Sound On Sight’s Best Films Ever Made

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With the notion of film canonization once again at issue, we thought it might be an appropriate occasion to check in on our staff’s collective opinion of the greatest films of all time. We had no idea what to expect; our contributors come from all over the world and come from vastly different backgrounds and occupations. The results were, appropriately, eclectic, ranging from acknowledged cornerstones to contemporary classics.

A few facts worth throwing in: with five films appearing, Orson Welles is the most frequently-cited director, followed by Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock and Akira Kurosawa; the newest film to merit an appearance was Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds; animated films made a dent, particularly Toy Story and Snow White;  several shorts managed to find their way in, as well.

The list, along with some individual writers’ thoughts on the entries that make up the Top 10, follow including special mention of three short films that appeared on quite a few lists.

Outer Space Movie

Outer Space
Directed by Peter Tscherkassky
Written by Peter Tscherkassky
Austria, 2000

Outer Space has gained a reputation over the years as being a key experimental film alongside the works of such legends as Stan Brakhage and Michael Snow. Horror buffs will recognise the actress in the short as Barbara Hershey from veteran Canadian-born filmmaker Sidney J. Furie’s film The Entity. Director Peter Tscherkassky (an Austrian filmmaker at the forefront of avant-garde film practice) essentially samples a sequence from that 1981 Hollywood flick, reducing the original work with heavy photo-manipulation and editing to astonishing effects and unimaginable beauty. Tscherkassky strips the colour and reworks the frames with superimposing images, fragmented through a rapid montage, and adds a new, highly aggressive soundtrack. The result is magnificent. Though only ten minutes in length Outer Space is a lush cinematic production and a relentless assault on our senses.

– Ricky D


Un chien andalou
Directed by Luis Buñuel
France, 1929

In 1929 Luis Bunuel joined forces with Salvador Dali to create Un chien andalou, an experimental and unforgettable seventeen-minute surrealist masterpiece. Buñuel famously said that he and Dalí wrote the film by telling one another their dreams. The film went on to influence the horror genre indefinitely. After all, even as manipulative as the “dream” device is, it’s still a proven way to jolt an audience. David Lynch is contemporary cinema’s most devoted student of Un chien andalou – the severed ear at the beginning of Blue Velvet is a direct allusion to Buñuel’s blood curdling famous closeup on the slashing of an eyeball with a razor. Technically, that scene alone could classify Un chien andalou as the first splatter film. Though it is not a horror film per se, the film does contain a number of disturbing images: an army of ants crawling through a hole in a man’s hand, dead animals strung on top of a piano and children playing with dismembered hands. Buñuel and Dalí compile images and scenes that will make you cringe and in the case of the splitting eyeball – look away. Buñuel exploits the viewer, through these horrific images understanding fully well that people enjoy seeing something macabre. The film has lived up to its aim to shock, as viewed in modern times it’s still shocking.

– Ricky D

La Jetée

La Jetée
Directed by Chris Marker
Written by Chris Marker
France, 1962

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, Chris Marker’s La Jetée is worthy of a novel. His 28-minute featurette, composed almost entirely of stark black and white photos, tells a haunting, forlorn romance in an arresting tableau of images. Avant garde in almost every way imaginable, La Jetée was an experimental picture that has since become a landmark and blue print for future science fiction films, including Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, and James Cameron’s The Terminator.

The most crucial 28 minutes in the history of cinema, La Jetée is powerful, poignant, and picturesque, in every sense of the word.

– Justin Li

Chaplin, Charlie (Modern Times)_01

10- Modern Times
Directed by Charles Chaplin
Written by Charles Chaplin
USA/UK, 1936

A great movie can capture the mood and essence of its time and place perfectly, acting as a time capsule for future generations to get a glimpse of what life was like at that particular point. A true classic, however, can effectively break free of the shackles of time, and resonate with almost everyone in some manner, and Modern Times manages to do just that. Irrefutable proof that true cinematic art can overcome perceived limitations such as a lack of colour or dialogue, Chaplin elevates a seemingly innocuous story about the misfortunes of two individuals into something that continues to be relevant even today, with no signs of becoming a relic anytime soon.

The opening segment of the movie is an eerily accurate re-enactment of working life, whether one was a factory worker in the 30s, or a retail worker in modern day, and acts as a fantastic showcase of Chaplin’s physical capabilities. But the movie loses nothing once it exits the factory; rather, the visual gags, such as Chaplin unwittingly finding himself at the head of a protest march, or accidentally foiling a prison breakout, continue to be hilarious. The nonsense song plays wonderfully despite being gibberish, and the optimistic ending still brings out a smile.

Which is not to say Chaplin carries the movie on his own. Paulette Goddard does her fair share of heavy lifting a well, with an ethereal beauty that no amount of grime or tattered clothing can conceal. She plays extremely well off Chaplin, and more than holds her own even when she doesn’t share the screen with him, conveying both heartbreaking sadness and intoxicating joy equally capably. Overall, the movie is a superb piece of filmmaking, with ideas that resonate even today, and a script that doesn’t betray its age in the slightest. It deserves every amount of praise it has gotten to date and more, and every film fan owes it to themselves to see this masterpiece atleast once.

Deepayan Sengupta

12 Angry Men movie original

9- 12 Angry Men
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by Reginald Rose
USA, 1957

For most people, the appearance of a jury duty summons in the mailbox is considered a burden, something that distracts them from their normal lives and something they hope will go away quickly. 12 Angry Men forcefully reminds us to respect the awesome power of the state, as the sole legitimate force to deprive us of life, liberty and property, and our role in the system of justice through which it acts.

What is remarkable about 12 Angry Men is how cinematic 12 men in a room talking can be. With a great ensemble cast, most notably Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb, there are great moments of tension as a young defendant’s life hangs in the balance and the viewer wonders whether he will be found guilty and whether he should be found guilty. In the process, director Sidney Lumet and screenwriter Reginald Rose delve into the various psychological faults that can cloud one’s judgement. It is a perfect exercise in enlightened drama and pacing.

– Erik Bondurant


8- Goodfellas
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Written by Nicholas Pileggi
USA, 1990

As great as the Godfather films are, there’s at least one score on which they’re no match for Martin Scorsese’s gangster classic Goodfellas: where Coppola’s films treat the mob as a kind of holy order (albeit a violent, corrupt, incestuous one), Goodfellas recognizes that, ultimately, it’s just a criminal organization made up of, well, criminals. This blessing we can attribute solely to Henry Hill, the unabashedly opportunistic ex-mobster whose desire to cash in on his criminal glory days infects the movie with a kind of cynical glee. As filtered through author and journalist Nicholas Pileggi’s spectacular script, Hill’s wild tales are given just the right injections of subjective insight (largely provided by the sharp narration), drug-fueled mania (the entire, remarkable, helicopter-graced climax), and, of course, sneering menace, most memorably in the form of Joe Pesci’s mercurial creep. The Godfather movies might be able to claim the mystique, but Goodfellas is both more fun and more naggingly human.

– Simon Howell


7- Psycho
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Joseph Stefano
USA, 1960

After more than fifty years since first shocking the film industry and audience’s psychological inadequacies, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is still marveled as being the archetypical foundation for modern day horror films, as well as the driving force behind today’s censorship standards. Since its release in 1960, Psycho’s mass appeal for over five decades undoubtedly comes from its atypical iconic elements. From drawing sympathy toward evil, creating violence with the lack of imagery and using the camera to manipulate the audience’s point of view, Psycho has unquestionably marked itself as an influential timeless classic in the eyes of both filmmakers and fans alike.

Perhaps noted as the most famous scene in cinematic history, the 45-second shower scene encapsulates all the brilliant elements that make this film a masterpiece. After spending a third of the film with Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane, in a short electrifyingly brutal scene, the film switches to Bates’ point of view and the audience is invited to sympathize with his psychotic dilemma over confronting his mother’s fatal crime. The effect to play with the audience’s sympathy was never vastly dealt with in mainstream filmmaking before. Not only was it pioneering, but it was the foundation to what was to become the “slasher” sub-genre. As many horror films during its time were in the third person, Hitchcock’s use of first person shooting between victim and killer, maneuvers the audience to exactly where the suspense occurs. Thus the audience identifies with the crisis, intensifying the horror more so than actually displayed on screen. If it wasn’t for this quintessential scene, we wouldn’t have the slow-motion violence of Bonnie and Clyde in the later part of the 1960s, nor would we have the evolved slasher films like Halloween in the 1970s and the Saw films of today.

One can surely go and on about the vast influence of Psycho and the ingeniousness of Alfred Hitchcock, but to do so would only make the point sound repetitive. Psycho was and is so ahead of its time, so detailed, so risqué in more ways than one, that by not including it in the pantheon of greatest films ever made would make any other choice irreverent and irrelevant.

– Chris Clemente


#6- Apocalypse Now
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Written by John Milius and Francis Ford Coppola
USA, 1979

Seeing Francis Ford Coppola’s revered 1979 Vietnam war epic Apocalypse Now on Sound on Sight’s collective 10 best films of all time list will have readers safely assume that as a team, we believe it to be one of the greatest films ever and, more pertinently, the greatest was theme picture since the birth of film. That seems obvious enough, but the real question is ‘Why?’. There re several other legitimate contenders to the throne, each boasting enough compelling qualities to have some argue as to why they could usurp Coppola’s opus. Saving Private Ryan, All Quiet on the Western Front, Stalingrad, The Thin Red Line and the list could easily go on.

Apocalypse Now, in addition to being of the the all time great war pictures, is without question the most unique, a characteristic due in large part to its peculiarly subtle genre bending capabilities. Granted, there have been comedy, science-fiction and horror films which utilized a large scale war as a backdrop, but director Coppola goes about turning the war film on its head in much more unobtrusive fashion. The movie features a fascinating story for its foundation, tremendous cinematography, judicious editing and legendary acting, but each of those aspects, when moulded by a storyteller of Coppola’s calibre, produces so much more than just a war film. It is about what he is doing with the tools at his disposal without, ironically, ever being explicit about what it is he is doing with them. Apocalypse Now is a war film first, but a horror film second. It follows the familiar structure of a horror film with a remarkably keen eye, presenting the primary plot and protagonist in a blanket of relative normalcy (considering that the hero is not in the best mental condition at the start of the picture), even throwing in some oddball humour with the famous beach surf scene, only for the story’s far eerier, more unsettling tone to creep in as Captain Willard’s (Martin Sheen) boat slowly yet unmistakably makes its way into the proverbial heart of darkness. The new and the peculiar become the all out strange, the strange becomes uncomfortably oblique, concluding in a horrific encounter with a clearly delusional man, Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who, having found his nesting ground deep in the Vietnamese jungle, believes himself to be a god of some sort, and not a very nice one either. So many war movies want to depict how war is hell. Apocalypse Now does so by forgoing traditional war film narratives, opting for a discomforting journey on a haunting river from which there may be no return. Even seeing the film again for the umpteenth time, knowing full well what lies ahead, a sense of malaise takes over us yet again…

– Edgar Chaput

2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)

#5- 2001: A Space Odyssey
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke
USA/UK, 1968

Losing none of its visual or visceral splendor since its introduction to the world in 1968, one year before mankind would actually step foot on the cratered surface of the moon, 2001: A Space Odyssey remains an unparalleled cinematic representation of what it must have been like to stand in awe of that moment when the vastness of the universe and indeed space travel itself had become an indelible part of the human experience. 2001 is a heady and sublime tour de force of widescreen visual compositions, elegant and fluid camera work, exquisite production design and enduring mind-blowing and bending special effects. In an almost docudrama style, the film’s operatic narrative chronicles mankind’s dealings with an alien super intelligence in our prehistory, a (then) future present, leading into a surrealist third act of light and color that suggests the next leap in human evolution.

Drawing inspiration from a short story called The Sentinel by science fiction writing great Arthur C. Clarke- the film represents Kubrick at perhaps the height of his creative powers as a director pushing the art form to new levels by penetrating a deeper layer of the viewer’s subconscious, not only with its phantasmagoric finale but also in it’s sheer scope that serves to drive theme and idea over plot: Spaceships photographed inside and out dwarf their human counterparts, the glacial movement and grace of satellites and heavenly bodies is considered and the dramatic core of the film rests in the minimalist interplay between man and machine. The supercomputer HAL 9000 (as voiced by Douglas Rain) stands as the film’s crowning creation- equal parts iconic and antagonistic, but always imbued with pathos- the character is a startling microcosm of a life form nearing a crucial juncture along in it’s own parallel evolutionary path. 2001 continues to endure not only for the ubiquity of its legacy, but also in its mysteries that film buffs have been trying to unravel for decades. It is also still the ultimate trip a film goer can take in its original 70mm presentation.

– Gregory Ashman

Sunrise movie

#4- Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
Directed by F.W. Murnau
Written by Hermann Sudermann and Carl Mayer
USA, 1927

Aching with idealism, F.W. Murnau defies all cloying sentimentality in his simple tale of deception and love. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans remains over eighty years after its initial release, one of the most powerful and innovative films to grace the screen. Murnau moves the camera in a way that no one had before and few since have mastered. Still one of the greatest shots of all time, the nameless Man moves through the marches to meet up with the Woman from the City and the camera follows his actions before breaking away and beating him to his destination. Not only a technical feat which continues to impress cinematographers and film theorists, the shift within the scene from a POV shot to an ambiguous omnipotence is still mysterious and evocative for contemporary audiences.  Romantic, horrifying and deceptively simple, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans is one of the most beautiful and ambitious films ever made.

– Justine Smith

pulp_fiction_Butch Coolidge_Marsellus Wallace

3- Pulp Fiction
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Written by Roger Avary and Quentin Tarantino
USA, 1994

The youngest entry in the Sound on Sight Top 10, Pulp Fiction is probably the most influential and critically-acclaimed works of Mr Quentin Tarantino – not bad from a guy who gained his extensive film knowledge while working in a video store.

I honestly can’t remember when I first watched Pulp Fiction – I remember watching Reservoir Dogs first and being utterly mesmerised by it – but it took a couple of viewings of Pulp Fiction for me to take notice of what Tarantino could do behind the camera.

There is so much that can be said about this film that has contributed to its success – from the first bars of the Miserlou, you can tell you are about to watch a classic. With the combined talents of Pulp Fiction’s ensemble cast, we are brought down into the LA’s criminal underworld, where killers talk about burgers and couples hold-up a diner during breakfast. The film’s success subsequently revived the careers of John Travolta and Uma Thurman, as well as threw Samuel L. Jackson into the limelight, from what has become arguably his most iconic role as Jules Winnfield. His intense monologue with Tim Roth shows to be a ‘diamond in the rough’ of some sorts; he knows that he has done wrong and decides to get out due to what he sees as divine intervention. It’s just as well, as the other characters seem destined to a tainted future.

There is something rich and almost grungy about Pulp Fiction’s appearance that makes it so endearing, yet Tarantino brought an element of smarts and class in how the film is put together; he sets his three stories – Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace’s Wife, The Gold Watch and The Bonnie Situation – at a blistering pace, all unconventionally yet perfectly edited to its equally cool soundtrack.

Imitable, violent yet compulsive viewing, Tarantino brought Hollywood down to its knees with only his second feature film and even after 17 years, nothing captures the significance in retro popular culture like Pulp Fiction.

– Katie Wong

Citizen Kane

#2- Citizen Kane
Directed by Orson Welles
Written by Orson Welles and Herman Mankiewicz
USA, 1941

As far back as the 5th grade, I was an Orson Welles fan. His War of the Worlds radio broadcast, his narration on the Nostradamus movie and even the parody of him on the cartoon show The Critic all lit up my imagination.

It wasn’t until my college days when I discovered his career as a filmmaker. I popped in a DVD of his most famous feature on a whim, and have been a collector of his other directorial efforts ever since. The Trial and F for Fake are my personal favorites, but Citizen Kane remains a great example of the man’s technical abilities. The photography, the screenplay, the acting, the music – everything that makes a movie great are hit upon, and everything that makes movies great now were done first then.

More than anything though, I love the behind the scenes situation of the film. How Orson challenged William Randolph Hearst – one of the wealthiest and most powerful men of the day – is nothing short of legend. And Hollywood took a huge gamble on this project, by giving Welles an incredible contract with creative control, all for his first film. Such power given to a first time feature film director behind a controversial production – A perfect storm lead to a perfect movie.

Orson would joke that he started at the top and worked his way to the bottom after Kane. That he was practically blacklisted from Hollywood after this production is completely tragic. He died a month before I was born. Had he lived into my generation, I have no doubt he would’ve embraced crowd funding and digital filmmaking techniques. Of course, we’ll never really know, but I can always imagine.

– Bill Arceneaux


1- The Godfather
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Written by Mario Puzo & Francis Ford Coppola
USA, 1972

The ballots have been cast, the votes tallied and finally the veil of omertà can be lifted as we’ve been made an offer we couldn’t refuse – The Godfather has been bloodily elected as the greatest movie ever made by the Sound on Sight critical fraternity. This unlikely win is criminally mirrored in Sight & Sounds recent Greatest Films Of All Time poll where the film has occupied a high ranking since its release in 1972, but only this year has it been partitioned from its successful twin The Godfather Part 2 with one vote only counting for only one of the films under the new regime, causing the mafioso’s rankings to fall to 21st and 31st positions in the pantheon, still an admirable achievement as one of a meagre handful films to obtain a ranking that were made in the past forty years.

Director Francis Ford Coppola, Paramount’s third choice of helmsman  after the executives were turned down by both Sergio Leone and Peter Bogdanovich, took a schlocky, by all accounts badly written novel and drawing from his own Italian heritage where the family is profoundly important – the film hinges on meals and weddings, funerals and holidays – and elevated the drama to near operatic intensity. The Godfather is the story of one man’s descent into a moral Gehenna through the prism of organised crime in the immediate post World War 2 period, as young veteran Michael Corleone reluctantly takes the reigns of his fathers Cosa Nostra empire, with the Machiavellian maneuvering of the competing criminal dynasties propogating a Shakespearean sense of tragedy which seethes in every scene. Coppola fought for both his desired and controversial casting options, giving Brando’s career a new lease of life as the aging and mumbling Vito Corleone after years in the wilderness and providing a unknown Al Pacino with the role of a lifetime, as the corrupted Michael, with a performance that I personally consider as amongst the best screen readings in history.

So much of the movie has entered the lexicon of cinema making it nigh impossible to dismantle its legendary reputation as the American Dream writ large, the unceasing seduction of more power, the acquisition of vast wealth, the merciless crushing of your enemies  with some musings on just how tenuous that position of authority can be – a couple of punks armed with .38′s can bring the temple crashing down. Master cinematographer Gordon ‘The Prince Of Darkness’ Willis submerges the drama into a cloaked world of violence, betrayal and murder. The Nino Rota score has achieved the same cultural cache as the whistling Spaghetti Westerns themes of Ennio Morricone or the ominous submerged acoustics of John Williams for Jaws, and all the performances are pitch perfect, as Kubrick once said it is a strong contender for the best cast movie ever made, from the central roles of the Corleone family and their camarilla kin down to the granite faces of the felonious foot soldiers. Walter Murch’s post production strokes of élan such as the match cuts and sound design are ground breaking in their brilliance, and the impeccable re-creation of the late 1940′s from designer Dean Tavoularis all blend to make this a sumptuous cinematic feast.

So why has it endured? Maybe its the fleeting moments, the masterful opening wedding montage, the horse in the bed, Michael’s and Kay’s marriage of love disintegrating into secret convenience, the electrifying police captain assassination as the subway cars thunder overhead, the pastrol lull in a sepia toned Sciliy, and James Caan’s volcanic Sonny meeting his terrible end, twitching and dancing like a crimson squibbed marionette. The Godfathers dominant themes of corruption and the elites abuses of power with murderous intent remains tangible and contemporary in the 21st century, and whilst the real world mafia has been severley diminished by law enforcement efforts over the past few decades it seems their celluloid counterpart is destined to endure in the hearts of film lovers everywhere.

– John McEntee

Click here to every contributor’s individual picks

  1. […] on the subject of critics my professional colleagues at Sound On Sight list can be viewed here, a reasonably eclectic collection which I feel blessed to have included my meandering opinions, […]

  2. DJ says

    I have always believed that the IMDB 250 is the best list out of all of them. No it’s not perfect, but none of these so called “best of lists” are perfect. The IMDB list has a much better formula. The sight and sound list is flawed from the beginning because it limits critics to only picking ten films, which is just criminal.

  3. Lucy Shillon says

    It seems people are conditioned to believe that in order to have a list of the greatest films ever made, one needs to replicate every other list floating around the internet. I actually respect this list very much. Elitist and pretentious people will frown down on a list with mostly American films but truthfully, every film on the list is incredibly influential and important in the history of cinema.
    To say that a list NEEDS to have more non American films is ridiculous. There should be no restrictions, nor rules, nor expectations – simply honesty. I find this list incredibly honest.

    Sasa needs to chill out. There is not one bad choice listed above. Each film is incredible. In fact, if anyone should be embarrassed, it is Sasa. Throwing around cheap insults and trolling around the internet doesn’t make you a better person nor judge of movies. You must be very unhappy in life to let a simple list upset you so much. I recommend meditating or perhaps putting aside a day to sit down and watch all thirteen films listed above. I’m sure once your viewing experience is over, you will be a much happier person.

    1. Sasa says

      Actually I am very unhappy, athough I am not sure about the insults. I used the words “intellectual dishonesty” and “lame”. It has to be my bad english. Maybe I went to far. Sory.

  4. Francesco says

    I think there should be movies from other countries.
    Just think about movies like La dolce vita or Breathless.
    But i am not surprised at all.

  5. Bill Mesce says

    Lists like this are always bound to tick people off. Speaking for myself as one of the contributors, I’d venture that the results are partly due to how each of us framed the mandate in our minds.
    We were asked for our personal list of best films. In my head, I made a decision to restrict the list to domestic, mainstream commercial releases because it was my feeling those would be movies recognizable to the bulk of the readership. I also distinguished between movies I liked and movies I thought were important. I had movies on my list that I HATED, but I thought they were important contributors to the evolutionary course of commercial film.
    Lists like this, at best, provide food for thought. They should engender discussion because the subjective nature of the exercise prevents their ever being a definitive list.
    We’re talking about creative works here. You can’t just slap a ruler against each and say, “Well, this one is this great, but this one is an inch more great!”
    From the individual choices to the way each of us weighted/biased/slanted their lists, this is strictly, completely, and wholly a subjective judgment call.
    That said, it’s fuel for discussion. There’s not a single film on the combined lists of all the contributors that isn’t a worthy film for one reason or another, which doesn’t mean there’s not an equal number that weren’t mentioned that would’ve been worthy additions.
    The great thing about film — or music, dance, painting, sculpture, poetry, literature — is that the greatness we find in a film is often determined by what we want — and can — see. There are even moments of greatness in some terrible films for the eyes looking for it.
    I think everybody brought their best game to this. I don’t think it speaks ill of them or of the site that it isn’t as internationally comprehensive as it could’ve been, or as chronologically deep as it could’ve been. Tell me it could’ve been a more diversified list, and I’ll say, Ok, that’s a discussion to have. Tell me this is a bad list and that’s not a discussion I want to sit in on.

    1. Sasa says

      Sory man, but in a certain way it is a bad list, because it claims to be the list of the Best Films of All Time, while in reality it is made only of films from one country. Look at the history of the Sight and Sound lists and you realize that it never happened before. This list looks like it was made by one person who likes only US cinema or from a couple of clones with the same exact taste for movies. Sad.

  6. Staindslaved says

    It was stated initially that the list was constructed by simply how many times a film appeared on a Sound on Sight contributors list. I agree that its not a definitive list and that it is indeed lacking non-American productions (Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is noticeably absent) but it is indeed a top 10 list as chosen by Sound on Sight, which is all it claimed to be.

    I’ve had numerous discussions in the past about American films vs. rest of the world cinema. Any given year the best film or films can come from any country and a great or classic film can be made by anyone anywhere. But, the vast majority of great films come from America. The reason for this is because it is simply a biased system. America produces more films per year and spends excessively more on them than probably the rest of the world combined. They also have a habit of importing the best of talent around the world. Just look at the appearance of Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock on this list. Neither is American nor did their careers in showbiz start in America yet their films are produced by American companies and therefore get the American label. Lawrence of Arabia is about as European as a film could possibly be staring a largely British cast, directed and written by Englishmen and even produced by an Austrian…yet Columbia Pictures made it so it’s an “American” film.

    As much as I hate to say it American film companies are like the New York Yankees. They’re in the playoffs every year and play in more World Series than the next ten teams combined because they spend far more than anyone else and bring in (steal) the best talent from everybody else.

    In closing though it would be cool to see a top 10 non-American film list from Sound on Sight. Ricky and Simon get on that will you.

    1. Sasa says

      The imdb list which is made by ordinary (non expert) people is more balanced (usa vs the world) than this list.

  7. Sasa says

    Come on guys. Please don’t do that. Don’t make me lose the respect I have for you. 10 greatest films of all time?
    Just American films? How can you call yourself critics? No European cinema and no Asian cinema? Really? Think about it! No Kurosawa, Ozu, Fellini, Antonioni, Godard, Rosellini, Mizoguchi, de Sica, early Lang, …
    I would appreciate a reply. (special mention doesn’t count)

    1. Josh Slater-Williams says

      It’s an unfortunate result of the consensus system, but at least non-English language cinema had a prominent presence in many of the individual lists.

      A lot more so than for a similar exercise I recently contributed to:

      1. Sasa says

        Yes, but when you finished the list, you had to realize it is not going to work.
        There is no point in publishing this list.
        This is not the list of the greatest films of all time.
        It is completly different from the Sight and Sound list.
        That was the list of the greatest films of all time,
        while these are the favorite movies of a couple of pro Hollywood film buffs. It is completly different.
        You need a little bit of intellectual honesty, to recognize that you failed to produce what you wanted to and not to publish it.
        How would it look if I made a list of greatest tennis players of all time and there were only Americans in it?
        Would ESPN publish it? Think about it.
        It is so sad, but it tells a lot more about the S.onS. staff than about cinema itself.
        Of course you can always change it to The Best American Films of All Time. That would make sense. What do you think?

        P.S. Sory for my bad english.

        1. Justin Li says

          I see what your saying, but I want to take issue with your example/analogy.

          It’s true that in a list of best tennis players, ESPN would likely name predominantly non-American players, but such is the nature of the sport. Tennis is very much an international game dominated by international players, and Americans (by and large) don’t usually place in the top ranks.

          But let’s use a different example, a different sport. Let’s say ESPN did a poll of the best ice hockey players of all time: they’d likely name a bunch of Canadians or Russians. Why? Because in hockey, Canada and Russia are the main superpowers. This isn’t to say that there aren’t great American, Swedish or Finnish players, but in a list of the top 10, their representation on said list would be obviously out of proportion.

          Or what if ESPN made a list of the best basketball players? Or boxers? Sure, there’d be a bunch of international talent considered amongst the greats, but what erudite list wouldn’t include Ali or Jordan, Joe Louis or Larry Bird, Sugar Ray Robinson or Magic Johnson? What would YOU say to someone that argued that there were too many American choices on that list?

          This goes for movies as well. Not to take anything away from international cinema (I personally voted for Vittorio De Sica, Jean Renoir, Chris Marker, Federico Fellini, Marcel Carné, Akira Kurosawa and Ozu), but it’s American film that dominates global consciousness. It’s American film that has more influence than any other comparable institution. So in a poll of the greatest of all time, how is it illogical for the list to be dominated by American films? Can you really argue any different?

          In terms of an analogy, the relationship/ratio between great American and international cinema is closer to that in boxing then in tennis; certainly not as diverse as in football (the real kind), nor as esoteric as the American version.

          If you asked a bunch of French men and women what the greatest films are, they’d likely list films by Truffaut, Franju, Demy, Chabrol, Eustache, Malle, Clouzot or Godard. But I guarantee you that a lot of them will also list a bunch of Hollywood/American films as well. Now, ask a publication consisting mostly of English-speaking Westerners (like us or Sight & Sound), and I wonder what the results would be?

          Is any side more ‘accurate’ than other? Certainly not. The truth is, our individual list of the top ten are subjective (I chose a careful top 20, then a random top 10 and put them in alphabetical order). The final tally is subjective as well (and, like Josh said, not based on a weighted system). Greatness can hardly be measured in numbers and this list hardly aims to do so, but as a general consensus of Canadian/American/British opinion on the best films of all time, this is what we surmounted to.

          I think you need to see that, although somewhat valid, your criticism of the list is subjective as well.

          1. Sasa says

            – “your criticism of the list is subjective as well”
            I don’t see what is subjective in my claim that there are only American films on this list. It is just a fact.
            I am not claiming that there is anything wrong with those movies.

            – “but it’s American film that dominates global consciousness.” I am not sure what to make of this claim. It is true, but does American cinema dominate the consciousness of film critics? It shouldn’t. If you check the past editions of Sight and Sound lists, you will see that they are well balanced.

            If you belive that historically the the relationship/ratio between great American and international cinema is in favor of American cinema, you should take some time and explore the history of the Japanese cinema for example.
            Do you really belive that America has produced more quality films than all the world combined?
            (By quality I mean the top)

            You, as film critics have a resposibility towards cinema as a whole. You shouldn’t favor just the American cinema (wich is what this list is doing) or look for alibys why the US cinema is so dominant. Or maybe I’m just a naive idealist.

            1. Justin Li says

              “I don’t see what is subjective in my claim that there are only American films on this list. It is just a fact. I am not claiming that there is anything wrong with those movies.”
              – You said, “In my opinion it is not fair to call this the list of greatest movies of all time” because there are “no European cinema and no Asian cinema”. Your argument that a top 10 list is bogus if it only has US movies IS subjective because that’s what YOU feel. This is your opinion; hence it’s subjective (although I might agree with you).

              “The imdb list which is made by ordinary (non expert) people is more balanced (usa vs the world) than this list.”
              – The top 10 of the top 250 films on imdb are ALL American movies. How is this “more balanced”? And who cares?

              “If you take the time to look at the history of the Sight and Sound lists, you will see that it never happened that all movies were American. It just doesn’t make sense. A list like that wouldn’t make sense.”
              – If you had taken the time to look at OUR individual lists and not compare it with some other publication, you’d see that the 10th and 9th seed on the list had 4 appearances respectively. Your beloved ‘foreign films’ like ‘Bicycle Thieves’ and ‘Tokyo Story’ appeared 3 times (I had both of them in my list), tying them for 11th overall. They both could’ve been in the top 10 if they had a couple of more votes and the fact that they didn’t is just a chance coincidence. It was just the luck (or bad luck) of the draw but it shows that we DO care about international cinema. Did I mention that La Jetee appeared 4 times as well? It could’ve been on the list but then we’d have a top 11, so for the purpose of brevity and to adhere to normal list-making convention (which is the ENTIRE Raison d’être of this article), we made it a part of the special mention for short films (which, incidentally, are all foreign. Is this indicative of what “pro Hollywood film buffs” think?).

              “You should take some time and explore the history of the Japanese cinema”
              – Like it says in the second paragraph of this article, Kurosawa is one of the most frequently cited directors on our lists. If you bothered to “take some time and explore” our individual lists and count, you’d find that Kurosawa’s films appear around nine times (over 4 movies). Since the 9 votes divided between 4 movies, none of his films appear in the top 10. Not to mention the multiple mentions of Ozu and ‘Tokyo Story’. Their omission from the list is because of clerical reasons, not critical. We still appreciate Japanese cinema regardless.

              “It is a bad list because it claims to be the list of the Best Films of All Time, while in reality it is made only of films from one country”
              – I think you’re missing the point. The title of the article is flippant and used as a satire of the Sight & Sound list. This poll, like Rotten Tomatoes, is an aggregate. The list doesn’t hope to gauge what are ‘the ten best films of all time’; it tallies the top 10 movies that appeared on most of our lists. This poll is QUANTITATIVE, not QUALTATIVE. By saying ‘Modern Times’ is tenth on our list doesn’t mean that we all think it’s the tenth best film of all time. It just means that it’s the tenth most prevalent film to appear in our respective lists (4 times). In fact, most of us didn’t vote for the film. Same goes for ‘The Godfather’. It’s number one because it appeared on the most lists, not because we all conspired together, mulled it over, and decided it was first. I’m sure there are a some of us that think ‘Modern Times’ is better than ‘The Godfather’, and that ‘Tokyo Story’ is better than them both, but, again, this poll is QUANTITATIVE, not QUALTATIVE.

              Your constant mithering over the fact that we allegedly don’t care about foreign movies because our list doesn’t include any is both pedantic and ridiculous. Choosing a top 10 is arbitrary; we only did so because it’s what other people do in a list of this nature. If we made it a top 15 or a top 20, there’d be a lot more representation for international cinema. The fact that they’re not in the top 10 doesn’t mean that they’re not great, or an indictment on their quality, it just means that there aren’t any that made the top 10. And even if they did make the top 10, it means sod all.

              We do care about foreign films; many of us were raised on it. There are a lot of non-US movies on my list and the same goes for other contributors. To call us intellectually dishonest or shallow or irresponsible as critics because you personally disagree with a list that was predicated on a casual and quantitative voting system (which we did as a lark) is callous and insulting.

              I’d like to say that we should just agree to disagree, but I get a sense that we’ll never cease disagreeing. So let’s leave it at that.

              Goodbye (or do you prefer I say ‘au revoir’ or ‘sayonara’?).

              1. Sasa says

                Ok, let’s agree to disagree. I am really sory if I offended you or anyone else of the your team. I actually respect the work you are doing and that is why I was so “upset” when I saw the list.
                And don’t get me wrong, I also love American cinema.

              2. Sasa says

                “The top 10 of the top 250 films on imdb are ALL American movies.”
                Sorry Justin, but from when is Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo an American movie? Really?

                1. Justin Li says

                  That’s true. I forgot it was Italian.

        2. Edgar Chaput says

          Sasa, I think what Josh mentioned in his comment needs to be taken into consideration. When it comes to these consensus lists, heartbreaks will happen. I have no idea what other SOS writers submitted, but knowing the tastes of some, I would not be the least bit surprised if some excellent foreign language films had appeared on their lists, but because, let’s say The Godfather, Psycho (made by a Brit, by the way) and Apocalypse most likely appeared on a lot of people’s lists, those films won out and appeared on the official final list . I had Nosferatu on my list, but I definitely didn’t send mine in thinking to myself that Murnau’s classic ‘Simply had to be on the list. it just has to!’. No, i love it but not everyone has seen it, unlike Apocalypse Now and the Godfather.

          Another thing to take into consideration is that most, not all, but most of the SOS contributors are either Canadian or American, with the remaining exceptions coming from various corners of the globe. When you grow up as a film buff in the U.S., as most of our writers did, or even Canada (as I did), you’re going to be fed tons of American and other English language movies. That’s just the way it works in most cases. Obviosuly there are some people who, even though they are born and bred North Americans, who will conjure up a far more diverse list of ‘best films’, I’m not saying that never happens, but I don’t think the reaction towards a list made by predominently NOrth Americans should be surprise when it turns out a lot of the movies are American, if maye even all of them.

          1. Sasa says

            1. When you choose to be a film critic, you just have the responsibility to take into account cinema from other countries.

            2. My argument wasn’t that most of the films were American, but that all were. In my opinion it is not fair to call this the list of greatest movies of all time. It is lame.

            3. Most of the money Hollywood spends on movies goes to blockbusters without any artistic value (a la Battleship)
            Take away those films and tell me if you belive that Hollywood spends more money on cinema than the whole world combined (Europe, China, S.Korea, India)? Even if it does, how much more?
            Now think also about the history of cinema. Think about tha Japanese cinema of the 50s and 60s, The italian post WW2 cinema, the French New Wave.

            4. If you take the time to look at the history of the Sight and Sound lists, you will see that it never happened that all movies were American. It just doesn’t make sense. A list like that would’t make sense.

          2. Sasa says

            Come on! Most of them? Ok, but not all. It’s lame.

            1. Edgar Chaput says

              Looking at the dates on which the comments have been posted, this back and forth argument has been going on for close to three days. You’ve said the list is lame, which is entirely your perogative, and we, in turn, have attempted to explain what are cinematic influences are (as North Americans), how the list was constrcuted, meaning that in a consensus list many great films are bound to be left off, which in a way is us admitting that the process by which we went about creating our own list is faulty.

              Your reply to pretty much all of that has been either that the list is lame, or we are poor film critics (I myself am an amateur who does this in my spare. I KNOW I’m a cheap film critic). Look, Sasa, this is a insanely long argument about a list. We aren’t even talking about a movie, which would make this a lot more interesting to begin. We arguiing about a freaking list. You think the list is that bad? Fine, so be it. Let’s talk about something else.

          3. Sasa says

            At this point I agree with you, Edgar.
            For a moment I thought that this “arguing” (as you call it) was a good thing. Man, I was wrong. I should have left the comments section empty like usual.
            I am wondering if it is really so hard to take criticism?
            BTW i don’t have anything against the selected movies, just the list as a whole.
            I will try not to comment anymore as I see people are offended by my opinion. Thank you all for your time and I apologize if I was abusing the comments section.

            1. Kate Kulzick says

              Hey Sasa- FYI, Edgar’s comment to you was in regard to your comments from earlier. When he posted it, your more recent comments weren’t up yet. FWIW. That’s a bad on my part as a mod. Sorry!

              1. Sasa says

                No problem. You are doing a good job.

  8. Mario in Philly says

    I was skeptical of reading yet another movie list but this is a nice, eclectic mix of titles! The only one I’ve not seen is Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, so it’s going on my must-see list. What’s nice about these lists is bringing to the forefront titles that we have missed, skipped and need to look for, as well as revisit. I’ve seen Modern Times just once many years ago and this list has put me in the mood to watch some Chaplin films, especially some I’ve not seen before. (It’s so hard to watch everything!) And it’s nice to see some Shorts getting some love too!

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