Male vs Female Actors on the AFI Top 100 10th Anniversary

While taking a fascinating course on psychology, the question came up of whether male actors or female actors (actresses) have access to more high quality role opportunities. I.e. we're ignoring the adult movie industry and cheaply churned out action flicks. We're curious which group of people has the ability to take a lead role in a high quality movie.

The idea of having male actors and female actors compete directly for Oscars appeals to me greatly. We don't have a "female director" and "male director" category. Why do we have actors compete separately? One argument would be because males get far more access to quality roles so they would always win. But is that true?

To look into this male vs female actor question, I decided to look at the AFI Top 100 movie listing. The American Film Institute put together the highest quality 100 films ever made, as of 2000. I tried to make a fair judgment of whether there was a good quality female role and male role in each film. I realize my choices may not be an exact science :) For example, High Noon does have two female characters, but they're "filler" to gaze adoringly or turn their backs on the hero. Some movies have neither listed, for example E.T.

This is the 10th Anniversary version of the listing.

New RankOld RankMovieYearMale RoleFemale Role
11Citizen Kane1941* 
23The Godfather1972* 
410Singin' in the Rain1952**
524Raging Bull1980**
64Gone With the Wind1939**
75Lawrence of Arabia1962* 
89Schindler's List1993* 
106The Wizard of Oz1939 *
1176City Lights1931**
1296The Searchers1956* 
1315Star Wars1977**
15222001: A Space Odyssey1968* 
1612Sunset Boulevard1950* 
177The Graduate1967**
18NEWThe General1927**
198On the Waterfront1954* 
2011It's a Wonderful Life1946* 
2214Some Like it Hot1959**
2321The Grapes of Wrath1940**
2425E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial1982  
2534To Kill a Mockingbird1962**
2629Mr. Smith Goes to Washington1939**
2733High Noon1952* 
2816All About Eve1950 *
2938Double Indemnity1944**
3028Apocalypse Now1979* 
3123The Maltese Falcon1941**
3232The Godfather Part II1974**
3320One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest1975**
3449Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs1937**
3531Annie Hall1977**
3613The Bridge on the River Kwai1957* 
3737The Best Years of Our Lives1946**
3830The Treasure of the Sierra Madre1948* 
3926Dr. Strangelove1964* 
4055The Sound of Music1965**
4143King Kong1933**
4227Bonnie and Clyde1967**
4336Midnight Cowboy1969* 
4451The Philadelphia Story1940**
4635It Happened One Night1934**
4745A Streetcar Named Desire1951**
4842Rear Window1954**
50NEWLord of the Rings2001**
5141West Side Story1961**
5247Taxi Driver1976* 
5379The Deer Hunter1978**
5540North by Northwest1959**
5874The Gold Rush1925* 
6085Duck Soup1933* 
61NEWSullivan's Travels1941**
6277American Graffiti1973**
6517The African Queen1951**
6660Raiders of the Lost Ark1981**
67NEWWho's Afraid of Virginia Woolf1966**
7046A Clockwork Orange1971* 
71NEWSaving Private Ryan1998*-
72NEWThe Shawshank Redemption1994*-
7350Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid1969**
7465The Silence of the Lambs1991**
75NEWIn the Heat of the Night1967*-
7671Forrest Gump1994**
77NEWAll the President's Men1976*-
7881Modern Times1936**
7980The Wild Bunch1969* 
8093The Apartment1960**
82NEWSunrise: A Song of Two Humans1927**
8488Easy Rider1969* 
85NEWA Night at the Opera1935*-
87NEW12 Angry Men1957*-
8897Bringing Up Baby1938**
89NEWThe Sixth Sense1999*-
90NEWSwing Time1936**
91NEWSophie's Choice1982**
9370The French Connection1971* 
9495Pulp Fiction1994**
95NEWThe Last Picture Show1971**
96NEWDo the Right Thing1989*-
97NEWBlade Runner1982**
98100Yankee Doodle Dandy1942**
99NEWToy Story1995*-

Strong Male Role: 96
Strong Female Role: 60

It does seem clear that many movies are male-heavy. Part of that could be that this is a historical listing. Movies made in war years are about war and I don't think there was a single female speaking role in Platoon. I don't think there was one in Bridge of the River Kwai either. Maybe part of this issue is a historical one which will fade as we move into the 21st century!

Original AFI Top 100
AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100

10th Anniversary of the AFI Top 100
AFI Top 100 Film Listing 10th Anniversary
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100 10th Anniversary
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100 10th Anniversary