On Rebuttals and Ballots for Sight and Sound’s ‘Greatest Films of All Time’ List

by | Dec 7, 2022 | Commentary, News

The Edge has leapt into the debates ignited by the December 1 publication of the Sight and Sound Greatest Films of All Time 2022 list currently crackling across social media.

We’re not just publishing rebuttals to the list. We are also publishing the nominations of different film scholars and cinephiles to the poll that proposed a more expansive view of cinema. (Full disclosure: one of the members of The Edge’s editorial team was invited to nominate but declined due to the political problems of list making and the word “greatest”). The majority of films on the list are feature-length, but there are at least two shorts.

Effusive exultations and thumbs up emojis that a woman with a daring feminist film is listed as #1 for the first time in 70 years populate these posts, many by film professors who regularly teach “Jeanne Dielmann, 23,” “Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles” (1975). In the decades before streaming, you could only access the film in an art cinema or at a feminist film festival. Now you can use your credit card to pay $2.99 USD and watch it any time you want on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, or Vudu.

Distributors and film scholars underscore that Latin American films constitute a gaping absence. In our current context of a more expansive and even polemical way of programming, teaching, and writing about film influenced by postcolonialism, feminism, and critical race studies, such intensifying political critiques of the mainstream and the canon grow more pressing.

Not many scholars, distributors, journalists, or programmers seem overly excited about the rest of the films of the list, either ignoring the list entirely or determining it is status quo or old-fashioned as modes of cinema have expanded beyond features and the art cinemas of the Global North arts/industrial matrix.

The 300+ word preface on the ballot distributed to nominators advances an argument for recognizing work not on the previous 100s.

For film historian Dan Streible, this was his first invitation to vote. Since his ballot annotations were written in August 2022, they should not be read as a reaction to this week’s debates. We’ve published his list here to show that some cinephiles were thinking out of the box and beyond the art cinema canon before the current debates erupted.


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