In other, non-Olympic news from Britain…
Once a decade, Sight and Sound, the magazine arm of the British Film Institute, polls film critics and directors to create a list of the best films ever made. While everyone involved usually acknowledges that lists of this kind tend to be a bit silly due to their inherent subjectivity, the Sight and Sound Critics’ Poll still has a tendency to be taken seriously and the results acknowledged as the default canon. Because it is taken only once every ten years, it also reflects the changing attitudes in film culture, as different films’ or directors’ popularity wax and wane with the times. Certain things tend to stay the same, however. Namely, that Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane is the best film ever made, according to the critics, who have voted it to the top of their list consistently for the past five decades. Until now, that is.
The list was released Wednesday, and for the first time since 1962, Citizen Kane has been unseated as the reigning champ of film history. That honor now belongs to Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock’s tale of deception and obsession starring James Stewart and Kim Novak. There were rumors that things might change this go-around, as the poll was opened up to a much larger group of voters, and Vertigo was the odds-on favorite to replace Kane.
Here’s the top-ten list:
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)
It’s a solid list, and a great place to start for anyone looking for a rudimentary education in cinema. Personally, I would have left off 2001, which isn’t even in my top five Kubrick films, let alone top ten all-time. Dziga Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera is a welcome addition, and I’m happy to see Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc making its way back onto the list after getting bumped in 2002.
If I had a vote, Akira Kurasawa’s Seven Samurai (ranked all the way down at 17 on the full list) would have been right at the top of my ballot. For my money it’s still the most exciting film ever made, and if we’re being honest about the contemporary cinematic landscape, its blueprint for how to film action makes it probably the most influential.