This was a very simple visualization I did to test out some of the abilities of ggplot2, an R package with some more robust options that go beyond the base level visualization abilities of R.

We seek to visualize movies over the past few decades to see how quality (or perceived quality at least) has changed over time. There is no actual analysis done on this data, save for the kind of intuitive deduction that can be made from observing the visualizations. Having said that, I would be interested in delving more deeply into these data with the skills in data mining that I’ve gained since having done this.

Data was found on Kaggle.com and drawn from the Internet Movie Database. The code to create the plots can be found in the accompanying GitHub repo for this project, as imdb.Rmd.


Data pre-processing

Here we subset() the data in order to work with a data that makes sense for our purposes. I decided that it would be good to only look at films that were voted on by at least 10,000 people, to ensure that these ratings would be more accurate. For example, a universally praised (or panned) film that only has 1000 votes, probably because it was only seen by a very small minority, probably shouldn’t factor into our appraisal of the the quality of films of the decade in general.

We’re also only going to be looking at the 1980s to the present, so we drop the other rows, as well as any columns that don’t include what we are looking for.

The films range from scoring between 1.6 and 9.3 on a scale from 0 to 10.0m and the average score is about 6.62.

##           Min  1Q Med Mean  3Q Max Size
## 1927-2016 1.6 6.1 6.7 6.65 7.3 9.3 2816
## 1980-2016 1.6 6.1 6.7 6.62 7.3 9.3 2747
## 2010-2016  NA  NA  NA   NA  NA  NA   NA
## 2000-2010  NA  NA  NA   NA  NA  NA   NA
## 1990-2000  NA  NA  NA   NA  NA  NA   NA
## 1980-1990  NA  NA  NA   NA  NA  NA   NA

In the process of dropping films before 1980, the average scores were scarcely affected. This is most likely because of the fact that neither IMDB nor the internet existed since the earliest days of film. Knowing this, rather than look at the average score across the entirety of film we’re only going to look at the average between 1980-2016, and compare these films with that metric.


The 10s

The data for the decade that began in 2010 only goes up until 2016, so naturally it is a smaller subset of data than the rest.

Let’s take a look at the best and worst films of the decade.

##           Min  1Q Med Mean  3Q Max Size
## 1927-2016 1.6 6.1 6.7 6.65 7.3 9.3 2816
## 1980-2016 1.6 6.1 6.7 6.62 7.3 9.3 2747
## 2010-2016 1.6 6.1 6.6 6.58 7.2 8.8  829
## 2000-2010  NA  NA  NA   NA  NA  NA   NA
## 1990-2000  NA  NA  NA   NA  NA  NA   NA
## 1980-1990  NA  NA  NA   NA  NA  NA   NA

Overall, the films from 2010-2016 are roughly similar in quality to those across all years and after 1980. The best film isn’t here though, although the worst film might be, judging by the mins and maxes.

##      imdb_score title_year             movie_title     director_name     gross
## 98          8.8       2010             Inception  Christopher Nolan 292568851
## 97          8.6       2014          Interstellar  Christopher Nolan 187991439
## 4           8.5       2012 The Dark Knight Rises  Christopher Nolan 448130642
## 297         8.5       2012      Django Unchained  Quentin Tarantino 162804648
## 3932        8.5       2011               Samsara         Ron Fricke   2601847
## 4029        8.5       2014              Whiplash    Damien Chazelle  13092000

Note the fact that the three best films of this 6-year period (as voted by IMDB users) were all by Christopher Nolan. Also tied for third is my favorite director, Quentin Tarantino with Django Unchained. Samsara, a relatively unknown film, grossed a modest $2.6 million, a mere fraction of the other films on this list.

##      imdb_score title_year                      movie_title   director_name
## 1969        4.0       2011                 Shark Night 3D   David R. Ellis
## 2204        3.5       2010                  Vampires Suck  Jason Friedberg
## 2211        3.5       2013                  Scary Movie 5   Malcolm D. Lee
## 515         3.4       2011                  Jack and Jill     Dennis Dugan
## 2400        3.1       2014                    Left Behind    Vic Armstrong
## 2835        1.6       2011 Justin Bieber: Never Say Never       Jon M. Chu
##         gross
## 1969 18860403
## 2204 36658108
## 2211 32014289
## 515  74158157
## 2400 13998282
## 2835 73000942

On the other side of things, the worst film of this period was apparently Justin Bieber’s concert film, Never Say Never. Two parody films topped the list. This film, as well as Jack and Jill, starring Adam Sandler, grossed well over $70 million, most likely owing to their leads, but nevertheless were universally panned by audiences.

We can also take a look at the averages across the individual years as well as each decade.

Modern films seem to be pretty mediocre across the board (between 6-7), but if nothing else, each year seems to be consistent with the last. The sole high outlier of this decade was the 2010 film Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan.


The 00s

##           Min  1Q Med Mean  3Q Max Size
## 1927-2016 1.6 6.1 6.7 6.65 7.3 9.3 2816
## 1980-2016 1.6 6.1 6.7 6.62 7.3 9.3 2747
## 2010-2016 1.6 6.1 6.6 6.58 7.2 8.8  829
## 2000-2010 1.9 5.9 6.6 6.55 7.3 9.0 1280
## 1990-2000  NA  NA  NA   NA  NA  NA   NA
## 1980-1990  NA  NA  NA   NA  NA  NA   NA
##      imdb_score title_year                                         movie_title
## 67          9.0       2008                                   The Dark Knight 
## 340         8.9       2003     The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 
## 271         8.8       2001 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 
## 341         8.7       2002             The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 
## 4030        8.7       2002                                       City of God 
## 2374        8.6       2001                                     Spirited Away 
##           director_name     gross
## 67    Christopher Nolan 533316061
## 340       Peter Jackson 377019252
## 271       Peter Jackson 313837577
## 341       Peter Jackson 340478898
## 4030 Fernando Meirelles   7563397
## 2374     Hayao Miyazaki  10049886

All three of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy cracked the top 6, along with another Nolan Batman film. Two foreign films made the top of this list, the Brazilian film City of God (aka Cidade de Deus) and a personal favorite, along with the animated Miyazaki classic, Spirited Away.

##      imdb_score title_year                    movie_title     director_name
## 2193        2.3       2007                   Epic Movie    Jason Friedberg
## 2314        2.3       2005            Alone in the Dark           Uwe Boll
## 320         2.2       2005              Son of the Mask  Lawrence Guterman
## 2984        2.1       2003         From Justin to Kelly      Robert Iscove
## 2269        1.9       2008               Disaster Movie    Jason Friedberg
## 2296        1.9       2004 Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2          Bob Clark
##         gross
## 2193 39737645
## 2314  5132655
## 320  17010646
## 2984  4922166
## 2269 14174654
## 2296  9109322

Notably, two of the worst films of this decade were by Jason Friedberg, namely the parody films Epic Movie and Disaster Movie. He is also responsible for Vampires Suck, one of the worst rated films of the 2010s.


The 90s

##           Min  1Q Med Mean  3Q Max Size
## 1927-2016 1.6 6.1 6.7 6.65 7.3 9.3 2816
## 1980-2016 1.6 6.1 6.7 6.62 7.3 9.3 2747
## 2010-2016 1.6 6.1 6.6 6.58 7.2 8.8  829
## 2000-2010 1.9 5.9 6.6 6.55 7.3 9.0 1280
## 1990-2000 3.3 6.2 6.8 6.77 7.4 9.3  485
## 1980-1990  NA  NA  NA   NA  NA  NA   NA
##      imdb_score title_year                movie_title     director_name
## 1938        9.3       1994 The Shawshank Redemption     Frank Darabont
## 1875        8.9       1993         Schindler's List   Steven Spielberg
## 3356        8.9       1994             Pulp Fiction  Quentin Tarantino
## 684         8.8       1999               Fight Club      David Fincher
## 837         8.8       1994             Forrest Gump    Robert Zemeckis
## 655         8.7       1999               The Matrix     Lana Wachowski
##          gross
## 1938  28341469
## 1875  96067179
## 3356 107930000
## 684   37023395
## 837  329691196
## 655  171383253

Three of my favorite films came out in the 1990s and topped this list: Pulp Fiction, Fight Club, and The Matrix. The decade’s top film, The Shawshank Redemption, actually was a box office disappointment because of its direct competition with Tarantino’s film.

##      imdb_score title_year                         movie_title
## 1448        3.8       1994                    Street Fighter 
## 218         3.7       1997                    Batman & Robin 
## 268         3.7       1997           Speed 2: Cruise Control 
## 1661        3.7       1997       Mortal Kombat: Annihilation 
## 1935        3.3       1997                       Spice World 
## 3231        3.3       1994 Police Academy: Mission to Moscow 
##           director_name     gross
## 1448 Steven E. de Souza  33423521
## 218     Joel Schumacher 107285004
## 268         Jan de Bont  48068396
## 1661   John R. Leonetti  35927406
## 1935         Bob Spiers  29247405
## 3231        Alan Metter    126247

Two films based on fighting video games (my personal favorite genre) landed in the bottom spots: Street Fighter, notably starring Jean Claude van Damme and Kylie Minogue, and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Also included was the only Batman film starring George Clooney, replacing Val Kilmer. It would be the last Batman film until Nolan’s reboot in 2005 (the third of his Batman trilogy of course topping the charts in the 2010s). Arnold Schwarzeneggar was Mr. Freeze in this film, possibly the ‘punniest’ villain of all time.


The 80s

##           Min  1Q Med Mean  3Q Max Size
## 1927-2016 1.6 6.1 6.7 6.65 7.3 9.3 2816
## 1980-2016 1.6 6.1 6.7 6.62 7.3 9.3 2747
## 2010-2016 1.6 6.1 6.6 6.58 7.2 8.8  829
## 2000-2010 1.9 5.9 6.6 6.55 7.3 9.0 1280
## 1990-2000 3.3 6.2 6.8 6.77 7.4 9.3  485
## 1980-1990 2.8 6.5 7.2 6.97 7.7 8.8  153
##      imdb_score title_year                                      movie_title
## 2052        8.8       1980 Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back 
## 2153        8.5       1981                        Raiders of the Lost Ark 
## 2364        8.5       1985                             Back to the Future 
## 1537        8.4       1983     Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi 
## 1715        8.4       1984                    Once Upon a Time in America 
## 2487        8.4       1986                                         Aliens 
##         director_name     gross
## 2052   Irvin Kershner 290158751
## 2153 Steven Spielberg 242374454
## 2364  Robert Zemeckis 210609762
## 1537 Richard Marquand 309125409
## 1715     Sergio Leone   5300000
## 2487    James Cameron  85200000

Robert Zemeckis, who made the last list in the 90s for Forrest Gump, also topped this decade with one of my favorites, Back to the Future. The two latter films in the original Star Wars trilogy, Episodes V and VI, also topped the list.

##      imdb_score title_year                                        movie_title
## 4230        4.7       1985                 Friday the 13th: A New Beginning 
## 1694        4.6       1986                                  Howard the Duck 
## 4185        4.6       1982               Halloween III: Season of the Witch 
## 3737        4.5       1989 Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan 
## 2519        3.6       1987                 Superman IV: The Quest for Peace 
## 2067        2.8       1987                                Jaws: The Revenge 
##          director_name    gross
## 4230   Danny Steinmann 21300000
## 1694     Willard Huyck 16295774
## 4185 Tommy Lee Wallace 14400000
## 3737        Rob Hedden 14343976
## 2519   Sidney J. Furie 15681020
## 2067    Joseph Sargent 20763013

Speaking of sequels however, the worst films of the 80s were several ill-advised sequels to well-known classics, many of which were done without the involvement of original directors or cast members. Of the films here, only Howard the Duck is not a sequel. Notably also is the inclusion of the 5th and 8th Friday the 13th films. Halloween III is the also only film in the series that doesn’t not feature the antagonist Michael Myers.

Jaws: The Revenge was the fourth and final sequel to the series, with only the original film involving Steven Spielberg, who of course directed the 2nd best rated film of this decade, Raiders of the Lost Ark as well as Schindler’s List in the 90s.


Conclusions

##           Min  1Q Med Mean  3Q Max Size
## 1927-2016 1.6 6.1 6.7 6.65 7.3 9.3 2816
## 1980-2016 1.6 6.1 6.7 6.62 7.3 9.3 2747
## 2010-2016 1.6 6.1 6.6 6.58 7.2 8.8  829
## 2000-2010 1.9 5.9 6.6 6.55 7.3 9.0 1280
## 1990-2000 3.3 6.2 6.8 6.77 7.4 9.3  485
## 1980-1990 2.8 6.5 7.2 6.97 7.7 8.8  153

From the looks of it, the 1980s was overall perhaps the best decade for films, followed by the 1990s. The 80s had the highest quartiles and the highest average score. On the other hand, the 90s had the best film across not only the post 1980-era but of all modern film (The Shawshank Redemption), and the “best worst” film with Police Academy: Mission to Moscow with a 3.3 rating.

For most of the decade, films on average rated around ~7 or ~8, with few if any lower outliers. Conversely, the 2000s have a number of uncharacteristically bad films which drag down the averages per year quite a bit. One wonders how the 2000s would be seen in terms of film history without these.

Several directors came out strong not only in individual decades, but across them. Christopher Nolan had as many as 4 between 2000 and 2016, with 3 in one decade, and 2 from his Dark Knight Trilogy. Robert Zemeckis and Stephen Spielberg each had one film per decade, and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy took three of the top spots in the decade it was released.

On the other hand, Jason Friedberg was possibly the most panned director by audiences, given that he released two of the worst films of the 2000s as well as one in the 2010s as voted by IMDB users. Having said that, his “___ Movie” spoof series tend to do well at the box office in spite of being panned by both critics and audiences.

Several of the worst films were sequels to well-known and successful films including horror franchises like Friday the 13th, Halloween, comedy films like The Mask, or the classic that is Jaws. Also important to note is that several parody films, including those by Jason Friedberg and the Scary Movie franchise, appeared in the worst film lists.

Outstanding Questions

It would be interesting to see how IMDB user rating correlates with a film’s gross, or how the number of faces on a poster (one of the metrics in the dataset) correlates with the film’s rating. Genre may also be something worth scrutinizing (e.g. what genres were most popular in what decades).

Some important things to keep in mind when considering the conclusions of this study is that the sample size in the recent decades was much larger than in the earlier ones, so there was a lot more data to substantiate their ratings. i.e. A person is allowed to question whether or not the average ratings for the earlier decades are truly statistically significant, and this is something they might explore in their own analysis.


Data found on Kaggle.com and drawn from the Internet Movie Database