There's a lot to parse within the BFI's Sight & Sound poll, a once a decade event in which the [air quotes] greatest films of all time [/end air quotes] are named. Given that the results are a product of accumulation of individual opinions, I enlisted Team Film Experience for a variety of voices to respond to it and you can see their quotes below. The list is a critic friendly and far more international affair than other famous mainstream rankings like AFI's Top 100. How did they determine the rank? According to Nick James 1000 critics, academics, writers, cinephiles, and directors were polled as to what ten films they considered The Greatest Ever, whether great meant "historical significance", "artistry" or something more personal to them. 846 top-ten lists were received which means we would like to volunteer to replace any of the 164 invitees who couldn't be bothered next time!
Every entry on a top ten list received one vote so rank didn't matter, nor should it, given that once you're in the upper echelons of achievement it's like splitting hairs. Or, since we're talking about Vertigo, judging who has the best bunhead.
As you've already heard, Alfred Hitchcock's discomfiting chilly double-identity thriller VERTIGO (1958) tossed the discomfitting chilly and ever triumphant CITIZEN KANE (1941) from its bell tower. Is it lonely at the top? Sure thing. [The list and what Team Experience had to say after the jump]
In 10-20 years time, Vertigo will have to endure all the sniping that Kane is cursed with by younger cinephiles forced to see it long after its canonization. But on an interesting side note, Vertigo did not top the director's list, where it ranked (tied) in a lowly 8th position. TOKYO STORY (1953) won that honor.
GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME
2. Citizen Kane Orson Welles, 1941 (157 votes)
3. Tokyo Story Yasujori Ozu, 1953 (107 votes)
4. The Rules of the Game Jean Renoir, 1939 (100 votes)
5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans FW Murnau, 1927 (93 votes)
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey Stanley Kubrick, 1968 (90 votes)
7. The Searchers John Ford, 1956 (78 votes)
8. Man With a Movie Camera Dziga Vertov, 1929 (68 votes)
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc Carl Dreyer, 1927 (65 votes)
10. 8 ½ Federico Fellini, 1963 (64 votes)
“Wow, that’s exactly how I would have ranked them,” said no one yesterday, when the results of the S&S poll were released. When it comes to consensus on the best film of all time, the criteria are so ambiguous, the options are so many, and tastes are so subjective, there are bound to be personal disagreements. I’m much more interested in seeing the individual selections of the voting members. Can we recognize, for instance, how Sean Durkin’s favourites influenced his debut film? Do Asghar Farhadi and Miranda July have anything in common? Or did Tsai Ming Liang really put one of his own films on his top ten? That being said, it’s hard to argue with a list that includes so many of my favourites (Bicycle Thieves, Persona, La Jetée, 8 ½, In the Mood for Love, etc.) and irrespective of quality, the fact that a single film is not remaining at the top for a sixth decade is reason to celebrate.-AMIR
I know I’m supposed to take the too-cool-for-school attitude and scoff at the essentially meaningless nature of lists, but honestly, this is like Christmas morning for cinema nuts like me. Can’t we all agree that, yes, there is no such thing as an official best film ever made, and then enjoy the poll for what it is: a fascinating snapshot of critical opinion over time. I love, for example, that the polls chart Hitchcock's rise as Auteur God. On that note, count me as pleased to see Orson Welles relinquish the crown after such a distinguished reign. Nothing against Charlie Kane but "Head of the Church of Cinema" is a position that should exist in a state of constant argument and Vertigo deserves its time on the thrown. After that, I could carp about the lack of Kurosawa or female directors or comedy, but honestly, if the poll encourages one person to watch The Passion of Joan of Arc I'm ready to classify it as an absolute good.
My Favorite: Apocalypse Now, Persona, 2001: A Space Odyssey. My Least Favorite: L’Atlante. What Belongs Here Instead: Cries and Whispers, The Seventh Seal, Children of Paradise, Nights of Cabiria.
No... I’ve never seen Citizen Kane. That has to be the guiltiest admission of mine, especially when talking to other film enthusiasts. We glide right past Kane onto something else equally revered in the pantheon in cinema. I avoid Citizen Kane for the same reason anybody avoids any kind of film they have even a passing interest in but haven’t seen: I’m terrified of not liking it.
Such is the richness of Alfred Hitchcock's career that most of the post-announcement chatter on Twitter involved which of his masterpiece's should be the one garnering all the laurels. That I find Vertigo to be a sumptuously made and expertly twisted piece of cinema and yet only about his seventh best is a high testament to his skill. For what it's worth I'd rank his works Psycho > The Birds > The 39 Steps > Rear Window > Lifeboat > North by Northwest > Vertigo.To each their own I suppose. Outside of the number one spot, I must say I adored the inclusion of The Man With a Movie Camera, which I was once upon a time able to see on a double bill with The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello! How's that for a cinematic experience, huh? Meanwhile, has anybody noticed the absence of Martin Scorsese on the critics list? My personal favourite, Taxi Driver, made the top ten of the director's list, but no such love from the critics in the entire top 50 appears quite stinging. They apparently preferred the sound of silence (four silent movies in the top eleven!) to Scorsese's gunshots...
-GLENN (Stale Popcorn)
I never thought I'd see Kane dethroned from any of these lists in my lifetime, but I guess Hitchock is a "hipper" choice than Welles. Not that one can argue with this list either, I've always loved how non-American centric it is, even if that means they always leave behind "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone With the Wind", as well as anything by Woody Allen.
-JOSE (Movies Kick Ass)
Although I think it is a totally subjective experience to name the best films of all time (inevitably one's own obsessions and such creep in), I have to say I was thrilled to see some of my personal "top ten" on the list: The Passion of Joan of Arc, Persona, and of course, Vertigo. I was also excited to see In the Mood for Love get some props. But to say this represents the top films of all time? It's an almost impossible question to answer, no?
I never see the harm in assembling lists of films to try and assess what does or doesn’t define tastes and get people talking about films. The Sight & Sound ten-year poll is a ‘big gun’ and I look forward to it (and especially like scanning the individual contributor’s choices as they invariably contain more diversity, more surprises, more shocks.) But, as with any list, it shouldn’t be seen as gospel. The word ‘greatest’ has the ring of impenetrable stature, all too rock solid and time-tested. Maybe it should be: What 10, or 30, or, say, 147 films hit you in the gut the hardest or ripped your heart out (this opens up much creative licence to include treacly weepies or cheap zombie flicks – films which very rarely, if ever, make any list of ‘best’, but indeed have their place). There’s no truly definitive answer, so the S&S list is what it is: a solid culmination of celluloid milestones and pleasures that acts as some kind of cultural barometer as well as a to-(re)watch list for casual moviegoers and cineliterates alike.
-CRAIG (Take Three)
What's great about these kinds of lists is the unbridled enthusiasms (thx Cosmo Kramer) they can stir up towards a pile of such formidable names - my heart flutters for Murnau! A girlish squeal rises in my throat for Ozu! I twist my fingers in my hair and bat my eyelashes at Tarkovsky! Some you love more than others but you still end up feeling flush by the end. I try not to read these things with an eye on what does or doesn't belong, since it's not worth getting upset over. These things are hardly scripture. I can still like Rear Window. So I try to take them as an opportunity to flood my brain with movie memories, mixing 'em all up in unexpected and wonderful ways. I can't imagine a better imaginary world than the one I got to spend time in today where Judy Barton rose from the grave to spend the night dancing with Monsieur Hulot, while in the next room Betty and Rita shared a bowl of noodles with Mr. Chow, and out through the windows there's the L'Atalante rolling past in the mist...
-JA (My New Plaid Pants)
Add your voice to the mix!
- Does the list speak to you or shut you out?
- Which are your favorites?
If I had to draw up a top ten exclusively from that list it'd go like so: 01) Singin' in the Rain, 02) Persona, 03) Psycho 04) The Passion of Joan of Arc, 05) Some Like It Hot, 06) Citizen Kane, 07) In the Mood For Love, 08) Taxi Driver, 09) Apocalypse Now and 10) Play-Time. With La Dolce Vita and L'Atalante blocking Vertigo even from the top dozen. It's not that I don't love Vertigo... .. but again, we're splitting hairs buns.