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Introduction

In these celebrity-centred times, it’s a refreshing anomaly that our poll of directors’ top ten greatest films of all time is secondary to the critics’ poll.

But since the critics’ poll has been going since 1952, and the directors’ only since 1992, it’s the former that has the gravitas.

But the directors’ choices this time have created their own startling surprise. Not only has Citizen Kane not won, it hasn’t even come a clear second, while the critics‘ favourite, Vertigo, isn’t even in the top six. The winner, Ozu’s magisterial Tokyo Story, is of course a mainstay in these lists, and yet it’s intriguing that it should top the directors’ poll, for the formal aesthetic of Ozu’s films is so singular, so patient and precise, that his direct influence on the films of other directors is not always obviously apparent. And yet the triumph of Tokyo Story (along with the presence of Bicycle Thieves at number 10) is a recognition of the fact that sometimes the most powerful films seem at first to be the simplest – and that an unforgettably framed image of an ageing married couple sitting contemplatively on a seafront can say more than a thousand lines of dialogue.

It’s striking also that where the critics’ top ten features three films from the silent era, and nothing later than the 1960s, the earliest film on the directors’ list is Citizen Kane (1941). The directors have chosen four films from the 1970s, including two mid-decade films making their first appearance in the top ten: Tarkovsky’s poetic and intimate Mirror and Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, which interestingly replaces Raging Bull, a fixture in the directors’ top ten in both 1992 and 2002.

The appearance of such boldly defiant, bravura technical accomplishments as 2001, Apocalypse Now, Citizen Kane and The Godfather might be expected, for each stands as magnificent proof that boundless ambition need not equal folly. The legendary stories of their production are a reminder to anyone picking up a camera that after the blood, sweat and tears of creation – a process best captured, of course, by Fellini in 8½ – there just might come a triumph.

— James Bell

Directors’ top 100 films

1. Tokyo Story

Ozu Yasujirô, 1953

Ryu Chishu and Hara Setsuko in Tokyo Story (1953)

The final part of Ozu Yasujirô’s loosely connected ‘Noriko’ trilogy is a devastating story of elderly grandparents brushed aside by their self-involved family.

Subtle and sensitive, Tokyo Story lets the viewer experience the tensions and demands that modern life makes on people – here family members.

— Adoor Gopalakrishnan

=2. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick, 1968

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Stanley Kubrick took science fiction cinema in a grandly intelligent new direction with this epic story of man’s quest for knowledge.

This is the film I’ve seen more than any other in my life. 40 times or more. My life altered when I discovered it when I was about seven in Buenos Aires. It was my first hallucinogenic experience, my great artistic turning-point and also the moment when my mother finally explained what a foetus was and how I came into the world. Without this film I would never have become a director.

— Gaspar Noé

=2. Citizen Kane

Orson Welles, 1941

Citizen Kane (1941)

Given extraordinary freedom by Hollywood studio RKO for his debut film, boy wonder Welles created a modernist masterpiece that is regularly voted the best film ever made.

Welles’s feat of imagination in Citizen Kane remains dazzling and inspiring. Cinema aspiring to great art, political import – and delivered with unabashed showmanship. The fervour of the work is as excited and electric as ever. The thriller plot never disappoints.

— Kenneth Branagh

4. 8½

Federico Fellini, 1963

8½ (1963)

Federico Fellini triumphantly conjured himself out of a bad case of creative block with this autobiographical magnum opus about a film director experiencing creative block.

8½ is a film I saw three times in a row in the cinema. This is chaos at its most elegant and intoxicating. You can’t take your eyes off the screen, even if you don’t know where it’s heading. A testament to the power of cinema: you don’t quite understand it but you give yourself up to let it take you wherever.

— Pen-Ek Ratanaruang

A true classic has to be both intimate and universal. To speak about cinema through cinema requires a voice unwavering in its passion and purity. 8½ speaks as much about life as it does about art – and it makes certain to connect both. A portrait of the teller and his craft – a lustful, sweaty, gluttonous poem to cinema.

— Guillermo del Toro

5. Taxi Driver

Martin Scorsese, 1976

Taxi Driver (1976)

Martin’s Scorsese’s unsettling story of disturbed New York cab driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is a classic of 70s cinema.

A film so vivid, hypnotic and corrosive that it feels forever seared onto your eyeballs, Taxi Driver turns a city, a time and a state of mind into a waking nightmare that’s somehow both horribly real and utterly dreamlike.

— Edgar Wright

6. Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola, 1979

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Transplanting the story of Joseph Conrad’s colonial-era novel Heart of Darkness to Vietnam, Francis Ford Coppola created a visually mesmerising fantasia on the spectacle of war.

Coppola evoked the high-voltage, dark identity quest, journeying into overload; the wildness and nihilism – all captured in operatic and concrete narrative, with the highest degree of difficulty. A masterpiece.

— Michael Mann

=7. The Godfather

Francis Ford Coppola, 1972

The Godfather (1972)

The first of Francis Ford Coppola’s epic trilogy about the Corleone crime family is the disturbing story of a son drawn inexorably into his father’s Mafia affairs.

A classic, but I never tire of it. The screenplay is just so watertight, and Michael’s journey is one of the best protagonist arcs ever created.

— Justin Kurzel

=7. Vertigo

Alfred Hitchcock, 1958

Vertigo (1958)
© The Kobal Collection

A former detective with a fear of heights is hired to follow a woman apparently possessed by the past, in Alfred Hitchcock’s timeless thriller about obsession.

[These are the scenes or aspects I usually think about in the movies I have thought about most often…] In Vertigo, after he’s worked so hard to remake her and finally she emerges: hair dyed platinum, grey suit, misty lens. It’s her!

— Miranda July

9. Mirror

Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974

Mirror (1975)

Andrei Tarkovsky drew on memories of a rural childhood before WWII for this personal, impressionistic and unconventional film poem.

I must have been around 13 when I first watched Mirror. This time I realised that there are films that are not even meant to be ‘understood’. It’s the poetry of cinema in its purest form, on a very delicate verge of being pretentious – which makes its genius even more striking.

— Alexei Popogrebsky

10. Bicycle Thieves

Vittorio De Sica, 1949

Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Vittorio De Sica’s story of a father and son searching for a stolen bicycle on the streets of Rome is a classic of postwar Italian cinema.

My absolute favourite, the most humanistic and political film in history.

— Roy Andersson

11. Breathless

Jean-Luc Godard, 1960

Breathless (1960)

About an American girl student’s encounter with a young hoodlum in Paris.

The first modern movie, pure cinema avant-garde.

— Manuel Ferrari

12. Raging Bull

Martin Scorsese, 1980

Raging Bull (1980)

Starring Robert De Niro as the middleweight boxer Jake La Motta, Scorsese’s biopic is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest films of the 1980s.

Extremely brutal, extremely beautiful, Raging Bull is a film of confession and redemption. Perhaps one of the last great films from Hollywood before it turned its back completely on an adult audience.

— Pen-Ek Ratanaruang

=13. Persona

Ingmar Bergman, 1966

Persona (1966)

A nurse (Bibi Andersson) and an actress who refuses to speak (Liv Ullmann) seem to fuse identities in Ingmar Bergman’s disturbing, formally experimental psychological drama.

My favourite of Bergman’s psychological chamber films.

— Greg Mottola

=13. The 400 Blows

François Truffaut, 1959

The directorial debut of film critic François Truffaut, this autobiographical story of a wayward child marked a fresh start for French cinema.

The 400 Blows is a highly sensitive recreation of Truffaut’s own difficult childhood, unsympathetic parents, oppressive teachers and petty crime – a remarkable first feature, mirroring one’s own life and times so effectively.

— Adoor Gopalakrishnan

=13. Andrei Rublev

Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966

Andrei Rublev (1966)

The life of a 15th century icon painter takes centre stage in Andrei Tarkovsky’s epic meditation on the place of art in turbulent times.

An Ivan the Terrible of the post-Stalinist generation, Andrei Rublev is a manifesto for the continuity of Russian thinking that undermined the Soviet system. The creator’s fable in the third act remains one of the most imposing pieces of its kind in the entire history of art.

— Andrei Ujica

16. Fanny and Alexander

Ingmar Bergman, 1984

Fanny and Alexander (1982)

The grand summation of Ingmar Bergman’s career, this epic family drama drew on the director’s own childhood experiences in early 20th century Sweden.

Fanny & Alexander wonderfully encapsulated the history of the baleful effect of Christianity on paganism. Plus the first hour’s wonderful evocation of the child’s perfect Christmas.

— Terry Jones

17. Seven Samurai

Akira Kurosawa, 1954

Seven Samurai (1954)
© Toho Co., Ltd

Rice farmers hire a band of samurai to defend them against marauding bandits in Akira Kurosawa’s influential epic, a touchstone for action movies ever since.

Groundbreaking cinema that set the standard for action films, weaving great characterisation, a strongly crafted story and stunning cinematography to ultimately offer a compelling philosophy about the nature of violence.

— Ann Turner

18. Rashomon

Akira Kurosawa, 1950

Rashomon (1950)

Credited with bringing Japanese cinema to worldwide audiences, Akira Kurosawa’s breakthrough tells the story of a murder in the woods from four differing perspectives.

The only thing that is fact in this film is that a samurai is dead and a woman has been raped. Akiru Kurosawa’s tale unfolds to challenge our perceptions of truth and plays with what our expectations of this elusive search are. This is filmmaking of the highest order.

— Akin Omotoso

=19. Barry Lyndon

Stanley Kubrick, 1975

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Stanley Kubrick’s exquisitely detailed adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel about the picaresque exploits of an 18th century Irish adventurer.

A kind of perfect film – a fully realised universe, like walking through a living, breathing museum. The scale of achievements within the cinematography alone will never be equalled. Baroque, elegant, and yet somehow still raw, it is film as dreamscape, every individual component subjugated to the expression of the whole. Kubrick seems interested in everything in ways other filmmakers seem not to be. The rigour behind this film and his wish to strive for perfection, for something not yet seen, is unbelievable. The interaction of image and music is perfect. The wordless seduction of Lady Lyndon by Barry set to Schubert is one of the most sublime sequences in film: the play of glances at the card table (noticed by her companion), Lady Lyndon’s slow walk outside, Barry’s approach glimpsed through the window, the slow tracking shot as he approaches her, the turn, the gaze, the first kiss. Incredible.

— Duane Hopkins

=19. Ordet

Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1955

Ordet (1955)

The penultimate film by the Danish master Carl Theodor Dreyer is a parable on the power of faith, set in a remote religious community.

Ordet touches your inner side deeply. You feel the invisible world. From the moment you see this film, you start to believe in miracles – motion pictures being one of them! There might not be a better film in white (nor in black-and-white) and no better hypnotism of space.

— Luis Miñarro

21. Au Hasard Balthazar

Robert Bresson, 1966

Au hasard Balthazar (1966)

Robert Bresson’s distinctive pared down style elicits extraordinary pathos from this devastating tale of an abused donkey passing from owner to owner.

Au hazard Balthazar is a hieratic but nevertheless profoundly moving film, by the auteur who perhaps, more than any other, explored the specific possibilities of cinematographic expression.

— Eugène Green

=22. Modern Times

Charles Chaplin, 1936

Modern Times (1936)

The final outing for Charlie Chaplin’s beloved Tramp character finds him enduring the pratfalls and humiliations of work in an increasingly mechanised society.

Absolute genius of cinema. Director, producer, screenwriter, Chaplin did everything! I choose Modern Times but several films from him could be in this list.

— Pablo Giorgelli

=22. L’Atalante

Jean Vigo, 1934

L'Atalante

Newly-weds begin their life together on a working barge in this luminous and poetic romance, the only feature film by director Jean Vigo.

That underwater scene where Jean opens his eyes underwater in a despondent cleansing, a scene that’s been homaged a million times ([The] Graduate being the most obvious to me), carries me through most days. Jean Vigo is a god. He was the son of an outlaw. Also this was an introduction to Michel Simon for me. Emotional, Sloppy, Manic, Cinema. 

— Josh Safdie

=22. Sunrise

F. W. Murnau, 1927

Sunrise (1927)

Lured to Hollywood by producer William Fox, German Expressionist filmmaker F.W. Murnau created one of the silent cinema’s last and most luminous masterpieces.

A big budget Hollywood movie with plenty of special effects, 1920s style. Murnau for greatest director?

— Ben Hopkins

=22. La Règle du jeu

Jean Renoir, 1939

Made on the cusp of WWII, Jean Renoir’s satire of the upper-middle classes was banned as demoralising by the French government for two decades after its release.

A big budget Hollywood movie with plenty of special effects, 1920s style. Murnau for greatest director?

— Ben Hopkins

=26. Touch of Evil

Orson Welles, 1958

Touch of Evil (1958)

Orson Welles’s return to Hollywood after ten years working in Europe is a sleazy border tale in which he takes centre stage as gargantuan detective Hank Quinlan.

The second Orson Welles movie in my list. Citizen Kane is his most acclaimed work but personally I love this one even more. The story has its wonderful pulpy aspects but Welles gives it tremendous ambivalence and depth. Directed with great gusto, awesome photography and wonderful music by the great Henry Mancini.

— Martin Koolhoven

=26. The Night of the Hunter

Charles Laughton, 1955

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Actor Charles Laughton’s only film as a director is a complete one-off, a terrifying parable of the corruption of innocence featuring a career-best performance from Robert Mitchum.

This tense, exquisite, malevolent little song is one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen after Rembrant’s The Abduction of Proserpina.

— Emily Wardill

=26. The Battle of Algiers

Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966

The Battle of Algiers (1966)

Gillo Pontecorvo’s masterpiece about the turbulent last years of French colonial rule in Algeria, seen from the perspective of both the guerrilla revolutionaries and the French authorities.

The Battle of Algiers for me is the combination of Battleship Potemkin and Pather Panchali. It‘s not simply political. It has a documentary feel to it, which makes it convincing and strong.

— Kutlug Ataman

=26. La strada

Federico Fellini, 1954

A brutish travelling strongman (Anthony Quinn) acquires a waif-like young assistant (Giulietta Masina) before taking to the road in Federico Fellini’s acclaimed neo-realist fable.

La strada is a great saga of love and bondage, very raw and real, almost brutal in its portrayal. The images are so strong that they refuse to dim with the passage of time.

— Adoor Gopalakrishnan

=30. Stalker

Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979

Stalker (1979)
As a teenager, I used to go the Everyman cinema in Hampstead where I would devour the films of Tarkovsky, Bergman, Rosselini, Fellini and other giants of what was then hard-to-find ‘alternative’ cinema. Stalker is a film I keep returning to for its equivocal plot, atmospheric score and beautiful camera work.

— Gary Tarn

=30. City Lights

Charles Chaplin, 1931

City Lights (1931)

The Tramp wins the affections of a blind flower seller (Virginia Cherrill) in this hilarious but heartbreaking comedy – one of Charlie Chaplin’s uncontested masterpieces.

Chaplin was the best at everything: actor, director, screenwriter, producer, clown, acrobat, dancer, musician. The art of counterpoint: scenes that are still funny today, in a melodramatic script that’s stayed touching. It’s impossible not to cry in the last scene, one of the most beautiful scenes ever made.

— Michel Hazanavicius

=30. L’Avventura

Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960

L'Avventura (1960)

In Michelangelo Antonioni’s groundbreaking and controversial arthouse milestone, the mystery of a woman’s disappearance from a Mediterranean island is left unresolved.

All ten on this list could be Antonioni films. Every one of them changed the game, especially from this film on. It was as if the window panes had been cleaned and you could see the world you lived in more clearly. With this film, cinema came out of the cave.

— Ron Peck

=30. Amarcord

Federico Fellini, 1972

Amarcord (1973)

Federico Fellini returned for inspiration to his own childhood in 1930s Rimini for this colourful comedy-drama about life in a small seaside town under Fascist rule.

A film hand-woven with memories, made to be remembered even before having seen it.

— Rodrigo Cortés

=30. The Gospel According to St Matthew

Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1964

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s third feature abandons the profane in favour of the sacred in a documentary-like retelling of the story of Christ.

Only an atheist director could make the ultimate film about religion.

— Bruce LaBruce

=30. The Godfather: Part II

Francis Ford Coppola, 1974

The Godfather Part II

The expansive second part of Francis Ford Coppola’s Mafia saga continues the Corleone family story, charting in parallel young Vito’s earlier rise to prominence.

Sequels are tough at the best of times. Francis Ford Coppola not only redefined what a sequel could be but he achieved something that is notoriously difficult in film: two timelines, father and son, merge to give a complete story of the Corleones. This film is a gem.

— Akin Omotoso

=30. Come And See

Elem Klimov, 1985

Come and See (1985)

Byelorussia, 1943. Story of Flera, a youth who joins the partisans, before the Nazis execute all the inhabitants of his village. Flera witnesses many atrocities committed by the Nazis and is physically aged by his experiences.

It’s no wonder Klimov could never make a movie after this. How could you? Filmmaking at the highest level.

— Darrell James Roodt

=37. Close-Up

Abbas Kiarostami, 1989

Close-Up (1990)

Drama-documentary, based on the true story of an unemployed movie buff, Hossein Sabzian, who passes himself off as the celebrated movie director, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, to a woman he meets on a bus. He is invited into her middle-class home and leads her family to believe that, if they finance him, they will appear in his next film. Eventually, they come to suspect he is an imposter and call the police. He ends up in jail where his trial is filmed by Kiarostami…

A re-enactment of a re-enactment of a re-enactment, Close Up essentially destroys the very conception of a ‘documentary’ and yet is one of the best ever made.

— Ashim Ahluwalia

=37. Some Like It Hot

Billy Wilder, 1959

Some Like It Hot (1959)

On the run from Chicago mobsters, two musicians don drag to join an all-girl jazz band fronted by Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) in Billy Wilder’s hugely popular comedy.

No justification needed for Some Like It Hot, as it will appear in dozens of ‘desert-island film’ lists. Sheer entertainment and great lines.

— Malcolm Le Grice

=37. La dolce vita

Federico Fellini, 1960

La dolce vita (1960)

Federico Fellini’s epic charts a week in the life of a tabloid journalist (Marcello Mastroianni) as the excesses of modern Roman life go on around him.

Ever dear to me personally, La dolce vita was the first ‘real’ film I saw, when I was 13. It‘s also one of the most emblematic of Fellini’s genius.

— Eugène Green

=37. The Passion of Joan of Arc

Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1927

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Silent cinema at its most sublimely expressive, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s masterpiece is an austere but hugely affecting dramatisation of the trial of St Joan.

Ever dear to me personally, La dolce vita was the first ‘real’ film I saw, when I was 13. It‘s also one of the most emblematic of Fellini’s genius.

— Eugène Green

=37. Playtime

Jacques Tati, 1967

Playtime (1967)
© Les Films de Mon Oncle

Jacques Tati directs and stars in this fun account of the bumbling M Hulot’s day in Paris.

Tati is the most generous and humble filmmaker I know. The funniest and the most serious. He and Jerry Lewis are the best architects of cinema, of rhythm and colour; both of them remind us that the worst thing about humour is that nobody takes it seriously.

— Javier Rebollo

=37. A Man Escaped

Robert Bresson, 1956

True story of the hazardous and daring wartime escape of a French officer from the condemned cell of a Nazi prison, with action set to Mozart’s Great C-Minor Mass.

Not quite sure what to say about this movie other than it’s one of the top five movies ever made. When they touch the ground at the end, I feel like I’ve been escaping with them. Never has a movie that gives away its ending the title been more suspenseful. The spoon slot, the little broom, the handkerchief pulley system… Like Fontaine, Bresson is the master.

— Benjamin Safdie

=37. Viridiana

Luis Buñuel, 1961

Viridiana (1961)

In Luis Buñuel’s controversial masterpiece, a novice nun gets more than she bargains for when she turns her dead uncle’s estate into a home for beggars.

Un Chien Andalou is still one of the most revolutionary films ever made but Viridiana has all Buñuel’s modernity in one mature work that contains the contradictory essence of the Spanish way.

— Luis Miñarro

=44. Once Upon a Time in the West

Sergio Leone, 1968

Once upon a Time in the West (1968)

The railroad rushes westward, bringing power and progress with it, in Sergio Leone’s grandest spaghetti western, an operatic homage to Hollywood’s mythology of the Old West.

Once Upon a Time in the West is playful, political, poetic and so stylishly elaborate it’s almost parodic. That westward bound train must be one of film history’s most potent metaphors.

— Arild Andresen

=44. Le mépris

Jean-Luc Godard, 1963

Le Mépris (1963)

Working with his biggest budget to date, Jean-Luc Godard created a sublime widescreen drama about marital breakdown, set during pre-production on a film shoot.

A truly beautiful and sad self-reflective movie about filmmaking.

— Norbert Pfaffenbichler

=44. The Apartment

Billy Wilder, 1960

The Apartment (1960)

In Wilder’s Oscar-winning comedy, Jack Lemmon plays an office worker who lends his apartment to adulterous superiors in order to get ahead.

The Apartment is the funniest recognition of the social climber that everybody has inside.

— Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

=44. Hour of the Wolf

Ingmar Bergman, 1968

Painter’s pregnant wife tries to communicate with her husband, to give him the strength to combat his years and hallucinations, while he is obsessed with a woman with no understanding of the personality of the artist.

=48. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Milos Forman, 1975

The comic energy and tragic weight of Jack Nicholson’s unforgettable lead performance make this a classic of 70s cinema.

A masterpiece for its characters, its actors, its story and its perfect blend of humor and drama.

— Jean-Marc Vallée

=48. The Searchers

John Ford, 1956

The Searchers (1956)

John Ford created perhaps the greatest of all westerns with this tale of a Civil War veteran doggedly hunting the Comanche who have kidnapped his niece.

Inscrutable faces under an endless sky. The dust of ages landing on a film.

— Rodrigo Cortés

=48. Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock, 1960

Psycho (1960)

Psychological horror thriller about lonely, disturbed young Norman Bates with an unhealthy mother fixation who runs an out of the way motel which Marion Crane, on the run and with a guilty secret, makes the mistake of staying in.

Psycho is a really strange black and white film where the protagonist dies halfway through. The viewer is left puzzled yet absorbed in the story. Unforgettable images: the shower, the stairs, the mansion… What a risky and daring film!

— Fernando Colomo

=48. Man with a Movie Camera

Dziga Vertov, 1929

Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

An impression of city life in the Soviet Union, The Man with a Movie Camera is the best-known film of experimental documentary pioneer Dziga Vertov.

An honest self-portrait of what we documentarists still do, not in a much more sophisticated way.

— Petra Seliskar

=48. Shoah

Claude Lanzmann, 1985

Shoah (1985)
The bravest tackling of the most difficult subject matter I’ve ever seen. Devastating and pitch-perfect.

— Saul Metzstein

=48. Lawrence of Arabia

David Lean, 1962

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

An eccentric English officer inspires the Arabs to unite against the Turks during WWI in David Lean’s seven Oscar-winner, an epic in every sense.

David Lean and JG Ballard raise issues of empire, colonialism and the individual on a platform of cinematic reflection. The screenplay by Bolt is brilliant. The characters, O’Toole… The epic nature of this film has for me never been topped.

— Oliver Schmitz

=48. L’eclisse

Michelangelo Antonioni, 1962

L’eclisse (1962)

Antonioni’s film charts the hot and cold relationship of a young couple in bustling Rome.

Antonioni [defined] the zeitgeist of the film century more precisely than any other.

— Thomas Clay

=48. Pickpocket

Robert Bresson, 1959

Pickpocket (1959)

Psychological study of a thief.

The most precise, scientific and, at the same time, realistic movie about a precise action.

— Manuel Ferrari

=48. Pather Panchali

Satyajit Ray, 1955

Pather Panchali (1955)

The first part of Satyajit Ray’s acclaimed Apu Trilogy is a lyrical, closely observed story of a peasant family in 1920s rural India.

Of all the films that I’ve ever seen, none can describe as deeply about the sacredness of human’s life as this beautiful and simple film does.

— Phan Dang-Di

=48. Rear Window

Alfred Hitchcock, 1954

Rear Window (1954)
I clearly remember the excitement I felt when I saw this film. It was the first one I saw from Hitch. After that, I saw almost all his films over a short period. I was around 15 or 16 and my parents gave me a book about him as a present. This was the first book about cinema I had in my life.

— Pablo Giorgelli

=48. GoodFellas

Martin Scorsese, 1990

GoodFellas (1990)
© Warner Bros. All Rights Reserved
With GoodFellas Scorsese gives birth to the 21st century in one of the most influential films of the last two decades. A movie that can be rewatched endlessly and remain fresh and surprising. Perfect in every aspect, behind and in front of the camera.

— Guillermo del Toro

=59. Blow Up

Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966

The refined visual style of Italian maestro Michelangelo Antonioni collides with swinging 60s London in this story of a man who may have unwittingly photographed a murder.

=59. The Conformist

Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970

Bernardo Bertolucci’s stylish period thriller stars Jean-Louis Trintignant as a repressed bureaucrat in Mussolini’s Italy who is assigned to kill his former professor.

=59. Aguirre, Wrath of God

Werner Herzog, 1972

=59. Gertrud

Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1964

The conflict of a woman between her husband, her lover, and the lover of her youth, and her failure to find happiness with any of them.

=59. A Woman Under the Influence

John Cassavetes, 1974

Study of a middle-class Los Angeles housewife whose fragile mental state is aggravated by her husband’s insensitivity. Even after a six-month period in an institution, the pattern of her life continues as before.

=59. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Sergio Leone, 1966

=59. Blue Velvet

David Lynch, 1986

In David Lynch’s idiosyncratic drama, a young man’s curiosity draws him into the twisted criminal sub-culture operating beneath the placid surface of his cosy hometown.

=59. La grande illusion

Jean Renoir, 1937

Jean Renoir’s pacifist classic is set in a German prisoner-of-war camp during WWI, where class kinship is felt across national boundaries.

=67. Badlands

Terrence Malick, 1973

A romantic account of a 15-year-old girl’s journey into violence, out of love for a 25 year-old South Dakota garbageman turned thrill killer.

=67. Blade Runner

Ridley Scott, 1982

Loosely adapted from a novel by Phillip K. Dick, Ridley Scott’s dark, saturated vision of 2019 Los Angeles is a classic of popular science-fiction cinema.

=67. Sunset Blvd.

Billy Wilder, 1950

The most caustic of European émigré directors, Wilder explored the movie industry and the delusions of stardom in Hollywood’s great poison pen letter to itself.

=67. Ugetsu Monogatari

Mizoguchi Kenji, 1953

In war-torn 16th-century Japan, two men leave their wives to seek wealth and glory in Kenji Mizoguchi’s tragic supernatural classic.

=67. Singin’ in the Rain

Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly, 1951

Hollywood’s troubled transition from silent to talking pictures at the end of the 1920s provided the inspiration for perhaps the greatest of movie musicals.

=67. In The Mood For Love

Wong Kar Wai, 2000

=67. Journey to Italy

Roberto Rossellini, 1954

This devastating study of a marriage coming apart during a holiday in Italy is the best known of the films Roberto Rossellini made with his wife Ingrid Bergman.

=67. Vivre Sa Vie

Jean-Luc Godard, 1962

Jean-Luc Godard’s fourth feature – his third with wife and muse Anna Karina – charts in 12 tableaux a would-be actress’s descent into prostitution.

=75. The Seventh Seal

Ingmar Bergman, 1957

During the plague-ravaged middle ages, a knight buys time for himself by playing chess with Death in Bergman’s much-imitated arthouse classic.

=75. Hidden (Caché)

Michael Haneke, 2004

=75. Battleship Potemkin

Sergei M Eisenstein, 1925

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.

=75. M

Fritz Lang, 1931

For his first sound film Fritz Lang turned to the story of a child killer (Peter Lorre), who is hunted down by police and underworld alike.

=75. There Will Be Blood

Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007

This operatic portrait of a diabolical oil baron is a formal tour de force and a compelling portrait of all-American 20th century sociopathy.

=75. The Shining

Stanley Kubrick, 1980

Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece of modern horror, based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel.

=75. The General

Buster Keaton, 1926

Train driver Buster Keaton gives chase when Union agents steal his locomotive in this classic silent comedy set at the time of the American Civil War.

=75. Mulholland Dr.

David Lynch, 2001

=75. A Clockwork Orange

Stanley Kubrick, 1971

A dystopian future London is the playground of a teenage gang leader in Stanley Kubrick’s stylish, controversial take on Anthony Burgess’s novel about violence and free will.

=75. Fear Eats the Soul

Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974

Fassbinder’s international breakthrough is an unconventional love story with devastating emotional power.

=75. Kes

Ken Loach, 1969

The tough, touching story of a northern schoolboy and the kestrel that brings hope to his hardscrabble life remains the most widely admired of Ken Loach’s films.

=75. Husbands

John Cassavetes, 1970

Appalled and horrified by the death of their best friend, three middle-class, middle-aged family men explode and ricochet off on a drinking marathon from New York to London.

=75. The Wild Bunch

Sam Peckinpah, 1969

A gang of outlaws goes out in a blaze of violence and glory in Sam Peckinpah’s elegiac film about the dying days of the wild west.

=75. Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom

Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s controversial adaptation of the Marquis de Sade’s novel, relocated to Benito Mussolini’s fascist republic.

=75. Jaws

Steven Spielberg, 1975

Steven Spielberg laid the template for the modern summer blockbuster with this expert thriller about the hunt for a man-eating great white shark.

=75. Los Olvidados

Luis Buñuel, 1950

Story of a group of wild children dominated by a young thug.

=91. Pierrot le Fou

Jean-Luc Godard, 1965

Riffing on the classic couple-on-the run movie, enfant terrible Jean-Luc Godard took the narrative innovations of the French New Wave close to breaking point.

=91. Un chien andalou

Luis Buñuel, 1928

A surrealist film. Opening scene is of a man slicing the eyeball of a woman with a razor.

=91. Chinatown

Roman Polanski, 1974

Roman Polanski’s brilliant thriller stars Jack Nicholson as a private eye uncovering corruption in 1930s Los Angeles, a desert town where water equals power.

=91. La Maman et la putain

Jean Eustache, 1973

Deals with the relations, largely sexual, between an anarchic young man and his two mistresses, one seemingly permanent, who keeps him, the other seemingly casual.

=91. Beau Travail

Claire Denis, 1998

=91. Opening Night

John Cassavetes, 1977

=91. The Gold Rush

Charles Chaplin, 1925

=91. Zero de Conduite

Jean Vigo, 1933

Anarchic study of life in a French boarding school.

=91. The Deer Hunter

Michael Cimino, 1977

Along with Apocalypse Now, Michael Cimino’s brutal but ultimately contemplative war movie is a key American cinematic take on the Vietnam conflict.

=91. L’argent

Robert Bresson, 1983

Bresson’s last film turns a Tolstoy novella about a forged banknote into a formidably focused meditation on the supposed root of all evil.

=91. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

John Cassavetes, 1976

=91. Sans Soleil

Chris Marker, 1982

=91. Don’t Look Now

Nicolas Roeg, 1973

Set in off-season Venice, British director Nicolas Roeg’s tragedy combines an acute study of grief with a supernaturally charged thriller plot, to beautiful and devastating effect.

=91. I Am Cuba

Mikhail Kalatozov, 1964

Four episodes just before the Revolution of 1959 in Cuba illustrating the resistance to the dictator Batista.

=91. Last Year at Marienbad

Alain Resnais, 1961

In Alain Resnais’ infamous art-house teaser, from a screenplay by Alain Robbe-Grillet, a male guest at a chateau claims he met a woman there the year before.

=91. Le Samouraï

Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967

Directors ’ top ten directors

(As derived from votes cast in the directors’ poll)

1. Federico Fellini (98 votes)

2. Stanley Kubrick (95 votes)

=3. Ingmar Bergman (82 votes)

=3. Francis Ford Coppola (82 votes)

5. Andrei Tarkovsky (81 votes)

6. Jean-Luc Godard (80 votes)

7. Martin Scorsese (75 votes)

8. Alfred Hitchcock (72 votes)

9. Kurosawa Akira (71 votes)

10. Orson Welles (68 votes)

Sight and Sound November 2021

50 years after its release, we reveal the untold stories behind A Clockwork Orange, as seen through the relationship between author Anthony Burgess and director Stanley Kubrick + Edgar Wright on Last Night in Soho, Jeymes Samuel on The Harder They Fall, Małgorzata Szumowska on Never Gonna Snow Again, Todd Haynes’s The Velvet Underground, the best of Venice and much more…

Find out more and get a copy

Originally published: 2 August 2012