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The Best Year In Movies: The Final Results

Last week, we set out to determine what is The Best Year in Movies. Here’s what won and what we learned.
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By  · Published on April 9th, 2018

Last week, we set out to determine what is The Best Year in Movies. Here’s what won and what we learned.

Last week here on Film School Rejects, we tried something new: Debate Week. This new recurring feature ran for a week, giving our cabal of writers the opportunity to answer a very important question: What was the best year in movies ever?

What drew us to this idea was the notion that these are the kinds of arguments we have with friends, colleagues, and within our team Slack all the time. Why not develop them into fully-formed arguments and let our readers decide the winner. It’s one more way we can be interactive and think a little differently than every other movie site on the planet. So we set off to answer the question, once and for… now.

Throughout the week, the team toiled over their choices and developed their essays, each making the best case possible for their chosen year. As their publisher, I’m proud of the work they did last week and even happier with the fact that everyone had a lot of fun. The result was the following list of arguments, presented in chronological order:

From here, we broke them down into four quarterfinal matchups and made some Twitter polls. Seeing it all together, what strikes me as interesting is the fact that our stable of writers skews younger — many of them are interns or recent interns who graduated to regular writing positions — so the fact that the choices reach as far back as 1939 and that nearly every decade between 1930 and 2010 is represented (with the glaring exception of the 2000s). Although we almost had the 2000s come into play, as Valerie originally chose 2007 and later switched to 2014, a fact that becomes more relevant further down the page.

Here are how the four quarterfinals went on Twitter:

In the first quarterfinal matchup, you can already see the dominance of recency. When looking back over the entirety of Debate Week, there’s a great deal of confirmation that recency bias exists. I had predicted that Alex’s impassioned argument in support of 1939 would do better, but clearly, 1987 was a great choice.

We’ve always been big fans of 1982 around here. In fact, when the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin put together their celebration of the Summer of 1982, we sponsored a Live Thermonuclear Flaming Death Race and screening of The Road Warrior. Sorry, ’59 and ’62 — this just wasn’t your week.

The final two quarterfinals were much closer than the previous two. In the one above, you’ll notice that while 1990 won 42% of the votes, both 1968 and 1988 put up a good fight. Which leads us to the final matchup of the first round:

Tough break, 1944. It’s interesting to me that the difference in raw votes between 2014 and 1998 was around 36 votes. That’s how close we were to having a very different final round matchup, but Val’s argument was strong and 2014 — with films like Gone Girl, Under the Skin, The Lego Movie, Whiplash, Selma, and Ex Machina — moved on to the finals.

In the finals, the followers of One Perfect Shot delivered a whopping 5,246 votes, with over 1,780 going to 2014. It was 500+ votes clear of the second place finisher, 1982.

What can we learn from these results? Perhaps we know that our most engaged One Perfect Shot followers skew younger. Perhaps recency bias afflicts the mainstream of our audience more than expected. But perhaps, in the simplest way, Val’s argument for 2014 as the most balanced year of great films is the right one. If you look through the Oscar winners, the summer blockbusters, and the hidden gems we’re still talking about, 2014 is a very strong year. And despite the calls for some of the years we didn’t represent — 1999 and 2007 both received numerous shout-outs — 2014 had to go through several amazing years in movies to get to the top of the mountain.

In the end, it’s possible that we didn’t learn anything substantive about the best year in movies. We just know which one made the best case this past week. But we did learn that these Debate Weeks are a lot of fun. So we’re already planning the next one — it’s coming later this month and will have something to say about the history of summer movies. Stay tuned and don’t forget to vote.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)