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Team Experience: Sight & Sound Poll

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.



1. Vertigo Alfred Hitchcock, 1958 (191 votes)
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)
11. Battleship Potemkin Sergei Eisenstein, 1925 (63 votes)
12. L’Atalante Jean Vigo, 1934 (58 votes)
13. Breathless Jean-Luc Godard, 1960 (57 votes)
14. Apocalypse Now Francis Ford Coppola, 1979 (53 votes)
15. Late Spring Yasujiro Ozu, 1949 (50 votes)
16. Au hasard Balthazar Robert Bresson, 1966 (49 votes)
17. [TIE] Seven Samurai Akira Kurosawa, 1954 (48 votes)
 Persona Ingmar Bergman, 1966 (48 votes)
19. Mirror Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974 (47 votes)
20. Singin’ in the Rain Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1951 (46 votes)
21 [TIE] L’avventura Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960 (43 votes)
Contempt Jean-Luc Godard, 1963 (43 votes)
The Godfather Francis Ford Coppola, 1972 (43 votes)
24 [TIE] Ordet Carl Dreyer, 1955 (42 votes)
In the Mood for Love Wong Kar-Wai, 2000 (42 votes)
26[TIE] Rashomon Akira Kurosawa, 1950 (41 votes)
Andrei Rublev Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966 (41 votes)
28. Mulholland Dr. David Lynch, 2001 (40 votes)
29. [TIE]  Stalker Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979 (39 votes)
Shoah Claude Lanzmann, 1985 (39 votes)
31 [TIE] The Godfather Part II Francis Ford Coppola, 1974 (38 votes)
Taxi Driver Martin Scorsese, 1976 (38 votes)
33. Bicycle Thieves Vittoria De Sica, 1948 (37 votes)
34. The General Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman, 1926 (35 votes)
35. [TIE] Metropolis Fritz Lang, 1927 (34 votes)
Psycho Alfred Hitchcock, 1960 (34 votes)
Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles Chantal Akerman, 1975 (34 votes)
Sátántangó Béla Tarr, 1994 (34 votes)
39 [TIE] The 400 Blows François Truffaut, 1959 (33 votes)
La dolce vita Federico Fellini, 1960 (33 votes)
41. Journey to Italy Roberto Rossellini, 1954 (32 votes)
42. [TIE] Pather Panchali Satyajit Ray, 1955 (31 votes)
Some Like It Hot Billy Wilder, 1959 (31 votes)
Gertrud Carl Dreyer, 1964 (31 votes)
Pierrot le fou Jean-Luc Godard, 1965 (31 votes)
Play Time Jacques Tati, 1967 (31 votes)
Close-Up Abbas Kiarostami, 1990 (31 votes)
48 [TIE]  The Battle of Algiers Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966 (30 votes)
Histoire(s) du cinéma Jean-Luc Godard, 1998 (30 votes)
50 [TIE] City Lights Charlie Chaplin, 1931 (29 votes)
Ugetsu Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953 (29 votes)
La Jetée Chris Marker, 1962 (29 votes)


Now let's hear from Team Experience...
“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.
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.


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Reader Comments (56)

These lists make little sense to me...

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrick

I like that so many contributors share an affinity for Persona.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

This film makes me ashamed that I have never seen anything by Ozu. But Vertigo, Kane and Joan of Arc would probably make it into my top ten, and whenever your own personal list is even slightly represented (30% is pretty sizable, I think), then I don't have much to complain about.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames C.

My Least Favourite: Jeanne bleeping Dielman. Really!? If it committed to 100% Avant Garde, I could see why people would put it on a list like this, because it is mostly well shot. But, if you pay close attention to the set up of Jeanne Dielman's life (particularly THE LACK OF A PIMP) and basic rules of cinematic satisfaction, the ending is TERRIBLE. 1. Bad framing. Visual framing is so poorly chosen that you don't actually get to see the knife penetrate. 2. Bad Editing. They don't cut away from the initial poor framing to get a sense of the power of the knife penetration 3. Why is she still working in the world's oldest profession if she doesn't have a pimp and doesn't want to come to orgasm? 4. Why do they just let what she did sit and refuse to milk it for drama?

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I find it ironic whenever someone who considers The Passion of Joan of Arc one of the all-time greats while criticizing The Passion of the Christ for focusing too much on suffering and not enough on Christ's philosophy.

Anyway, interesting list as usual, with various good suggestions for films to see. But the slant in favour of older films is pretty noticeable, and shows how long critical consensus can take to form around movies.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSean C.

pather panchali fell – let's hope it stays on the list by the time 2022 rolls around

has the conformist (or last tango) ever been on this list? i remember it placing low on the directors' picks maybe a decade ago (memory is faulty). i can't be overstating its influence when I say that you see so much of bertolucci in the works of scorsese and coppola, just as l'avventura was a landmark film a decade before it...

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMayukh

It's interesting to note that while 2001 and Vertigo look like permanent fixtures on the list now, but they didn't break in until '92 and '82 respectively. Meanwhile former champs City Lights and Bicycle Thieves cling to spots in the top 50.

There is actually movement on the poll, but it is slow, continental drift movement. In 2032, I bet Mulholland Dr., Pulp Fiction, In the Mood For Love, Eternal Sunshine, There Will Be Blood, etc will all be elbowing for room on the list.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

I like Some Like it Hot. I understand that it's hilarious. However, one nagging error here: NO BRITISH SOUND COMEDY! No room for one, even in a TOP FIFTY LIST that supposedly LEANS AWAY FROM AMERICA, even though KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS EXISTS!!!! It's hilarious, it's moody, it relentlessly probes it's theme and it's, frankly, timelessly edgy. Can all those things be said to still apply to Some Like it Hot? The first one...yes. The second one...no. It was never a particularly surly or moody film on the overall, even with occasional dark scenes. The third one...yes, it does explore the consequences of the subsumation of identity. The forth one...at the time, the drag routine and homosexual undertones were edgy, but they're kind of quaint by today's standards.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Ozu is awesome, I'm happy he is ranked so high. I really can't complain or find any faults with this list other than its lack of more contemporary work. Are we gonna have to wait 3 more decades before we see better representation of the past 25 years? Or is there just no room when newer films are always going to be competing with those that did it first, or have a longer historical significance aka legendary status? I feel that in years to come, the Coens and Malick (for example) will be as confidently revered as these greats, but its a tad annoying that we may have to wait until they're dead to do so.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDino

I'm impressed by the variety of films and still, selfishly, let down that Rosemary's Baby didn't make the cut.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Nat-I much prefer your top 10 to theirs, but like Amir said, individual lists are usually way more interesting than consensus.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

Volvagia--I've found the near-lack of British films (comedy or drama) on the last few lists disappointing. Now the standard-bearers, The Third Man and Lawrence of Arabia, have dropped off entirely. No Powell and Pressburger at all makes me sad.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz N.

I think Singin' in the Rain is highly entertaining, but somewhat mindless. I wanted a little more substance, idk. I also feel like I'm the only person that doesn't really like Psycho ...

I think City Lights should be higher and I agree that Taxi Driver should be on the list, even if a bit low.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

"Mulholland Drive" seriously ?!

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I would say my 3 greatest movies of all time are PSYCHO (1960, directed by Alfred Hitchcock), LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL / LA VITA È BELLA (1997, directed by Roberto Benigni) and LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003, directed by Sofia Coppola)

I'm glad to see "Psycho" in the list and I consider this one as THE horror masterpiece of the cinema history, but not seeing
"La vita è bella" mentioned is almost shocking to me, since I believe it is one of the movies ever made, about an important subject and one of the most touching movies I've ever seen.
About "Lost In Translation", it may not be the greatest movie ever made, but it as an unique beauty and peace that I never found in any other piece of cinema. Its greatness comes from the silence...

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEd

Adam -- well, that's actually not MY top ten. Just my top ten from their top 52 :) I haven't seen the full top 100 but I'm sure there's something in 53-100 that i like more than some of those ten.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

i should amend that only the top 4 there at the bottom of the post would be in my top 20 were i to make one ;)

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I'm most disappointed that The Piano is nowhere to be found. But still a great, interesting list.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Trivia I haven't read anyone point out yet: Rules of the Game continues its streak as the only film to make the top 10 on every poll so far

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

Apparently The Tree of Life missed out being on the top 50 by one vote. I have to say I'm surprised considering it's only a year old, and for the severe lack of love for movies released in the last 30 years. Having said that, I think it's status will only grow with time and it'll definitely be making an appearance in the 2022 list.

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

So many movies from that list that I haven't seen! I have to correct that.

I love that Vertigo got the no1 spot and not because I hate Kane (I don't) nor because I adore Vertigo (I almost do) but because it's a nice change. It's kind of funny now that after all these years it was an old movie that "beat" Kane. It's like they needed time to think about what they had already seen instead of seeing what's new.

Rewatched Vertigo last night and I know now that I love Rear Window more, but that ending might be the most moving in any Hitchcock film.

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

I feel like more people need to be angry about Vertigo toppling Kane. Yes, yes, change is exciting bla bla bla - come on! A few years ago - hell, just a couple of weeks ago - most people were perfectly content to have Kane as no. 1. Were we all pretending?

And yes, Vertigo is striking, entrancing, a masterpiece. And the fact that I prefer Psycho. Rear Window, The 39 Steps, and roughly 200 other (brilliant brilliant) films is completely irrelevant. It's a gorgeous film and I was perfectly content to have it there at no.2 (one place higher even than the infinitely richer La Regle du jeu).

And no, Kane isn't my favourite film. (I prefer The Third Man, L'Atalante, The Magnificent Ambersons, 8 1/2 and Passion of Joan of Arc, in that order.) But I *liked* it being 'the greatest film of all time'. It gave me a really warm feeling, Because the no.1 film title really does need to go to an Orson Welles movie and Magnificent Ambersons is too chilly/obscure, and Touch of Evil too lowbrow (though, incidentally, it's equal 6th with Kane on my list), so it has to be Kane by default.

Okay. Now, all that said, there isn't a single film on that Top 10 list that isn't an astonishing, mind-bending, life-altering classic. And this does make me happy.

Also if we're gonna have two 21st century films in the Top 50, I love that we get to have In the Mood for Love and Mulholland Drive. They probably wouldn't be my own personal candidates for best films of the century so far (hello Talk to Her and Volver/4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days/Eternal Sunshine) but all the same they are two recent films ready to be canonised/celebrated/watched/rewatched/discussed/worshipped.

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergoran

There should be something by Buñuel there...

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFernando Moss

Nathaniel: Just to clarify, 846 critics/writers/academics were polled for the critics' list. 358 filmmakers were polled for the separate directors' list. So there were actually over 1200 participants.

By the way, I know it's not online yet, but a look at the second half of the list (53-100) would answer some of the questions raised above.

Michael: The Children of Paradise is at #73, The Seventh Seal at #93.

Glenn: Scorsese has two films in the Top 100 -- Taxi Driver at #31 and Raging Bull at #53.

Liz N: The Third Man is the highest-placed British film at #73. Lawrence of Arabia follows at #81. And Powell & Pressburger sneak in at the tail-end with A Matter of Life and Death at #90 and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp at #93.

MDA: Actually, The Tree of Life missed the Top 100 by one vote, not the Top 50. (It got 16 votes overall.)

Fernando Moss: Bunuel has one film in the Top 100 -- Un Chien Andalou at #93.

Hope that helps!

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGuy Lodge

Not a single Woody Allen film? Not a single Spanish language film? Maybe in the second part? Anyway, these lists always make me feel our lives are worthless. Anything made after the 70s can only apply for the last positions.

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

IGGY -- i don't really mind the lack of modern films since, no offense to anyone, i think it's ridiculous to rank something like TREE OF LIFE which hasn't even "settled" yet, as one of the greatest films ever made. I think a minimum of 10 years before films ought to be even eligible for this stuff. (which is why i'm really interested in the Mulholland Dr, In the Mood for Love placements... people have definitely had enough time to turn those films over again and again and make sure they're the real thing.

But i do wish the lists were a bit more "fun". This is awfully heavy stuff which is another problem with critics list wherein no one wants to embarrass themselves by seeming "not serious" and admiiting that Singin' in the Rain is better than most every drama ever made ;)

GUY -- thanks but according to that BFI article I linked, it does sound like hundred plus of invitees did not actually send in top ten lists... which is insane.

EVERYONE -- what's with Seven Samurai. Can someone explain this to me. I love Kurosawa but it's not remotely my favorite film of his and I'm always a bit mystified by its reputation.

August 3, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Steve -- Jane Campion never gets the respect she deserves. Filmdom and cinephilia is still a patriarchy, unfortunately. Notice the lack of "women's pictures" or anything more feminine like . SIRK? ALMODOVAR?

August 3, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Guy--Thanks for that. And Colonel Blimp made it in over The Red Shoes? That's surprising, but I actually prefer Colonel Blimp, so it's fine by me!

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz N.

I love the list, but I'd keep Citizen Kane as the best. Only one movie could beat him if we think about impact and influence and greatness: Hiroshima Mon Amour, IMO.

I love Seven Samurai, its flawless pace, its sense of friendship and chemistry among men. It's not about the battles, it's about sustaining a 4 hour movie with relationships that have just started. The guys are new friends to one another and the movie captures the development of their bond beautifully. It could be a Howard Hawks movie, like Rio Bravo, when all that matters is chatting and waiting for the final battle, that is quick and abrupt.

I noticed the lack of comedies, too. Come on, The Awful Truth is clearly top 20 material.

And, where is John Cassavetes, Douglas Sirk, Masaki Kobayashi?

And, on modern movies, I'd have ranked Breaking the Waves in the top 50.

I don't think you should complain about the lack of women's pictures. In this list, most of the pics are not about men or women: the auteur is the star. It's not like the list is full of movies like Once Upon a Time in America only.

Still, you have some movies with a very strong feminine sensibility or with a strong central female role or roles, like Persona, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Journey to Italy, Ugetsu, Gerturd, Mulhollad Dr, In The Mood For Love, Sunsrise, Late Spring, L'Avventura... But still, gender is not an important thing in this list.

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

cal -- you're right of course. It's just my nerves getting very raw on that subject. and even among auteurs those with girlier sensibilities often aren't as worshipped or their films aren't strongly grappled with in the same way.

August 3, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nat -

Seven Samurai only has that reputation because it is the master's definitive cinematic statement on the class, society, crime, poverty, youth, etc. which followed in the tradition of the American western and beat them at their own game. It has a 3 hour plus running time which flies by like a Bugs Bunny short, juggles comedy, action, drama, romance and tragedy, and a cast of well over a dozen memorable characters. Plus it has a screenplay that is still ripped off every 2 or 3 weeks at the multiplexes.

So, you know, no biggie. To each his own.

Forced to choose I prefer Ikiru, but only in the impossible decision, Sophie's Choice kinda way.

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C

@Guy Lodge - Thanks for clearing that up, I can't believe I read that wrong, wishful thinking on my part I suppose. I still stand by what I said earlier, it'll definitely be moving up as time passes, it isn't as appreciated now as I feel it should be. Reminds me of 2001 in that respect, and look where that film is now.

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

Nathaniel and Cal: You'll be glad to hear that Imitation of Life at least made the Top 100. (At #93.)

Iggy: The Spirit of the Beehive is at #81 (tied with Lawrence of Arabia and The Magnificent Ambersons!), which both surprises and delight me.

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGuy Lodge

"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."

THANK YOU, MICHAEL! This is always my reaction to the furor that inevitably seems to arise over the S&S poll.

I, for one, am thrilled that Vertigo displaced Citizen Kane. For me, it has the one thing that Kane lacks: a beating heart. And gorgeous color cinematography. And Kim Novak. And her hairdo. It may not be my favorite Hitchcock (that would be North by Northwest) or the one I think is his best (that would be Psycho), but it IS the one that most lends itself to criticism, so I can see why it would come out on top in a list of critical faves.

I was also over the moon to see In The Mood for Love up so high. It made up for my disappointment that Singin' in The Rain missed out on Top Ten. Because there's NO WAY it isn't one of the ten best films ever made. There just isn't. But overall, I really appreciate this list, and like nearly all the films on it (I have never been able to abide L'Avventura).

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I'd have liked to see Kane stay on top too - it has been the official Greatest Movie Ever Made for my entire life, and a terrific good will ambassador for the medium. Vertigo's greatness is, for me, indisputable - its my favorite Hitchcock by a fair margin - but it seems almost perverse to trot it out before the world as the Greatest Movie Ever Made. Its way too weird and fucked up.

I imagine it looking down from the top of the list and breaking out in a cold sweat and then there's a terrible accident and Citizen Kane falls off the clock tower and next thing you know Vertigo's trying to convince Tokyo Story to bleach its hair and adopt a multi-POV flashback structure, because it can't matter to Tokyo Story - it just can't matter!

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

I would just like everybody to stop and go back and read Roark's comment again. Here's I'll make it easy:


I'd have liked to see Kane stay on top too - it has been the official Greatest Movie Ever Made for my entire life, and a terrific good will ambassador for the medium. Vertigo's greatness is, for me, indisputable - its my favorite Hitchcock by a fair margin - but it seems almost perverse to trot it out before the world as the Greatest Movie Ever Made. Its way too weird and fucked up.

I imagine it looking down from the top of the list and breaking out in a cold sweat and then there's a terrible accident and Citizen Kane falls off the clock tower and next thing you know Vertigo's trying to convince Tokyo Story to bleach its hair and adopt a multi-POV flashback structure, because it can't matter to Tokyo Story - it just can't matter!"


August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJA

If I had a gun to my head and could only pick one BEST movie in the world, I guess I would pick All About Eve (sorry Annie Hall, you come in second). I wonder if it made the top 100 on any list? And if not, I'm guessing it's because it's considered more of an "acting" movie or a "script" movie, and those two things really don't matter on this list, particularly acting.

I mean there are great, great performances in a lot of these movies but that seems to be a minor contribution. No one would argue that Kim Novak is anything more than a competent actress (truly, don't hate me).

Rules of the Game? Tokyo Story? 2001? I barely know who is in those movies.

These lists are auteur lists, and you really even get extra points if you're working with "not so great" actors and can pull off a miracle, like say The Searchers. ;-) And I guess I'm okay with that if people understand that is what is going on. Things like Casablanca (script and acting) and Gone With The Wind (spectacle and acting) and Wizard of Oz (music and fun) don't even get mentioned in these lists.

Oh, and about never seeing Citizen Kane, I won't say "for shame" but I'll say what I really mean when I say I haven't seen Tokyo Story, namely, I am waiting for the perfect moment, the perfect theater, etc. to see it. I really don't think a sad DVD and watching it in my tiny studio is going to cut it.

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

JA -- i second your delight with Roark's comment. In fact, I need to addd it to the sidebar immediately.

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Citizen Kane. Meryl Streep. What do these two things have in common? You guessed it — their reputations are exaggerated, and are the best examples of what a meme is. As for the list itself it never reflects causal movie watching sensibilities for general population and myself — I'm kind of glad that I'm hardly ever lockstep with group think.

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

4rtful -- i hear you loud and clear except for the part about general population... what population of movie watchers is MORE influenced by groupthink? Think box office and you'll already know the answer.

August 3, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

denny: I watched In the Mood for Love recently. Why is it, if this list is to be believed, so more exorbitantly acclaimed than Brief Encounter? Comparison time: In the blue corner, we have the couple of Brief Encounter, a fairly passionately in love couple cow towed by their spouses fidelity and not wanting their friends to vilify them due to consummation. In the red corner, we have the couple of In the Mood for Love, refusing to consummate a clearly passionate relationship, even when it's painfully clear that they know their spouses are cheating on them and they'd come out decently if they did the deed and told their friends the whole story. The former couple is justified for their ultimately chaste actions. I can whole heartedly sympathize with them. Plus, the near miss suicide is a powerfully shocking scene. The latter couple are two smug a-holes who want to lord their moral superiority over others if the truth ever gets out. I can't even really EMPATHIZE with them and, even if I admit the cinematography is lushly hypnotic at points, nothing in it has the punch of Brief Encounter's near-suicide. (Grades: Brief Encounter: A. In the Mood for Love: B.)
Dave in Alamitos Beach: Frankly, you're not getting ANYTHING out of waiting to watch Tokyo Story on a big screen. It's not Terrence Malick or a blockbuster epic. It's a very quiet, visually unassuming movie built on the smallest of gestures and is almost sickly designed around solo home viewing for a 1950s film.

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Hollywood caters exclusively to teenage boys and stunted men — people from all walks of life still go to the movies and they have to see something — to quote Meryl These are my opitions?

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

I love Ozu and am thrilled to see Tokyo Story place so high - maybe more people will be drawn to his work now. Even among people I know who are well-versed in cinema, Ozu doesn't seem very well-known - so many people think classic Japanese film begins and ends with Kurosawa.

My favorites on the list are Tokyo Story, Apocalypse Now, both La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2, and Persona (though I wish Cries and Whispers or Fanny and Alexander had also made the top 50). Vertigo would be up there, too - I prefer it to Citizen Kane, but I'd vote for Notorious as Hitchcock's best, followed by North by Northwest and Rear Window.

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Nathaniel - I with you. I also noticed that this list doesn't have much time for the ladies. Still, it's hard to quibble with the inclusion of any of these films. From a critical perspective, I think they're all artistic masterpieces, even if I don't necessarily "like" all of them. Still, I wish they'd have made room for Jane. The Piano is such a strong auteurist work that it would feel right at home on the list.

I'm also bummed that Malick didn't crack the Top 50. But I agree that The Tree of Life making in that close to the Top 100 is nuts (even though I LOVE it). I'm with you there, too: let it settle for ten years. A lot can change.

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Am dying over Roark's highlighted comment. LOmuthafuckinL.

August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark The First

My choice of top 10 from the fifty films mentioned in the list would be:
1. 8 1/2 (Fellini) - a film about dreams and a dream about films
2. Andrei Rublev (Tarkovsky) - The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Pure spiritual cinema! Amen!
3. Playtime (Tati) - Modernity, technology and communications. Restaurant sequence tops all.
4. Metropolis (Lang) - Truth about social class and meditation.
5. Apocalypse Now (Coppola) - Epic in scope and Madness in hell! The greatest emptiness!
6. Breathless (Godard) - Cinema of romance with natural flow and perfect chemistry
7. In the Mood for Love (Wong) - The celebration / memorial in eternal loss of 'blossom period'
8. Sunrise (Murnau) - Repentance and forgiveness, love and betrayal, ultimate moral fairy tale
9. Citizen Kane (Welles) - Cinematic masterpiece in narrative and editing. Rosebud.
10. The General (Keaton) - Silent King of Comedy. Let's go along with the train ride adventure!

Not meaning it is any of my favourites (though they are), I believe there are way many astonishing cinematic experiences I still am seeking for out there in the top lists.

August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBobby

Oh wow - just saw the sidebar/additional comments. Thanks JA, Nat and Mark the First!

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

10 Favs of the list:

1. Sunrise a Song of Two Humans
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey
3. The 400 Blows
4. Taxi Driver
5. Apocalypse Now
6. The Godfather
7. Citizen Kane
8. Tokyo Story
9. Andrei Rublev
10. Singin' in the Rain

10 Least Favourite choices (most that I've seen):

1. Jeanne Dielman (Do I need to go into how much of a train wreck the last twenty minutes are again?)
2. Metropolis (really? It's Lang's most aesthetically accomplished, but it's kind of boring and M is much better overall.)
3. Man with a Movie Camera
4. In the Mood for Love (have aired my characterization grievances with this movie already. Doesn't hold a candle to Brief Encounter.)
5. Play Time (haven't seen it, but all the claims of the "immensely detailed frames" lead me to believe it would be better if a comic book artist (maybe Craig Thompson, for example) watched the film a bunch of times, drew everything down onto 1300 or so full page spreads and released that to the public in a couple volumes and force the critics to concede that Play Time was always a better comic book than it was an actual movie.)
6. La Jetee (why is a photo album on this list? MOVING PICTURES!? Why does that have to be a rule!!?)
7 + 8. Ordet and Gertrud (I don't understand Dreyer's appeal (Passion of Joan of Arc is just a B+ in my eyes and Vampyr is pretty bad at a C-), but, to me, it's still absolutely ridiculous that three of his films place in the top fifty.)
9. Man with a Movie Camera (It's a looker of a film but I think more critics should ask "is this cohesive enough for a top ten list"?)
10. Persona (I know this'll be controversial (and it's based more on visual content than it is the quality), but aren't critics these days starting to turn away from Seventh Seal and Persona and more toward Sawdust and Tinsel? I'd also say that makes more sense as a reflection of Bergman's career overall. The moments of dabbling in the surreal or metaphysical elements of The Seventh Seal, Persona and The Hour of the Wolf were diversions when you get down to it. At the end of the day, he was much more of a realist director and the film critics choose for his representation on this list should be the best of THAT mode. Of his primary mode.)

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Note on fifth least favourite decision: I would read the crap out of Play Time the comic book, but I think I'd only watch Play Time the movie once to confirm my suspicions.
Note on sixth least favourite decision: Yes. I'm totally dead serious on that. La Jetee is a stunning photo album, but I'd want the BFI to be stricter in terms of their rules. Un Chien Andalou is enough of a stretch (short film), but allowing a PHOTO ALBUM to crack your top fifty is completely bizarre.

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I think you should probably see Play Time before you tell people who have seen Play Time how Play Time should have been, really.

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJA
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