In a world where movie tickets are pricier than ever and endless content is available to stream online, viewers can be picky about which films they choose to see in theaters. Many also like saving time, which is why the review-compiling service Rotten Tomatoes is so appealing. At a glance, users can tell if a movie is one they should see (CertifiedFresh) or one they should skip in favor of a night home on the couch (Rotten). But as a new video from Vox explains, that system may be too simple for its own good.
A movie’s rating on Rotten Tomatoes reflects the percentage of positive reviews it receives from professional critics. In order to make this assessment, the site must place all the reviews it analyzes into one of two categories: good or bad. The problem with this method is that film criticism isn’t always so black and white. According to the current metrics, a film with rave reviews all around will receive the same CertifiedFresh badge as a movie with mostly average reviews that had slightly more positive than negative things to say about it.
This can be frustrating for film critics. All the thoughtfulness and nuance they put into a piece is automatically sanitized when it goes through the Rotten Tomatoes machine, and their review for a movie they didn’t love can end up contributing to a score they don’t agree with and vice-versa.
If you aren’t ready to commit to reading each review that goes into a Rotten Tomatoes rating individually, there’s another trick you can try. Instead of placing all your stock in a movie’s percentage of “positive” reviews, take a look at its average rating out of 10 according to the website. This should give you a better idea of just how good, bad, or mediocre it is.