erik lundegaard

How Do Best Pictures Rate on IMDb?

My recent post about the IMDb ratings of current best picture nominees, along with the usual slew of “worst best-pictures” articles, or revisionist or do-over Oscar picks, made me wonder how every best picture winner has fared with IMDb users—or at least those IMDb users who bother to rate films.

Which are the highest-rated best picture winners? Which are the lowest-rated? Which pictures get votes and which are ignored?Oscar Oscar Oscar

No big surprise: Recent best picture winners get rated more often, way more often, than older best picture winners. In the past 20 years, there are only three films that haven't been rated by more than 100,000 users: “Chicago,” “Shakespeare in Love” and “The English Patient.” Meanwhile, of the first 45 best picture winners—i.e., from 1927 to 1971—only two films, “Casablanca” and “Gone with the Wind,” have generated more than 100,000 votes. Most people can't be bothered with what's old. Those who can, like me, can't be bothered to rate them on IMDb.

The films with the lowest vote totals also tend to have the lowest ratings. That was a bit of a surprise to me. I thought that the few fans of, say, “Cavalcade” (1933), would skew its results up, but it's simply logic. Lesser movies just don't get watched, and thus don't get rated, particularly if they're older. Among best picture winners, “Calvacade,” from 1933, has the fewest votes: 1,426.

A note to IMDb: Isn't it time to increase the decimal? Ten of the 84 films are tied with an 8.4 rating. Nine are tied with an 8.0 rating. That's too many ties. Give us that hundredth already.

Now on with the countdown.

Here are the highest-ranked best picture winners on IMDb:

MOVIE
IMDb RATING
VOTES
The Godfather (1972) 9.2 535,083
The Godfather, Part II (1974) 9.0 336,575
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) 8.9 501,289
Schindler's List (1993) 8.9 375,193
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) 8.8 300,314
Forrest Gump (1994) 8.7 446,991
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) 8.7 344,094
Casablanca (1943) 8.7 209,989
The Departed (2006) 8.5 368,308
American Beauty (1999) 8.5 389,392
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) 8.5 98,407

Again, it skews recent. Of the top 11, more than half were released in the last 20 years. Only two—“Lawrence” and “Casablanca”—were released prior to 1970.

Here are the bottom 10:

MOVIE

IMDb RATING

VOTES
Cimarron (1931) 6.1 1,744
Cavalcade (1933) 6.3 1,426
The Broadway Melody (1929) 6.4 2,466
The Greatest Show On Earth (1952) 6.7 5,186
Around the World In 80 Days (1956) 6.8 9,129
Tom Jones (1963) 6.9 4,857
Gigi (1958) 6.9 7,472
The Great Ziegfeld (1936) 6.9 2,583
Out of Africa (1985) 7.0 25,363
Chicago (2002) 7.2 99,936
Chariots of Fire (1981) 7.2 20,114
An American In Paris (1951) 7.2 11,808

It skews old. We get the forgotten BPs of the 1930s, the bloated spectacles of the 1950s, plus a few recent head-scratchers. But “An American in Paris” at 7.2? Really? IMDb's voters don't like musicals, do they? The great musicals of the early sixties, “My Fair Lady” (7.9), “The Sound of Music” (7.9) and “West Side Story” (7.7) all get less love than the abyssmal “Crash,” which is somehow still perched at a lofty 8.0.

Something is even more apparent when you look at each decade's highest- and lowest-ranked films:

Decade Highest-Ranked Rating Lowest-ranked Rating
1930s It Happened One Night 8.3 Cimarron 6.1
1940s Casablanca 8.7 Gentleman's Agreement 7.4
1950s The Bridge on the River Kwai 8.4 The Greatest Show on Earth 6.7
1960s Lawrence of Arabia 8.5 Tom Jones 6.9
1970s The Godfather 9.2 Kramer vs. Kramer 7.7
1980s Amadeus 8.4 Out of Africa 7.0
1990s Schindler's List 8.9 Shakespeare in Love 7.3
2000s Lord of the Rings: Return of the King 8.9 Chicago 7.2

It's the dude angle, the fanboy angle. The highest-ranked films above are testosterone-heavy. From the 1950s on, in fact, it's tough to find a leading woman in the mix. Diane Keaton in “The Godfather” maybe? Mozart's wife in “Amadeus”? Cate Blanchett in “LOTR: ROTK”? On the lowest-ranked side, it's all female-centered stories (“Chicago”) or empathetic male stories (“Kramer vs. Kramer”), or both (“Shakespeare in Love”). It's hardly a scoop that IMDb's users are young and male but it is sad. The Academy is historically dismissive of female-centered stories. IMDb's voters turn out to be worse.

As I was compiling the above, I noticed that the highest-ranked of the highest-ranked movies was “The Godfather,” while the highest-ranked of the lowest-ranked movies was “Kramer vs. Kramer,” both from the 1970s. It led me to break down the ratings by decade:

Decade Avg Rating
1970s 8.35
1990s 8.16
2000s 8.13
1940s 7.94
1960s 7.88
1980s 7.72
1950s 7.66
1930s 7.48

The 1970s, with its great slew of American films, is rightly in first place. The 1950s is weighed down by a few of the Academy's tepid choices (“Greatest Show,” “Around the World”), as is the 1980s (“Ordinary People,” “Chariots of Fire,” “Driving Miss Daisy”). The '90s and 2000s are obviously too high but what are you gonna do? They'll come down.

For completeists, here's the entire list:

MOVIE IMDb RATING VOTES
The King's Speech (2010) 8.2 155,972
The Hurt Locker (2009) 7.7 137,683
Slumdog Millionaire (2008) 8.2 269,582
No Country For Old Men (2007) 8.2 274,692
The Departed (2006) 8.5 368,308
Crash (2005) 8.0 217,777
Million Dollar Baby (2004) 8.2 204,335
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) 8.9 501,289
Chicago (2002) 7.2 99,936
A Beautiful Mind (2001) 8.0 202,651
Gladiator (2000) 8.4 397,268
American Beauty (1999) 8.5 389,392
Shakespeare In Love (1998) 7.3 97,391
Titanic (1997) 7.5 336,027
The English Patient (1996) 7.3 72,322
Braveheart (1995) 8.4 327,548
Forrest Gump (1994) 8.7 446,991
Schindler's List (1993) 8.9 375,193
Unforgiven (1992) 8.3 135,496
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) 8.7 344,094
Dances With Wolves (1990) 8.0 94,144
Driving Miss Daisy (1989) 7.4 30,411
Rain Man (1988) 8.0 165,428
The Last Emperor (1987) 7.8 33,160
Platoon (1986) 8.2 145,818
Out of Africa (1985) 7.0 25,363
Amadeus (1984) 8.4 128,078
Terms of Endearment (1983) 7.3 21,085
Gandhi (1982) 8.1 71,833
Chariots of Fire (1981) 7.2 20,114
Ordinary People (1980) 7.8 20,192
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979) 7.7 40,353
The Deer Hunter (1978) 8.2 117,540
Annie Hall (1977) 8.2 87,916
Rocky (1976) 8.1 143,362
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) 8.8 300,314
The Godfather, Part II (1974) 9.0 336,575
The Sting (1973) 8.4 85,891
The Godfather (1972) 9.2 535,083
The French Connection (1971) 7.9 42,667
Patton (1970) 8.0 49,384
Midnight Cowboy (1969) 8.0 42,805
Oliver! (1968) 7.5 12,026
In the Heat of the Night (1967) 8.0 26,928
A Man For All Seasons (1966) 8.0 14,614
The Sound of Music (1965) 7.9 68,810
My Fair Lady (1964) 7.9 35,262
Tom Jones (1963) 6.9 4,857
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) 8.5 98,407
West Side Story (1961) 7.7 37,371
The Apartment (1960) 8.4 49,785
Ben-Hur (1959) 8.2 76,925
Gigi (1958) 6.9 7,472
The Bridge On the River Kwai (1957) 8.4 76,003
Around the World In 80 Days (1956) 6.8 9,129
Marty (1955) 7.7 8,028
On the Waterfront (1954) 8.4 52,369
From Here To Eternity (1953) 7.9 19,141
The Greatest Show On Earth (1952) 6.7 5,186
An American In Paris (1951) 7.2 11,808
All About Eve (1950) 8.4 43,955
All the King's Men (1949) 7.6 5,597
Hamlet (1948) 7.9 6,557
Gentleman's Agreement (1947) 7.4 5,688
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) 8.3 21,793
The Lost Weekend (1945) 8.1 14,287
Going My Way (1944) 7.4 4,143
Casablanca (1943) 8.7 209,989
Mrs. Miniver (1942) 7.7 6,058
How Green Was My Valley (1941) 7.9 8,993
Rebecca (1940) 8.4 45,011
Gone With the Wind (1939) 8.2 106,428
You Can't Take It With You (1938) 8.0 10,500
The Life of Emile Zola (1937) 7.4 2,376
The Great Ziegfeld (1936) 6.9 2,583
Mutiny On the Bounty (1935) 7.9 9,276
It Happened One Night (1934) 8.3 32,375
Cavalcade (1933) 6.3 1,426
Grand Hotel (1932) 7.6 7,300
Cimarron (1931) 6.1 1,744
All Quiet On the Western Front (1930) 8.1 28,205
The Broadway Melody (1929) 6.4 2,466
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1928) 8.4 15,384
Wings (1927) 7.8 3,792
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Posted at 06:59 AM on Wed. Feb 22, 2012 in category Movies - The Oscars  

COMMENTS

Reed wrote:

I REALLY wish I could get my hands on the raw IMDb data. It would distract me from the rest of my life for a good year or so. Their votes are obviously skewed, so any interpretation of them needs to take that skew into account. It was a far better resource seven or eight years ago when it wasn't such a popular site. In order to really use this data for anything, we need to “massage” it a bit. In effect, it must be judged on its own merits and scrutinized pretty heavily. And this is great work you've done here. Within (the at times arbitrary) scope of Oscar BP Winners, you can definitely draw many of these interesting conclusions.

Here are a couple of things I did to try to get some useful information out of the ratings:
http://fightingtheyouth.blogspot.com/2009/05/top-hidden-gem-movies-part-i.html
http://fightingtheyouth.blogspot.com/2009/07/top-chick-flicks.html

...and I'm working on a couple of others that will be up soon.

Crash did serve one very worthy purpose. It turned me on to a movie critic named Erik Lundegaard... That made it worth enduring. 8.0!! What is wrong with people?

Comment posted on Wed. Feb 22, 2012 at 10:24 AM

Erik wrote:

Great stuff, Reed. BTW, I should've mentioned, in the musicals discussion, the oddity of “Oliver!,” at 7.5, with a higher IMDb rating than “An American in Paris,” at 7.2. Almost the same number of votes, too.

BTW: the top 250 list has shifted in the few years since your hidden gems post. “12 Angry Men” is now No. 6 all time. 8.9. About 100,000 more votes. I'm glad there's interest in the film, but I think something besides interest is driving this. I think there's a concerted effort by someone, or a group of someones, to move “12” up the list.

Comment posted on Wed. Feb 22, 2012 at 11:26 AM

Reed wrote:

Ooh, you just made me realize that I probably have that data lying around somewhere. That could be useful to see how things have changed in the last three years.

I wonder if they're still showing “12 Angry Men” in junior high social studies classes. If so, that could explain the boost (or perhaps one would expect the opposite? “Teacher made me watch some black and white movie - and they don't even tell you if the guy really killed him!”) Rotten kids, you work your life out...

Comment posted on Thu. Feb 23, 2012 at 08:37 AM

Erik wrote:

Kids get '12 Angry Men'? I think I got 'Lord of the Flies'...

Comment posted on Thu. Feb 23, 2012 at 09:07 AM

Mister B wrote:

The only two films I recall watching in school (because it was usually naptime for me) were the short film, “Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge” and the animated “Animal Farm”.

And I believe Liv Tyler had more screen time in LOTR: ROTK than Blanchett did. The elves were running away with their long hair between their legs in the third one and Blanchett only had a couple of scenes.

Comment posted on Fri. Feb 24, 2012 at 01:22 AM
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