'A Separation' by Asghar Farhadi (2011) was in the 21st position, while Abbas Kiarostami's 'Close-Up' (1990), 'Where Is the Friend's Home?' (1987) and 'Taste of Cherry' (1997) ranked the 39th, 94th and 97th respectively.
Three years ago, BBC Culture ran its first major critics' poll, to find the 100 greatest American films. Two further polls looked for the best films of the 21st century and the greatest comedies ever made — and those also ended up with films from the US in the top spot.
This year, it felt it was time to direct the spotlight away from Hollywood and celebrate the best cinema from around the world. Critics were asked to vote for their favorite movies made primarily in a language other than English.
And as the poll exists to salute the extraordinary diversity and richness of films from all around the world, it wanted to ensure that its voters were from all around the world, too. The 209 critics who took part are from 43 countries and speak a total of 41 languages — a range that sets our poll apart from any other.
French can claim to be the international language of acclaimed cinema: 27 of the highest-rated films were in French, followed by 12 in Mandarin, and 11 each in Italian and Japanese. At the other end of the scale, several languages were represented by just one film, such as Belarusian ('Come and See'), Romanian ('4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days'), and Wolof ('Touki Bouki').
One statistic the poll noted was that a quarter of the films on our list were East Asian that is, 25 of them were made in Japan (11), China (6), Taiwan (4), Hong Kong (3) or South Korea (1). And the winning film, 'Seven Samurai', by the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, was loved by critics everywhere — everywhere, that is, except for Japan. The six Japanese critics who voted didn't go for a single Kurosawa film between them.
But it's clear that culture isn't bound by borders, and language needn't be a barrier to enjoying great film-making. While the cinema of an individual nation is inevitably tied to its unique identity and history, the language of film is universal.