Sight and Sound’s “Greatest Films” Poll

Kim Novak in “Vertigo”

Film Friday

Every 10 years, Sight and Sound magazine polls hundred of critics and film figures around the world—846 this past year—to determine the ten most popular films. It’s cinema’s most prestigious poll and it has been around since 1952, when the groundbreaking Italian neorealist film Bicycle Thieves topped the list. After that, in every poll except the one this year, Citizen Kane came in at #1.

Such lists are always subjective, of course—that’s why the list changes every ten years—but they make for great debates. They also spur movie fans everywhere to reveal their own loves and make their cases.

Hitchcock’s mysterious and self-revealing Vertigo has been steadily rising in recent polls, and this year it topped the list. Of more interest to me is that, for the first time, there are no films in the top ten by the man I consider cinema’s greatest director, Akira Kurosawa, although Rashomon and The Seven Samurai both make it into the top 50. However, another Japanese film that has been doing well for a while, Yasujiro Ozu’s extraordinarily subtle Tokyo Story, has risen to its highest point at #3. My own favorite film, Jean Renoir’s Rules of the Game, comes in at #4.

The recent upsurge of interest in silent cinema that we witnessed with Hugo and The Artist is reflected in the list with the inclusion of three silent films: Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera, F. W. Murnau’s Sunrise, and Carl Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc (a film so intense that it burnt out actress Jeanne Faconetti so that she never acted again). I’m not sure why Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 is there instead of Dr. Strangelove. Two regulars, Fellini’s autobiographical 8 ½ and John Ford’s influential The Searchers, remain.

The occasion of the poll gives me plenty to write about, and in the up-coming months I’ll be devoting a post to each of the films, both those on the Sight and Sound list and on my own. I’ve provided links to posts I’ve already written.

Here are the top ten films of the 2012 poll:

Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo
Orson Welles, Citizen Kane
Yasujiro Ozu, Tokyo Story
Jean Renoir, Rules of the Game
F. W. Murnau, Sunrise
Stanley Kubrick, 2001
John Ford, The Searchers
Dziga Vertov, Man with the Movie Camera
Carl Dreyer, The Passion of Joan of Arc
Federico Fellini, 8 ½

And here’s my own list, listed in my order of preference. Please send me your own lists:

Jean Renoir, Rules of the Game
Victor Erice, Spirit of the Beehive
Jean Cocteau, Beauty and the Beast
Akiri Kurosawa, Seven Samurai
Marcel Carné, Children of Paradise
Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Strangelove 
Howard Hawks, His Girl Friday
Andrei Tarkovsky, Andrei Rublev
Federico Fellini, La Strada
Charlie Chaplin, City Lights

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