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Top Ten List of All Time: Sight and Sound Critics' List Deadline Extended to May 21

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 21, 2012 at 11:30AM

Sunday night at the Grand (inside the bar, thanks to the deluge), I had a blast comparing top ten list notes with Lizzie Frankie of BFI Productions and John Cooper of the Sundance Film Festival.
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'I Know Where I'm Going'
'I Know Where I'm Going'

Sunday night at the Grand (inside the bar, thanks to the deluge), I had a blast comparing top ten list notes with Lizzie Frankie of BFI Productions and John Cooper of the Sundance Film Festival. Sight and Sound's once-a-decade top ten list has inspired some great dinner conversation over the past week in Cannes as folks refine their final choices. Which Hitchcock? Which Welles? "Citizen Kane" has led the list for decades. Will it still be number one? The deadline was extended until today. TOH's Matt Brennan has already weighed in. Here's my final list.

It's a refinement of the list I've carried in my head since NYU Cinema Studies. And I might add that playing Flickchart, a diabolically addictive site that forces you to choose between films across the decades, has reminded me of how my tastes have changed. How many films would I be willing to rank above "Lawrence of Arabia"? Damned few. Here's my Flickchart Top Ten of All Time--an equally valid list. (It's an algorithm based on which films they throw at you.)

Movies that used to be on my top ten that are now in my top 20 include 11. Alfred Hitchcock's "Notorious," 12. Buster Keaton's "The General," 13. Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane," and 14. George Stevens' "Swingtime." Somehow, as much as I love Astaire/Rogers, "Meet Me in St. Louis" feels right as the best musical ever made. And under-appreciated Sam Peckinpah gets one western slot with "The Wild Bunch"; John Ford's "Rio Grande" gets the other.

One could think in terms of which movie from any given director is most likely to be on everyone else's top ten to push certain titles up the list. I did not consider this at all.

I recently watched Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" on Blu-ray, and it now replaces "2001: A Space Odyssey."

I include two classic romantic comedies, from Preston Sturges and Howard Hawks, who sadly seems to be falling from favor among critics. As for my new number one, I'm highlighting Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger'sblack-and-white romance "I Know Where I'm Going," starring Roger Livesey as a Scottish Laird and Wendy Hiller as a young woman of ambition who is determined to marry a rich businessman--if she can cross the storm-tossed water to reach him. She thinks she knows what she wants, but nature and strong ties to the earth prove more powerful than her careerist desires. See it.

And where are the women directors? Well...Gillian Armstrong's "High Tide," Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" and Jane Campion's "The Piano" are farther down my list.

1. "I Know Where I'm Going" (Powell)

2. "Lawrence of Arabia" (Lean)

3. "High and Low" (Kurosawa)

4. "Rio Grande" (Ford)

5. "The Lady Eve" (Sturges)

6. "Bringing Up Baby (Hawks)

7. "The Apartment" (Wilder)

8. "The Wild Bunch" (Peckinpah)

9. "Meet Me in St. Louis" (Minnelli)

10. "A Clockwork Orange" (Kubrick)

Trailers for the top ten below:

This article is related to: Lists, Classics


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.