Just because voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bestowed a Best Picture Oscar on a certain movie doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll love it, too. In fact, there are quite a few Best Picture winners on which the general public has been a little lukewarm.
The greatest offender is 1929’s The Broadway Melody, whose audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is a paltry 20 percent. The critic score, though higher, is still pretty abysmal: 42 percent. Following that film on the list are three that all came out in the 1930s—Cimarron (1931), Cavalcade (1933), and The Great Ziegfeld (1936)—a trend that illustrates just how much viewers’ tastes and standards have changed in the last century or so.
A cursory skim through RT’s audience reviews reveals the specifics of that trend. One reviewer called Cavalcade, which charts the life of an upper-crust London family through the early 20th century, “another filmic Hallmark card,” while another summed it up as “a weird montage of sentimentality and sombreness.” Cimarron, an epic Western about the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889 and its aftermath, was described as “riddled with offensive stereotypes” and “as ridiculously politically incorrect as you can get.”
Those four films are the only Best Picture winners with audience scores of 50 percent or less; the rest of the top 10 list elicited much more leveled responses. But still, you might be surprised to learn that a couple beloved classics—including one of the highest-grossing movies of all time—didn’t only garner positive ratings. We’re talking about Titanic (1997) and Rocky (1976), which are tied with 69 percent. In both cases, critics were more complimentary: Titanic’s critic score is 88 percent, and Rocky’s is 91.