The British Film Institute’s film magazine Sight and Sound recently conducted its once-in-a-decade poll where the top filmmakers and film critics around the world are asked to submit their choices for the greatest films ever made in order to help the BFI decide the 100 greatest films of all time. They have been conducting that poll ever since the 1950s and it’s the one that many people in the film industry take the most seriously.
Neorealist masterpiece Bicycle Thieves (1948) won the poll in the first year in 1952 while Citizen Kane (1941) took the top spot for the next five decades in a row from 1962 to 2002 until Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) won in 2012. In 2022, the first decade in which over a thousand critics and filmmakers were consulted, the movie Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) was voted the greatest film of all time. Directed by Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman and starring Delphine Seyrig as a sex worker and a single mother, it’s seen by many critics as a feminist masterpiece that was totally in tune with the period of the feminist movement in 1970s Europe. It’s also 96% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and available to watch on HBO Max in case you’re curious.
But the real reason why I’m writing this is because as Sight and Sound has revealed their results they have also shown many of the “Greatest Films” lists submitted by directors like Martin Scorsese, Guillermo del Toro and Bong Joon-ho, and looking at their lists got me wondering what mine would look like if someone asked me what I thought the ten greatest films of all time were (assuming I was an important person whose opinion mattered at all) so of course I decided to make that list. This isn’t a list of my personal favorite films of all time (although some are my personal favorites and I love all of them). This is a list of films that I genuinely think are the top ten greatest ever made. All ten of these are five-star, 10/10 masterpieces.
Ask me in a year and this list might change, but right now these are what I consider the greatest of all time, listed by order of release date along with each film’s director. As for what the definition of “great” is, I’ll let the magazine Sight and Sound explain that:
“We leave that open to your interpretation. You might choose the ten films you feel are most important to film history, or the ten that represent the aesthetic pinnacles of achievement, or indeed the ten films that have had the biggest impact on your own view of cinema.”
The Greatest Films of All Time
by Eli Sanza
Modern Times (1936, Charlie Chaplin)
Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles)
Bambi (1942, David Hand)
Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz)
Rashomon (1950, Akira Kurosawa)
Mary Poppins (1964, Robert Stevenson)
Star Wars (1977, George Lucas)
Schindler’s List (1993, Steven Spielberg)
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2021, Dean Fleischer Camp)
RRR (2022, S.S. Rajamouli)