How to Look Smart: Movies You Need to Know About (Part I)

The AFI top 100 summarised, with key characters, cult quotes, and major learnings.

Nicolas Carteron
5 min readAug 8, 2020


Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

How to Look Smart & Impress Your Friends

While I would encourage you to watch all the movies on this list (and in the subsequent articles I will publish), you certainly don’t need to in order to look smart and cultured.

Most of the people referencing them haven’t watched them either!

This guide into the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time (according to the AFI) will provide you with the essential knowledge you must possess to shine in society (in a few dozen words or less).

So let’s begin with the Top 5 !

Citizen Kane (1941)

Directed by Orson Welles (his first movie), from an original screenplay.

Plot Summary

C.F. Kane, media tycoon, one the richest men in America, dies. His last enigmatic word: “Rosebud”. A journalist tries but fails to understand the meaning of the word. Doing so, he discovers the life of a man torn away from his family and his dreams by power and money.

Key Characters

Charles Foster Kane, played by Welles himself, is seen through flashbacks and newsreels. Inspired by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer.

Cult Quotes


C.F. Kane dying words. The audience learns at the end that this word was etched in the wood of a sled Kane played with as a kid. His wealth and power notwithstanding, Kane led an empty and unhappy life. He lost his idealism and dreams.

Known For

  • Considered the greatest picture of all times
  • Innovative and groundbreaking cinematography, editing, music, and narrative structure

The Godfather (1974)

Directed by Francis Ford Copolla, adapted from a novel of the same name by Mario Puzo.

Plot Summary



Nicolas Carteron

I write about politics, business, society and culture on Medium. For startup/business content, check my newsletter: