The Best Years Ever for Movies

best movie years

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For years, Americans have flocked to movie theaters. Whether it was your favorite childhood movie, your first R-rated flick or seeing a horror film on an awkward teenage date, movies are part of us. Hollywood knows that movies are ingrained in our culture—and how much we are willing to spend—so every year we have a plethora of choices.

Looking back it’s clear that some years are better than others in terms of the quality of films produced. Most of us would probably like to forget about 2010, when films like The Last Airbender or Furry Vengeance stumbled through the box office. Other years seem to have the right mix of blockbuster hits, Academy Award-winning dramas and Pixar favorites.

Using data collected from Gracenote, PrettyFamous found the best years ever for movies. To do this, we added up the Smart Ratings from the top 10 movies from each year. The Smart Rating takes into consideration Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, IMDb and Gracenote ratings, plus cumulative, inflation-adjusted U.S. box office revenue.

*Note: We considered only years with more than 400 films produced. Therefore, our search examined every year from 1932-2015.

#25. 2006

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: The Departed effortlessly intertwines two riveting stories. Coupled with a stellar cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson, there is no doubt that The Departed was one of the most entertaining films of 2006.

#24. 1984

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: Amadeus tells the enthralling story about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The film was nominated for 11 Oscars and took home 8, including Best Director (Milos Forman), Best Actor (F. Murray Abraham) and Best Picture.

#23. 2011

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: A Separation won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, but many would argue it was the best film of 2011 overall. The heartbreaking story of a marriage falling apart while a family member suffers the crippling effects of Alzheimer’s disease also launched Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi‘s career.

#22. 1961

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: Yojimbo is a Samurai action movie created by famed Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. The other top-rated film from 1961 was foreign as well—Viridiana from Spain, which tells a dramatic love story about a nun.

#21. 1962

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: Out of 10 Academy Award nominations, Lawrence of Arabia won 7, including Best Picture and Best Director. The film was a huge hit worldwide—except for certain Middle Eastern countries, including Turkey and Jordan, where it was banned for allegedly misrepresenting their culture.

#20. 1975

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: Although it was released over 40 years ago, fans vividly remember the knights who say “Ni” and Sir Lancelot of Camelot’s hilarious quest to find the Holy Grail. It’s no surprise that Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the highest-rated film of 1975, it was voted the 3rd funniest movie of all time by Rolling Stone.

#19. 1959

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: A Cary Grant classic, North by Northwest is one of the original spy thrillers. While it did not win any of the three Oscars it was nominated for, North by Northwest is regarded as a classic and one of Alfred Hitchcock‘s best films.

#18. 1950

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: All About Eve is a classic movie about backstabbing, conniving females. It was nominated for a whopping 14 Academy Awards, a feat only one other film—Titanic—has accomplished.

#17. 1948

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: The Bicycle Thief is a simple, yet well-done, Italian film about a father helping his son search for his stolen bicycle. The whole movie was filmed on location in Rome, and director Vittorio De Sica decided to cast everyday people rather than actors to give the film a more realistic feeling.

#16. 2010

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: It was bittersweet saying goodbye to Andy as he went off to college in Toy Story 3. The Pixar favorite won an Academy Award for Best Animated Film and is regarded as one of Pixar’s best sequels.

#15. 1957

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: 12 Angry Men is a classic film directed by Sidney Lumet and based on the play by Reginald Rose. Apparently Lumet kept the cast cooped up in one room for hours rehearsing their lines to give them the feel of what it’s like to be a real jury member.

#14. 2008

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: The Dark Knight is touted as one of director Christopher Nolan‘s best films. Many remember this film for Heath Ledger‘s eerie performance as the Joker, for which he won a posthumous Academy Award.

#13. 2015

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: Pixar won again with Inside Out. The deep look into human emotions won over audience members of all ages. Pixar even consulted with various psychologists to ensure that the depiction of human emotions and memory was scientifically accurate.

#12. 1955

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Films: The Night of the Hunter is a crime drama directed by Charles Laughton, who is also known for other classics such as Spartacus and Mutiny on the Bounty.

The other top-rated film, Rififi or Du Rififi Chez les Hommes, is a French film about a jewelry heist gone wrong. According to IMDb, the film was pulled from theaters in Mexico after hundreds of burglaries were attempted using ideas from the film.

#11. 1954

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: Seven Samurai is one of famed director Akira Kurosawa‘s most critically acclaimed films. It was only nominated for two Oscars, but remains a favorite action film for many. George Lucas, in fact, is very passionate about Seven Samurai and said it is his favorite film.

#10. 1949

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: One of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You DieThe Third Man is a film-noir classic. The film is known for famous actor Orson Welles‘ performance, although his total screen time only amounts to about five minutes in total.

#9. 1940

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Films: Rebecca, the creepy Hitchcock tale about a woman haunted by the ghost of her husband’s first wife, went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture.

The other top film, The Philadelphia Story, showcases movie stars Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and Katharine Hepburn. Grant demanded $100,000 (over $1.6 million in today’s dollars) for his role in the film and donated all of it to the British War Relief Fund.

#8. 1946

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: It’s a Wonderful Life actually flopped at the box office when it came out in 1946. Since then, George Bailey and his Bedford Falls family have become household names, especially around the holidays.

#7. 2013

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: Director Alfonso Cuarón beautifully presented Space and Earth in his drama Gravity. For this, Cuarón won both the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Director.

#6. 2007

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: Pixar succeeded once again with the tale of a lowly French rat who has dreams of becoming a chef. Like many Pixar films, Ratatouille resonates with both adults and children.

#5. 1939

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” is probably one of the most recognizable quotes in cinema history. Gone With the Wind was the first technicolor film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and at more than four hours long it remains the longest movie ever to have won the award.

#4. 2014

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: J.K. Simmons won an Oscar for his captivating portrayal of a hot-tempered music professor in the film Whiplash. Simmons even cracked three ribs when he was tackled by Miles Teller in the fight scene.

#3. 1964

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is one of Stanley Kubrick‘s best-known films. Lead Peter Sellers was reportedly paid $1 million (over $7.6 million in today’s dollars) for his role in the film, and improvised most of his lines.

#2. 1985

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” The original Back to the Future, which was also the top-grossing film of 1985, has become a beloved fan favorite. Although it has spawned a few sequels, none are as good as the original.

#1. 1994

Highlights of the Year’s Top-Rated Film: Many believe that Pulp Fiction is Quentin Tarantino‘s best work. The overtly violent cult classic was nominated for seven Oscars and took home one: Best Original Screenplay.

Quite a few movies that came out in 1994 are still loved today. Forrest Gump, The Lion King and The Shawshank Redemption are all classics that contributed to 1994 winning the “Best Year for Movies” title.

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(Originally posted on January 12, 2016 by Tessa Boyce via Graphiq Newsdesk)