How Accurate Are Movie Critics?

We review the critic ratings and compare them to public ratings on movies to see how accurate they are and if they are becoming better or worse.

Data & Methodology

We compiled the data on every review on rottentomatoes.com. We were able to collect audience rating, critic rating, production company, MPAA rating, genre and date for every movie listed on the site. The data contains 16,030 titles over the course of the last 100 years.

First, we calculated the absolute difference for each title between the critic rating and audience rating by the MPAA rating and genre. We then found the average of this number across each, MPAA rating and genre and for each MPAA rating and genre.

Finally, we reviewed the above by year to identify if critics are becoming better or worse over time by regressing the annual difference of this number across the years.

Overall Results

We found that the professional critics variation across all titles and years to be 16% (on a scale of 1% – 100%).

By decade we found that critics have become progressively worse from 1970 (14%) until now with a very large jump in the past 2 years (21%).

We can see that even in the 2010’s the trend was becoming worse.

Across all years we found that the critic ratings are becoming worse, from an early variation of 14% to 18% now.

Genre

When reviewing the variation across genres we found that critics were most accurate with Animated films (14%) and Television. They were least accurate with Faith and Spirituality films (23%).

When we reviewed which genres’ reviews are becoming better or worse, we found that the critics over time have become much worse at reviewing Faith & Spiritual films, up from 14% variance to now 25% variance. Critics, over time, became more accurate at reviewing films of the Anime & Manga genre.

Science Fiction & Fantasy has had the most stable variation over the years.

MPAA Ratings

We found that the MPAA rating also generated some differences. NC17 rated movies had the least variance (13%) while PG-13 and Unrated films had the most (17%).

Year over year NC17 films have seen the largest improvement in accurate reviews from critics (17% to 9%) with PG-13 films becoming the least accurate (14% to 17%). R rated films seemed to move the least (a flat 14%).

Number of Genres

Interestingly enough, we found that the larger the number genre’s a film belonged to the more accurately critics reviewed them.

Conclusion / Discussion

Overall movie critics are becoming worse at reviewing films relative to the general public. The largest change (though likely not the driving change behind this due to the relatively small number of titles) is seen in the Faith and Spirituality films. Critics have also become much better at reviewing NC17 films and somewhat worse at reviewing PG-13 films.