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Analysis: The Greatest Films of All Time 2012

Once a decade Sight & Sound asks critics to select the Greatest Films of All Time. We’re proud that, thanks to its longevity and critical reach, this poll has come to be regarded as the most trusted guide there is to the canon of cinema greats, not to mention a barometer of changing critical tastes. Famously, Citizen Kane topped our poll every decade from 1962 to 2002…

For our 2012 edition, riding on the back of an increasingly globalised movie culture, we made a concerted push to take the poll truly worldwide – extending invitations to over 1,000 critics, programmers, academics, distributors, writers and other cinephiles, and receiving 846 top-ten lists from correspondents in 73 countries, citing 2,045 different films.

What the increase in numbers has – and hasn’t – done is surprising. We have a new number one (a colour film!), but the overall top ten has shifted back in time, with fully three silent films and nothing more recent than 1968’s 2001. (That said, there may be the first accruals of recognition for the past decade-and-a-bit’s putative ‘modern classics’ at numbers 24 and 28. And on the subject of fluctuating tastes, it’s fascinating to see the extremely long latter-day titles that have infiltrated the 36th and 48th slots.)

Female filmmakers also continue to be underserved by the consensus: while a quarter of our voters were women, there were barely nine female-directed titles in our top 250. And while we attempted to extend our invitations to more particular connoisseurs of documentary, animation, experimental and short films, there’ve been few surprises to disrupt the dominance of the ‘art’ feature film – the most notable exceptions being at numbers 8 and 29…

All these trends and more warrant further exploration, which we’re continuing to amass over at our poll news pages at, where you can also read more about our methodology. And on 22 August we’ll be adding here the 358 top-ten lists we received in our parallel film directors’ poll, which we’ve also conducted every decade since 1992; for now you can see their top ten here, or indeed browse 100 of their entries in our special September 2012 poll issue, now also available in digital form.

In the meantime, happy browsing…

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