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Are Movies Getting Worse? I Might Have the Answer
by Tim Josephs

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When you see an endless amount of commercials for movies like HOP and JUMPING THE BROOM, it's hard not to think that yes, movies are getting worse. But is there a way to prove it? I thought I'd take a stab at it and decided to compare movies from 2010 with those of 1985. (25 seemed like a good number of years to go back). My theory going in was that movies really weren't getting worse but just that so many more movies were getting released - and so many more bad ones - that the good ones were just getting overshadowed. Ultimately I thought the percentage of good movies would be about the same.

So this is what I did. Using Rotten Tomatoes as a guide I looked at every movie from both those years. And I only counted movies that had at least ten critic reviews. After an exhaustive amount of research, here's what I came up with. In 1985 185 movies were released. On RT, 93 had at least ten reviews. 278 films were released in 2010 and 247 had at least ten reviews.

49 of those movies in 1985 had a score of 60 or above (which is considered good by Rotten Tomatoes standards) which comes out to 52.6%. Only 113 in 2010 were at 60 or over which is 45.7%.

What about the best films, the ones above 80? I'm glad you asked. 2010 had 61 for 24.6%. That's not too bad when a quarter of the movies for a year are considered very good or great. But 1985 had 32 which is 34%. So over a third of the movies were elite.

Now, onto the dregs. Only eleven of those reviewed movies in 1985 scored below 20 which is 12%. There were a whopping 44 of those in 2010 for 17.8%. So the amount of terrific films in 2010 was only about 7% greater than the horrible ones.

I also looked at the five top grossing films of each year. The average for 1985 was 64.2 and two of those films - ROCKY and RAMBO - were each well below 60. The five top grossing movies of 2010 had an average of 74.8 and the lowest score was a 52 (ALICE IN WONDERLAND).

I also looked at the best picture nominations. The average for 1985 was 84.2 with only one film - WITNESS - over 90. The average score of the 2010 films was 93 and there were only two films - INCEPTION and BLACK SWAN - under 90. Of course now there are ten nominees so that might have swayed things.

But I think the one score that matters the most is the overall average. The average movie in 1985 had a score of 61.2 which, although not great, would still be considered fresh. The average movie in 2010? 53.6%. Not so good.

So, what, if anything, have we learned from all this? First of all, I think my theory was sort of right. Though the "fresh" movies were about 7% greater in 1985, there were also a ton more awful movies released in 2010. And the data suggests that while the most profitable films and the ones most award-worthy were scored better in 2010, overall, movies in 1985 were better. Of course several more years would have to be examined for further proof, and since I don't plan on doing that, I'll say that yes, movies are in fact getting worse.

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Movie Musings
Every other Tuesday

Thoughts, observations, conjectures, complaints about movies and mostly how they relate to me personally. If you're looking for something a little broader, try Ebert.

Other Columns
Other columns by Tim Josephs:

So Long 2013, and MatchFlickers!

The Season for Peace, Presents, & Puncture Wounds

Women are Once Again Kicking Ass

Chewing the Scenery

The Greatest President We Never Had

All Columns

Tim Josephs
Born to write (literally much to the displeasure of his mother, he emerged with a pencil clutched in one tiny fist), Tim spends most of his days crafting epic monosyllabic poems, new comical titles to his favorite Beatles' songs (Hey, Dude), and angry letters to local businesses that have wronged him in some way. He's really an okay guy once you get to know him.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Tim Josephs by clicking here.

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