Every decade Sight and Sound polls critics and academics about their top ten films ever made. And every year, the number one film has always been the same: Citizen Kane (1941).
Until now, that is. The newly-released 2012 poll sees Alfred Hitchock’s 1958 puzzlebox Vertigo leapfrog over Citizen Kane to attain the top spot.
Does Vertigo deserve the honor? Who cares? Lists like these are often created to generate debate rather than definitively describe “the best” in absolute terms. In reality, the “changing of the guard” in this instance really only underscores how films mutate over time, their nuances heightened or lessened by ever-changing societal and social circumstances.
Is Vertigo really better than Citizen Kane? Of course not. Kane was the kind of revolutionary moment in art that happens once in a generation. Orson Welles creating Kane is the filmmaking equivalent of Oppenheimer inventing the atomic bomb, Darwin uncovering natural selection, or the Beatles stumbling onto multi-track recording. Nothing would ever be the same again.
I’m not even convinced that Vertigo is the best film of Alfred Hitchcock’s career, let alone of all time. I find the central “mystery” of the film to be clumsily resolved at the end. I also think the Scottie/Midge friendship is introduced with some great scenes, but then the Midge character totally disappears in the second half. For my money, Psycho is the better, more complete Hitchcock film.
But that’s the beauty of these lists, I suppose: endless, circular debate without end! Now let’s call this list and each other “stupid” in the comments below! Thank, internet media!!
1. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
2. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
3. Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)
4. La Règle du jeu (Renoir, 1939)
5. Sunrise: a Song for Two Humans (Murnau, 1927)
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
7. The Searchers (Ford, 1956)
8. Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1927)
10. 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963)
This article was first posted on August 1, 2012