A jury of 1,500 film artists, critics, and historians selected the classic IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, starring James Stewart, as the most inspiring movie of all time.
AFI distributed a ballot in November 2005 with 300 nominated inspiring movies to a jury of over 1,500 leaders from the creative community, including film artists (directors, screenwriters, actors, editors, cinematographers), critics and historians.
The jury have been asked to choose up to 100 inspirational films from a comprehensive list, including entries such as APOLLO 13, BREAKING AWAY, CHARIOTS OF FIRE, THE COLOR PURPLE, DEAD MAN WALKING, DEAD POET’S SOCIETY, 8 MILE, ERIN BROCKOVICH, FIELD OF DREAMS, GANDHI, GOOD WILL HUNTING, GOODBYE MR. CHIPS, HOOSIERS, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, THE KARATE KID, NATIONAL VELVET, NORMA RAE, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, RAIN MAN, ROCKY, SCHINDLER’S LIST, SEABISCUIT, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and THE SOUND OF MUSIC.
Due to the extensive number of movies that inspire in American film, jurors may also write in votes for up to five films that may not already appear on the ballot.
The jurors have been asked to consider the following criteria in making their selections:
FEATURE-LENGTH FICTION FILM
Narrative format, typically over 60 minutes in length.
English language film with significant creative and/or production elements from the United States.
Movies that inspire with characters of vision and conviction who face adversity and often make a personal sacrifice for the greater good. Whether these movies end happily or not, they are ultimately triumphant–both filling audiences with hope and empowering them with the spirit of human potential.
Films whose “cheers” continue to echo across a century of American cinema.
*AFI defines an American film as an English language motion picture with significant creative and/or financial production elements from the United States. AFI defines a feature-length film as a motion picture of narrative format that is typically over 60 minutes in length. Only feature-length American films released before January 1, 2005, will be considered.
Interesting Facts about the Ballot
Tom Hanks and Henry Fonda are the most represented male actors on the ballot with eight inspiring movies each. Sidney Poitier, Gary Cooper and Denzel Washington each have seven movies on the ballot.
Jean Arthur is the most represented female actor on the ballot with four movies.
Frank Capra and Steven Spielberg each have six inspiring movies on the ballot, leading all directors. Capra’s films are MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN (’36), YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU (’38), MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (’39), MEET JOHN DOE (’41) IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (’46) and POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES (’61); while Spielberg directed CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (’77), E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (’82), THE COLOR PURPLE (’85), SCHINDLER’S LIST (’93), AMISTAD (’97) and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (’98).
Over one third of the movies on the ballot are movies inspired by real life people and events.
1939 is the most represented year on the ballot, with 12 inspiring movies.
|1||IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE||1946|
|5||MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON||1939|
|7||THE GRAPES OF WRATH||1940|
|9||MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET||1947|
|11||THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES||1946|
|15||THE MIRACLE WORKER||1962|
|17||ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST||1975|
|19||THE RIGHT STUFF||1983|
|21||IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT||1967|
|23||THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION||1994|
|35||GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER||1967|
|41||THE SOUND OF MUSIC||1965|
|43||GONE WITH THE WIND||1939|
|45||ON GOLDEN POND||1981|
|47||2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY||1968|
|49||MEET JOHN DOE||1941|
|51||THE COLOR PURPLE||1985|
|55||THE DEFIANT ONES||1958|
|59||DANCES WITH WOLVES||1990|
|65||A RAISIN IN THE SUN||1961|
|67||THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL||1951|
|69||THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS||1957|
|71||COOL HAND LUKE||1967|
|77||DRIVING MISS DAISY||1989|
|79||THE TEN COMMANDMENTS||1956|
|83||MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN||1936|
|85||WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT||1993|
|89||HAROLD AND MAUDE||1972|
|91||THE PAPER CHASE||1973|
|93||A BEAUTIFUL MIND||2001|
|95||PLACES IN THE HEART||1984|
|100||CHARIOTS OF FIRE||1981|