throughout 2018. " /> Most Popular Pre-1990 Classic Movies According to TV Statistics
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A Statistical Definition of "Classic Movie":
Year Two of a Three-Year Study

 

Contents
 
  • Introduction
  • Study's Premise and Rationale
  • Rankings by Decade
  • 1980s; 1970s; 1960s; 1950s ; 1940s; 1927-1939
  • Introduction

    Listed below are the most popular 25 films of each decade between 1927-1989 (films from 1927-29 are included in the 1930s decade). The results are based on data collected through the second year of a three-year study that is tracking the programming of television networks which regularly schedule pre-1990 films. Included, when applicable, are all outlets of a network, e.g., STARZ, STARZ Edge, STARZ Comedy, etc. Networks include:
    • AMC (American Movie Classics)
    • BBCA (BBC America)
    • MAX (Cinemax)
    • FAM (Family)
    • FLIX
    • FREE
    • FXM (Fox Movies)
    • HBO (Home Box Office)
    • IFC
    • MOVIES!
    • NEXT
    • OVA (Ovation)
    • PAR (Paramount)
    • SHOW (Showtime)
    • STARZ
    • SYFY
    • TBS
    • TCM (Turner Classic Movies)
    • THIS
    • TMC (The Movie Channel)
    • TNT
    • WOMEN

    Study's Premise & Rationale

    What is a classic movie? Dictionaries agree that a classic is a work judged over time to be a superior example of its kind. However, how this definition is applied to motion pictures depends on the eye of the beholder. One person’s “High Noon” is another’s “RoboCop.”

    To identify movie classics quantitatively, this study relies on a fundamental principle of the motion picture industry: That which is watched is shown; that which is shown is watched. When applied to new film releases, this means the number of screens devoted to a film after its opening weekend will be adjusted according to the film’s box office. A new release can only be a box office hit if it is screened more than most of its competition. 

    When applied to older films, the principle means a classic film is one televised significantly more than most older films because data indicates they are the films most watched. Of course, older films are also streamed on the Internet or viewed “on demand.” However, because the platforms for streaming and on-demand are largely the same networks surveyed for this study, it follows that the frequency with which a network programs a film reflects its streaming and on-demand popularity.

    Not all networks which present movies were included in this survey. However, those excluded present movies sporadically and pre-1990 releases sparingly if at all. At best their presentations might slightly alter the order of rankings, but not the movies ranked.

    Rankings by Decade

    Listed under each decade are 1) a film's ranking among films of that decade according to combined statistics of 2018 and 2019, 2) the name of the film, 3) the networks which presented the film, and 4) the number of times the film was presented in 2018 and 2019.

    You'll note that the numbers of film presentations decrease significantly with each older decade.This is attributable to a bias viewers have for films released in their lifetimes, and particularly films released during and after their adolescence. Accordingly, when two or more movies in a decade post the same number of presentations, the films are ranked in order of seniority.

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    1. Back to the Future (1985)  MAX / STARZ  254

    2. RoboCop (1987)  SHOW / MAX / HBO  221

    3. Road House (1989)  AMC / IFC / STARZ / BBCA / PARA / SHOW / OVA / THIS  214

    4. Back to the Future Part II (1989)  MAX / STARZ  212

    5. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)  HBO / MAX / STARZ  199

    6. Coming to America (1988)  STARZ / PARA / FREE / IFC  188

    7. The Princess Bride (1987)  HBO / MAX / BBCA / IFC / AMC  187

    8. Scrooged (1988)  STARZ  170

    9. Splash (1984)  SHOW / FAM / WOM / TMC / FLIX / MAX  156

    10. Field of Dreams (1989)  SHOW / FLIX / TMC / FAM / AMC / OVA / STARZ  149

    11. Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)  MAX / HBO  149

    12. Uncle Buck (1989)  AMC / IFC / STARZ  141

    13. Big Trouble in Little China (1986)  MAX / HBO  133

    14. Conan the Barbarian (1982)  MAX / HBO  130

    15. Born on the Fourth of July (1989)  STARZ / BBCA / OVA  130

    16. Baby Boom (1987)  SHOW / WOMEN / FAM / THIS / TMC / FLIX / STARZ  129

    17. John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)  STARZ  128

    18. The Abyss (1989MAX / HBO  128

    19. The Blues Brothers (1980)  AMC / STARZ  126

    20. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986SHOW / FAM / FLIX / TMC / IFC  126

    21. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988) SHOW / FLIX / TMC 125

    22. Big (1988) PARA / MAX / HBO  124

    23. Weird Science (1985)  AMC / BBCA / IFC / SHOW / FAM / OVA / TMC / STARZ  121

    24. Black Widow (1987)  MAX  121

    25. The Star Chamber (1983)  MAX / SHOW  118

    Twins (1988) 117, Fletch (1985) 114, Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) 112, La Bamba (1987) 112, Stripes (1981) 111, Rain Man (1988) 111

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    1970s

    1. Jaws (1975)  AMC / SYFY / STARZ / BBCA  128

    2. Willard (1971)  SHOW / FLIX / TMC  119

    3. The Warriors (1979)  STARZ  104

    4. Way of the Dragon (1972)  MAX  99

    5. The Beguiled (1971)  MAX / STARZ  97

    6. Rocky (1976) AMC / BBCA / IFC / SHOW / PARA / TCM  92

    7. Joe Kidd (1972)  STARZ  87

    8. Mad Max (1979)  AMC / IFC / STARZ / SYFY / OVA  87

    9. The Deer Hunter (1978) MAX / STARZ  84

    10. Jaws 2 (1978)  AMC / STARZ / BBCA  84

    11. Smokey and the Bandit (1977) AMC / STARZ  79

    12. Fist of Fury (1972)  MAX  77

    13. Alien (1979)  HBO / AMC / IFC / BBCA  77

    14. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) STARZ / AMC / BBCA / IFC   73

    15. The Eiger Sanction (1975) MAX  72

    16. The Jerk (1979)  IFC / STARZ   72

    17. The Electric Horseman (1979) STARZ 69

    18. The Bad News Bears (1976)  STARZ   60

    19. Death Wish (1974)  AMC / SHOW / STARZ / FLIX / TMC  58

    20. National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) AMC / IFC / BBCA  57

    21. Escape From Alcatraz (1979)  STARZ  57

    22. Dracula (1979)  MAX / HBO / STARZ  57

    23. Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970) STARZ  56

    24. Patton (1970)  MOVIES / MAX  54

    25. Chinatown (1974) SHOW / TMC / MOVIES   54

    High Plains Drifter (1973) 52, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) 51, The Gauntlet (1977)  46, Made for Each Other (1971) 45

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    1960s

    1. The Hustler (1961)  MAX  89

    2. Psycho (1960)  TCM / MAX / OVA / STARZ  81

    3. West Side Story (1961)  TCM / MAX / THIS  80

    4. Once Upon a Time in the West (1969)  STARZ  78

    5. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962)  STARZ  77

    6. Casino Royale (1967)  MAX  77

    7. True Grit (1969)  STARZ / AMC  73

    8. Goldfinger (1964)  PARA / STARZ / BBCA   66

    9. Hombre (1967)  STARZ / FXM  66

    10. From Russia With Love (1963)  BBCA / STARZ  60

    11. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)  MOVIES  60

    12. The Last Sunset (1961)  STARZ  58

    13. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1967)  STARZ  55

    14. The Great Escape (1963)  THIS / TCM  53

    15. Dr. No (1962)  STARZ  52

    16. A Fistful of Dollars (1964)  STARZ  51

    17. The Magnificent Seven (1960)  THIS / STARZ  50

    18. In Like Flint (1967)  FXM / MAX  50

    19. North to Alaska (1960)  STARZ  48

    20. Thunderball (1965)  STARZ  48

    21. El Dorado (1967)  STARZ  48

    22. Goodbye Charlie (1964)  FXM  46

    23. You Only Live Twice (1967)  STARZ  46

    24. House of the Damned (1963)  FXM  44

    25. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)  STARZ  44

    The Comancheros (1961)  43, Return of the Magnificent Seven (1966)  42, Bandolero! (1968)  41

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    1950s

    1. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)  TCM / FXM  57

    2. The Bravados (1958)  STARZ  52

    3. Rio Grande (1950)  TCM /  MOVIES / STARZ   51

    4. Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)  TCM / FXM  48

    5. The Horse Soldiers (1959)  STARZ  46

    6. Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954)  TCM / FXM  45

    7. Let’s Make It Legal (1951)  TCM / FXM  43

    8. River of No Return (1954)  STARZ / TCM   39

    9. Rear Window (1954)  STARZ  38

    10. The Gunfighter (1950)  STARZ  36

    11. Soldier of Fortune (1955)  FXM  36

    12. Forty Guns (1957)  STARZ  36

    13. Night Passage (1957)  STARZ  34

    15. Broken Arrow (1950)  TCM / STARZ   33

    16. The Duel at Silver Creek (1952)  STARZ  33

    17. Dangerous Crossing (1953)  TCM / MOVIES  33

    18. Winchester ’73 (1950)  STARZ  32

    19. Rawhide (1951)  MOVIES  30

    20. Night People (1954)  FXM  30

    21. Black Widow (1954)  MOVIES  29

    22. The Kentuckian (1955)  THIS  29

    23. 23 Paces to Baker Street (1956) FXM  29

    24. Love Me Tender (1956)  MOVIES / STARZ  29

    25. Garden of Evil (1954)  STARZ  28

    The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)  27; Man in the Shadow (1957)  27; The Lonely Man (1957)  27; Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)  27

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    1940s

    1. The Red Stallion (1947)  STARZ  51

    2. My Darling Clementine (1946)  STARZ  39

    3. The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)  TCM / STARZ  35

    4. Sands of Iwo Jima (1950)  MOVIES / TCM  36

    5.The Blue Bird (1940)  FXM / MOVIES  35

    6. Red River (1948)  THIS / STARZ  31

    7. Yellow Sky (1948)  STARZ  31

    8. House of Strangers (1949)  MOVIES / TCM  31

    9. The Fighting Kentuckian (1949)  STARZ  31

    10. Mildred Pierce (1945)  MOVIES / TMC  30

    11. The Dark Command (1940)  STARZ  29

    12. The Westerner (1940)  STARZ  28

    13. The Dark Corner (1946)  MOVIES  28

    14. The Shepherd of the Hills (1941)  STARZ  27

    15. The Man Who Wouldn’t Die (1942)  FXM  27

    16. The Letter (1940) TCM / MOVIES  26

    17. The Return of Frank James (1940)  STARZ  26

    18. I Wake Up Screaming (1941)  FXM / MOVIES  25

    19. Down Missouri Way (1946)  STARZ  25

    20. On the Sunny Side (1942)  FXM  23

    21. The Woman in Green (1945)  MOVIES / TCM  23

    22. Hangover Square (1945)  FXM  23

    23. The Foxes of Harrow (1947)  FXM  23

    24. The Razor’s Edge (1946)  FXM  22

    25. Thieves’ Highway (1949)  TCM / MOVIES  22

    Penny Serenade (1941) 21; Sleepers West (1941)  21; My Friend Flicka (1943) 20; Dakota (1946) 20; Lady in the Lake (1946) 20; Dressed to Kill (1946) 20; Captain from Castile (1947) 20

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    1927-1939

    1. Frankenstein (1931)  STARZ  30

    2. Union Pacific (1939)  STARZ  30

    3. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)  STARZ / TCM  27

    4. Cavalcade (1933)  FXM  25

    5. Les Miserables (1935)  MOVIES / FXM  24

    6. The Baroness and the Butler (1938)  TCM / FXM  22

    7. Wells Fargo (1937)  STARZ  20

    8. Dracula (1931) TCM / STARZ  19

    9. Blue Steel (1934)  STARZ  19

    10. Poor Little Rich Girl (1936)  FXM  19

    11. Destry Rides Again (1939) STARZ 19

    12. Curly Top (1935)  MOVIES / FXM  18

    13. The Thin Man (1934)  TMC / MOVIES  17

    14. The Star Packer (1934) TCM / STARZ  17

    15. Rhythm of the Range (1936)  STARZ  17

    16. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)  TCM / MOVIES  16

    17. West of the Divide (1934)  STARZ  16

    18. Captains Courageous (1937)  TCM / MOVIES  16

    19. After the Thin Man (1936)  TCM / MOVIES  15

    20. They Made Me a Criminal (1939)  MOVIES  15

    21. .The Virginian (1929)  STARZ  14

    22. The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1939)  FXM  14

    23. Reefer Madness (1936)  FLIX / MAX  14

    24. Little Caesar (1930)  TCM / MOVIES  13

    25. The Plainsman (1936)  TCM / STARZ  13

    The Texas Rangers (193613; The Three Musketeers (1939) 13; Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence (1939)  13

     

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    Randy Bechtel can be reached at RBechtel@RKBechtel.com

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