The Greek American Image in American Cinema
How American films depict Greek Americans tells us more about American culture than about Greek Americans. Cinema generally reflects contemporary cultural beliefs. By presenting those values in vivid forms, cinema reinforces them. The general rule is that screenwriters, directors, cinematographers, and actors do not have any special knowledge of Greek America and reproduce the dominant negative and positive cultural stereotypes. Far less common is an attempt to consciously reshape those perceptions.
The following filmography, which offers an account of the image of Greek Americans in American cinema, reveals how mainstream America has perceived Greek Americans at any given moment and how American cinema has reacted to that perception. For our purposes, Greek America is composed of immigrants and any offspring who self-define themselves as Greek.
In order to make the filmography useful, we have created five rating categories of one G to five Gs. These are not esthetic or approval rankings; they are indicators of the nature of the Greek American dimension of any given film.
GGGGG: Indicates a film whose major character is a Greek American and whose Greek heritage is the central element in thefilm’s plot line. Few Hollywood films fit into this category while almost all independent films made by Greek Americans do.For an example, see the entry for Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef.
GGGG: Indicates a film with a major or minor character whose Greekness is integral to the film, but that Greekness is not the film’s dominant cultural concern. There are a considerable number of these films. For an example, see the completed full entry for City Hall.
GGG: Indicates a film with a major or minor character who is clearly identified as a Greek American, but whose ethnicity is not vigorously explored. This is a common practice. For an example, see the completed full entry for Mr. Lucky.
GG: Indicates a film with a minor Greek American character whose ethnic identity is barely noted. Greekness often is only indicated by the character’s name. Whether a film’s Greek character is GGG or GG is often a close call. For an example, see the completed full entry for Milk.
G: Indicates a film with a very minor character who could be of any ethnic heritage and may not even have a speaking role. This designation also indicates films based on another medium in which a character who was originally Greek has been given a different ethnicity or a mainstream identity. For an example, see the completed full entry for A Streetcar Named Desire.
The filmography that follows is a work in progress. Presently, we are offering the titles of American films with Greek American characters, their date of production, and their Greekness ranking. Over the course of the next year, we will offer full production credits and plot summaries for each film. Our filmography includes both Hollywood and mainstream fiction films; but we have not included documentaries or films made by producers in other nations.
This filmography has been compiled by the Center for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies at Queens College-City University of New York and the University of Michigan.
Greek Americans in American Cinema (1912-2009)
- Achilles Heel (aka Achilles Love)–GGGG 2000
- A Dream of Kings–GGGG 1969
- America, America–GGGG 1963
- The Arrangement–GGGG 1969
- A Sea Apart–GGGG 2003
- Astoria–GGGGG 2000
- Before and After–GGG 1996
- Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef–GGGGG 1953
- The Catalina Caper–GGG 1967
- Charlie Wilson’s War–GGGG 2007
- City Hall–GGGG 1996
- Collision Course–GGG 1989
- Crank–GG 2006
- Crime School–GGG 1938
- Daredevil–GGGG 2003
- Dark Odyssey–GGGGG 1961
- The Deep End of the Ocean–GGG 1999
- Destination Tokyo–GGGG 1943
- Do You Want To Dance?–GGGGG 1997
- Double Indemnity–GG 1944
- Down to the Sea ( aka Down Under the Sea)–GGGGG 1936
- Elektra–GGGG 2005
- Eleni–GGGG 1985
- Everything for a Reason–GGGG 2000
- The Exorcist–GG 1973
- Fifteen Minutes–G 2001
- Final Analysis–GGG 1992
- Five Aces–GGG 1999
- Fletch–G 1985
- Lives–G 1998
- Flying Down to Rio–G 1933
- Frankie and Johnny–GGG 1991
- The Glory Brigade–GGGGG 1953
- Go Naked into the World–GGG 1961
- Goodbye, Miss Fourth of July–GGGGG 1988
- The Great Gatsby–GGG 1949
- The Great Gatsby–GGG 1974
- The Great Gatsby–GGG 2000
- The Greek Tycoon–GG 1978
- The Heart is a Lonely Hunter–GGG 1968
- Heat–GGG 1995
- The Imposters(aka Ship of Fools)–GGG 1998
- Juke Girl–GG 1942
- King of America–GGGGG 1982
- Kiss Me Deadly–GGG 1955
- Land Raiders (aka The Day of the Landgrabber)–GGG 1969
- Mad Bull (British title: The Aggressor)–GGGG 1977
- The Man from the Diner’s Club–GGGGG 1963
- Mister Lucky (Remade as Gambling House in 1950)–GGG 1950
- My Big Fat Greek Wedding–GGGGG 2002
- My Life in Ruins–GGGG 2009
- My Palikari (Video release as Silent Rebellion)–GGGGG 1982
- The Naked City–GGG 1948
- Napatia, The Greek Singer–GGG 1912
- Nicky’s World–GGGGG 1974
- A Perfect Couple–GGG 1979
- The Postman Always Rings Twice–GGG 1981
- The Redemption of Greek Joe–GGG 1912
- Sands of Iwo Jima–GGGG 1949
- Shelter–GGG 1998
- Smart Money–GGG 1931
- Summer Lovers–GG 1982
- A Streetcar Named Desire–G 1951
- Strike Me Pink-GGG 1936
- The Tempest–GGG 1982
- Thieves Highway–G 1949
- The Thin Man (A series of six films)–G 1934
- The Thin Red Line–GGGG 1998
- Tiger by the Tail–GGGG 1968
- Tribute to a Bad Man–GGGG 1956
- Twelve Hours to Kill–GGG 1960