Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list?

Last week, when I was talking with librarian colleagues about movies, one colleague asked how many movies I had seen from the Top 100 list compiled by the American Film Institute (AFI).

The AFI compiles “best of” lists periodically, including a Top 100 movies list, which was determined by a jury of 1,500 film artists, critics, and historians. The AFI, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this September, is a nonprofit educational arts organization that “provides leadership in film and television and is dedicated to initiatives that engage the past, the present and the future of the moving image arts.”

AFI logo

This conversation with a fellow librarian movie buff gave me the idea of comparing the AFI Top 100 list with my own Master List of reel librarian films — was there any overlap? Sometimes, an idea for a blog post is as simple as that. 😉

Good news, there ARE overlaps! I count 12 so far, but that comes with a caveat that I need to rewatch several of the films listed below to verify if there is actually a librarian (versus a library scene) in them or not.

Without further ado, below I’ve detailed the overlaps between the AFI Top 100 list and my own Master List. (Also, please note that the numbers on the list below correspond to that film’s ranking on the AFI Top 100 list.)

1. Citizen Kane (1941)

Citizen Kane is classic saga about the rise and fall of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane (played by Orson Welles). A reporter visits the Thatcher Memorial Library of Philadelphia to research Kane and runs into the steely, no-nonsense presence of the librarian. This library scene provides the structure for the entire film.

Posts or pages that include Citizen Kane:

17. The Graduate (1967)

I need to rewatch this film! The first time (and only time, thus far) I have watched this film was right before I went away to college, so… perhaps not the best timing or circumstances to watch and appreciate this movie! I do remember a major scene in the library, but I need to rewatch the film to see if there’s an actual librarian in the scene.

Here’s an excerpt from the film’s summary on the AFI site:

Benjamin Braddock, filled with doubts about his future, returns to his Los Angeles home after graduating from an Eastern college. His parents soon have a party so they can boast of their son’s academic achievements and his bright prospects in business. Mrs. Robinson, one of the guests, persuades Ben to drive her home and there tries to seduce him, but her overtures are interrupted by the sound of her husband’s car in the driveway. Blatant in her seductive maneuvers, she soon has the nervous and inexperienced Ben meeting her regularly at the Taft Hotel. As the summer passes, Benjamin becomes increasingly bored and listless; he frequently stays out overnight and returns home to loll around the pool.

20. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) falls on hard times and is granted the wish to experience life as if he’d never been born. In this alternate reality/nightmare, his lovely wife, Mary (Donna Reed), becomes an old maid librarian. The short scene in which George sees Mary as a librarian serves as the catalyst for wanting to return to his life.

Posts or pages that include It’s a Wonderful Life:

21. Chinatown (1974)

I also need to rewatch Chinatown! It’s on my Master List, but I don’t actually remember a librarian, or even a library scene, in this film. If you have seen this film and do remember, please leave a comment and share!

Here’s an excerpt from the film’s summary on the AFI site:

In 1937 Los Angeles, private detective J. J. “Jake” Gittes, who specializes in adultery cases, is hired by the well-dressed Mrs. Evelyn Mulwray to follow her husband Hollis, chief engineer for the Department of Water and Power.

44.  The Philadelphia Story (1940)

In The Philadelphia Story, a rich socialite’s (Katharine Hepburn) ex-husband (Cary Grant) and a reporter (Jimmy Stewart) show up right before her planned wedding, and romantic complications ensue. In one scene at the public library, Hepburn and Stewart discuss his book, and a Quaker librarian shushes them.

Posts or pages that include The Philadelphia Story:

50. The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The first in a film trilogy of the well-known saga of Middle Earth, involving a hobbit’s quest to destroy a powerful ring. In one brief but pivotal scene, the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) visits the archives to research background info about the ring, and the Gondorian Archivist (Michael Elsworth) leads Gandalf down a winding staircase to the archives.

Posts or pages that include The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:

63. Cabaret (1972)

This film is on my Master List, but I need to watch this film — which I’ve actually never seen all the way through — to see if there’s a library scene or librarian in it. If you have seen the film and do remember, please leave a comment and share!

Here’s an excerpt from the film’s summary on the AFI site:

In 1931, naïve Englishman Brian Roberts, seeking to broaden his experiences and further his education, arrives in Berlin, where he hopes to support himself by giving English lessons. Brian goes to the shabby boardinghouse run by Fraulein Schneider and there is greeted by Sally Bowles, an exuberant American singer. Sally, obsessed with becoming a movie star, is oblivious to the economic and political turmoil in Berlin, especially between the Nazis and Communists, and instead revels in the decadent atmosphere of alcohol, sex and excess.

70. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Another film I need to rewatch! I remember at least a mention of a prison library… If you have seen the film and do remember, please leave a comment and share.

Here’s an excerpt from the film’s summary on the AFI site:

Sometime in the not-to-distant future, gangs of teenage thugs roam rubble-strewn streets, terrorizing citizens who sequester themselves behind locked doors. Alex, the leader of one of the gangs, and his “droogs,” Pete, Georgie and Dim, distinguish themselves by wearing all-white, cod pieces, bowler hats and walking canes as the spend their nights committing rapes, muggings and beatings for entertainment.

72. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

In The Shawshank Redemption, young banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife. Andy maintains his innocence and plots to escape, with the help of fellow inmate Red (Morgan Freeman). Andy works as an assistant in the prison library and becomes friends with the prison librarian, Brooks (James Whitmore).

Posts or pages that include The Shawshank Redemption:

74. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Another film I need to rewatch! I remember research materials playing a pivotal role in this film — perhaps materials from the FBI Library? — but I need to rewatch it to doublecheck any scenes that include or mention a library or librarians. If you have seen this film and do remember, please leave a comment and share!

Posts or pages that include The Silence of the Lambs:

77. All the President’s Men (1976)

I recently rewatched All the President’s Men! This film follows the Watergate scandal uncovered by reporters Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford). After several attempts by the reporters to locate information, a library clerk at the Library of Congress helps by giving them library checkout slips.

Posts or pages that include All the President’s Men:

91. Sophie’s Choice (1982)

In Sophie’s Choice, a Southern writer (Peter MacNicol) moves to New York City, where he meets Sophie (Meryl Streep), a Holocaust survivor with a troubling past. In a flashback scene, Sophie goes to a library to look up works by Emily Dickinson; she faints after an unpleasant exchange with the librarian (John Rothman).

Posts or pages that include Sophie’s Choice:

And if you’re wondering about the question that started the idea of this whole post, I have so far seen 80 films on the Top 100 list, including 17 of the top 20 titles and 43 of the top 50 titles. Can you guess which titles I haven’t seen?

Please leave a comment and share how many of the AFI Top 100 films you’ve seen!

Updating the list of Best Picture nominees featuring librarians

It’s a wonderful night for Oscar… Oscar, Oscar… who will win?

Billy Crystal’s Opening: 1991 Oscars,” uploaded by Oscars, Nov. 21, 2011, Standard YouTube license.

The Oscars will be airing this Sunday (!!!), and I am a lifelong Oscar fan.

So this year, I am revisiting a post I put together in 2013, rounding up Best Picture-nominated films that feature librarians, in roles large and small. I have updated the post, adding a few titles to the list, and I’ve listed the nominated films below in chronological order, oldest to newest.

Oscar nominated librarian films
Oscar nominated librarian films — click image for individual item details & copyright info

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

This 1941 Best Picture nominee (and Class III film) features one scene at the public library and a Quaker librarian (Hilda Plowright). A reporter (Jimmy Stewart) pokes fun by mocking her thee‘s and thou‘s, as seen below. She also gets her shush on later in this short, but memorable, library scene.

I analyzed the film’s library scene in this post, and compared-and-contrasted it to the original play. I also featured this Quaker librarian in my post about Comic Relief librarians,

Citizen Kane (1941)

This 1942 Best Picture nominee (and Class III film) is a classic saga about the rise and fall of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles). There is quite a memorable scene in which a reporter visits the Thatcher Memorial Library of Philadelphia to research Kane and runs into the steely, no-nonsense presence of the librarian, Miss Anderson (Georgia Backus).

I featured Citizen Kane and Miss Anderson in my Hall of Shame list of negative reel librarian portrayals.

The Human Comedy (1943)

This 1944 Best Picture nominee (and Class III film), set in the U.S. homefront during WWII, feature one touching scene at the local public library. Two young boys go to the public library to look at books even though they can’t read yet, and encounter a friendly female librarian (Adeline De Walt Reynolds).

I featured The Human Comedy in my Honorable Mention list of positive reel librarian portrayals.

Spellbound (1945)

This Hitchcock film, a 1946 Best Picture nominee, doesn’t actually feature a librarian, landing itself in the Class V category. So why is it here on this list?! Toward the end of the film, a hotel security guard mistakes a psychiatrist (Ingrid Bergman) for a Spinster Librarian. To her credit, she takes it in good humor.

I expounded on this funny “mistaken identity” scene in Spellbound in an earlier post.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

This 1947 Best Picture nominee (and Class I film) has probably the most memorable — and memorably notorious! — scene featuring the ultimate Spinster Librarian. In the alternate reality/nightmare of the film’s second half, George Bailey’s (Jimmy Stewart) lovely wife, Mary (Donna Reed), becomes an old maid librarian. The short scene in which George sees Mary as a librarian serves as the catalyst for wanting to return to his life.

I also featured It’s a Wonderful Life in one of my very first posts!

The Music Man (1962)

This 1963 Best Picture nominee (and Class I film) also features a memorable reel librarian in a leading role. In this classic musical, con man Harold Hill (Preston) tries to scam a community into buying band uniforms—and ends up falling for “Marian the Librarian” (Shirley Jones). This reel librarian has been immortalized in popular culture, in part due to the namesake song.

featured info about the real Marian behind the “Marian the Librarian” song in this post and what Shirley Jones had to say about the making of the film in her autobiography.

I also included The Music Man in my Honorable Mention list of positive reel librarian portrayals.

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

I still need to rewatch this 1966 Best Picture nominee — it’s on my Master List! — to refresh my memory on this classic epic. Yuri (Omar Sharif) and Lara (Julie Christie) meet in the local library. Is Lara a librarian? I will have to investigate further.

Love Story (1970)

In this 1971 Best Picture nominee (and Class II film), a Harvard law student and jock, Oliver (Ryan O’Neal), falls in love with a Radcliffe music major, Jenny (Ali MacGraw). They first meet at the Radcliffe library, where MacGraw works as a library assistant. MacGraw was also nominated for Best Actress, the only female to have been nominated for an acting Oscar for a reel librarian role.

You can read about all the rest of the Oscar-nominated reel librarians here. And Jenny from Love Story made my list of stylish female reel librarians!

All the President’s Men (1976)

This 1977 Best Picture nominee (and Class III film) features not one, but four five reel librarians, albeit in small — but critical! — roles. This film follows the Watergate scandal uncovered by reporters Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford). After several attempts by the reporters to locate information, a library clerk at the Library of Congress helps by providing them with info and records they need.

Awakenings (1990)

I had forgotten this film was nominated for Best Picture in 1991! Based on a true story, Dr. Sayer (Robin Williams) finds a new treatment for a ward of comatose patients. And if you blinked during the short library scene for this Class IV film, you’d miss the second or two of Adam Bryant as a librarian.

Scent of a Woman (1992)

This 1993 Best Picture nominee (and Class II film) is a coming-of-age story about a young prep school boy (Chris O’Donnell), a student library assistant at a private prep school, and a weekend looking after an alcoholic blind man (Al Pacino). Pacino won the Best Actor Oscar for this film.

In the Name of the Father (1993)

In this 1994 Best Picture nominee (and Class III film), Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis) is coerced into confessing to an IRA bombing and spends 14 years in prison trying to prove his innocence. His lawyer (Emma Thompson) tries to locate police records, but the chief archivist is not cooperative. She does get records when another archivist is on duty — and the information she gathers eventually leads to Conlon’s release.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Ahhh, a supremely rewatchable classic — one I just rewatched a couple of weeks ago! This 1995 Best Picture nominee (and Class II film) features two memorable reel librarian roles, including star Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne, a banker wrongly convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife. Andy works as an assistant in the prison library — building it up to one of the best prison libraries in the state! — and becomes friends with the old prison librarian, Brooks (James Whitmore).

I included The Shawshank Redemption in my list of best librarian films by decade, Part II: 1960s-2000s.

Quiz Show (1994)

It is on my Master List to rewatch this 1995 Best Picture nominee, which is based on the controversial true story behind the Twenty One quiz show scandals of the 1950s and contestant Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes). Research is a major theme throughout the film, and the credits list Anthony Fusco as a librarian.

A real-life librarian vents a little about the film, and library props, here.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

This 2002 Best Picture nominee (and Class IV film), and the first in a film trilogy of the well-known saga of Middle Earth, involving a hobbit’s quest to destroy a powerful ring. There is a short scene early in the film in which the great wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) needs some info about the ring, so he visits the archives in Gondor. There is a quick flash of the Gondorian Archivist (Michael Elsworth) leading Gandalf down a winding staircase to the archives.

I expand on this short scene, and its significance, here in this post.

The Reader (2008)

I also still need to rewatch this 2009 Best Picture nominee, which features Kate Winslet in a Best Actress-winning turn as Hanna Schmitz, a woman convicted for WWII war crimes. Hanna teaches herself to read while in prison, and there are a few scenes highlighting the prison library.

Spotlight (2015)

The lone winner in this field of Best Picture-nominated films to feature a reel librarian! Spotlight won the Best Picture Academy Award for 2015. The film focuses on the Spotlight team of reporters at the Boston Globe who published a series of stories in 2002 about Catholic priests who, for decades, had been sexually abusing children in their parishes. A few scenes and montages feature the Boston Globe news librarians and research methods of using church directories to track down priests.

I analyzed Spotlight in this post, which also made my personal list of year-end faves for 2016!

Hidden Figures (2016)

I wrote about my first impressions of this Oscar-nominated film just last week. Hidden Figures is a biographical film highlighting the personal and professional struggles and contributions of three African-American female mathematicians — or “computers” — at NASA during the early 1960s. Taraji P. Henson plays brilliant mathematician Katherine G. Johnson; Octavia Spencer, in an Oscar-nominated performance, plays mathematician and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan; and Janelle Monáe plays firecracker engineer Mary Jackson.

There is a brief, but pivotal, library scene in which Vaughan enters the “whites” section of the library because the “colored” section doesn’t have what she needs.

Revisiting my round-up of reel librarian love

As Valentine’s Day approaches next week, I am revisiting and updating a post I put together a couple of Valentine’s Days ago: a round-up of romance-themed posts from my blog archives. Enjoy the love! ♥

Reel librarians in love

round-up of films featuring reel librarians in love, including the appropriately named Love Story (1970).

A love song for a librarian

This post explores a few love songs inspired by librarians, including “Heaven Sent” by INXS (1992).

Romance and the reel librarian

A post lookin’ for love — or rather, romance films featuring reel librarians.

Casanova, the lover and the librarian

In this post about “the world’s greatest lover,” I explore the 2005 film Casanova, starring the late Heath Ledger as the title character. I also delve into how the real-life Casanova spent the last dozen or so years of his life as a private librarian (!).

Love story analysis posts

I’ve also analyzed in-depth several love stories featuring reel librarians, in parts both major and minor, including:


Reel librarians in political-themed films

As politics is a subject we’ve probably all been talking about in our daily lives — and/or reading about in our social media feeds — especially this week, I thought it would be good timing to round up reel librarian portrayals in films set in the world of politics and/or have political themes.

All the President’s Men (1976)

This film follows the Watergate scandal uncovered by reporters Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford). After several attempts by the reporters to locate information, a library clerk helps by giving them circulation records.

There are actually four minor reel librarian roles in this film, one of which we only hear over the phone, plus the reporters visit the Library of Congress.

It feels like a good time to revisit this film soon…

Before Night Falls (2000)

This film highlights the life of Cuban writer and poet Reinaldo Arenas (Javier Bardem, in an Oscar-nominated role), who struggles against the Cuban revolution and government censorship of his writings. As a young man, he enters and wins a contest for young writers sponsored by the National Library, the prize being a job at the Library.

It feels like a good time to revisit this film soon…

Borstal Boy (2000)

Based upon the autobiography of (in)famous Irish writer and activist Brendan Behan, this film focuses on his time in a borstal — a kind of youth prison/labor camp in the UK — during World War II. A prison librarian shows up periodically throughout the film, and introduces him to the works of Oscar Wilde, a “fellow Irishman, a fellow jailbird, and rebel.”

A lasting impression of the Borstal librarian

A lasting impression of the Borstal librarian

Cal (1984)

A young man (John Lynch) struggles to find himself in war-torn Northern Ireland during “The Troubles,” and he falls in love with the widow (Helen Mirren) of a man killed by the IRA. Lynch first notices Mirren at the public library, where she works, and he visits the library a few more times during the course of the film.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1990)

This dystopian tale is set in a world under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship, in which fertility has become rare, and fertile young women, trained as Handmaids, are treated as slaves in the households they are assigned to. The late Natasha Richardson plays a Handmaid named Offred, and we learn in one scene that she used to be a librarian.

It’s also a good time to revisit and analyze this film, as a TV series version will be coming out later this year, in April. The new series stars Elisabeth Moss as Offred.

Idiocracy (2006)

I still have not yet seen this film, but it’s definitely on my list to see this year! Here’s how the film’s plot is described on

Private Joe Bauers, the definition of “average American”, is selected by the Pentagon to be the guinea pig for a top-secret hibernation program. Forgotten, he awakes five centuries in the future. He discovers a society so incredibly dumbed down that he’s easily the most intelligent person alive.

Primary Colors (1998)

This film is a fictionalized account of Bill Clinton’s first presidential candidacy. The film begins with Jack Stanton (John Travolta) visiting an urban school that provides adult literacy classes, and he introduces the “very special librarian,” Miss Walsh (Allison Janney), a klutzy but dedicated teacher and librarian. She is featured in the film clip below.

Soylent Green (1973)

Although ostensibly a mystery thriller, the undercurrent of this dystopian film is socially and environmentally political. In the year 2022, food is scarce and the world’s population relies on a food product called “soylent green.” A detective (Charlton Heston) investigates a murder of a Soylent official and his “Police Book,” Sol Roth (Edward G. Robinson, in his final film role), visits a former public library, now known as the “Supreme Exchange—Authorized Books Only.”

The librarians in this dystopian, disturbing future are known as “Books.”

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Soylent Green' (1973)

Screenshot from ‘Soylent Green’ (1973)

Storm Center (1956)

Any film that focuses on censorship is bound to be political.

Storm Center is a melodramatic film with the rare theme of library censorship at its center. Alicia Hull (Bette Davis), the director of the public library, is well-liked and respected in the town, by both children and adults alike. Alicia is asked to remove a book about communism, but she ultimately refuses (“I couldn’t take out a book whose ideas we don’t like”) and is fired—setting off an explosive chain of events.

WarGames (1983)

David, a computer whiz (Matthew Broderick), hacks into a computer game system, accidentally starting World War III and riling up international relations between the United States and Russia. (Sound familiar?!) Is it a simulation, or a real-life crisis?

A pivotal library research scene reveals how David discovers the secret password into the computer system. A reel librarian is seen very briefly in this montage scene.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'WarGames' (1983)

Screenshot from ‘WarGames’ (1983)

Do you have any political-themed films to add to the list? Please leave a comment and share!

Browsing the Paramount Vault YouTube channel

At the end of 2015, my husband alerted me, via Facebook, to the Paramount Vault YouTube channel:

Reel Librarians | Screenshot of Paramount Vault Facebook feed

The official description states that the project “showcases a collection of Paramount full-length films and clips including selections that range from black-and-white to color, comedy to horror, and everything in between. Viewers are invited to explore the vast landscape of cinema’s history, share their favorite films, and discover new ones through this official channel created by Paramount Pictures.”

That’s right, Paramount is uploading select full-length films and short clips to “The Paramount Vault” YouTube channel, here at At the start of 2016, there were 175 films available for viewing. (One caveat: it appears you can only watch them in the United States.)

Paramount Vault YouTube header

Paramount Vault YouTube header

So OF COURSE I set about browsing through the list for any reel librarian titles, and I have discovered at least two titles that I can now watch online, including:

A Girl Named Tamiko (1962):

Movie poster for 'A Girl Named Tamiko'

Movie poster for ‘A Girl Named Tamiko,’ The Paramount Vault

I am VERY excited about finally being able to see this film. I had written about A Girl Named Tamiko back in Sept. 2012, in my “Have you seen this movie?” post, highlighting films I hadn’t yet been able to track down copies of.

The title character of Tamiko (played by France Nuyen), who is from a wealthy Japanese family, works as a librarian for the Foreign Press Club in Tokyo. Apparently, her occupation is not that important to the film, but there are a couple of scenes set in the Foreign Press Club library.

It’s based on a book of the same name by Ronald Kirkbride. A used copy of the book is available from, but the DVD was out-of-print.

Ironweed (1987):

Movie poster for Ironweed

Movie poster for ‘Ironweed,’ The Paramount Vault

In 1938, a homeless drifter (Jack Nicholson) returns to his home town and meets a ex-radio singer (Meryl Streep) who is sick and homeless. Both Nicholson and Streep were nominated, for Best Actor and Best Actress respectively, for Ironweed. It is based on a novel by William Kennedy, who also wrote the screenplay.

In one scene, Streep tries to sleep in the library and then gets into an argument with a woman who recognizes her. The librarian, played by Bethel Leslie, shushes her and then ejects her from the library.

I saw this film years ago, and I did take notes about the short library scene at the time. However, I haven’t revisited the film yet for this blog — but that will be forthcoming! 😀

There are many more feature-length films available on The Paramount Vault YouTube channel besides reel librarian films, and I hope Paramount keeps adding new films to the channel. Is The Paramount Vault on your list to check out? Please leave a comment and let me know!