For 50 years we’ve been told by film experts that Citizen Kane is the world’s greatest film. Until now. Knocking it off of its pedestal, the British Film Institute’s once-a-decade poll has named Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo in its place.
It’s a curious revelation. Vertigo is not what we would call a young film, so it begs the question; why hasn’t it been considered the greatest before now? What’s changed? Were voters simply bored of Citizen Kane, and wanted a new supreme leader?
Well, surprising as it may seem, the change has been a long time coming. When the poll was taken last decade, Vertigo was a mere five votes behind Citizen Kane. This time around it was ahead by 34 votes.
“People are moving towards more personal films, ones that they can react to personally in their own lives, and Vertigo is that kind of film, especially if you watch it more than once. It is a film that grows and grows on you,” Nick James, the editor of Sight & Sound magazine said.
They took the poll on behalf of BFI. 846 film critics and writers from across the globe placed their votes in the poll.
“It feels like a much more contemporary film than Citizen Kane, which is a lot of bombast and is very theatrical and slightly hammy by modern acting standards. Vertigo is about our inner life.”
What’s Vertigo about, you may be asking? The psychological thriller starred James Stewart and Kim Novak, and is about a former cop (Stewart), who is hired to follow an acquaintance’s wife (Novak), because she’s been acting strangely. It’s his job to work out the reasoning. And while we won’t give away the big twist (Hitchcock is the king of twists) for Vertigo newbies, it will likely surprise you.
The youngest film in BFI’s top 50 is Mulholland Drive (2001) starring Naomi Watts. This isn’t a negative reflection on the films created since the turn of the century though. Films take a while to build up a critical fan base. And older films have the advantage of being the first to explore an idea. The more films are made, the harder it is to create a truly unique cinematic picture.
So here’s the list of BFI’s top ten. Do you agree with the critics?
2. Citizen Kane
3. Tokyo Story
4. La Règle du jeu
5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey
7. The Searchers
8. Man with a Movie Camera
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc