The Ten Greatest Films of All Time According to 358 Filmmakers

The Ten Greatest Films of All Time According to 358 Filmmakers

Every ten years, film jour­nal Sight and Sound con­ducts a world­wide sur­vey of film crit­ics to decide which films are con­sid­ered the best ever made. Start­ed in 1952, the poll is now wide­ly regard­ed as the most impor­tant and respect­ed out there.

And the crit­i­cal con­sen­sus for a long time was that the mas­ter­piece Cit­i­zen Kane by Orson Welles is the best of the best. The film topped the list for five decades from 1962 until 2002. Then in 2012, per­haps out of Kane fatigue, Alfred Hitchcock’s Ver­ti­go mus­cled its way to the top.

That’s what the crit­ics think. But what about the film­mak­ers?

Begin­ning in 1992, Sight and Sound start­ed to poll famed direc­tors about their opin­ions. Peo­ple like Mar­tin Scors­ese, Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la, Mike Leigh and Michael Mann. So what is the best movie ever made accord­ing to 358 direc­tors polled in 2012? Kane? Ver­ti­go? Per­haps Jean Renoir’s bril­liant Rules of the Game, the only movie to appear in the top ten for all sev­en crit­ics polls? No.


Instead, the top prize goes to Yasu­jiro Ozu’s Tokyo Sto­ry.

It’s a sur­pris­ing, an enlight­ened, choice. Ozu’s work is miles away from the flash of Kane and the psy­cho­sex­u­al weird­ness of Ver­ti­go. Tokyo Sto­ry is a gen­tle, nuanced por­trait of a fam­i­ly whose bonds are slow­ly, inex­orably being frayed by the demands of mod­ern­iza­tion. The movie’s emo­tion­al pow­er is restrained and cumu­la­tive; by the final cred­its you’ll be over­whelmed both with a Bud­dhist sense of the imper­ma­nence of all things and a strong urge to call your moth­er.

But per­haps the rea­son film­mak­ers picked Tokyo Sto­ry of all the oth­er cin­e­mat­ic mas­ter­pieces out there is because of Ozu’s unique approach to film. Since the days of D. W. Grif­fith, almost every film­mak­er under the sun, even cin­e­mat­ic rebels like Jean-Luc Godard, fol­lowed some basic con­ven­tions of the form like con­ti­nu­ity edit­ing, the 180-degree rule and match­ing eye­lines. Ozu dis­card­ed all of that. Instead, he con­struct­ed a high­ly idio­syn­crat­ic cin­e­mat­ic lan­guage revolv­ing around match cuts and rig­or­ous­ly com­posed shots. His film form was rad­i­cal but his sto­ries were uni­ver­sal. That is the para­dox of Ozu. You can see the trail­er of the movie above.

Cit­i­zen Kane does make num­ber two on the list but the film is tied with anoth­er for­mal­ly rig­or­ous mas­ter­piece – Stan­ley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Next on the list is per­haps the best movie ever about mak­ing a movie – Fed­eri­co Fellini’s 8 ½. And Ozu’s film might be num­ber one, but Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la is the only film­mak­er to have two movies on the list – The God­fa­ther and Apoc­a­lypse Now. And that’s no mean feat.

You can see the full list below:

1. Tokyo Sto­ry — Yasu­jiro Ozu (1953)
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey – Stan­ley Kubrick (1968)
3. Cit­i­zen Kane – Orson Welles (1941)
4. 8 ½ — Fed­eri­co Felli­ni (1963)
5. Taxi Dri­ver – Mar­tin Scors­ese (1976)
6. Apoc­a­lypse Now – Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la (1979)
7. The God­fa­ther – Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la (1972)
8. Ver­ti­go – Alfred Hitch­cock (1958)
9. Mir­ror – Andrei Tarkovsky (1974)
10. Bicy­cle Thieves – Vit­to­rio De Sica (1949)

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2015.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

The 10 Great­est Books Ever, Accord­ing to 125 Top Authors (Down­load Them for Free)

What Makes Yasu­jirō Ozu a Great Film­mak­er? New Video Essay Explains His Long-Admired Cin­e­mat­ic Style

The 10 Great­est Films of All Time Accord­ing to 846 Film Crit­ics

60 Free Film Noir Movies

The Top 100 Amer­i­can Films of All Time, Accord­ing to 62 Inter­na­tion­al Film Crit­ics

Mar­tin Scors­ese Reveals His 12 Favorite Movies (and Writes a New Essay on Film Preser­va­tion)

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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Comments (56)
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  • Pete says:

    So no-one has made a tru­ly out­stand­ing film in the last 40 years? Yeah, right!

  • droy says:

    Tokyo Sto­ry. Always Tokyo Sto­ry. What’s the deal with Tokyo Sto­ry?

  • Richard Berger says:

    No Lawrence of Ara­bia? No Paths of Glo­ry? The list is note­wor­thy because of what’s not on it.

  • JV says:

    Taxi Dri­ver isn’t even the best Scors­ese film. It’s high­ly over­rat­ed and has­n’t aged well, IMO, although I do appre­ci­ate how elec­tri­fy­ing it must have been in 1976. I don’t have much to quib­ble with the rest of the list. Of course, every choice here could be replaced by an equal­ly wor­thy alter­na­tive and get no argu­ment from me. Lists like this are fun and infor­ma­tive but always far from defin­i­tive. I agree with anoth­er com­menter here, Lawrence of Ara­bia would be on my list. Some more recent movies that I think hold their own against the clas­sics here would be:

    City of God
    The Tree of Life
    The Great Beau­ty
    The Div­ing Bell and the But­ter­fly

  • NRG says:

    Very inter­est­ing — guess I got­ta go see it (them). I’m curi­ous — were the film mak­ers asked for their favorite, their 3 favs, their 10?

  • NRG says:

    Pete — appar­ent­ly, film mak­ers don’t think so. And they should know some­thing about it — espe­cial­ly try­ing to have their own recent ones up there on the list!

  • Mark Taliana says:

    So the last film on the list was made in 1979.….and the Crit­ics top 10 last film was 1968 that says some­thing about film mak­ing in the past 40 years, and its not good

  • Mark Taliana says:

    name one

  • Lori E Gold says:

    It is The Bicy­cle Thief (not thieves), FYI

  • vlasis3 says:

    It is though, def­i­nite­ly “Bicy­cle Thieves” ;)

  • Tyrone says:

    I was won­der­ing about that. The 400 Blows/ Hiroshi­ma mon Amour/Black Orpheus/ The Day the Earth Stood Still/ Pyscho/Stormy Weather/ Kurosawa./Ingemar Bergman./The Thing/ Do the Right Thing.Moonlight.….

  • David says:

    Any list with­out Sev­en Samu­rai is not legit.

  • dm10003 says:

    What is with the Ver­ti­go mania? I am total­ly miss­ing some­thing.

  • Karen D says:

    Yes. The Div­ing Bell and the But­ter­fly, I had for­got­ten how won­der­ful it was

  • Sharon says:

    While my tastes dis­agree with the film mak­eres, I DO have to respect that they are the pro­fes­sion­als! I will watch the movie picks Ive yet to see and will most like­ly be impressed with their choices.Im look­ing for­ward to see­ing these. I appre­ci­at­ed the rea­son behind the pick of Tokyo, but wish the arti­cle explained their rea­son­ings behind the oth­ers.

  • Frank D says:

    Don’t much care who puts togeth­er a list of top films but if Schindler’s List is not on the list it can’t be tak­en seri­ous­ly.

  • Dan Sutton says:

    The first half hour of “Pri­vate Ryan”

  • Patti Champion-Garner says:

    Thank you. That was dri­ving me nuts.

  • Christopher Potter says:

    The Tree of Life? Ouch.

  • DJKuulA says:

    Posters for the orig­i­nal US release had “The Bicy­cle Thief,” and it was referred to that way by many the­aters and crit­ics. I seem to recall it trans­lat­ed in the sin­gu­lar when I saw the re-release back in the ’90s, but my mem­o­ry is hazy at this point. :)

    “Bicy­cle Thieves” is cer­tain­ly the cor­rect title, though.

  • Amy says:

    Have they not heard of any female direc­tors?

  • Nicole says:

    10 out of 10 by male direc­tors, and only one non west­ern movie? I won­der who the jury of these 300 plus peo­ple con­sist­ed of. Although the select­ed movies may be excel­lent — this some­how looks like a list from a past where diver­si­ty was not seen

  • Yaseck says:

    What’s bout Cit­i­zen Kane? One of the most bor­ing film I ever watched.

  • charles says:

    No French films, Truf­faut, God­dard, Resnais don’t exist. Same goes for Ger­man films, none of these peo­ple seem to know Fass­binder and Wen­ders, Weak list.

  • Chris Hora says:

    It’s only a per­fect movie. Ozu’s mas­ter­piece. Unhur­ried. Beau­ti­ful cin­e­matog­ra­phy. Incred­i­ble act­ing. Watch­ing how fam­i­lies change and how pri­or­i­ties often change for chil­dren. How their par­ents, who were once their entire lives, become almost after­thoughts. A won­der­ful film.

  • Craig says:

    It’s def­i­nite­ly “Bicy­cle Thieves.” It’s plur­al because it refers to the thief that steals the father’s bike as well as the father when he attempts to steal a bike at the end of the movie.

  • Ace Bodine says:

    La Stra­da.

  • Jakfy says:

    Rais­ing Ari­zona has always been tops on my list. And should be # 1 on all lists for­ev­er!

  • joe says:

    what about ben hurt.. it won 11 acad­e­my awards

  • joe says:

    ben hur

  • Bill says:

    Bad­lands and The Last Pic­ture Show.

  • Marshall G. Ryan says:

    No need to look very far.…‘Casablanca’ is wor­thy

  • Lloyd Stewart says:

    If we’re judg­ing by how many times one has actu­al­ly watched a movie because it was that good/enjoyable, put me down for Cap­tain Ron.

  • Sunil says:

    All these movies are great. I was just won­der­ing if the movie have to be slow paced to make any great list of movies.

  • Jim says:

    Nope, it’s “ladri di bici­clette” which trans­lates as Bicy­cle Thieves.

  • Oops says:

    Are you chi­nese?

  • Naveen says:

    Shaw­shank Redemp­tion
    Leave the end­ing . ..the whole movie …the con­ver­sa­tion …it had to be there

  • Martin says:

    How can Cad­dy Shack not make this list?

  • William says:

    Indeed, Mar­tin, indeed. The list is a trav­es­ty, a taint on the taints of the gods of cin­e­ma. I must take solace in my over­whelm­ing belief that Cad­dyshack is at least in the top 15 finest movies in his­to­ry. And of course join­ing that august group is the cin­e­mat­ic pièces de ré·sis·tance, The Ghost and Mr. Chick­en .

  • Jack Colwell says:

    No Dr Strangelove, Paris Texas, Touch of Evil, The Wiz­ard of Oz?

  • Robert King says:

    It is a per­son­al thing.

  • Kenneth Iroguosa Woghiren says:

    Glad­i­a­tor, Octo­pus, Day of the Jack­al, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, Ram­bo First Blood.

  • John Clark says:

    Inter­est­ing you don’t seem to list “the film­mak­ers” respon­si­ble or did I just miss it? IMO Apoc­a­lypse Now is a per­son­al project gone wild. And Bran­do is over the top as Kurtz as are most of the oth­er per­for­mances. I should feel warm and fuzzy though. Kubrick, he always gets the knod in there some­where. He was some­thing of a ide­al when I was a wannabe film­mak­er. Final­ly Kuro­sawa be a bet­ter choice for the role of over­looked Japan­ese film­mak­ers. I used to think Ser­gio Leone pret­ty hot till I saw Yojim­bo. Your film­mak­ers aside.

  • Dave says:

    Being There with Peter Sell­ers. His last film.
    Psy­cho. Alfred Hitch­cock
    Memen­to w Guy Pearce
    Pla­toon. Oliv­er Stone.
    The Best(Happiest) years of our lives.
    The Shin­ing
    Rose­mary’s Baby
    Escape fon Alca­traz
    Antoini­nis. “Blow Up”

  • Will says:

    Arti­cle not say­ing that a tru­ly out­stand­ing film has not been made in the past 40 years, only that it did not rank high­er than the top ten that are on this list, accord­ing to the 358 film­mak­ers that were polled for this arti­cle.

  • Michael Duffy says:

    The orig­i­nal title is Ladri di Bici­clet­ti, which trans­lates as Bicy­cle Thieves. It’s called that in the UK. Does any­one know why it was changed in the US?

    (I see i’m a year or so late here.)

  • Andrea Ashburn says:

    Cin­e­ma Par­adiso

  • Bob says:

    Or maybe there just hap­pen to be no films that make the list that hap­pen to be female direct­ed. So what

  • David says:

    recent­ly watched Taxi Dri­ver and it just does­n’t engage me. Guess that is why art is hard to judge as to what is “best”, in the end it is a per­son­al impres­sion.

  • Steve Dunnington says:

    This list is Absolute­ly faux intel­lec­tu­al hog­wash !!!
    I’ll tol­er­ate one or two old B&W clas­sics but say­ing these are GOAT is ridicu­lous.
    How do you put Apoc­a­lypse Now (which I love) on this list con­sid­er­ing the beat­ing it took and not include TRULY the great­est Action/Adventure/War epic “Lawrence of Ara­bia”; par­tic­u­lar­ly as its based on a real hero????
    Fur­ther­more, there are far bet­ter, more enter­tain­ing and less obscure films that actu­al­ly changed the way films are being made. Star Wars 4 A New Hope for exam­ple may be a some­what flawed movie at times, but when you con­sid­er the cul­tur­al impact, what it did for Sci Fi, and the artistry of peo­ple like McQuar­rie, John­ston, Dyk­stra and the rest who went on to make new film indus­tries its a “no brain­er”.
    Bladerun­ner and Alien have been repeat­ed­ly laud­ed as 2 of the most impor­tant films made since their time for rea­sons I could write a book about. Stop try­ing to look like some cul­tured, woke, virtue sig­nal­ing intel­lec­tu­al and pick some­thing tru­ly defen­si­ble. “Ver­ti­go” isn’t even close to being the best Hitch­cock film.

    1. Lawrence of Ara­bia
    2. Star Wars New Hope
    3. Schindler’s List
    4. Deer Hunter
    5. Rocky 1
    6. Spar­ta­cus
    7. God­fa­ther
    8. Casablan­ca
    9. Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan

  • helmut says:

    110 years of mov­ing pic­tures and Cop­po­la made two of the ten best, ever? What are the odds?

  • dominic says:

    it was short­ened to thief in america.because amer­i­cans have a short aten­tion span.and to many let­ters in thieves.

  • Ralph says:

    Maybe some of you should read a book instead of watch­ing movies so you can learn to spell.

  • Pierre says:

    The num­ber one is……. La stra­da !!

  • Michael Sims says:

    It doesn’t say that. It says nobody made a top ten of all time. There’s always going to be con­tro­ver­sy on a list like this. Frankly at lot of it has to do with the shack­les stu­dios put on direc­tors these days any­way. Using focus groups to deter­mine plot, and forc­ing them to have hap­py end­ings only. Not exact­ly con­ducive to cre­ativ­i­ty or risk tak­ing.

  • until the light says:

    How old are you? :D

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