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Notes on the 2012 Sight & Sound Greatest Films Poll

Notes on the 2012 Sight & Sound Greatest Films Poll

I’m still wading through the 2012 edition of Sight & Sound‘s Greatest Films of All Time Critics Poll. Once they release the full list of movies nominated and the ballots from all the critics and directors, it may be a more appropriate time to make sweeping generalizations about the state of the world film canon and shifting tastes (then again, that may not be a more appropriate time, but we’ll do it anyway). I love studying this poll and its results so much, I’ve actually been doing something I hate: math. I’ve been crunching numbers, looking at what’s been added and subtracted in the last ten years, and what movies and filmmakers have fallen in and out of favor. I put them all together in the list of notes you’ll find below. I’ve also gathered links for every film from the Top 50 that’s available on Netflix Watch Instantly and Hulu Plus (you’re welcome). 

Criticwire’s Notes on the 2012 Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All Time

The Oldest Movie Added To the Poll: “Late Spring” (1949)
The Oldest Movie Dropped From the Poll: “Intolerance” (1916)
The Most Recent Movie Added To the Poll: “Mulholland Drive” (2001)
The Most Recent Movies Dropped From the Poll: “Blade Runner” and “Fanny and Alexander” (1982)
The Highest Ranking Film That Didn’t Appear at All in 2002: “Apocalypse Now” (Ranked #15)
The Highest Ranking Film From 2002 That Doesn’t Appear at All in 2012: “Touch of Evil” (Ranked #15)
The Director With the Most Films in the 2002 Poll: Jean-Luc Godard (4; “Breathless,” “Contempt,” “Pierrot le Fou,” “2 or 3 Things I Know About Her.”)
The Director With the Most Films in the 2012 Poll: Jean-Luc Godard (4; “Breathless,” “Contempt,” “Pierrot le Fou,” “Histoire(s) du Cinema.”)
The Director With the Most New Entries in 2012: Francis Ford Coppola (3; on a technicality. In 2002 “The Godfather” and “The Godfather Part II” were counted together; this year, they ranked separately.)
The Director With the Most Lost Entries in the 2012 Poll: Orson Welles (2; “Touch of Evil,” “The Magnificent Ambersons.”) and Ingmar Bergman (“Fanny and Alexander;” “The Seventh Seal.”)
Average Age of Release of the Films on the 2002 Critics’ Top Ten: 1943
Average Age of Release of the Films on the 2012 Critics’ Top Ten: 1946
Average Age of Release of the Films on the 2002 Directors’ Top Ten: 1963
Average Age of Release of the Films on the 2012 Directors’ Top Ten: 1963

The Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All Time Available on Streaming

Top 50 Titles Available on Netflix Watch Instantly: 7 (“8 1/2,” “Battleship Potekmkin,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Persona,” “In the Mood For Love,” “Bicycle Thieves,” “Metropolis.”) 
Top 50 Titles Available on Hulu Plus: 23 (“Tokyo Story,” “The Rules of the Game,” “The Passion of Joan of Arc,” “L’Atalante,” “Breathless,” “Late Spring,” “Au Hasard Balthazar,” “Seven Samurai,” “L’Avventura,” “Ordet,” “Rashomon,” “Andrei Rublev,” “The General,” “Metropolis,” “Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles,” “The 400 Blows,” “Gertrud,” “Playtime,” “Close-up,” “The Battle of Algiers,” “City Lights,” “Ugetsu Monogatari,” “La Jetée.”)

Additional Notes:
-In 2002, “The Godfather” and “The Godfather Part II” were counted as one film, and placed 4th. This year, they were counted separately, and came in 23rd and 31st, respectively. If you combined their votes as Sight & Sound did in 2002, they would have ranked 7th.

-Three titles from the 1990s made the list: Abbas Kiarostami’s “Close-up” (1990), Bela Tarr’s “Sátántangó” (1994), and Jean-Luc Godard’s “Histoire(s) du Cinema” (1998). Two films from the 2000s made the cut: Wong Kar-wai’s “In the Mood For Love” (2000) and David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” (2001).

-Unless I’m making a bone-headed omission, there’s just one female director in the top 50: Chantal Akerman, who made “Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles.”

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Nikki Lee Taylor

The very idea that a group can come up with a new list every ten years is ridicuous. The films that changed how people saw things and made people aware of things that they may not have been before is all about the time in which they were made. It was at a point in time and nobody;critics or otherwise can change history. Having said that let's entertain this notion for a moment.
Where is "Gone with the Wind"? And why would "Citizen Kane" remain?
The Academy Awards has been the pioneers of deciding what films were great. So why are there so many foreign films? Especialy when these foreign films were not regarded as great when they came out, and did not influence and affect history that some of the others did that have been left off of the list. 15 American films?? These lists can't change history. The greatest films were ,and always will be, the ones that affected the people the most, at that time.

Edward Copeland

Rewatchability doesn't seem to be an important factor here. Many of titles seem to have risen due to their importance in the develop of the medium. I'd like to see the 51-100 since their introduction mentions that Magnificent Ambersons slipped to 81st (I think it was). What bothered me most was that they listed Singin' in the Rain as a 1951 release when it came out in 1952. I guess they missed all the 60th anniversary events for it this year.


I'm disappointed to see comedies getting stuck with (to quote one of the few that were included) the fuzzy end of the lollipop. Great comedy is genuinely difficult to pull off, so it's a shame that Annie Hall, My Man Godfrey, Sullivan's Travels, Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, The Big Lebowski, and, hell, even Airplane! were excluded. Why so serious, BFI voters?


Maybe it's just because I'm a stats geek, but I'd be curious about other types of break-downs: screenwriter with most credits on the list, actor/actress with most appearances, breakdown of nationality, biggest gainers–that sort of thing.

Y'know, if you have time. :-)

Thanks for the blog–it's very engaging!


Not to be nitpicky, but I'm kinda sure the Average Age of the choices on the lists couldn't possibly nearly 2000 years each. My brilliant powers of deduction make me think you meant Average Year.

Brian Z

It's a bit odd that Blade Runner dropped off the list. Not complaining, it's merely that the big hoopla over the 2007 re-release, with the "Final Cut" and all that, seemed to bring a lot of fresh discussion, and often admiration, to the film.


I wanna know the avg. age of votes! :)

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