Ratings and Scores: Do you like them? Should we use them? (Polls are open!)

Here’s a little topic that comes up occasionally in the world of filmdom: scoring exactly how good a movie is. Whether thumbs up/down, stars, percentages or some other method, a good number of film reviewers use some shorthand system or other to rate movies.

Of course, such systems are always a little risky. Can art be quantified? Objectivity is impossible (and beside the point), so is it wrong to put things into hard numbers? Do you measure films against other examples in the same genre or against some grand universal scale of goodness? How do you weight your opinion?

A further problem is that some readers react to the rating and not the review itself. “How dare you give Duck Soup four stars but The Searchers only three?” they shout. I know some reviewers have abandoned the rating system for this reason and I don’t blame them.

I still think adding scores to film reviews is useful. It helps me organize and categorize my reviews and see at a glance how much a particular title pleased me. I tend to score based on context. That is, I take time period and genre into account and give a score based on similar films.

One thing I do NOT do is add the score to a review while the comments are still open. This eliminates the issue of dealing with commenters who read the score but not the review. Once the comments close, I add my rating and then list the film on my ever-growing index of silent films by score. I use a 1 to 5 star scoring system.

So, here are some questions: Do you like scores on film reviews? Do you use them yourself. Did you use them and then abandon the practice?

I look forward to reading your opinions!

Here are some polls as well:

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26 Replies to “Ratings and Scores: Do you like them? Should we use them? (Polls are open!)”

  1. I like seeing a score. The score gives you a summary of what the reviewer feels. It’s interesting to see it after reading a review. I personally like putting scores on my own reviews. It reminds me of how the film made me feel in the first place.

  2. I don’t use them. I try to avoid making “I liked this” or “I didn’t like this” the substance of my reviews, although inevitably that will color what I have to say. In general, that’s not what I’m looking for from others, either, although having a rating doesn’t reduce the value of the review. I like your system of not rating until a window has closed, I hadn’t thought about that.

  3. I like the stark simplicity of a 5-star scale myself. It’s a little more nuanced than just good/bad, but it’s not got so many options that you have to take it too seriously. It is annoying when people attach too much importance to it, though. Sometimes the difference between 3 and 4 stars can just be the kind of day you were having!

  4. I don’t write reviews, just read them. If I generally agree with the reviewer because we like the same kind of films, I would take the rating more seriously. On the other hand, if I generally DISAGREE with the reviewer, I might even watch a movie just because they have given it a bad rating, to see for myself. So ratings are as you take them . . .

    (I have a pretty high overlap of “likes” with your reviews, but not 100%. I think we have different tastes in some areas, but I do value your opinions!)

  5. I use ratings as part of what I use to buy movies and for first time movies(though ratings at iMDB and others aren’t useful for many silents and niche talking films).

    Though I can understand why people don’t use a score but instead give you a detailed summary of the pros and cons of the movie with some pictures and maybe a short clip to give you a preview of what you will be getting to figure out if you are interested.

  6. Hmmm. Thought about it, picked up the weekend newspapers and was reminded that a ‘stars’ style rating is never (or seldom?) used for book reviews.

    Regarding films from a historical point of view–as I do–I find that on occasion there’s as much to learn from a ‘bad’ film as a generally accepted masterpiece.

    With the greatest respect and appreciation of your hard work, Ms K. I must consider a degree of subjectivity in ratings; I’d do that too.

    I’d always be guided by your stars, to a point, as I am by critics of current cinema releases whose tastes and criteria are close to mine.

      1. In fact I had to remind myself that you had a ‘rating’ system at all. Your reviews, contextualizing and histories have carried far more weight for me.

        I wonder how representative of world silent cinema a collection of only your top rated movies would be? (hoping I didn’t put that badly, you are a key advisor)

      2. My top choices are pretty heavily weighted toward France and Russia, with Caligari as the only German title. Of course, these are only films I have reviewed on the site and I am planning a foray into Latin American silents soon.

  7. Maybe ratings work or mean something for newer movies but not for silent.ANY silent issued is a treat especially since they are all so rare. I recently obtained Zaza and can’t imagine not watching no matter how “bad” it could be as just being able to see it is enough.

  8. I generally don’t like to know anything about a movie before I watch it, so I tend to rely a bit more heavily on numerical ratings. To some extent I have to take them with a grain of salt as what I like might be totally different than what someone else likes. But, I definitely take them into consideration.

  9. I’m strange in that I prefer to read reviews of a film after I’ve watched it for the first time. That way, I can see if my perception clicks with other people’s, see if I missed something or caught something others may have missed, etc. I find reading a review tends to influence my viewing, and I may wind up hating a picture that I ordinarily would like because everyone else hated it.

    Of course, it’s always fun to read an intelligent contrary view of something I hate, because it sometimes makes me watch it again just to see if I wasn’t being fair the first time around.

  10. I like the idea of context-based ratings that take into account the genre and era. I think that you — as a curator/reviewer of early film — are almost uniquely positioned to use such a rating system in a meaningful way. And definitely leave the ratings until after the commenting period has closed … except for Valentino and Griffith (I enjoy watching the fireworks)!

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