LOS ANGELES, June 3 (UPI) -- The American Film Institute's latest TV special, "AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Heroes & Villains," looks at Hollywood's best good guys and worst bad guys.
Arnold Schwarzenegger will host the special Tuesday night on CBS. Schwarzenegger has played mostly good guys ("True Lies," "Twins"), but he became a superstar with his memorable performance as the terrifying bad guy cyborg in "The Terminator" (1984).
"AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Heroes & Villains" will feature appearances by an all-star lineup that includes Kathy Bates, Erin Brockovich, Kirk Douglas, Harrison Ford, Jodie Foster, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh, Christopher Reeve, Susan Sarandon, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Sigourney Weaver.
A blue-ribbon panel has chosen the top 50 movie heroes and the top 50 villains from a list of 400 nominees.
The list included good guys such as George Bailey ("It's a Wonderful Life"), Rick Blaine ("Casablanca") and Clarice Starling ("The Silence of the Lambs"). It also featured such villains as Norman Bates ("Psycho"), Dr. Josef Mengele ("The Boys from Brazil") and The Queen ("Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs").
AFI Director and CEO Jean Picker Firstenberg said that not everyone on the list of 400 was easily categorized.
"Life is rarely black and white," said Firstenberg. "It's usually about gray. There's a little bit of good in even those who are bad, and there's a little bit of bad in the best of us."
In recent years, Hollywood has been criticized for depending on brighter lines to distinguish good characters from bad ones, abandoning the kind of moral ambiguity that challenges audiences to make their own decisions about important questions.
Firstenberg said some timeless movie characters posed that kind of challenge for the AFI jury.
"It's easy if you're Audie Murphy in 'To Hell and Back,'" she said. "But it's not so clear in any number of other ways. Bonnie (Parker) and Clyde (Barrow) were outlaws but there was something that was quite -- I don't know if attractive is the right world -- but endearing, about who they were."
The special is the sixth installment in AFI's ongoing centennial celebration of American cinema -- following "AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Movies," "AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Stars," "AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Laughs," "AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Thrills" and "AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Passions." Firstenberg said the series is having its intended effect -- to stimulate discussion, debate and even argument about America's film legacy.
"What it does is reinvigorate the interest in these movies, many of which people haven't seen in years, some of which they've never seen," she said.
Firstenberg said the impact of the series is measurable.
"There is no question whatsoever from real data that America revisits these movies in huge numbers, by going onto the Internet and ordering, or walking into Best Buy or Blockbuster and buying or renting these movies," she said. "The sales absolutely spike."
After six "AFI's 100 Years" specials, the question has to be asked: How long can this go on before it is no longer fruitful?
"We've certainly thought about it," said Firstenberg. "I think the public will let us know. If they continue to watch and be interested in film history the way we have asked them to think about it -- if there is an audience watching on Tuesday, if there is an appetite -- we want to continue to do this. Because I think (the shows) have made such a contribution to our culture, the more I can bring them into our homes, there's nothing that would give us greater pleasure."