My Thoughts on the Sight & Sound 2022 Film Poll

Delphine Seyrig in Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles — PHOTO: Janus Films / Akerman, 1975.

Every ten years since 1952, Sight & Sound has polled film professionals (critics and filmmakers alike) on what the greatest films of all time are. In 1992, they split up the filmmakers and critics into separate lists, which has allowed for a great number of films to be celebrated every ten years. The 2022 lists have just been released. Prior to the new lists, only the following films had been placed at number one: Bicycle Thieves, Citizen Kane, Vertigo, and Tokyo Story. Well, for 2022, none of those films landed at no. 1 in either the directors’ or the critics’ polls. Here are my thoughts.

Now, it should be said that all of the previous number ones placed fairly well on the lists, but on the critics’ poll Chantal Akerman’s 1975 drama Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles placed first, while Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey finished first in the directors’ poll. Films like Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Get Out, and Parasite even placed on the wider top 100 critics’ list that the poll resulted in (Parasite was also on the directors’ list). I’ve already seen some criticism online about the changes. Some are mad about the new additions, others are angry about such recent films being on the list, and I’ve also seen quite a few people being upset about Chantal Akerman’s film finishing first ahead of films like Vertigo and Citizen Kane.

Here are my thoughts. Well, opinions change. It’s been ten whole years since the last list, and things are bound to change. Many new films have come out, perspectives may have shifted, and hundreds of new people have been invited to take part in the polls. I think it’s all perfectly natural. I also think it is somewhat silly to be that upset about a list like this. Even though I was shocked to not see Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia on the critics’ list, I’m not too bothered (it’s on the directors’ list, by the way).

After all, the whole point of this is to get new perspectives and celebrate films of all kinds whether new or old, in color or without, and spoken or silent. New perspectives diversify these lists in a way that is really exciting. They give you an opportunity to enjoy more films and explore those films that you may have never seen. Frankly, these lists are going to push me to finally watch Jeanne Dielman, and I’m excited about that. Cinema is an art form, and the list shouldn’t be treated as a competition but rather a celebration. So, yeah, chill out and broaden your horizons.

Now, as I said, opinions do change, but if I had been asked to send in my list of the ten greatest films of all time, then it would probably have looked something like this (listed alphabetically):

  • Apocalypse Now (Coppola)
  • Casablanca (Curtiz)
  • El Laberinto del Fauno (Del Toro)
  • Lawrence of Arabia (Lean)
  • Parasite (Bong)
  • Rear Window (Hitchcock)
  • Singin’ In The Rain (Kelly/Donen)
  • Taxi Driver (Scorsese)
  • Young Frankenstein (Brooks)
  • Zodiac (Fincher) 

But, honestly, my list could change again tomorrow, and I would probably be tempted to do what Guillermo Del Toro apparently did and list both honorable mentions and alternate titles. Even looking at the films I’ve listed above, I’m not satisfied. I really want to have films like Lee Chang-dong’s Burning, Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset, and Thomas Vinterberg’s Jagten on there, I want to get a Kurosawa film on there, I want more Scorsese films on the list, and so on and so forth. It’s tough to only list ten films, so cut these people some slack.

Will I ever be asked to take part in the critics’ poll? I don’t know. I hope so. It’d be an honor. In any case, I greatly enjoy these lists, and I hope you do too. Just don’t lose your mind because this film or that film didn’t finish first. Instead, I’d advise you to try to watch all of the films on the lists that you have yet to see. Now we’ve got ten years to do that. Who knows, maybe you’ll have a new favorite film by then.

– Article Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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