Sight & Sound names ‘A Prophet’ best of 2009

Posted by · 11:42 am · December 2nd, 2009

(left to right) Adel Bencherif and Tahar Rahim in A ProphetNo annual Top 10 list carries more weight with me than that compiled by Sight & Sound, the UK’s premier film magazine. One of the most thorough and prestigious collectives out there, it’s collated from the individual lists of over 60 international critics, including the likes of Kenneth Turan, Mark Kermode, Amy Taubin, Armond White and IC friend Tim Robey.

The S&S list usually chimes in quite neatly with my own personal taste: last year’s edition (topped by Steve McQueen’s “Hunger”) featured six titles that ultimately landed on my own end-of-year rundown. This year’s is no different: regular readers will recognize a number of titles that I’ve been banging on about all year, including a most gratifying double-dip for the great Claire Denis. (Where was all this support for “White Material” when I needed it in Venice?)

All in all, it’s a pretty impeccable selection of films, one that gives the lie to those saying 2009 is a weak year. I’d like to see the Academy even try to put together a Top Ten as strong as this…

1. “A Prophet” (Jacques Audiard)
=2. “The Hurt Locker” (Kathryn Bigelow)
=2. “35 Shots of Rum” (Claire Denis)
4. “The White Ribbon” (Michael Haneke)
5. “Let the Right One In” (Tomas Alfredson)
=6. “Up” (Pete Docter)
=6. “White Material” (Claire Denis)
=8. “Bright Star” (Jane Campion)
=8. “Antichrist” (Lars von Trier)
10. “Inglourious Basterds” (Quentin Tarantino)

(Given the Transatlantic selection of contributors, eligibility dates are a bit hazy: technically, “White Material” will be 2010 release, while “Let the Right One In,” which also featured on last year’s list, benefits now from its 2009 UK release.)

For the full rundown of all the participants’ individual lists, grab a copy of the magazine — it’s a fun read. (For now, I’ll just tell you that Armond White’s top five includes “This Is It.”)

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39 responses so far

  • 1 12-02-2009 at 11:51 am

    Aleksis said...

    This Is It should be in everybody’s top 5. Ideally Antichrist would be in no one’s top 100 but sadly it’s not to be.

  • 2 12-02-2009 at 11:56 am

    Me. said...

    Very nice list. I’m particularly happy with the mention of “Bright Star”, one of my favorite films this year.

    I really want to see “A Prophet”, it looks incredible.


    For being a runner-up at the Toronto Film Festival with an acclaimmed filmmaker (Amélie, A Very Long Engagement) back in his game, it makes no sense to see it do so badly this season. It doesn’t even have a release date in the United States. Why is this happening??

  • 3 12-02-2009 at 11:57 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Hey Me. I saw Micmacs the other night. It’s truly hilarious but very thin on plot and development. Visually it’s stunning and truly ingenious.

  • 4 12-02-2009 at 11:59 am

    mike said...

    i suppose everyone will make fun of Armonds 1st choice, but i have no problems with it.

  • 5 12-02-2009 at 12:06 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    By “first choice,” do you mean “This Is It”? White’s list isn’t actually ranked at all.

    I have no problem with the inclusion of the film either — I just thought it was interesting to note. White’s list is a lot of fun, actually — ranging from “Everlasting Moments” to “Next Day Air.”

  • 6 12-02-2009 at 12:13 pm

    Chris said...

    Three of these (A Prophet, Bright Star, The Hurt Locker) are on my top 10 so far, so I’m very happy to see them on S&S’s list too.

    I respect “Let the Right One In” and “Antichrist”, didn’t care for “Up” and I haven’t got the highest opinion of “The White Ribbon” and “Inglourious Basterds” and I haven’t seen either of Denis’s films, so overall it’s a solid list I’d say.

  • 7 12-02-2009 at 12:13 pm

    daveylow said...

    I think it was a serious mistake for Sony to wait until next year to release A Prophet. It deserves to be in that number one spot.

  • 8 12-02-2009 at 12:15 pm

    Me. said...

    Hey Jonathan!

    I also saw “Micmacs” at TIFF and in my opinion, it’s the very best film of the year so far. I still have to see “A Prophet”, “The White Ribbon”, “Nine”, “The Lovely Bones”, “Up in the Air” and others, but it deserves soo much more attention than what it’s recieving. It’s miles better than “Precious” to start.

  • 9 12-02-2009 at 12:18 pm

    The InSneider said...

    Guy, when does A Prophet come out in the US?

  • 10 12-02-2009 at 12:22 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    12 February, I believe.

  • 11 12-02-2009 at 12:26 pm

    Maxim said...

    I’d hate to be negative again but I’ve always hated S&S’s lists. While they may ultimately have great movies on them they are incredibly singular about what they “like” and assign greatness too. This consistently lives out a lot of equally great films.

    But then, that a problem with nearly all of Britain’s publications (save for maybe “Empire”).

  • 12 12-02-2009 at 12:29 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    hahahaha Inglourious Basterds ladies and gentlemen. That made me so happy. Also Im glad to see UP, and I also enjoyed Bright Star. All need the help as dark horses in the best picture race. Though I dare say it wont be enough to save Bright Star. But Kris, I think it might be time to lay aside the bias and add Inglourious Basterds to your top 10.

  • 13 12-02-2009 at 12:30 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    Guy, is Inglourious in your predicted 10?

  • 14 12-02-2009 at 12:43 pm

    Chase K. said...

    “But Kris, I think it might be time to lay aside the bias and add Inglourious Basterds to your top 10.”

    Why? Because Sight & Sound put it #10, it cements its status as Top 10 material and thus shouldn’t be ignored, even by its detractors?

    I’m guessing you’re one of the ones who popped open a bottle of champagne and starting hosing down the crowd after Eli Roth hit a home run with the head of a German officer in Act II.

  • 15 12-02-2009 at 12:44 pm

    Simone said...

    Great, another thumbs up for Basterds by a prestigious film review board. :)

    BTW, Antichrist deserves much more respect than it’s been getting, so I’m glad to see it on S&S’s top 10 list.

  • 16 12-02-2009 at 12:45 pm

    Michael said...

    hot damn that list is hot! go sight and sound! yet again they rock out their top 10 list with literally the best of the best. I agree Guy, the academy could never dare to nominate ten films as cool as these.

  • 17 12-02-2009 at 12:55 pm

    Michael W. said...

    Holy crap. That’s a great list.

    I’m not a big Claire Denis fan though (I have only seen one of the two mentioned) so I don’t really agree there, and Antichrist would not be in my top 10, but the other 6 are simply fantastic. And I can’t wait to see Bright Star.

  • 18 12-02-2009 at 12:56 pm

    Nel said...

    Bit disappointed that Fish Tank didn’t make it. I really think Arnold is force to be reckoned with.

  • 19 12-02-2009 at 2:07 pm

    Montage said...

    So if A PROPHET doesn’t get released in the US until 2010 then potentially it could be the best film of the next decade by some critics? Right?
    And if not then maybe films made in 1999 but released in 2000 should make lists too?

  • 20 12-02-2009 at 2:35 pm

    Adam Smith said...

    Big up to Brooklyn for the inclusions of Let The Right One In, Up, Antichrist, and Inglourious Basterds. I dig The Hurt Locker, but I still think it’s a tad on the overpraised side–top ten of the year, for sure, but not, like, second best.

    Also, speaking of Armond White, just got finished reading his rave for The Blind Side, which was mostly just another series of anti-Precious digs. When his whole way of framing a review is “This movie does right everything that Precious does wrong”, I can’t help but feel that he really is just a troll. Can’t he discuss the film on its own merits without using his review as a soapbox against another film he doesn’t like?

  • 21 12-02-2009 at 2:55 pm

    Ivan said...

    Having seen Un Prophete 2 days ago,i really don’t think any other movie will replaced it as the best this year.

    I love French cinema so i was going to see it anyway,but i certainly didn’t expect such a tremendeous script and performances.

    Great to see Up which in my opinion is a better film than Wall-E,Inglorious Basterds and Let The Right One In.

  • 22 12-02-2009 at 2:56 pm

    Ivan said...


  • 23 12-02-2009 at 3:08 pm

    James D. said...

    Hated Antichrist, but loved everything else that I have seen. Same goes for last year.

  • 24 12-02-2009 at 3:13 pm

    Jim T said...

    35 Shots of Rum gets some more love! I have to see this movie.

  • 25 12-02-2009 at 3:15 pm

    qwiggles said...

    Where are Fish Tank and Police Adjective? Weird.
    As for Micmacs…on what grounds? Pretty art direction, but it struck me as pretty flat and on-the-nose otherwise.

  • 26 12-02-2009 at 3:26 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    The absence of “Fish Tank” surprised me a little too, though as I scan through the individual lists in the magazine, I see it got quite a few mentions — so it was probably close.

    The absence of “Police, Adjective” is less surprising, given that the film hasn’t been released yet in the UK — and, unlike “A Prophet” or “White Material,” hasn’t played any UK festivals either. (The majority of the critics participating are British.)

  • 27 12-02-2009 at 3:40 pm

    Jim T said...

    I saw “Fish Tank” a few hours ago. It was good. Now the important stuff: Fassbender should be named “sex symbol of the year (at least)”. Hot hot hot!! OK, sorry but I needed to get it off my chest.

  • 28 12-02-2009 at 3:44 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    @Chase K, that was my first time ever being attacked in a blog and its been years! Thanks, also, I did exactly that yes, it was fantastic!

  • 29 12-02-2009 at 3:46 pm

    Simone said...

    Expect Fish Tank to win prominently at this weekend’s British Independent Film Awards in London.

    And Jim T, I couldn’t agree more about Fassbender! A sexy basterd that one is.

  • 30 12-02-2009 at 4:20 pm

    Jeremy said...

    “I’d like to see the Academy even try to put together a Top Ten as strong as this.”

    And yet another potshot at the Academy. I have to ask, Guy: Why do you even bother to follow the Oscars? Your general opinion of the Academy seems to be one of supreme distaste, and I’d wager that at least 80% of your Oscar-related posts involve criticism of the Academy’s raison d’etre. You’re perfectly within your rights to dislike the awards, but given that that’s so clearly the case, why not just boycott them?

    I’m not trying to pick a fight; I’m honestly just confused why someone who so clearly loathes the Academy would spend so much of his time covering it.

  • 31 12-02-2009 at 4:42 pm

    Silencio said...

    I always smile when I see a mention of “Let the Right One In”. “Hurt Locker” didn’t stay with me like other films. Same for “Antichrist”. But I’m fine with them being on the list. Where’s “A Serious Man”?

  • 32 12-02-2009 at 6:09 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Jeremy: A fair question, and a tricky one. I should say immediately that I don’t “loathe” the Oscars at all. I place a lot of stock in them as — for better or worse — they can make an enormous difference to the stature and/or visibility of a film or individual. (If I truly disliked the awards, I wouldn’t be so thrilled when a Juliette Binoche or a Pedro Almodovar gets one.)

    But it’s for that very reason that I get frustrated with them much of the time, as I don’t think they always use that power to the most imaginative or productive effect. I can assure that I’m not the only person who writes about the Oscars, only to spend much of their time chiding them.

    And away from the specifics of the awards themselves, the Oscar ceremony is an annual joy for me — it ranks level with Christmas.

    Love/hate relationships are difficult to explain. I’m sure you can understand.

  • 33 12-02-2009 at 6:16 pm

    Jeremy said...

    Guy: Understood, and I appreciate the response. I’m glad you at least acknowledge the importance the Oscars have from a business standpoint. I’m always trying to explain to my less-movie-obsessed friends (fools?) that I’m fanatical about the Oscars partly because they recognize achievement and partly because they have tremendous influence on the future of the cinematic landscape.

  • 34 12-02-2009 at 6:22 pm

    James.C said...

    I am also confused by Guy’s attitude to the Academy.

    You were clearly got frustrated by their choices most of the time. I don’t understand why someone who are not happy with certain things are willing to do follow it every day?

    Is it self-torture or obsessive-compulsive disorder?

  • 35 12-02-2009 at 6:33 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    “Is it self-torture or obsessive-compulsive disorder?”

    It’s neither. It’s an enjoyable means of getting to write about film for a receptive audience. Oscar coverage is only part of what I do here anyway: especially in the off-season, reviews, interviews and festival coverage can take me far from the Oscar beat, and I’m glad for it.

  • 36 12-02-2009 at 6:40 pm

    James.C said...

    Actually I love what you wrote in the off-season. They are insightful and fun without too much pressure.
    In the Oscar season, your frustration was so obvious time to time.

    I think probably Oscar coverage is more like a business now. Pure movie reviews won’t give you any web traffic as well as valuable pass to press/festivals/screenings. Oscar reports lure eye balls and clicks which is extremely important for standing out of the blog clutter nowadays.

  • 37 12-02-2009 at 9:53 pm

    Danny King said...

    Love to see Inglourious Basterds in there. Boy I’d love to see that get a Best Picture nomination.

  • 38 12-03-2009 at 10:35 am

    Marcus said...

    Just another pretentious list of movies. More proof the concept of film criticism is dead in this day and age. People don’t need to be told what movies are good anymore. We have enough resources that the elitests can just go away. I don’t need some British bonehead telling me The Hurt Locker is a great movie. I can figure that out myself.

  • 39 12-04-2009 at 12:37 pm

    Adam Smith said...

    @Marcus: by your definition, any and all awards-giving bodies or critics that do a top ten list are doing the exact same thing. First off, these lists aren’t about critics telling you how to think–you’re free to agree or disagree as you please. It’s about acknowledging what they consider to be a superior achievement. Second, some people wouldn’t even hear about this films if there weren’t film critics out there who are seeing tons and tons of movies (far more than you and I will ever see in a given year) to tell them “Hey, this is out there. I dig it. If you tend to agree with me, you might dig it as well. Either way, consider checking it out.” And frankly, the fact that they see more movies than me or any civilian does put them in an elite category, which gives their opinion weight–any critic that sees as many movies as any other critic and has a Top Ten that is made up of films like Star Trek or The Hangover or This Is It is just as elite, and thus has just as much weight as a critic seeing all the same films and lauding Un Prophete or White Material or Fish Tank. Frankly, all of this “anti-elite” talk is kind of bollocks. I have no interest in the opinion of a critic who doesn’t see as many movies as I do or who is easily impressed and gives a good review to everything. Please, we should WANT our critics to be in an elite group, as far as films are concerned. So please, if you mean “liberal”, say that–don’t say “elitist”, because ANY critic is part of an elite. And really, each critic is just one opinion. Does Roger Ebert tend to like the same movies you do? Go see something you haven’t heard of that he recommends. Do you agree more with the guy who lives next door to you who works an assembly line at Goodyear? Awesome, go see something that he might recommend. Frankly, not all of us have the privilege of living somewhere like New York or LA where the amount of movies being released there is staggering. Some of us aren’t near major cultural hubs, and DO have to search out this stuff on our own, and you know what? Critics help us. We don’t have to agree with their review. But if we see a review and say “Oh wow, I’ve never heard of that”, we’ll go check it out on our own.

    So really, if you’re against any group singling out specific films as exceptional or elite, why exactly are you on a website dedicated to reviewing movies and following awards?