Sight And Sound’s Greatest Films – The Next Batch

The Greatest Films Of All Time saga rumbles on with the release of the full top 250 titles.

No one can accuse the British Film Institute and Sight and Sound magazine of rushing through their once-a-decade Greatest Film Poll. After the top 100 appeared in December 2022, we’re getting the next 150 titles – taking us to 250 in total – on the last day of January 2023, with the full list of votes and voters not due until March. At this rate, we’ll be starting the next lot of votes before we’ve finished with the last one. Perhaps everyone is still in quiet shock at the winner.

Anyway, as with most polls, the also-rans are often more interesting than the winners. While we await the full voter list and – presumably – details of just how many people voted for each individual film, it’s safe to assume that in the points between 101 and 250, we’ll be getting those movies that only had a handful of votes – enough to make the lower echelons of the chart but not enough to be seen as important. If we assume – and I fear we must – that the ‘greatest film of all time’ winner was the result of a deliberate gaming of the system and a quiet campaign to overthrow the patriarchy, then here are the films that were perhaps more honestly voted for.

Which doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better. This next batch of films is still packed with the sort of movies that no one outside of the most chin-stroking of cineastes has even heard of, let alone seen – once again, if the idea of expanding the voting panel was to make the results more diverse, then I suppose you could arguably say it succeeded, but if the idea is to make the whole thing seem less elitist… well…

There are a few notable observations to make. Firstly, there are more post-2000 movies here – 20, if I’m counting correctly, which range from the predictable to the baffling (arty darlings in the former, Mad Max: Fury Road in the latter; I mean, if you have to pick a Mad Max film, voting for this over Mad Max 2 seems the height of insanity). Populist box office hits and franchises that failed to make the grade before are here – Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Matrix and Pulp Fiction are traditionally more the darlings of the Empire crowd, so perhaps we’re seeing a coming together of the two diverse strands. It certainly suggests ‘interesting’ times ahead where half of the films will be big-budget box office smashes and the other half determinedly obtuse titles that are so obscure as to be virtually impossible to see yet still secure votes.

Genre films make more of an appearance here – Jaws, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Suspiria, The Thing, Alien, a couple of David Cronenberg titles (Videodrome and Crash) and, most pleasingly but not all that unexpectedly, Zuwalski’s Possession. While some of these titles have appeared on the Big List before, they seem to be in higher positions than before, again perhaps reflecting a shift in how ‘serious’ film critics view horror in particular. Similarly, there are the cult classics with big enough reputations to secure multiple votes – Pink Flamingos, A Touch of Zen, A Clockwork Orange, Michael Mann’s Heat (I’d rather vote for Paul Morrissey’s Heat personally, but whatever) – and the former big names that have slipped further and further down the list over the years as they – or their directors – fall out of fashion: Annie Hall, The Godfather Part II, Touch of Evil, Raging Bull, Chinatown, The Seventh Seal, Hiroshima Mon Amour, L’Eclisse, Black Narcissus, Abel Gance’s Napoleon, Sullivan’s Travels… do we need to mention that all of these are much better films than Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles? Of course not.

The lower part of the poll is where your Reprobate editor’s own choices make more frequent appearances. Three of my ten picks – Apocalypse Now, Daisies and Le Mépris – made the hot one hundred. A few more make the next 150 – The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Exterminating Angel, Last Year in Marienbad, Paris, Texas and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. Had I been allowed to choose 20 films, I might have had more films on the list – I guess I’m not so removed from the critical consensus after all. Incidentally, it was good to see Twin Peaks: The Return at 152, higher than Fire Walk With Me – I certainly had that under consideration but couldn’t quite decide if it qualified as a film or not.

Anyway, what do we learn from this expanded list that we didn’t already know? That some beloved horror movies are on the cusp of the top 100 but are still not seen as respectable or worthwhile enough by a large percentage of critics? That people vote for what makes them seem smart rather than what they love? That cultural snobbery is still rampant in the film world? That comedy is still seen as inherently worthless? Perhaps. The real fun will come with the release of the individual votes, a chance to see who voted for what and – more importantly – which oddball outliers get a single vote. We’ll be back to this in March, I guess. In the meantime, here’s the top 250 to explore with a sense of wonder and despair:


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  1. Firstly, this ‘of all time’ jazz – this kind of hyperbole does my head in. How many classics did the Stone Age yield? (Obviously 1M Yrs BC – which should be in the 250, certainly). I’ll smile when we contact alien races and their woke delegation gives our cinema-priest caste grief for being homo-centrist in their outlook. ‘All time?!?’ they will telepathically project, while squelching in outrage.

    It’s a pretty dull list – though I love a lot of the films in question, I cannot get excited at the prospect of yet another bulletin informing me that The Good, The Bad & The Ugly rules. The mashing-up with the Empire mentality just suggests to me that the tastes of these prefects are degraded. It’s like the election of a new Pope, a bunch of cardinals ensconced in their chambers mulling over the political efficacy of this or that candidate. I’m pleased, in a way, that supposed arbiters of cinematic excellence recognise the Texas Chain Saw Massacre – however, it may not be the big-shit deal they might assume: Dawn Of the Dead made the Time Out list decades ago. Somehow, and it’s not just that then I was mere frogspawn, now am decaying toad, that list carried more heft and weight than S&S’s compromised parade.

    Here’s the rub: the thing smacks of gimmickry. Another, Yet Another, list of the ‘Greatest’ of ‘All-Time!!!’ is so shagged-out a concept that they were forced to pull some stunt to raise any interest. It’s clickbait – of course, most of us were wondering what the hell Chantelle du 23 Hurs or whatever it’s called even is, even before we could take to Twitter and call for pitchforks, burnings-at-the-stake, etc. (Incidentally, one can do so without even putting on one’s trousers – I did, without even getting out of bed, and returned to a comfortable sleep instantly afterward).

    Not alone did they pick a ‘masterpiece’ in synchrony (erm, I think …) with pressing issues, they also picked the most classic example of a boring art film possible. And it’s in French! I imagine howls of laughter resounded over the editorial staff’s zoom meetings. Most things are jokes presented with a straight face – we, the mugs, then get ourselves whipped up into a lather of yay or naying.

    They should do a list of the best lists. Seriously! People didn’t take cinema seriously, apart from miniscule niche weirdo cliques, until recently. Certainly, a blink of an eye in the scale of ‘All Time’. Alright, I’m being pedantic about the all-time stuff. But there again, the voters choices are skewed toward a very brief period from the 70s to present, in general. A review of the influential lists would demonstrate that the form once had both the benefit of being compiled by geeks who knew the subject inside out, and of being a novelty.

    The lists are now, as with the Empire list, tailored toward what the supposed audience wants to hear, rather than what’s good for them. Bring back conscription, I say, never done me any ‘arm … too many computer games … do you remember Trios? The chocolate biscuits? ‘I wanna Trio and I want one now …’ They’d probly ban that now, cultural appropriation. I arsk you!

    Another thing – where the hades are great British films like Steptoe And Son Ride Again? Here, I am not joking.

    With regard to the question of Twin Peaks: The Return. Although it shouldn’t be in the list anyway since it is no way even inside the thousand best anythings ever, I think they should bite the bullet and accept that the death of celluloid meant the End Of Cinema As We Knew It!!! McLuhan said the Medium is the Massage – equally pertinent is the fact that the Mode of the Medium is the Message. Did they actually watch Videodrome with a razor-mind or did they simply spy on me, discover my obsession with it and then assume it must be therefore trendy? I’ll bet they’ll just spout inanities about ‘capitalism’ when pressed on the meaning of ‘Videodrome’. Likewise ‘Possession’. Frankly, critical approval always makes me go limp. I rejoice when the Oscar is awarded to whatever ghastly disease-of-the-week abomination is doing the rounds. ‘We’re safe!’ I say to myself. ‘They missed us!’ It’s like Passover.

    Tarantino should win many Oscars, because he is shit.

    Tell you what theys should do: Three lists. The all-too-brief, guttering candle of the glorious nitrate, celluloid time. Romantic as fuck, you’ll agree. Second list: The infinite landfill of the digital era, present, ongoing, as of now. Any old shit you want, from said era, can go in here. ‘Charlie Bit Me’ can go in, if enough idiots can be found to vote for it. Third: A conglomeration of the two. If Twin Peaks: The Return is eligible, why not all TV? I’m not telling you, I’m asking you, am I?

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