History was made today with the result of an election in which a 50-year incumbent was knocked from its throne. Having reigned as the greatest film of all time (according to film critics, curators, academics and distributors) since 1962, Orson Welles' Citizen Kane has now dropped down to #2, while Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo claimed the crown. Interestingly, the just-deceased Chris Marker's La Jetee, which is heavily influenced by Vertigo, closes the latest Sight & Sound poll at number 50.
Since the poll only comes once a decade, it's not just any old best-of list you'll find on the Internet. Many cinephiles consider this as much of a definitive, canonical catalog of film as there ever will be. Of course, there is another Sight & Sound poll that accompanies the critics' list. This is made up of directors' picks, and their new number one choice, also supplanting Kane, is Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story.
Should you care? And does it say anything about the picks of film watchers versus filmmakers that the former seems to have a greater appreciation for silent cinema (and documentary!), or that the latter likes Francis Ford Coppola enough to include two of his works in their top 10? It certainly shouldn't change the way you feel about any films included or excluded. And really, are most of these great films even quantifiably comparable to each other?
To me, the difference between Vertigo and Citizen Kane is like apples and orangutans. To you, these lists may at the very least be a curiosity, so here are the two top 10s, followed by a few quick responses from our readers on Twitter. Let's continue the discussion in the comments.
2. Citizen Kane
3. Tokyo Story
4. La Règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game)
5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey
7. The Searchers
8. Man with a Movie Camera
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc
1. Tokyo Story
2. (tie) 2001:A Space Odyssey
5. Taxi Driver
6. Apocalypse Now
7. (tie) The Godfather
10. Bicycle Thieves
Twitter Poll: Do you care about the Sight & Sound poll, and if so what do you think of the results?
Only inasmuch as it's a nice jumping off point for mass discussion. And in that case I think it's done its job. - @litrock
Yes. I think the infrequency of it combined with the breadth of people polled make it pretty unique. But as usual, I'm most interested to see the individual ballots. - @millerunc
I couldn't care less. What matters is my taste not anyone else's. - @JonSullivan_
I care so much I am going to spend the week yelling about how little I care! And more seriously, lists are always dumb but I love Man with a Movie Camera enough to he happy. - @DSWalber
As a Hitchcock fan, I'm happy that "Vertigo" is ranked 1. It's surprising that it got made within the studio system. - @dashielldavies
Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join the next discussion.