Can you remember a time without Rotten Tomatoes? Those sightless days of people reaching out and bumping into movies at random, like wandering through a Blockbuster with all the lights off. Those were dark and undirected times. Since the launch of RT in August of 1998, though – the site went live on August 18 of that year – movie fans have had immediate access to the largest accumulation of film reviews ever, distilled for one purpose: to get you watching the best kind of movies you want to see. (Or if you only want to watch bad movies, the site can help you find those more quickly, too.)
As we mark our 20th birthday, we’re looking back on the past two decades with this guide to the 200 best-reviewed movies released since that fateful day in August of 1998. To keep the competition tight, we only included movies that had at least 80 reviews, the number at which wide-release movies qualify for Certified Fresh status; applying that rule, and limiting the total list to 200 titles, the lowest Tomatometer score you’ll find is 95%. The criteria also meant that no films from 1998 made the cut (Shakespeare in Love did come awfully close).
The list, which we’ve ordered chronologically, runs the gamut of movies, ranging from popular blockbusters (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part II, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers) to indies (The Wrestler, Nightcrawler) and the still underseen (Step, Gloria). Some 14 movies come from this very year made the list, among them Mission: Impossible – Fallout and BlacKkKlansman. There are seven Best Picture Oscar winners and 24 animated movies in there – 10 of which are Pixar products, and three of which come from the UK’s Aardman Animations. Documentaries make up a whopping quarter of the movies listed, and include landmark films like Bowling For Columbine and Man On Wire, while 53 of the movies listed are foreign-language, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and the first film on the list, Pedro Almodóvar‘s All About My Mother.
A number of directors show up twice on the list – Ava DuVernay, Taika Waititi, Ryan Coogler, and Sean Baker among them – and a handful show up even more than that: Lee Unkrich, Pete Docter, Brad Bird, and Richard Linklater. Meanwhile, series like the Paddington, Before, and Toy Story films appear more than once, along with both films in The Act of Killing/The Look of Silence documentary pairing feature.
So: 200 movies, 20 years. How many have you seen after all this time? And how many are you adding to your watchlist?
2017 Sundance Film Festival:
- 1-19: Premieres
- 20-26: Spotlight
- 27-42: U.S. Dramatic Competition
- 43-54: World Cinema Dramatic Competition
- 55-64: Next
- 65-72: Midnight
- 73-74: New Frontier
- 75-77: Sundance Kids
- 78-93: U.S. Documentary Competition
- 94-105: World Cinema Documentary Competition
- 106-117: Documentary Premieres
- 118-120: Special Events.