Best Picture Winners According to Rotten Tomatoes

Over the past few weeks I’ve been undertaking quite a task and I can now finally show you the results. The Oscar nominations are always a source of controversy (perhaps this year more than ever), which can only be topped when winners are finally chosen and everyone fills the internet with talks of snubbage. This got me thinking about the ceremony’s biggest award, Best Picture. We can deliberate for hours about who we thought should have won, but what if there’s a way to, as objectively as possible, see if the Academy actually chosen the right winner?

To answer this questions I present the infographic below. On one side, the Academy’s winner for Best Picture each year. And to the right of it, the film that (out of each year’s chosen nominees) received the highest ‘Tomatometer’ approval rating. Films that achieved the website’s ‘Certified Fresh’ award were given precedence, on the basis of it registering that a film has earned a high amount of modern reviews, and helping to account for the natural growth of the film industry. Suffice to say, there are more than a few interesting scenarios that develop under this rating system.

Best Picture Winners based on Rotten Tomatoes Percentage

If the award went to the highest rated film for each year:

  • Just 23 selections would stay the same, meaning the Academy gets 26% of its selections correct.
  • Last year would have seen Selma selected, rather than Birdman.
  • We would have three foreign winners of the award (Grand Illusion, Z and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) rather than our current zero.
  • We would have two animated winners (in back to back years from Up and Toy Story 3) rather than our current zero.
  • 1994’s hotly debated win by Forrest Gump is not awarded to either of its highly touted competition, Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption, but rather Robert Redford’s Quiz Show.
  • Martin Scorsese would lose his only awarded Best Picture from The Departed, but he would win his nominations from Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas.
  • Cinematic giants Gone with the Wind, Ben-Hur, West Side Story, The Godfather Part II and Titanic all lose their awards.

Certainly under this system, the Academy have a spotty record. No decade saw more than four correct selections, and the 2000s saw just one award stay with its winner (Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King). My research even caused me to contact Rotten Tomatoes themselves to enquire about their ‘Certified Fresh’ rating, meaning Mary Poppins may be squeezing its way onto the list to replace Dr. Strangelove.

Is Rotten Tomatoes’ rating system the ‘be all and end all’? No, but considering it measures the approval of film’s top critics over the world, it may just be the best option. It also, passively, attempts to measure how relevant a film stays following its release. Consider how many films from the 1920s and 30s will have reviews tabulated by Rotten Tomatoes. The greater amount of people who have gone back to review an old film surely shows a greater cultural relevance from it.

Check out the raw data to find out the RT rating for every Best Picture nominee, and let me know who you think you have won in the comments below!



7 thoughts on “Best Picture Winners According to Rotten Tomatoes

    • Hey! Not only did I not include the infographic, but I also missed out ‘of’ from Lawrence of Arabia on the Academy’s side. I didn’t even make my mistakes consistently!

      Perhaps I’ll get the hang of this internet malarkey one of these days…


  1. Did your data use the “Top Critics” rating, or the “All Critics” rating from Rotten Tomatoes? This can make a huge difference in the overall rating since the “All Critics” takes into account many (more modern) fanboys which are going to give directors like Scorsese and Tarantino abnormally high marks compared to other directors.


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