Jean-Loup Bourget

Professor emeritus of film studies and film critic (for the French monthly Positif)

Voted for

Intolerance1916D.W. Griffith
Modern Times1936Charles Chaplin
STAROIE I NOVOE1929Sergei M. Eisenstein
La Grande Illusion1937Jean Renoir
YOKIHI1955Kenji Mizoguchi
The 39 Steps1935Alfred Hitchcock
A Hidden Life2019Terrence Malick
Moonfleet1955Fritz Lang
A Time to Love and a Time to Die1958Douglas Sirk



1926 Germany

Impossible not to have a Murnau film. I chose Faust partly because it's an adaptation of a world-known German classic, partly as an indirect way of paying tribute to Eric Rohmer, who probably regarded Murnau as the best director ever and did specific work on Faust.


1916 USA

Griffith, the founder of American film (the dominant film form in the last century), is a must. I chose Intolerance for its own merits, for its implied rejection of the politics of The Birth of a Nation, and as a tribute to the numerous silent epics that deal with parallel or contrasting stories in different times and/or settings.

Modern Times

1936 USA

Chaplin also is a must. To millions of viewers his Tramp character was synonymous with the essence of cinema, of slapstick and satire and romance. I chose Modern Times partly because of its topical subject matter.


1929 USSR

Eisenstein stands for Soviet cinema as a whole. I chose The General Line rather than Ivan the Terrible because I feared Ivan might have been counted as 2 separate films. This being said, I have no qualms about choosing The General Line rather than, say, Alexander Nevski, whose politics are offensive. I suppose one of the reasons of my choice is that The General Line is less well-known than either Battleship Potemkin or Strike, in this sense it's a more "personal" choice.

La Grande Illusion

1937 France

I'm a Frenchman and I remain convinced that Renoir is the greatest French director. Over the past decades polls have tended to favour Rules of the Game over Grand Illusion. I remain convinced that Grand Illusion is "greater", more of a "classic", and that its message is of more "import" than that of Rules of the Game.


1955 Japan, Hong Kong

Mizoguchi will have to represent Japanese cinema as a whole. Alas for Ozu and Naruse! I chose Princess Yang Kwei Fei because it's a late film, in splendid colour, and was coproduced by Hong Kong, which means this single entry will also stand for Chinese cinema, at least symbolically.

The 39 Steps

1935 United Kingdom

I suppose the poll will confirm Vertigo as the greatest Hitchcock movie. I feel that English Hitchcock has been undervalued and I chose The 39 Steps because it's the film in which Hitchcock perfected his own combination of suspense (specifically, the double chase of the spy film) and romance, a combination he was to repeat, in particular, in The Lady Vanishes (a lesser film, in my opinion) and in North by Northwest, which tends to stress the ironic elements and is probably slicker, but more predictable.

A Hidden Life

2019 USA, Germany

I realise that I have a historian's bias in favour of older classics, at any rate in this type of "all time" poll. Malick is the only contemporary director whose body of work seems to me to be both unquestionably original (innovative) and comparable to that of previous major, "pantheon" directors. I hesitated between The Tree of Life and A Hidden Life and chose the latter film partly because of its subject matter and its explicit critique of Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will.


1955 USA

I could have chosen any number of Lang films, either German or American. Moonfleet is a personal favourite, together with Secret Beyond the Door, a very different type of movie. At this point I realise that I'm perhaps not using "greatest" in the same sense as in earlier choices. But I feel I'm allowed at least two really personal choices before I round up the ten best.

A Time to Love and a Time to Die

1958 USA

My second "personal" choice, the most moving, partly autobiographical film of my favourite director (together with any others), a film that in a sense sums up the complicated relationship between Sierck and Sirk, between the stage and film director under the Nazi régime and the Hollywood exile.