It has been age old debate among movie fans: which rating system should you trust more? IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes? While both the sites have their own devoted group of fan following, today I am going to take stance and try to argue in favor of IMDb. As with any constructive discussion, you are free to disagree, but before that hear out my argument.
Understanding the Ratings
Let’s first begin by understanding how scores are awarded on IMDb as compared to Rotten Tomatoes. I’d assume that all of you know that IMDb is completely user-driven, ratings of all films depend solely on average users who just go the website and rate movies they’ve watched. Due to this fact, you’d expect there to be some really extreme ratings, especially from a person or a group of people who ‘hate’ a particular film for no reason whatsoever or just like to randomly give low ratings to films. IMDb is wise to this, however, and has introduced a weighted rating system for the movies in their top 250 list. I’m not going to bore you with the formula and the concept of the ‘Bayesian estimate’ they use to calculate their rating but let me simplify it for you. Not all votes by users on IMDb have the same weightage. Users who rate more films and generally rate a film closer to its average are given more preference in the ‘weighted average’ score IMDb calculates. This moderation method has proved successful for IMDb over the years.
Rotten Tomatoes is a critics-powered site. The opinion of the average cinema-goer is not taken into account. If the critics like the film, the film gets a fresh rating (above 60%) or else it is doomed to rot in the rotten category. This rating is a general average of the ratings from all the critics registered with the site. There are a few prerequisites to become a critic with Rotten Tomatoes, which include being a writer for a major media organisation. Now I’m not going to rant about the bias of film critics or cook up conspiracy theories about critics being paid to give good reviews. I’ll simply ask you this, should the opinion of around 200 people be considered over the opinion of more than 1 million people?
Now you may argue, ‘these 200 people have devoted their life to reviewing films, they make their living out of watching and rating new releases, shouldn’t we trust them more?’ This is definitely a valid point. Most of the films that we consider among the greatest of all-time usually receive very high scores on Rotten Tomatoes. Let’s take the example of ‘The Godfather’. With a 99% score on RT, this classic has definitely received the rating it deserved.