MOVIE DOUBLE TAKE REVIEWS AFI'S 100 GREATEST AMERICAN MOVIES: #76 FORREST GUMP
We're reviewing every single movie on AFI's List of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time. We'll tell you why they matter, how they hold up, if they belong on the list, and then re-rank the 100 movies by quality! Today's film: Forrest Gump. Find the master-list here.
Release Date: 1994
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writer: Winston Groom (Novel), Eric Roth (Screenplay)
Run-time: 2 hours, 22 minutes
How to Watch: Netflix
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
Fun Fact: Winston Groom (the author of the novel on which the film is based) wanted John Goodman to play the eponymous Forrest.
Historical Context: Forrest Gump has become one of the most beloved and well-known movies of the 90's, which makes it easy to forget what an odd and unlikely film it is to hold that esteem, or to ever be made at all. The film, which is about a mentally challenged man who inadvertently plays a supporting role in countless important moments in history, is based on a quirky, little-known novel that didn't sell especially well.
In addition to its unusual premise and unconventional leading man, several directors turned down the opportunity to direct it. (One of the directors who turned it down, Barry Sonnenfeld, chose to direct a sequel to the Addams Family movie instead.) The director who eventually accepted, Robert Zemeckis, was known more for his visually inventive crowdpleasers, the Back to the Future series, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. In retrospect, it's hard to imagine a better match.
Forrest Gump, of course, turned out to be a major commercial success, and one of the most iconic movies to come out of the latter half of the twentieth century. It went on to win several Oscars, including Best Picture. Despite this measurable success, it has never been fully embraced by the film critic community and is generally considered more of a popular movie than a truly great one (AFI's list aside). When it won Best Picture in 1994, many saw it as a classic case of an unchallenging blockbuster beating the superior Pulp Fiction (which is also on this list). At 71% on Rotten Tomatoes, it has one of the lowest scores of any movie on this list and is lower even than Tom Hank's beloved rom-com, Sleepless in Seattle. So are the critics wrong or is AFI?
Review: Nothing about Forrest Gump should work. Even a description of it (Tom Hanks does a broad impression of a mentally challenged man in a special-effects-laden historical fiction comedy) sounds like an entry in AFI's 100 Worst American Movies of All Time (which doesn't exist), next to Gigli and Ishtar.
In fact, Forrest Gump succeeds on most fronts. It's inventive, clever, funny, well-paced, and even moving at times. The film's critics say the film is too silly and too sentimental, and too broad in scope to say much of anything at all. Indeed, just about every negative review of the movie indicts Forrest Gump as a film with nothing to say. While it's true that Gump isn't a message movie, or even especially thought-provoking, does it have to be? I'm a firm believer that every piece of art doesn't have to accomplish the same thing, and it's a disservice to come into a film with some sort of pre-set rubric that doesn't apply to it.
Forrest Gump competently tells a silly and charming (and yes, sentimental) story of an unusual protagonist, but it's a special film because it tells that story inside of a delightful, inventive romp through history like no other movie before or since. If you want to watch a movie like Forrest Gump, you have to watch Forrest Gump, and that's a pretty great accomplishment.
Does it deserve a place on AFI's 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time? Borderline case, but yes. It's innovative technologically, but it's not especially influential or critically beloved. Its biggest selling point for inclusion on a list like this is its cultural footprint. If you were to induct a list of film characters into the modern folklore consciousness to join your Paul Bunyans, Snow Whites, and Santa Clauses, Forrest would probably have a spot.
Is it One of My 100 Favorite Movies of All Time? No. I have a good deal of fondness for it, but it doesn't quite crack the top 100.
Must-See, Worth Watching, or Pass: Worth Watching
How does it rank among the other films in the AFI's Top 100 Greatest Films of All Time?
Of The Films Reviewed So Far:
#4 American Graffiti
#3 City Lights
#2 Raiders of the Lost Ark
#1 Forrest Gump