In this work, a criterion considering the topological instability (lambda) and the differences in the electronegativity of the constituent elements (Delta e) was applied to the Al-La and Al-Ni-La systems in order to predict the best glass-forming compositions. The results were compared with literature data and with our own experimental data for the Al-La-Ni system. The alloy described in the literature as the best glass former in the Al-La system is located near the point with local maximum for the lambda.Delta e criterion. A good agreement was found between the predictions of the lambda.Delta e criterion and literature data in the Al-La-Ni system, with the region of the best glass-forming ability (GFA) and largest supercooled liquid region (Delta T(x)) coinciding with the best compositional region for amorphization indicated by the lambda.Delta e criterion. Four new glassy compositions were found in the Al-La-Ni system, with the best predicted composition presenting the best glass-forming ability observed so far for this system. Although the lambda.Delta e criterion needs further refinements for completely describe the glass-forming ability in the Al-La and Al-La-Ni systems, the results demonstrated that this criterion is a good tool to predict new glass-forming compositions. (C) 2010 Elsevier B. V. All rights reserved.