Friday, May 11, 2012

20 Year Weighted and Consolidated IMDB Top 250 List (1996 – 2015)

Of all the tracking lists on this site, this one is a unique creation of my own.  I first discovered IMDB back in 1997.  At the end of the year 1998 I printed off the Top 250 list in order to have as a list of recommended movies to possibly see in the coming year.  I have continued to do this at every year end since.  I have also found year end lists for 1996 and 1997.  The result is a look back at the past and the trends among the movies that have made up the list.

One of the solid criticisms of the current Top 250 list is that it is too heavily weighted towards movies that have just been released.  Because the number of votes a movie gets affects its overall position on the list, new movies will always have an advantage in appearing there.  I decided to counter some of this voting bias by weighting movies by their position in the list across the entire 20 years that I have been tracking them.

You can view this result in the “Combined – Weighted” tab.  At the top are the movies that have appeared on all 20 years’ lists.  After that are the movies that appeared on 19 of the 20 lists, then 18 of the 20, etc.  Within each of these year groupings are the average position of each movie across those years.  The highest ranked film of each of these groupings is highlighted in green.

The entire list is comprised of 670 unique movies that have appeared on the year end Top 250 lists.  These range all the way from The Shawshank Redemption with an average ranking of 1.70 across 20 years to Departures and Le Samourai which appeared on a single list in the 250th position.

The result is a Top 10 comprised of The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, Schindler's List, The Godfather Part II, Star Wars, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Pulp Fiction, Casablanca, The Empire Strikes Back, and Seven Samurai.

You may be wondering, “Why average the position in the list and not the overall rating?”  The answer again goes back to the voting in recent years.  There has been a tremendous amount of inflation in the ratings as more and more votes of “10” are given to movies. 

In the 1998 list the top 4 movies had a rating of 8.4 and by position 28 on the list they were already down to 7.9.  A rating of 7.6 got you in the Top 100 and a 7.4 got you in the Top 250.  In the 2012 list the top two films had ratings of 9.2, it took an 8.3 to make the Top 100, and at least an 8.0 to even make the Top 250 list.  Averaging the ratings would have meant the Top films from 1998 would barely even make the Top 100.

In addition to the "Consolidated – Weighted" list I also have tabs with the same films listed alphabetically, and I have tabs for each of the 20 years’ Top 250 lists.

This is really far more than just a tracking sheet.  You could do any number of different analyses on the trends over the years.  For instance, where possible I included the number of votes a movie had received.  In 1998 The Shawshank Redemption had received 9,461 votes.  In 2004 it was 135,457.  In 2012 it was 881,947.  What has been the growth rate of voting over the years?  Is it higher among a certain genre of films?

Because I include columns for all 20 years in the main combined lists, you can also see trends such as that with Almost Famous.  It appeared on the 2000 list at position 52.  It dropped a little each year until last appearing in position 214 in the 2005 list.  This is an example of why I don’t get too worked up about new movies appearing on the list right away.  My years on the site have allowed me to see the big picture.  The films that are not that good (relative to the overall list) have a life cycle where they drop some each year before leaving the list.

Another trend you can see is the rise of a classic film as more and more movie lovers discover it.  An example of this is The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.  It has been on all 20 years’ lists, but it was in position 62 in 1998.  By 2003 it was in position 25 and in 2007 it was in position 4, where it remained until 2012.

Finally, you will likely find these lists to be the answer to your question, “Why isn’t [insert movie name] on the list?”  It may very well have been at one time.  It may also return at some point.  The 400 Blows is a good example.  It was on the list from 1999 to 2007, dropped off in 2008, then returned in 2010, and even raised its position slightly in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Feel free to use all of this information I have provided for your own analysis.  Just please give credit to where you got it from.

If you see any mistakes, typos, etc., or have suggestions on how to improve these tracking sheets, please let me know in the comments.


  1. WOW this is awesome, Chip! Thank you so much for recommending it - yes, I was watching the Top 250 at some point and this year I chose my blind spots from the 12 highest ranking films at that point. It's easier to choose from these than from the 1001. Anyway, thank you so much for sharing this!

    1. You're very welcome. Thank you for the kind words.

  2. Wow! Brilliant work, and a terrific list. Thanks so much for sharing. This is so much more useful than any current top 250 imbd list. I will be consulting this to fill the many gaps in my knowledge base!

    1. You're welcome. I hope this highlights some great movies for you.

  3. Great work on this list thanks, and thanks for the work on gathering these lists in general. It'll give me a chance to catch the ones I might have missed.

    I noticed you don't seem to have the Sight and Sound critics and directors lists here, unless I've missed them? I've found them to be some of the best lists I've come across.

    1. Thanks.

      And you can find the Sight and Sound 2012 lists under the Publishing Company Lists post.

  4. I don't know if you know this or not, but, IMDb has this on their website. It's found under "Badges" ( ) They also include 1996 and 1997 on their list, if you want to update your spreadsheet with this information.

    1. Thanks for the info, but I went to IMDB and could not find anything remotely like "Badges" as an option. I even did a site index search. I then tried just putting the URL in directly, but both "badge" and "badges" on the end returned 404 Page Not Founds. If it does exist on IMDB it sounds like it might be an IMDBPro option, sort of like how they show a Top 500 there instead of a Top 250.

    2. It's not a IMDB-pro feature. If you go to your profile, it lists all the badges you have earned so far, assuming you rate films on there. (There are other badges for length of time you've been registered, so, you should have at least one.) It seems the "/" is needed at the end of the link (?)



      Sorry about the confusion. Hopefully, this clarified it some more. ;)

    3. I don't think I've looked at my profile since I created it about 15 years ago. That's interesting. I have badges for being a member and maybe posting. I've never rated a movie on IMDB, or participated in many polls. I've provided a few goofs, and I've submitted links for external reviews of movies at my other blog (tips from chip).

      It appears this badge function and those lists were added in 2014. I crosschecked the 1998 year end list and the order is correct, but the ratings are the current ones for the films, not where they were in 1998. It's as if someone on the IMDB staff was also saving year end lists, but back as far as 1996 where I started grabbing them in 1998.

      Thank you very much for making me aware of this. I really appreciate it.

    4. @Nathan Treadway - I have created and uploaded a new spreadsheet that weights across all 20 years from 1996 through 2015. It is embedded in this post.

      And if you are on Letterboxd I have the same list here:

      Thanks once again for pointing out where and how to get the 1996 and 1997 year end lists.

    5. No problem, mate! I've been using your list as a base for a while now, and when I discovered the 96-97 list earlier this year, I went ahead and put the data into my spreadsheet. I figured you'd find some interest in it.

      The early lists are real weird anyhow. It seems you picked it up when it started to stabilize, for the most part. (Seriously, how in the world did Sunset Blvd miss the 97 list?!)

      ***Another tip, if you will***
      (This may not be too handy for you as you are almost done, but, for others who may not be.)

      In the bottom row of each year use the following formula to see how many you've seen from each year:

      =sumif(f2:f671,">0",c2:c671) Put that at the end of the 1996 column, and then fill right all the way to 2015, and it will tell you how many in each year you've seen (so you know how far you need to go in each year.)

    6. I had to doublecheck Sunset Blvd because I thought I had missed it when I was doing the consolidating.

      Thanks for the Excel formula. I'm only a basic user. I plugged it in and there are a dozen films from 1996 I haven't seen (of the 15 total).

  5. What a labour of love - do you get any time to have a glass or two of wine? Keep up the exemplary work, people are enjoying your efforts. From the U.K.