Alfred Hitchcock's thriller has ended Citizen Kane's 50-year reign as the world's best film.
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7 Aug 2012 - 4:47 PM  UPDATED 5 Nov 2012 - 5:33 PM

The results of the decennial poll (yes, that's every 10 years) run by the esteemed British film journal, Sight & Sound, are out, and the seventh edition of the sampling of 846 critics, academics, programmers and various other cinephiles to compile a list of the greatest films ever made has been topped – for the first time – by Hitchcock's 1958 masterpiece Vertigo, a movie of sublime obsession, beauty and loss.

See here for the complete list, but the top 10 consists of:

1 – Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
2 – Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
3 – Tokyo Story (Ozu Yasujiro, 1953)
4 – La Regle du jeu (Jean Renoir, 1939)
5 – Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (F.W. Murnau, 1927)
6 – 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
7 – The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
8 – Man With a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
9 – The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Dreyer, 1927)
10 – 8½ (Federico Fellini, 1963)

The poll began in 1952, when Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves took top spot, but since 1962 it's been Orson Welles' furiously innovative Citizen Kane that held top spot. Back in 2002 Kane was one and Vertigo was two, but this time the 846 ballots (which referenced over 2000 movies) reversed their placing. Vertigo has been rising with each decade – much like Hitchcock's influence – building from seven in 1982, to four in 1992, then two in 2002. The picture's time had come.

To contrast the changes, here's the 2002 list:

1 – Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
2 – Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
3 – La Regle du jeu (Jean Renoir, 1939)
4 – The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972 and 1974)
5 – Tokyo Story (Ozu Yasujiro, 1953)
6 – 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
7 (tie) – Sunrise (F.W. Murnau, 1927)
7 (tie) – Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)
9 – 8 ½ (Federico Fellini, 1963)
10 – Singin' in the Rain (Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen, 1952)

One departure was essentially administrative: a new ruling meant that the two Godfather movies were treated as separate entries, while Battleship Potemkin dropped to 11 and Singin' in the Rain dipped down to 20. The latter, a classic of one distinctly American genre, the screen musical, has been replaced by the pinnacle of another, with the return of The Searchers, a western, to the top 10, having last featured there in 1992. The other two new top entries since the last sampling – the Russian meta-documentary Man With a Movie Camera and the powerful drama The Passion of Joan of Arc – reveal a renewed interest in silent cinema, perhaps reflecting concerns over film's legacy as the digital age takes hold.

Despite murmurings about the possible debut of Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, only two 21st century works – Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood For Love and David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. – reached the top 50, at 24 and 28 respectively.

As has happened since 1992, Sight & Sound held a separate poll amongst directors, with their top 10 compiled from 358 ballots amassed from filmmakers such as Woody Allen, Mike Leigh, Oliver Assayas, Michael Mann, Martin Scorsese and, in rarefied company, Snowtown director Justin Kurzel. Their top 10 was:

1 – Tokyo Story (Ozu Yasujiro, 1953)
2 – 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
3 – Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
4 – 8 ½ (Federico Fellini, 1963)
5 – Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
6 – Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
7 (tie) – The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
7 (tie) – Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
9 – Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974)
10 – Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1949)

Their list was noticeably different, although that's the whole point of the Sight & Sound poll. No-one agrees in full with either list, but in the debate, disagreement and, sometimes, disdain, blooms a love of cinema. As ever, the best thing about these lists is seeing the films on them that you're unfamiliar with.