Crunching the Numbers: What are the Most- and Least-Popular Best Picture Winners of All Time?
Welcome to Oscar day.
As mentioned in yesterday's post, my friend Vinny crunch the numbers of the first 71 readers (we're now close to 100) who ranked the best picture winners. He explains his methodology here:
I started out sorting results by “Rank” (Ex.: “The Godfather at No. 1; ”Crash“ at No. 77), but soon switched to “Percentile Rank” (0% to 100%, with 100% being best) because it gives a better sense of the popularity of the films. Emily, for example, who only watched 21 movies, ranked “Slumdog Millionare” as her least favorite (#21), putting that film on even footing with a very good film that was ranked #21 by someone who has seen most or all of the best pictures. CM Gardner saw 81 filmes and ranked “Schindler’s List” as #21. Putting it in terms of percentage makes it easier to see how people feel about the movies.
So what are the most-popular best pictures? Here is our top 20:
|3||All About Eve||1950||61||80.6|
|4||The Godfather Part II||1974||62||79.36|
|5||Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans||1928||29||78.67|
|8||Gone with the Wind||1939||64||70.86|
|9||Lawrence of Arabia||1962||55||69.6|
|10||The Silence of the Lambs||1991||69||68.65|
|11||One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest||1975||66||68.33|
|13||On the Waterfront||1954||55||67.13|
|15||No Country for Old Men||2007||67||64.97|
|16||It Happened One Night||1934||50||64.07|
|18||The Deer Hunter||1978||49||62.41|
|19||The Bridge on the River Kwai||1957||47||62.02|
|20||All Quiet on the Western Front||1930||30||59.1|
I'm pleasantly surprised that “Annie Hall,” a favorite of mine, ranks so high. I expected “Lawrence” to be a bit higher. But overall these are the expected best-of-the-best-pictures. The best pictures with status and gravitas.
All the decades are represented: One from the 1920s (an unofficial one, unfortunately), three from the '30s, two from the '40s, three from the '50s, two from the '60s, five from the 1970s, one from the '80s, two from the '90s, and one from the aughts. We'll cut the 2010s some slack. As Karen C. sang, it's only just begun.
The next 20:
|22||West Side Story||1961||61||58.18|
|24||The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King||2003||64||56.86|
|26||The Best Years of Our Lives||1946||33||56.48|
|27||The Hurt Locker||2009||65||55.42|
|28||The Sound of Music||1965||62||54.52|
|29||From Here to Eternity||1953||45||54.2|
|31||The French Connection||1971||47||53.64|
|34||Terms of Endearment||1983||52||48.36|
|35||Kramer vs. Kramer||1979||58||48.35|
|37||The English Patient||1996||60||47.14|
|38||A Man for All Seasons||1966||37||46.91|
I think of “West Side Story” as firt tier but modern moviegoers have generally been tough on musicals. Surprised “The English Patient” is so high. Don't people listen to Elaine Benes? Or Brenda? Ditto “Kramer vs. Kramer.” “Better than 'Hamlet.'”
The next 20:
|41||My Fair Lady||1964||58||45.69|
|42||An American in Paris||1951||48||45.34|
|43||The Lost Weekend||1945||34||44.9|
|46||The Last Emperor||1987||47||42.46|
|48||All the King's Men||1949||29||42.13|
|49||In the Heat of the Night||1967||45||41.91|
|53||How Green Was My Valley||1941||29||39.9|
|54||Shakespeare in Love||1998||69||39.61|
|55||Mutiny of the Bounty||1935||28||39.53|
|56||The King's Speech||2010||64||38.16|
|58||You Can't Take it With You||1938||29||38.11|
“An American in Paris” should be higher. I'm also a fan of “The Last Emperor,” if only to look at its beautiful colors. One of these days I'll have to finally see “Ben-Hur,” if only for the Gore Vidal subtext.
Heading to the bottom now.
|62||Million Dollar Baby||2004||60||35.54|
|65||Out of Africa||1985||48||34.19|
|68||The Life of Emile Zola||1937||11||32.69|
|69||Chariots of Fire||1981||51||32.37|
|72||Dances with Wolves||1990||56||30.19|
|73||A Beautiful Mind||2001||66||26.39|
|76||Driving Miss Daisy||1989||56||25.24|
|78||Going My Way||1944||19||22.32|
|79||The Great Ziegfeld||1936||16||18.19|
|80||The Greatest Show on Earth||1952||28||15.23|
While I'm surprised moviegoers have been as unimpressed with “Gentleman's Agreement” as I've been, these are definitely the “meh” best pictures. How sad that the Academy has given us so much “meh” under the guise of “best.”
Finally, the dregs:
|82||Around the World in 80 Days||1956||32||13.2|
|85||The Broadway Melody||1929||13||5.63|
An argument can be made that unfamiliarity breeds contempt, since the bottom five is littered with the best pictures most of us haven't seen. An easier explanation is the moviegoers who have seen them, and ranked them, are the Oscar watchers, the true cineastes, who are more discriminating in their tastes. They're a tougher crowd. Which makes “Crash”'s bottom-five turnout all the more impressive.
Have you had your say yet? (VOTE HERE.) It's never too late. This is an ongoing project. Because it's not just the Academy judging movies; it's moviegoers judging the Academy.
The movie readers consider the best of the best pictures didn't win best director.