Jonathan Romney

Film critic

Voted for

Beau travail1998Claire Denis
An Elephant Sitting Still2018Hu Bo
The Headless Woman2008Lucrecia Martel
Hellzapoppin'1941H.C. Potter
Le Mépris1963Jean-Luc Godard
Out 11990Jacques Rivette
Sátántangó1994Béla Tarr
Street of Crocodiles1986Brothers Quay
Syndromes and a Century2006Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Touch of Evil1958Orson Welles


Even back in 1952, when this poll began, it must have seemed absurd to try and identify the Greatest Films of All Time. Now, as the cumulative database of moving image history seems to be expanding ever faster towards infinity - and, you could easily fear, to hitherto uncharted realms of futility - we have new problems to contend with. Are we trying to identify convincingly - and perhaps for the very last time - the monuments and monoliths of an art form perilously close to extinction, and that in any case thrives not on the monumental, but on fluidity and transience?

And what do the terms mean, anyway? How do you define 'great'? How do you define 'film'? What does 'all time' mean, with its evocation of a clear origin and a very unclear sort of posterity (as if we particularly cared these days about that dusty notion, posterity). In a period during which the purpose and meaning of any artistic activity has become a matter for debate, more urgently than it has in decades, it's harder than ever to know what could possibly define a great film. Great for whom? By whose standards? In the name of what values, ideals, aspirations? How about in the name of cinema - will that do?

With that in mind, I've stuck to the principles of my 2012 list and voted for films that, one way or another, shook up my worldview, or fuelled my practice as a critic - which may not always obviously have that much to do with the way I've seen the world since 2012. There are some film-makers I'd love to have included, although I'd have voted for their overall oeuvre rather than specific films: Lang, Lee, Varda, Davies, Antonioni, Ruiz, Oliveira, Costa, Tsai Ming-Liang, to name only some of the more prolific... These days, I'm less certain than I was 10 years ago about what this list tells me or anyone else about cinema, or about myself. One's list can be a self-portrait or a world picture - but it can also be neither, not exactly. I simply hope that we'll get the chance to vote again in 10 years time, and that cinema will have endured, and changed dynamically enough so that the choice will be even tougher than it is now.