‘Empire Strikes Back’ Tops Controversial List of Best Films

Empire Strikes Back Star Wars

Empire Magazine took an informal poll of 250,000 “film fans” (read: people who read Empire Magazine) to find out what, according to readers, are the 301 best films of all time, and the results are, more or less, the antithesis of the headline-making 2012 Sight and Sound film poll. Every ten years, the British Film Institute performs a vast, thorough, and ultimately incisive poll of film critics, scholars, and filmmakers from around the world called the Sight and Sound poll. It’s unanimously considered the most important and influential poll in the film world, and the most recent one caused an uproar when Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo usurped the usual winner, Citizen Kane. Hitch’s film had been gradually climbing up the list for several decades, but its dethroning of Orson Welles’ masterpiece surprised many.

The 2012 poll’s top 20 lists: VertigoCitizen KaneTokyo Story; La Règle du jeuSunrise2001: A Space OdysseyThe SearchersMan With a Movie CameraPassion of Joan of Arc8 1/2; Battleship Potemkin; L’Atalante; BreathlessApocalypse Now; Au Hasard BalthazarSeven SamuraiPersonaMirror; and Singin’ in the Rain.

This was also the first time Francis Ford Coppola’s first two entries in The Godfather saga were counted as separate films, thus splitting the votes and knocking them both out of the top 20. Coppola considered the first two films to be two parts of one story, and the third an epilogue (done for money, of course), but they are, obviously, two different films that tell one long story, so counting them as one single entity never made sense. If for nothing else, the 2012 poll deserves credit there.

Actually, let me back peddle: to be more precise, Vertigo topped the critics’ poll, which is kept separate from the filmmakers’ poll. Since there are inherently more scholars and critics than filmmakers, and because the poll is run by critics and scholars and not filmmakers, the former is considered the “real” poll, while the directors’ poll is more supplementary; the individual polls from legendary directors is always a treat to read, especially the ever-eclectic (and eccentric) Quentin Tarantino, for those who are interested.