In trying to whip up a Top 10 for this alternative Sight & Sound poll, I decided from the beginning to try to forgo any extra-cinematic considerations and simply go with 10 films that mean a great deal to me personally. There’s an implicit canon-building aspect to this particular exercise, and surely some would feel a need to take into account not only previous Sight & Sound poll-toppers (Citizen Kane, The Rules of the Game, 8½, etc.), but also such things as historical importance in coming up with a list for posterity. But where’s the fun in that? Besides, screw posterity: I’m totally willing to admit, at the outset, the possibility that any of my favorite 10 below may decline in estimation over time, to be replaced by another film entirely that I may begin to appreciate more as I grow older. For now, though, these are 10 films that I could not part with in my life.
10. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928). I’m not an especially religious person, but I find that I’m often moved by depictions of religious fervor in cinema, appealing to the agnostic in me. Carl Theodor Dreyer silent masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc was the first film I saw that instilled in me an awareness of that kind of spiritual feeling in a film—the first time I experienced cinema as akin to sitting in a church, with each enraptured close-up of Renée Maria Falconetti’s suffering face instilling something close to the awe Joan of Arc surely felt even under the greatest duress.