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B23. Notorious (Hitchcock, 1946) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B24. The Big Sleep (Hawks, 1946) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B25. Out of the Past (Dawes, 1947) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B26. Adam’s Rib (Cukor, 1950) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B27. The Day the Earth Stood Still (Wise, 1951) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B28. Roman Holiday (Wyler, 1953) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B29. The Night of the Hunter (Laughton, 1955) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B30. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Siegel, 1956) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B31. The Ten Commandments (DeMille, 1956) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B32. 12 Angry Men (Lumet, 1957) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B33. Sweet Smell of Success (Mackendrick, 1957) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B34. Touch of Evil (Welles, 1958) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B35. Rio Bravo (Hawks, 1959) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B36. Imitation of Life (Sirk, 1959) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B37. Anatomy of a Murder (Preminger, 1959) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B38. Spartacus (Kubrick, 1960) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B39. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Nichols, 1967) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B40. In the Heat of the Night (Jewison, 1967) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B41. Rosemary’s Baby (Polanski, 1968) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B42. Faces (Cassavetes, 1968) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B43. The Last Picture Show (Bogdanovich, 1971) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B44. Dirty Harry (Siegel, 1971) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B45. Cabaret (Fosse, 1972) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B46. The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B47. The Conversation (Coppola, 1974) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B48. A Woman Under the Influence (Cassavetes, 1974) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B49. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Hooper, 1974) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B50. Nashville (Altman, 1975) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B51. All the President’s Men (Pakula, 1976) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B52. Eraserhead (Lynch, 1977) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B53. National Lampoon’s Animal House (Landis, 1978) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B54. Days of Heaven (Malick, 1978) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B55. Manhattan (Allen, 1979) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B56. Alien (Scott, 1979) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B57. The Empire Strikes Back (Kasdan, 1980) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B58. The Shining (Kubrick, 1980) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B59. The Thing (Carpenter, 1982) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B60. Blade Runner (Scott, 1982) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B61. Sophie’s Choice (Pakula, 1982) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B62. Paris, Texas (Wenders, 1984) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B63. Once Upon a Time in America (Leone, 1984) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B64. Back to the Future (Zemeckis, 1985) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B65. Aliens (Cameron, 1986) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B66. Blue Velvet (Lynch, 1986) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B67. Die Hard (McTiernan, 1988) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B68. Batman (Burton, 1989) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B69. When Harry Met Sally… (Reiner, 1989) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B70. sex, lies, and videotape (Soderbergh, 1989) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B71. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1991) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B72. Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1993) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B73. The Lion King (Allers and Minkoff, 1994) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B74. The Shawshank Redemption (Darabont, 1994) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B75. Toy Story (Lasseter, 1995) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B76. Titanic (Cameron, 1997) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B77. Saving Private Ryan (Spielberg, 1998) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B78. The Matrix (Wachowskis, 1999) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B79. Being John Malkovich (Jonze, 1999) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B80. Fight Club (Fincher, 1999) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B81. Gladiator (Scott, 2000) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B82. Mulholland Dr. (Lynch, 2001) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B83. The Royal Tenenbaums (Anderson, 2001) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B84. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Jackson, 2001)
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B85. Spider-Man (Raimi, 2002) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B86. Finding Nemo (Docter, 2003) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B87. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry, 2004) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B88. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Apatow, 2005) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B89. No Country for Old Men (Coens, 2007) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B90. There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B91. The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B92. Avatar (Cameron, 2009) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B93. Inception (Nolan, 2010) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B94. The Social Network (Fincher, 2010) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B95. The Tree of Life (Malick, 2011) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B96. The Avengers (Whedon, 2012) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B97. Boyhood (Linklater, 2014) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B98. Mad Max: Fury Road (Miller, 2015) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B99. Inside Out (Docter, 2015) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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B100. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Abrams, 2015) clip imdb LB RT trailer wiki
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