Samuel Wigley

BFI news and features editor

Voted for

Wagon Master1950John Ford
El Mumia1970Shadi Abdelsalam
DUVIDHA1973Mani Kaul
The Green Ray1986Eric Rohmer
Az EN XX. SZAZADOM1989Ildikó Enyedi
HELIU1997Tsai Ming-liang
MIAMI VICE2006Michael Mann
Casting Blossoms to the Sky2012Nobuhiko Obayashi
Knight of Cups2015Terrence Malick


Ten ecstatic films, full of texture and emotion; anchored to the real world but floating a few feet above it. Wagon Master is doing a lot of heavy lifting here – for my love of westerns and Ward Bond, of poetic black and white, of narratives borne along by songs, of casts of studio-era supporting players that you know and recognise, and of Ford and the whole tradition of classical Hollywood filmmaking stretching back to Ford’s own earliest features. I had it in mind to raise up Borzage’s Moonrise, Raoul Walsh’s Colorado Territory, Preston Sturges’ Christmas in July or von Sternberg’s The Docks of New York this time too, but eventually plumped for weighting my list towards the last few decades, as an expression of faith that ways of seeing are still being tested; masterpieces are still being made. I have at least doffed my cap to the silent era via Ildikó Enyedi’s My 20th Century, an extraordinary, magic-lantern origin story for electricity and the transfiguring, occult energy of cinema itself.

Looking down my ten, it’s the special light of these films that flickers in the mind’s eye: Enyedi’s fin-de-siècle light bulbs and arcing currents. The green flash in Rohmer’s sunset. Obayashi’s fireworks. The clouds moving across a grey sky at the end of Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach. The humming nightscapes of Miami Vice. The alien luminosity of Malick’s LA.

Dropping in and out of my ballot this time were Scattered Clouds, City Girl, And Life Goes On, Zama, Beau Travail, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, The Masseurs and a Woman, Johnny Guitar, I fidanzati, Pyaasa, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, Pakeezah, Il sorpasso, Él, Night of the Demon, The Long Day Closes, Eden, Seven Chances, Blind Husbands, West of the Tracks, Legend of the Mountain, Crazed Fruit and everything I voted for in 2012.

Long live the Sight and Sound poll! Where else can explorers find a decent enough map of cinema’s hot spots? Not by glancing over past Oscar or Palme d’or winners, and certainly not via the IMDb 250. But that’s not to say the poll doesn’t have its blind areas or that consensus always forms around the right titles.