Random Thoughts

A Quick Thought about Rotten Tomatoes


Looking at the disparity between critics and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes seems to be a favorite pass time and way to create a punching back of critics. It’s usually brought up with really big movies that critics hate or love while the audience does the opposite. Star Wars: The Last Jedi got hit with this a lot. The critic score is 91% and the audience score is 44%. That’s a wide disparity.

I’ve never really taken much in the argument in general because I think people misuse Rotten Tomatoes and have since it first launched. It’s essentially a poll about critical opinion of works of art. It’s great to compare two movies (let’s hypothetically call them Movie X and Movie Y). Movie X gets 75% and Movie Y gets 95%. Is Movie Y 20% better than Movie X?

I don’t think anyone would make that argument, but I think that’s the implication of a lot of criticism of Rotten Tomatoes.

I think the best way to use the site is simply to use it as an aggregator of critical opinion, an easy place to see a bunch of criticism in the same place and find the voices of those who write about movies that you like to read.

Anyway, this was in the back of my mind when I looked over to Maleficient 2‘s Rotten Tomatoes page. The disparity is rather large as well. 41% critical vs. 95% audience, and I suddenly started thinking a bit of statistics.

There’s a big problem with the idea that the audience score is reflective of general opinion. What it is, is reflective of the opinion of those who chose to go see the film and then chose to voice their opinion on Rotten Tomatoes. There’s a huge data integrity problem with that. For Maelficient 2, the people scoring it are those who watched the first film, liked it, and chose to see the sequel. What about the critics? Is there a self-selection issue there? Not really. Most of these critics see just about every wide release

And how did the scores compare on the first movie? Well:


53% vs. 70%. That’s much closer together than the second film. It seems like a large part of the 30% of the audience who didn’t like the first film didn’t show up to the second at all, much less score it on Rotten Tomatoes.

Anyway, I don’t really have a huge point. It’s just a thought that came to me.

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