Revealed: the results of the 2022 Sight and Sound Greatest Films of All Time poll

For the first time in the poll’s 70-year history, a film by a female filmmaker takes the top spot: Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles.

1 December 2022

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)

The winner of Sight and Sound magazine’s hugely anticipated and world-renowned Greatest Films of All Time Critics’ poll 2022 is Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975). This is the first time a female filmmaker has taken the number one spot since the poll’s inception in 1952.

Akerman’s film has leapfrogged from 36th place in 2012 to take the top spot a decade later. The prestigious once-a-decade poll is Sight and Sound’s eighth, and the most ambitious to date, with more than 1,600 of the most influential international film critics, academics, distributors, writers, curators, archivists and programmers voting, almost double the number of participants in 2012. 

Vertigo (1958)

The 2012 winner, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, is now in second place, with Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (which held the No. 1 spot for 50 years) placed third and Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story fourth. Three further new films have made it into the top 10: Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love in fifth place (up from 24th in 2012), Claire Denis’s Beau travail at number seven (up from 78th in 2012) and David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. in eighth place (up from 28th). 

The top 20 features films by a wide range of international directors. The full results and commentary on the 100 Greatest Films of All Time are published in the Winter double issue of Sight and Sound, on sale in print and digital edition from 5 December.

Heralded by Le Monde in January 1976 as “the first masterpiece of the feminine in the history of the cinema”, Akerman’s mesmerising and hypnotic Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles follows the meticulous daily routine of a middle-aged widow (played by Delphine Seyrig) over the course of three days. In 1975, Akerman was only 25 years old when she shot her experimental, groundbreaking film and it has since provoked analysis and debate over the decades. 

”Jeanne Dielman challenged the status quo when it was released in 1975 and continues to do so today,” says Sight and Sound editor in chief Mike Williams. “It’s a landmark feminist film, and its position at the top of list is emblematic of better representation in the top 100 for women filmmakers. While it’s great to see previous winners Vertigo and Citizen Kane complete the top three, Jeanne Dielman’s success reminds us that there is a world of under-seen and under-appreciated gems out there to be discovered, and that the importance of repertory cinemas and home entertainment distributors cannot be overestimated in their continued spotlighting of films that demand to be seen. What currently undervalued masterpieces might emerge in ten years thanks to this tireless work?”

“As well as being a compelling list, one of the most important elements is that it shakes a fist at the established order,” says Jason Wood, the BFI’s executive director of public programmes and audiences. “Canons should be challenged and interrogated, and as part of the BFI’s remit to not only revisit film history but to also reframe it, it’s so satisfying to see a list that feels quite radical in its sense of diversity and inclusion.”

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)

Filmmaker Joanna Hogg says: “It’s incredible news that Jeanne Dielman has topped the Critics’ poll, knocking Hitchcock off his perch. I’m sure Chantal Akerman would be happy to know the importance of this film has been recognised, although when she came over to the ICA as part of the A Nos Amours retrospective that Adam Roberts and I organised, she mentioned how much Jeanne Dielman had hampered her artistic career. Having made the film when she was only 25 and it being hailed as such a masterpiece at the time (just like Orson Welles and Citizen Kane!), it was hard for her to live with that success in later years. What’s important to remember – whatever Chantal thought of the film, and even though she probably didn’t think much of polls and canons – it’s been an incredibly influential piece of filmmaking that fills curriculums at universities, that scholars and critics have endlessly talked about it, and maybe, most importantly, that audiences and filmmakers have been inspired by – alongside, of course, Chantal’s other films. In a way this film winning represents not just specifically the importance of Jeanne Dielman but the importance of Chantal Akerman as a filmmaker. Her influence is irrefutable and it’s just wonderful that the film has won this poll.”

Laura Mulvey, Professor of Film Studies, Birkbeck, University of London says: “Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 rue de Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles has topped the Sight and Sound ten best list in its own right and in recognition of a supreme cinematic achievement… Jeanne Dielman stood out as something completely new and unexpected [when it was first seen]. It was the film’s courage that was immediately most striking. Akerman’s unwavering and completely luminous adherence to a female perspective (not, that is, via the character, Jeanne Dielman, but embedded in the film itself and its director’s vision) combined with her uncompromising and completely coherent cinema to produce a film that was both feminist and cinematically radical. One might say that it felt as though there was a before and an after Jeanne Dielman, just as there had once been a before and after Citizen Kane.”

“The arrival of Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles at the top of the 2022 Sight and Sound poll signals an amazing shift in critical taste. Given the status of the poll, the film will attract a new audience, drawn, first of all, by curiosity to this latest addition to the list of great films of cinema history; and then, held enthralled by the extraordinarily daring cinema of a great woman director.”

The Critics’ top 20 Greatest Films of All Time

  1. Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1975)
  2. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
  3. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
  4. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1953)
  5. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2001)
  6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
  7. Beau travail (Claire Denis, 1998)
  8. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)
  9. Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov,1929)
  10. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1951)
  11. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (F.W. Murnau, 1927)
  12. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
  13. La Règle du jeu (Jean Renoir, 1939)
  14. Cléo from 5 to 7 (Agnès Varda, 1962)
  15. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956) 
  16. Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid, 1943)
  17. Close-Up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1989)
  18. Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
  19. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
  20. Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954) 

Since it was first conducted in 1952, Sight and Sound’s Critics’ poll has become an eagerly anticipated moment within the global film community as it represents a litmus test for where film culture stands. This year’s poll reached a wider and more diverse group than ever before and incorporates the top 10 lists of over 1,600 participants from all corners of the globe who voted for more than 4,000 films overall. This compares to the 846 who were asked 10 years ago and reflects a variety of factors, including the more diverse group of contributors voting in the poll and the impact and increased influence of film commentators internationally via the internet. It may also be explained in part by the explosion of access to a wider selection of films, thanks to the proliferation of movies available to view on numerous streamers, boutique Blu-ray and DVD collections, the increase of TV channels dedicated to movies and curated film seasons, all of which have helped to create a more cine-literate contributor. 

The voters were asked to interpret ‘Greatest’ as they chose: to reflect the film’s importance in cinematic history, its aesthetic achievement, or perhaps its personal impact in their own life and their view of cinema.

The wider and more diverse electorate appears to have had an impact on the diversity of the top 100 films. Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles and Claire Denis’s Beau travail were the only female filmmakers’ films in the 2012 top 100. This year’s poll now features 11 films by female filmmakers in the top 100, and four in the top 20, with new entries by Chantal Akerman – her second entry is News from Home at number 52 – Agnès Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7 at number 14 and The Gleaners and I in number 67, Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon (co-directed with Alexander Hammid) in 16th place, Vera Chytilová’s Daisies at number 28, Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire in 30th place, Barbara Loden’s Wanda at number 48, Jane Campion’s The Piano at number 50 and Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust in 60th place.

Moonlight (2016)

In 2012 there was one film by a Black filmmaker listed in the top 100 – Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki, at number 93. In 2022 there are seven titles in the top 100 by prominent Black filmmakers. Touki Bouki has climbed to 67th place, with new entries for Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing in 24th place, Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep at number 43, Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust and Barry Jenkins’s Academy Award-winning Moonlight in joint 60th place, and Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Ousmane Sembène’s Black Girl jointly at number 95. 

In 2012, two films from the last two decades made the top 100 – Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love and David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. The top 100 in 2022 features nine films from the last two decades, with new entries including Bong Joon Ho’s Academy Award-winning Parasite at number 90, Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning Spirited Away in 75th place and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady at number 95, as well as The Gleaners and I, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Moonlight and Get Out. The top UK film is Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon at number 45, followed by Carol Reed’s The Third Man at number 63 (up from 73rd). Two films by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger feature in the top 100: The Red Shoes in 67th place and A Matter of Life and Death at number 78 (up from 90th).

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

Two silent films have made the top 20: F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans and Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera, which is also the only documentary to make the top 20. There are nine films from the silent era in the top 100, including Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights and Modern Times, Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. and The General, Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.   

Films that have been knocked out of the top 100 include Erich von Stroheim’s Greed, D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance, Luis Buñuel’s Un chien andalou, Jean Renoir’s Partie de campagne and La Grande Illusion, Orson Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons and Touch of Evil, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Marcel Carné’s Les Enfants du paradis, David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’eclisse, Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, Wrath of God, Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II, Robert Altman’s Nashville and Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull.

The Directors’ poll

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Alongside the critics’ poll, a record 480 filmmakers from across the world, including Martin Scorsese, Barry Jenkins, Sofia Coppola, Bong Joon Ho, Lynne Ramsay and Mike Leigh, voted Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey the Greatest Film of All Time. Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane is at number 2, with Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather placed at number 3. The Critics’ Poll winner Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is ranked at number 4, alongside 2012’s Directors’ Poll leader Tokyo Story. Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo has polled at number 6 alongside Federico Fellini’s 8½. The top ten is rounded off with Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mirror, Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love, Ingmar Bergman’s Persona and Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-Up sharing ninth place. 

Sight and Sound is the BFI’s internationally renowned film magazine, championing and appraising the art of cinema and television from around the world. The magazine has been publishing film comment since 1932 and provides an unrivalled platform for film lovers to connect with the best movie writers in the English language. The magazine is available in both in print and digital formats and subscribers can access nine decades of journalism in the magazine’s online archive. Earlier this week Sight and Sound’s “stunning redesign which brokered a bold new strategy” was recognised at the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) Awards 2022 with Mike Williams named Editor of the Year - Culture.

BFI Southbank will screen the full 100 Greatest Films of All Times across January, February and March. 

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles will be available exclusively on BFI Player Subscription from 1 December – the first time the film has been available to stream in the UK. In addition, audiences across the UK will also have the opportunity to view over 40 of the titles from the Critics’ top 100 poll at home on BFI Player (including 9 of the top 10 films) both on rental and subscription.

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