Every decade Sight and Sound run an international survey of cinema and ask filmmakers from around the world to contribute in their quest to decide the greatest films of all time.
The list, which appears on the website of the British Film Institute, asked 358 directors including the likes of Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, the Dardenne brothers, Guillermo del Toro, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and more, had building on the same tradition since it’s first issue back in 1952.
For decades now Orson Welles’ iconic film Citizen Kane has remained top of the pile, the general consensus being that the mystery drama examining the life and legacy of Charles Foster Kane is arguably the greatest film ever made. However, in the most recent edition of the director’s poll Welles’ effort had dipped down to third spot with the surprise revelation that Yasujiro Ozu film Tokyo Story has emerged victorious on this occasion.
Ozu’s 1953 film, telling the story of an ageing couple who travel to Tokyo to visit their grown children, is said to be loosely based on the 1937 American film, Make Way for Tomorrow, directed by Leo McCarey.
The film takes place in 1953 post-war Japan, a few years after the new Civil Code at a time when Japan’s bustling re-growth and embraced Western ideals with some older Japanese traditions began to fall by the wayside. Ozu himself called Tokyo Story “the film that tends most strongly to melodrama.”
Here’s the full list which has been decided by 358 directors:
1. Tokyo Story – Yasujiro Ozu, 1953.
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey – Stanley Kubrick, 1968.
– 2. Citizen Kane – Orson Welles, 1941.
4. 8 ½ – Federico Fellini, 1963.
5. Taxi Driver – Martin Scorsese, 1976.
6. Apocalypse Now – Francis Ford Coppola, 1979.
7. The Godfather – Francis Ford, Coppola, 1972.
– 7. Vertigo – Alfred Hitchcock, 1958.
9. Mirror – Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974.
10. Bicycle Thieves – Vittorio De Sica, 1949.
Tokyo Story claimed top spot with 48 votes in total, acclaimed Indian film director Adoor Gopalakrishnan describing it as “Subtle and sensitive, Tokyo Story lets the viewer experience the tensions and demands that modern life makes on people – here family members.”
Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 pioneering science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey was the runner up, Gaspar Noé offering his opinion: “This is the film I’ve seen more than any other in my life,” he said when voting for the Kubrick effort. “40 times or more. My life altered when I discovered it when I was about seven in Buenos Aires. It was my first hallucinogenic experience, my great artistic turning-point and also the moment when my mother finally explained what a foetus was and how I came into the world. Without this film I would never have become a director.”
Of course the list still includes many films that are widely accepted as masterpieces; Vertigo by Hitchcock, Taxi Driver by Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather and more.
Interestingly, 1848 film Bicycle Thieves by Vittorio De Sica scrapes into the top ten: “My absolute favourite, the most humanistic and political film in history,” Roy Anderson said of the film.
2001: A Space Odyssey – Stanley Kubrick
Citizen Kane – Orson Welles
8 ½ – Federico Fellini
Taxi Driver – Martin Scorsese
Apocalypse Now – Francis Ford Coppola
The Godfather – Francis Ford Coppola
Vertigo – Alfred Hitchcock
Mirror – Andrei Tarkovsky
Bicycle Thieves – Vittorio De Sica