Much Ado About A List

Words by Yazen Al Samen

About a week ago, on August 1st 2012, British magazine Sight & Sound, which is part of the British Film Institute (BFI), announced its list of the greatest films of all time. Conducted by a poll from different critics, filmmakers and bloggers every ten years.The first was in 1952, and then every ten years from then.  In 1952, Vittorio Di Sica’s The Bicycle Thieves topped the list; it didn’t appear in the last five lists released (1972, 1982, 1992, 2002 and indeed, 2012). What does this mean though? Does it mean The Bicycle Thieves status has decreased since then? It’s still the most influential neo-realist film, nearly everybody agrees. What does a list like this give us?

In my opinion, and in the opinion of many a movie-buff, the Sight and Sound poll is probably the best movie list out there, simply because it’s there to be taken as an opinion. It matters little which movie is number one or ten. The list is there as a celebration of great movies, and great directors.

Each contributor is asked to send his or her ten favourite movies – and the great thing about the Sight & Sound poll is that it takes opinion from a large amount of people, from different backgrounds, yet with a huge knowledge in film. All the same (This year, eight hundred and fort six different critics, bloggers and writers contributed, among filmmakers).

Then, the movies that occur the most in the top 10 lists sent to Sight & Sound are then compiled into a “greatest” of all time list. Still, what does it really offer? Everybody can make their own list of anything, to any applied restriction they like, best ten films of all time or one hundred and eight six worst short films of all time.

What it does offer, for me at least, is way to see the changing moods and opinions towards certain movies (as I will expand over later), and also to see what people who I appreciate their opinions think and like (as I said many critics and filmmakers contribute to this poll). And lastly, and most importantly, introduce new movies, which is the ultimate aim for any growing cinephile, like me, or at least help some realize the importance of certain movies. And the Sight & Sound poll list does this better than any other list.

Still, it remains a list, and lists in their nature are kind of silly. Especially when you apply them to such a large scale (greatest of all time). But as I have already said, lists are there as an easy way to express opinion, and in the big wide world of movies, that’s where the fun is, beside watching movies, and I mean talking about movies.


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