Reading · Writing

The ratings are a lie.

The cat is not amused.

… well, okay, I’ll be fair. Not all the time.

Yesterday I watched a movie that was rated 4.8 on IMDb. I steeled ourselves for a pretty bad experience; however, I ended up being pleasantly surprised. The movie was not bad in the slightest, and certainly did not deserve a rating as low as 4.8. It was a good family movie, filled with funny and touching moments. It put me in a good mood.

On a different note, I watched a movie the other week that was rated 7.1 on the same site, but if left to me I would’ve given it 5 stars tops. It was bland and uninteresting, and I ended up feeling quite disappointed. Actually, I can list many movies where the ratings promised a good watch, but left me wishing I could get the last two hours of my life back.

These days it feels like a movie has to have a deep meaning behind it in order to be enjoyed. Or otherwise it should be brimming with crude and sexual content before someone can call it a decent movie. The 4.8 movie I watched had neither, but is that enough ground to give it such a lousy rating? Why is it not okay for the humour to be clean, and why is silly fun not acceptable? Some reviewers expressed their dislike for the main actor, and that baffles me… not because I’m biased, but because if I disliked an actor, I wouldn’t even bother watching their movies in the first place. That just seems counterproductive and unnecessary torment.

These days I never rely on rating. Rather, I hurry for the Parental Guidance section to check if the movie has major inappropriate scenes. Some might say, “Oh, don’t be stupid. You’re a grown-up. You can handle a few sex scenes.” Yes, I can handle them, but I don’t want to. I don’t like movies where sex is thrown in just to sell the movie. I strongly believe that a movie can be just as enjoyable without such questionable material.

Of course this does not just apply to movies. There are several books I read that had such positive reviews and high ratings that I never doubted their excellence for a second… until I started reading them, and then I wondered if I was reading the same books everyone was raving about. I ranted about one such book last year… some of you may remember how vehement I was about it. 😉

At the beginning of 2013 I made a resolution: I will not be lured by pretty covers and glowing reviews. So far I’ve managed to stick to it. Sure I’ve experienced some disappointments this year, both in terms of movies and books, but that was a result of uninfluenced decisions. So yay. Score 1 for me.

What am I trying to say here? I guess… don’t let ratings and shiny stars influence your choice in movies or books. Just pick what you think sounds good. Sure it may backfire, but hey… sometimes watching a bad movie with friends or loved ones can be a highly entertaining experience!

Do you usually trust ratings? Are you weak when it comes to pretty covers? What was the last movie or book you watched/read that didn’t live up to expectations and high praise?

With the number of bad movies around, I think that would be a bad idea!
With the number of bad movies around, I think that would be a bad idea!

41 thoughts on “The ratings are a lie.

  1. I don’t usually let ratings or reviews dictate my movie choices unless the review is really bad. Then I’ll probably avoid the film. I spend more time checking the parental guidance websites as well, making sure the movie is something I want my kids to see.

    Speaking of movies, we just got back from seeing Iron Man 3. I loved it. Great action, good humor, and a wonderful cast.

    1. I’m glad someone else does this! The parental guide always plays such a huge part in my movie choices, haha.
      Oh, I’ve been wanting to watch that! Glad to see you enjoyed it. 😀 The last time I was at the movies, the friends I was with were not action fans and we watched The Big Wedding instead… which was nice, but did have some questionable content.

      1. Honestly, I thought The Big Wedding was a real stinker. I was disappointed. Such a great list of actors, but such a horrible script. Sometimes crude can be funny–I’ve certainly enjoyed my share of Paul Rudd films (Wanderlust is one of my favorites). But in this case, the crude was just gross. Not sure what the writers were thinking. Then again, that’s just my opinion, for what it’s worth.. 🙂

        1. Ahaha, well… this just goes to show that even people who agree on some movies may disagree on others. I actually really really disliked Wanderlust! Got rid of it as soon as it was over! xD

  2. This is such a well timed post! I have been thinking about this a lot recently. I definitely don’t trust Goodreads overall rating or Amazon or anything like that. The problem is that they are such overall ones that they don’t reflect either party in any way. They pretty much all have an overall of 4 something stars each time even if there are loads of negative reviews and a few positives which makes it kind of mute! Me, I rely on my blogging friends I can trust and that have similar tastes to me to direct my reading and movie watching. 😉

    1. I know right? 😦 Unfortunately there aren’t many people I know with similar tastes to mine, so what I do is look up both bad and good reviews and decide what to watch/read accordingly!

  3. Perfect book example; 50 Shades of Grey. Romance is definitely not my genre but I tried to give it a chance and read it considering the “ratings”. I never made it past the 5th Chapter. Chalk it up to bad writing!

    1. I haven’t read that book, but I read enough about it to know just how bad the writing is! I don’t blame you for quitting it.

  4. My m.o. is to find good reviewers that will give me a sense of what to expect. I aspire to be a movie reviewer myself, and the one I followed was Roger Ebert, who sadly passed away.
    Stars are not so reliable. I recently watched two Guy Ritchie’s movies that were on IMDB’s to 250 and was appalled at their lack of quality. But in general it is a pretty good measure, with room for error obviously.
    I disagree with a few things you said.
    1. Sex doesn’t sell anymore.
    2. Deeper meaning is supposed to drive the ratings up. Film is an art form, you can rate highly a superficial movie, but never as you would a work of art (or a good attempt, at least).
    3. Picking what sounds good WILL backfire! And if you value your time you won’t do it as a rule!

    1. I suppose following good reviewers would be a good way to go about it. However, the key is to find a reviewer whose taste matches yours!
      As for the issues you disagree with me on:
      1) It seems to me that many people still flock to watch R-rated movies. Spring Breakers and Piranha 3D come to mind.
      2) I agree that I would rate a work of art differently; however, one important factor in rating movies is just how much you enjoyed it. A movie could have a really poignant meaning, but really bad execution.
      3) Not every time though! Sure it backfired a few times, but many times I’ve ended up being pleasantly surprised. 🙂

      1. Hmm, I don’t think people are flocking to watch Spring Breakers because of that. IT sounds like a good movie, and Franco usually choses carefully his projects.
        People went to Operation Swordfish to check out Halle Berry’s boobs. That doesn’t happen anymore. You can check that here:
        And enjoyment is important, of course. But for example, I didn’t have much fun watching 2001, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I still remember ALL of it.. But I agree with you, meaning is pointless without good execution 🙂

        1. Well I guess that’s a matter of opinion. To me it just seemed over-the-top. Some of the stuff in that movie could definitely be done without. But that article was an interesting read. Thank you for sharing. 🙂
          And I haven’t watched 2001, but I have watched a movie I disliked and couldn’t stop thinking about too! It was Something Borrowed. I was just too annoyed by the subject matter to actually enjoy it.

  5. I really agree with you. I take a little bit of flack from friends because I often like lighthearted movies. Sometimes I feel like great spy movies, thrillers, or romantic comedies. When there’s stuff–whether it is crudity, violence or language–that feels out of place in the movie (or book) you know it’s there for shock value. In my opinion that just detracts from the value of something. I don’t pay much attention to ratings overall except to go against them. Usually when something gets “panned” I know I’ll think it’s a genuinely nice movie. I also am usually happy if the description consists of words like “saccharine”. I am, however, completely guilty of buying books for their awesome covers. 🙂

    1. Lighthearted movies are fun! Actually, I’ll watch many things as long as they have some measure of humour. Shock value material are just really distracting, and more often than not you find yourself wondering, “Now was that really necessary?” Saccharine is a nice word! Have you actually come across a description with that word? And I suppose you can be excused for that; there are so many awesome covers these days. 😉

  6. I tend to trust the summary of a book or film more than ratings, or the trailer if it’s a film. Never read critics. I do read blog posts, and a few of the books on my to read list have been added after reading something a blogger has posted. As long as it sounds like something I’d enjoy, anyway. Some of my favourite films seem to be ones most people didn’t like – I loved Burlesque, and I can enjoy crappy, action that have no plot whatsoever. As for ratings…kid’s films are brilliant. Recent years have given us Up, How To Train Your Dragon, Cloudy With A Chance of Meat Balls and, recently, Wreck-It Ralph and Brave. All brilliant. Most more intelligent and witty than half the films aimed at adults nowadays. (I also try to avoid Oscar films. To me, the BAFTAs tend to reflect films I’d enjoy more, and a lot of Oscar films feel like they’re pure Oscar bait.)

    1. I avoid critics too, and I occasionally read blog posts as well. I agree wholeheartedly with you on kids’ films. Lately they’ve been my favourite to watch! I’ve seen all the ones you mentioned, How to Train Your Dragon and Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs being my two favourites. Oh, and Rise of the Guardians as well! I’m always on the lookout for new animated releases. You can rarely go wrong with those. Except Alpha and Omega – that was the worst animated movie since, I dunno when. As for Oscar films, I can think of a few which were actually good (Slumdog Millionaire, for example), but most of the time the movies I think are Oscar-worthy do not even receive a nomination. =/

      1. I really need to see Rise of the Guardians. Tangled really surprised me; much better than I expected it to be. I think there’s a slight shift in awards at the moment; can’t remember if they were nominated for Oscars or BAFTAs, but I saw a lot of non-traditional sort of films on the award nominations around January. Superhero films, Hobbit, etc. Even musicals! Nice to see them getting some sort of credit, especially as they’re all the sort of films that would have previously been looked down on for being too…’dumb’.

        1. Tangled is one of my favourite movies ever. Who could not enjoy the antics of Flynn? 😉 Honestly I think Superhero films should be given more credit; they have a bit of everything and could not be more enjoyable! The Avengers and Thor were fantastic, and Iron Man 3 looks like it’s going to be every bit as great too.

        2. Yep! And they cover so many different genres, too. Well, they can when done well. New Spider-Man is actually really good. Actors are stronger, plot feels tighter and it’s not as over the top as the other one.

        3. I have been wanting to watch the new Spiderman! It really does look interesting. Need to grab a DVD sometime soon…

  7. You are so right, Zen- I hate when reviews misdirect me (although I suppose if I hadn’t read the reviews and if reviews were never written, I wouldn’t always hear about those books!). But sometimes, and this applies to movies too, my expectations are too high and they inevitably fall short (a lot of Oscar movies are in this category for me). When I lend a great book, I often downplay it and just say it’s good so that the other person doesn’t expect too much – then when they return it they say, “This was great!” and I’ll say “Wasn’t it?!” 🙂

    1. I’m with you on high expectations! The only Oscar movie – that I remember – that met my expectations was Slumdog Millionaire. Such a fantastic watch. And downplaying a book is a good idea; this way nobody would hold you at fault!

  8. I do the same thing with movies; I look on IMDB to see if there’s anything I don’t want to see.
    I started rating some movies on my blog recently with a little detail so that whenever I promote anything, my readers know about it.

    1. I saw the “Christian” ratings you had in one book review (didn’t check if they were there in movies), but I found them quite useful. 🙂

  9. I do look at the rating, but at the end, if I want to see it, I don’t care what the ratings are. I sometimes like movies with low rating and hate the opposite. 😀

  10. That’s why I’d rather have a review that tells me a little of what it’s about than just stars. A lot of my ???’s about review numbers are really because the movie was badly marketed. The audience the marketing appealed to wasn’t what the movie was really about. Suspect that’s the problem with the family friendly movie you saw. Sometimes it’s tough. Too “sweet” for adults and too “grown-up” for kids covers about 75% of romances pre 1955. 🙂 I love those movies! In books I often just skip over the sex scenes, but in the movies those images stay in my head and unless they really were well done and forward the movie……. Violence is worse though and that’s not reflected accurately in the parental ratings. I’d much rather deal with nudity than cutting up bodies for the gore factor.

    1. I agree that marketing plays a huge role in this. The movie I watched probably got the brunt of this too. Like… I’ve watched some incredible movies that are pretty obscure because they have not been marketed well, and I find that sad. =[ And I know what you mean about images staying in your head… usually I look away and count to ten, then sneak a peak! 😉 Violence doesn’t bother me too much, but I can’t stand gore either.

  11. On the rare occasion that I do read movie or TV show reviews, I always do the opposite. If the reviewer absolutely gushed about it (especially big name reviewers) I avoid the movie at all costs. It’s probably too intellectual when I really just want to be entertained. If the reviewer hated it and complained it had no deep meaning and was “boring” because there was no sex or violence, it’s a keeper! And you’re right: what’s wrong with nice, squeaky clean fun?

    1. I’ve learned to do that too! Critics just seem to be on the lookout for mistakes in the movie and forget to actually enjoy what they’re watching. And it’s sad that people would classify the movie as “boring” for the absence of such elements. =[

  12. Like you, when it comes to movies, I tend to look at ratings only for objectionable material. I like to make up my own mind otherwise. I don’t like to rely on book reviews either, but unlike you, Zen, 😉 I will ditch a book that I don’t like rather than to read it to the end.

    I read a WordPress author’s book recently, and I didn’t realize she wrote steamy sex scenes. I glossed over those sections. There are no ratings on books, so some can take you by surprise.

    1. Haha, yes. I think a movie can be bearable if it doesn’t have too much questionable material! And to each their own, Maddie. 😉 With me it feels like I physically can’t stop reading the book, haha.

      I think book ratings would be a great idea, seriously. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t have something like movies!

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