Chantal Akerman’s ‘Jeanne Dielman’ Top’s BFI-Backed Critics’ Poll of 100 Greatest Films

In 1952, the Sight and Sound team had the novel idea of asking critics to name the greatest films of all time. The tradition became decennial, increasing in size and prestige as the decades passed.

The Sight and Sound poll is now a major bellwether of critical opinion on cinema and this year’s edition (its eighth) is the largest ever, with 1,639 participating critics, programmers, curators, archivists and academics each submitting their top ten ballot.

Here’s the results of that poll — from BFI’s site – beginning with “Get Out” in a tie with “The General,” “Black Girl,” “Tropical Malady,” “Once Upon a Time in the West” and “A Man Escaped,” and ending with the No. 1 winner, Chantal Akerman’s “Jeanne Dielman,” the first female-directed film to top the list.


Get Out


A poster film for Black Lives Matter, Jordan Peele’s horror-satire of white vampirism gleefully needles America’s racial malaise.

2017 USA, Japan

Directed by Jordan Peele

The General


Buster Keaton’s most lavish production and his warmest, bringing together a boy, a girl and a train amid the maelstrom of the US Civil War.

1926 USA

Directed by Buster Keaton, Clyde Bruckman

Black Girl


Ousmane Sembène lifts the mask on France’s racist post-colonial relationship with Senegal in his small yet commanding feature debut.

1965 Senegal, France

Directed by Ousmane Sembène

Tropical Malady


A work that defies straightforward understanding and suggests understandability may be overrated.

2004 France, Thailand, Germany, Italy, Switzerland

Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Once upon a Time in the West


Sergio Leone’s operatic widescreen elegy to the old American West, with the forces of corporate capitalism coming down the railroad.

1968 Italy, USA

Directed by Sergio Leone

A Man Escaped


This prison-break study is Robert Bresson at his most starkly essential: a man, four walls, his ingenuity and the mysterious inflections of fate.

1956 France

Directed by Robert Bresson

Madame de…


Max Ophuls’ woozy whirligig tracks a pair of unwanted earrings around high-society Paris – until they bear the weight of lost time and passion.

1953 France, Italy

Directed by Max Ophuls

The Leopard


Luchino Visconti’s sumptuous epic portrays the fall of 19th-century Sicilian nobility, its decadent displays of wealth tinged with melancholy.

1963 Italy, France

Directed by Luchino Visconti

Ugetsu Monogatari


Kenji Mizoguchi’s bewitching, insinuating Edo-period ghost story renders civil war as a parable of heedless male greed.

1953 Japan

Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi

Yi Yi


Urban anomie and multi-generational growing pains are given rich, relaxed expression in Edward Yang’s heartfelt Taipei family tapestry.

1999 Taiwan, Japan

Directed by Edward Yang



Like Get Out, Bong Joon Ho’s endlessly twisty, blackly sincere class-war thriller is a pop provocation for our unequal times.

2019 Republic of Korea

Directed by Bong Joon-ho

Chungking Express


A sense of wistful, romantic longing joins the two stories in Wong Kar Wai’s freewheeling portmanteau portrait of Hong Kong.

1994 Hong Kong

Directed by Wong Kar Wai

The Shining


Stanley Kubrick’s much analysed and often spoofed psychological horror spends a chilling and claustrophobic winter at the empty Overlook Hotel.

1980 USA, United Kingdom

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Histoire(s) du Cinéma


The apotheosis of Jean-Luc Godard’s experimental era, this sprawling essay film indicts the 20th century through its most popular medium.

1988 France, Switzerland

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Pierrot le fou


Jean-Luc Godard’s most effervescent escapade, a primary-coloured lovers-on-the-run blow-out heading south with Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo.

1965 France, Italy

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

The Spirit of the Beehive


Victor Erice’s exquisite impressionistic distillation of childhood fear and wonder in the ruins of the recently ended Spanish Civil War.

1973 Spain

Directed by Víctor Erice

Blue Velvet


David Lynch’s adult fairytale follows teen sleuth Kyle MacLachlan’s murder inquiry into the surreal, perverse corners of small-town America.

1986 USA

Directed by David Lynch

Céline and Julie Go Boating


Jacques Rivette’s most playful, innovative frolic, in which his irreverent Parisian heroines dissolve worlds, genres, social codes and boundaries.

1974 France

Directed by Jacques Rivette

A Matter of Life and Death


Love is rescued from the jaws of the afterlife in the Archers’ delirious World War II air-pilot fantasia.

1946 United Kingdom

Directed by Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Modern Times


Industrial modernity proves mercilessly madcap in Charlie Chaplin’s final (mostly) silent feature, one of the most inspired and ingenious of all his comedies.

1936 USA

Directed by Charles Chaplin

A Brighter Summer Day


Young love and teen delinquency in Taiwan’s early 1960s adolescence, in Edward Yang’s slow-burn, bittersweet epic.

1991 Taiwan

Directed by Edward Yang



As timely as ever in its grim poeticisation of demagogues and doom, helplessness and hope. If music be the food of death, play on.

1994 Hungary, Germany, Switzerland

Directed by Béla Tarr

Sunset Blvd.


Tinseltown’s greatest self-satire, a gothic requiem for big-screen bygones and the highs of screen stardom.

1950 USA

Directed by Billy Wilder

Sansho the Bailiff


Kenji Mizoguchi’s tragic folk saga of the tribulations of an exiled governor’s family in feudal Japan, tracked with exquisitely moving camerawork.

1954 Japan

Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi

Imitation of Life


Douglas Sirk’s melodrama holds a mirror to the hypocrisies of 1950s America with its pairs of mothers and daughters across class and racial divides.

1959 USA

Directed by Douglas Sirk

Spirited Away


Hayao Miyazaki’s rich anime fantasy follows its ten-year-old heroine into the labyrinth of a spirit-world bathhouse, teeming with phantoms and peril.

2001 Japan

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

My Neighbour Totoro


The storytelling is as simple as Totoro is inscrutable, unfolding in a series of delightful, exquisitely constructed sequences.

1988 Japan

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Journey to Italy


Roberto Rossellini’s plaintively simple portrait of a marriage on the rocks, imprinted with the ghosts of love, cultures and civilisations.

1954 Italy, France

Directed by Roberto Rossellini



Michelangelo Antonioni’s high-modernist breakthrough sends Monica Vitti in search less of her disappeared friend than her own self, via images to get lost in.

1960 Italy, France

Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni



Fritz Lang’s bombastic, stylised depiction of a future of profound inequality has influenced generations of genre filmmakers.

1927 Germany

Directed by Fritz Lang

The Gleaners and I


Agnès Varda’s essay portrait of society ’s scavenger-recyclers – herself included – is both free-radical and infectious.

2000 France

Directed by Agnès Varda

The Red Shoes


The feverish Technicolor and astonishing ballet sequences for which this film is so renowned are as spellbinding as they are disturbing.

1948 United Kingdom

Directed by Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

La Jetée


The rare short film in this list, Marker’s dazzling photo montage ruminates on memory from beyond the apocalypse.

1962 France

Directed by Chris Marker

Andrei Rublev


Andrei Tarkovsky’s epic portrait of a medieval artist may be the most wrenching depiction of belief, creativity and the search for meaning ever filmed.

1966 USSR

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

Touki Bouki


A restless young couple dream of escaping Senegal for Paris in Djibril Diop Mambéty ’s stylish, poetic, irreverent expression of post-colonial fantasies.

1973 Senegal

Directed by Djibril Diop Mambéty



Ingrid Bergman rallies Humphrey Bogart’s embittered cynic to the anti-Nazi cause in this classic romance.

1942 USA

Directed by Michael Curtiz

The Third Man


Joseph Cotten chases Orson Welles’s agent of corruption through the ruins of divided post-war Vienna in this evocative classic thriller.

1949 United Kingdom

Directed by Carol Reed



The dizzying story of wiseguy Henry Hill, from his seduction into a life of crime to his paranoid, cocaine-fuelled departure.

1990 USA

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Daughters of the Dust


Julie Dash’s visionary visual marriage between Afrocentric aesthetics and the rich emotional depth of Black womanhood is a cinematic triumph.

1991 USA

Directed by Julie Dash



Instantly heralded as a modern masterpiece, Barry Jenkins’ stunning three-part story of queer identity is both a technical and an emotional marvel.

2016 USA

Directed by Barry Jenkins

La dolce vita


Federico Fellini’s ode to Rome presents a lush, vibrant exterior to the swinging city, before revealing its rotting moral core.

1960 Italy, France

Directed by Federico Fellini

Sans Soleil


Chris Marker’s speculative travelogue-essay, reflecting on culture and history in narrated letters from Guinea to Japan to Iceland.

1982 France

Directed by Chris Marker

Sherlock Jr.


Buster Keaton’s would-be sleuth dreams himself into movie-heroic mastery in this dazzling, evergreen, meta masterpiece of silent comedy.

1924 USA

Directed by Buster Keaton

The Apartment


Billy Wilder’s then-risqué romcom, with Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine finding love amid corporate New York’s sea of sexual deception.

1960 USA

Directed by Billy Wilder

Battleship Potemkin


Sergei Eisenstein’s renowned agit-drama of proto-revolutionary mutiny and repression, often quoted but still powerful in its montage effects.

1925 USSR

Directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein

Blade Runner


Iconic neo-noir in a befouled sci-fi Los Angeles where humans and their machine replicas vie to be predators rather than prey.

1982 USA, Hong Kong

Directed by Ridley Scott

Le Mépris


Disillusion in love and cinema in Jean-Luc Godard’s most opulent and emotive production, with lovers and film legends at loggerheads in Capri.

1963 France, Italy

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

News from Home


Chantal Akerman’s epistolary film, shot in the grime of 70s New York, bridges the distance from Brussels through dictated letters from her mother.

1976 France, Belgium

Directed by Chantal Akerman

Fear Eats the Soul


Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s heart-on-sleeve melodrama of a doomed romance across racial and age divides probes social hypocrisy with feeling.

1974 Federal Republic of Germany

Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder

The Piano


This virtuoso drama of a mute woman’s and her daughter’s silent defiance of patriarchy in 19th-century New Zealand still has searing emotional heft.

1992 Australia, France

Directed by Jane Campion

The 400 Blows


François Truffaut’s free-wheeling debut, with Jean-Pierre Léaud as his rebel-schoolboy surrogate, is still a banner film for nouvelle vague lyric realism.

1959 France

Directed by François Truffaut



Barbara Loden’s tough, unsentimental portrait of a woman adrift in the industrial heartlands of the north-eastern United States.

1970 USA

Directed by Barbara Loden



An austere parable on the power of faith, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s penultimate film culminates in a transcendent resurrection scene.

1955 Denmark

Directed by Carl Th. Dreyer

North by Northwest


Insouciant big-screen thrill-games from the Master of Suspense, hounding Cary Grant’s smug adman across a continent’s span of peerless set pieces.

1959 USA

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

The Battle of Algiers


A window on Algeria’s wider liberation war, recreating a violent phase of guerrilla struggle and suppression in powerful free-documentary style.

1966 Italy, Algeria

Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo

Barry Lyndon


Stanley Kubrick’s meticulously designed epic recounts the picaresque exploits of an 18th-century Irish adventurer.

1975 USA, United Kingdom

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Killer of Sheep


Charles Burnett’s tender and witty tale of a disillusioned slaughterhouse worker and the solace to be found in the simplest moments of life.

1977 USA

Directed by Charles Burnett



Two men recruit a guide to take them into ‘the Zone’, a mysterious realm where one’s innermost wishes come true, in this metaphysical sci-fi epic.

1979 USSR

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky



The film that brought Japanese cinema to the world, this 88-minute firecracker proved a seminal assault on the notion of objectivity.

1950 Japan

Directed by Akira Kurosawa

Bicycle Thieves


The film that topped our inaugural poll in 1952, Vittorio De Sica’s indelible neorealist parable offers a sharp-eyed portrait of Italy ’s post-war privations.

1948 Italy

Directed by Vittorio De Sica

Rear Window


The Master of Suspense ratchets up the tension while dishing out insights into obsession, urban living and the dangers of the gaze.

1954 USA

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Some Like It Hot


Billy Wilder’s supreme gender-bending comedy has Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis as female-posing musicians on the lam, and many knickers in a twist.

1959 USA

Directed by Billy Wilder

À bout de souffle


Jean-Luc Godard’s cock-of-the-walk calling card, mixing pulp pastiche and upstart rebellion with Jean-Paul Belmondo’s footloose Parisian delinquent.

1960 France

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard



Fritz Lang’s rack-taut first talkie, with a searing, animalistic Peter Lorre as a serial child-murderer turned manhunt target.

1931 Germany

Directed by Fritz Lang

City Lights


A purely beautiful outing from the Tramp, this delightful urban romance features one of cinema’s most heartbreaking smiles.

1931 USA

Directed by Charles Chaplin

Pather Panchali


All the mischief, discoveries, joys and tragedies of life are given endlessly lyrical expression in Satyajit Ray’s debut, the first entry in ‘The Apu Trilogy’.

1955 India

Directed by Satyajit Ray



Jean Vigo’s headily poetic portrait of young newlyweds on – and off – Michel Simon’s barge on the Seine.

1934 France

Directed by Jean Vigo



Alfred Hitchcock’s unsparing wrong-motel shocker starring Janet Leigh is a watershed for mainstream horror and still seminal in its suspense games.

1960 USA

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock



Cinema scaled new heights of visual poetry in this deeply personal, elliptical film by the master of ‘sculpting in time’.

1975 USSR

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky


Federico Fellini’s portrait of the film director as harried ringmaster and unreliable dreamer, spinning gold from his memories and fantasies.

1963 Italy, France

Directed by Federico Fellini

Portrait of a Lady on Fire


Portrait of a Lady on Fire demonstrates Céline Sciamma’s ability to make a timelessly beautiful film that also crystallises the gender politics of her era.

2019 France

Directed by Céline Sciamma

Taxi Driver


Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader’s high-art vigilante movie for fallen times, with a coiled Robert De Niro as psycho-saviour of an infernal NYC.

1976 USA

Directed by Martin Scorsese



This feminist milestone is an anarchic comedy of subversion whose approach to montage is as exuberant as the film’s two protagonists.

1966 Czechoslovakia

Directed by Věra Chytilová



To make sense of the 20th century’s most horrific atrocity, Claude Lanzmann reinvented documentary itself, giving the form colossal new significance.

1985 France

Directed by Claude Lanzmann

The Night of the Hunter


Actor Charles Laughton’s only film as director, starring Robert Mitchum as an implacable child-hunting preacher, still leaves an indelible mark.

1955 USA

Directed by Charles Laughton

Au hasard Balthazar


Robert Bresson gave us a typically stark vision of humanity as experienced by a put-upon, maltreated beast of burden that passes from owner to owner.

1966 France, Sweden

Directed by Robert Bresson

Do the Right Thing


Racial tensions reach boiling point in Spike Lee’s incandescent portrait of a Brooklyn neighbourhood on the hottest day of the year.

1989 USA

Directed by Spike Lee



Jacques Tati’s most painstaking accomplishment blends deft slapstick, endless visual ingenuity and sonic comedy in a stupendous modern satire.

1967 France

Directed by Jacques Tati

Late Spring


The first of Yasujirō Ozu’s great cycle of dramas that place the joys and sadnesses of family life in the context of a Japan disrupted by modernity.

1949 Japan

Directed by Yasujirō Ozu

The Passion of Joan of Arc


Carl Theodor Dreyer’s rapturous silent masterpiece, with soulful close-ups of Renée Jeanne “Maria” Falconetti’s tremulous martyr, transcending tyranny and temporality.

1927 France

Directed by Carl Th. Dreyer

Seven Samurai


Akira Kurosawa’s monumental, scintillating tale of hired samurai protecting a peasant village: period thriller and moral/political fable in one.

1954 Japan

Directed by Akira Kurosawa

Apocalypse Now


Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam War blowout, a hell-trip through the smoke and dazzle of imperial America’s most grandstanding rogue show.

1979 USA

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola



Any sense of a conventional psychodrama is constantly disrupted by the experimental, improvisatory filmmaking.

1966 Sweden

Directed by Ingmar Bergman



The more ‘information’ we’re offered about the case, the more we come to realise that there are no easy answers to any of the questions being raised.

1989 Iran

Directed by Abbas Kiarostami

Meshes of the Afternoon


Had Californian sunlight ever looked as suggestive or sinister before the sharply etched dreamworld of Meshes of the Afternoon?

1943 USA

Directed by Maya Deren, Alexander Hackenschmied

The Searchers


This poll’s last western standing, John Ford’s sweeping, stirring rescue-or-revenge quest remains a film of magnificent mystery and poetry.

1956 USA

Directed by John Ford

Cléo from 5 to 7


In real time, Cléo becomes more real, more subject than object. She discards her whipped-cream wig and polka dots for a simple black shift. She performs less and feels more.

1962 France, Italy

Directed by Agnès Varda

La Règle du jeu


Huge-spirited and sharp-eyed, Jean Renoir’s French-society fresco gathers high classes and low for a weekend of country-house fallout.

1939 France

Directed by Jean Renoir

The Godfather


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.

1972 USA

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans


The first American film by one of German expressionism’s leading exponents, this lush, atmospheric silent drama is replete with groundbreaking cinematography.

1927 USA

Directed by F.W. Murnau

Singin’ in the Rain


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.

1951 USA

Directed by Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen

Man with a Movie Camera


Bottomless invention and frenetic, dizzying montage make this city symphony one of cinema’s sharpest, most exciting experiences nearly a century after its release.

1929 USSR

Directed by Dziga Vertov

Mulholland Dr.


Hollywood is dark and dangerous, yet alluring, in David Lynch’s acclaimed thriller.

2001 France, USA

Directed by David Lynch

Beau travail


Claire Denis’s great gift is to evoke emotion with gesture and juxtaposition. In the desert, water shimmers and ripples, naked shoulders perspire, black mosquito nets recall sheer lingerie.

1998 France

Directed by Claire Denis

2001: A Space Odyssey


Stanley Kubrick’s grand vision of mankind’s journey from its hominid beginnings to its star-child evolution is a towering achievement of science-fiction cinema.

1968 USA, United Kingdom

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

In the Mood for Love


Wong Kar Wai’s masterpiece is a heartbreaking story of illicit love that pulses with the ache of repressed desire.

2000 Hong Kong, France

Directed by Wong Kar Wai

Tokyo Story


Told in Yasujirō Ozu’s simple and elegant style, this story of intergenerational discord is heartbreaking and deeply human.

1953 Japan

Directed by Yasujirō Ozu

Citizen Kane


Famously sitting at the top of the Sight and Sound poll from 1962 to 2002, Orson Welles’s masterful debut, about newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane, remains an enduring classic.

1941 USA

Directed by Orson Welles



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.

1958 USA

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Jeanne Dielman 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles


A magnificent epic of experimental cinema offering a feminist perspective on recurrent events of everyday life.

1975 Belgium, France

Directed by Chantal Akerman

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