While there is no agreement upon the greatest film of all time, many publications and organizations have tried to determine the films considered the greatest ever. The films mentioned in this article have all been mentioned in a notable survey — be it a critics' poll or popular poll. Many of these sources focus on American films or were polls of English-speaking film goers, but those considered the greatest within their respective countries are also included here.
None of these citations should be viewed as scientific measures of the film-watching world. All the surveys are flawed in one way or another. They are often influenced by vote-stacking or they survey a population with skewed demographics. Internet-based surveys have a self-selecting audience of unknown participants. The methodology of some surveys may be questionable. Sometimes (as in the case of the American Film Institute) voters were asked to select films from a limited list of entries.
Polls of critics and filmmakers
- Since 1952, the film magazine Sight & Sound has conducted a decennial poll of the greatest films every ten years. Originally, Ladri di Biciclette (Bicycle Thieves) received the most votes. According to noted film critic Roger Ebert, the Sight & Sound poll is "generally considered the most authoritative of all 'best film' lists".
- Orson Welles' Citizen Kane has been consistently voted number one in each of the last five Sight & Sound polls. A separate poll of established film directors, held for the first time in 1992, has also placed Citizen Kane at the top. The film was selected as number one in a Village Voice and in a Time Out critics' poll and was listed as the greatest American film twice by the American Film Institute in 1998 and 2007.
- La Règle du Jeu (The Rules of the Game) by director Jean Renoir was named the greatest film by the French film magazine Positif in 1991. It also holds the second slot in the Village Voice poll and is one of only two movies to have appeared in every one of the Sight & Sound polls.
- The Searchers is the film most often mentioned in a poll of the favorite films of directors by German language Steadycam magazine.
- The Brussels World’s Fair, organized in 1958, offered the occasion for the organization by thousands of critics and filmmakers from all over the world, of the first universal film poll in history.. These were the films chosen as most artistically fulfilled:
- The Shawshank Redemption, as of October 9th, 2008 holds the top spot on the IMDb's top 250 films.. It was voted the best film never to have won Best Picture in a 2005 BBC poll. In January 2006 Empire magazine readers named it the best film ever.
- The Dark Knight holds the top spot at Yahoo! Movies as of October 9th, 2008.
- Casablanca (1942) is widely cited as the greatest film of all time and was voted as such by readers of the Los Angeles Daily News in 1997. It is also regarded the "best Hollywood movie of all time" by the influential Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide. On April 7, 2006, the Writers' Guild of America declared Casablanca's screenplay the best ever written.
- Gone with the Wind was ranked as the greatest film of all time in a poll surveyed by Harris Interactive between January 15 and 22, 2008. Star Wars came in second place and Casablanca in third.
- The Godfather was voted number one by Entertainment Weekly's readers and voted as number one in a Time Out readers' poll in 1998. The film was also voted as the "Greatest Movie of All Time" in September 2008 by 10,000 readers of Empire magazine, 150 people from the movie business and 50 film critics. As of August 25th, 2008, it currently holds number 2 on the IMDb list.
- The Godfather Part II was voted best movie ever by TV Guide readers in 1998 and is in fourth place on the IMDb list.
- Cross of Iron (1977) was voted the greatest film of all time by Cinemag.
- Schindler's List was voted the best film ever made by the German film magazine Cinema.
- The Lord of the Rings trilogy was voted the most popular film of all time by an audience poll for the Australian television special My Favourite Film and by a poll casted by 120,000 German voters for the TV special "Die besten Filme aller Zeiten". Its first film, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), was the pick of readers in a poll by Empire magazine in November 2004. The third film, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, was voted the best movie of all time by Yahoo movies and Movies.com's annual reader's poll in 2006 and 2007. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is also the all-time top rated movie by boxofficemojo's user grades.
- Star Wars (1977) was chosen by readers of Empire magazine in November 2001 and by voters in a Channel 4/FilmFour poll It was voted number one in the 2007 Empire "Greatest 100 Movies" poll.
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) was voted number one in Total Film's Top 100 Movies of All Time and number one in the 2006 Empire "Greatest Movies Ever" special.
Particular genres or media
- The Last Waltz: Martin Scorsese's chronicling of The Band's farewell concert on Thanksgiving Day in 1976. Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune calls it "The greatest rock concert movie ever made -- and maybe the best rock movie, period." Terry Lawson of the Detroit Free Press comments that "This is one of the great movie experiences. The review at Total Film comments "In what is rightly considered the greatest concert film ever shot.... Rolling Stone dubbed it the greatest film about music ever made. Allmovie said that the film is "considered to be [one] of the best-looking and sounding rock films ever".
- Stop Making Sense (1984): Film critic James Berardinelli wrote that Jonathan Demme's capturing of the Talking Heads in concert was "the best concert film to date when it first came out, and nothing in the past decade-and-a-half has come close to toppling it from that position." Edward Guthmann of the San Francisco Chronicle had similar praise: "Has there ever been a live concert film as vibrant or as brilliantly realized? I don't think so."
- The Godfather (1972) was selected as the best gangster movie by the American Film Institute during their Ten Top Ten.
- Lawrence of Arabia (1962) was voted best epic by readers of Total Film in May 2004. It was selected as the number one epic movie during the American Film Institute during their Ten Top Ten.
- The Wizard of Oz (1939) was selected as the best fantasy movie by the American Film Institute during their Ten Top Ten.
- Vertigo was selected as the best mystery by the American Film Institute during their Ten Top Ten.
Superhero/Comic book adaptations
- The Dark Knight (2008) holds the top spot at Yahoo! Movies as of October 9th, 2008.
- Spider-Man 2 (2004) was selected the number one comic-to-cinema adaption in a poll of critics at rottentomatoes.com. and was named as the greatest superhero movie ever made by film critic Roger Ebert.
- Saving Private Ryan (1998) was voted as the greatest war film in a 2008 Channel 4 poll of the 100 greatest war films.
- Cross of Iron (1977) by Sam Peckinpah was voted greatest war film of all time by Sightsense magazine in 1983 for its portrayal of Germans and the battles on the Eastern Front in 1943.
- City of God (2002) is the highest rated Brazilian film according to IMDb users. Brazilian critics, however, have selected Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (1964) as the best film of all several times, such as the 27th edition of Brazilian film magazine Contracampo.
- Day of Wrath (Vredens dag) Carl Th. Dreyer's harrowing tale of adultery and repression is often cited in Denmark as the greatest Danish film of all time.
- Flickering Lights (Blinkende lygter) the 2000 comedy about small-time gangsters was voted the Best Danish Film in a 2007 poll by Ekstra Bladet newspaper. Thomas Vinterberg's The Celebration (Festen) was the runner-up.
- The Unknown Soldier (1955) was voted the best Finnish movie in an Internet poll by Helsingin Sanomat in 2007.
- Talvisota (The Winter War, 1989): is the highest user rated Finnish film on the IMDb having received more than 1000 votes (8.2/10 (2,654 votes) on August 3, 2008.
- Pather Panchali (1955) is the first film of director Satyajit Ray's The Apu Trilogy (1955-1959). It appeared on Sight and Sound Critics' Top Ten Poll (ranked #9 in 1992) and the Village Voice 100 Best Films of the 20th Century Critics' Poll (ranked #13 in 2001). It was ranked the top Indian film in an Internet popularity poll conducted by the British Film Institute (BFI) in 2002.
- Bashu, the Little Stranger Voted "Best Iranian Film of all time" in November of 1999 by a Persian movie magazine "Picture world" poll of 150 Iranian critics and professionals.
- Giv'at Halfon Eina Ona (1976) was voted "Favorite Israeli Film of all time" in a 2004 poll by Ynet, the web site of a popular Israeli newspaper. The film got 25,000 votes.
- Obaltan (오발탄): Released in 1960. This film is widely regarded as the best South Korean film of all time.
- Oldboy (올드보이): This 2003 South Korean film is the highest rated Korean language film on the IMDb top 250 list. It also won the Grand Prix of the jury at Cannes.
- El callejón de los milagros (Miracle Alley) is the most awarded film in Mexican history with 49 international awards.
- Pan's Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno) is the highest rated film in Spanish on IMDb. While this film is set in Spain and primarily features Spanish actors, it was written and produced in Mexico and is considered a Mexican film.
- See : Lord of the Rings in the Films acclaimed in audience polls section above.
- Flåklypa Grand Prix (Pinchcliffe Grand Prix - 1975 - Ivo Caprino): The people's choice for "Best Norwegian Film of the Century" during the 2005 Bergen International Film Festival.
- Ni Liv (Nine Lives - 1957 - Arne Skouen): The critics' choice for "Best Norwegian Film of the Century" during the 2005 Bergen International Film Festival.
- The Emigrants (Utvandrarna): Jan Troell's naturalist masterwork is often cited in Sweden as the greatest Swedish film of all-time.
- Persona: Acclaimed director Ingmar Bergman's movie reached the highest position (#5 in 1972) of any Swedish film on any of Sight & Sound's lists of greatest films of all time.
- The Seventh Seal, (Sjunde Inseglet,) also directed by Ingmar Bergman, is the highest rated Swedish film on the IMDb top 250 list.
- The Man on the Roof, (Mannen på Taket,) by Bo Widerberg is by some critics considered the best Swedish movie ever.
- Docking the Boat, (Att Angöra en Brygga,) directed by Tage Danielsson is often considered the best swedish comedy film.
Since 1998, the American Film Institute has assembled juries of film community leaders and polled them for a series of top 100 lists. Two of the lists from the series, AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies from 1998 and AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) from 2007, identified Citizen Kane as the best American films ever. In other years, AFI's jury members selected Some Like It Hot the greatest American comedy, Psycho as the most thrilling American movie, Casablanca as the greatest American love story, Singin' in the Rain as the greatest American film musical, and It's a Wonderful Life as the most inspiring American film.