erik lundegaard

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:

No. Title Year Views Avg Score
1 The Godfather 1972 67 84.36
2 Casablanca 1943 67 82.87
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
6 Annie Hall 1977 66 75.34
7 Schindler's List 1993 66 71.66
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
12 The Apartment 1960 56 67.35
13 On the Waterfront 1954 55 67.13
14 Amadeus 1984 62 67.04
15 No Country for Old Men 2007 67 64.97
16 It Happened One Night 1934 50 64.07
17 Rebecca 1940 49 62.91
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:

No. Title Year Views Avg Score
21 The Departed 2006 58 59
22 West Side Story 1961 61 58.18
23 Unforgiven 1992 56 57.98
24 The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King 2003 64 56.86
25 Midnight Cowboy 1969 55 56.49
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
30 American Beauty 1999 66 54.18
31 The French Connection 1971 47 53.64
32 Ordinary People 1980 48 52.92
33 Platoon 1986 53 52.74
34 Terms of Endearment 1983 52 48.36
35 Kramer vs. Kramer 1979 58 48.35
36 The Sting 1973 49 48.34
37 The English Patient 1996 60 47.14
38 A Man for All Seasons 1966 37 46.91
39 Hamlet 1948 30 46.38
40 Patton 1970 35 45.91

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:

No. Title Year Views Avg Score
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
44 Grand Hotel 1932 29 43.68
45 The Artist 2011 65 43.06
46 The Last Emperor 1987 47 42.46
47 Chicago 2002 60 42.34
48 All the King's Men 1949 29 42.13
49 In the Heat of the Night 1967 45 41.91
50 Titanic 1997 69 41.11
51 Wings 1927 20 40.99
52 Ben-Hur 1959 51 40.18
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
57 Mrs. Miniver 1942 26 38.13
58 You Can't Take it With You 1938 29 38.11
59 Oliver! 1968 42 37.41
60 Rocky 1976 55 36.58

“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.

No. Title Year Views Avg Score
61 Ghandi 1982 51 36.15
62 Million Dollar Baby 2004 60 35.54
63 Rain Man 1988 60 35.44
64 Slumdog Millionaire 2008 71 34.93
65 Out of Africa 1985 48 34.19
66 Gladiator 2000 66 34.18
67 Forrest Gump 1994 71 34.08
68 The Life of Emile Zola 1937 11 32.69
69 Chariots of Fire 1981 51 32.37
70 Marty 1955 32 31.52
71 Tom Jones 1963 30 30.96
72 Dances with Wolves 1990 56 30.19
73 A Beautiful Mind 2001 66 26.39
74 Gigi 1958 34 25.88
75 Braveheart 1995 61 25.47
76 Driving Miss Daisy 1989 56 25.24
77 Gentleman's Agreement 1947 26 24.97
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:

No. Title Year Views Avg Score
81 Crash 2005 62 14.92
82 Around the World in 80 Days 1956 32 13.2
83 Cimarron 1931 12 12.61
84 Cavalcade 1933 12 8.44
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.

Michael Corleone and Vito Corleone confer in "The Godfather" (1972), the best of the best pictures

The movie readers consider the best of the best pictures didn't win best director.

Tags: , ,

Posted at 08:28 AM on Sun. Feb 24, 2013 in category Movies - The Oscars  

COMMENTS

Kersy wrote:

I know that this is not a popular opinion, but I've always thought “Gladiator” was a much better movie than it gets credit for. It's your basic revenge/journey story, not particularly original in any respect, but it's always been effective to me. I rewatched it just a few months ago and, as far as I'm concerned, still holds up. I'm not saying it deserves a spot in the top 20 (I've actually seen all the top 20, to my surprise), because the couple of movies on I'd remove from there on my list would be replaced by others, but certainly the top half of the 21-40.

Happily surprised to see “Best Years of Our Lives” so high, and I actually think “Slumdog Millionaire” is a far worse movie than even “Crash.” I love these rankings your doing and haven't done mine yet, but definitely will when I get some time.

Comment posted on Tue. Feb 26, 2013 at 01:51 PM

Erik wrote:

Kersy, get it in and we'll put it up. Glad you're enjoying this.

Comment posted on Wed. Feb 27, 2013 at 11:48 AM
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