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Ranking the best years in movie history

  • Ranking the best years in movie history

    What goes into a great year for movies? Is it the costume design, set design, dialogue, or emotional impact of the movies released that year? Is it that movies break ground that year, or launch new careers of actors and actresses who will go on to be stars? Is it that simply a greater number of excellent movies get made that year than do during other years?

    While all of these may be valid metrics to look at when considering what makes a great year for movies, there is another, simpler metric one might look at, too. Simply, what did audiences think? Whatever the reason people like certain movies, it is undeniable that some strike more of a chord than others with audiences over time.

    And it’s not always the films that are the biggest hits at the box office or at the Academy Awards. Fan favorites do sometimes overlap—as was the case with "Indiana Jones" the year it debuted—but more often than not, audiences see and love things in the years since a film is released that are not always consistent with the story box office numbers and cultural film history would tell.

    Stacker collected data on nearly 12,000 movies over the past 90 years that have been released in the United States—according to IMDb, and as of Feb. 7, 2020—then determined multiple tiers of voting thresholds to level the playing field between the years. Voting thresholds are as follows: 1931–1939, 250 votes; 1940–1979, 500 votes; 1980–1983, 1,000 votes; 1984–1993, 2,500 votes; 1994–1999, 5,000 votes; 2000–2019, 10,000 votes. Years were then ranked by the number of films in the top 5,000, with films in the top 1,000 breaking ties, films in the top 250 breaking further ties, and average IMDb rating breaking final ties. Years prior to 1931 were not considered because the data available was not sufficient.

    Click through for a look at the best years in movie history.

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  • #89. 1966

    - Films in the top 5,000: 27
    - Films in the top 1,000: 4
    - Films in the top 250: 0
    - Highest rank: #262
    - Average IMDb user rating: 5.98

    Although the film “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is thought to be the most significant of the year in retrospect, the Academy, that year, did not agree. The British drama “A Man for All Seasons” took home six Oscar statues that year, including for Best Picture.

  • #88. 1975

    - Films in the top 5,000: 30
    - Films in the top 1,000: 8
    - Films in the top 250: 4
    - Highest rank: #17
    - Average IMDb user rating: 6.23

    “The Man Who Would Be King” is the top-ranking film from 1975, but it has some close, and rather famous, competition. Steven Spielberg’s thriller “Jaws” came out that year, and has changed the way people look at a day at the beach ever since.

  • #87. 1976

    - Films in the top 5,000: 31
    - Films in the top 1,000: 7
    - Films in the top 250: 4
    - Highest rank: #75
    - Average IMDb user rating: 6.01

    “The Tenant” takes the slot for the best movie of 1976, which may have been a disappointment for one director releasing his final film. The famous director Alfred Hitckcock released his last movie, “Family Plot,” that year.

  • #86. 1969

    - Films in the top 5,000: 33
    - Films in the top 1,000: 5
    - Films in the top 250: 1
    - Highest rank: #227
    - Average IMDb user rating: 6.18

    “The Big Dig” was the top movie of 1969, but it had some pretty stiff competition. The famous “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” would go on to excel at the box office, becoming one of the highest-grossing films of all time.

  • #85. 1977

    - Films in the top 5,000: 34
    - Films in the top 1,000: 7
    - Films in the top 250: 2
    - Highest rank: #21
    - Average IMDb user rating: 6.03

    “Sorcerer” takes the top prize for 1977, but two cult classics are hot on its heels. “Annie Hall” was released in 1977, along with a very different kind of fan-favorite: “Close Encounters of a Third Kind.”

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  • #84. 1965

    - Films in the top 5,000: 35
    - Films in the top 1,000: 4
    - Films in the top 250: 1
    - Highest rank: #229
    - Average IMDb user rating: 6.23

    “The Collector” was the best movie of 1965, but audiences might be forgiven for forgetting that due to another major film event from that year. “The Sound of Music” premiered that year, and for more than half a year was #1 at the box office.

  • #83. 1967

    - Films in the top 5,000: 37
    - Films in the top 1,000: 12
    - Films in the top 250: 2
    - Highest rank: #162
    - Average IMDb user rating: 6.22

    “The Incident” is the top-ranking film from 1967, but that doesn’t take into account a new wave of movies upending old mores. Among these were “The Graduate,” “Bonnie and Cylde,” and “Cool Hand Luke.”

  • #82. 1978

    - Films in the top 5,000: 38
    - Films in the top 1,000: 5
    - Films in the top 250: 1
    - Highest rank: #154
    - Average IMDb user rating: 5.98

    “Midnight Express” takes top honors for 1978, but that wasn’t the word on everyone’s lips that year. That word would have been “Grease,” which would be the highest-grossing film musical for decades before “Mamma Mia” came along.

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  • #81. 1984

    - Films in the top 5,000: 38
    - Films in the top 1,000: 10
    - Films in the top 250: 4
    - Highest rank: #56
    - Average IMDb user rating: 6.29

    “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” is the top-ranked film from 1984, which would come as no surprise to its legions of fans. It edged out “Return of the Jedi” that year as one of the top-grossing films of all time.

  • #80. 1931

    - Films in the top 5,000: 39
    - Films in the top 1,000: 5
    - Films in the top 250: 1
    - Highest rank: #42
    - Average IMDb user rating: 6.51

    “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde” takes top honors for 1931, and it seems that genre of horror was popular with audiences then. “Frankenstein” was another hit that year, appearing on many “best of” lists and doing well at the box office.

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