Hitchcock’s Vertigo ousts Citizen Kane as greatest film of all time

After half a century of domination by Orson Welles's classic, the British Film Institute poll names a movie by a home-grown director the greatest

For five decades Orson Welles’s seminal drama Citizen Kane has topped the British Film Insitute’s poll of the greatest movies of all time. But this year the US director has finally been relgated to second place – and by a British auteur – as Alfred Hitchcock’s twisting 1958 thriller Vertigo is named number one in the poll of 846 film critics, academics and movie professionals.


The survey, conducted every ten years by the BFI’s organ Sight and Sound, awarded Vertigo 34 more votes than Citizen Kane, which nevertheless came a comfortable second, ahead of Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story.

Jean Renoir’s La Regle du Jeu and FW Murnau’s Sunrise: a Song for Two Humans complete the top five, with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Federico Fellini’s 8½ also named among the ten greatest films of all time.

Sight and Sound’s editor Nick James said of Vertigo’s promotion to the top spot: “This result reflects changes in the culture of film criticism.

“The new cinephilia seems to be not so much about films that strive to be great art, such as Citizen Kane, and that use cinema’s entire arsenal of effects to make a grand statement, but more about works that have personal meaning to the critic.

“Vertigo is the ultimate critics’ film because it is a dreamlike film about people who are not sure who they are but who are busy reconstructing themselves and each other to fit a kind of cinema ideal of the ideal soulmate.”

See the BFI’s top ten greatest films of all time below. For the full list of 50, visit BFI.org.

1. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)

2. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)

3. Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)

4. La Regle du Jeu (Renoir, 1939)

5. Sunrise: a Song for Two Humans (Murnau, 1927)

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)

7. The Searchers (Ford, 1956)

8. Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)

9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1927)


10. 8½ (Fellini, 1963)