Is King's Speech Really Better Than Unforgiven, The Sting, and These Other Best Picture Oscar Winners?

The folks at Rotten Tomatoes have tabulated their annual Best of the Best list, inserting Tom Hooper's 2011 Best Picture winner The King's Speech into the annals of Oscar history. But comparing great films to other great films has always been something of an apples to oranges situation; how can you measure, say, The Godfather Part II against An American in Paris -- two very different films that occupy adjoining slots on the list and have the same Tomatometer ranking (98 percent)? With a carefully calculated algorithm, that's how! Still... why does The King's Speech not quite feel right sitting so high above other bona fide classics?

I'll leave the mystery of The King's Speech's exact ranking for you to click through and discover yourself, but suffice to say it's higher than it feels like it should be when you think of the films that fall below it. Among the classics that kneel before the King:

· Ben-Hur

· The Deer Hunter

· The Last Emperor

· Midnight Cowboy

· My Fair Lady

· Rocky

· The Sound of Music

· The Sting

· Unforgiven

Chalk it up to two things: The subjectivity of personal taste (Is Rocky actually a better film than The King's Speech -- or The Sound of Music, or Ben-Hur?) and the particulars of the Rotten Tomatoes formula, which assigns each Best Picture winner a weighted ranking -- "Tomatometer science," as they call it. Essentially, it levels the playing field for older films with fewer available reviews (here's the formula laid out for the Mathletes out there who can decipher it). So in theory, the critical mass of past and present are weighing in on films spanning the entire history of the Academy Awards.

But a gut feeling tells those of us who were only mildly impressed by The King's Speech that something feels wrong. That's not to say the multiple Oscar-winning biopic of stuttering King George VI isn't good. It is. But would it feel any more right if it was The Social Network that had won Best Pic and wound up outranking some of the above titles? Maybe, if only because TSN felt more impactful in the overall scheme of things, culturally speaking; the same could be argued of Black Swan, with its stylish bravado and unforgettable central performance.

Then again, digging into the list we're reminded of Oscar's prior history of selecting dubious Best Picture winners; The King's Speech also outranks Shakespeare in Love, Forrest Gump, Dances with Wolves, and Crash. And that feels just right.

· Best of the Best Pictures [Rotten Tomatoes]


  • Patrick McEvoy-Halston says:

    I have a feeling that King's Speech is going to last; the friendship it pro-offers is too interesting and inspiring -- moving -- I think, for the movie to just have the title now owing to its commitment to and its helping entrench a just-before-long-war preferred attitude shift toward selfless service and sacrifice. I think the film will now do more harm than good, but a different generation could recover it for better purposes, and will likely want to: it evidently has a lot to teach a nation concerned with the careful knitting of a frayed social fabric about empathy and love. For me, it's above Unforgiven, certainly.
    Forrest Gump has lasted as long as Pulp Fiction (and they both hold that year's title in my mind). You know this -- why did you include it with the rest of list of readily left-behinds?

  • Matthew DH says:

    The feelings that this best picture winner doesn't really deserve the praise and place in history shows what a bad year it was for film. 2010 was pretty crappy. The King's Speech will probably be forgotten. Only brought up for trivia. I'm probably just seeing this because of my own feelings about the poor direction Hollywood's taken in the past couple years. But that's how I see it.

  • buzmeg says:

    King's Speech = OVERRATED
    It shouldn't even be considered in the same conversation as the above mentioned movies.

  • Smarmy Fierstein says:

    I agree with Patrick. The King's Speech will last for many of the same reasons Driving Miss Daisy -- another one people dredge up as a movie undeserving of the Academy Award -- does. And face it -- many of these other movies are remembered only because they won the Academy Award. Ben Hur is an awful, awful movie. My Fair Lady is not far behind, and has The Last Emperor really entered the cultural consciousness in any way at all? And The Sting? Really? Does anyone remember anything about it but the music?

  • Smarmy Fierstein says:

    And I definitely agree with Patrick that The King's Speech is a better movie than Unforgiven, but so many people venerate that snoozefest that perhaps some respond more than I do.

  • Louis Virtel says:

    Um, better than The Deer Hunter? How do I sue the internet?

  • sosgemini says:

    Good god, all of this just reads like bitter internet geeks pissed off that their "precious"didn't win. How about waiting a good five years before having this discussion? Let things settle a lil....

  • snarkymark says:

    Man, ain't that the truth. TSN won the trophy it most deserved -- Best Writing for Aaron Sorkin. I happened to see Kings Speech again on an airplane last night and it's actually a pretty good film. Maybe not the best winner ever, but certainly upper middle of the pack. And, if the Academy isn't going to give Brokeback Mountain the trophy, TSN sure as hell ain't gonna win it.

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