Sight And Sound's 2012 Poll Of The Greatest Films Of All Time: 'Citizen Kane' Dethroned

What is the greatest film of all time? Orson Welles' directorial debut Citizen Kane has often been given the honor, but a new iteration of a poll considered to be one of cinema's most significant has overturned Kane's rule.

When Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo opened in 1958, it met with a middling reception and many negative reviews. In 1968 Robin Wood's book Hitchcock's Films was part of the process of critical re-evaluation of the movie, calling it his "masterpiece to date." In 1973 Vertigo was one of five movies owned by Hitchcock that the director took out of circulation. Vertigo was away from screens for ten years, and in that time interest in the film grew exponentially. When it was finally re-released in '83, Vertigo was hailed as a classic and an important film.

Once a decade, the British magazine Sight and Sound conducts a poll of critics and filmmakers to generate lists of the ten best films ever made. In 1982, Vertigo hit the critics' list at #7. In 1992 it had climbed to #4, and in 2002 it was second only to Citizen Kane.

Now, with the release of the 2012 poll, Vertigo has toppled Kane to be voted by critics as the best film ever made.

Over 800 people ("film critics, academics, distributors, writers and programmers from all corners of the globe ") were surveyed for the "critics" list, while a separate "filmmakers" list was also created, featuring input from 358 directors including  Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen and Mike Leigh. That list is similar to the critic list, but not exactly, as Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story takes the number one position.

As THR explains,

The ten-yearly survey aims to rule out fluctuations in taste and asked participants to interpret "greatest" in any way they chose to. That could mean whether or not the film was most important to film history, represented the aesthetic pinnacle of achievement or perhaps had a personal impact on their own view of cinema.

Here are the two lists, ranked from number one to ten.

The Critics' Top 10 Greatest Films of All Time

  • Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
  • Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
  • Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)
  • La Règle du jeu (Renoir, 1939)
  • Sunrise: a Song for Two Humans (Murnau, 1927)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
  • The Searchers (Ford, 1956)
  • Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1927)
  • 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963)
  • (That's just the top ten of a fifty-film list. See the whole thing here.)

    The Directors' Top 10 Greatest Films of All Time

  • Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
  • Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
  • 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963)
  • Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1980)
  • Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979)
  • The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)
  • Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
  • Mirror (Tarkovsky, 1974)
  • Bicycle Thieves (De Sica, 1948)
  • This is, of course, a subjective pair of lists, as any such lineup would be. There are many questions about this year's critics' list. What happened to The Godfather? What is it that pushes Vertigo higher every year, and is now eating away at Kane? Is time really the key arbiter of quality here, or is this list just a more refined example of the same fluctuating tastes that typically define an approach to art?

    Regardless, both lists are good representations of the ultra-canonized films of the 20th century, and represent, at the very least, inarguable "must-study" film collections.