Expert Ratings- A Cautionary Tale

GB Screenshot

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

A few months ago, I was on a panel discussing the incorporation of user reviews into the K-12 space for things like digital courses and ESAs. One of my fellow panelists expressed skepticism about the entire project until I noted that Rotten Tomatoes allows both “expert” and “user” reviews of movies. With this, he expressed contentment so long as the experts got their own ratings for separate consideration.

It has long been my experience using Rotten Tomatoes however that the user ratings tended to be much more reliable than the critic reviews. Last night I got a double barrel reminder of this when I allowed a 74% fresh critic rating convince me to go see Ghostbusters before the audience score came in (the studio released the film yesterday).

The 44% rating of the audience is incredibly generous. The 74% critic rating reveals some sort of deep divorce from reality. This movie is about as terrible as:

Star Trek V

Apparently 2o+% of people are just unwilling to admit that they paid to see a bad movie. What more proof? The critics nailed this one:

Highlander 2

Sometimes both the critics and the audience gets it wrong, but the critics get it more wrong. This would be the case with Ghostbusters 2016 and:

Jones Sometimes the critics and audience agree on a stinker:


So in the end, I’m happy to have “expert” reviews included, but if 74% of them thought that the hot mess I saw last night was a good movie, it says something important about relying solely on experts. Like everything else in life “experts” are not to be trusted.

5 Responses to Expert Ratings- A Cautionary Tale

  1. Greg Forster says:

    Here I will say a word in favor of the experts. Note that the “reviewers” are divided into “top critics” and “all reviews.” Only the “top critics” really represent expertise here; any schmuck can write a movie review. And as it happens the top critics are divided 50/50 on Ghostbusters – very close to the audience rating!

  2. Ann In L.A. says:

    If you look deeper into the Rotten Tomatoes numbers, something else pops out. If you look just at “Top Critics” which tend to be the reviewers at newspapers and national media sources, they are running 27 good reviews out of 47, for a “Top Critics” average of 57%, much more in line with the public’s current 50% than with the “All Critics” rating of 73%.

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