Earlier generations may have had Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert to help them decide whether to see or skip a movie, but today's film buffs largely rely on Rotten Tomatoes. According to the Los Angeles Times, 36 percent of U.S. moviegoers check in with the popular review website—which aggregates hundreds of published film reviews to calculate “fresh” or “rotten” scores for movies and TV shows—before seeing a motion picture. So in order to find the 21st century's best films so far, IndieWire dove deep into the Rotten Tomatoes archives, compiling a list of the site’s "freshest" films of each year since 2000.
According to the Rotten Tomatoes data, Jordan Peele's much-lauded and (highly popular) Get Out dominated 2017’s film offerings, with a 99 percent positive score out of 295 critical reviews. It scored slightly higher than the year's other critically acclaimed movies, like The Big Sick, Dunkirk, Wonder Woman, and Lady Bird.
Barry Jenkins’s Academy Award-winning film Moonlight was the top choice of 2016, with a 98 percent score gleaned from 305 reviews. Mad Max: Fury Road, Boyhood, Gravity, and Argo were the “freshest” films of 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012, respectively, according to the site's rankings. Big franchise films stole a couple of the top spots: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows—Part 2 won 2011, The Dark Knight dominated 2008, and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was 2002's big hit.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Pixar ended up dominating the list, with 2001’s Monsters Inc., 2003’s Finding Nemo, 2004’s The Incredibles, 2007’s Ratatouille, 2009’s Up, and 2010’s Toy Story 3 all beating out animated and non-animated films alike in the years they were released. Aardman Animations's stop-motion comedy Chicken Run was the only non-Pixar animation to make the list, winning the top spot for 2000 with a score of 97 percent out of 170 reviews. Murderball, a documentary about wheelchair rugby, was the only nonfiction film to make the cut, scoring an average 98 percent across 138 reviews in 2005, while 2006 belonged to The Queen.
While Rotten Tomatoes isn't always the most accurate way to determine a film's quality, the ratings do provide a rough idea of whether or not professional film critics on the whole liked it.