Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, a bit breathless today because we just received the results of the international cineastes’ poll naming “the greatest film” ever made. Our hands can’t stop shaking.
But before we rip open the envelope, we should explain that the highly respected British movie journal Sight & Sound — published by the British Film Institute — has been polling international critics and directors every 10 years since 1952, asking them to identify the best movies of all time.
This is the gold standard of movie polls, an extensive culling of the views of cineastes all over the world. This year’s poll, for example, surveyed more than 1,000 international critics and another 350 directors.
In 1952, the first-place pick in the Sight & Sound poll was director Victoria DeSica’s The BicycleThief, shot in war-torn Italy four years earlier. It quickly became (and remains) both a neo-realist classic and a genuine tear-jerker.
But Orson Welles’s great classic, Citizen Kane, took over as the critics’ No. 1 choice in the five Sight & Sound polls since, from 1962 through 2002. It has reigned supreme as “the greatest” for a half century through this year.
The magazine just completed its newest worldwide survey, and as a subscriber, Frank received a hot digital flash from across the pond announcing the 2012 poll findings (which will also be splashed across the magazine’s September print edition).
Our question is: will Citizen Kane retain the No. 1 spot it has held for 50 years? The following listing of the poll’s top 10 movie selections — “the greatest films of all time” — provides the answer.
No. 1 — Vertigo (1958), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
No. 2 — Citizen Kane (1941), Welles.
No. 3) Tokyo Story (1953), directed by Yasujiro Ozu.
No. 4) La Regle du Jeu (Rules of the Game) (1939), directed by Jean Renoir.
No. 5) Sunrise (1927), directed by F. W. Murnau.
No. 6) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), directed by Stanley Kubrick.
No. 7) The Searchers (1956), directed by John Ford.
No. 8) Man With A Movie Camera (1929), directed by Dziga Vertov.
No. 9) The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer.
No. 10) 8 1/2 (1963), directed by Federico Fellini.
So, there you have it.
After a half century of monopolizing the top spot, “Citizen Kane” was beginning to look smugly inviolable, writes critic Peter Matthews.
Perhaps. But we can’t be too disappointed because the newly-crowned champ is a classic from one of our very favorite directors, a movie that seems to get better with each viewing.
Vertigo has been steadily making gains in the Sight & Sound poll rankings for decades, although, as the magazine crisply points out, it was received with largely a thud by mainstream movie critics when it first came out. (When will those people learn!)
Writes Matthews in his Sight & Sound summary on behalf of Vertigo’s elevation to No. 1: The pleasure principal of Hollywood cinema succumbs to the death instinct. Never has a work of ostensible light entertainment been this dark. Not sure we agree. Didn’t film noir present itself as “entertainment” as its genre movies covered the darkest of subjects?
We are delighted that The Searchers has received its due. By the way, director Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now came in at No. 14 in the Sight & Sound poll, while Singing In The Rain finished at No. 20.
Do you agree that Vertigo is better than Citizen Kane? Just asking.