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Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is Sight & Sound’s Film of the Year

Photo by Carlos Somonte

Sight & Sound, the BFI’s international film magazine, today announces Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma as the winner in the most anticipated and respected critics’ opinion poll: Sight & Sound’s Films of the Year. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Oscar®-winning Phantom Thread is in second place, followed by Lee Chang-dong’s Burning in third. Over 160 critics, programmers and academics from around the world voted for their top five film, TV and artists’ moving image releases from the year. The resulting poll has four of the top ten films directed by women, two of the top five films in black and white and three of the top ten films are UK productions or co-productions.

Roma hits Netflix on 14th December 2018 and you can read our review here.

The full results are available online today at and published with critics’ comments in Sight & Sound’s January/February 2019 special double issue available digitally today and in print on 13 December. The top 20 films are as follows:




RomaAlfonso Cuarón


Phantom ThreadPaul Thomas Anderson


BurningLee Chang-dong


Cold WarPaweł Pawlikowski


First ReformedPaul Schrader


Leave No TraceDebra Granik


The FavouriteYorgos Lanthimos


You Were Never Really HereLynne Ramsay


Happy as LazzaroAlice Rohrwacher


ZamaLucrecia Martel


The Image BookJean-Luc Godard


If Beale Street Could TalkBarry Jenkins


BlacKkKlansmanSpike Lee


The Other Side of the WindOrson Welles


ShirkersSandi Tan


ShopliftersHirokazu Kore-eda


Sorry to Bother YouBoots Riley


Faces PlacesAgnès Varda, J.R.


The RiderChloe Zhao


WesternValeska Grisebach


La FlorMariano Llinás


HereditaryAri Aster


High LifeClaire Denis


Isle of DogsWes Anderson


Madeline’s MadelineJosephine Decker


120 BPMRobin Campillo


TransitChristian Petzold


After directing English language award-winners Gravity and Children of Men, Roma is a return to poll winner Alfonso Cuarón’s native Spanish. A sumptuous black-and-white ode to the woman who shaped his early life, Roma is already being tipped as an awards season favourite, after wins at the New York Critics Circle Awards and the BIFAs (Best International Independent Film). Prior to its theatrical release on 30 November and its Netflix debut this Friday 14 December, the film had its UK premiere at the 2018 BFI London Film Festival as the Journey Gala and won the Golden Lion after its World Premiere at the Venice International Film Festival.


Sight & Sound’s Editor, Nick James, said “I could not be more delighted to see Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma top our Best Films of 2018 poll. Its very success as an instant classic of substance, a film praised beyond all others for wowing audiences of all kinds, is thrilling when you consider it’s a subtitled, black and white tale of a Mixteco maid and the family she serves in the 1970s. Roma has reaffirmed cinema’s capacity to make great popular art as well as great entertainment.”


Roma is not the only black and white film to be placed in the top five; BFI-backed Cold War was voted fourth. Paweł Pawlikowski’s tale of an ill-fated love affair also played well to festival audiences, including at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival where Pawlikowski won Best Director and the film was in competition for the Palme d’Or. Both films have been put forward by their respective countries for the upcoming Best Foreign Language Film at 2019’s Oscars®.


Another film supported by the BFI that is also in the top ten is Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here, which received critical acclaim at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival with Ramsay winning Best Screenplay and lead actor Joaquin Phoenix receiving Best Actor Award. The film came joint seventh in the poll with Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite – which first received development funding from the UK Film Council in 2003, making it the longest-ever National Lottery supported project. The Favourite is hotly tipped for the awards season and has already won a record high of 10 awards at this year’s BIFAs, including Best Independent Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay.


Ramsay’s psychological thriller, You Were Never Really Here, is one of the four films in the top ten with a female director; others are Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace in sixth and Alice Rohrwacher’s Happy as Lazzaro and Lucrecia Martel’s Zama in joint ninth place. Another four female directors are acknowledged in the top 20, with Sandi Tan’s Shirkers in joint 14th (with Hirokazu Kore-eda’s hotly anticipated Shoplifters and Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind – a lost film, now found and available on Netflix)Chloe Zhao is joint 18thwith The Rider, alongside Valeska Grisebach’s Western and Faces Places directed by Agnès Varda and J.R.


Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, set in the heart of London’s 1950s couture industry, was filmed on locations spanning the UK, from Fitzroy Square in London to the Cotswolds and coastal locations in Staithes. This is not the only film to be made on location in the UK; the majority of principle photography for The Favourite was filmed in Hertfordshire at Hatfield House.


Placed third, Lee Chang-dong’s critically acclaimed Burning was this year’s BFI London Film Festival’s Thrill Gala in association with Sight & Sound and is not the only BFI LFF Sight & Sound Gala film in this year’s poll – the magazine’s 2017 Gala, Lucrecia Martel’s Zama,placed ninth. Burning is one of three Asian films in the top 20; the others are Singapore’s first road movie, Shirkers, directed by Sandi Tan and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters.

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