Sight & Sound's greatest films poll reveals new best movie, and it's not Citizen Kane or Vertigo

Delphine Seyrig in Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce,1080 Bruxelles
Delphine Seyrig in Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce,1080 Bruxelles (Image credit: Paradise Films/Unité Trois/Album/Alamy Stock Photo)

Entertainment fans love lists (as you'll be reminded with countless top 10 articles throughout December, including WTW's for 2022 movies and 2022 TV shows), but perhaps few are as respected as Sight & Sound's list of the greatest movies of all time. So, when a new movie takes over the top spot on the list, as has happened with the group's 2022 poll, it can cause a bit of a stir.

Since 1952, Sight & Sound, a monthly magazine published by the British Film Institute, has polled critics on what they believe are the greatest movies of all time. Done every 10 years, the list is always a fun look at how certain movies are viewed by people who write on them for a living. In that time only two movies have had the distinction of being called Sight & Sound's greatest movie of all time: Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) in 2012 and Orson Wells' Citizen Kane (1941) in all other years. But neither received that honor this year.

Instead, Sight & Sound's group of international voters have named Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles as the greatest film of all time. The movie was made in 1975 and was written and directed by Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman. The story is centered on a lonely widowed housewife who is just going through the motions until something happens that changes her routine. Jeanne Dielman's only other appearance on the Sight & Sound list came in 2012, when it ranked 36.

This is also significant as it marks the first time that a female filmmaker has topped Sight & Sound's list. In fact, the 2022 Sight & Sound poll is much more representative of female filmmakers overall, after just Jeanne Dielman and Claire Denis' Beau travail were the only two movies from female directors on the 2012 list.

As part of this being named Sight & Sound's greatest film of all time, BFI has made Jeanne Dielman available to stream on BFI Player (opens in new tab), which can be accessed in both the UK and US. The movie is also available to rent through digital on-demand in the US.

The two previous holders of Sight & Sound's "greatest film of all time" title didn’t drop far down the list: Vertigo ranked second and Citizen Kane was voted third. The rest of 2022's top 10 movies include Ozu Yasujiro's Tokyo Story (1953), Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love (2001), Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Claire Denis' Beau travail (1998), David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. (2001), Dziga Vertoz's Man with a Movie Camera (1929) and Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's Singin' in the Rain (1952).

Some other highlights include The Godfather, Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and a few more recent entries, including Céline Sciamma's 2019 movie Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Jordan Peele's Get Out (2017).

Check out the complete 2022 Sight & Sound's greatest films of all time list right here (opens in new tab).  You can also check out its video counting down their top 20 films below.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Peaky Blinders, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Saturday Night Live, Only Murders in the Building and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd (opens in new tab).