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Looking for a good movie? You can't go wrong with Sight and Sound's best movies of all time

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Once a decade for the last 70 years, the British film magazine Sight and Sound has asked select film critics to name the best movies of all time. Each critic chooses 10 films, and then the top movies get ranked by whichever shows up the most times. I haven’t yet received my invitation to participate, but I’ve been having some trouble with my mail lately, so I’m sure it just got lost somewhere along the way.

The first poll, in 1952, ended up with Vittorio De Sica’s Italian neo-realist masterpiece Bicycle Thieves at the top, before it gave way 10 years later to Citizen Kane, which stayed at the top for the next 50 years. But in 2012, it was edged out by Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and now with this year’s poll, both of those films have been bumped down one spot by the late Belgian director Chantal Akerman and her groundbreaking 1975 portrait of a widowed housewife, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. Akerman is the first woman to lead the poll, but she’s one of four in the top 20 this year, which admittedly still isn’t a lot, but it does show real progress in the poll broadening its scope. Sight and Sound has made an effort to include more critical voices, which has meant an uptick in the number of women and non-white directors being represented. Black American filmmakers have certainly made a jump, with Spike Lee improving his position with Do the Right Thing, Charles Burnett’s astonishing independent film Killer of Sheep not too far behind, Julie Dash’s singular Daughters of the Dust making its well-deserved debut, and much more recent films like Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight and Jordan Peele’s Get Out appearing in the first poll after their releases.

There is still certainly a long way to go—you’ll find only three movies from Africa on the list, and a big fat zero from anywhere in Latin America. But for people looking to enrich their understanding of what can make the movies the great art they can be, you could do a lot worse than to close your eyes and pick just about anything off this year’s top 100.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.