Critics’ top 100

Once a decade Sight & Sound asks critics to select the Greatest Films of All Time. We’re proud that, thanks to its longevity and critical reach, this poll has come to be regarded as the most trusted guide there is to the canon of cinema greats, not to mention a barometer of changing critical tastes. Famously, Citizen Kane topped our poll every decade from 1962 to 2002…

1Vertigo (1958)

Alfred Hitchcock

1Vertigo (1958)

Alfred Hitchcock

A former detective with a fear of heights is hired to follow a woman apparently possessed by the past, in Alfred Hitchcock’s timeless thriller about obsession.

2Citizen Kane (1941)

Orson Welles

2Citizen Kane (1941)

Orson Welles

Given extraordinary freedom by Hollywood studio RKO for his debut film, boy wonder Welles created a modernist masterpiece that is regularly voted the best film ever made.

3Tokyo Story (1953)

Ozu Yasujirô

3Tokyo Story (1953)

Ozu Yasujirô

The final part of Yasujiro Ozu’s loosely connected ‘Noriko’ trilogy is a devastating story of elderly grandparents brushed aside by their self-involved family.

4Règle du jeu, La (1939)

Jean Renoir

Made on the cusp of WWII, Jean Renoir’s satire of the upper-middle classes was banned as demoralising by the French government for two decades after its release.

5Sunrise (1927)

F. W. Murnau

5Sunrise (1927)

F. W. Murnau

Lured to Hollywood by producer William Fox, German Expressionist filmmaker F.W. Murnau created one of the silent cinema’s last and most luminous masterpieces.

62001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Stanley Kubrick

62001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick took science fiction cinema in a grandly intelligent new direction with this epic story of man’s quest for knowledge.

7Searchers, The (1956)

John Ford

John Ford created perhaps the greatest of all westerns with this tale of a Civil War veteran doggedly hunting the Comanche who have kidnapped his niece.

8Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

Dziga Vertov

An impression of city life in the Soviet Union, The Man with a Movie Camera is the best-known film of experimental documentary pioneer Dziga Vertov.

9Passion of Joan of Arc (1927)

Carl Theodor Dreyer

9Passion of Joan of Arc (1927)

Carl Theodor Dreyer

Silent cinema at its most sublimely expressive, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s masterpiece is an austere but hugely affecting dramatisation of the trial of St Joan.

108½ (1963)

Federico Fellini

108½ (1963)

Federico Fellini

Federico Fellini triumphantly conjured himself out of a bad case of creative block with this autobiographical magnum opus about a film director experiencing creative block.

11Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Sergei M Eisenstein

11Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Sergei M Eisenstein

A fixture in the critical canon almost since its premiere, Sergei Eisenstein’s film about a 1905 naval mutiny was revolutionary in both form and content.

12Atalante, L' (1934)

Jean Vigo

12Atalante, L' (1934)

Jean Vigo

Newly-weds begin their life together on a working barge in this luminous and poetic romance, the only feature film by director Jean Vigo.

13Breathless (1960)

Jean-Luc Godard

13Breathless (1960)

Jean-Luc Godard

14Apocalypse Now (1979)

Francis Ford Coppola

14Apocalypse Now (1979)

Francis Ford Coppola

Transplanting the story of Joseph Conrad’s colonial-era novel Heart of Darkness to Vietnam, Francis Ford Coppola created a visually mesmerising fantasia on the spectacle of war.

15Late Spring (1949)

Ozu Yasujirô

15Late Spring (1949)

Ozu Yasujirô

16Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)

Robert Bresson

16Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)

Robert Bresson

Robert Bresson’s distinctive pared down style elicits extraordinary pathos from this devastating tale of an abused donkey passing from owner to owner.

17Seven Samurai (1954)

Akira Kurosawa

17Seven Samurai (1954)

Akira Kurosawa

Rice farmers hire a band of samurai to defend them against marauding bandits in Akira Kurosawa’s influential epic, a touchstone for action movies ever since.

17Persona (1966)

Ingmar Bergman

17Persona (1966)

Ingmar Bergman

A nurse (Bibi Andersson) and an actress who refuses to speak (Liv Ullmann) seem to fuse identities in Ingmar Bergman’s disturbing, formally experimental psychological drama.

19Mirror (1974)

Andrei Tarkovsky

19Mirror (1974)

Andrei Tarkovsky

Andrei Tarkovsky drew on memories of a rural childhood before WWII for this personal, impressionistic and unconventional film poem.

20Singin' in the Rain (1951)

Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly

20Singin' in the Rain (1951)

Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly

Hollywood’s troubled transition from silent to talking pictures at the end of the 1920s provided the inspiration for perhaps the greatest of movie musicals.

21Avventura, L' (1960)

Michelangelo Antonioni

21Avventura, L' (1960)

Michelangelo Antonioni

In Michelangelo Antonioni’s groundbreaking and controversial arthouse milestone, the mystery of a woman’s disappearance from a Mediterranean island is left unresolved.

21Godfather: Part I, The (1972)

Francis Ford Coppola

21Godfather: Part I, The (1972)

Francis Ford Coppola

The first of Francis Ford Coppola’s epic trilogy about the Corleone crime family is the disturbing story of a son drawn inexorably into his father’s Mafia affairs.

21mépris, Le (1963)

Jean-Luc Godard

21mépris, Le (1963)

Jean-Luc Godard

Working with his biggest budget to date, Jean-Luc Godard created a sublime widescreen drama about marital breakdown, set during pre-production on a film shoot.

24Rashomon (1950)

Akira Kurosawa

24Rashomon (1950)

Akira Kurosawa

Credited with bringing Japanese cinema to worldwide audiences, Akira Kurosawa’s breakthrough tells the story of a murder in the woods from four differing perspectives.

24Ordet (1955)

Carl Theodor Dreyer

24Ordet (1955)

Carl Theodor Dreyer

The penultimate film by the Danish master Carl Theodor Dreyer is a parable on the power of faith, set in a remote religious community.

27Andrei Rublev (1966)

Andrei Tarkovsky

27Andrei Rublev (1966)

Andrei Tarkovsky

The life of a 15th century icon painter takes centre stage in Andrei Tarkovsky’s epic meditation on the place of art in turbulent times.

28Mulholland Dr (2003)

David Lynch

28Mulholland Dr (2003)

David Lynch

29Stalker (1979)

Andrei Tarkovsky

29Stalker (1979)

Andrei Tarkovsky

29Shoah (1985)

Claude Lanzmann

29Shoah (1985)

Claude Lanzmann

31Taxi Driver (1976)

Martin Scorsese

31Taxi Driver (1976)

Martin Scorsese

Martin’s Scorsese’s unsettling story of disturbed New York cab driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is a classic of 70s cinema.

31Godfather: Part II, The (1974)

Francis Ford Coppola

31Godfather: Part II, The (1974)

Francis Ford Coppola

The expansive second part of Francis Ford Coppola’s Mafia saga continues the Corleone family story, charting in parallel young Vito’s earlier rise to prominence.

33Bicycle Thieves, The (1948)

Vittorio de Sica

33Bicycle Thieves, The (1948)

Vittorio de Sica

Vittorio De Sica’s story of a father and son searching for a stolen bicycle on the streets of Rome is a classic of postwar Italian cinema.

34Psycho (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock

34Psycho (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock

34General, The (1926)

Buster Keaton

34General, The (1926)

Buster Keaton

Train driver Buster Keaton gives chase when Union agents steal his locomotive in this classic silent comedy set at the time of the American Civil War.

36Sátántangó (1994)

Béla Tarr

36Sátántangó (1994)

Béla Tarr

36Metropolis (1927)

Fritz Lang

36Metropolis (1927)

Fritz Lang

Fritz Lang’s epic vision of a futuristic city where workers toil for their domineering overseers has proved an immeasurable influence on science-fiction filmmaking.

39dolce vita, La (1960)

Federico Fellini

39dolce vita, La (1960)

Federico Fellini

Federico Fellini’s epic charts a week in the life of a tabloid journalist (Marcello Mastroianni) as the excesses of modern Roman life go on around him.

39400 Blows, The (1959)

François Truffaut

39400 Blows, The (1959)

François Truffaut

The directorial debut of film critic François Truffaut, this autobiographical story of a wayward child marked a fresh start for French cinema.

41Pather Panchali (1955)

Satyajit Ray

41Pather Panchali (1955)

Satyajit Ray

The first part of Satyajit Ray’s acclaimed Apu Trilogy is a lyrical, closely observed story of a peasant family in 1920s rural India.

41Journey to Italy (1954)

Roberto Rossellini

41Journey to Italy (1954)

Roberto Rossellini

This devastating study of a marriage coming apart during a holiday in Italy is the best known of the films Roberto Rossellini made with his wife Ingrid Bergman.

43Pierrot le Fou (1965)

Jean-Luc Godard

43Pierrot le Fou (1965)

Jean-Luc Godard

Riffing on the classic couple-on-the run movie, enfant terrible Jean-Luc Godard took the narrative innovations of the French New Wave close to breaking point.

43Close-Up (1989)

Abbas Kiarostami

43Close-Up (1989)

Abbas Kiarostami

43Some Like It Hot (1959)

Billy Wilder

43Some Like It Hot (1959)

Billy Wilder

On the run from Chicago mobsters, two musicians don drag to join an all-girl jazz band fronted by Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) in Billy Wilder’s hugely popular comedy.

43Playtime (1967)

Jacques Tati

43Playtime (1967)

Jacques Tati

43Gertrud (1964)

Carl Theodor Dreyer

43Gertrud (1964)

Carl Theodor Dreyer

48Histoire(s) du cinéma

Jean-Luc Godard

48Histoire(s) du cinéma

Jean-Luc Godard

48Battle of Algiers, The (1966)

Gillo Pontecorvo

48Battle of Algiers, The (1966)

Gillo Pontecorvo

Gillo Pontecorvo’s masterpiece about the turbulent last years of French colonial rule in Algeria, seen from the perspective of both the guerrilla revolutionaries and the French authorities.

50City Lights (1931)

Charles Chaplin

50City Lights (1931)

Charles Chaplin

The Tramp wins the affections of a blind flower seller (Virginia Cherrill) in this hilarious but heartbreaking comedy – one of Charlie Chaplin’s uncontested masterpieces.

50Ugetsu Monogatari (1953)

Mizoguchi Kenji

50Ugetsu Monogatari (1953)

Mizoguchi Kenji

In war-torn 16th-century Japan, two men leave their wives to seek wealth and glory in Kenji Mizoguchi’s tragic supernatural classic.

50Jetée, La (1962)

Chris Marker

50Jetée, La (1962)

Chris Marker

53North by Northwest (1959)

Alfred Hitchcock

53North by Northwest (1959)

Alfred Hitchcock

53Rear Window (1954)

Alfred Hitchcock

53Rear Window (1954)

Alfred Hitchcock

53Raging Bull (1980)

Martin Scorsese

53Raging Bull (1980)

Martin Scorsese

Starring Robert De Niro as the middleweight boxer Jake La Motta, Scorsese’s biopic is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest films of the 1980s.

56M (1931)

Fritz Lang

56M (1931)

Fritz Lang

For his first sound film Fritz Lang turned to the story of a child killer (Peter Lorre), who is hunted down by police and underworld alike.

57Leopard, The (1963)

Luchino Visconti

57Leopard, The (1963)

Luchino Visconti

57Touch of Evil (1958)

Orson Welles

57Touch of Evil (1958)

Orson Welles

Orson Welles’ return to Hollywood after ten years working in Europe is a sleazy border tale in which he takes centre stage as gargantuan detective Hank Quinlan.

59Sherlock Jr (1924)

Buster Keaton

59Sherlock Jr (1924)

Buster Keaton

Keaton’s third feature is a breathtakingly virtuosic display of every silent comedy technique imaginable, from his own formidable physical skills to some then-groundbreaking camera trickery.

59Barry Lyndon (1975)

Stanley Kubrick

59Barry Lyndon (1975)

Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick’s exquisitely detailed adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel about the picaresque exploits of an 18th century Irish adventurer.

59Sansho Dayu (1954)

Mizoguchi Kenji

59Sansho Dayu (1954)

Mizoguchi Kenji

This sweeping historical tragedy about two children separated from their parents and sold into slavery continued a run of late masterpieces from Kenji Mizoguchi.

63Wild Strawberries (1957)

Ingmar Bergman

63Wild Strawberries (1957)

Ingmar Bergman

On a road trip to receive an honorary degree, an elderly academic (Victor Sjöstrom) looks back over his life in Ingmar Bergman’s art-cinema classic.

63Modern Times (1936)

Charles Chaplin

63Modern Times (1936)

Charles Chaplin

The final outing for Charlie Chaplin’s beloved Tramp character finds him enduring the pratfalls and humiliations of work in an increasingly mechanised society.

63Sunset Blvd. (1950)

Billy Wilder

63Sunset Blvd. (1950)

Billy Wilder

The most caustic of European émigré directors, Wilder explored the movie industry and the delusions of stardom in Hollywood’s great poison pen letter to itself.

63Night of the Hunter, The (1955)

Charles Laughton

63Night of the Hunter, The (1955)

Charles Laughton

Actor Charles Laughton’s only film as a director is a complete one-off, a terrifying parable of the corruption of innocence featuring a career-best performance from Robert Mitchum.

63Pickpocket (1959)

Robert Bresson

63Pickpocket (1959)

Robert Bresson

63Rio Bravo (1958)

Howard Hawks

63Rio Bravo (1958)

Howard Hawks

A decade after Red River (1947), Howard Hawks reteamed with John Wayne for this rambling western riffing on the director’s usual themes of friendship and professionalism.

69Blade Runner (1982)

Ridley Scott

69Blade Runner (1982)

Ridley Scott

Loosely adapted from a novel by Phillip K. Dick, Ridley Scott’s dark, saturated vision of 2019 Los Angeles is a classic of popular science-fiction cinema.

69Blue Velvet (1986)

David Lynch

69Blue Velvet (1986)

David Lynch

In David Lynch’s idiosyncratic drama, a young man’s curiosity draws him into the twisted criminal sub-culture operating beneath the placid surface of his cosy hometown.

69Sans Soleil (1982)

Chris Marker

69Sans Soleil (1982)

Chris Marker

69Man Escaped, A (1956)

Robert Bresson

69Man Escaped, A (1956)

Robert Bresson

73Third Man, The (1949)

Carol Reed

73Third Man, The (1949)

Carol Reed

An American abroad in post-war Vienna pursues his missing friend down a rabbit hole of intrigue and moral corruption in Carol Reed’s masterpiece of European noir.

73eclisse, L' (1962)

Michelangelo Antonioni

73eclisse, L' (1962)

Michelangelo Antonioni

73enfants du paradis, Les (1945)

Marcel Carné

Made during the Nazi occupation of France, Marcel Carne’s romantic epic of the 19th-century theatre world is a life-affirming tribute to love, Paris and the stage.

73grande illusion, La (1937)

Jean Renoir

Jean Renoir’s pacifist classic is set in a German prisoner-of-war camp during WWI, where class kinship is felt across national boundaries.

73Nashville (1975)

Robert Altman

73Nashville (1975)

Robert Altman

Made to celebrate the bicentennial of American Independence, Robert Altman’s footloose epic blends the lives of 24 characters in the capital of country music.

78Chinatown (1974)

Roman Polanski

78Chinatown (1974)

Roman Polanski

Roman Polanski’s brilliant thriller stars Jack Nicholson as a private eye uncovering corruption in 1930s Los Angeles, a desert town where water equals power.

78Beau Travail (1998)

Claire Denis

78Beau Travail (1998)

Claire Denis

78Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Sergio Leone

The railroad rushes westward, bringing power and progress with it, in Sergio Leone’s grandest spaghetti western, an operatic homage to Hollywood’s mythology of the Old West.

81Magnificent Ambersons, The (1942)

Orson Welles

Among the most famous of broken films, Orson Welles’ masterful follow-up to Citizen Kane was taken out of his control and re-edited by the studio.

81Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

David Lean

An eccentric English officer inspires the Arabs to unite against the Turks during WWI in David Lean’s seven Oscar-winner, an epic in every sense.

84Fanny and Alexander (1984)

Ingmar Bergman

84Fanny and Alexander (1984)

Ingmar Bergman

The grand summation of Ingmar Bergman’s career, this epic family drama drew on the director’s own childhood experiences in early 20th century Sweden.

84Casablanca (1942)

Michael Curtiz

84Casablanca (1942)

Michael Curtiz

Everybody comes to Rick’s bar, including expat Rick’s (Humphrey Bogart) former lover Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), in one of Hollywood’s most-loved romantic melodramas.

84Greed (1925)

Erich von Stroheim

84Greed (1925)

Erich von Stroheim

Silent cinema’s most famous ‘lost’ film, Von Stroheim’s monumental study of three ordinary lives destroyed by avarice was ruinously edited down by the studio.

84Wild Bunch, The (1969)

Sam Peckinpah

84Wild Bunch, The (1969)

Sam Peckinpah

A gang of outlaws goes out in a blaze of violence and glory in Sam Peckinpah’s elegiac film about the dying days of the wild west.

90Matter of Life and Death, A (1946)

Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger

90Matter of Life and Death, A (1946)

Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger

In Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s audacious Technicolor fantasy, WWII airman David Niven finds himself summoned to heaven after surviving a plane crash that should have killed him.

93Seventh Seal, The (1957)

Ingmar Bergman

93Seventh Seal, The (1957)

Ingmar Bergman

During the plague-ravaged middle ages, a knight buys time for himself by playing chess with Death in Bergman’s much-imitated arthouse classic.

93chien andalou, Un (1928)

Luis Buñuel

93chien andalou, Un (1928)

Luis Buñuel

93Intolerance (1916)

D.W. Griffith

93Intolerance (1916)

D.W. Griffith

Responding to criticisms of racism for his record-breaking The Birth of a Nation, film-making pioneer D.W. Griffith made this epic drama depicting intolerance through the ages.

93One and a Two, A (1999)

Edward Yang

93One and a Two, A (1999)

Edward Yang

93Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, The (1943)

Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger

93Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, The (1943)

Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger

93Touki Bouki (1973)

Djibril Diop Mambéty

93Touki Bouki (1973)

Djibril Diop Mambéty

93Fear Eats the Soul (1974)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder

93Fear Eats the Soul (1974)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder

93Imitation of Life (1959)

Douglas Sirk

93Imitation of Life (1959)

Douglas Sirk

93Madame de… (1953)

Max Ophüls

93Madame de… (1953)

Max Ophüls

Tragic consequences ensue when a society woman pawns the earrings her husband gave her, in Max Ophuls’ graceful and opulent period drama.

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