Citizen Kane voted greatest-ever American film in BBC poll

An international panel of critics has put Orson Welles’s much-praised debut first in a list of great American films, with Coppola’s The Godfather as runner-up

A critics poll conducted by the BBC has named Citizen Kane as the greatest American film ever made.

The BBC Culture website said it had asked 62 critics from publications across the world – including the Guardian’s Jordan Hoffman, National Review’s Armond White, and the Village Voice’s Stephanie Zacharek – to submit a list of the 10 films they considered the greatest in American cinema, and Orson Welles’s celebrated debut film, released in 1941, came out on top.

In second place, the poll named Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 gangster epic The Godfather, while Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 thriller, Vertigo, came third. The top five was rounded out by 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 space saga, and John Ford’s classic western, The Searchers, released in 1956.

Several directors have emerged with five entries in the top 100, including Hitchcock, Kubrick, Steven Spielberg and Billy Wilder. The highest-rated silent film is Sunrise, from German-born director FW Murnau, while the most recent film to be included in the list is the 2014 best picture Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen.

The poll’s conclusions are broadly in line with other similar lists – the 2012 Sight & Sound greatest films poll, for example, had Citizen Kane in second place, though placed Vertigo above it. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Sunrise and The Searchers also constituted the top American films in the Sight and Sound poll, though The Godfather was not nearly so highly rated – in contrast with Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, which was the sixth-highest American film in the Sight & Sound poll, but was placed only 90th in the BBC’s.

Surprisingly, the BBC’s panel of critics has voted Birth of a Nation, the notorious silent film praising the Ku Klux Klan, into 39th place.


Andrew Pulver

The GuardianTramp

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