The BFI poll gets James Stewart in a spin.

Every ten years since 1962 the British Film Institute (BFI) via Sight & Sound magazine has published a list of the fifty greatest movies ever made. This is based on the votes of critics, programmers, academics and distributors.

This decade’s poll sees Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo in the top spot, the first time that Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane has not been number one.

When any list like this is published, the first thing I look for is how many of these films I have  seen.

As I write, this totals just 23 so I have set myself a personal goal of seeking out the other 27 over the next few months to see what I have been missing and be in a better position to criticise the critics.

Watch this space.

For the moment, my chief quibbles about the top fifty list are:

  • the excess of Jean-Luc Godard movies (four in total), demonstrating that French new wave is more fashionable than Italian neo realism. A mistake IMO.
  • nothing by Luis Bunuel, Terrence Malik, Jim Jarmusch or The Coen Brothers
  • the top British film, The Third Man, doesn’t make the top fifty (it appears at #73 in the top 250 list). Sacrilege!
  • only one woman director in the top 50 – Belgium’s Chantal Akerman for ‘Jeanne Dielman for 23 quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles‘ made in 1975. Is this really better than anything by Sally Potter, Andrea Arnold or Jane Campion?
  • the most recent movie to make the chart is David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, made in 2002. This implies that a least ten years have to pass before a movie gets to be regarded as a classic.

Of course, any such list is bound subjective but I feel that, in general, the choices are overly slanted towards experimental cinema. It is ,however, reassuring to see that Hitchcock, whose movies so brilliantly combine art with entertainment, is regarded so highly.