In recent years, Rotten Tomatoes has emerged as one of the most popular guides to discovering which films are earning critical acclaim and which, quite frankly, fail to deliver a positive cinematic experience. Though the site doesn’t really serve as a reliable metric to determine which films are most loved (due to its overly simplified binary system), it does provide a glimpse as to which films have earned a general consensus one way or another. For instance, while many of the worst films ever made have received few to no positive remarks from the critical community, there are a select group of releases that have earned the elusive perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes. A number of classic films have secured that status, but we’re focusing in on films released in the more modern era since 1980 for this list.
1. The Terminator (1984)
James Cameron’s sci-fi/horror film started a phenomenon more than 20 years ago, and while Terminator Genisys didn’t help to win back audience goodwill after the disappointing Terminator Salvation, Cameron’s first two entries still remain beloved classics. In this very first one, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the time-hopping killing machine sent to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) before she can conceive future resistance leader John, and Michael Biehn plays the soldier who travels back to protect her. An exercise in atmosphere, tone, and pitch-perfect storytelling, The Terminator is a prime example of what results when two genres — in this case, the slasher film and the time-travel film — collide in just the right way. Given the film’s legendary status, it’s no wonder why all 56 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes recognize the skill involved.
2. Toy Story (1995)
Pixar may now be recognized as one of the best storytelling studios in the business (e.g., Inside Out), but back in 1995, the company was the unproven entity that pioneered the first computer-animated feature. Of course, we now know that Toy Story would not only prove to be a monster hit but lead to the advent of computer-animated films and inspire its own franchise in the process (more on that in a bit). However, beyond all that, the film is a charming, imaginative story of two toys forced to co-exist amid a power struggle in Andy’s room. As voiced by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, Woody and Buzz Lightyear quickly became iconic figures, and Randy Newman’s original score only underscored the whimsical nature of it all, helping to bolster the inherent fun in Pixar’s game-changing release. All 78 reviews for Toy Story acknowledged just how strong Pixar’s first outing turned out to be.
3. The Sweet Hereafter (1997)
Director Atom Egoyan may not be a household name among mainstream moviegoers, but the filmmaker has delivered consistent work over the years, including a number of highly praised releases. Chief among them is likely this drama, based on the Russell Banks novel. Ian Holm stars as a lawyer who comes to a small town following a bus crash that claims the lives of 14 children to represent their parents in a class action lawsuit. Of course, the story spirals out from that point, and the resulting film garnered heaps of accolades. The Sweet Hereafter won three awards at the Cannes Film Festival that year and secured Academy Award nominations for Egoyan for both Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. In Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently has 55 positive reviews to its credit.
4. Toy Story 2 (1999)
As Pixar’s first sequel, Toy Story 2 was a pivotal film for the company. Initially eyed for a straight-to-video release, the film ultimately proved to be too strong to miss out on a theatrical run, a wise move considering the $485 million it brought in at the worldwide box office. Both Tom Hanks and Tim Allen return, along with the rest of the first film’s ensemble, and Joan Cusack and Kelsey Grammer join the cast in a story that delves deeper into Woody’s history and sees the toys venturing far away from Andy’s room. Arguably stronger than its predecessor, Toy Story 2 set the stage for the trilogy to be the only in history to land all 100% scores on Rotten Tomatoes. Alas, the 163 positive reviews the film earned were not enough to prevent 2010 film Toy Story 3 from infamously being robbed of a flawless score on the site.
5. Man on Wire (2008)
Depending on their subject matter and execution, documentaries have the power to capture real life on film in a way that fictional and/or dramatized narratives rarely can. Case in point, this film centers on high-wire artist Philippe Petit and his now-legendary 1974 walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Man on Wire meticulously follows his preparation and performance of the death-defying act and received 154 positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes for his efforts. By comparison, Robert Zemeckis’s drama The Walk — which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Petit — earned a slightly less enthusiastic, though still strong, 85% on the site. Those interested in Petit’s story then may be better off in seeking out a copy of Man on Wire to witness the man’s true story.
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