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. Declared the greatest film of all time at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair and one of the only films to have appeared on all of Sight and Sound’s critics’ polls (1952 to 2022), Battleship Potemkin has also been widely censored, as much out of fear of the perceived influence of its ideas as for any contentious material on screen.
In essence, it tells a five-part story of a naval mutiny leading to full-blown revolution, but while this material could be crudely propagandist in other hands, Eisenstein uses images of such dynamic compositional strength and editing of such frame-perfect precision that it’s hard not to be swept along, regardless of personal politics. Despite endless quotation and parody, the set-piece massacre on the Odessa Steps still packs a sledgehammer punch.
“No other film in the history of cinema has had such a revolutionary impact.” Ian Aitken
“Historically, Battleship Potemkin is unsurpassed in its impact. The perfect blend of aesthetic and social commitment, of the collective and the individual, of thought and emotion.” Eithne O’Neill
“A factory for some of the most iconic images in the medium’s history, which aim at doing nothing less than obliterating and reconfiguring our vision of the world and our commitment to transforming it. Eisenstein equally reveals himself to be a committed sensualist and wit: who can watch this film and not appreciate its desirous, homoerotic gaze?” James Leo Cahill