Was 2014 the Worst Year for Movies So Far This Decade? Let's Take a Look

Following the veritable majesty of cinema that was 2013, this past year has come under a bit of flack for being more or less mediocre in terms of its cinematic output. Despite terrific entries like Boyhood, Selma, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Inherent Vice, and a legion of other innovative pictures, 2014 is often called a poor year for film. Or, at least, not a great one. But that seems a bit unfair, considering the aforementioned properties and their ample company of impressive features. Perhaps because 2013 was such a stellar year in movies, we approach its successor with cynicism, unconsciously diminishing the artistic achievements on the whole even if we might have celebrated them one by one.

As such, we must look to the numbers. Here, we have a collection of Rotten Tomatoes' Top 10s and 100s for each of the past five years, placed against box office data and Academy Awards results, all in the interest of determining what might be the best cinematic year we've seen this decade.

Note: Rotten Tomatoes' rating system isn't solely weighted by raw score, but by the number (and caliber) of reviews afforded to each film. For instance, the #1 movie of 2014, Boyhood, has a 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes from 213 reviews. The #2 movie, Selma, has a 100% score... which is higher, obviously, but was gleaned from only 66 reviews. As such, Boyhood would equate higher.

2014: Civil rights marches, high-tempo drumming, and American childhoods

Top rated movie:Boyhood, with a 99% rating ($24.2M gross)

Rotten Tomatoes Top 10 (Average score: 98%):Boyhood – 99%Selma – 100%Life Itself – 98%The LEGO Movie – 96%Whiplash – 96%Gloria – 99%The Babadook – 98%Nightcrawler – 95%Starred Up – 99%The Tale of Princess Kaguya – 100%

Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 (Average score: 91.85%):No. of "100%" movies: 3 – Selma ($912M), The Tale of Princess Kaguya ($559,052), and Leviathan ($23,000)No. of "99%" movies: 4 – Boyhood ($2.42M), Gloria ($2.1M), Starred Up ($54,915), The Missing Picture ($52,164)

Highest grossing movie:Guardians of the Galaxy, which is Rotten Tomatoes' #24 movie of the 2014 with a 90% rating ($332.7M gross)

2014's biggest distinguishing factor is, perhaps, the distance between its critically revered pictures and its commercially successful ones. Believe it or not, Guardians of the Galaxy's #24 spot is actually relatively low for a top grosser, at least in comparison to the other years on the list.

But critical celebration in a vacuum ranks higher in '14 than in any other year. Let's take a look at 2013, the so-called "best year in cinema."

2013: Space trips, folk songs, and talking computers

Top rated movie:Gravity, with a 97% rating ($274M gross)

Rotten Tomatoes Top 10 (Average score: 96.8%):Gravity – 97%12 Years a Slave – 97%Before Midnight – 98% Short Term 12 – 99%Mud – 98%Inside Llewyn Davis – 94%20 Feet from Stardom – 99%Her – 94%Zero Dark Thirty – 93%Wadjda – 99%

Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 (Average score: 91.09%):No. of "100%" movies: 2 – The Square ($124,244), Sound City ($422,853)No. of "99%" movies: 3 – Short Term 12 ($1M), 20 Feet from Stardom ($4.9M), Wadjda ($1.4M)

Highest grossing movie:The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which is Rotten Tomatoes' #31 movie of 2013 with an 89% rating ($424.8M gross)

Best Picture winner:12 Years a Slave, which is Rotten Tomatoes' #2 movie of 2013 with a 97% rating ($56.7M gross)

Both 2013's Top 10 and Top 100 averages are a bit lower than those of 2014, if only by a hair in the latter case. Not only that, but the year's top grosser is the lowest rated so far.

Interestingly enough, only three of the year's Best Picture nominees make into the Top 10 (By a technicality, Zero Dark Thirty finds its way onto the 2013 list, even though it was a contender for the previous year's Oscars).

2012: Affleck heists, superhero team-ups, and existential time travel

Top rated movie:Argo, with a 96% rating ($136M gross)

Rotten Tomatoes Top 10 (Average score: 96%):Argo – 96%Marvel's The Avengers – 92%Skyfall – 92%Moonrise Kingdom – 94%Looper – 93%Jiro Dreams of Sushi – 99%Wake in Fright – 100%How to Survive a Plague – 99%The Kid with the Bike – 97%This Is Not a Film – 98%

Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 (Average score: 90.49%):No. of "100%" movies: 1 – Wake in Fright ($50,394)No. of "99%" movies: 2 – Jiro Dreams of Sushi ($2.6M) and How to Survive a Plague ($132,055)

Highest grossing movie:Marvel's The Avengers, which is Rotten Tomatoes' #2 movie of 2012 with a 92% rating ($623.4M gross)

Best Picture winner:Argo, which is Rotten Tomatoes #1 movie of 2012 with a 96% rating ($136M gross)

Averages drop further, but other bridges gap: Top Rotten Tomatoes pick Argo wins the Oscar, and the #2 flick The Avengers kills at the box office.

2011: The death of Voldemort, the (re)birth of the silent era, and literal inside baseball

Top rated movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2, with a 96% rating ($381M gross)

Rotten Tomatoes Top 10 (Average score: 98%):Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 – 96%The Artist – 98%A Separation – 99%The Interrupters – 100%The Muppets – 96%Project Nim – 98%Poetry – 100%Le Havre – 99%Moneyball – 94%Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone – 100%

Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 (Average score: 89.94%):No. of "100%" movies: 5 – The Interrupters ($282,448), Poetry ($356,149), Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, Nostalgia for the Light ($156,928), and We Were HereNo. of "99%" movies: 3 – A Separation ($7.1M), Le Havre ($611,709), Bill Cunningham New York ($1.5M)

Highest grossing movie:Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2, which is also Rotten Tomatoes' #1 movie of 2011 with a 96% rating ($381M gross)

Best Picture winner:The Artist, which is Rotten Tomatoes' #2 movie of 2011 with a 98% rating ($44.7M gross)

2011's Top 10 ties 2014's for the greatest luster we'll see here, with little seen pictures like The Interrupters, Poetry, A Separation, Le Havre, and Everyday Sunshine bringing up the average. The year in total, however, drops into the 80s in terms of its qualitative average.

2010: Pixar tears, stuttering royalty, and the invention of Facebook

Top rated movie:Toy Story 3, with a 99% rating ($415M gross)

Rotten Tomatoes Top 10 (Average score: 97.5%):Toy Story 3 – 99%The Social Network – 96%How to Train Your Dragon – 98%True Grit – 96%Inside Job – 98%Waste Land – 100%Animal Kingdom – 97%A Prophet – 97%The King's Speech – 94%Last Train Home – 100%

Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 (Average score: 87.4%):No. of "100%" movies: 2 – Waste Land ($187,716) and Last Train Home ($288,328)No. of "99%" movies: 1 – Toy Story 3 ($415M)

Highest grossing movie:Toy Story 3, which is Rotten Tomatoes' #1 movie of 2010 with a 99% rating ($415M gross)

Best Picture winner:The King's Speech, which is Rotten Tomatoes' #9 movie of 2010 with a 94% rating ($138.8M gross)

Another high-ranking Top 10 and low-ranking Top 100, with the highest grossing picture of the year snagging the #1 spot and the Best Picture winner just inching into the Top 10.

So what can we predict for 2015? A critically acclaimed top grosser (like years 2010, '11, and '12), or a larger separation between esteem and popularity (like '13 and '14)? And what of this coming Academy Awards — will the Best Picture winner sink to #9 status or keep tradition as #2 or #1? And the most important question yet: can we admit that 2014 was a pretty good year for movies?

Images: Paramount Pictures; IFC Films; Warner Bros (3); Disney/Pixar