According to a group of film critics, the greatest movie ever made is Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. The 1975 film tops the 2022 results of British magazine Sight and Sound’s prestigious “Greatest Films of All Time” poll, which has taken place every ten years since 1952.
Written and directed by Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman, Jeanne Dielman is the first film directed by a woman to rank in the number one spot in the poll’s 70-year history. Clocking in at over three hours, the movie follows the mundane daily tasks of its title character, a middle-aged widow and mother, until her life begins to unravel.“For much of its runtime, it’s extremely boring,” film critic and reporter Alissa Wilkinson, who participated in the Sight and Sound poll and cast a ballot for Jeanne Dielman, writes in Vox. “That is, precisely, the point—and if you’re ready to lean into patience, you’ll be rewarded.”
Mike Williams, editor in chief of Sight and Sound, describes Akerman’s work as a “landmark feminist film.”
“Jeanne Dielman’s success reminds us that there is a world of under-seen and under-appreciated gems out there to be discovered,” says Williams in a statement. “What currently undervalued masterpieces might emerge in ten years thanks to this tireless work?”
More than 1,600 film critics, academics, distributors, writers, curators, archivists and programmers were surveyed for the 2022 poll, nearly double the 846 polled in 2012. Each participant casts a ballot with ten unranked films, and each selected film receives one vote.
This year’s electorate is “wider and more diverse” than years past, according to the British Film Institute (BFI), which owns and operates Sight and Sound. That diversification is reflected in the poll’s number one film—as well as the 99 that follow it.
In 2012, Jeanne Dielman was just one of two films directed by women that ranked at all, tied for number 36 (regardless of ties, the Sight and Sound list only includes 100 movies). Claire Denis’ Beau Travail (1998) was tied at number 78. This year, Beau Travail moved up to the number 7 spot. Nine other films directed by women joined the list, including Agnès Varda’s Cléo From 5 to 7 (1962), which takes the number 14 spot, and Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019), which ranks at number 30.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire is one of four movies on the 2022 list released in the last decade, along with Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight (2016), tied at number 60, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019), tied at number 90, and Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017), tied at number 95.
Moonlight and Get Out are two of seven films by Black directors that made the 2022 list, compared to just one in 2012: Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki (1973). Touki Bouki climbed from its 2012 ranking at number 93 to the 66th spot this year. Others that rank this year include Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989), at number 24, and Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep (1977), tied at number 43.
For the first time in Sight and Sound history, animated films have made the list. Hayao Miyazaki, the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, directed both of them: My Neighbor Totoro (1988) is tied at number 72, and Spirited Away (2001) is tied at 75.
Every addition to this year’s list means a subtraction from the previous list. Films that have been knocked out of the top 100 include D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916), David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II (1974) and Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull (1980).
Jason Wood, executive director of public programs and audiences at the BFI, says in a statement that this year’s Sight and Sound list “shakes a fist at the established order.”
“Canons should be challenged and interrogated,” he adds, “and as part of the BFI’s remit to not only revisit film history but to also reframe it, it’s so satisfying to see a list that feels quite radical in its sense of diversity and inclusion.”