Hitchcock knocks Welles off top of 'greatest film' poll

Hitchcock knocks Welles off film poll
Film stars James Stewart and Kim Novak as they appear in Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 movie "Vertigo"


    Hitchcock knocks Welles off film poll


Hitchcock knocks Welles off film poll 04:28

Story highlights

  • Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" named greatest film in once-in-a-decade poll of film critics
  • Hitchcock knocks Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" off top of list for first time in 50 years
  • "Tokyo Story," "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "The Searchers" among top picks
  • Three silent films, including Murnau's "Sunrise" (1927) also included in Top 10

Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" has been named the greatest movie of all time, knocking long-time favorite Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" off the top of a once-in-a-decade survey of critics from around the world.

Hitchcock's thriller, starring James Stewart and Kim Novak, came top of Sight & Sound magazine's poll of 846 film experts more than 50 years after the movie was first released -- to little critical acclaim -- in 1958.

Sight & Sound has compiled a list of the 100 greatest films every 10 years; the results, announced with great fanfare, are awaited with bated breath by cinephiles across the globe. But over the decades the composition of the top 10 has remained relatively consistent, with "Citizen Kane" retaining pole position for half a century.

This time around, though, Orson Welles' 1941 masterwork slipped to the number two slot, ahead of Yasujiro Ozu's "Tokyo Story" (1953) at number three, Jean Renoir's "La Regle du Jeu" at number four.

Sight & Sound's editor Nick James said the surprise result in the critics' poll reflected changes in the culture of film criticism, away from "films that strive to be great art, such as 'Citizen Kane,' and that use cinema's entire arsenal of effects to make a grand statement" towards those with "personal meaning to the critic."

"Vertigo is the ultimate critics' film because it is a dreamlike film about people who are not sure who they are but who are busy reconstructing themselves and each other to fit a kind of cinema ideal of the ideal soul mate," he said in a statement.

F.W. Murnau's "Sunrise" (1927) rounded out the top five. Murnau's first Hollywood movie was one of a record three silent films to make it into the top ten, alongside Dziga Vertov's "Man with a Movie Camera" (1929) and Carl Theodor Dreyer's "The Passion of Joan of Arc" (1928).

And while the rest of the top ten does include films familiar to more mainstream moviegoers -- Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" and John Ford's "The Searchers" -- there is little room in the poll for today's box office hits.

Hollywood's big-budget blockbusters, such as "Avatar," "Titanic," and "The Avengers" do not register in the upper reaches of the poll. You'll find no Harry Potter or James Bond -- the most successful film franchises of all time -- and you'll have to look beyond the top 20 for a film made beyond the 20th century.

"2001: A Space Odyssey," dating from 1968, is the most modern film in the top 10; more recent offerings from Wong Kar-Wai -- 2000's "In the Mood for Love" -- and David Lynch -- 2001's "Mulholland Drive" make their debuts lower down the list, at 24 and 28, respectively.

Women, too, are poorly represented -- just two female filmmakers are included in the top 100 -- Chantal Akerman for "Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles" (at 35) and Claire Denis for "Beau Travail" (at 78).

Filmmakers also got to have their say: A separate poll of 358 directors from all over the world, including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino, picked "Tokyo Story" as their top movie, ahead of "Citizen Kane" and "2001: A Space Odyssey" in joint second place. "Vertigo" was placed seventh on the directors' list.

And there's hope for the likes of James Cameron, Christopher Nolan and Peter Jackson -- Hitchcock's "Vertigo" was not considered "great" at the time of its release. Its gradual rise up the Sight & Sound poll (it was first included in 1982, at number 7) parallels an increasing recognition of Hitchcock's film-making prowess.

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