99 YEARS OF WEIRDNESS, IN NUMBERS

This article was submitted by Aki Vainio.

Introduction, Methodology, and Breakdown by Year

A warning: all the data used here comes from the IMDb, so it’s user-submitted, and not always that well thought-out. I mean, according to the IMDb, 212 of these movies are dramas. If you call everything drama, does that designation even have any meaning anymore? There’s also some problems with country or origin, because they always list all the countries that have participated in any way. Anyhow, that’s what I have easily and automatically available, so that’s what I’m using. All the data is from January 16th of 2019. Obviously, much of it will change over time.

Note on the methods used: I did the research by using a list of the movies I’ve maintained over on IMDb. IMDb gives you a CSV export of that data, which is good start, but did not contain everything I wanted. For the rest of the data, I used the API provided by the good folks at OMDb, which enabled me to get the countries and languages. On top of that, I used a little bit of coding and some Excel action.

The earliest movie on the list is from 1920 (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) and the newest movie is from 2018 (Sorry to Bother You ), which covers 99 years. However, 20 of those years failed to provide the List with any movies at all.

Perhaps 1921 has the excuse of not knowing any better, but come on 1930s, your latter half (1935-1939) has a grand total of zero (0) movies. Or maybe the writers on this site have a prejudice against the 1930s.

Weird movies by year

The last year not to have a single movie on the list was 1956. After that there have been some poor years (like 1978, with only one), but the combination of moviemaking becoming cheaper and distributors finding new sources of income has made making movies for niche audiences possible.

The biggest years were 1968 and 1971, each of which produced 13 Canonized movies. 2006 wasn’t far behind with 12, while 1973 made it all the way to 11, and both 2004 and 2009 were in there with 10.

Personally, I’ve always believed that creativity is in no way dead, despite the influx of recent franchising attempts with sequels, prequels, reboots, remakes, and so forth. The list seems to support this belief. There’s still plenty of weird things going on, even if the drug-fueled highs of late 60s and early 70s might be behind us.

Who Comes Up with this Stuff?

Apparently, and , with a total of eight movies each. It’s also worth noting that they both share credits with others. comes up a bit short with seven, although with a total of ten features under his belt, 70% rate is not bad. and each have six, although Gilliam only directed one segment of Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. Still within this higher echelon of directors, we have and with five, as well as , and  with four each.

The list of directors with three movies is as follows:

There are some legendary directors at two films each: , , , , and .

An interesting outlier is Fantasia , which has a total of 12 directors, each uncredited. 236 other directors were only listed once.

Genres

As stated above, there are 212 dramas on the List. Not that interesting, so let’s skip to the less boring genres, like “adult,” with a single appearance.

There’s six documentaries, seven shorts and eleven family movies. For some reason films noir are apparently quite straight-laced, as there are only two on the List (although they are quite rare in general). Animation, on the other hand, is fairly well represented at 39. Those places where you might expect to find weirdness, such as fantasy (103), horror (98) and sci-fi (67) are all there. I feel these numbers could be higher, but then again, I don’t have a real baseline to use. There are also 22 musicals, for what that is worth.

Where Do These Movies Come From?

The US, obviously, with 156 appearances. The other usual suspects—France (83), UK (60), Japan (47), Italy (36) and Germany (26)—are well represented as well, although if I wasn’t familiar with the List, I probably would have expected there to be more Japanese films.

And there’s also a problem: European borders have been redrawn quite a bit in the last century. West Germany comes in with 13 (plus 1 from East Germany), Czechoslovakia with 8, Soviet Union also with 8 , and Yugoslavia with 2, as well as one credited to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (I don’t know why IMDb separates these two).

A personal favorite is Hungary with 5. As a Finn, I’m also pleased to note that Finland has a total of 3 appearances, although these are all simply financing roles—which is important to note, since IMDb doesn’t list how these countries are actually linked to the movies in question. This is especially problematic within Europe, where productions are often multinational.

The most spoken language is obviously English with 240 movies, which is more than the US, UK and Irish movies combined. Of course, for IMDb a single spoken line in a specific language is enough to be counted. Latin is holding strong with 14, None has 5, and N/A has 1, while Ancient (to 1453 A.D.) comes up once as well. There’s also several Native American languages in there somewhere, and a few I did not recognize and had to Google (Inuktitut and Tagalog), even though I did have a fairly educated guess on each.

Ratings

A total of 132 of these are R rated, while the next most common ratings are none and N/A (121 and 60 respectively). PG is more common than PG-13 (22 vs. 11), which is probably partly due to the latter’s shorter history, but perhaps also because PG-13 is the sweet spot for the most commercial fare. There’s also 8 G-rated movies, 5 NC-17s, 3 TV-MAs, 2 Ms and 2 Xs.

In general the movies are not for children, but on the other hand, if you want to indoctrinate your child (or a child you found on the street—-which I’m definitely not advocating) to the secrets of weirdness, there are MPAA approved options.

How good are these movies?

Well… actually, pretty good. The average IMDb rating for a movie, according to almost a decade old survey by Nathaniel Johnston, is 6.38. The average rating of movies on the list is 7.04. That’s actually quite a big difference. I don’t have a baseline, but my guess would be that the distribution of ratings are higher on the List than in general.

Does this mean weird movies are better? Not necessarily, although many of you reading this might think so, as do I (to a point). Quality has in the past been a stated criterion to get on the List. Not the criterion, but a criterion. So, basically, that average means nothing. Obviously, you are all going to make your own conclusions on that, but you shouldn’t.

What’s the best movie on the list? According to IMDb (and myself, actually), that would be Fight Club (rated 8.8). There are a total of 50 movies with a rating of 8.0 or higher. Two other outliers with a rating higher than 8.5 are Suna no onna (Woman in the Dunes) and Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (Spirited Away), although the former doesn’t have enough votes to push it into IMDb’s official top 250.

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is the worst movie on the list (again, according to the IMDb users) with a rating of 1.3. Manos: The Hands of Fate isn’t that much better at 1.9. There are four other movies below 3.0: Ein Toter hing im Netz (Horrors of Spider Island), The Beast of Yucca Flats, Santa Claus and Robot Monster.

The most seen movie is, again, Fight Club, with 1,633,581 votes. The IMDb top 250 does somewhat reinforce this. People are more likely to see and vote on movies that are visible on that list. The next movies in that “most seen” list: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (804,912 votes), Sin City (709,063), Donnie Darko (685,200) and A Clockwork Orange (671,860).

The most obscure movie on the List is Help! Help! The Globolinks, with a grand total of 42 votes. There’s actually quite a few movies with only a few hundred votes, including Doggiewogiez! Poochiewoochiez! (127), Final Flesh (145), Arise! The SubGenius Movie (159), Elevator Movie (164) and Indecent Desires (176). I can proudly state that I’m one of the few chosen ones to have seen each of these.

Runtimes

The longest movie on the list is Ai no mukidashi (Love Exposure) with a runtime of almost four hours (237 minutes). That’s quite a bit more than The Falls (195), Kwaidan (183), Rekopis znaleziony w Saragossie (The Saragossa Manuscript) (182) and INLAND EMPIRE (180), which are the only other movies to have a length of more than three hours. Some others come close.

On the other end of things, at 7 minutes Destino is easily the shortest of all the movies. There are a total of seven shorts on the List, the longest of which is Zéro de conduite: Jeunes diables au college (Zero for Conduct) at 44 minutes, but there are also six features that come in at under one hour: Maniac (51 minutes), The Beast of Yucca Flats (54), Deddo ribusu (Dead Leaves, 55), Le sang d’un poète (The Blood of a Poet, 55), Doggiewoggiez! Poochiewoochiez! (55) and Dementia [Daughter of Horror] (56).

11 thoughts on “99 YEARS OF WEIRDNESS, IN NUMBERS”

  1. Vainio, that’s a wonderful break-down and an interesting piece.

    I am disappointed that Film Noir (my favourite genre) is perhaps under-represented on the List, but I take comfort that pretty much every movie under that label has at least a strong streak of subversion. I’d argue that “Dark City” falls handily into the Noir genre, but narrative circumstances squarely place Science Fiction as the primary categorization.

    Thank you kindly for the numbers & the chart. They provide a fine bit of information to chew over — and act as a call to arms to dig deep into the ’30s and ’40s offerings to winkle out the weird ones.

    1. I’d point out that, while its Southern Gothic setting might disqualify it for some, many lists of films noir count Night of the Hunter among them. So, it would seem we have two on the list.

  2. I had actually started compiling a Weirdest Director list that gave bonus points for movies tagged as Recommended and Must See (nothing for Weirdest or Beware, though). Maybe I’ll revisit that and share it now that the list is complete…

  3. Very cool analysis! But what does the data show on recurring cast and crew members? I know cinematographer Sacha Vierny has shot a bunch of these films; any information on others?

    1. Sadly, the OMDB API only provides a very limited set of data, which doesn’t include crew beyond the director, writers and the actors listed as stars on IMDb, which might often be meaningless, since they are often not be representative of the actual main players in the film, because they often just pick the first three actors listed in the end credits.

    1. I believe it was common practice to lubricate the nitrate film with kerosene so it would run more smoothly through the hot projectors.

    2. There’s actually two other variables involved.

      First, there was a lot fewer features being made in the 30s. Roughly a quarter of the amount being produced today.

      Second, the industry was very different back then. It was highly localized. Movies just didn’t travel like they do now. This means that many films from that period were made with low budgets, little experience and not much influence from outside, all of which serve to make movies boring and bad. I have a collection of such movies from my native Finland, and they are always a slug to go through. They also tended to be quite nationalistic, which probably doesn’t serve weirdness very well.

    3. Also, with the advent of sound recording, a lot of movies became little more than stage sets with microphones secreted about the place. (Big microphones, mind you.)

      Since off-screen silence was necessary, the camera was generally a lot more stationary than in (silent) days gone by. It was a good time for movies reliant on clever dialogue, but not so much for interesting presentation.

  4. And the other two-time directors that weren’t mentioned in the list, since they were not tabulated in full:

    Lindsay Anderson, Roy Andersson, Fernando Arrabal, William Castle, Panos Cosmatos, Quentin Dupieux, Marco Ferreri, Wojciech Has, Katsuhito Ishii, Spike Jonze, Emir Kusturica, Harmony Korine, Neil Jordan, Yorgos Lanthimos, Richard Linklater, Dusan Makavejev, Nagisa Oshima, Roman Polanski, Giulio Questi, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Hiroshi Teshigahara, Denis Villeneuve, Jaco von Dormael, and Lars von Trier.

    Duos:
    The Coen Brothers, Jean-Pierre Jeunet/Marc Caro, The Brothers Quay.

    I understand it may have been cut for space, but, still, someone who makes two Canonically Weird films must be doing something right.

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