While cinematic releases play the starring role in Hollywood, films that are tailored for TV continue to quietly entertain audiences at home.
Made-for-TV movies have not traditionally proved popular with critics, however there are numerous that show plenty of excellent films are never released in movie theaters.
Movie critic aggregator Rotten Tomatoes has looked at the very best televisual titles, ranking these films according to their adjusted Tomatometer (critics) scores.
These are the highest-rated made-for-TV films, according to Rotten Tomatoes…
17. The Honeymooners (13 percent)
2005 ‧ Comedy ‧ 1h 30m
A bus driver (Cedric the Entertainer) constantly devises elaborate rouses to get rich, but matters spiral out of control when one scheme results in him losing all his money.
Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus states: “This pointless remake of the classic TV series only offers generic characters and gags.”
16. I Am (36 percent)
2010 ‧ Documentary ‧ 1h 20m
A Hollywood filmmaker speaks with philosophers, scientists and others to discover how people can live a more enlightened life.
Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus states: “I Am is undeniably well-meaning—and unfortunately proof that a filmmaker’s best intentions aren’t enough to guarantee a worthwhile viewing experience.”
15. No Strings Attached (49 percent)
2011 ‧ Romance/Rom-com ‧ 1h 50m
Boy meets girl and they agree to keep matters strictly physical—but their affair becomes complicated after they fall in love.
Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus states: “It benefits from the presence of Natalie Portman and director Ivan Reitman’s steady hand, but No Strings Attached doesn’t have the courage or conviction to follow through on its ribald premise.”
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14. I’m Still Here (53 percent)
2010 ‧ Documentary/Drama ‧ 1h 46m
Director Casey Affleck follows Hollywood star Joaquin Phoenix in this mockumentary as he schemes to retire from acting and kickstart a bizarre new career path as a hip-hop artist.
Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus states: “As unkempt and inscrutable as Joaquin Phoenix himself, I’m Still Here raises some interesting questions about its subject, as well as the nature of celebrity, but it fails to answer many of them convincingly.”
13. Cinema Verite (61 percent)
2011 ‧ Drama ‧ 1h 26m
A film crew follows a family around in a pioneering reality show while the husband and wife’s relationship begins to disintegrate.
Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus states: “Cinema Verite is a disappointingly incurious dive into the birth of reality television, but terrific performances and the inherent intrigue behind the making of An American Family keep this drama compelling.”
12. POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (72 percent)
2011 ‧ Documentary/Comedy ‧ 1h 30m
Documentary maker Morgan Spurlock sets out to make a movie solely financed through advertising and product placement.
Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus states: “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold plays smartly to Spurlock’s strengths, and the result is a breezy, albeit not particularly enlightening documentary.”
11. Blank City (82 percent)
2009 ‧ Documentary ‧ 1h 39m
This documents New York’s DIY independent filmmaking inspired by the punk rock era of the late 1970s.
Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus states: “Blank City pays affectionate tribute to the No Wave filmmakers’ movement—and the bygone New York City that birthed it.”
10. Trumbo (84 percent)
2007 ‧ Documentary/Political cinema ‧ 1h 36m
Blacklisted in Hollywood for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities, legendary screenwriter Dalton Trumbo resorts to writing scripts under a pseudonym.
Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus states: “Trumbo celebrates the life and work of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo with measures of humor and sadness.”
9. Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (92 percent)
2011 ‧ Documentary ‧ 2h 5m
Stars including Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Ron Howard pay tribute to legendary low-budget producer-director-entrepreneur Roger Corman.
Den of Geek wrote: “Most of all, Corman’s World paints a portrait of a filmmaker who, although not without flaw (his penny-pinching mode of operation didn’t always work in his favour), has earned a great deal of respect and fondness from those who’ve spent any time on set with him.”
8. The Kid Stays in the Picture (91 percent)
2002 ‧ Documentary/History ‧ 1h 33m
This documentary tells the story of legendary Hollywood producer Robert Evans’s incredible rise, fall and return.
Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus states: “Though not objective by any means, The Kid Stays in the Picture is irresistibly entertaining.”
7. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (92 percent)
2010 ‧ Documentary/Drama ‧ 1h 30m
This documentary traces veteran comedian and plastic surgery enthusiast Joan Rivers’ life and career.
Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus states: “Penetrating Rivers’ coarse image, this compelling documentary offers an honest, behind-the-scenes look at her career—and at show business in general.”
6. Side by Side (93 percent)
2012 ‧ Documentary ‧ 1h 39m
Film’s value in an increasingly digitalised industry is debated by, among others, movie directors James Cameron, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan.
Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus states: “Keanu Reeves proves a groovy guide through this informative exploration of how technology is transforming cinema, with an even-handed defense for both the old and the new.”
5. Sing Your Song (95 percent)
2011 ‧ Music/Biography ‧ 1h 43m
This documentary follows Harry Belafonte’s ascent to stardom, becoming an acclaimed singer and actor, all while participating in social activism.
Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus states: “Sing Your Song takes an absorbing—if decidedly non-critical—look at an incredible show business career and admirable public life.”
4. Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (95 percent)
2011 ‧ Documentary ‧ 1h 20m
Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind the Sesame Street character Elmo, is praised in interviews with Frank Oz, Rosie O’Donnell, Whoopi Goldberg and others.
Movie critic Roger Ebert wrote of the film that viewers “learn a lot of the tricks behind giving the muppets such distinctive personality.”
3. Behind the Candelabra (94 percent)
2013 ‧ Romance/Drama ‧ 1h 58m
Legendary pianist Liberace takes a much-younger homosexual lover, but the relationship soon sours.
Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus states: “Affectionate without sacrificing honesty, Behind the Candelabra couples award-worthy performances from Michael Douglas and Matt Damon with some typically sharp direction from Steven Soderbergh.”
2. Room 237 (94 percent)
2012 ‧ Documentary ‧ 1h 42min
Numerous bizarre conspiracy theories about the hidden meanings supposed hideen within Stanley Kubrick’s horror movie The Shining are explored in this documentary.
Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus states: “Mysterious and provocative, Room 237 is a fascinating journey into the world of obsessive cinephilles.”
1. Life Itself (99 percent)
2014 ‧ Documentary ‧ 2 hours
The life and work of legendary movie critic Roger Ebert are explored in this documentary, focussing in particular on his occasionally savage rivalry with fellow film critic, Gene Siskel.
Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus states: “Rich in detail and warmly affectionate, Life Itself offers a joyful yet poignant tribute to a critical cinematic legacy.”