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Sight and Sound Magazine Expands List of Top Films of All Time to 250 and Just Seven Women Directors Make It

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by Melissa Silverstein
August 17, 2012 12:45 PM
9 Comments
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Getty Images Chantal Akerman

It's not enough that we had to deal with the first reveal from Sight and Sound Magazine a couple of weeks ago when only one woman made their top 50 Greatest Films of All Time, now they have expanded the list to 250 and just 7 women make it to this full list.

Seven women out of 250.  Absurd.  And to make matters worse The Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes in higher than The Piano.  Please.

But what they have also done is give us all the voters and their ballots.  For us nerds that data is gold.  What I learned is that there were 165 196 female voters out of a total of 846.  That's 19.5 23.1%.  Not enough, but better than I expected. 

One thing we want to do here at Women and Hollywood is to look at the women and how they voted to see if gender matters.  We'd love to get a couple of people to help us on this project.  If you have an hour or two in the next week to spare email me melissa@womenandhollywood.com and we will get you a section to look at. 

Here are the women who made the list:

36 - Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles - Chantal Akerman

78 - Beau Travail - Claire Denis

102 - Meshes of the Afternoon - Maya Deren/Alexander Hammid

202 - Daisies - Vera Chytilova

202 - Cleo from 5 to 7 - Agnes Varda

202 - Wanda - Barbara Loden

235 - The Piano - Jane Campion

We created our own list of Greatest Movies Directed by Women.  Please add your thoughts to it.

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9 Comments

  • alexa | August 22, 2012 1:13 AMReply

    Yeah, I dunno- I prefer The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to The Piano as well. Both good movies, but I don't see what makes The Piano is so clearly better than Massacre to warrant a dismissive "please." I agree with Ralch: with regards to the women-directed film poll, I don't think any of the movies on that list -- with the exception of a few (Agnes Varda's films, Ida Lupino's [which are not widely seen], Elaine May, the Claire Denis [even though her Beau Travail placed very high], and some Lynne Ramsay movies [probably not Kevin]) -- would ever have had a chance on the S&S poll, even if they'd been directed by men. Not to mention, most of them came out very recently; while I love The Hurt Locker, I don't expect it to place high in any "best of all time" lists just yet.

  • alexa | August 22, 2012 1:14 AM

    That should be: "...what makes The Piano so clearly..."

  • ralch | August 17, 2012 7:31 PMReply

    Actually, "Werckmeister Harmonies" (no. 171) and "The Turin Horse" (no. 202) are codirected by Bela Tarr and Agnes Hranitzky, so there's two more. A more surprising omission on your part is Forough Farrokhzad's extraordinary short film "The House Is Black", placed at no. 235. Farrokhzad is a world-renowned poet and that is the only film she made. If you don't believe me or those who voted for it about how good it is, ask Jonathan Rosenbaum, who placed it among his 1000 essential films. A total of 10 films directed by women among 250 is still a meager amount, but... know what? I empathize with the sentiment and wish to see more films by women recognized, but I saw those poll lists of women-directed films organized on this site to respond to S&S's canonical list, and truth be told, Yentl, The Hurt Locker, Sleepless in Seattle, Children of a Lesser God, Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Frida, among many others, are not the best way to counter. There are great films by women throughout the history of film (yes, more concentrated on recent decades, but not just), but you won't have much to say against S&S formidable effort (however imperfect) until you expand your horizons beyond the Hollywood commercial filmmaking model which we all enjoy, but which often falls short of going all the way to greatness. Another interesting investigation would be how many of the women who did vote in the S&S poll voted for women-directed films. I know of one such Indiewire contributor who chose all male-directed films. Go figure.

  • ralch | August 17, 2012 7:32 PM

    Btw, I submitted The House Is Black to your "greatest films by women" poll, and placed it at no. 1 on my list.

  • Thomasi | August 17, 2012 5:54 PMReply

    This is an absurd discussion, even more absurd than the controversy that surrounded the Cannes line-up a few months ago.

    For decades, women (and many men) have been shouting about the fact that there are significantly fewer opportunities for women to direct films. That was and remains true, and the outrage has always been correct.

    You can't say out of one side of your mouth that women filmmakers have traditionally been far too rare and then argue from the other side that they should be equally represented on a list of the greatest films of all time. At this point, it's a statistical issue.

    When the problem of opportunity is corrected, then representation in these sorts of honorifics will not be an issue any longer.

  • CineFile (Kyle Wells) | August 17, 2012 5:53 PMReply

    I agree with all of this, except that I must say that I like Texas Chainsaw Massacre more than The Piano. Apples to oranges, I know, but there are supporters out there.

    Also, Barbra Kopple's "Harlan County USA" should have cracked the 250 at the very least.

  • Melissa Silverstein | August 17, 2012 2:52 PMReply

    Thank you for forcing me to recount. I discovered that I could search just by gender. So much easier than what I did yesterday. I only got 196. But I could still be off. I amended the post.

  • toro913 | August 17, 2012 1:00 PMReply

    Your numbers are a bit off, there are 197 female voters or 23.3%.

  • Forrest Cardamenis | August 17, 2012 1:42 PM

    I also got 197.

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