Like all of us who spend a good deal of time here on Row Three, I love movies. However, (and I say this without knowing the depth or breadth of each person’s particular obsession), the way we express this love differs from individual to individual. For instance, one of the particular ways that my affair with all things cinematic has manifested itself is in an enormous excel database, one that I have been maintaining for six years now (in fact, it all started six years ago yesterday). In this database, I have compiled, among other things, daily viewing logs for every day since August 16, 2002 (there’s no real significance to that date…it’s just when I decided to start keeping track of this information), which I cross-reference with an alphabetical list of films and the days on which I viewed them. On March 19, 2003, the day the U.S. first launched the war against Iraq, I was busy watching The Big Bird Cage, a Roger Corman-produced exploitation film starring Pam Grier. The film I’ve seen the most since August 16, 2002 is Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller, which I’ve viewed 10 times in the past 6 years.
One of the spreadsheets I put together as part of this database was a list of IMDB’s Top-250 films, which I did with the express intent of watching every film on that list. To date, I’ve been fairly successful, with only 8 films on the list that I still need to see. The problem is that the top-250 I laid out for myself was from December 15, 2002. Looking at today’s IMDB top 250, the number I have yet to see has jumped to 17. Furthermore, only five of the films I haven’t seen from my original 2002 list are even on the newest top 250. Three of them (The Others, You Can Count on Me and The Man Who Would Be King) have dropped off completely.
Even the five that appear on both lists have shifted positions since 2002, some significantly:
Das Boot (#36 on the list in 2002, #66 on the current list)
Double Indemnity (#44 in 2002, #54 now)
It Happened One Night (#112 then, #130 now)
Arsenic and Old Lace (#131 then, #241 now)
His Girl Friday (#148 then, #231 now)
The new additions to the Top-250 that I haven’t seen are:
The Lives of Others
Kind Hearts and Coronets
The Lady Vanishes
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The Kid (1921)
Ace in the Hole
Hate (La Haine)
Great Expectations (1946)
Now, the additions of The Lives of Others, Oldboy, and The Diving Bell and Butterfly make perfect sense; none of those films had been released at the time the 2002 list was compiled. What’s surprising is that the remaining nine are considerably older, and were around in 2002. Kind Hearts and Coronets, released in 1950 and completely left off the 2002 list, is now #140 on the current Top-250. Why the 110-position surge? I originally thought the answer might be DVD related, that the release of the film to the home market may have influenced its standing, but Kind Hearts and Coronets was first released on DVD in the U.S. three months prior to the 2002 list I copied (I don’t know when it was released in other markets). Has the film found a recent audience, or did a few zealous Alec Guinness fans ‘stack the deck’, taking the time to create hundreds of accounts on IMDB in order to vote it onto the list?
Other films have also changed significantly. Some (released around 2002 amid a great deal of hype, only to see the furor dwindle by 2008) make sense. Others don’t. Here are a few of the other ‘list shifts’:
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (dropped from #5 in 2002 to #20 today)
Citizen Kane (#4 in 2002 to #29 today)
Lawrence of Arabia (#22 then, #35 now)
Raging Bull (fell 20 places, from #51 then to #71 now)
Touch of Evil (down a whopping 35 places, from #58 then to #93 now)
Still other films on 2002’s list have now dropped off completely, and not just ones that were at the bottom to begin with:
All the President’s Men (was #171 in 2002…gone today)
The Iron Giant (#198 in 2002, also gone today)
Miller’s Crossing (from #205 to oblivion)
The Untouchables (#215 to nowhere to be found)
Clerks (#217 to nothing)
Of course, not every film has dropped. Some have even increased in popularity over the last 6 years:
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (#27 in 2002, #5 today)
Pulp Fiction (up 13 places, from #19 in 2002 to #6 today)
12 Angry Men (from #24 in 2002 to #10 today)
Fight Club (was #37 in 2002, and now it’s #23)
A Clockwork Orange (jumped from #64 in 2002 to #48 today)
And for the record, the #’s 1 and 2 films in 2002 were The Godfather (#1), followed by The Shawshank Redemption (#2). Today, #’s 1 and 2 are The Shawshank Redemption (#1) followed by The Godfather (#2)
So, how reliable do you feel the IMDB top-250 list is in determining the likes and dislikes of its contributors? Can it be heavily influenced by a ‘fad’ mentality (The Dark Knight is still sitting at #3 overall on the current list), or does it do a good job in detailing the tastes of the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of film fans who vote on a regular basis?
What do you think?