Where Do Movie Ratings Come From?

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Jacob Herz , Staff Writer

Ever wonder how movies on websites like Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB are rated? These outlets for finding the best and worst movies and television shows. Some compile numerous reviews to get one overall review. Others have specific reviews of top rated critics. It all poses the question: What is more reliable? Who do you trust to find a good movie?

Let’s start with our previously mentioned sources. IMDb (International Movie Database) lives up to its name. Formerly created and owned by Amazon, the site has access to most, if not all, movies, TV shows, video games, and celebrities. It even goes so in depth as to include crew, production value, technical specs, trivia, and even goofs (movie mistakes). However, when it comes to critiquing movies, it isn’t the most reliable source. Let’s take Coco, for example. This latest Pixar flick has gotten great appraisal from audiences all over the U.S. On IMDb, the number you see next to the film is a rating from IMDb users. Out of 81,413 users, an 8.6/10 was the weighted average rating. The 81 from metacritic.com is also a compiled amount of reviews from 48 critics. It’s popularity is based on the number of views it has gotten in the past week (in this case it is the 25th most viewed page this week).

On the other hand, Rotten Tomatoes takes a much simpler approach. As opposed to being overwhelmed with endless information on the first page, the ratings are divided into three parts. The user ratings (20,855) are compiled into an overall rating based on the average rating (an average of 4.6/5 turns into a 95% for audience ratings). Our second category is a larger amount of critics. Out of 266 critics, 258 liked it (a Fresh rating) and 8 did not (a Rotten rating) giving an overall rating of 97%. Even though the average rating was an 8.2, they divide the amount of positive reviews by total reviews to get their percentage (258/266=0.9699). The third category is very specific: the Top Critics. This is a title awarded to the most significant contributors of to rating movies not just on Rotten Tomatoes. On this list includes A-list critics like Ty Burr (The Boston Globe), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone Magazine), and Michael Phillips (The Chicago Tribune). Both websites require much experience to be a critic or top critic in fields like print, broadcast, and online.

But the question still remains: What is the most reliable? Unless you are a professional critic, the audience score would be the most reliable one. The critics look for specific recurring tropes in movies; the actors and actresses, the direction, the editing, the cinematography, the production design, and many other qualities that make a good film. Being a simple audience member, it doesn’t matter as much how the score made the movie go along well or the tones and themes in the movie. You just want to sit back, relax, and enjoy the movie. So, to save you all the trouble, take a look at multiple sources. Considering IMDb is a database of movies with most of its ratings revolved around the audience, and Rotten Tomatoes having professional critics but less users to rate the movies, looking at both (or even more) will help you get an idea of how the movie is. But always keep in mind, the best critic for movies is yourself.