There are plenty of martial arts films in the Internet Archive, but most of them don’t get very high ratings on IMDb or from Leonard Maltin. I don’t know why this genre gets less love than, say, Gene Autry westerns or Bowery Boys movies.
In any event, The Street Fighter (embedded here with the following two entries in its trilogy) is the best-rated of the bunch, which is why it’s the lone representative in the IA Top 100. Its star, Sonny Chiba, later appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films. If you want action, this is a movie that will take care of you.
We start the list (or finish it, if you’re reading 1 to 100) with a longtime staple of public domain movie sellers. Gulliver’s Travels, produced by Fleischer Studios, was just the second full-length animated film and was clearly inspired by the first, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The animation, music, and all the technical aspects are competent enough, but there aren’t any characters to root for. Gabby is too annoying to be sympathetic, and Gulliver is too wooden to be interesting. In short, this sneaks onto the IA Top 100 for its Technicolor dazzle (especially for 1939!) but there are easily 99 movies in the Internet Archive that are better.
Over the coming months, I’m going to share a treat with you. I’ve often written about the Internet Archive; for years I embedded an IA cartoon of the week on this blog. It’s a wonderful organization for many reasons, but the one that matters here is its amazing wealth of freely available movies and other video. About the only thing IA lacks is systemic curation. I’m launching this series to correct one small part of that.
It took weeks of research and sorting, and now it’s ready. Over the coming months, I’ll list the Top 100 scripted, English-language, sound entries in the IA Feature Film collection. (I’m making lists of excellent silent films and documentaries to share later.) The rankings are strongly informed by IMDb user ratings but also include consideration from Leonard Maltin’s ratings and a few nudges from me. When you disagree, please leave a comment with some reasons why. Have fun!