BBC Culture recently polled 62 critics and writers from all over the world to determine the 100 Greatest American Films, and while there were few surprises among the choices (Citizen Kane tops the list, followed by The Godfather, Vertigo, 2001, and The Searchers), what is surprising is that there are very few Best Picture winners. Only twelve Best Picture winners are included (four are in the Top 10). In fact, there are very few Oscar nominees at all. Does the poll endorse the widely-held view that the Academy Awards often get it wrong? After all, Goodfellas lost out the Best Picture to Dances With Wolves, and while Martin Scorsese’s definitive crime drama (currently celebrating its 25th anniversary) comes in at number 20, Kevin Costner’s western epic, lauded at the time, is conspicuous by its absence.
“Critics and film scholars have historically been at odds with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in terms of what is truly Oscar-worthy, although those very same critics do seem to spend much of the year trying to influence Academy members with their opinions of what should win,” writes Deadline’s Pete Hammond. The Oscars come and go, and while some directors’ finest work is often overlooked (Citizen Kane lost out to How Green Was My Valley), the BBC poll suggests that the cream rises to the top over time.
The Top Ten (Best Picture winners are marked with an asterisk):
10. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)*
9. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)*
8. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
7. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)
6. Sunrise (FW Murnau, 1927)*
5. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
3. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
2. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)*
1. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)