Reactionary Tale: Sight & Sound Critics’ Poll 2012

Vertigo? Are you sure? After a half-century of dominance, Citizen Kane yielded its top position to the most well-respected of Hitchcock’s vast body of work. But really? I can think of at least three movies by Hitchcock himself that were better. Vertigo sure is moody and atmospheric, but it’s creepy, not romantic. And it’s just a little too ridiculous for its own good. Is it bad, or even one of Hitchcock’s weaker efforts? Certainly not, but judging by the rest of the list, the critics aimed more for challenging, historically significant movies than a criteria of “best” or “favorite.”

Worst of all, legitimate classics like The Godfather (1972) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952) have been bumped in favor of movies that are even older. The most recent movie to make the cut is 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The list also features a record three silent movies, which baffles me. There’s a place for a silent or two (but not from Chaplin or Keaton why?) on a list of the 10 greatest movies ever, but three?

Here are the results of the critics’ poll along with a link to my picks for the 10 best movies ever, with their last appearance in the poll.
1. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) – #2
2. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941) – #1
3. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1953) – #5
4. The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939) – #3
5. Sunrise (F.W. Murnau, 1927) – #7 (tie)
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968) – #6
7. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956) – first appearance since 1992 poll (#5)
8. Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929) – NEW
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1927) – first appearance since 1992 poll (#6, tie)
10. (Federico Fellini, 1963) – #9

That’s still a pretty great collection of directors, even if it’s not necessarily representative of their best work. Film students will study almost all these directors at some point. But just because none of my picks made it up there doesn’t make it a bad list. I actually haven’t even seen a majority of these (yes, I’m ashamed) so there are still treasures that await me. But how good can a list be if Casablanca isn’t even on it?

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s my list. Only two of my picks (#1, #6) have ever made the cut:

1. Singin’ in the Rain (Gene Kelly and Stanley Donan, 1952)
2. Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
4. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
5. 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957)
6. The General (Buster Keaton, 1927)
7. To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1962)
8. Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988)
9. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
10. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)

Maybe next go-round (in 2022), I’ll be contributing to the list myself. Maybe by then we can get something from the last 40 years up there.

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