The greatest

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), scientifically proven to be the fifth best film ever made

As possibly the entire world now knows (and maybe a few cinephile Martians as well), the great film in the world ever made is Vertigo. No, I don’t believe it, either, but that’s what 846 of the world’s estemeed film critics have collectively decided should come top of the venerable ten-yearly Sight and Sound poll (first held in 1952) of the greatest films ever made.

Now it so happens that yours truly was one of those 846, but what I voted for will be the subject of another post, when the voting records of all 846 get published online later this month. Suffice to say that none of my choices appeared in the top fifty, nor I suspect will they be found in the top 1,000 – but then I didn’t pick a ten ‘best’ in any case. When young and keen and still discovering film I thought top tens and such like were a terrific idea. Now they seem to be an antiquated and irrelevant folly. However, we can at least be pleased at the recognition silent films still receive among film critics, with three silents in the top ten and a goodly representation among the top fifty. Indeed, silent films would appear to be commanding increasing respect, with films such as Sunrise and Man with a Movie Camera leaping up from where they charted in 2002. Silent film looks enocuragingly healthy in 2012.

Anyway, here is the list, for your delectation. Argue with the choices you may well do, but that will only demonstrate that you feel that there is such a thing as a best film ever, or a top ten films ever. Do you really believe that?

1. Vertigo
Alfred Hitchcock, 1958 (191 votes)

2. Citizen Kane
Orson Welles, 1941 (157 votes)

3. Tokyo Story
Ozu Yasujiro, 1953 (107 votes)

4. La Règle du jeu
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, 1939 (68 votes)

9. The Passion of Joan of Arc
Carl Dreyer, 1927 (65 votes)

10. 8½
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
Ozu Yasujiro, 1949 (50 votes)

16. Au hasard Balthazar
Robert Bresson, 1966 (49 votes)

17= Seven Samurai
Kurosawa Akira, 1954 (48 votes)

17= 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= L’avventura
Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960 (43 votes)

21= Le Mépris
Jean-Luc Godard, 1963 (43 votes)

21= The Godfather
Francis Ford Coppola, 1972 (43 votes)

24= Ordet
Carl Dreyer, 1955 (42 votes)

24= In the Mood for Love
Wong Kar-Wai, 2000 (42 votes)

26= Rashomon
Kurosawa Akira, 1950 (41 votes)

26= Andrei Rublev
Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966 (41 votes)

28. Mulholland Dr.
David Lynch, 2001 (40 votes)

29= Stalker
Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979 (39 votes)

29= Shoah
Claude Lanzmann, 1985 (39 votes)

31= The Godfather Part II
Francis Ford Coppola, 1974 (38 votes)

31= 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= Metropolis
Fritz Lang, 1927 (34 votes)

35= Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock, 1960 (34 votes)

35= Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles
Chantal Akerman, 1975 (34 votes)

35= Sátántangó
Béla Tarr, 1994 (34 votes)

39= The 400 Blows
François Truffaut, 1959 (33 votes)

39= La dolce vita
Federico Fellini, 1960 (33 votes)

41. Journey to Italy
Roberto Rossellini, 1954 (32 votes)

42= Pather Panchali
Satyajit Ray, 1955 (31 votes)

42= Some Like It Hot
Billy Wilder, 1959 (31 votes)

42= Gertrud
Carl Dreyer, 1964 (31 votes)

42= Pierrot le fou
Jean-Luc Godard, 1965 (31 votes)

42= Play Time
Jacques Tati, 1967 (31 votes)

42= Close-Up
Abbas Kiarostami, 1990 (31 votes)

48= The Battle of Algiers
Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966 (30 votes)

48= Histoire(s) du cinéma
Jean-Luc Godard, 1998 (30 votes)

50= City Lights
Charlie Chaplin, 1931 (29 votes)

50= Ugetsu monogatari
Mizoguchi Kenji, 1953 (29 votes)

50= La Jetée
Chris Marker, 1962 (29 votes)

4 responses

  1. I think such lists are valuable for instance when we recommend films to young people who are starting to ask which films are worth seeing. The flood of information and moving images is so overwhelming that such lists, approached with a bit of humour, may be getting more useful than before. That there are three silent films in the top ten is a cause for celebration and astonishment. The newest film on the top ten is 44 years old; the silent era lasted less than 40 years. It seems harder to decide which are the great works of contemporary cinema.

  2. Wise words Antti – indeed a good part of my film education came from lists and the assessments of those who knew what they were talking about as to what was worth seeing. It is harder to assess what is great among the new, and I think that’s always going to be the case. It’s interesting that in 2002 they sought to widen the number of critics polled in the hope of having a less traditional selection films, but ended up with a list more traditional and familiar than ever. In 2012 they have polled over 800 people with lots of online ‘critics’ ostensibly on the cutting edge of things, and again the same old warhorses have been led into the stable. Despite the full-on media assault about this poll, there’s almost nothing about it that is news.

    But it should shift a few DVDs of Vertigo and Citizen Kane, and who knows maybe Sunrise and the other silents.

    (And don’t I sound old hat talking about buying DVDs…)

  3. There are two films made later than the 70s, Godard’s Histoire du Cinema is from 1998 and David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive is from 2001. I have no problem with including Mulholland Drive on this list, it’s a great film, but its inclusion surprises me; Blue Velvet is a more critic-friendly choice if Lynch is on the menu. Outside of that, it’s all rather business as usual. Or art as usual, I guess.

  4. Of recent films there are also In the Mood for Love (2000), Shoah (1985), Close-up (1990) and Sátántangó (1994), the latter of which not only have I not seen but I have admit I’d not even heard of it before now. I’m losing touch… But generally it is art as usual.

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