CINEMA

BBC reveals the 100 Greatest Foreign-Language Films

BBC Culture releases its list of the 100 Greatest Foreign-Language Films. This list, polled from more than 200 critics and experts living in 43 countries, is a celebration of the richness and variety of cinema beyond the English-speaking world.

The critics voted for 688 different films in total from over 60 different countries. The top film was Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954), which was voted for by 41 critics – 20% of those who voted. In all, 67 different directors were represented in the top 100 films.

“The history of film is truly a global one,” says BBC Culture Editor Rebecca Laurence. “And with BBC Culture’s 100 greatest foreign-language film poll we wanted to reflect and celebrate this diversity of cinematic voices and cultures. We hope the list will give our readers plenty to discover – and disagree with”.

East Asian cinema features strongly in the top 100, with a quarter of the films coming from Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or South Korea. Nearly half of the films are from the 1950s and 60s, and reflect the gender balance of the film industry at that time; only four films in the top 100 feature female directors.

The Films

The top 10 films from the list are below. The full list is available here [link tk].

1. Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
2. Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio de Sica, 1948)
3. Tokyo Story (Yasujirô Ozu, 1953)
4. Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)
5. The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939)
6. Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
7. 8 ½ (Federico Fellini, 1963)
8. The 400 Blows (François Truffaut, 1959)
9. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
10. La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)

The directors with the greatest number of films in the top 100 were:
• Ingmar Bergman and Luis Buñuel, 5 films each
• Akira Kurosawa, Andrei Tarkovsky and Federico Fellini, 4 films each
• Jean-Luc Godard, Kenji Mizoguchi and Wong Kar-wai, 3 films each

The critics

This poll included responses from 209 critics living in 43 countries. The countries with the most critics were:

• US (41 critics, 19%)
• China (19, 9%), excluding HK/Taiwan critics
• UK (14, 7%)
• India (10, 5%)
• Canada and Mexico (both 9, 4% each)

The critics spoke a total of 41 languages between them, including Georgian, Kannada, Odia, Shona, Igbo, Lingala and Esperanto.

• 72 (34%) spoke three or more languages. Ten critics spoke five or more languages. Only 68 (33%) were monolingual. The average critic spoke two languages (mean 2.2, median 2).

• We asked the critics to tell us which language or languages they considered their mother tongue. 85 (41%) named English, 25 (12%) Chinese, 24 (11%) Spanish, 13 (6%) French and 7 named each of German and Turkish (3% each). This means that over half (59%) of the critics polled did not consider English their mother tongue.

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