Why I Don’t Rate Movies
Posted by Bubbawheat
First off, the title of this post is a little bit of a lie. I am on Letterboxd where I keep track of all the movies that I watch, both superhero and non-superhero, and on that site I do rate them on their scale of 5 stars, including half stars. But for the reviews that I write for this site, I don’t include any ratings on any sort of scale. It’s up to the reader to determine what I thought about the movie based on the words rather than a bite-sized bit of info at the beginning or the end of the review. There are quite a few reasons why I do this actually, and it’s not just to try and force people to actually read the review rather than just looking at the rating to see what I thought of a particular film.
One of the biggest reasons why I don’t rate a film on this site is because I don’t feel like movies absolutely need to be rated on an objective scale when film is typically a very subjective form of art. No matter what movie you can name, there will always be at least one person who likes the movie, and similarly there will always be at least one person who doesn’t like the movie, and people who fall everywhere else on the scale. I do agree that there are films that are well made and will fall much higher on the scale for a much larger percentage of the people who watch it. But that’s not true for every movie, and I think it’s even more of an issue on a site like this where I generally don’t deal with the best of the best made films that are out there, and much more often deal with popcorn flicks. Movies that don’t have in depth allegories and themes, but are just straight up action movies, or even hilariously bad films. The point is that there is no specific scale that I can grade these films on because I essentially look at every movie on a different scale.
What I really mean is that when I review a movie, I do my best to put myself in the head of a person who will enjoy watching this film for one reason or another. Films are meant to be enjoyed, and I want to find films that people will enjoy watching for one reason or another. Whether it’s something like Tommy Wiseau’s the Room where you go in knowing that it’s a train wreck of a film, but the train wreck aspect of it turns it into a hilariously fun movie watching experience. Or whether you’re looking for a good action horror film. While I don’t always do this, I often try to recommend the film based on what you might enjoy within it. I’m only one person and I have my own specific tastes that don’t always mesh with everyone else. I can appreciate an artistic vision with depth and artistry like Birdman, but I can also see the merits of a hastily made and downright offensively humorous Toxic Avenger.
And besides the difficulty of trying to decide what type of scale I want to review the film on, that rating lends itself to comparing ratings of other films. On Letterboxd my rating is typically a mix of the amount of enjoyment I got from watching the film combined with the quality of the writing, acting, and direction of the film, and that rating can change from viewing to viewing, and I appreciate that Letterboxd allows me to give the film a different rating every time I list it as an entry in my film diary. But when I look at the archival nature of this site, I’d rather not have a star rating where I might end up rating the film The Shadow higher than Tim Burton’s Batman because I wouldn’t necessarily rating them on the same scale. That, and in the rare cases when I do reach out and request a screener for a movie, I would much rather be able to discuss the elements of the film that I didn’t like alongside the elements of the film that I did like without having to eke out a final score that may end up being rather low in the end.
And finally, I think I just wouldn’t know where to land on a ratings system. Should I keep it ultra simple and go four stars? Or go with a slightly more modern 5 stars? Or do I go with what is essentially the same as a 5 star rating that includes half stars and rate out of 10? Should I move away from the stars and scores and arbitrarily change it into something more fitting with my site, like masks? Or could I even go with a much more complicated ratings system that takes into account the different levels of enjoyment of the film, like scoring it based on things like direction, writing, bad humor, action, good humor, and whatever else I might decide to throw in? There’s just too many questions like that where I don’t have the answer and it’s just as simple for me to keep it the way I’ve been writing these for over 3 years and 200 reviews. But what about you? Do you rate movies? How did you decide on your own scale?