Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Exploring Sight & Sound's Greatest Films Poll

As I'm sure many of you know, every ten years Sight & Sound polls critics, directors, programmers and various other film loving people in an attempt to determine the "Greatest Films of All Time" (I'll never understand why so many people think is Fellini's best film). Naturally there any many biases built into such lists that make them rather dull (I admit to being glad to see "the best film ever made" sitting at nineteenth in the critics poll and ninth in the directors poll), but the BFI website has also made it possible to browse the ballots by participant and/or film, which can be rather interesting. And since I spent the first half of my day exploring the lists of various participants, I figured I might as well share some of what I found.

What follows are the ballots submitted by some of the world's most interesting filmmakers, many of whom I'd also count among my favorite living directors. But first(!) one of the more intriguing critics lists, Nicole Brenez's top ten. She appended a comment from which I particularly liked the following (you can read it in its entirety HERE).

"We haven’t seen the 20th century’s most important films: German films of the extermination camps (even if their shooting was officially forbidden); Soviet films of the gulag (Solzhenitsyn thought they were never made); Chinese films about the camps, which Wang Bing is finally beginning to shoot; scientific films about the splitting of the atom; films about those workers who, at the very end of the 19th century, never left the factory but were instead chopped up inside Chicago’s abattoirs. Thus, a provisional list that I dedicate to André Sauvage’s Dans la brousse annamite (1934), a film abominably mutilated by the industry, which is about a possible trace of paradise on earth."

Her list (clicking a title allows you to see who voted for it, as well as its overall ranking):

Adebar 1957 Peter Kubelka
Afrique 50 1950 René Vautier
Aguaespejo granadino 1955 José Val del Omar
Balle traversant une bulle de savon
Lucien Bull
By the Bluest of Seas 1935 Boris Barnet/S. Mardanin
London 66'-67'- Pink Floyd 1967 Peter Whitehead
Nothing but the Hours 1926 Alberto Cavalcanti
Profit & Nothing But! Or Impolite Thoughts on the Class Struggle
Raoul Peck
Timeless, Bottomless, Bad Movie 1998 Jang Sun-Woo
Two-Lane Blacktop 1971 Monte Hellman

Other lists:

Béla Tarr

Aleksandr Nevski 1938 Sergei M Eisenstein
Au Hasard Balthazar 1966 Robert Bresson
Berlin Alexanderplatz
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Frenzy 1972 Alfred Hitchcock
M 1931 Fritz Lang
Man with a Movie Camera 1929 Dziga Vertov
Passion of Joan of Arc 1927 Carl Theodor Dreyer
Round-Up, The 1966 Miklos Jancso
Tokyo Story 1953 Ozu Yasujirô
Vivre Sa Vie 1962 Jean-Luc Godard

Tsai Ming-Liang

400 Blows, The 1959 François Truffaut
eclisse, L' 1962 Michelangelo Antonioni
Fear Eats the Soul 1974 Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Goodbye, Dragon Inn 2003 Tsai Ming Liang
Mouchette 1966 Robert Bresson
Night of the Hunter, The 1955 Charles Laughton
Only Son, The 1936 Ozu Yasujirô
Passion of Joan of Arc 1927 Carl Theodor Dreyer
Spring in a Small Town 1948 Fei Mu
Sunrise 1927 F. W. Murnau

Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Brighter Summer Day, A 1991 Edward Yang
Conversation, The 1974 Francis Ford Coppola
Captive, La 1983 Chantal Akerman
Empire 1964 Andy Warhol
Full Metal Jacket 1987 Stanley Kubrick
General, The 1926 Buster Keaton
Goodbye, Dragon Inn 2003 Tsai Ming Liang
Rain 1929 Joris Ivens
Sátántangó 1994 Béla Tarr
Valentin de las Sierras 1967 Bruce Baillie


These are my ten ghosts

Abel Ferrara

Cul-de-Sac 1966 Roman Polanski
Devils, The 1971 Ken Russell
Hawks and Sparrows 1966 Pier Paolo Pasolini
Prison 1949 Ingmar Bergman
Lolita 1961 Stanley Kubrick
Los Olvidados 1950 Luis Buñuel
Ran 1985 Akira Kurosawa
Touch of Evil 1958 Orson Welles
Woman Under the Influence, A 1974 John Cassavetes
Zero de Conduite 1933 Jean Vigo


“You can't make films like the films that made you want to make films,” spoke Godard back when most of these films were made and inspired me to try – but why stop at 10? Add ALL the other films of the above directors to the list, plus ALL of the films of Godard, Hawks, Hitchcock, Bertolucci, Scorsese, Michael Snow, Rossellini, the other films of those above and Nicholas Ray, Milós Forman, Joseph Losey, Buster Keaton, Sam Fuller, Stan Brakhage, Woody Allen, Robert Bresson, Sam Peckinpah, David Lynch and and and…

Guy Maddin

After Life 1998 Koreeda Hirokazu
Age d'Or, L' 1930 Luis Buñuel
Letter From an Unknown Woman 1948 Max Ophüls
Long Goodbye, The 1973 Robert Altman
Man's Castle 1933 Frank Borzage
Mulholland Dr 2003 David Lynch
Tree of Life, The 2010 Terrence Malick
Unknown, The 1927 Tod Browning
Zero de Conduite 1933 Jean Vigo
Zvenigora 1928 Aleksandr Dovzhenko


Joyous, aggressively primitive and trope-giddy, Zéro de conduite is the best shortcut back to the intensely wondrous state of childhood – and therefore the source of all creation – in the history of cinema.

Tod Browning and forgotten genius Lon Chaney's perfectly executed allegory about the self-castration impulse in all of us, The Unknown is immensely entertaining, unpredictable and thoroughly disinhibited – perhaps the most fearless and shameless melodrama of all time.

Man’s Castle is the best example of how Frank Borzage slows a film down to unspool in ‘lover's time’, a pace that allows him to pack in all the tiny details that encrust and encase a pair of throbbing hearts. Agonising and cathartic!

The Tree of Life isn't even a movie, it's a vest of dynamite that rips open the viewer's bosom and keeps it suffering long after detonation.

Is L’Age d’or an oneiric essay film? Still the most inspiring, ragged, cocky, smart and mischievous – all of it expressed in an extinct but somehow modern filmic vocabulary. We'll never quite catch up to this picture.

The Long Goodbye is mannered in crazy, loosey-goosey ways. Altman, in the zone, completely repurposes a genre!

Mulholland Dr.: boom! Game changed!

Letter from an Unknown Woman: sadistic comedy or delirious tragedy? Masterfully both.

Singular use, reuse and re-reuse of memory and film-as-memory in After Life, Kore-eda’s strangely playful yet moving wonder. What a structure!

Zvenigora is mind-bogglingly eccentric!

Roy Andersson

Amarcord 1972 Federico Fellini
Andrei Rublev 1966 Andrei Tarkovsky
Ashes and Diamonds 1958 Andrzej Wajda
Barry Lyndon 1975 Stanley Kubrick
Battle of Algiers, The 1966 Gillo Pontecorvo
Bicycle Thieves, The 1948 Vittorio de Sica
Hiroshima Mon Amour 1959 Alain Resnais
Intolerance 1916 D.W. Griffith
Rashomon 1950 Akira Kurosawa
Viridiana 1961 Luis Buñuel


This is my list of films that I consider the best in film history. I hesitated a little about what word I should use: the best films or the most important films. I decided to call them the best films. Only the first three films are placed in order of preference. The others are a mixture without preference.

My absolute favourite is Bicycle Thieves, the most humanistic and political film in history. Viridiana is the most intelligent and Hiroshima mon amour is the most poetic.

All the ten films are excellent and fascinating artistic expressions about what I would call mankind’s both raw and delightful existence. These movies make us wiser.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Andrei Rublev 1966 Andrei Tarkovsky
Au Hasard Balthazar 1966 Robert Bresson
Avventura, L' 1960 Michelangelo Antonioni
eclisse, L' 1962 Michelangelo Antonioni
Late Spring 1949 Ozu Yasujirô
Man Escaped, A 1956 Robert Bresson
Mirror 1974 Andrei Tarkovsky
Persona 1966 Ingmar Bergman
Shame, The 1968 Ingmar Bergman
Tokyo Story 1953 Ozu Yasujirô

Olivier Assayas

2001: A Space Odyssey 1968 Stanley Kubrick
Gospel According to St Matthew, The 1964 Pier Paolo Pasolini
Ludwig 1972 Luchino Visconti
Man Escaped, A 1956 Robert Bresson
Mirror 1974 Andrei Tarkovsky
Napoleon 1927 Abel Gance
Playtime 1967 Jacques Tati
Règle du jeu, La 1939 Jean Renoir
Tree of Life, The 2010 Terrence Malick
Van Gogh 1991 Maurice Pialat

Carlos Reygadas

Andrei Rublev 1966 Andrei Tarkovsky
Distant Voices, Still Lives 1988 Terence Davies
Executioner, The 1963 Luis García Berlanga
Gummo 1997 Harmony Korine
Los Olvidados 1950 Luis Buñuel
Man Escaped, A 1956 Robert Bresson
Mother and Son 1997 Aleksandr Sokurov
Persona 1966 Ingmar Bergman
Sansho Dayu 1954 Mizoguchi Kenji
Werckmeister Harmonies, The 2000 Béla Tarr

Hong Sangsoo

Atalante, L' 1934 Jean Vigo
Boat Leaving the Port 1895 Louis et Auguste Lumière
Boudu Saved from Drowning 1932 Jean Renoir
Early Summer 1951 Ozu Yasujirô
Green Ray, The 1986 Eric Rohmer
Man Escaped, A 1956 Robert Bresson
Nanook of the North 1922 Robert J. Flaherty
Nazarín 1958 Luis Buñuel
Ordet 1955 Carl Theodor Dreyer
Young Mr Lincoln 1939 John Ford

John Gianvito

Age of the Earth, The 1980 Glauber Rocha
commune (Paris, 1871), La 2000 Peter Watkins
Earth 1930 Aleksandr Dovzhenko
Evolution of a Filipino Family 2004 Lav Díaz
House is Black, The 1962 Forough Farrokhzad
Kuhle Wampe 1932 Bertold Brecht/Ernst Ottwald
Arguments and a Story or Reason, Debate and a Tale 1974 Ritwik Ghatak
Shiranui Sea
Tsuchimoto Noriaki
Story of Kindness 1985 Tran Van Thuy
West Indies, ou les nègres marrons de la liberté 1979 Med Hondo


Obviously we know that there is no such thing as the ‘ten greatest films’, nor could anyone on the planet ever see more than a fraction of all the moving pictures generated to fairly pass judgement. What the game of lists affords is the opportunity to revisit and ruminate on those values one holds dear and to share one’s enthusiasms. Restricted to ten choices, these are ten works that for me significantly pierce the murk. Through their individual artistry and unequivocal commitment to the plight of the disadvantaged, disenfranchised and too-often invisible majority of this planet, these films are among those that accomplish what Tarkovsky stated as the ultimate aim of art: “to plough and harrow the soul, rendering it capable of turning to good.”

Kore-eda Hirokazu

argent, L' 1983 Robert Bresson
Dust in the Wind 1986 Hsiao-hsien Hou
Floating Clouds 1955 Naruse Mikio
Frankenstein 1931 James Whale
Kes 1969 Ken Loach
Travelling Players, The 1975 Theodoros Angelopoulos
Nights of Cabiria 1957 Federico Fellini
Secret Sunshine 2007 Lee Chang-dong
Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The 1964 Jacques Demy
Woman Under the Influence, A 1974 John Cassavetes


Every time I watch Floating Clouds, it’s never the same. My impressions of the last scene are totally different between my twenties and my forties. The dialogue at the petrol station in the last scene of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is awesome. The smile of Cabiria in the last scene of the Fellini is shocking. Landscape in the Mist might be the smallest piece among Angelopoulos’s works, but I love it all the more for its smallness.

It’s needless to mention the brilliance of Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence. But I think the actor/actress at the receiving end makes the difference between success and failure in this kind of film. In this case, Peter Falk is just wonderful.

Dust in the Wind determined me to pursue the road to cinema. It pushed me from behind. L’Argent is like a textbook, which I review before shooting each new film of mine.

Lisandro Alonso

Aguirre, Wrath of God 1972 Werner Herzog
Alphaville 1965 Jean-Luc Godard
Havre, Le 2010 Aki Kaurismaki
Killing of a Chinese Bookie, The 1976 John Cassavetes
Modern Life 2008 Raymond Depardon
Pickpocket 1959 Robert Bresson
River, The 1997 Tsai Ming Liang
Silent Light 2007 Carlos Reygadas
Stalker 1979 Andrei Tarkovsky
Tropical Malady 2004 Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Mike Leigh

American Madness 1932 Frank Capra
Barry Lyndon 1975 Stanley Kubrick
Emigrants, The 1970 Jan Troell
How a Mosquito Operates
Winsor McCay
I am Cuba 1964 Mikhail Kalatozov
Jules et Jim 1962 François Truffaut
Radio Days 1987 Woody Allen
Songs from the Second Floor 2000 Roy Andersson
Tokyo Story 1953 Ozu Yasujirô
Tree of Wooden Clogs, The 1978 Ermano Olmi

José Luis Guerín

City Lights 1931 Charles Chaplin
Floating Weeds 1959 Ozu Yasujirô
Gertrud 1964 Carl Theodor Dreyer
Letter From an Unknown Woman 1948 Max Ophüls
Limelight 1951 Charles Chaplin
Maman et la putain, La 1973 Jean Eustache
Darling Clementine, My 1946 John Ford
Ordet 1955 Carl Theodor Dreyer
Tokyo Story 1953 Ozu Yasujirô
Woman of Paris, A 1923 Charles Chaplin


I find it impossible to be represented by fewer than 20 titles. My list might prove too traditional and not render an accurate picture of my general outlook in relation to cinema. Nevertheless, and due to the lack of time, I will have to disregard any choice strategy and rely on my current emotional memory, since some of my viewings are recent, but others less so.

Michael Glawogger

Vivan las Antipodas!
Victor Kossakovsky
Age of the Earth, The 1980 Glauber Rocha
All of my Life 1966 Bruce Baillie
Come And See 1985 Elem Klimov
Fata Morgana 1971 Werner Herzog
Forest of Bliss 1986 Robert Gardner
How Yukong Moved the Mountains 1976 Joris Ivens/Marceline Loridan Ivens
In The Mood For Love 2000 Wong Kar Wai
Mothlight 1963 Stan Brakhage
Unsere Afrikareise 1961 Peter Kubelka


The question about the best films of all times is also question about you as a filmmaker. How do you define yourself through the films of others? So for one I chose three experimental films, three narrative features and four documentaries, and I wanted all of them to have a poetic quality and a strong visual, rhythmic and almost haptic tone. In those films, the art of cinema not compromised by simple storytelling, journalism or other alien approaches. Those films are true to the art of cinema.

Ulrich Seidl

Andrei Rublev 1966 Andrei Tarkovsky
Even the Dwarves Started Small 1970 Werner Herzog
Gertrud 1964 Carl Theodor Dreyer
Gospel According to St Matthew, The 1964 Pier Paolo Pasolini
Husbands 1970 John Cassavetes
My Little Loves 1975 Jean Eustache
Merry Widow, The 1925 Erich von Stroheim
Faits Divers 1983 Raymond Depardon
Silence, The 1963 Ingmar Bergman
Viridiana 1961 Luis Buñuel


My selection of the ten best films of all time is very personal and based entirely on the films that have most influenced me and my filmmaking. Which films inspired in me fear, admiration and fascination? Which films lastingly formed and disturbed me? Which films stayed with me? Which films continue to mark me? Which films opened up inner and outer worlds, and at the same time showed me paths in filmmaking? All of the above applies to each one of these, my ‘greatest’ films.

Manoel de Oliveira

Battleship Potemkin 1925 Sergei M Eisenstein
Gertrud 1964 Carl Theodor Dreyer
Gold Rush, The 1925 Charles Chaplin
Informer, The 1935 John Ford
Ivan the Terrible 1945 Sergei M Eisenstein
Journey to Italy 1954 Roberto Rossellini
Mouchette 1966 Robert Bresson
Passion of Joan of Arc 1927 Carl Theodor Dreyer
Playtime 1967 Jacques Tati
Ugetsu Monogatari 1953 Mizoguchi Kenji

Thom Andersen

God's Step Children
Oscar Micheaux
High and Low 1963 Akira Kurosawa
Hour of the Furnaces, The 1968 Octavio Getino/Fernando E. Solanas
Kiss Me Deadly 1955 Robert Aldrich
Darling Clementine, My 1946 John Ford
Not Reconciled 1965 Jean-Marie Straub/Danièle Huillet
Perceval 1978 Eric Rohmer
Pickpocket 1959 Robert Bresson
Puppetmaster, The 1993 Hsiao-hsien Hou
Tokyo Story 1953 Ozu Yasujirô

Peter Tscherkassky

2001: A Space Odyssey 1968 Stanley Kubrick
Adebar 1957 Peter Kubelka
At Land 1944 Maya Deren
chien andalou, Un 1928 Luis Buñuel
Pig, The 1970 Jean Eustache/Jean-Michel Barjol
Easy Out
Pat O'Neill
Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The 1966 Sergio Leone
Nashville 1975 Robert Altman
Playtime 1967 Jacques Tati
Some Like It Hot 1959 Billy Wilder

Lukas Moodysson

4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days
Cristian Mungiu
Boot, Das 1984 Wolfgang Petersen
Fanny and Alexander 1984 Ingmar Bergman
Hotel Du Nord 1938 Marcel Carné
Killing of a Chinese Bookie, The 1976 John Cassavetes
Last Picture Show, The 1971 Peter Bogdanovich
Man on the Roof, The 1976 Bo Widerberg
Margot at the Wedding 2007 Noah Baumbach
Mirror 1974 Andrei Tarkovsky
Swedish Love Story, A 1970 Roy Andersson

Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne

Accattone 1961 Pier Paolo Pasolini
Big Heat, The 1953 Fritz Lang
Dodeskaden 1970 Akira Kurosawa
Germany Year Zero 1948 Roberto Rossellini
Loulou 1980 Maurice Pialat
Modern Times 1936 Charles Chaplin
Searchers, The 1956 John Ford
Shoah 1985 Claude Lanzmann
Street of Shame 1956 Mizoguchi Kenji
Sunrise 1927 F. W. Murnau


A random list of ten greatest films.

1 comment:

Tyler said...

I posted this as a comment on another blog and figured it was worth noting here:

I was ... annoyed when my selection of filmmaker ballots from the S&S poll turned out to be exclusively men. None of the most interesting directors who happen to be women -- Claire Denis, Chantal Akerman, Nina Menkes, Su Friedrich, Lynne Ramsay, Lucrecia Martel, Agnes Varda, Barbara Kopple, etc -- participated. (Maybe they weren't even asked.)