Original Edition (2003) + additions (2004-2018) in that order.
Based on http://1001films.wikia.com/wiki/The_List
2018 Edition Additions:
- The Handmaiden (2016)
- Dawson City: Frozen Time (2016)
- Lady Macbeth (2016)
- Lady Bird (2017)
- The Shape of Water (2017)
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
- Call Me by Your Name (2017)
- Mother! (2017)
- Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
- Get Out (2017)
- Black Panther (2018)
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?
Just as it’s difficult to pinpoint what truly defined 2016 overall, the same goes for film. In 2013, as we pointed out, shit got real. So, one year later, we escaped. Thus, the social outsider grew. And the social outsider didn’t go away. Shit got real again, but this time, perceptions in reality clashed with another. Citizens escaped into validating takes and talking points. Divisions widened. Murderers, as ever, came with smiles. The social outsider’s definition became elastic. Depending on where you stood, you may have been that social outsider and were judged harshly for it. All the while, tests getting put out for agility, strategy, and luck. If you survived them, if you made the right moves, you were powerful enough to survive anything. And if there’s a common thread through 2016, particularly our own list of 30 films, it’s just that: survival.
Unless you’re in a cultural elitist bubble like myself, cinema must be pretty boring. Very few of the films on our list were met with dump trucks full of cash, but let their inclusion serve as a reminder that the mainstream does reward intelligence. There’s a lot of good shit on our own screens at home. People want something different — they’re just not required to get it themselves. So it goes. Luckily, some studios continue to be as reliable as record labels — the A24s and Drafthouses offered dazzling singular experiences that didn’t waste their meager budgets. Amazon could offer you auteurs after you order kitty litter and Ecto Cooler. Even as budgets shrank, the best films of the year knew how to play, often in ways that were flat-out absurd. Be it a nudist awakening and a set of teeth in Toni Erdmann or delusions of an introvert’s lost life scored by farts in Swiss Army Man, the worlds presented were just as unfair as our own. But they were also, in a way, strangely optimistic in how to deal. As though lit up by what was at stake, filmmakers stopped taking it for granted, and the reliable auteurs — Villeneuve, Verhoeven, Refn — brought their A-game. As the mainstream order remained largely conservative and derivative, chaos and confusion prospered. The old guard fought the new wave. In this context, the world was unarguably better for it.
One film that didn’t make the cut, Jake Paltrow and Noah Baumbach’s ode De Palma, reminds viewers how vastly different cinema has become in the latter half of its century-long existence. It takes an outsider, for sure, but we learned this year that the approach of the social outsider doesn’t need to be one of nihilism and terror. As you’ll see in our top 5, the notion that the marginalized can prosper, even in the smallest of triumphs, took our collective breath away. Respect was dealt and earned. Hell, even if your nerdy ass never dug jocks, Everybody Wants Some!! made it possible for at least two hours. Women of the year, through different centuries and some of the nasty persuasion, grabbed back. Companionship was found in the most bizarre and wonderful ways. Even if our personal or political narratives didn’t succeed the same way, we could still be fired up; we know plenty of radical-leaning people inspired by something as half-baked as Rogue One. We’ll take what we can get. –SNACKS KYBURZ
When people talk about what a terrible year 2016 has been, they could be referring to any number of things, from virus scares to the death of beloved celebrities to whatever the fuck happened on November 8. What they can’t mean is the movies, though. Only those who spent all their money on the biggest Hollywood product could really complain about the cinema of 2016 (and even then, they’d have some pretty good Marvel movies and a solid Star Wars spin-off to fall back on). As usual, there was no grand unifying element linking all of the year’s finest films, but there were some shared themes and motifs: grief, and coping with it; strained family bonds; the responsibility (and burden) of religious faith; and, of course, cars. More than a few of the year’s best films also took time to highlight the details of normal life, tethering their drama, comedy, or delirious fantasy to something mundanely relatable. Mathematically ranked by our six regular reviewers, who each filed an annotated ballot, the 20 films below all have at least one thing in common: They made 2016 a little easier to bear, either by offering an escape from its nightmares or helping make sense of them.
Movies that I genuinely think are masterpieces. Movies that really got me into movies. Movies I loved as a young'un.
Sorted by: Highest average rating on Letterboxd.
Stanley Kubrick , David Fincher
Andrei Tarkovsky , Quentin Tarantino , Peter Jackson, Spike Jonze , Edgar Wright , Christopher Nolan
Martin Scorsese , Billy Wilder , Park Chan-wook , Charlie Chaplin , Roman Polanski , Terry Gilliam , Francis Ford Coppola , Danny Boyle , Darren Aronofsky , Steven Spielberg , Lars von Trier , Damien Chazelle, Stephen Chow, Brad Bird
Movies per decade :
1930s - 2
1940s - 1
1950s - 3
1960s - 6
1970s - 10
1980s - 5
1990s - 15
2000s - 33
2010s - 16
The Greatest of All Time
2001: A Space Odyssey