Thanks to a joint effort between Slate and Rotten Tomatoes, naming the best and worst actors and directors of the past 25 years is now a matter of statistical certainty. The Hollywood Career-O-Matic allows you to input a name and, within seconds, create a graphical representation of someone’s career trajectory, as measured in movie ratings aggregated by Rotten Tomatoes. (To narrow down their results, the app’s creators limited the pool to just those who have made five films since 1985, thereby doing away with both “thousands of bit-actors you’ve probably never heard of” and the nostalgia factor that causes critics to rate older films more highly than modern ones.)
In big picture terms, what they discovered makes some logical sense: The average actor tends to start out strong before having the bad fortune—or overconfidence—to star in some truly terrible movies, while the average director usually plateaus or only gets better, otherwise they’re not allowed to make movies anymore. (Though obviously, there are exceptions like M. Night Shyamalan, whose precipitous, straight-line decline is partly what inspired the project in the first place.)
But forget the thesis statement. Here are the headline-making specifics: By the site’s guidelines, Jennifer Love Hewitt has been found to be the worst actress of the last 25 years, with the dubious distinction of having never starred in a film that’s achieved a “Fresh” rating. The worst actor is Chuck Norris, although he most assuredly doesn’t care, and the worst director is easily Adam Sandler’s longtime collaborator Dennis Dugan, whose work on films like Grown Ups and I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry has nevertheless made him plenty of money.
Meanwhile, all of the best that cinema has to offer can be found anywhere but America: Best actor went to Jean De Florette star Daniel Auteuil, best actress to The Sweet Hereafter’s Arsinée Khanjian, and best director to Mike Leigh. Of course, if you limit the results to only Americans, our best director is Ethan Coen, while our best actress and actor, respectively, are Gone Baby Gone’s Amy Madigan and Cheers-turned-Pixar star John Ratzenberger—so maybe we shouldn’t put too much stock in these statistics after all. Still, the Career-O-Matic is pretty fun. Play with it now and see whose lives make for the saddest line graphs.