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Why Rotten Tomatoes scores don’t mean what they seem

August 29, 2019


Chances are you’ve seen this tomato before. It’s become ubiquitous — and quite contentious This chart helps to explain why. We’re releasing more films now than ever
before. And in a world of excess choice, people need
guidance to make tough decisions. Which is why we need services like Rotten
Tomatoes The internet staple got its start in the late
90s. And in 2016, Fandango bought its parent company. Now, you go to buy a ticket, and there it
is. Which makes that rating important to understand. Because the tomatometer — it’s more complex
than you might expect. Films can earn one of three designations:
rotten, for movies rated 60% of critics gave a positive review. Fresh, for those earning a rate above 60% Or Certified Fresh. That’s reserved for films that were reviewed
80 times and 70% or more of the reviews are positive. 5 of those reviews need to be from top critics. Critics submit a review with their own rating,
or sometimes Rotten Tomatoes asks the critic if it’s positive. If it’s borderline, Rotten Tomatoes usually
says the review is fresh. Rotten Tomatoes depends on a small army of
reviewers to make the tomatometer work. There’s about three thousand critics that
are counted right now though not every critic reviews every film so it’s usually a few hundred
per film. That’s Alissa Wilkinson — she’s a staff
film critic at Vox.com. Which means her reviews count toward the official
Tomatometer. But the nuance in Alissa’s writing is largely
reduced to the rating you’ll find near the top of her articles. Because Rotten Tomatoes uses a thumbs up thumbs
down method on everyone’s reviews it means that it kind of makes a vaguer statements
of consensus. we don’t get a sense so much of people who
have mixed ideas about a film. Look at these two films: Ridley Scott’s
Alien: Covenant, and Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight. Both films are certified fresh, but the similarities
end there. Alien was an underwhelming blockbuster sequel
with a reported budget of 97 million dollars. Moonlight was an Oscar winning drama from
a fledgling director with a budget 1/24th the size of Alien’s. Both films achieved the blanket consensus
needed for the certified fresh badge. Alien finished with a Tomatometer at 70% — toward
the low end of the certified fresh spectrum. Moonlight received a 98 percent Tomatometer
— near total consensus. But Alien was rated 6.4 out of 10 on average,
after Rotten Tomatoes converted critical star ratings, letter grades, and number scores
to its 10 point scale. Moonlight, on the other hand, earned an average
rating of 9 out of 10 per review. Most critics loved it and agreed with one
another. So the two films earned the badge, but were
qualitatively world’s apart. This demonstrates the imperfection of the
Rotten Tomatoes system. This imperfection also appears when you compare
two of 2017’s most critically acclaimed films. Here’s another scenario:
Both Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, and Jordan Peele’s Get Out are highly rated and certified
fresh. But according to the Tomatometer, Get Out
edges out Dunkirk by 6 percentage points. If you saw these scores on the Fandango purchase
page, you might think that critics rated Get Out higher than Dunkirk. The Rotten Tomatoes page for each film shows
that Dunkirk earned a higher average rating per review. Dunkirk earned a lower tomatometer because
there was less agreement among critics — more variance in the data. And when there is less consensus, the rating
is lower. But a cute single tomato rating just can’t
give you all that information. Other rating systems try to circumvent these
problems with their own methodology. Metacritic, the most visible aggregator aside
from Rotten Tomatoes, is very subjective. It casts a much smaller net than Rotten Tomatoes,
and generally does more interpretation and weighting in their scoring. Metacritic is also less transparent about
their rating system than Rotten Tomatoes. So, is there a one-size fits all, killer method
to get digestible and accurate reviews of film in a fraction of time than it logically
could take? Absolutely not. That’s preposterous; the whole point of the Tomatometer is to help
you make a decision quickly. If you want context, you click and then you
read. Or, watch. And in a world of limited time and excess
choice, we all benefit from a bit of guidance. Just make sure you know how your guide is
getting you there.

100 Comments

  • Reply Vox October 10, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    Read more on how Rotten Tomatoes works from Vox's Alissa Wilkinson: https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/8/31/16107948/rotten-tomatoes-explainer-critics-movies-aggregation

  • Reply Quitting Youtube Soon March 8, 2019 at 7:22 am

    Imdb is better

  • Reply Quitting Youtube Soon March 8, 2019 at 7:23 am

    What kind of a name is rotten 🍅 anyways.

  • Reply jaimin sharma March 8, 2019 at 8:05 am

    I always prefer audience ratings over shills'….

  • Reply Matthew Brook March 8, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    I think you meant that Metacritic is the most OBJECTIVE because it's so straight forward

  • Reply mat f March 9, 2019 at 3:07 am

    Why you should trust nothing on vox unless an online sjw is sufficient for you

  • Reply mat f March 9, 2019 at 3:11 am

    They are film critics i slready dont agree with most of the ratings they make up

  • Reply Ian Killingsley March 9, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    It’s far more complicated now! Especially concerning Disney films. You should probably update this video.
    Rotten Tomatoes deserves to have rotten tomatoes thrown at them.

  • Reply Perse Reikänen March 13, 2019 at 7:03 am

    Captain "rotten cheese" Marvel masturbates for this

  • Reply Jared Clark March 14, 2019 at 12:36 am

    Just couldn't resist throwing the "666" in there at :38 seconds…..

  • Reply BH son March 14, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    rotten tomatoes is a joke.

  • Reply Dani March 15, 2019 at 2:59 am

    "Samantha, I need to know that you understand that I have a couple of eyeholes."

    Samantha: "I do! I do understand about your eyeholes – here, look at MY eyeholes!"

    "OMG, you have 8 eyehole… holes!! Oh. Oh ho ho. I'm looking through your eyeholes!"

    dat song

  • Reply fox runner March 20, 2019 at 5:40 am

    Movies are like book which book should never be judge on there details

  • Reply guy March 25, 2019 at 12:44 am

    Agreed, it's no longer a trusted, reputable website.

  • Reply Andrew Park March 25, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    Metacritic is "very subjective" and "generally does a lot more interpretation." Can you please elaborate? You kind of just put that out there without an evidence to back it up. After researching the histograms of the four possible distributions of ratings for a large sample size of reviews for a single movie, Metacritic's histogram most closely resembles a normal distribution (a bell curve). IMDB comes in at a close second, Fandango seems to be heavily skewed towards the right, and Tomatometer looks like the opposite of a bell curve (or normal distribution).
    https://medium.freecodecamp.org/whose-reviews-should-you-trust-imdb-rotten-tomatoes-metacritic-or-fandango-7d1010c6cf19

  • Reply Niko Bellic March 26, 2019 at 2:08 am

    most ratings for anything suck

  • Reply Sir Flemeington March 26, 2019 at 5:00 am

    What’s that music at the start?

  • Reply zakosist March 27, 2019 at 1:37 pm

    I think they should at least have the option to rate a movie "neutral" or "mixed". Some things you will have mixed feelings about and maybe find mediocre but not bad

  • Reply J D March 27, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    IMDb is the only way to go💯

  • Reply Savannah Roberts March 29, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    Idk I just use the Google reviews score thing over the rotten tomatoes. I'm just looking to see an okay movie and am not a critic lol

  • Reply Luke Johnson March 29, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    Many of my favorite films have terribly low Rt scores, like Pocahontas and Oliver % Company. I also don't really care to watch Citizen Kane, The Godfather or Cool Hand Luke, despite thie rperfect scores.

  • Reply cj Hunter March 30, 2019 at 3:51 am

    Dunkirk sucked

  • Reply ThinkingTnT 101 March 31, 2019 at 4:11 am

    I think the tomato meter is underrated because the live action TMNT movies, I thought they were good, although the Micheal bay Transformers movies didn’t go with the original, I thought they were awesome, the rotten tomatoes are there just to tell people not to spend our money on something like good movies such as captain marvel

  • Reply BatFan Forever April 1, 2019 at 11:12 am

    I stopped caring about rotten tomatoes ratings when they rated Black Panther over The Dark Knight

  • Reply F Walsh April 1, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    This is why everyone uses the "Audience score".

  • Reply Jack Trotter April 2, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    alien is ceritified fresh its got a 65

  • Reply Raihan Ansari April 2, 2019 at 10:12 pm

    I use both imdb and rotten tomatoes. If the movie scores above 70% on both of these platform, then the movie won't disappoint you.

  • Reply Khang Lê April 4, 2019 at 12:36 am

    Never look at the Tomatometer to judge the movie. Look at the audience score

  • Reply Rodney Jean Baptiste April 4, 2019 at 1:19 am

    I try not to care about RT, but it gets to me.

  • Reply 82465amen April 4, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    I thought Moonlight was bad… Just sayin

  • Reply Daniel Seguin April 4, 2019 at 9:34 pm

    "When there's less consensus, the rating is lower" – This is not correct. When there is less consensus, the rating would be closer to 50%.

  • Reply qwerty22 April 4, 2019 at 11:17 pm

    Rotten Tomatoes is to movies as Vox is to news.

  • Reply Hayden Lau April 5, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    What is the point of this video, that the public's opinion of a film differs from those of critics? We've known this for forever. Critics have a very different scoring standard and they have drastically different metrics with which to judge films. The public often judges a film by solely how much they enjoyed it and now much else, while critics take into account the production, the visuals, acting, technical ability and more. It's only natural that they aren't exactly the same.

  • Reply MrMister1227 April 6, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    Couldn't careless about rotten tomatoes ratings I like what I like

  • Reply Bored AF April 6, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    She looks like Pam

  • Reply MsSunhappy April 6, 2019 at 9:22 pm

    I dont follow critic score since they watch so many movies they prefer artistic and original movies with deep meaning.

    No, I watch movies at most once a month I want to watch entertaining movies with lots of explosions.

  • Reply Nayoko Kho April 7, 2019 at 6:51 am

    Rotten tomatoes sux, the critics are not representative for the population. These are people in their own artsy world.

  • Reply Cris Call April 7, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    Yeah, but let’s be honest, the people who have seen Captain Marvel disagree with rotten tomatoes

  • Reply Weatheronthe8s April 7, 2019 at 8:39 pm

    I don’t really agree with a lot of the critics on things. Rotten Tomatoes seems to be worse to me because audience scores aren’t filtered into the main score, only critic scores. I don’t think a higher rating should make your decision. A bad movie in one's eyes might be a great movie in another's eyes and vice versa. Sure, I like to read the reviews, but only for the fun of it. I have thought about becoming a movie reviewer for fun, but I wouldn’t be a very serious one. You wouldn’t really be able to call me a critic with my reviews.

  • Reply Collin Roper April 8, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    This guys voice sounds like he is trying to do an asmr thing. Can you please get a little more excited about this good topic?

  • Reply M0V13 M4ST3R April 8, 2019 at 6:30 pm

    I hate Rotten Tomatoes

  • Reply larrylemson April 11, 2019 at 12:40 am

    I don't need rotten tomatoes as a guide to what movie I wish to see. If a movie looks interesting to see based on its ad then I would see it. In other words I would see a movie based on my own judgement and not by someone else.

  • Reply Smallest Mochi April 13, 2019 at 9:00 pm

    Huh. I got a rotten tomato certified movie ad before this video

  • Reply Sam McCconnell April 17, 2019 at 9:24 pm

    Cause they delete reviews they don't like? I.e. All those negative black panther ones

  • Reply Elvis Fernandez April 18, 2019 at 6:26 pm

    When you see high rankings on superhero movies, you realize Rotter Tomatoes is a joke

  • Reply Kia Mae Tabucanon April 19, 2019 at 2:13 am

    TBH I trust Imdb more than Rotten Tomatoes 😕

  • Reply Becca Tries to Draw April 20, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    Solution: force your friend (that has similar taste to you ) into watching for you and then see if they say it’s good or not before spending your money

  • Reply The Earth Is Bread April 23, 2019 at 10:53 am

    I prefer IMDB, seems more acurrate.

  • Reply Victory Saber April 24, 2019 at 3:50 am

    Didn't mean anything until captain marvel …

  • Reply Qqqaxevlggoooddstanblqdeth 666 April 26, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    The reason I don't like rotten tomatoes is because critics and general audianced watch movies completely differently.

  • Reply Olivier B May 2, 2019 at 9:38 pm

    what???   pain au   chocolat!!!!    CHOCOLATINE…

  • Reply kilvan99 May 8, 2019 at 4:16 am

    It really, really isnt hard. "Professionnal critics" will be voting with political correctness in mind. That's it. Pretty sad… but works whatever movie you pick.

  • Reply Brian Anderson May 10, 2019 at 11:49 pm

    Relying on narrow-minded critics whose lifestyles and interests don't align with yours is a bad idea to begin with.

  • Reply Eddie Mayen May 11, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    Does 64 Rotten Tomatoes mean good

  • Reply Jskoutz May 17, 2019 at 2:25 pm

    I have never seen that rotten 🍅

  • Reply Yolky Folk May 17, 2019 at 10:27 pm

    Nowadays critics are so freaking strict they care about the small cinema sins details smh

  • Reply Dragon43ish May 19, 2019 at 3:29 am

    Rotten Tomatoes is a work of CRAP. If you believe their ratings you are as dumb as they are……..

  • Reply Man Spider May 23, 2019 at 11:28 pm

    Rotten Tomatoes has a liberal bias.

  • Reply sin car May 28, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    rotten tomato suckkss

  • Reply scott cawthon May 29, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    Dis is why idl rotten tamatoe as much cause most of the movie they review aren't that accurate i just downloaded fandango on my phone and im a huge fan of godzilla and im extremely excited for godzilla:king of the monsters and i saw the rotten tamatoe reviews and instead of being fresh it was rotten and that pissed me so much cause the people on the audience score were positive reviews.

    I love rotten tamatoe it just that they must find a way to be more accurate.

  • Reply So So June 4, 2019 at 3:05 am

    Rotten Tomatoes haven’t failed me yet.

  • Reply Evil Koala June 4, 2019 at 8:54 am

    There's a video on Youtube where supposed food tasting experts were served with McNuggets.
    They praised it on high regards.

    This is why i rely on user scores be it video games or movies.
    50 Critics are too nitpicky with everything, while thoudands of consumers will still arrive at a general consensus of their rating.

  • Reply Sir Mooney369 June 11, 2019 at 3:42 am

    Does the tomato score For a movie ever goes up at all when it’s released

  • Reply Sir Mooney369 June 11, 2019 at 3:43 am

    And does it ever go open enough to change the status of the movie from rotted to fresh?”!!!!

  • Reply Sir Mooney369 June 11, 2019 at 3:46 am

    when people say is made up of every kind of critic I really just think it’s just A few hypocritical ones pulling the strings Around The Whole Thing To what Movie They Deem Worthy, And, Just.”!!!!!

  • Reply Dipper Pines June 12, 2019 at 10:22 pm

    Eyeholes

  • Reply Corner Entertainment, Bad June 18, 2019 at 7:35 am

    Chernobyl has a 96%, so I'm chilling.

  • Reply ellie June 24, 2019 at 7:23 pm

    I've always had pretty ambivalent views on RT (sometimes I agree with critics and/or audience members, sometimes I strongly disagree), so I appreciate nuance takes on the site like this video

  • Reply DQuiLon June 24, 2019 at 9:18 pm

    IMBD for the win…. I've been a decade old user of that page and it usually doesn't let me down in their scores

  • Reply Christeine Morales June 25, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    GUYS. WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU MIX THE ROTTEN TOMATO TO THE FRESH TOMATO?

  • Reply James Jenia June 28, 2019 at 3:07 am

    Actually Rotten Tomatoes scores no longer have any meaning.

    They're decision to LIE in support of Captain Marvel means their Site is worthless for accuracy.

    No one I know still goes there for anything.

  • Reply justin hunt June 29, 2019 at 3:52 am

    This ish is crazy I can't go by this rotten

  • Reply Badgy July 1, 2019 at 8:33 am

    This video was sponsored by metacritic

  • Reply Jeremy Gonzaga July 1, 2019 at 9:17 am

    There are really good movies that have a bad rotten tomatoes.

  • Reply Dr IP July 2, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    Better not believe the critics (which mostly paid to hype up) and take a look yourselves.

  • Reply Pedro Esteves July 3, 2019 at 9:40 am

    or just go to imdb

  • Reply Joseph Lowry July 4, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    After I found out about Rotten Tomatoes 🍅 I know how the critical system of Cinemas, Games and TV shows.

  • Reply ramesh nande July 7, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    Don't judge me but i thought that its related to tomatoes and ketchup

  • Reply Afnan Acchan July 8, 2019 at 1:26 am

    rottentomatoes are the worst. There is no distinction between very good movies, good movies and above average. Black Panther and Spider-verse is a good example. Both had 97% but Spiderverse had 8.5 imdb but Black Panther just 7.3.

  • Reply Jake Panek July 8, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    We don’t need Rotten Tomatoes. People should use Letterboxd for what real audiences and people who love movies think.

  • Reply McNuggets July 8, 2019 at 9:18 pm

    IMDB > all

  • Reply Rodrigo Díaz July 9, 2019 at 1:52 am

    65% is enough for me. Metacritic is kind of random and IMDB is just madness

  • Reply Arya July 9, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    Check out the reviews for "the red pill"
    See if you can trust any critic score from now on

  • Reply blocboy jb July 9, 2019 at 5:15 pm

    Imdb ratings >>>>

  • Reply Tulip July 11, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    Best is imdb

  • Reply aniruddha rawale July 13, 2019 at 4:25 am

    Dc maybe proud now

  • Reply Nanz Calrissian July 24, 2019 at 4:45 pm

    It’s idiotic how now a days a movies RT scores is the one thing that matters more than quality story or who directed.

  • Reply Luka Orozović July 27, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    IMDb is better.

  • Reply PinkPerfectPeach July 28, 2019 at 12:38 am

    I learned not to trust Rotten Tomatoes after Doctor Who series 11

  • Reply Chris Gratsas July 28, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    I always judge based on IMDB

  • Reply Grumpy Sorc July 28, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    Black Panther is #1 movie ever according to the top 100 Rotten Tomatoes… something is wrong.

  • Reply Boitumelo Padi July 31, 2019 at 1:37 pm

    Anyone know what the song playing at the end is?

  • Reply unknown gay August 3, 2019 at 3:08 pm

    imdb is better…

  • Reply LeLM August 5, 2019 at 2:28 am

    90% or More in rotten tomatoes of the movies have bad ratings. Is the worst thing to use before watch a movie. Just use Imdb or google % liked because they are rated by regular people how watch the movies.

  • Reply Hyrule Bros August 9, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    Rotten Tomato gave Megamind 71 %

  • Reply The King Of Waffles August 10, 2019 at 8:20 am

    Excuse me! But you forgot the ranking where the critics been snorting mold that ended with a totally opposite result. From the looks of it Rotten Tomatoes still hasn’t learned its lesson of the after affects mold addiction! 😒

  • Reply Kevin Kelly August 17, 2019 at 11:38 pm

    If a movie gets low ratings across the board I avoid it. Period!

  • Reply DonDsJR August 18, 2019 at 10:32 pm

    Rotten tomatoes > Imdb

  • Reply Mossimo Tiberi August 23, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    Their ratings are fairly consistent with most movies

  • Reply Bernard Antony August 24, 2019 at 11:03 am

    Rotten Tomatoes does't make any sense …!!

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