Saturday, November 12, 2022

If I Had a Sight and Sound Ballot – My Picks for the 10 (And 100) Greatest Films of All Time


Every ten years, the British film magazine Sight and Sound conducts a poll of prominent critics and academics to determine what are the ‘Greatest Films of All Time.’ It is the most notable and prestigious version of this list, the place where Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane cemented its reputation over the decades as the most commonly cited ‘greatest film,’ and where its dethroning by Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo in the 2012 edition became big news (that was a ridiculous result – Citizen Kane is emphatically the better movie). With ten years having passed since the last edition, we’re on the cusp of getting the 2022 version of the list, with results expected in late November. 


I haven’t been asked to participate this time – maybe in 2032, with this whole doctorate thing wrapped up, I’ll be in the running! – but I’ve always wanted to take a stab at the intellectual exercise of naming what I think are the ‘greatest films of all time.’ It’s a tough task – very different, I think, from saying what one’s ‘favorite’ films are. That’s relatively easy; everybody has favorite movies, and you only need to justify them by saying how they’ve spoken to you, personally. Identifying the greatest movies ever, in a critical and historical sense, is a different exercise altogether. I don’t think I would have felt remotely qualified to even attempt an answer until relatively recently; but having crossed into my 30s and nearing completion on my PhD in film studies, I think I can provide an answer with a reasonable degree of experience and authority, using the knowledge gathered from a decade as a film academic and two decades as a film critic to try putting my finger on what I would call the ‘best’ movies ever made.