When I talk about movies on this site, I usually reference the ratings I give them on IMDB. I thought I’d put up a post about how those ratings come about.
Ratings tend to be personal. I’m trying to be objective but sometimes a great movie just doesn’t grab me and sometimes a modest movie does. I’m perfectly willing to acknowledge that Citizen Kane is probably “better” than Lord of the Rings. So why do I rate the latter a 10 and the former a 9? Because I do, that’s why. Or to be blunt, because I would rather watch the latter than the former even though Citizen is a great movie and I’ve watched it many times.
I tend to be kind of a harsh grader and have become harsher as I’ve gotten older. Many fine films end up with 7′s or 8′s which makes the few 10′s I give out look even more ridiculous. I’ve also been rating movies for 15 years and some inconsistencies have cropped up. So … sue me. When I mention a film on the blog, I’ll usually reconsider the rating. But I can’t promise to be consistent. Roger Ebert complains all the time about people wondering how he can rate movie X as four stars and movie Y as 3.5 stars. I didn’t understand why he did that until I started rating movies myself. Consistency is difficult and ultimately futile. We rate how we rate. Let IMDB toss the outliers.
My general rule of thumb on IMDB ratings (with examples) is listed below.
10 – Perfection in film. The list of films I have given a rating of 10 are: Das Boot, 2001, Apollo 13, Grave of the Fireflies, Lawrence of Arabia, Master and Commander, Psycho, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ran, Schindler’s List, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather, Lord of the Rings. Yeah, that’s a pretty “guy”-oriented list. I have testicles.
9 – Should be seen by everyone. I probably own it on DVD. This gets more interesting. A “10″ rating means something to me. “9″ ratings are where you will find the more traditional great movies, from the wonderful World of Apu to the touching Before Sunrise to the hilarious Blazing Saddles to Branagh’s fantastic Hamlet to the wonderfully weird City of Lost Children to the erotic Sex and Lucia to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
8 – Very good, if you’re into that sort of thing. Probably own it on DVD. A lot of great movies end up here too if they don’t stick in my brain. You’ll see almost all of the top movies of any year end up as 8′s. A few random examples: Grizzly Man, Henry V, Kingdom of Heaven, North by Northwest, Lust Caution, The X-files movie, Yojimbo.
7 – Worth watching. If I had infinite money, I might have a copy. This is probably where the bulk of films I watch end up. Here or 8. I don’t have much time for movies and usually don’t bother with things I don’t think I’ll like. This unfortunately means I miss out on the occasional surprise. But … I figure by the time Abby is off to college, I can catch up by having them beamed directly into my brain. Random examples: Bridget Jones’ Diary, High Fidelity, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Sideways (yeah, I gave it a 7. I know everyone loves it. I merely liked it, mostly because I like Paul Giamatti.)
6 – If I’m flipping channels and see this, I’ll stop and watch. Probably has some decent parts. Random examples: Chicago, Lolita, Transformers, Uncle Buck.
5 – If I’m watching something else and this comes on and I can’t reach the remote… Examples: Lost in Space, Resident Evil, numerous pointless sequels.
4 – I’ll make sure to change channel if this comes on. Addicted to Love, Sleeping with the Enemy, Supergirl. Out of Africa shows up here too. That can’t be right and it isn’t. My only memory of this film is watching it when I was 13 and being bored to hell. I have to watch it again. But this is where films start showing up that I dislike for specific reasons. Addicted to Love‘s astronomically ridiculous opening sequence, Charlie’s Angels over-the-top bullshit, The Life of David Gale’s absurd plot, Erin Brockovich’s glorification of lawsuits and under-carpet-sweeping of her deceptions.
3 – I will risk bodily injury to change the channel. There are few movies that I’ve watched enough of to get here. Dirty Dancing is here but almost certainly doesn’t deserve to be. It’s just that my sister watched it endlessly and I can’t stand the thought of it. Jerry Maguire is a popular movie that I despise. Hannibal was an absolutely revolting movie that had no qualities to redeem its endless series of shocks. Serendipity, despite being liked by my wife and starring two of my favorite actors, just rubbed me the wrong way.
2 – I will throw something at the TV, hoping to smash it to pieces as this film has befouled the TV by its very presence. Here are the movies I have rated a 2: 3 Men and a Baby, Battlefield Earth, Death Becomes Her, Hello Again, Shining Through, Teen Wolf. I could write a whole post on those movies. 3 Men, like Jerry Maguire, is rated lower than it deserves because so many people liked it and tried to convince me it was good. Nothing will make me hate a film more than being told I should like it when I clearly don’t. Battlefield Earth is rated low, but I’ve actually watched it more than once because it’s in the “so bad it’s good” territory. At least, it is when you’ve had enough to drink. Shining Through is an epic miscalculation; I laughed while watching it. Hello Again and Teen Wolf I actually saw in theaters as a kid, although I’ll be damned if I know why. There’s nothing worse than forcing yourself to sit through a movie because you’ve paid for it. Nowadays, I understand the concept of sunk costs and would walk out, even if it meant sitting on a corner for two hours waiting for my mom to pick me up … late as usual. And Death Becomes Her? I never thought I could despise a film with Isabella Rosselini in it, but there you go. I’ll never forget the critic in the Carletonian who said that the only reason to see this movie at the campus theater was because it was free. He was wrong. Two hours of your life is worth something. You could get drunk in two hours. You could get laid in two hours. No piece of shit movie is worth two hours.
1 – I would not show this to detainees at Guantanamo Bay. No movie gets this rating, thankfully.
Anyway, now I have this up for reference. Time to write some more about actual movies.