Rotten Tomatoes: An Indication of Our Times?

The Internet is an incredible place, where the information of the world is truly at your fingertips. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be cautious of the information we see on the Web, as it can be just as easily influenced as a newspaper. This rule applies double for the review website Rotten Tomatoes.

After IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes is certainly one of the top ten most popular review websites. Type in “movie reviews” into your Google browser and you’re certain to find it in the top ten, possibly top five, results. The website publishes news about upcoming films, ones that have gone on DVD, interviews and box office returns. However, its primary function is to rate movies. You can search a title or select it on the homepage. Once selected, the title appears with its release poster, a percentage and an overall consensus. If a film gets 60% or more, the film is declared “Fresh” and is awarded a bright red tomato. 59% or below, the film gets a smashed rotten tomato.

But here’s the kicker. The score isn’t the average rating of critics or audiences. The rating is how many people gave it 3/5 or more.

Surely that means only good films get above 60%, right? Not necessarily. Although truly great films will obviously get high marks, a lot of average films that played safe and weren’t awful can get a “fresh” rating. So, you often find a disparity between the films’ popularity or likability and it’s quality.

For instance, the recent smash hit animated movie “Frozen” proved popular among audiences and critics as it’s 89% “Certified Fresh” rating suggests. But, if you were to look at the statistics in the film just below the primary rating you will see, in barely noticable text, “Average Rating: 7.7/10”. So instead of being a four and a half star film it’s really somewhere between a three-and-a-half and four star film.

This disparity between popularity and quality is evident in its “Best Movies of All Time” list when compared to the “Top 50 Greatest Movies of All Time” by Sight and Sound. According to Sight and Sound the best movie of all time is Vertigo, and The Wizard of Oz according to Rotten Tomatoes (despite the fact it doesn’t even have a 100% rating!). As we go down the top fifty in Tomatoes’ list, we find four Pixar movies (Toy Story 2 and 3, Finding Nemo and Up) and ET. While all of these movies are of the highest quality, they stood a much better chance of getting in the top fifty because they had a much wider audience than many other classic or indie films, and they pushed the right buttons for a positive audience response.

There once was a time when it was cool to like something that was different from everyone else. However, thanks to social media and a rising tide of peer pressure, conformity is the new cool. Rotten Tomatoes symoblises this. According to Rotten Tomatoes, if you don’t like something other people do, you’re wrong. Opinion is important. Don’t be forced into thinking something because a website told you so.


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