Sight & Sound Greatest Films Of All Time
Once a decade Sight & Sound magazine asks critics to select the Greatest Films of All Time. In 2022, our co-founder Rachel Pronger was invited to submit her choices, which we are happy to share below. Here's hoping it plays a part in a lively debate about canons, collective memory, critical consensus and the perils of list making!
Madchen in Uniform Year: 1931 Director(s): Leontine Sagan Comment: The lost lesbian classic which could have heralded a golden era of queer cinema if fascism hadn’t cut the moment short.
Meshes of the Afternoon Year: 1943 Director(s): Maya Deren, Alexander Hackenschmied Comment: A phenomenally influential experimental milestone, an unsolvable mystery which never ceases to fascinate.
Losing Ground Year: 1982 Director(s): Kathleen Collins Comment: Kathleen Collins's only feature, which was forgotten for decades before being restored and released a few years ago, is a missing link in US indie cinema history.
Ticket of No Return Year: 1979 Director(s): Ulrike Ottinger Comment: A witty, wonderful, wildly imaginative queer feminist odyssey. I watched it for the first time open mouthed, wondering why no one had ever told me that films like this existed.
Wings Year: 1966 Director(s): Larisa Shepitko Comment: A haunting character study of a middle aged female pilot struggling to find her place in peacetime which deserves to be celebrated as a classic of Soviet cinema.
Working Girls Year: 1986 Director(s): Lizzie Borden Comment: Funny, warm and richly compelling, Lizzie Borden’s dramady offers both compelling entertainment and revelatory reflections on capitalism, sex work and feminism.
The Eternal Breasts/ Forever a Woman Year: 1955 Director(s): Kinuyo Tanaka Comment: So rich, so surprising, a breath-taking melodrama that is also extraordinarily frank about illness and the female body.
One Way or Another Year: 1974 Director(s): Sara Gomez Comment: A fascinating glimpse of revolutionary Cuba through a subversive and playful feminist lens, from a filmmaker taken much too soon.
Compensation Year: 1999 Director(s): Zeinabu irene Davis Comment: A revelatory piece of work which reframes US history through African American and d/Deaf lenses, and in doing so creates something entirely unique.
The Beaches of Agnes Year: 2008 Director(s): Agnes Varda Comment: The crowning glory of a brilliant career, a deeply emotional celebration of a legend.
Narrowing down the whole history of cinema to 100 “great” films, is clearly an impossible task, so for my list I’ve abandoned any pretense of objectivity. My list is a political list, a protest against the canon’s longstanding tendency to ignore films made by women/minority gender filmmakers. Each of these films is great in my opinion great for many reasons, but this is a list based on gut rather than any kind of faux systematic criteria.
On first watch, every one of these provoked huge emotions in me – pleasure, hope, regret and loss. Every one of these films symbolises to me a lost future, a direction cinema might have travelled, had circumstances been different. What would the canon look like if fascism hadn’t cut short the queer Weimar film scene? Or if Kathleen Collins and Sara Gomez had lived long enough to make more than one great feature? My list therefore, is a celebration both of the greatness that has been, and the greatness that could have been.
Great cinema for me means revelation, wonder and possibility. By this criteria I feel every film here can be richly celebrated as one of the greatest.