When A Tomatometer Must Be Broken

I am not sure how it happened that Rotten Tomatoes and their Tomatometer became a standard that anyone would use, much less any of the major entertainment services.  I went through the trouble a couple of months ago to list on a spreadsheet over 250 movies that I own and gave each of them their corresponding Tomato score and compared that to three other readily available services:  Amazon review ratings and VuDu and Flixster customer scores.  What I found was quite interesting.

As a note, Rotten Tomatoes rates from 0-100%, as does Flixster.  Amazon and VuDu rate on a scale of 1-5/0-5, which makes equating that to percentages quite easy, i.e., a 4.1 average score is 82%, a 2.6 is 52% and so on.  Further, I place slightly less stock in Amazon reviews because there are many reviewers who are rating the packaging or extras included (sometimes even the seller), as opposed to just rating the movie.  So, unfortunately, that type of reviewing drags the score for a movie down.

If the percentage rating were compared to school (back when I attended), then anything 90%-plus would be an A, in the 80s a B, 70s a C, 60s a D and below that an F.  According to Rotten Tomatoes, whose reviews are “based on the published opinions of hundreds of film and television critics,” anything 59% or less is considered Rotten.  I suppose that makes sense as a rating of 3 on Amazon, meaning “It’s okay,” would equate to 60%, just slightly above Rotten.

Now for the comparison.

Of my 16 highest Tomato-rated movies only six of them rate similarly high with the other three consumer services.  Tomatoes seem over-exuberant on several flicks.

Raiders_of_the_Lost_Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark original release poster by Richard Amsel. ™ & © 1981 Lucasfilm Ltd.

An example of similar ratings on the four services:  Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc scored a 95% on the Tomato Meter (from here on = TM), 96% on Flixster (Flix), 94% on Amazon (Amz) and 92% on Vudu.  Similarly, Lord of the Rings The Two Towers scored 96% TM, 95% Flix, 94% VuDu and 90% Amz.  But again, only 6 of my top 16 movies were similar like this.  The other 10 had fairly wide discrepancies.

For what appear to be over-rated movies here are a couple of examples: Mud rated a 98% TM, while only an 80% Flix, 78% Amz and 76% VuDu while Gravity earned a 97% TM, but only 80% Flix, 78% Vudu and 70% Amz.  IMHO those are quite different scores with a 97 and 98 really meaning near-perfect.

For the most part, my movies with a TM in the 80s seemed to be pretty consistent with the other three services.  As scores get lower and lower on the TM, I find myself wondering what their critics are watching.

There were a couple of sports movies I thought were quite really good, as did other viewers.  Remember the Titans only earned a 73% TM but a mighty 93% Flix, 92% Amz and 90% Vudu.  Likewise, Coach Carter garnered a lackluster 65% TM but earned quite healthy 90% Amz, 85% Flix and 84% VuDu.  Glad I did not look at what the Tomato had to say about those two.

Top Gun
Film poster for Top Gun (film) – Copyright 1986, Paramount Pictures

Here are the results of a few high-action movies I loved:  Taken 1 scored a wimpy 58% TM (remember, Rotten) but 86% Amz & Vudu and 83% Flix, while Top Gun managed a paltry 54% TM (yep, Rotten), yet 86% Amz & VuDu and 83% Flix.  Then there is this one:  The Expendables 3 Unrated earned a whopping 33% TM (way Rotten) but came in at a sound 84% VuDu, 82% Flix and 80% Amz.

Probably the worst variance I found within all of the movies I own was Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters Unrated.  This flick managed an incredibly low 15% TM while snagging an 80% Flix, 78% VuDu and 74% Amz.

When I tallied scores for all 250-plus movies that I own, the range of difference is pretty large.  The average TM for all my movies is 61%, while VuDu is 83%, Amz 82% and Flix 70%.  The critic’s scores at Tomato (61%) means that, on average,  all of my 250-plus movies are only 2% above Rotten.  (Sob!)  (Not!)

National Treasure Book of Secrets
Film poster for National Treasure: Book of Secrets – Copyright 2007, Walt Disney Pictures

Additionally, there were far too many movies I seriously enjoyed that scored less than 40% on the TM scale (while mostly landing in the 60s-80s range for the other three services).  Examples: Armageddon, Basic, DaVinci Code, King Arthur (2004), Kingdom of Heaven, Man on Fire, National Treasure 2 Book of Secrets, The Phantom of the Opera (2004), Swordfish and Transformers 2 Revenge of the Fallen. 

For whatever reason, the critics (TM) and the people (Amz, Flix, VuDu) disagree.

I believe that I side with the people.

Over For Now.

Main Street One