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Worst Best Picture: Last night I dreamed I was teaching a college-level class on the history of film. Despite my total lack of qualifications, the class went well, because I focused more on film metadata than on history or craft. One of the things I did in dream-class was compare different measures of film quality, as I've been doing recently on NYCB with TV shows. In particular, I compared the winner of each year's Best Picture Oscar to IMDB's highest-rated movie of that year.

Well, prepare for a dream come true, because when I woke up I created that comparison in real life, using my old standby, IMDB data. I also brought in Wikipedia data, because it looks like IMDB doesn't publish any machine-readable information about awards or nominations. Wikipedia doesn't either, but you may have heard of a little library called Beautiful Soup.

Without further ado, here's the table. Well, I need a little more ado to explain what the headings mean.

YearBest PictureBPIMDBBPrankBest IMDB RatingBIRIMDBBIRnomAlignment
1927Wings7.80#9Metropolis8.40 0%
1928The Broadway Melody6.50#8La passion de Jeanne d'Arc8.30 0%
1929All Quiet on the Western Front8.10#1Chelovek s kino-apparatom8.40 0%
1930Cimarron6.30#20All Quiet on the Western Front8.10 0%
1931Grand Hotel7.70#11City Lights8.60 12%
1932Cavalcade6.40#24Trouble in Paradise8.20 10%
1934It Happened One Night8.30#1It Happened One Night8.30✓✓25%
1935Mutiny on the Bounty7.90#4A Night at the Opera8.10 41%
1936The Great Ziegfeld6.90#57Modern Times8.50 30%
1937The Life of Emile Zola7.40#31La grande illusion8.20 50%
1938You Can't Take It With You8.00#4The Lady Vanishes8.10 30%
1939Gone with the Wind8.20#3Mr. Smith Goes to Washington8.4040%
1941How Green Was My Valley7.90#7Citizen Kane8.6060%
1942Mrs. Miniver7.70#12Casablanca8.80 30%
1943Casablanca8.80#1The Ox-Bow Incident8.2030%
1944Going My Way7.40#31Double Indemnity8.6020%
1945The Lost Weekend8.10#4Les enfants du paradis8.30 20%
1946The Best Years of Our Lives8.30#2It's a Wonderful Life8.7040%
1947Gentleman's Agreement7.40#25Out of the Past8.10 0%
1948Hamlet7.90#12Ladri di biciclette8.50 40%
1949All the King's Men7.60#18The Third Man8.50 20%
1950All About Eve8.50#2Sunset Blvd.8.70 20%
1951An American in Paris7.30#44Strangers on a Train8.30 0%
1952The Greatest Show on Earth6.70#86Singin' in the Rain8.40 20%
1953From Here to Eternity7.90#10Le salaire de la peur8.30 0%
1954On the Waterfront8.40#3Shichinin no samurai8.80 20%
1955Marty7.70#18Les diaboliques8.30 0%
1956Around the World in 80 Days6.8?The Killing8.20 0%
1957The Bridge on the River Kwai8.40#512 Angry Men8.9060%
1958Gigi6.90#77Vertigo8.50 20%
1959Ben-Hur8.20#5Ningen no jôken8.80 20%
1960The Apartment8.40#2Psycho8.70 20%
1961West Side Story7.70#28Ningen no jôken8.80 20%
1962Lawrence of Arabia8.50#1Lawrence of Arabia8.50✓✓40%
1963Tom Jones7.00#74Pour la suite du monde8.50 0%
1964My Fair Lady7.90#15The T.A.M.I. Show8.40 0%
1965The Sound of Music7.90#20Obyknovennyy fashizm8.40 0%
1966A Man for All Seasons8.00#8Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo.9.00 20%
1967In the Heat of the Night8.00#8Cool Hand Luke8.30 20%
1968Oliver!7.50#41C'era una volta il West8.80 20%
1969Midnight Cowboy8.00#8Le chagrin et la pitié8.40 20%
1970Patton8.10#4Brigada Diverse intra în actiune8.10 20%
1971The French Connection7.90#12A Clockwork Orange8.5020%
1972The Godfather9.20#1The Godfather9.20✓✓20%
1973The Sting8.40#1The Sting8.40✓✓20%
1974The Godfather Part II9.00#1The Godfather: Part II9.00✓✓40%
1975One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest8.90#2Hababam sinifi9.00 40%
1976Rocky8.10#8Tosun Pasa8.70 20%
1977Annie Hall8.20#9Star Wars8.8020%
1978The Deer Hunter8.20#5Selvi boylum, al yazmalim8.50 20%
1979Kramer vs. Kramer7.70#27Apocalypse Now8.6020%
1980Ordinary People7.90#8The Shining8.50 40%
1981Chariots of Fire7.20#74Raiders of the Lost Ark8.7020%
1982Gandhi8.10#8Maratonci trce pocasni krug8.40 0%
1983Terms of Endearment7.40#42El sur8.20 0%
1984Amadeus8.40#4Balkanski spijun8.50 20%
1985Out of Africa7.00#83Zügürt Aga8.50 0%
1986Platoon8.20#4Aliens8.50 20%
1987The Last Emperor7.80#17Muhsin Bey8.40 0%
1988Rain Man8.00#12Nuovo Cinema Paradiso8.50 0%
1989Driving Miss Daisy7.40#45Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade8.30 0%
1990Dances with Wolves8.00#3Goodfellas8.8040%
1991The Silence of the Lambs8.70#1The Silence of the Lambs8.70✓✓60%
1992Unforgiven8.30#3Reservoir Dogs8.40 20%
1993Schindler's List8.90#1Schindler's List8.90✓✓40%
1994Forrest Gump8.70#4The Shawshank Redemption9.2060%
1995Braveheart8.40#3Se7en8.70 20%
1996The English Patient7.30#73Freebird... The Movie8.30 20%
1997Titanic7.40#51La vita è bella8.50 20%
1998Shakespeare in Love7.30#83American History X8.60 20%
1999American Beauty8.60#3Fight Club8.80 60%
2000Gladiator8.40#3Memento8.70 20%
2001A Beautiful Mind8.00#13The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring8.8020%
2002Chicago7.30#155The Last Just Man9.40 40%
2003The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King8.80#1The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King8.80✓✓20%
2004Million Dollar Baby8.20#7Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind8.50 0%
2005Crash8.50#12Babam Ve Oglum8.70 0%
2006The Departed8.50#3Das Leben der Anderen8.50 20%
2007No Country for Old Men8.20#8Jogo de Cena8.70 0%
2008Slumdog Millionaire8.20#7The Dark Knight8.90 0%
2009The Hurt Locker7.80#30Puskás Hungary8.60 30%
2010The King's Speech8.30#17Inception8.9020%
2011The Artist8.20#15Drive9.00 0%

Ok, "Alignment". Take 1941 as an example. There were ten Best Picture nominees in 1941 (although it was called something different back then). So we take the top ten movies of 1941 by IMDB rating. Six of the Best Picture nominees are also in the top ten by IMDB rating, so the alignment for 1941 is 60%. At the other extreme, none of the five 1983 Best Picture nominees are in the IMDB top five for that year, so the alignment for 1983 is 0%.

For a few years I couldn't calculate BPrank, generally because the IMDB year of the Oscar winner differs from the year it won an Oscar. Early on this happens a lot because until 1933 the Academy Awards covered parts of two years. That's why "All Quiet on the Western Front" got the nod in the 1929 Oscars, and then showed up as the best-rated IMDB film of 1930. The "1929" Oscars weren't just held in 1930, they actually covered some movies released in 1930. But sometimes the dates just don't match up. Casablanca is the top-rated film of 1942 and the winner of the 1943 Oscar. This still happens: The Hurt Locker won Best Picture in 2009 but IMDB says it was released in 2008. In most cases I was able to find the year the film was released, according to IMDB, and put down down its ranking within that year for BPrank.

My dataset excludes TV shows, video games, direct-to-video releases, and shorts. (Excluding shorts required cross-referencing against IMDB's genre.list file.) I also excluded movies with fewer than 150 votes on IMDB. I did what I could to exclude movies that are mainly concert footage, although Freebird... The Movie still made it on there. I did not exclude documentaries or foreign films.

Finally, to fulfil the promise of this post's title. According to IMDB, the worst movie ever to win Best Picture is 1930/1931's winner, "Cimmaron" (IMDB:6.3). But if you look relative to what else came out the same year, the worst Best Picture is "Chicago" (IMDB:7.5), which IMDB data ranks at the 155th-best movie of 2002. However you look at it, the best movie ever to win Best Picture is 1974's The Godfather: Part II (IMDB:9.00).

PS: Why are the Oscar nominees linked and the IMDB champions not linked? Because IMDB DATASET DOESN'T INCLUDE ANY URLS ARGH.

PPS: I did something similar for board games as part of Loaded Dice. I called it the "People's Spiel des Jahres." I didn't put up the table because the results were uninterestingly full of wargames. But wargames generally don't get nominated for Spiel des Jahres, so maybe I should exclude them and try it again.


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