Movie Reviews

10 Most Surprising Things In Rotten Tomatoes Best Movies Ever List

Summary

  • Rotten Tomatoes’ top 300 movies list contains many surprising choices, with unique rankings that go against the grain.
  • Classic films like Titanic and The Shawshank Redemption are notably absent from Rotten Tomatoes’ list, highlighting the unusual formula that it uses.
  • Rotten Tomatoes’ list favors crowd-pleasing blockbusters over award-winning films, showcasing a preference for audience appeal.



Rotten Tomatoes recently released a new ranking of the 300 best movies ever, but the list is filled with odd surprises when analyzed in detail. The list uses a formula which takes into account a movie’s audience score as well as its critical reception. (via Rotten Tomatoes) This formula has thrown up plenty of strange choices, and the list is quite unlike any other ranking of the best movies of all time.

One big surprise is that the 1997 crime thriller L.A. Confidential is in the top spot, rather than one of the usual candidates such as Casablanca, The Godfather or Seven Samurai. Some classics aren’t even on the Rotten Tomatoes list. Vertigo, Titanic and The Shawshank Redemption are all missing, showing how unusual the Rotten Tomatoes methodology is. These are far from the only oddities that have come from the controversial ranking.


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10 Citizen Kane Is Ranked At Number 33

Orson Welles’ masterpiece has topped plenty of other lists of the greatest films ever

Orson Welles’ masterpiece Citizen Kane appears on practically every “best movies ever” list, and it frequently pops up near the top of these lists. The Rotten Tomatoes list has Citizen Kane sitting in the number 33 spot, which is still impressive, but it’s much lower than it has appeared in many other lists and polls. For a film which so often cracks the top five, this is a strange anomaly.

Citizen Kane
was ranked number one in the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies list, and it also claimed top spot in the BFI’s Sight & Sound poll five times in a row over the course of 40 years.


Citizen Kane and Casablanca are often the heavyweight contenders for the title of “best movie ever”. Rotten Tomatoes has Casablanca in third place. Citizen Kane was ranked number one in the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies list, and it also claimed top spot in the BFI’s Sight & Sound poll five times in a row over the course of 40 years. Its Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 90% is low enough to drag it down beneath movies like Spotlight, How to Train Your Dragon and Selma.

9 4 Movies From 2023 Are Ranked Higher Than Oppenheimer

Christopher Nolan’s Oscar-winner is at number 199


Although Christopher Nolan’s biopic Oppenheimer won the Academy Award for Best Picture, the Rotten Tomatoes list suggests that 2023 produced four movies that would have been more worthy winners. The highest-rated movie from last year is The Holdovers, which sits at number 36. Also ranked higher than Oppenheimer are Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and John Wick: Chapter 4.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One,
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
and
John Wick: Chapter 4
all place higher than the Best Picture winner.

While these are all great movies, it’s a little surprising that they outrank Oppenheimer, which is placed at number 199. The Rotten Tomatoes system takes audience opinion into account, so crowd-pleasing blockbusters tend to do well, even if they aren’t the types of films which are geared toward awards-season success. This explains how movies from the Mission: Impossible and John Wick franchises place so highly.


8 7 Of The Last 10 Best Picture Winners Are Absent

Oppenheimer is a rare exception

Although Oppenheimer‘s relatively low ranking is a surprise, many Best Picture winners are completely absent from the list. The only three Best Picture winners from the last decade on the Rotten Tomatoes top 300 are Oppenheimer, Parasite and Spotlight. Other winners like Birdman, Moonlight and The Shape of Water were more popular with critics than they were with regular moviegoers.

The only three Best Picture winners from the last decade on the Rotten Tomatoes top 300 are
Oppenheimer, Parasite
and
Spotlight.


Best Picture winners aren’t always popular with audiences, and the Rotten Tomatoes list favors movies which have a broad appeal to accompany their critical success. This explains why a lighthearted and creative family comedy like Paddington 2 makes the list over a dark and unusual romance like The Shape of Water, although both movies were released in 2017. The Academy doesn’t take audience opinions into consideration.

7 The Two Towers Is 161 Places Higher Than The Next Best Lord Of The Rings Movie

Peter Jackson’s brilliant Lord of the Rings trilogy is often regarded as one of the finest film series of all time, and it’s not uncommon for all three movies to appear in lists similar to the Rotten Tomatoes top 300. For example, all three movies are in the top 12 of IMDb’s Top 250 Movies. For some reason, the Rotten Tomatoes has them much more spread out, with The Two Towers the only Lord of the Rings movie in the top 100.


The Fellowship of the Ring
is ranked at number 201 and
The Return of the King
is at number 205. It makes sense that these movies are practically level with one another, but it’s strange that
The Two Towers
is 161 places higher up.

The Fellowship of the Ring is ranked at number 201 and The Return of the King is at number 205. It makes sense that these movies are practically level with one another, but it’s strange that The Two Towers is 161 places higher up. Although The Return of the King is the one which was showered with awards, it has the lowest audience score of the trilogy, possibly due to the common criticism that the ending drags on for too long.

6 Stanley Kubrick Has Just 1 Movie In The Top 100

Dr. Straneglove is Kubrick’s only movie anywhere near the top of the list


Any director would be honored to have one of their movies in the top 100, but Stanley Kubrick’s body of work includes multiple movies which are considered among the best of all time. His Cold War comedy Dr. Strangelove is at spot number 38, just below Inside Out, but his next highest-rated movie is all the way down at number 161, with Paths of Glory. The Killing is his only other movie to creep into the top 300, at number 297.

Kubrick’s admirers may have expected to see
A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, Barry Lyndon
or
2001: A Space Odyssey
in the top 300.


Dr. Strangelove deserves its place, but Kubrick’s admirers may have expected to see A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, Barry Lyndon or 2001: A Space Odyssey alongside it. These movies all have high Rotten Tomatoes scores with critics and audiences, but they aren’t enough. Other legendary directors have a little more luck on the Rotten Tomatoes list. Alfred Hitchcock has four movies in the top 100, while Francis Ford Coppola has three.

5 Daniel Day-Lewis Has Just 1 Movie On The List

My Left Foot is on the list, but Lincoln, There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread are not

Daniel Day-Lewis has won three Oscars, four BAFTAs, and countless other accolades. In a career spanning almost 50 years, he developed a reputation as one of the greatest dramatic actors of all time, and his movies were routinely showered with praise from critics. This outstanding success doesn’t translate onto the Rotten Tomatoes list, however, as only My Left Foot makes the cut.

There Will Be Blood, In the Name of the Father
and
Lincoln
are all hugely popular with critics and audiences alike, but they clearly aren’t quite popular enough.


Many more of Daniel Day-Lewis’ best movies wouldn’t have looked out of place on the list. There Will Be Blood, In the Name of the Father and Lincoln are all hugely popular with critics and audiences alike, but they clearly aren’t quite popular enough. Day-Lewis’ presence in a movie is all but a guarantee of quality, but he may not have the kind of general appeal that other actors do, since he focused on standalone dramatic works rather than splashy blockbusters or comedies.

4 There Are Some Sci-Fi Classics Missing From The List

Many of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time are nowhere to be seen


Some genres appear more frequently than others on the Rotten Tomatoes list. Horror classics don’t always receive glowing critical reviews, and comedy movies are more subjective, so it’s no surprise that the methodology behind the list made it hard for either of these genres. The lack of some sci-fi classics is a little more surprising, since sci-fi can often please critics just as much as regular movie fans.

Even
Everything Everywhere All at Once,
which might have benefited from its recent popularity, doesn’t crack the top 300.

Many of the best sci-fi movies of all time are absent from the list, despite their impressive Rotten Tomatoes scores. The Matrix, Jurassic Park and Blade Runner all have great scores, but they aren’t quite high enough to make it on to the list. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is often cited as the pinnacle of the sci-fi genre, but it is also absent. Even Everything Everywhere All at Once, which might have benefited from its recent popularity, doesn’t crack the top 300.


3 There Are No Movies From 2005

2005 is strangely under-represented

For some reason, 2005 is the only year within the last 40 that doesn’t contribute a single movie to the list. Even the lean pandemic years are able to add one or two movies. Recency bias seems to be an issue with the Rotten Tomatoes list, as the 21st century is disproportionately represented, but 2005 is the one year that doesn’t benefit from this phenomenon, despite delivering a few films now considered classics.

Brokeback Mountain, V for Vendetta
and
Sin City
are just three candidates that would have made sense on any best movies of all time list, but they don’t have high enough Rotten Tomatoes ratings to qualify.


Brokeback Mountain, V for Vendetta and Sin City are just three candidates that would have made sense on any best movies of all time list, but they don’t have high enough Rotten Tomatoes ratings to qualify. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was probably closer to being included, as it has a 95% critical score, but its 79% audience score may have held it back.

2 Pixar Has 6 Movies Ranked Higher Than Any Disney Animation

Every Toy Story movie is on the list

One thing that stands out from a cursory glance over the list is the abundance of Pixar movies. Toy Story 2 is the studio’s highest-ranked movie in the number 8 spot. This also makes it the highest-ranked animated movie of any kind. Before Disney Animation makes its way on to the list at number 32 with Zootopia, Pixar also has Toy Story, Up, Finding Nemo, Toy Story 3 and Coco.


Before Disney Animation makes its way on to the list at number 32 with
Zootopia,
Pixar also has
Toy Story, Up, Finding Nemo, Toy Story 3
and
Coco.

Many of Pixar’s best movies pop up throughout the list, including Soul, Ratatouille and Monsters, Inc. All four of Pixar’s Toy Story movies, not including the spinoff Lightyear, hold a place in the top 50, which makes it the most successful franchise by far. Disney Animation movies simply can’t compete. While there are a few inclusions, like Moana and Aladdin, these fall further toward the bottom of the list.

1 Curtis Hanson’s Only Movie In The Top 300 Is In The Top Spot

L.A. Confidential is the list’s big surprise


One of the most obvious surprises of the list is that L.A. Confidential sits at number one. The 1997 retro thriller is undoubtedly a great movie, but it still raised plenty of eyebrows when it beat out classics like Casablanca and The Godfather. What’s even more surprising is that L.A. Confidential is Curtis Hanson’s only film in Rotten Tomatoes’ top 300, while other directors have plenty of entries.

Hanson also wrote and produced the neo-noir crime drama, based on the novel by James Ellroy.

Curtis Hanson’s other movies include 8 Mile and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. None of them have achieved the same level of critical acclaim as L.A. Confidential. Hanson also wrote and produced the neo-noir crime drama, based on the novel by James Ellroy. For whatever reason, he seems to have clicked with the project, making it by far his most critically successful movie.


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