IMDb Movie Ratings Over the Years, by Nathaniel Johnston:
It’s time for a random dose of statistics courtesy of The Internet Movie Database. Let’s consider all movies that have been released theatrically over the last 60 years and see whether there is a trend in their perceived quality over time. That is, do new movies generally receive higher or lower scores on IMDb than old movies?
Before looking at the numbers though, we need some rules to clarify what types of movies we are considering:
- We only consider theatrically-released films — no straight-to-video movies or TV movies.
- Short films that were released theatrically (such as Pixar’s Presto) are included.
- We only consider movies that have received 1000 or more votes. This restriction is to prevent movies with only a handful of votes from skewing the results too much.
- The theatrical release date of the movie must have been at least as recent at 1950.
IMDb contains 10034 movies that satisfy the above criteria. The average score (on a scale of 1 to 10) of those movies is 6.38 and the median score is 6.6. The average score per release year is given by the following graph:
As you can see, older movies (1950 – 1975) have abnormally high scores, as do very recent movies (2000 – 2009). These differences are indeed statistically significant. For example, the p-value associated with the test that the mean score in 1950 is the same as the mean score in 1989 is less than 10-19. The p-value associated with the test that the mean score in 2008 is the same as the mean score in 1989 is about 0.0021. Other nearby years give similar p-values.
So this tells us that, in general, particularly old movies receive the highest scores, followed by newly-released movies, followed by “semi-old” movies from the 1980’s and 1990’s. So why the differences? Were movies from the 1980’s really just that bad? Possibly, but the more likely explanation is that movies from the 1950’s through 1970’s have artificially higher scores because people don’t generally go back and watch the crummy movies of the last generation, so they get forgotten and do not have 1000 votes on IMDb. Will people be watching Disaster Movie in forty years? I sure hope not.
On the other hand, particularly recent movies tend to draw a fair amount of hype and fanboyism. Remember when The Dark Knight had a score of 9.8 and was at #1 on the IMDb top 250? Now, one year later, it has a score of 8.9 and is located at #9 on the top 250. It will likely dwindle a little further down over the coming years as well.
The Best and Worst of Each Year
While we’re looking at ratings of movies over the years, I suppose I might as well provide a list of the best and worst movie of each year (based on the votes of IMDb users), since such a list is not available on the IMDb website itself to my knowledge. Keep in mind that, as before, only movies with 1000 or more votes are considered. Enjoy!
Year Best Worst 1950 Sunset Blvd. Destination Moon 1951 Strangers on a Train Flying Padre: An RKO-Pathe Screenliner 1952 Singin’ in the Rain Jack and the Beanstalk 1953 Duck Amuck Robot Monster 1954 Rear Window Jail Bait 1955 Nuit et brouillard Bride of the Monster 1956 The Killing The Conqueror 1957 12 Angry Men Beginning of the End 1958 Vertigo The Screaming Skull 1959 North by Northwest Yusei oji 1960 Psycho Ein Toter hing im Netz 1961 Divorzio all’italiana The Beast of Yucca Flats 1962 Lawrence of Arabia Eegah 1963 The Great Escape The Skydivers 1964 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb The Starfighters 1965 Per qualche dollaro in più Monster a-Go Go 1966 Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo. Night Train to Mundo Fine 1967 Cool Hand Luke The Hellcats 1968 C’era una volta il West Girl in Gold Boots 1969 Le chagrin et la pitié Five the Hard Way 1970 Mihai Viteazul Hercules in New York 1971 12 stulyev The Touch of Satan 1972 The Godfather Night of the Lepus 1973 The Sting Gojira tai Megaro 1974 The Godfather: Part II The Bat People 1975 Hababam sinifi Zaat 1976 Tosun Pasa Track of the Moon Beast 1977 Saban Oglu Saban The Incredible Melting Man 1978 Kibar Feyzo Laserblast 1979 Apocalypse Now Angels’ Brigade 1980 Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back L’uomo puma 1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark Le lac des morts vivants 1982 Vincent Megaforce 1983 Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro Los nuevos extraterrestres 1984 Balkanski spijun Ator l’invincibile 2 1985 Esperando la carroza Final Justice 1986 Aliens Zombie Nightmare 1987 L’homme qui plantait des arbres Leonard Part 6 1988 Nuovo cinema Paradiso Hobgoblins 1989 Ilha das Flores R.O.T.O.R. 1990 Goodfellas The Final Sacrifice 1991 The Silence of the Lambs Cool as Ice 1992 Reservoir Dogs Meatballs 4 1993 Schindler’s List Barschel – Mord in Genf? 1994 The Shawshank Redemption Tangents 1995 The Usual Suspects Dis – en historie om kjærlighet 1996 Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders 1997 Masumiyet Pocket Ninjas 1998 American History X Die Hard Dracula 1999 Fight Club The Underground Comedy Movie 2000 Memento The Tony Blair Witch Project 2001 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Glitter 2002 Cidade de Deus Ben & Arthur 2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King From Justin to Kelly 2004 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 2005 Babam Ve Oglum Troppo belli 2006 Kiwi! Pledge This! 2007 Heima Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag 2008 The Dark Knight Disaster Movie 2009 (so far) Inglourious Basterds Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience
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