What my ratings mean

08 Sep

I’ve recently posted a couple of reviews here on the blog. This isn’t something I had planned on doing back when I started it for whatever reason, but now that it’s happening, I feel like a brief explanation of my rating scale is in order.

I rate movies on a 5 point scale. A movie can get a score of 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 from me. The higher the number, the more I liked the film. No zeros, because there’s no need for them. No decimals either, for the same reason.

My ratings are extremely subjective. If there is such a thing as an objectively good movie, it’s not something I take into account when assigning numerical scores. And in the debate on good films vs favorite films, my ratings are more concerned with the latter. I do not adjust scores to counteract my personal preferences and biases.

What this means is that my personal enjoyment is the key ingredient in my scores. A movie can have great cinematography, effective conveying of its themes and sublime acting, and I can certainly appreciate said aspects. But if I still find myself bored with it while watching, it will struggle to get a high score. I will try to articulate in my reviews just what it is I like and dislike about a film, but even when I fail to properly put it into words, I still know when I love a movie and when I hate one. Even if I can’t pinpoint exactly why I feel Hot Fuzz works better than Shaun of the Dead, I know that I do feel that way. So Hot Fuzz would get a higher score than Shaun of the Dead.

So what do the individual numbers mean? Not much, I suppose. Assigning a particular adjective to a particular figure is just putting one subjective title in place of another. The one thing I can say is that a score of 3 or higher means that I essentially liked the film and found it to be worthy of my time. Also, there’s nothing special or exclusive about a 5/5 score. It doesn’t mean I find the film to be perfect. It just means I like it more than a film I rated 4/5.

Despite the inherent subjectivity involved, I like there to be some sense of logic to a grading scale. By that I mean that every step of the ladder should be as big as every other step. It should be just as hard to decide between 1 and 2 as to decide between 4 and 5. This is something I strive towards.

The scores are only meant to be a quick and easy way to see roughly what I thought of the film overall. The real meat of my opinion is always found in the text, which I hope you’ll read and enjoy.


Posted by on 8 September, 2011 in Misc.


6 responses to “What my ratings mean

  1. Scott Lawlor

    8 September, 2011 at 12:37

    I do like a bit of uniform structure when it comes to ratings on films.

    I kinda wish I had stuck to a 5 point system. My 10 point one is hard work sometimes!!


    • Emil

      8 September, 2011 at 13:06

      It’s all about what you’re used to, really. I’ve always used the 5 point scale when rating films, and I know how to use it. I’ve been at sites where movies are rated on a 10 or 100 point scale, and I just can’t do it. Even just multiplying my normal scores with 2 or 20 doesn’t work, because my 3/5 score is generally more positive than what a 6/10 or 60/100 would imply.

      But as long as one can work the scale one has chosen to do, it’s all good. Consistency and common sense are always key.

      Ideally, we wouldn’t need to worry about stuff like this. It would be great if everyone had all the time in the world to read every review one sees, but that’s obviously not the case. Sometimes you’re in a hurry and just want to see if someone liked a movie or not. So having some kind of rating can be helpful.

  2. Tyler

    8 September, 2011 at 23:10

    I used to use a 5-point system but I’ve just recently changed to a 10-point one, as I’m sick of having to rate films 3 and a half or 4 and a half. A ten point system allows me to take more factors of the film into account and rate it more easily. But that’s just personal preference; a five-point system works just as well.

    • Emil

      8 September, 2011 at 23:31

      Indeed. Any scale can work as long as you know how to use it. The main reason I use 5 is because that’s what’s being used on the website I primarily use to keep track of movies I’ve seen, plus it’s really the standard scale used here in Sweden for film reviews. 5 steps is enough for me.

  3. Nostra

    9 September, 2011 at 13:22

    Great explanation of this and I must say that generally I also rate based on my enjoyment…it’s the reason why I’m not afraid to give something like Mulholland Drive a 1 as I don’t enjoy that movie at all…

  4. Emil

    9 September, 2011 at 19:55

    We all have movies we like less and more than the consensus. Since you mentioned David Lynch, I found myself quite disliking Blue Velvet, for instance. Going with what others think about movies all the time is boring. That doesn’t mean that one should strive to be a contrarian, but if a film that others love leaves you cold, you should say so without feeling the need to apologize for it. That’s how I see it.


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