Are star ratings on movie reviews a good thing?

Feature Simon Brew 11 Feb 2014 - 06:32

How do we decide what's a four star movie? Are all five star movies made equal? Simon explains the issues with star ratings

A pair of reviews went up on this site last week, for films that - for differing reasons - we rated at four stars apiece. Above the four stars, in both cases, were many hundreds of words discussing the films in question. Yet both, in different ways, continued to fuel the ongoing, interesting debate about the star rating system, and its suitability.

Because in the comments below our reviews of both RoboCop (2014) and The LEGO Movie were some pertinent, constructive questions. We're not going to name the commenters, as the aim isn't to expose them to flaming or such like. Yet they raise some interesting questions and points - which we've quoted directly - that in many ways frame the ongoing star rating debate. Hence, we thought a fuller exploration of the issues might be useful.

"Five stars aren't really enough for an accurate rating. Either don't have a star rating or increase to 10".

Both of those suggestions, oddly enough, we've chatted about.

The main frustration for film reviewers - and we think we can speak for many of them here - is that a review tends to get reduced to a score by star rating at the bottom of it. So, we tend to talk about Empire giving something four stars, Total Film giving something three stars, as opposed to 'Empire thought the direction was great but the ending was poor' or 'Total Film reckoned it was better than the first, but still with room for improvement'.

Because what it overlooks is that, to someone writing a review, the star rating tends to be far from the most important thing. The words that make up the review are the parts that are wrangled over, and the hardest thing to do. How do you frame a viewpoint on a film? How do you get at what you think is wrong with it without ruining a vital plot point? And if you're going against the tide of critical opinion on a film, how do you get across your problems without it sounding like you're flamebaiting?

That's the hardest part. And whilst coming up with a star rating can sometimes be a sod of a job, it's nothing compared to penning the review itself.

So why have a star rating at all? Well, we're not snobby about this: it's helpful. If you're in the pub, and your friend comes back from seeing a film, you may well ask them if it's any good. Generally, the first response you get is 'yes', 'no' or 'it was alright'. That's basically the job that a star rating does. It gives you a very quick overview, and invites you to get more detail if you want it. Also, you might just want the score for now, preferring to read a review once you've seen the film in question, for fear of spoilers.

Furthermore, we're in the era of Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, which aggregate reviews into a total score. We're on neither, but there's no denying that they're a good source of exposure for review outlets. And for a snapshot overview of a film, their services are useful. It would remiss not to acknowledge that star ratings are heavily demanded by the PR and marketing departments of movie studios too. They like them for posters.

But to go to the question asked: why not abolish star ratings, or more them to a score out of ten? It's for each review outlet to decide this, but our position is this: we're aware that star ratings hold some purpose, and while we reserve the right not to score something (as we did with our review of Spring Breakers, here), their benefits just about outweigh their problems.

Should we, then, extend the score to one of out ten, rather than five? No. Not here, anyway.

Computer and videogame magazines, more than any other medium, have explored extending the score system. Lots of them still score out of 100, but ask what the difference is between a game that warrants 83% and one that scores 81%, and invariably PowerPoint, or something equally evil, is invoked. Go back into the annals of British computer magazines and one (excellent) title, ACE, used to score games of 1000. You'd need more than a few overpriced Microsoft products to get to the bottom of what merited a 577 score against a 574.

A score out of five, however crude, works. It's generally accepted that one star means avoid at all costs, and five stars means drop everything. Both scores are rarely used and heavily guarded at this site, as they are at any others, so that it means something when they're awarded. Two stars equates to not too great, three means something is worth a watch, four means very good. It's hard to see how dissecting further would help, given that it would, more than ever, make the review more about the score than the text itself. It seems a decent position all round that the star rating gives you the snapshot, and the words give you the detail.

""Funniest comedy we have seen in years" - 4 stars. Where is the 5 star level set at exactly?"

A great question, which we found in the comments on our review of The LEGO Movie. To which the simple answer is: we couldn't tell you.

Scoring a film isn't a mathematical or scientific process. It's a response to something, a gut feeling backed up by watching lots and lots of other films. In the case of The LEGO Movie, there's a fair complaint that the review didn't get across why the film scored four stars rather than five, and there are two answers to that.

Firstly, either way, outside of perhaps costing us a place on the poster, in the scheme of things it doesn't matter. Either way, we're heavily recommending the film.

Secondly, there are a few criticisms - however minor - of The LEGO Movie (which we've seen twice: once with a five star audience, who lifted the film a lot, and once sat behind a woman texting on a mobile phone, who didn't). They're in the review, but we had such a good time watching the film, that we focused far more on the positives than picking too much at it. We very rarely award five stars for reasons outlined earlier - off the top of our head, five films took top marks off us last year (Gravity, All Is Lost, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Frozen and Before Midnight). In each of those cases, there was something particular and hugely striking that resonated with us, be it the haunting solitude of All Is Lost, or the deep-threaded themes of loneliness encompassed with Frozen. We don't expect you to agree with those reviews, but they are honest and true feelings. There was something in each of them that got them over the five star line for us.

On a personal level, the film Labyrinth is never far from my mind when coming up with a star rating. I love Labyrinth. I could watch it on loop forever more, and bore you to death about it. But there's not one bit of me that would rate it a five star film. That doesn't mean I love it less, just that I know it has a few problems. The crucial one, as articulated infamously by long-time Jim Henson collaborator Jerry Nelson, was "I didn't give a fuck whether she got her brother back or not". Given that was the narrative drive of the film, that's a fairly substantive issue, and one I agree with.

I can list a long collection of films that I love watching, will happily rewatch, but fall short of five stars for me. The LEGO Movie is one, Back To The Future Part II another, the 1989 Batman... I'll happily do you a list.

So to go back to the question: where is the level set? It's not. There is no formal line, and no mathematical equation here. Instead, there's just a broad criteria that appreciates that if we give something four or five stars, we're recommending you spend money or time on it. Conversely, if we give something one or two stars, we're not recommending that you do. Again, you don't have to agree with us, and you don't have to go by our word. Hopefully, more often than not, the words above the score will marry up to the star rating.

"Wow, four stars. Dredd only got three. Is this seriously a better film than Dredd?"

Another important question. Does one film getting four stars automatically mean that it's a better film than one with three stars? Helpfully, the answer is usually yes, but not always.

In the specific case of RoboCop (2014) and Dredd, they were reviewed by two different reviewers, which straight away means that an absolutely direct comparison, score-wise, is impossible. I reviewed Dredd for the site, having devoured Judge Dredd comics as a child. And it falls into the law of Labyrinth for me, as outlined above. The film has problems, but I really like it. It remains - as much as I love it - a three star movie.

RoboCop? There's something, again for its flaws, running just a little deeper I'd argue. Which would I rather watch again? Dredd. Which do I think is slightly better? Probably RoboCop. So how do you put a score on that?

Roger Ebert had something interesting to say on star ratings, in his review of Shaolin Soccer. He wrote that "the star rating system is relative, not absolute. When you ask a friend if Hellboy is any good, you're not asking if it's any good compared to Mystic River, you're asking if it's any good compared to The Punisher. And my answer would be, on a scale of one to four, if Superman (1978) is four, then Hellboy is three and The Punisher is two".

A wise man was Mr Ebert. And we should add that star ratings too are to a large degree contextual to their time. Mark Kermode argues that to best review a film that "ten years would be nice", to properly digest, react and assess a movie. But that's not possible.

Infamously, in the case of A Good Day To Die Hard, UK press were predominantly held back from seeing the film until a press screening at 9.30pm the day before release. Given that most outlets would want a review for the day the movie is out, how much time to fully assess a film does that actually offer? Appreciating that A Good Day To Die Hard is a horrible mess, even a horrible mess deserves a proper reaction. Under such time restraints though, how is that possible?

One further comment under our LEGO review read that "If RoboCop is as good as Lego then they deserve to be equally rated, but if not, then they need to have different scores". That, too, is impossible. One four star film can be a very different beast to another. Precious is a four star film for me that's a million miles away from Wreck-It Ralph, another I'd rate at four. One I never want to watch ever again in my life, one I do. Are they equally as good as each other? I've got no idea: Barry Norman always used to argue that it was comparing chalk with cheese, and he's right.

So then...

Predictably, this piece resolves nothing, but then that seems somewhat fitting. Because star ratings aren't supposed to solve anything. They're supposed to give guidance, and not a lot more than that. That's not to say they shouldn't be challenged: part of the fun of being a film fan is the debate, argument and disagreements. But in an ideal world, the star rating would be the gravy, rather than the proverbial dinner itself. That horse might just have bolted some time ago.

Bottom line recommendation then: if in doubt, go with the words, rather than the stars.

Please feel free to continue the debate in the comments below - we'll keep going with our replies to constructive posts there too...

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Great article but not perfect 4 stars :)

I don't know about this, numbers, stars and percentages are all good but at the end of the day, it isn't about the critics, it should be about you enjoying the movie.

Mark Kermode noted that critical response and scoring has little effect on a film's success. In other words, exactly what is a critic for? To me, critical review is just an opinion and the score is merely a condensed sense of that review. We all have an opinion on movies, critics simply get paid for theirs. Trying to hold a critical score to account boils down to the pointless argument of disagreement and little else. I always read reviews as they interest me, but I never take them seriously and they certainly don't affect my movie choices. If Robocop scored higher than Dredd then fine, but it really is meaningless. Some will prefer one over the other, and only those opinions which are different to the scores will query it. I don't envy the job of a film critic, especially in this hot-headed geek genre.

Funny you should mention barry norman as my definition of the star system always goes back to the radio times Christmas specials in the early 90s.. * = avoid ** = passes the time *** = worth watching **** = good *****(red) = outstanding. It just works!

I've found that there are so many reviews that I have narrowed it down to three sites and in particular three reviewers who I think most accurately reflect my opinion and who seem to have a similar taste to me and Simon and Ryan's reviews often reflect my own Point of view on a film so I know that of all the reviews for Robocop that there is a high chance that their review will be similar to mine. It won't always as that's the nature of film but I would urge anyone who enjoys film to find what reviewers that match their outlook and tastes, it isn't 100%

In fact when Simon posted his review of Frozen I was genuinely excited (as I'm a huge disney fan) and posted the review link on my FB wall telling people how excited this review made me even though it looked strange from a 34 year old man ahem..

I think this is a great explanation of the star system and it makes a lot of sense if you view it as a suggestion of wether you should spend your money rather than an absolute marker of the film's quality

This is an excellent article and I find myself agreeing about Labyrinth - I'm probably the biggest fan of that film you could find, but I would never consider it perfect. Its self-contradictions and unevenly characterised heroine (I do think the depiction of Sarah is why many people struggle to care about her quest, though I personally find her sympathetic and even quite admirable) actually make it more interesting for me to watch, though I can still recognise them as flaws. While I could watch Labyrinth over and over and never tire of it, I doubt I'm going to watch 12 Years A Slave more than a handful of times - it was superb but it was almost too perfect, if that makes sense. It was the kind of perfection that makes a film extremely resonant and easy to admire, but hard to get anything new from upon subsequent viewings.

Yes, thats about it. Theres no mystical significance to the amount of stars other than it being an easy indication of how much the reader needs to go and see it now. 5 is definitely. 4 is worth making the time for. 3 is probaly wait for DVD, but see it if you're going to the cinema anyway etc.

I award this article 8 out of 10 parsnips. A great response to our innane blatherings. I can't agree with you about Back to the Future II though. That's definitely a five star film for me!

One thing I;ve always wondered: why do you guys give star ratings to films but not to tv shows? Most other websites do. Hell: I give star ratings to tv shows and I've never actualy reviewed one in an official capacity.

Yeah, I agree. Its a really handy way of getting a feel for a movie. Often, I like to be as unspoiled as possible, so I will skip the review and head straight for the rating

A few reasons. For example, an apparently pointless episode of a TV show can be transformed by one just one week after. Furthermore, it'd feel like rating the individual chapters of a book.

A film, even part of a series, is at least its own complete entity. And we struggle enough sometimes coming up with star ratings for those! - Simon

A great article, one that highlights why films can be so emotive and random. For example if there was a film I would watch on a continual loop it would be The Man with Two Brains...god I love that film. I love how we can debate stuff on here.

The Man With Two Brains has cinema's finest ever erection joke, bar none! Those Carl Reiner-Steve Martin comedies are firm favourites of mine - Simon

Agreed.

If the star rating system for movies became an internationally accepted SI unit of viewer satisfaction then people would complain a lot less.

That breeze feels good... :)

I made a very similar comment to the one quoted on your Lego Movie review - as far as I could read it, the text of that review was 5* all the way, hence my surprise to only see 4* at the end.

And while I understand Mark Kermode's argument regarding negative reviews doing next to nothing for a film's success vs negative word of mouth, I'm not sure overwhelmingly positive reviews are the same. I'd seen the trailer for the Lego Movie and mentally dismissed it as a "kid's film" that I wasn't going to bother with. The outpouring of critical admiration for it, combined with the knowledge that I'm unlikely to get any word of mouth reviews from my friends on this particular film has opened me up to the idea of seeing a film I really wouldn't have gone near otherwise.

For example, I've pretty universally loved the Marvel films so far and consequently, I'll be seeing Avengers 2 regardless of what critics say. I think the job of critics is more to guide you and nudge you when you digress outside your comfort zone - highlighting how good this particular film is, pushing me towards Blue Jasmine last year...stuff like that.

I'm 'experienced' (read: old) enough to remember the uproar when SFX magazine switch from a 'grade' for their reviews (E- - A+) to 5 starts with their 50th issue. I always enjoyed the fine grades of difference in their reviews, the frantic justification of a B- as opposed to a B, and I felt their reviews lost some of their unique voice when the switch was made.

However, I tend to look at a star rating as akin to a blurb on the back of a book. It's there, it's my entry point, but ultimately useless if you don't invest the time in reading the actual content.

I was surprised at the 4* rating for the LEGO movie, as I was part of that 5 star audience and had a 5 star experience through and through. But I am not the editor and chief writer of this website, and disagreeing with a critical assessment of a film or TV show has a lot more to do with just dismissing it based on the number of stars.

Great article, this - all too rarely do sites and magazines take the time to examine one of the key tenets of their reviewing systems.

So do away with star ratings completely. Go for a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down"(you may even give double thumbs up for exceptionally brilliant movies) to tell readers whether the movie is good or not. We are all movie lovers essentially. All we need to know is whether the movie is worth investing the time in. Why let star ratings affect our decision to watch a movie? Does the fact that Drive got a 5 star, RoboCop has a 4 star and Dredd got only 3 stars make it seem as if its okay to miss out on a great experience as Dredd?

RoboCop - *Thumbs up*
A good day to die hard - *Thumbs Down*
Problem solved

Also star ratings will also lead to unfair comparison of two different kinds of movies as we just saw in the case of RoboCop and LEGO Movie. This also can be avoided by using the thumbs up rating.

i never go by the star rating, in fact very rarely even notice it. just read the words

One four star film can be a very different beast to another

Completely, I loved Iron Man 3 and would give it 5 stars but I would also give 12 Years A Slave 5 stars but American Hustle 4 stars. Not saying IM3 is on the same level as 12 Years A Slave or even a technically better film than American Hustle but it was my favourite blockbuster of 2013 and I enjoyed it a hell of a lot. I tend to compare films based on their genres, so all the Oscar Best Pictures I rate against one and other. All the superhero films, all the comedies, all the animated kids films etc.

Whenever I give a star rating it's always based on a genre comparison, just like the Ebert example above. Well, that's my defense for giving Conan 4 stars anyhow!

Brilliant article - explains a lot! (Cheers for taking the time to disect the process!)
Would it be possible to have at the bottom of the review, next to the star ratings, something along the lines of the following:
3/5 - Worth a Watch
1/5 - Avoid
5/5 - Drop Everything
(Similar to the RadioTimes style rating mza115 mentions).
I feel this would give a better insight into what the reviewer is thinking when they post the star ratings, as after all, they are entirely relative to the individual author of the piece!

I do agree that the star system is a problematic one but as an avid film goer and reviewer myself I do tend to like having a 1-5 star system as categorised here, however I consider a films merits next to another film of its own genre. For example thus far this year I have given solid 3* reviews to both Jack Ryan:Shadow Recruit and Dallas Buyers Club. I would never try to say which film is better and why they got the same it is impossible. I considered Jack Ryan to be a fun watchable action flick with nothing else going on, so much better than Robocop but not as good as Thor 2. Dallas Buyers Club was an dull piece of dramatic narrative raised by two fantastic performances. Which is better, who is to say? When I look at a denofgeek review for a film like Robocop I often think and look back to their reviews of similar films (in this case Total Recall) to get a sense of where the review is placing itself. Either way you are still wrong on both counts, Lego Movie is a 5* work of genius while RebootCrap was lucky to get one, and that was only for SLJ's melonfarming!!!

Anyone who bases what film they see purely on a star rating is a fool. Read the actual content of a review instead of choosing your viewing on what abitrary percentage a film is awarded.

Sadly, the TL;DR brigade will never listen. Four stars, good. Two stars, bad.

(Yes, that was an Animal Farm pseudo quote)

Intelligent, reasoned articles like this are why I keep coming back to this site above all others. Love your work.

Couldn't agree more, cinema should, at the very least, evoke an emotion. It's the human response to what we've just experienced that counts for so much but is impossible to score for the masses. What would be nice is a bit of information on the reviewer (a mini biog so to speak) that tell us something about the films they like etc. For instance I know Kim Newman is an officianado on the horror genre and I tend to enjoy and agree with his reviews of horror films, his was the reason I saw Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and enjoyed it.

For me Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, again it's a movie easily pulled apart but watching it takes me back to being 11 and being excited by the film like no other film. I could quote it verbatim and watch it again and again

They write articles like this every so often to cover their butts when they post a review that conflicts with their rating system.

Its not the "star system" that's the problem, it's their poor editorial process.

I found the system used in Cineworld's free magazine quite helpful. Rather than any star system, they include a box at the end with "watch this if you liked...". I know they're trying to get people through the doors, so can't be too critical, but it's a useful quick guide, especially with the what not to watch list.

I see your ongoing mission to moan about this site as much as possible is going well.

TL;DR

I fully understand your reasons for reserving the top mark for truly outstanding films.
The trouble is, I think, that so many readers don't see things that way. For them 4 stars out of 5 is instinctively interpreted as falling short of the mark in some significant way.
Perhaps 5 could be "as outstanding as one might normally expect to see", while some kind of special Spinal-Tap-11 style rating-buster could be awarded to the rarer gems?

ADD+CBATWOS

Just to throw in my personal two cents, I had this debate with myself over the system I use for reviews of films on my own sites.

For about a year, I was devoted to using the star system. I used five stars, but with half stars available, so it was a ten point grading system. It worked well on a case by case basis, but led to an informal hierarchy of films. When it came to doing Best of the Year lists, I agonised over whether I could put films I'd given 4.5 stars above films I'd given 5 stars to.

To get round this, I decided to change to a binary system. So, for my site The Popcorn Muncher, films are graded as either "Pop" or "Poop". This means that my readers can still have the good or bad distinction at a glance, but it keeps all of the nuance for the review.

Same here. The reason I come to this site is because they put words side by side in such a pleasing way.
It was only after reading the Lego review that I even noticed there was a star rating.

See this is why I love Den of Geek. When we, the DoG community, complain DoG comes back with a thoughtful, considered response when you could have responded with haughty silence.

For engaging this thorny issue I give Den of Geek 5 stars, 10/10, two thumbs and an A*!

"if in doubt, go with the words, rather than the stars."
I think this is the most sound advice, but I still feel that the star rating has merit. The only thing I would like to see changed is to eliminate the five star. In the less is more category, a simple rating of one star= poor, two=fair, three=good, and four=great is the best way to go.

Sick burn bro. But three comments about how inconsistent their reviews are is hardly "moaning".

Maybe DoG should have a six star system as too many films on here end up as a three star review. Or have a special 3 1/2 rating.

I like to see the stars sometimes without reading the review in case it gives away something or generally puts me off a film I'm planning to see.

Out of interest has DoG ever given a 4 star review.

Oh! One other idea.... with every review include the markings that reviewer gave to the last 5 films they graded so we get an idea of their tastes and so on.

Personal preference is just for a mark out of 10. It gives just enough room to to expand without getting ridiculous and going to 100.

My instant problem with 5 stars comes down to my own mentality, because I think in 10's. Is a 2-star film a 3/10 or a 5/10? There's quite a difference there. The range for a 2-star/3-star could cover 3/10 to 7/10. I'm not a fan of the ambiguity, so I guess I should just read the reviews instead.

I see. That makes a lot of sense. Could it perhaps be an idea for future articles to write a review of an entire season and assign a rating to that? I mean a season is usually a complete enitity. Even for a show like Game of Thrones that doesn't even have season arcs a season is pretty much a 10 hour film.

It seems to me that the sensible option is a marking system out of 3.
1=Avoid 2=Worth checking out, 3=See it.
The REALLY sensible option is to abandon marking completely. Out of ten is ridiculous, it's just doubling your out of 5 mark. "What about the odd numbers?" Well a 7 would become a 3.5 but if you're giving 3.5 man/woman/person up and go with a 3 or 4.
Funking marks....

I don't read with reviews before I have seen the actual movie since I am a spoiler phobic, so the ratings can help whenever I am in doubt of seeing a particular movie. 1 or 2 stars and I will skip it , 3 start and I will likely see it, 4 or 5 and I will see it.

I give this article a 9. Out of 7.

Chronicle, avengers, drive, and (I think) life of pi, were 5's. And I thought all 3 were amazing... And yet I thought life of pi was a 4. It really is subjective, but the recommendations are very welcome. I have yet to watch the last stand, a 4, but I really want to, and it's thanks to the enthusiastic review, not the star rating.

And when I read a review, I try hard not to see the star rating before I finish reading the review. That's why I expected a 5 for Lego: it sounded like a 5.

My favorite site for years now

This comment makes no sense to me - especially in the wake of such an articulate explanation of how they review and rate stuff.

"If the star rating system for movies became an internationally accepted SI unit of viewer satisfaction then people would complain a lot less."

I disagree - mostly because it would be impossible. Movies are art (and science, I guess) and as art they are open to interpretation. Subjectivity! How do you measure the "emotional impact" or the "beauty" of a scene? You can break down a movie, a scene, hell a line or an actor's eye twitch. But how exactly to you measure and quantify all that into something that makes sense?

I love movies because they make me "feel" - good, bad, sad, happy, horny, etc. And I love movie reviews because I like to read how another person reacted to a movie - sometimes as a validation of my experience, sometimes as an opposing view, and more often than not, I'll read quite a few reviews and gaze at the star reviews to get a sense if the movie sounds like "my kinda movie" and if it deserves a watch in the cinema, at home, or maybe...sometime later to pass the time.

And sometimes, if a movie's marketing team did their job, then no number of negative reviews can stop me watching it in the cinema.

Anyway... YMMV

This article is EXACTLY what I've been thinking. It's actually quite uncanny. I've been regularly reviewing films for a little over a year now, jumping between 5 and 10 star ratings several times. I'm currently using 5, but to be honest, I dislike them both.

The problem is that they dictate too much. Not only do I now find myself contemplating how many stars I'll give a film while watching it (which I hate but can't help doing), but others seem to put so much faith in them rather than the actual words which, as you say, is ultimately the most important part.

I'm generally quite a fair, easy to please reviewer - there aren't many films I truly hate - and as such there are a fair portion of films that I award 4 stars. The problem is, whenever I give something 3 stars, people (mainly friends who are trying to get a rise out of me, admittedly) take that to mean I didn't like it, which is completely wrong. 3 stars, for me, means a good film with redeeming qualities, but undeniable flaws. Or something which I liked but didn't find particularly impressive.

More recently, while walking out of a screening of Dallas Buyers Club, my friend (who loved it) asked if I was going to give it 5 stars. I said no, probably 4, and he took that to mean I didn't like the film. I really liked Dallas Buyers Club, but it wasn't 5 stars. Again, as stated in the article, 1 and 5 stars are rarely dished out, otherwise they lose their importance.

I've thought about dropping a score system altogether, but I know readers (myself included) do like it for a quick reference. Anyway, it's all up to the reviewer in question, and anyone who complains about a particular rating needs to realise that people have different opinions. That quote: "Funniest comedy we have seen in years" - 4 stars. Where is the 5 star level set at exactly?" is the perfect example. Maybe it was the funniest comedy in years for them, but it wasn't for everybody. Like me. I enjoyed The Lego Movie very much, but I didn't think it was brilliant. I haven't reviewed it yet, but when I told friends it's on the border but I'd probably give it 3 stars, they seemed to think I hated it. Completely not the case.

Anyway, good article. I'll stop talking now.

The last stand was a 4

(Another) excellent article.

Think of what that would do to TWD season 2! Thing is, I remember good reviews for those episodes, but it's when season 3 tore our eyes out that season 2 REALLY looked bad. (Some will say, all you have to do is look back at season 1, but that's another can of worms)

im a big arnie fan, and enjoy his films but the last stand was never a 4! especially above dredd! which in my eyes was a 4 and last stand a 3. dredd for me was the best film of 2012

I still have not seen either, but probably wouldn't compare the 2. Now the raid was a 4. I actually agree with that rating. What do you think? Are dredd and the raid both 4's?

A great article Simon. At the end of the day, a rating system is a rating system and you could give a film 4 out of 5 or 3 out of 5, but it is down to us the viewers to form our own opinion and rate it how we see fit. As I wrote on the Lego Movie review to a post that is stated above, you can't compare The Lego Movie and Robocop against eachother as they are different types of film.
Good work as always!

5 star ratings are the best way to rate things. I wish everything used 5 star rating if they use ratings at all.
Out of 10 simply does not work. It just ends up that 10/10 are rarely given out and anything below 6/10 is bad thus making 1-5/10 pointless

I give this article 5 stars

Very very well said. Thank you Simon!

Remember years ago seeing reviews that were two-pronged. One for the initial impact (everything from artistic quality to uniqueness and from story to visual splendour), and the other one was for "fun" and "how quickly you would go do it all again". The first one was given by stars and the second one by something else, smileys, I think. The only thing was I don't remember if it was films, or videogames, or books, something else, or all of the above.

Purists liked the star based ratings and pretty much ignored the smileys. People who just wanted to have a fun time (again and again), ignored the star ratings and focussed on the smileys.

FIRM favourites?

I always think that movies are either goof or bad. I mean if you have to rate a movie a 4 over 10 for example , and you keep talking about, for instance, a good performance by X actor but a mediocre plot and a generic direction. Well than you consider that a bad movie, you recon that the movie as a whole fails. The same works for a good movie in the other direction. So 5 stars are more than enough.

Reduce the number of stars to 3 and all problems will be solved. Then its just about "Nay", mediocre and "Yay", and everything else can be read in the review.

A friend of mine was thinking of starting a website for film reviews and he was considering having a star rating but not with stars. He was aware of the difference in genre and had been thinking of implementing a system of icons.

Superhero films would have little Bat symbols or Captain America shields, comedies custard pies, horror zombie heads and so on. His reasoning was that nobody would compare 4 Custard pies against 4 Greek Drama masks. The example he used was Carry on Screaming 5 custard pies, Carry on England 1.

This was essentially as far as he got with his website, but I thought the icon idea had some merit.

think its an indicator of the quality of the reviews when you dont need to look for a rating to work out if the films any good

FNAR FNAR...

I really dislike the star system. Even when reviewing movies myself on flixster(to share with friends & family) I find it hard to have a consistent base level. And that's what it really comes down to, If movie A is your 5/10 and is your base level, then you rate if movie B, C , D is better or worse. By itself a 5/10 wouldn't mean anything comparing against another persons 5/10.

I've now simply resorted to a system of 1-5 stars that represent how much of an effort you should make to view it. Purely from an entertainment point of view. Because even poorly made films, that will win no awards , can be satisfying at times.

5 - This is a must viewing for any Movie buff, a film to add to your library
4 - You should make a decent effort to watch this. Chances are you wont be disappointed.
3 - Don't go out of your way to watch this, but if the opportunity comes up then you might be pleasantly surprised
2 - Take steps to avoid watching this, unless its the last thing on tv
1 - gauge your eyes out, do whatever it takes to avoid

Great article. If the star rating gives a quick overview of the review, though, maybe place it at the top of the page rather than the bottom?
That way the article may seem to explain the rating more rather than deliberating over it (in the reader's mind at least).

As a viewer, when I'm interested in a thoughts in a film, I jump straight to the star rating. But as DoG say, it's a guide. 2 or less and I generally think I won't bother, 3 or 4 I tend to inquire further and normally read the review and 5 stars I think I'll jump right in there. Likewise, Rotten Tomatoes is a great site for useage and it's based on 5 star systems. I personally prefer the out of 10 ranking for TV but for film, star ratings out of 5 work perfectly. This was a fantastic article, very well articulated with interesting and thought-provoking views.

That has some merit but ultimately, you know people are just going to see right through it and look at the numbers.

It's just the way the world is now. Everyone wants an answer swift and condensed with minimum effort; a star rating provides this, actually taking the time to read an review is more time consuming. People nowadays make snap decisions about things from easy answers and star rating gives people that without demanding their undivided attention. When people argue about star-ratings they aren't arguing about the content of the reviews, because, for the most part, that's not what is important to them. Maybe it's just me but that says a lot.

Indeed we all enjoy comparing chalk and cheese. How could you compare a sculpture to a painting? As the article mentions Empire, it's worth noting that they have a disclaimer when it comes to star ratings. They also have something of a safety net. For example, when Godzilla was given the thumbs up at the cinema it raised a few eyebrows. The dvd release a few months later however, was accompanied by a meagre two stars with a short review that said something like 'We are a commercial magazine, we accepted a lot of money for a positive review. Godzilla dies and leaves eggs behind for a sequel that we hope never happens. There, now you don't need to see it. We're sorry. Do not buy this film'. Whether this admission let them off the hook is a matter of opinion. It was a long time ago, and perhaps they wouldn't need the money so much now. Fact remains unless DoG decide to do a home entertainment review or a retrospective later down the line, the cinema review has one shot to try keep everyone happy. The star rating must reflect the content of the review.

I was still a little surprised, Robocop seemed headed toward the all too familiar three stars, but that's how I read it (drunk, and in a Mexican voice just for a laugh- you'll all be trying it so don't give me that look). Would've attracted less of a reaction perhaps, but then Meh of Steel got three and people went nuts (it was a three star film, yet I hated it more than any other of the 120 movies I saw last year).

This is starting to feel like the fifth article to justify the star rating for one movie out of hundreds out this year. It makes it harder to move on, and those four stars are going to keep coming back every time someone wants to undermine the credibility of the site. I'm quite sure it won't stop us all coming here though, so I hope the good people at DoG will keep on trucking, Jack Burton style.

I've never understood why people don't use half stars more. I do and it's suited me for years, and provides the equivalent of an out-of-ten system but still retains the value of being able to give something five stars. Half star: 1, full star: 2 and so on and so forth. Simple.

Star ratings are completely unnecessary. A film review is the opinion of one person, to add a star rating at the end implies that the reviewer thinks his/her verdict is definitive. As long as the review is well written, in depth, and entertaining, the reader can get everything they need from that.

My interpretation to "star ratings", in my opinion, is more so for the movie itself, rather than a comparison to others. Let me explain...and let me take you back to school (shudder!).
When you submitted your english exam, and lets say it was a creative writing exercise, the teacher graded your exam papers based on what YOU wrote/created right? In no way was your exam result based on being compared to another student in your class. You're the class clown (comedy), that girl you stared at all day was the hottie (romance), the depressed goth guy beinhd you (horror), the class dare devil (thriller)...think of your classmates as movie genres and you get the idea of how people should treat the star system.
So.....
The Lego Movie was a 4 Star effort for an animated comedy, Robocop was a 4 star effort for an action film. Some people enjoy action movies more than animated movies and vice versa. To ask if LEgo was better than Robocop, and someone says to recommend one over the other, my response would be "Would you prefer to see an action movie or something funny"......argument solved!

hmmm i enjoyed the raid and obviously the similarities with dredd are there. but for me the raid is more of a 3 where as dredd a 4, probably as I'm a fan of the comics, but again it all comes down to the viewer and there personal opinion. this is what i love about films they get people talking, i don't tend to go on what reviews say, if i like the look of a film ill see it regardless of what the review tells me. i recently went to see american hustle as i thought it looked quite good, it ended up being one of the worst films I've seen in years and can't believe all the hype over it, but again its all down to the viewer.

Dredd was on the other night but I missed the first half. Couldn't do it. So I watched Deathproof, which was also at the middle, and THATS ok lol. See it already anyway. I will not do that on the first viewing, though I've read comic a many order out of.

Great article. I've made far too many decisions to on whether to watch a movie or not based on the star rating.

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