With more than 5 million articles, Wikipedia is an invaluable resource, whether you’re throwing a term paper together at the last minute, or you just want science to make up its damn mind about how many planets there are. We explore some of Wikipedia’s oddities in our 5,067,917-week series, Wiki Wormhole.
This week’s entry: List of Films With A 100-Percent Rating On Rotten Tomatoes
What it’s about: Alongside IMDB and the web site you’re reading now, one of the internet’s most valuable resources for cinephiles is Rotten Tomatoes, a site that aggregates film reviews from around the web. The site culls through reviews from major film critics, determining which are positive and negative, then assigns each film a percentage of positive reviews. Movies with less than 60-percent positive reviews are considered “Rotten,” movies with more than 60 percent are “Fresh,” and more than 75 percent earns the label “Certified Fresh.” But of the tens of thousands of films considered by the site, only 412 have managed a 100-percent score, so naturally someone made a list of them and put that list on Wikipedia.
Strangest fact: While the list includes some of the greatest and most revered films ever made—Citizen Kane, Ben-Hur, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Singin’ In The Rain—it also includes, as Wikipedia puts it, “entries with dozens of positive reviews which are considered surprising to some experts.” Some are controversial picks like The Birth Of A Nation, D.W. Griffith’s unquestionably groundbreaking yet unapologetically racist film from 1915. Some are TV movies that only got a handful of reviews by film critics, including Bender’s Big Score, and 24: Redemption. And there are simply movies one wouldn’t expect, like 1971’s Pam Grier women-in-prison movie The Big Doll House, Sidney Poitier/Tom Berenger 1988 thriller Shoot To Kill, 2003’s dark revenge flick King Of The Ants, 2006 horror movie The Gravedancers, or Disney’s 1959 reinforcin’ o’ the stereotypes Darby O’Gill And The Little People.
Biggest controversy: Reviewers can clearly separate art from artist. Besides Birth Of A Nation, several directors with controversial lives off-set are still well-represented. Roman Polanski’s first two films, Knife In The Water and Repulsion, both make the list, and Woody Allen may have more films here than any other director, with Sleeper, Love And Death, Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, and Husbands And Wives all on the list.
Thing we were happiest to learn: While it’s easy to view the past through rose-colored glasses, movies aren’t actually getting worse, at least not by this metric. The number of movies on the list per decade gradually ramps up through the first half of the 20th century, peaking at 50 in the 1950s, and holding roughly steady with 49 in the ’60s. But the 2000s (41 movies) are roughly even to the 1940s (42), dead center in the Golden Age of Hollywood. The biggest surprise is that the auteur era of the ’70s produced only 34 movies on the list, while the ’80s, supposed era of empty spectacle, has 44. As for the current decade, even half over, the ’10s are already responsible for 64 movies on the list—25 from 2014 alone—although that number will probably drop as more reviews get factored in over time.
Thing we were unhappiest to learn: Some pretty great movies aren’t on here: Casablanca. The Godfather. Lawrence Of Arabia. The Wizard Of Oz. Anchorman. All of these beloved classics have at least one detractor poisoning the well.
Also noteworthy: If you’re a director and want to get onto the list, try making documentaries. Particularly in recent years, lots of nonfiction films have achieved flawless ratings, from classics like Grey Gardens, 4 Little Girls, Paradise Lost, Roger & Me, Searching For Bobby Fischer, Man On Wire, and Gimme Shelter, to lesser-known films like Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, McLibel, Racing Dreams, Nas: Time Is Illmatic, and No No (a 2014 profile of 1970s baseball player Dock Ellis). Another sure-fire route is to make a beloved series of animated films. The first two Toy Story films are on the list (with the second garnering 163 positive reviews, the most on the list), as well as Christmas special Toy Story That Time Forgot, and the three original Wallace & Gromit shorts—The Wrong Trousers, A Grand Day Out, and A Close Shave—all on the list.
Best link to elsewhere on Wikipedia: There are hundreds of terrific movies linked here, with too many to list worth reading more about. One of the only links that doesn’t go to a specific film is this page’s less-scientific equivalent, list of films considered the best. (We tackled the list of the worst films back in 2013.)
Further down the wormhole: One of the joys of Wikipedia is that one topic can link to something very different, and a few links can take you in a completely unexpected direction. But sometimes, you just click on the logical next move. We’ve seen all the films with no bad press; next time we’ll visit the other end of the spectrum, with List Of Films With A Zero-Percent Rating On Rotten Tomatoes.