'Vertigo' Replaces 'Citizen Kane' On Sight & Sound Greatest Of All Time List

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by Kevin Jagernauth
August 1, 2012 1:53 PM
81 Comments
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There are film enthusiasts, cinema lovers and movie fans, and then there are those that read Sight & Sound. The most vaunted publication devoted to all things movies has drafted their once-a-decade list that determines what is the Greatest Movie Of All Time, and Orson Welles has to move over for another helmer fond of the buffet table.

Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" has replaced "Citizen Kane" on top of the list, sending shockwaves through the movie community, with riots taking place in multiplexes around the country. Okay, not really, but it does knock Welles off his longstanding peg at the top, placing him in the #2 slot. It has been a long, slow climb for the movie up the list, first appearing in 1982 at #7 before growing in esteem as the years passed by. At the time of its release, critics were largely indifferent to the movie, but it has since gone on to become one of Hitchcock's most highly regarded efforts and hugely influential as well. 

846 movie experts were called up to hand in their lists to determine the Top 50, but separately, 358 film directors (including Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen and Mike Leigh) were asked to submit their greatest list and the results are quite different. Yasujirō Ozu's "Tokyo Story" tops the list, with "Vertigo" ranking at #7 while Andrei Tarkovsky gets a nod for "Mirror" as do more contemporary efforts like "Taxi Driver" and "Apocalypse Now."

Check out both top tens below and if you haven't seen some of them, get them on your Netflix queue ASAP. [THR/BFI]

Sight & Sound The Critics’ Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time

1. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
2. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
3. Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)
4. La Règle du jeu (Renoir, 1939)
5. Sunrise: a Song for Two Humans (Murnau, 1927)
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
7. The Searchers (Ford, 1956)
8. Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1927)
10. 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963)
11. Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)
12. L’Atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934)
13. Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)
14. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
15. Late Spring (Ozu Yasujiro, 1949)
16. Au hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966)
17. Seven Samurai (Kurosawa Akira, 1954)
17. Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
19. Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974)
19. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1951)
21. L’avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)
21. Le Mépris (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
21. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
24. Ordet (Carl Dreyer, 1955)
24. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000)
26. Rashomon (Kurosawa Akira, 1950)
26. Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966)
28. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)
29. Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)
29. Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1985)
31. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
31. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
33. Bicycle Thieves (Vittoria De Sica, 1948)
34. The General (Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman, 1926)
35. Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)
35. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
35. Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1975)
35. Sátántangó (Béla Tarr, 1994)
39. The 400 Blows (François Truffaut, 1959)
39. La dolce vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)
41. Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954)
42. Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955)
42. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
42. Gertrud (Carl Dreyer, 1964)
42. Pierrot le fou (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965)
42. Play Time (Jacques Tati, 1967)
42. Close-Up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990)
48. The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
48. Histoire(s) du cinéma (Jean-Luc Godard, 1998)
50. City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
50. Ugetsu monogatari (Mizoguchi Kenji, 1953)
50. La Jetée (Chris Marker, 1962)

The Directors’ Top 10 Greatest Films of All Time
Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)
=2 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
=2 Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
8 ½ (Fellini, 1963)
Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1980)
Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979)
=7 The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)
=7 Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
Mirror (Tarkovsky, 1974)
Bicycle Thieves (De Sica, 1948)

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81 Comments

  • Hermes Birkin | August 17, 2012 9:33 PMReply

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  • Joe | August 8, 2012 3:05 PMReply

    Why are there three #50's and 2 movies both being at the #29 spot. List doesn't even make sense.

  • Joe | August 15, 2012 9:17 AM

    because there were ties

  • Edward Copeland | August 3, 2012 10:46 AMReply

    I know Sight & Sound got Singin' in the Rain's release year wrong, but you should at least correct it to 1952. On the directors' list, I didn't see the S&S version to see if they really screwed up bad enough to have Taxi Driver's year correct (1976) on the top 50 but wrong (1980) on the directors' top 10. Makes me suspicious that the directors' list should be Raging Bull.

  • nick | August 2, 2012 5:33 PMReply

    it's ok to say kike and spic and chinx but not ok to say nigger? now who's been racist?

  • nick | August 2, 2012 3:19 PMReply

    what no sandniggers on the list???

  • nick | August 2, 2012 3:19 PMReply

    what no towel heads on the list??????

  • nick | August 2, 2012 3:18 PMReply

    what no chinx on the list???

  • nick | August 2, 2012 3:18 PMReply

    what no kikes on the list???

  • nick | August 2, 2012 3:17 PMReply

    what no spics on the list??

  • Nick | August 2, 2012 12:31 PMReply

    I'm a racist douchebag, so I've had my comment edited.

  • Lou | August 2, 2012 10:25 AMReply

    May I exaggerate and also cite the following in case people have forgotten them or not seen them? M, Gaslight, I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Quai des Orfevres, Cat People, Lubitsch’s To Be or Not To Be, The Shop Around the Corner, Bringing Up Baby, Scenes from a Marriage, Cries and Whispers, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, Divorce Italian Style, Seduced and Abandoned, Police Python 357, Viva Zapata (great black-and-white), While the City Sleeps, The Big Country, East of Eden, Sitting Pretty, Ju Dou, Good Fellas, In the Heat of the Night (Rod Steiger should NOT be forgotten), To Kill a Mockingbird, The Late Show, True Confessions, A Wedding, Cassavetes’ Gloria, The Hill, The Wind and the Lion

  • Brandon Vera | August 2, 2012 9:47 AMReply

    Oh wait did you hear that....I think I just heard the moment this list disappeared up it's on ass like most of the people who compiled it!!!

  • db | August 2, 2012 7:15 PM

    You're both idiots. Congrats.

  • Thiago Silva | August 2, 2012 9:49 AM

    LOL - Couldnt agree more pretentious c**ts!!!

  • Brandon Vera | August 2, 2012 9:38 AMReply

    Oh and for the record...Mulholland Dr should be on a worst list not best! The movie was a total mess and the fact it is on here alone cements my opinion that the list is a farce!

  • Maurico Rua | August 2, 2012 9:47 AM

    Amen brother!

  • Brandon Vera | August 2, 2012 9:36 AMReply

    This list is total bullsh*t...and if the people who compiled it believe that this is the best 50 movies of all time then I hope I never met any of them as they probably take themselves way too serious! LOL

  • db | August 2, 2012 7:16 PM

    "LOL" he says.

  • marmiteending | August 2, 2012 7:30 AMReply

    Sight and Sound pretends it's still relevant, world shrugs.

  • Tony Macklin | August 3, 2012 5:37 PM

    Nothing's "relevant," unless one says it is.

  • SteveDJ34 | August 2, 2012 5:38 AMReply

    After winning his Oscar for "The Bridge On The River Kwai", while appreciative of the honor, Alec Guiness said "I have no idea how anyone can truly determine what is the best art".

    That is so true!! All these lists are completely ridiculous.

  • Alain DeWitt | August 2, 2012 4:26 AMReply

    I am sorry but this is movie critic snobbery at its finest. 95% of the movie going public won't have even heard of half the movies on this list. And the fact that the incomprehensible mess that is 'Mulholland Dr.' is on this list discredits the list in its entirety.

  • Gregory | August 1, 2012 9:07 PMReply

    Man Godard and Dreyer are having a resurgence. Overall a good list with some films out of order in my opinion. It sucks that The Decalogue as a whole can't be count because of the new rule.

  • Lenny | August 1, 2012 8:48 PMReply

    David Lean doesn't make the top 50? Really? And Godard has four films?

  • borislaw | August 9, 2012 8:07 AM

    speak for yourself huffy--Battleship Potemkin sent shivers down my spine, made my hairs stand on end and my eyes watery. A glorious film that is entertaining and moving. Technique is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end. means by itself is to mention technicallymoved me

  • dave | August 2, 2012 2:22 PM

    Yeah, everybody, "let's face it." Random Internet Commenter #543,394,293 (aka Huffy) says so. (Nevermind that I'm emotionally moved by several Godard films AND Battleship Potemkin.)

  • Huffy | August 2, 2012 9:08 AM

    Critics will always go with innovative films before great ones in my opinion. That's why Battleship Potemkin, a technically brilliant film that hasn't emotionally moved anyone since Stalin died, always ranks so high. It makes sense why they love Godard who, let's face it, loved to jerk off with a camera. Still, even with that in mind no Lean is bullshit.

  • Alain DeWitt | August 2, 2012 4:27 AM

    Hear, hear! No 'Lawrence of Arabia'? This list is a travesty.

  • Joshua | August 1, 2012 9:21 PM

    really

  • Marie | August 1, 2012 8:42 PMReply

    when it comes to art, these lists become so ridiculous. It's like establishing a list of the best symphonies of all times: can we say that Mozart's #40 is better than Beethoven's #9 or Schubert is better or worse of any of those two? Utterly ridiculous

  • joshua | August 1, 2012 9:26 PM

    You can ask a group of experts to list one or a number of films either in order or not that they think are the best and, create a scoring system for the films within those lists. Then tally the results and create a list like this which is more for recommending good film through an expression of the aggregate personal beliefs of a large crowd of industry experts than a hard infallible list of what is better than what. Instead of taking it so personally be glad there are lists like this out there getting young movie enthusiasts into good film. Are you really gonna be angry that a kid's watching Godard for the first time because it's not YOUR favorite Godard?

  • DC Lee | August 1, 2012 7:14 PMReply

    Re: 'Vertigo' Replaces 'Citizen Kane' On Sight & Sound Greatest Of All Time List

    Horsehockey!

  • Joel Lillo | August 1, 2012 7:12 PMReply

    "Best" and "worst" are so subjective. I've gotten to the point where I won't argue with anyone who talks about "Tommy Boy" as their favorite movie of all time. I have argued with my son that the Dark Knight is a bit overrated. When he argues back at me, it reminds me of the days when I thought my opinion was the only right opinion about movies, music, drama, and television.

  • Gunzilla | August 1, 2012 7:02 PMReply

    Battleship Potemkin is not only over an hour long it is most likely the most influence
    Film of all time
    But they did forget bio-dome

  • - | August 1, 2012 6:34 PMReply

    .... white people.

  • Yod | August 2, 2012 12:50 AM

    When black people were allowed to vote White Chicks came number 1. We don't let them vote anymore.

  • joshua | August 1, 2012 9:26 PM

    hurr durr

  • Tony | August 1, 2012 5:11 PMReply

    I've only seen 15 on this list and none of them are favourites of mine. I don't know how these are chosen by so called experts, objectively or subjectively , base on technical know-how or emotionally or a combination of factors. Who knows, but I know what I like. My two top movies over sixty years for anyone interested are Silence of The Lambs and Once Upon a Time in the West.

  • d | August 2, 2012 3:33 AM

    "I don't know how these are chosen by so called experts" That's probably because you're not an expert.

  • Joshua | August 1, 2012 9:29 PM

    Most (good) critics base their scores and ranking on a wide variety of factors. Obviously you can't remove your own emotions completely from scoring but they have to factor in things like direction, quality of acting, cinematography, impact, originality and score. I love Silence of the Lambs but I think Late Spring, 2001 and Apocalypse now are better almost across the board.

  • Cesar Querales | August 1, 2012 4:35 PMReply

    Another comment :
    That means that Singing in the Rain is better that the Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries or Mephisto.

  • Lou | August 2, 2012 6:32 AM

    Thanks, Cesar, for mentioning Wild Strawberries, Bergman's best movie.

  • Arch | August 1, 2012 4:32 PMReply

    On a side-note: the late Chris Marker loved Vertigo ... and La Jetée [#50] literally quotes Vertigo [#1], beside both film use the timeloop and the spiral.

  • Cesar Querales | August 1, 2012 4:23 PMReply

    @Rodrigo agree Kieslowski The Decalogs are not there but I'm glad Ozu went up in the top spot of director's list Tokyo Story is up there finally. and I don't see Ali- Fear eats the Soul by Fassbinder either
    The greatest movie list changes like time change. Some movies like Ford's The Searchers or Murnau's Sunrise have dethroned classics like Intolerance and Stagecoach that long reigned in the lists of many critics for years. Hey no Glauber Rocha,John Waters or Jarmush either..

  • wes | August 1, 2012 3:30 PMReply

    I need to see more Dreyer. I still haven't seen Shoah, Jeanne Dielman..., Sátántangó, Voyage to Italy, any Satyajit Ray, or Histoire(s) du cinéma.

  • Huffy | August 2, 2012 9:17 AM

    The Apu Trilogy being so hard to find is fucking ridiculous, but there is a way to see it. Not going to out-right say how to but most people will catch my drift. Scandinavian bays aside I'd buy it in a second if Critierion put out a set. I imagine the only reason they haven't is because they're still looking for prints (or The Music Room completely bombed, which I doubt).

  • Gregory | August 1, 2012 9:09 PM

    Good luck trying to find the entire Apu Trilogy (Pather Panchalli was the first film) because I've only seen the first in film school. Where is the Criterion Collection when we need them? They followed through in my email to them to put The Exterminating Angel on DVD.

  • Wes | August 1, 2012 5:29 PM

    ugh, nevermind. I'm trying to respond to TONY.

  • Wes | August 1, 2012 5:28 PM

    Those films are so good!

  • Wes | August 1, 2012 5:28 PM

    Those films are so good!

  • Ryan | August 1, 2012 3:29 PMReply

    These lists seem to get more ridiculous the more they come out. Greatest of all time? Should be Greatest Until We Release the Next Greatest List. I can understand new movies causing lists to be retooled, but an old movie knocking another old movie out of place? And Vertigo? Rear Window was a superior film imho. Maybe Scorsese's vote got added weight. But no Lawrence of Arabia or Empire Strikes Back on the list? pshaw! At least In The Mood For Love is in there...

  • Huffy | August 2, 2012 9:14 AM

    It's called a critical reassessment and it happens all the time. Shit, when it was released no one liked Vertigo. As the new guard takes over the old guard films that were once perhaps too innovative or out there become the norm.
    And no, Scorsese's vote did not get added weight. I know its probably difficult to accept that your opinion isn't the end all but Vertigo has been considered Hitchcock's finest film for quite a while now but both critics and directors. If you disagree that's fine but be open minded about it. My favorite Miyazaki film is Castle of Cagliostro but I'm not going to complain every time someone calls it one of his weaker films.

  • joshua covey | August 1, 2012 8:33 PM

    You realize that as time progresses peoples opinions can change. There's also the addition of new critics and directors and the omission or deaths of the old guard. Some movies age better than others and i've had plenty of conversations with other fans that can substantially change my view of a film. If this list was the same every time I would trust it much less.

  • Mark | August 1, 2012 3:28 PMReply

    Youve probably only seen the running sequence. Thats an hour into the movie

  • A | August 1, 2012 3:18 PMReply

    Battleship Potkemin is barely a film; it's maybe 25 minutes long.

  • db | August 2, 2012 7:20 PM

    also, 25-minute-long films (which Battleship Potemkin is not) are still considered films, believe it or not. 30-second films are films as well.

  • Afraid Of Film Jerk Reprisal | August 1, 2012 4:11 PM

    25 minutes? Um, are you maybe in the wrong place? Also, if you're on the internet, there could be some quick way to search it for information on a desired topic. Perhaps you should look into that.

  • Mark | August 1, 2012 3:29 PM

    Youve probably only seen the running sequence. Thats an hour into the movie

  • wes | August 1, 2012 3:25 PM

    wtf?

  • Kevin | August 1, 2012 3:19 PM

    Clearly, you've never watched Battleship Potemkin

  • Rodrigo | August 1, 2012 2:59 PMReply

    Kinda bummed there's no Kieslowski on here. He would crack my top 10.

  • Huffy | August 2, 2012 9:21 AM

    Finally, a comment that isn't incessant bitching and moaning. And I too am really suprised that Kieslowski was completely overlooked. Either he's a bit too new for critics to be considered canon or (more likely) Red and Blue split the vote.

  • Edward Davis | August 1, 2012 2:53 PMReply

    Nice to see so much Tarkovsky on this list.

  • Gregory | August 1, 2012 9:11 PM

    Tarkovsky directed Mirror and Stalker which are also on the list. However, his most famous film Solaris is not included. Mirror is his best film followed by Andrei Rublev.

  • Edward Davis | August 1, 2012 4:05 PM

    What do you mean, Lou? Andrei Rublev is #26 on this list.

  • Lou | August 1, 2012 3:56 PM

    Agree. But what happened to Andrej Rublev?

  • wes | August 1, 2012 3:26 PM

    agreed!

  • Pycs | August 1, 2012 2:25 PMReply

    ....Mulholland Drive at number 28?!?!? Don't get me wrong, it's a really good movie, but the majority of people wouldn't even consider that Lynch's best movie (Blue Velvet, easily), let alone ahead of Taxi Driver and The Godfather Part II.

  • Paolo | August 2, 2012 2:39 AM

    The majority of people would certainly not think Blue Velvet is his best, and Mulholland Drive is in no way "incoherent". It's not like the plot is even hidden or cut. Because you couldn't follow it (this is directed at Jeremy btw), doesn't state otherwise. And I think I'd have the majority of film historians, critics, experts, what have you on my side, especially considering this list. Also, no reason to have a direct comparison of it to Taxi Driver or any other movie on this list... that's not how this list works. Regardless, Mulholland Drive is more than deserving of a high spot on this list.

  • Jeremy | August 1, 2012 5:08 PM

    You don't have it wrong my friend, Mulholland Drive should not be close to a greatest list. The movie is atrocious. Why is it when "smart" directors make incoherent films (I am speaking to you too Malick for "Tree of Life") we praise them as great films instead if saying what we should which is "Stop using crack before you make movies so they have some sort of followable plot!

  • AS | August 1, 2012 2:42 PM

    Pay no attention. This is a silly list and should be ignored.

  • Wes | August 1, 2012 2:21 PMReply

    Top 10 of 20th Century:
    1. Persona (Bergman)
    2. Vertigo (Hitchock)
    3. Citizen Kane (Welles)
    4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)
    5. Solaris (Tarkovsky)
    6. Raging Bull (Scorsese)
    7. Apocalypse Now (Coppola)
    8. Fargo (Coen Bros)
    9. Chinatown (Polanski)
    10. Lawrence of Arabia (Lean)

    Top 10 of 21st Century
    1. No Country for Old Men (Coen Bros)
    2. Royal Tenenbaums (Anderson)
    3. Tree of Life (Malick)
    4. Inglourious Basterds (Tarantino)
    5. There Will Be Blood (Anderson)
    6. In the Mood for Love (Kar-Wai)
    7. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (Lee)
    8. Talk to Her (Almodovar)
    9. Hero (Yimou)
    10. Children of Men (Cuaron)

  • dsouthern | August 1, 2012 2:14 PMReply

    I agree with many of these positions but the most recent movie on this list is from 1979 (Taxe Driver is from 1976 by the way), how long those it take to have enough longevity to be considered? And where de the hell is Bergman? And I still wonder why exactly Tokyo Story is that well loved...

  • Anton Jacoves | August 1, 2012 2:25 PM

    Actually MULHOLLAND DR. is the most recent movie on this list. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE is also on there.

    And VERTIGO is way better then CITIZEN KANE. KANE is Great with a capitol G because it's in the books. I don't feel moved emotionally or wowed by it after subsequent viewings. VERTIGO wouldn't be my top pick either but it actually grows in stature and remains enigmatic every time I watch it.

  • Michael Chase Walker | August 1, 2012 2:06 PMReply

    "Those guys are fags..." (Spucoli). Not only is Vertigo NOT better than Citizen Kane, it's not even one of Hitch's better films. Monotonous interminable car scenes, cliché psychic, bogus plot, wooden acting, ridiculously hammy monologues, c'mon. There are a few classic moments, but Greatest of all time?

  • Lou | August 1, 2012 4:47 PM

    Vertigo? Umm. Dial M for Murder, Spellbound, Rear Window, Rope, I Confess > Vertigo and Psycho.
    What happened to Él, Alexander Nevsky, Clockwork Orange, The Jury, The Apartment, Odd Couple, Visconti's Bellissima, The Burmese Harp, Murder My Sweet, The Night of the Hunter, Grapes of Wrath, It's a Wonderful Life, All About Eve, Dinner at Eight, Sabrina, Bus Stop, We're no Angels, Chinatown and many other gorgeous films which made our lives better? I noticed that in the list there are hardly any comedies. Why? Children of a lesser god or 'not serious' enough? You must make a separate list for those.

  • Afraid Of Film Jerk Reprisal | August 1, 2012 4:07 PM

    Vertigo, a 'bad' film? Riiiiiiight. May not be 'best' nor one of your faves. Hell, you may even loathe it but as far as film goes, it's nowhere close to 'bad'.

    Two important things:

    1, On a purely technical level there is nothing 'bad' about Vertigo. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. I normally don't personalize responses but, honestly, I'd expect anyone who who called Vertigo bad to also tell me how great Twilight is.

    And, B, Ultimately, movie appreciation is a question of taste. However, when watching films one needs to have an understanding of cultural context. A great percentage of the ADHD/Ritalin generation finds just about anything made before 1980 to be boring. If Hostel ranks high on your list, then I'll take the leap and say our movie tastes do not intermingle. A list like this is simply a perspective, and there are countless such perspective depending on what group of people is gathered, and by what criteria they are measuring. Ain't no thang.

  • AS | August 1, 2012 2:29 PM

    THANK YOU!!! I was afraid to say something in fear of getting bashed but Vertigo is just flat out bad. But then this entire list is bizarre. The Godfather at 21? After Singin in the Rain?? What a joke.

  • Ken | August 1, 2012 2:23 PM

    I agree it's not the greatest of all-time, but why do these discussions always have to devolve into "it's not even a good film"? It's very easily a good film, a great film, in fact. There's no need to completely dismiss it just because it tops a list.

  • yer | August 1, 2012 2:15 PM

    I thought I was the only one who sees Vertigo as not only overhyped, but just a plain bad movie. Critics had it right when they panned it initially.

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