Are movie reviews and ratings from critics usually accurate?


Fact Box

  • Arguably America’s most popular and important film critic, Roger Ebert, in 1975, became the first to win a Pulitzer Prize.
  •  Audience-polling service and self-proclaimed “Hollywood Benchmark,” CinemaScore calculates “movie grades for major movie releases in the US and Canada by polling a regionally-balanced and statistically robust sample of opening night moviegoers.”
  • The highest-grossing film of all time, Avengers: Endgame, made $2,797,800,564 worldwide and received 94% positive reviews from film critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • According to a recent Statista survey, only 10% of those polled read movie reviews before watching a film.

Noah (Yes)

Yes, established, well-known film critics and their ratings are reliable.

Reputable film critics can predict winners, even if audiences disagree. The Shape of Water and Birdman are perfect examples. These movies won 'Best Picture' Oscars, while viewer feedback was 'meh' and ticket sales were so-so.

Going out to the movies (remember that experience?) has always been an investment of time and money. Good, dependable critics can help you choose among theater and big-screen offerings with thoughtful reviews and individual rankings, such as five-stars or 'thumbs-up.'

Why? Because established film critics are professionals who take their jobs and their advice very seriously. They know they have a reputation to uphold. 

Great critics provide a service. Pauline Kael, Judith Crist, and Leonard Maltin provided analyses of movies that helped viewers better appreciate stories, production values, and performances. To quote Roger Ebert, who gave us 'two thumbs-up,' '...film criticism is important because films are important.'

Critics that take some remuneration for their 'rave' reviews are certainly out there, but moviegoers quickly find their reviews deceptive, manipulative, and often dead wrong.

Major reviewers have another reason to be accurate. Today, sites like Rotten Tomatoes provide compilations of data from lists of established film critics whom they depend on for the site's own ratings. The website will label a film 'fresh' if most professional reviews are positive and 'rotten' if most of those reviews are negative.

Additionally, with so many choices provided by streaming, the professional critic's role will become more critical as we navigate our way through the many on-screen offerings vying for our time, attention, and money.

Davon (No)

People usually enjoy a film because of how the plot or characters make them feel. Movie critics use a different perspective to rate how good or bad a movie is. And when you look at a critic's review of a film and compare it to an audience review, you notice the difference right away. 

A critic's role is to dissect the movie in every possible way: plot, character development, emotional appeal, jokes versus seriousness (depending on the genre), and much more. Audiences rarely ever go into so much detail when analyzing a film, as doing so takes some of the fun out of watching the movie. 

If a film piques your interest, it's best to skip going to movie review sites with the critics' input altogether. According to Matt Reynolds at Wired, many ratings from some movie review sites (like Rotten Tomatoes) rank based on how many reviews a film gets, the total positive or negative critic reviews, and audience votes. These things obviously skew the overall rating of a movie, as does the fact that many more critics are men than women. 

Additionally, genre can affect how slanted a movie review is. For example, according to Looper, audiences loved 2018's Venom for its action, comedic moments, and Tom Hardy's performance. But critics disliked the film because it felt like it kept jumping genres. 

Time can play a role, too. Depending on how long ago a movie came out, a review can be outdated compared to today's interpretations. 

The next time you want to read reviews of a movie before seeing it, just stick to sites that provide audience reviews, as you'll likely agree with them more.

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