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The stats that prove Oscars Best Picture winners are over-rated

Words: Josh Rakic
Photo: Flickr/marvelousroland

In the court of public opinion, these were the best movies of the past 6 years.

The only thing more subjective than clothing style, music, comedy or television, is film. It’s the one realm we can all relate to, thanks to the fact that almost every cinema in the nation over plays the same movies, giving audiences from New York across to California equal opportunity to see them.

But come awards season, the most successful, popular and highest grossing films are always overlooked in favor of niche movies almost no one - comparatively - has seen. 

So, to pay tribute to the movies deemed lesser by The Academy, we’ve scoured the history of top grossing films since 2010 and tallied them against Rotten Tomatoes top critics and audience scores (keeping in mind a ticket sale doesn’t equal a good movie), to bring you the decade’s most popular films - not including sequels*. Here is a list of the Best Picture Oscar winners by public opinion and interest.

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Inception (2010)

© YouTube/Movieclips

Of the five movies nominated for Best Picture, only two were among the year’s top 10 grossing films - Toy Story 3 coming in at No.1 with 53 million tickets sold and Inception with 37 million tickets sold. In the past six years, it’s the only time the year’s top grossing film has even been nominated for Best Picture - and a sequel of a long-standing property no less. 

Unusually again, both critics and audiences alike agreed. Toy Story 3 averaged a Rotten Tomatoes top critic score of 100 and an audience score of 89, with Inception’s rating at 86-91. However, the Best Picture award went to King’s Speech, which sold just three million tickets in the US with an impressive approval rating of 90 to 92 for top critics. Black Swan (87-84) and The Social Network (100-86) both had limited ticket sales and public appeal by comparison, despite being critical darlings.

Actual winner: King’s Speech
Winner by public opinion: Inception (For it being the only entirely original concept of the three, with high public and critical approval, and big ticket sales)

The Help (2011)

© YouTube/Hollywoodstreams

It was this year when independent movies really began a new cycle of critical popularity. Of the nine movies nominated, not one made the top 10 grossing films list, with  The Help (65-89) narrowly missing out and finishing 11th for the year with 21 million ticket sales. By comparison, the winner for Best Picture, The Artist, sold just 630,000 tickets nationwide despite a 100 percent collective rating by top critics. Comparatively, just 87 percent of the diminutive audience rated the film highly. Far and away the biggest pic of the year was the final installment of the Harry Potter series, which sold 48 million tickets for a top critics vs. audience rating of 100 to 89.

Actual winner: The Artist
Winner by public opinion: The Help (For the fact an independent film about a group of black maids sold close to half the number of the final installment of world phenomenon Harry Potter series, and with an excellent audience rating to boot)

Argo (2012)

Like 2011, not one of the nominated films featured in the top 10 grossing films. But with names like Ben Affleck, Tarantino and David O. Russell in the mix, the nominees for Best Picture were stacked with known entities. Of the nine films, the Lincoln biopic (94 vs. 80) sold 18 million tickets to eventual winner Argo’s 14 million. Though the latter was far better received (94 vs. 90). However, none came close to the numbers of The Avengers, the debut coming together of Marvel’s collective superstars, which sold a whopping 78 million tickets for an approval of 82 to 91.

Actual winner: Argo
Winner by public opinion: Argo (For solid ticket sales, high audience approval and telling a previously untold story)
Should have been nominated: The Avengers

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Captain Phillips (2013)

The lean towards independent films well and truly continued in 2013, with only one of the nine films nominated winning a spot among the top 10 grossing films; big budget space drama Gravity (98 vs. 80). The best received films were winner 12 Years a Slave (96 vs. 90) and Dallas Buyers Club (98 vs. 91), though they sold only five and two million tickets respectively - far inferior to juggernaut threequel Iron Man 3 with 53 million. But with a critic-vs-audience score of just 63 to 79, the latter lacked viewer satisfaction. The creeper? Captain Phillips with 13 million tickets sold and a 91-89 approval score.

Actual winner: 12 Years a Slave
Winner by public opinion: Captain Phillips
Should have been nominated: Frozen (For being the only original film in top 10 grossing films and selling 36 million tickets for an approval rating of 85 to 86)

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

© YouTube/Abel Andemichael

Arguably the most contentious win this decade is 2014’s Birdman, a cinematic masterpiece that didn’t translate to ticket sales with a critic to audience score of 94-77 and just three million sales. No film, except for fellow nominee Boyhood (100-81), has had such a large discrepancy in critic to audience satisfaction and won. American Sniper (82-84) was the only film to crack the top 10 grossing list from eight nominees with 41 million tickets sold, with Grand Budapest Hotel (88-86) the next best grossing film with seven million tickets sold. Whiplash (95-94) had the best overall score, but sold only 700,000 tickets. In fact, not one of the nominated films was in the top 10 for ticket sales, while the ignored Guardians of the Galaxy- a previously unknown quantity - was No.1 with 41 million ticket sales for a critic to audience approval of 83 to 91.

Actual winner: Birdman
Winner by public opinion: Guardians of the Galaxy

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)*

© YouTube/Movieclip Trailers

One of the best years for film of the decade so far, audiences and critics alike could barely spit Best Picture winner Spotlight, with an approval of 98-93. But with only three million tickets sold, should the true story hold the title? The Big Short sold a million more tickets but wasn’t as well received (85-88), while audience favorite Room (91-93) sold only 600,000 tickets. The year included blockbusters Mad Max (98-86 for 18 million tickets) and The Martian (94-91 for 27 million tickets sold), with Straight Outta Compton falling narrowly behind with a rating of 77-91 for 19 million tickets. But far and away the biggest film was the seventh installment of Star Wars, which sold 88 million tickets for an approval of 89-89. 

Actual winner: Spotlight
Winner by public opinion: Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens (Yes, it was a known quantity but based on the prequels a successful movie wasn’t guaranteed. And for 88 million critics and movie-going public to agree, its success is unparalleled)
Should have been nominated: Straight Outta Compton

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