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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tastes of movie critics and tastes of the public

Cat Cinema by TheeErin from flickr (CC-SA)
Continuing last week's post where I noted that Transformers 2 was quite enjoyable even if unremarkable action movie, I'll continue with some analysis of tastes of movie critics versus tastes of the public.

In case you missed the story Aircraft Careers 2 is a movie with huge box office success, decent public reaction, and completely hated by pretty much every single movie critic. Go to the cinema and watch it to see what the controversy is all about ;-)

As proxy for taste of the public I'm going to use The IMDB Top 250 list. I'm interested in what the public actually liked, not just what they were duped into watching by pretty trailers and marketing buzz, and this list is pretty much it. Top 250 list contains movies that were both very highly rated and rated by large number of people, to exclude ones that nobody cares about other than the director and the lead actress, who both voted 10/10.

As proxy for taste of movie critics - The Tomatometer, or more or less a weighted percentage of movie critics that liked a particular movie.
And... it turns out movie critics and public agree most of the time. 18.8% of the top 250 has very rare perfect 100 tomatometer score, 77.6% has extremely good score of 90 or more, 91.6% has still very good 80 or more score - perhaps critics are not as amazed by the movie as the audience, but they liked it anyway. There are just 19 (7.6%) movies with scores in their 70s, and 2 (0.8%) in their 60s - where we can genuinely says the critics were largely unimpressed. Not a single movie has a horrible score like Transformers 2's 19.

Here's the entire list:

Tomatometer
Movies
61
Changeling (#219)
64
Public Enemies (#215)
71
Snatch. (#156), Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (#190)
72
Forrest Gump (#43), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (#188)
73
V for Vendetta (#176)
74
Léon (#35)
75
The Prestige (#83), Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (#114)
76
Braveheart (#102), Crash (#223)
77
La vita è bella (#87), Sin City (#98), Gladiator (#115), The Big Lebowski (#155), The Thing (#174), Big Fish (#232)
78
The Green Mile (#111), The Hangover (#138)
79
Requiem for a Dream (#64)
80
Gran Torino (#76)
81
Fight Club (#21), Oldboy (#120), Dial M for Murder (#200), In Bruges (#204)
83
American History X (#39), Donnie Darko (#130), Into the Wild (#146), Casino (#195)
84
Se7en (#32), Batman Begins (#106), Brief Encounter (#166), Magnolia (#235), Harold and Maude (#248)
85
The Sixth Sense (#140), Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (#142), Gandhi (#164), Scarface (#171), The Exorcist (#209), Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (#230)
86
The Matrix (#27), Platoon (#144)
87
The Shawshank Redemption (#1), The Shining (#52), Twelve Monkeys (#189), Mystic River (#238)
88
Nuovo cinema Paradiso (#88), Harvey (#181)
89
The Usual Suspects (#23), American Beauty (#37), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (#108), Heat (#133), Judgment at Nuremberg (#143), The Graduate (#159), Trainspotting (#170)
90
Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (#45), A Clockwork Orange (#51), The Apartment (#84), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (#150), Hotaru no haka (#196), Network (#226), Arsenic and Old Lace (#236)
91
Saving Private Ryan (#54), Der Untergang (#81), The Elephant Man (#86), The Great Escape (#93), The Sting (#96), Blade Runner (#112), Per qualche dollaro in più (#118), The General (#126), There Will Be Blood (#129), The Deer Hunter (#139), Ben-Hur (#141), Million Dollar Baby (#149), Letters from Iwo Jima (#203), Ed Wood (#212), Bonnie and Clyde (#220), Little Miss Sunshine (#239), Glory (#240)
92
Cidade de Deus (#17), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (#20), It's a Wonderful Life (#31), Paths of Glory (#44), The Departed (#53), Hotel Rwanda (#105), Amores perros (#167), The Lion King (#169), Children of Men (#192), Safety Last! (#218)
93
Memento (#29), Das Leben der Anderen (#56), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (#61), Once Upon a Time in America (#91), Det sjunde inseglet (#103), Mononoke-hime (#128), The Bourne Ultimatum (#151), Le scaphandre et le papillon (#216), Rocky (#244)
94
The Dark Knight (#7), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (#13), Raiders of the Lost Ark (#18), Slumdog Millionaire (#67), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (#68), Touch of Evil (#100), No Country for Old Men (#109), Die Hard (#122), Fargo (#124), Smultronstället (#131), Stand by Me (#161), The Ox-Bow Incident (#194), Duck Soup (#197), The Day the Earth Stood Still (#233)
95
Star Wars (#12), The Pianist (#59), The Bridge on the River Kwai (#69), Reservoir Dogs (#70), El laberinto del fauno (#71), Ladri di biciclette (#94), Star Trek (#99), High Noon (#119), The Big Sleep (#123), Sleuth (#178), Spartacus (#250)
96
Pulp Fiction (#5), Schindler's List (#6), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (#9), Goodfellas (#15), The Silence of the Lambs (#25), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (#34), WALL·E (#42), 2001: A Space Odyssey (#89), Full Metal Jacket (#92), Back to the Future (#95), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (#97), Unforgiven (#113), Ran (#137), Les diaboliques (#145), The Killing (#162), Ratatouille (#163), Groundhog Day (#175), The Princess Bride (#185), Umberto D. (#186), Stalag 17 (#193)
97
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (#10), Casablanca (#11), C'era una volta il West (#19), Up (#22), Psycho (#24), To Kill a Mockingbird (#48), Alien (#49), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (#57), Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (#60), Some Like It Hot (#79), Amadeus (#85), Strangers on a Train (#110), Notorious (#117), It Happened One Night (#132), Yojimbo (#134), Le notti di Cabiria (#147), 8½ (#152), Dog Day Afternoon (#165), Gone with the Wind (#168), Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (#172), The Wild Bunch (#173), The Hustler (#182), The Best Years of Our Lives (#183), The Incredibles (#187), The Lady Vanishes (#198), La strada (#211), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (#213), His Girl Friday (#214), Rope (#217), All Quiet on the Western Front (#222), Patton (#229), Wo hu cang long (#237), Good Will Hunting (#243), In the Heat of the Night (#246)
98
The Godfather: Part II (#3), Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo. (#4), Sunset Blvd. (#26), Apocalypse Now (#36), Vertigo (#40), Lawrence of Arabia (#41), Double Indemnity (#47), Raging Bull (#73), The Wrestler (#104), The Manchurian Candidate (#116), Annie Hall (#136), Life of Brian (#153), The Night of the Hunter (#158), Finding Nemo (#160), Låt den rätte komma in (#191), A Streetcar Named Desire (#206), The Conversation (#207), Rosemary's Baby (#221), Manhattan (#227), Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (#241), Roman Holiday (#242), La dolce vita (#247)
99
L.A. Confidential (#65), Metropolis (#82), La battaglia di Algeri (#201)
100
The Godfather (#2), 12 Angry Men (#8), Shichinin no samurai (#14), Rear Window (#16), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (#28), North by Northwest (#30), Citizen Kane (#33), Taxi Driver (#38), M (#46), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (#50), The Third Man (#55), Chinatown (#58), City Lights (#62), Aliens (#63), Das Boot (#66), Rashômon (#72), All About Eve (#74), The Maltese Falcon (#75), Modern Times (#77), Singin' in the Rain (#78), Rebecca (#80), The Great Dictator (#90), On the Waterfront (#101), Jaws (#107), Cool Hand Luke (#121), The Wizard of Oz (#125), Witness for the Prosecution (#127), Kind Hearts and Coronets (#135), Le salaire de la peur (#148), The Grapes of Wrath (#154), The Gold Rush (#157), The Terminator (#177), The Kid (#179), Toy Story (#180), Shadow of a Doubt (#184), The African Queen (#199), Anatomy of a Murder (#202), The Adventures of Robin Hood (#205), King Kong (#208), The Lost Weekend (#210), Sweet Smell of Success (#224), The Philadelphia Story (#225), Frankenstein (#228), Great Expectations (#231), Laura (#234), My Man Godfrey (#245), The Red Shoes (#249)


If you hoped to see some overmarketed garbage among the public-beloved-but-critically-panned movies, sorry to disappoint you. I'm surprised by how many movies that won Oscars for the Best Picture are there - Braveheart, Forrest Gump, and Crash, plus some nominations like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

I haven't seen all the movies critics disliked, but for the ones I've seen I have no idea what was their problem. In particular - Fight Club? Léon? V? The original Matrix? Kill Bill? In Bruges? What the heck critics? These are masterpieces of the modern cinema!

To summarize:
IMDB's unwashed masses and Rotten Tomatoes' distinguished critics mostly agree, and when they don't IMDB tends to be right, so keep using IMDB.

5 comments:

Quickshot said...

An interesting conclusion and yeah, no idea why the critics some times don't like it then...

Mike said...

very interesting! i'd be curious to see how the imdb list matches up with video/dvd sales, since those are the movies i'd guess people return to over and over, and maybe mentions of films in academic texts, journals, et c (someone did this with art, finding picasso was the most influential by paintings included in books on art--something like that.

taw said...

Mike: It's surprisingly difficult to find high quality data on the Internet. Usually I have to write quite a bit of Ruby scripts to screenscrap, extract, and process the data to get anything bloggable ;-)

Mike said...

well you've certainly done a great job with this post! similarly, i've found it hard to find out numbers of book sales--i thought it would be easier to get that kind of information.

taw said...

As far as I know information on book sales is not public, and you have to pay some big money to get access to it.

As far as I remember movie sales data is more available, but I never needed it, so I don't know for sure.