Directors’ Top 100 Films

Sight & Sound’s 2012 poll

Sight & Sound is the British Film Institute’s magazine. Once a decade it asks critics, directors, programmers, academics and distributors to select the Greatest Films of All Time. Here is the 2012 Directors’ Poll – the Greatest Films of All Time as chosen by 358 directors including Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann, Woody Allen, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Quentin Tarantino, the Dardenne brothers, Terence Davies, and Guillermo del Toro.


The final heartbreaking scene in Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Baltazar. “Everyone who sees this film will be absolutely astonished because it is really the world in an hour and a half.” – Jean-Luc Godard

1. Tokyo Story (1953), dir. Ozu Yasujirô. The final part of Yasujiro Ozu’s loosely connected ‘Noriko’ trilogy is a devastating story of elderly grandparents brushed aside by their self-involved family.

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), dir. Stanley Kubrick. Stanley Kubrick took science fiction cinema in a grandly intelligent new direction with this epic story of man’s quest for knowledge.

2. Citizen Kane (1941), dir. Orson Welles. Given extraordinary freedom by Hollywood studio RKO for his debut film, boy wonder Welles created a modernist masterpiece that is regularly voted the best film ever made.

4. 8½ (1963), dir. Federico Fellini. Federico Fellini triumphantly conjured himself out of a bad case of creative block with this autobiographical magnum opus about a film director experiencing creative block.

5.Taxi Driver (1976), dir. Martin Scorsese. Martin’s Scorsese’s unsettling story of disturbed New York cab driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is a classic of 70s cinema.

6. Apocalypse Now (1979), dir. Francis Ford Coppola. Transplanting the story of Joseph Conrad’s colonial-era novel Heart of Darkness to Vietnam, Francis Ford Coppola created a visually mesmerising fantasia on the spectacle of war.

7. Vertigo (1958), dir. Alfred Hitchcock. 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.

7. Godfather: Part I, The (1972), dir. Francis Ford Coppola. 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.

9. Mirror (1974), dir. Andrei Tarkovsky. Andrei Tarkovsky drew on memories of a rural childhood before WWII for this personal, impressionistic and unconventional film poem.

10. Bicycle Thieves, The (1948), dir. Vittorio de Sica. Vittorio De Sica’s story of a father and son searching for a stolen bicycle on the streets of Rome is a classic of post-war Italian cinema.

11. Breathless (1960), dir. Jean-Luc Godard. Jean-Paul Belmondo as a hoodlum on the run from the law and Jean Seberg as the sly, pixieish girlfriend who ultimately betrays him.

12. Raging Bull (1980), dir. Martin Scorsese. Starring Robert De Niro as the middleweight boxer Jake La Motta, Scorsese’s biopic is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest films of the 1980s.

13. Persona (1966), dir. Ingmar Bergman. A nurse (Bibi Andersson) and an actress who refuses to speak (Liv Ullmann) seem to fuse identities in Ingmar Bergman’s disturbing, formally experimental psychological drama.

13. 400 Blows, The (1959), dir. François Truffaut. The directorial debut of film critic François Truffaut, this autobiographical story of a wayward child marked a fresh start for French cinema.

13. Andrei Rublev (1966), dir. Andrei Tarkovsky. The life of a 15th century icon painter takes centre stage in Andrei Tarkovsky’s epic meditation on the place of art in turbulent times.

16. Fanny and Alexander (1984), dir. Ingmar Bergman. The grand summation of Ingmar Bergman’s career, this epic family drama drew on the director’s own childhood experiences in early 20th century Sweden.

17. Seven Samurai (1954), dir. Akira Kurosawa. Rice farmers hire a band of samurai to defend them against marauding bandits in Akira Kurosawa’s influential epic, a touchstone for action movies ever since.

18. Rashomon (1950), dir. Akira Kurosawa. Credited with bringing Japanese cinema to worldwide audiences, Akira Kurosawa’s breakthrough tells the story of a murder in the woods from four differing perspectives.

19. Barry Lyndon (1975), dir. Stanley Kubrick. Stanley Kubrick’s exquisitely detailed adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel about the picaresque exploits of an 18th century Irish adventurer.

19. Ordet (1955), dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer. The penultimate film by the Danish master Carl Theodor Dreyer is a parable on the power of faith, set in a remote religious community.

21. Au Hasard Balthazar (1966), dir. Robert Bresson. Robert Bresson’s distinctive pared down style elicits extraordinary pathos from this devastating tale of an abused donkey passing from owner to owner.

22. Modern Times (1936), dir. Charles Chaplin. The final outing for Charlie Chaplin’s beloved Tramp character finds him enduring the pratfalls and humiliations of work in an increasingly mechanised society.

22. Atalante, L’ (1934), dir. Jean Vigo. Newly-weds begin their life together on a working barge in this luminous and poetic romance, the only feature film by director Jean Vigo.

22. Sunrise (1927), dir. F. W. Murnau. Lured to Hollywood by producer William Fox, German Expressionist filmmaker F.W. Murnau created one of the silent cinema’s last and most luminous masterpieces.

22. Règle du jeu, La (1939), dir. Jean Renoir. Made on the cusp of WWII, Jean Renoir’s satire of the upper-middle classes was banned as demoralising by the French government for two decades after its release.

26. Touch of Evil (1958), dir. Orson Welles. Orson Welles’ return to Hollywood after ten years working in Europe is a sleazy border tale in which he takes centre stage as gargantuan detective Hank Quinlan.

26. Night of the Hunter, The (1955), dir. Charles Laughton. Actor Charles Laughton’s only film as a director is a complete one-off, a terrifying parable of the corruption of innocence featuring a career-best performance from Robert Mitchum.

26. Battle of Algiers, The (1966), dir. Gillo Pontecorvo. Gillo Pontecorvo’s masterpiece about the turbulent last years of French colonial rule in Algeria, seen from the perspective of both the guerrilla revolutionaries and the French authorities.

26. Strada, La (1954), dir. Federico Fellini. A brutish travelling strongman (Anthony Quinn) acquires a waif-like young assistant (Giulietta Masina) before taking to the road in Federico Fellini’s acclaimed neo-realist fable.

@ 30. Stalker (1979), dir. Andrei Tarkovsky. A guide leads people through “the Zone”, an area where the normal laws of physics no longer apply – to encounter “the Room”, said to grant the wishes of anyone who steps inside.

30. City Lights (1931), dir. Charles Chaplin. The Tramp wins the affections of a blind flower seller (Virginia Cherrill) in this hilarious but heartbreaking comedy – one of Charlie Chaplin’s uncontested masterpieces.

30. Avventura, L’ (1960), dir. Michelangelo Antonioni. In Michelangelo Antonioni’s groundbreaking and controversial arthouse milestone, the mystery of a woman’s disappearance from a Mediterranean island is left unresolved.

30. Amarcord (1972), dir. Federico Fellini. Federico Fellini returned for inspiration to his own childhood in 1930s Rimini for this colourful comedy-drama about life in a small seaside town under Fascist rule.

30. Gospel According to St Matthew, The (1964), dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s third feature abandons the profane in favour of the sacred in a documentary-like retelling of the story of Christ.

30. Godfather: Part II, The (1974), dir. Francis Ford Coppola. The expansive second part of Francis Ford Coppola’s Mafia saga continues the Corleone family story, charting in parallel young Vito’s earlier rise to prominence.

30. Come And See (1985), dir. Elem Klimov. After finding an old rifle, a young boy joins the Soviet Army and experiences the horrors of World War II.

37. Close-Up (1989), dir. Abbas Kiarostami. Pretending to be Mohsen Makhmalbaf making his next movie, Hossain Sabzian enters the home of a well-to-do family in Tehran, promising it a prominent part in his next movie.

37. Some Like It Hot (1959), dir. Billy Wilder. On the run from Chicago mobsters, two musicians don drag to join an all-girl jazz band fronted by Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) in Billy Wilder’s hugely popular comedy.

37. dolce vita, La (1960), dir. Federico Fellini. Federico Fellini’s epic charts a week in the life of a tabloid journalist (Marcello Mastroianni) as the excesses of modern Roman life go on around him.

37. Passion of Joan of Arc (1927), dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer. Silent cinema at its most sublimely expressive, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s masterpiece is an austere but hugely affecting dramatisation of the trial of St Joan.

37. Playtime (1967), dir. Jacques Tati. Monsieur Hulot has to contact an American official in Paris, but he gets lost in the maze of modern architecture which is filled with the latest technical gadgets.

37. Man Escaped, A (1956), dir. Robert Bresson. An imprisoned French Resistance leader’s single-minded pursuit of freedom, detailing the planning and execution of his escape with gripping precision.  A work of intense spirituality and humanity as well.

37. Viridiana (1961), dir. Luis Buñuel. In Luis Buñuel’s controversial masterpiece, a novice nun gets more than she bargains for when she turns her dead uncle’s estate into a home for beggars.

44. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), dir. Sergio Leone. The railroad rushes westward, bringing power and progress with it, in Sergio Leone’s grandest spaghetti western, an operatic homage to Hollywood’s mythology of the Old West.

44. mépris, Le (1963), dir. Jean-Luc Godard. [Brigette Bardot] Working with his biggest budget to date, Jean-Luc Godard created a sublime widescreen drama about marital breakdown, set during pre-production on a film shoot.

44. Apartment, The (1960), dir. Billy Wilder. In Wilder’s Oscar-winning comedy, Jack Lemmon plays an office worker who lends his apartment to adulterous superiors in order to get ahead.

44. Hour of the Wolf (1968), dir. Ingmar Bergman. While vacationing on a remote Scandanavian island with his younger pregnant wife, an artist has a emotional breakdown while confronting his repressed desires.

48. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), dir. Milos Forman. Upon admittance to a mental institution, a brash rebel rallies the patients to take on the oppressive head nurse.

48. Searchers, The (1956), dir. John Ford. John Ford created perhaps the greatest of all westerns with this tale of a Civil War veteran doggedly hunting the Comanche who have kidnapped his niece.

48. Psycho (1960), dir. Alfred Hitchcock. A Phoenix secretary steals $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.

48. Man with a Movie Camera (1929), dir. Dziga Vertov. An impression of city life in the Soviet Union, The Man with a Movie Camera is the best-known film of experimental documentary pioneer Dziga Vertov.

48. Shoah (1985), dir. Claude Lanzmann. Interviews and visits to Holocaust sites across Poland, with testimonies by survivors, witnesses, and German perpetrators, often secretly recorded using hidden cameras.

48. Lawrence of Arabia (1962), dir. David Lean. An eccentric English officer inspires the Arabs to unite against the Turks during WWI in David Lean’s seven Oscar-winner, an epic in every sense.

48. eclisse, L’ (1962), dir. Michelangelo Antonioni. A young woman breaks up with an older lover and then has an affair with a confident young stockbroker whose materialistic nature eventually undermines their relationship.

48. Pickpocket (1959), dir. Robert Bresson. This examination of the method and morality of a pickpocket on the streets of Paris marked a refinement of Robert Bresson’s spare, unsentimental aesthetic.

48. Pather Panchali (1955), dir. Satyajit Ray. The first part of Satyajit Ray’s acclaimed Apu Trilogy is a lyrical, closely observed story of a peasant family in 1920s rural India.

48. Rear Window (1954), dir. Alfred Hitchcock. A wheelchair bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.

48. Goodfellas (1990), dir. Martin Scorsese. The true story of Henry Hill, a half-Irish, half-Sicilian Brooklyn kid who is adopted by neighborhood gangsters at an early age and climbs the ranks of a Mafia family.

59. Blow Up (1966), dir. Michelangelo Antonioni. The refined visual style of Italian maestro Michelangelo Antonioni collides with swinging 60s London in this story of a man who may have unwittingly photographed a murder.

59. Conformist, The (1970), dir. Bernardo Bertolucci. Bernardo Bertolucci’s stylish period thriller stars Jean-Louis Trintignant as a repressed bureaucrat in Mussolini’s Italy who is assigned to kill his former professor.

59. Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972), dir. Werner Herzog. In the 16th century, the ruthless and insane Don Lope de Aguirre leads a Spanish expedition in search of El Dorado.

59. Gertrud (1964), dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer. A woman leaves her unfulfilling marriage and embarks on a search for ideal love, but neither a passionate affair with a younger man nor the return of an old romance can provide the answer she seeks.

59. Woman Under the Influence, A (1974), dir. John Cassavetes. The emotional breakdown of a suburban housewife and her family’s struggle to save her from herself, starring Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands in two of the most harrowing screen performances of the 1970s.

59. Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The (1966), dir. Sergio Leone. A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery.

59. Blue Velvet (1986), dir. David Lynch. In David Lynch’s idiosyncratic drama, a young man’s curiosity draws him into the twisted criminal sub-culture operating beneath the placid surface of his cosy hometown.

59. grande illusion, La (1937), dir. Jean Renoir. Jean Renoir’s pacifist classic is set in a German prisoner-of-war camp during WWI, where class kinship is felt across national boundaries.

67. Badlands (1973), dir. Terrence Malick. An impressionable teen girl from a dead-end town and her older greaser boyfriend go on a killing spree in the South Dakota badlands.

67. Blade Runner (1982), dir. Ridley Scott. Loosely adapted from a novel by Phillip K. Dick, Ridley Scott’s dark, saturated vision of 2019 Los Angeles is a classic of popular science-fiction cinema.

67. Sunset Blvd. (1950), dir. Billy Wilder. The most caustic of European émigré directors, Wilder explored the movie industry and the delusions of stardom in Hollywood’s great poison pen letter to itself.

67. Ugetsu Monogatari (1953), dir. Mizoguchi Kenji. In war-torn 16th-century Japan, two men leave their wives to seek wealth and glory in Kenji Mizoguchi’s tragic supernatural classic.

67. Singin’ in the Rain (1951), dir. Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly. 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.

67. In The Mood For Love (2000), dir. Wong Kar WaiA man and a woman move in to neighboring Hong Kong apartments and form a bond when they both suspect their spouses of extramarital activities.

67. Journey to Italy (1954), dir. Roberto Rossellini. This devastating study of a marriage coming apart during a holiday in Italy is the best known of the films Roberto Rossellini made with his wife Ingrid Bergman.

67. Vivre Sa Vie (1962), dir. Jean-Luc Godard. Jean-Luc Godard’s fourth feature – his third with wife and muse Anna Karina – charts in 12 tableaux a would-be actress’s descent into prostitution.

75. Seventh Seal, The (1957), dir. Ingmar Bergman. During the plague-ravaged middle ages, a knight buys time for himself by playing chess with Death in Bergman’s much-imitated arthouse classic.

75. Hidden / Cache (2004), dir. Michael Haneke. The quiet life of a Paris family is disturbed when they receive a series of surveillance tapes of the exterior of their residence from an anonymous source.

75. Battleship Potemkin (1925), dir. Sergei M Eisenstein. A fixture in the critical canon almost since its premiere, Sergei Eisenstein’s film about a 1905 naval mutiny was revolutionary in both form and content.

75. M (1931), dir. Fritz Lang. For his first sound film Fritz Lang turned to the story of a child killer (Peter Lorre), who is hunted down by police and underworld alike.

75. There Will Be Blood (2007), dir. Paul Thomas Anderson. This operatic portrait of a diabolical oil baron is a formal tour de force and a compelling portrait of all-American 20th century sociopathy.

75. Shining, The (1980), dir. Stanley Kubrick. A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future.

75. General, The (1926), dir. Buster Keaton. Train driver Buster Keaton gives chase when Union agents steal his locomotive in this classic silent comedy set at the time of the American Civil War.

75. Mulholland Dr (2003), dir. David Lynch. After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.

75. Clockwork Orange, A (1971), dir. Stanley Kubrick. A dystopian future London is the playground of a teenage gang leader in Stanley Kubrick’s stylish, controversial take on Anthony Burgess’s novel about violence and free will.

75. Fear Eats the Soul (1974), dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder. An almost accidental romance is kindled between a German woman in her sixties and a Moroccan migrant worker twenty-five years younger. They abruptly decide to marry, appalling everyone around them.

75. Kes (1969), dir. Ken Loach. The tough, touching story of a northern schoolboy and the kestrel that brings hope to his hardscrabble life remains the most widely admired of Ken Loach’s films.

75. Husbands (1970), dir. John Cassavetes. Three middle-aged husbands, with families in the New York suburbs, go on a wild spree after a close friend dies of a heart attack. But they must confront their own mortality and decide how to spend the rest of their lives.

75. Wild Bunch, The (1969), dir. Sam Peckinpah. A gang of outlaws goes out in a blaze of violence and glory in Sam Peckinpah’s elegiac film about the dying days of the wild west.

75. Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom (1975), dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini. Four fascist libertines round up 9 teenages boys and girls and subject them to 120 days of physical, mental and sexual torture.

75. Jaws (1975), dir. Steven Spielberg. Steven Spielberg laid the template for the modern summer blockbuster with this expert thriller about the hunt for a man-eating great white shark.

75. Los Olvidados (1950), dir. Luis Buñuel. A group of juvenile delinquents live a violent and crime-filled life in the festering slums of Mexico City, and the morals of young Pedro are gradually corrupted and destroyed by the others.

91. Pierrot le Fou (1965), dir. Jean-Luc Godard. Riffing on the classic couple-on-the run movie, enfant terrible Jean-Luc Godard took the narrative innovations of the French New Wave close to breaking point.

91. chien andalou, Un (1928), dir. Luis Buñuel. A startling artifact suggesting ways in which film can express the subconscious. The result of Luis Bunuel’s collaboration with Salvador Dali, the 17-minute film was designed to shock and provoke. It altered the aesthetics of film.

91. Chinatown (1974), dir. Roman Polanski. Roman Polanski’s brilliant thriller stars Jack Nicholson as a private eye uncovering corruption in 1930s Los Angeles, a desert town where water equals power.

91. Maman et la putain, La (1973), dir. Jean Eustache. A seemingly unemployed narcissist is involved with both a live-in girlfriend and a Polish nurse. The movie focuses less on plot than on the confused and ambivalent interrelations of these three lost souls.

91. Beau Travail (1998), dir. Claire Denis. A Foreign Legion sergeant’s jealousy of a young recruit, ultimately leads to his own downfall. It’s a compelling portrait of the basic emotional drives felt by men in extreme circumstances.

91. Opening Night (1977), dir. John Cassavetes. An end-of-tether Broadway actress is about to open in a play, but a series of pre-show setbacks and disasters threaten to destroy not only the production but her sanity.

91. Gold Rush, The (1925), dir. Charles Chaplin. The Tramp goes to the Klondike in search of gold and finds it and more.

91. Zero de Conduite (1933), dir. Jean Vigo. Four rebellious young boys at a repressive French boarding school plot and execute a revolt against their teachers and take over the school.

91. Deer Hunter, The (1977), dir. Michael Cimino. Along with Apocalypse Now, Michael Cimino’s brutal but ultimately contemplative war movie is a key American cinematic take on the Vietnam conflict.

91. argent, L’ (1983), dir. Robert Bresson. Robert Bresson’s last film turns a Tolstoy novella about a forged banknote into a formidably focused meditation on the supposed root of all evil.


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