The Top Ten Best Films Of All Time, According To Hundreds Of Film Directors And Critics

Every ten years, Sight and Sound Magazine publishes their extensive poll of worldwide film directors’ and film critics’ favourite films, boiling each survey down to a pair of “Best” lists.

Tonight, they’ve published the top tens from each group.

Here are the top ten films of all time according to a panel of several hundred film critics, programmers, academics and distributors.

1. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)

2. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)

3. Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)

4. La Règle du jeu (Renoir, 1939)

5. Sunrise: a Song of Two Humans (Murnau, 1927)

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)

7. The Searchers (Ford, 1956)

8. Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)

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

10. 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963)

No clunkers there. Not really any surprises, either – not unless you count Vertigo sneaking up one slot in the last ten years, dethroning Citizen Kane after some decades in the top spot. Overall, it’s quite a predictable selection.

And it is quite a limited list, in many respects. There’s no animation, and nothing made in the last 44 years. Quite an accurate reflection of the critical canon as I have all too often met it.

And Sight and Sound have teased that the highest ranking British film was The Third Man, placing 73rd. Interesting, for a poll conducted by the official magazine of The BFI.

For a slightly different point of view, here’s the list as figured by the film directors polled – over three hundred of them, I believe.

1. Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)

=2 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)

=2 Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)

4. 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963)

5. Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976)

6. Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979)

=7 The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)

=7 Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)

9. Mirror (Tarkovsky, 1974)

10. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica, 1948)

You’ll notice that four of these films are newer than Kubrick’s 2001,the most recent movie on the critics’ list. And there’s more “genre” fare, by which I pretty much films in which people make use of guns and bombs – The Godfather, Taxi Driver and Apocalypse Now. Three of those four newer films, in fact.

I can’t figure any obvious, meaningful distinction between critics and filmmakers other than the obvious – i.e.., what they’re paid to do for a living. But that alone could have translated into a very different point of view. When you actually work to build a film, and you understand what it takes to get the moving image and sound aligned and working well, you might see films in a very different way to those who are, shall we say, more academically associated with the art form. The mystery, perhaps, is why they would see things in such similar ways.

The full lists, including the nominated top tens by a couple of hundred of those polled, will be published in the next issue of Sight and Sound, out any day now. Then, the remaining nomination lists will be published online in the coming weeks.