Make Your Picks

Rating films is hell


Sorry if I'm rude but I'm right
How do you even create and maintain a good rating system when you've seen some of these films 10 years ago and others 10 hours ago?

How do you reevaluate them without rewatching them and keep maintaining a well-established, maintainable rating system for decades when even your very taste changes during that time?

How do you fight recency bias and primacy bias?

How do you even pick a few favorites out of hundreds of absolute masterworks?

How do you apply well-defined policies to film ratings when the movies are so disparate?

How do you fight the fact you always rate stuff in comparison to everything else you've seen so you are naturally bound to underrate great movies when you're starting out and possibly overrate them later on?

How do you translate ratings in comparison to the rest of the given filmmaker's filmography versus ratings in comparison to the rest of the films you've seen, e.g., it's not as good as another one from that director so one is 9 but another 10 vs. compared to all other movies I've seen both deserve a 10?

How do you deal with the fact you continuously think you underrated some films and endlessly compare them to other films of the same rating and then to films of a rating one star higher, trying to reevaluate them? Also, connected to this, how do you rate the tendency of a weaker film to stay in your mind versus the tendency of a better film not to stay in your mind as well?

This, and many other questions. Rating films is hell.

PS: Giving up rating films altogether is a cop-out.
Look, I'm not judging you - after all, I'm posting here myself, but maybe, just maybe, if you spent less time here and more time watching films, maybe, and I stress, maybe your taste would be of some value. Just a thought, ya know.

First things first, I would rather read a review, blurb, write-up, whatever than just read a rating. A rating tells me nothing. That said, I do acknowledge that ratings are useful for metrics, rankings, lists, etc.

As far as "recency bias" and the like, I take the rating (and review) as a historical account of how I felt when I watched the film. If I'm looking back at one of those ratings, then I try to weigh down how I feel *now* about that film and adjust whatever list or ranking accordingly.
Check out my podcast: The Movie Loot!

PS: Giving up rating films altogether is a cop-out.
I disagree with this, but you already made my case by addressing numerous reasons why movie ratings are too complex and confusing to be an accurate representation of one's opinion of the film. Like Thief said, your review is more accurate at communicating your thoughts on a film than a number.

Regardless, I rate movies, not necessarily because I think they communicate my opinion of the film to everyone reading my rating, but because it helps me keep track of which movies I loved, liked, disliked, etc. and how likely it'll be of my rewatching them.

I pick a rating that feels right in the moment and don't think too much about it.

I pick a rating that feels right in the moment and don't think too much about it.

Sorry if I'm rude but I'm right
I would rather read a review
Yeah, but you won't be reading 10,000s reviews to find out a film worth watching. Ratings are a nice shortcut and even if you want to read the review, you'll probably read the review of a high-rated film.
If I'm looking back at one of those ratings, then I try to weigh down how I feel *now* about that film and adjust whatever list or ranking accordingly.
Fair because it allows you to see how well the film stays in your memory and heart. But adjusting the ratings of thousands of films is always weary and time-consuming. And then you still have to compare them to kind of decide whether your ratings are fine. As in, if you liked Movie A more than Movie B and Movie C more than B but less than A, then ideally, you'd rated them A - 8, C - 7, B - 6. But when you've rated thousands of films it gets harder because you also have movies D to Z and then you start the alphabet over and over again to the point of not really remembering half of these films... And if you want to rewatch them? Sure, you can rewatch one or ten or even a hundred but not ten thousand of them. Because even if you do, by the time you have, you'd still have changed as a person. The main takeaway is, I guess, that ratings are never perfect. And so aren't reviews because they, as you said, only show what you thought about the film when you watched it. Also, there's the thing of too many high ratings. You can't love every single film. But I love every other film I watch. This makes it harder to have a rating scale that covers all ratings.
Regardless, I rate movies, not necessarily because I think they communicate my opinion of the film to everyone reading my rating, but because it helps me keep track of which movies I loved, liked, disliked, etc. and how likely it'll be of my rewatching them.
Maybe here's my problem. I love too many movies.
I pick a rating that feels right in the moment and don't think too much about it.
Yeah, I've been doing this for years and it's probably the only way not to get crazy. But when I look back at some of my ratings, I do feel some of these films should've been rated higher. But then I look at more ratings and decide they shouldn't. But maybe some of them should. And all the thinking starts all over again.

I pick a rating that feels right in the moment and don't think too much about it.

I think that this is the right approach. We all say how we feel about it "right now." In the average of our ratings we at least come to possess a sort of snapshot of our collective appraisal of a work at the time that we rated it. It's a discussion that never ends.

By my lights, if we're playing fair, we have to consider what the film was, what it was meant to be, and how it was taken to be at the time of its release. Was Star Wars groundbreaking and amazing for its time? Hell yes. Is it the greatest thing sliced bread now? No. And you can't fairly judge Star Wars by the films that it inspired by raising the bar.

There are, therefore, two questions. One is, "Was this a great film?" This question is empirical and historical. Our answer will be found in critical reviews, public discussion, private diaries, letters, official awards, box office receipts, etc., of the time. The question is not that of OUR appraisal, but rather THEIR appraisal. The other questions is, "Is this a great film?" and to know this we can simply offer our most honest commentary and appraisal in the moment.

If we wish to go deeper than this, then we have to form a community which intersubjectively agrees upon standards of interpretation and evaluation which will be regulative of our discussion. And these only hold good so long as we exist as a community and so long as our community agrees to these standards.

I don't rate for quality. Quantifying the quality of a film is a fool's errand.

So I just use it as a short hand for my reaction:

5/5- loved it
4/5- really liked it
3/5- liked it
2.5/5- meh
2/5- didn't like it
1/5- hated it

There's MASSIVE quality disparity between movies I love but who cares. I do love Road House and Andrei Rublev so 5's they get.

I pick a rating that feels right in the moment and don't think too much about it.


I don't really care if the ratings pan out upon comparisons because they can't. To me it is a snapshot of how much it fulfills what I'm looking for in a movie. Not only would something that in that moment I believe is seemingly perfect get a five (Passion of Joan of Arc) but so does an obvious piece of junk like the Polonia Brothers Hallucinations. Not because that is perfect, because come on, but because at that time and that moment, I was ecstatic that such an imperfect thing was there for me to watch. And it was a perfect viewing experience. Maybe if I watched it the next day it would have been a three. And that doesn't matter nor does it keep me up at night

A rating is just a snapshot of a moment and can't reasonably function as anything more.

I don't actually wear pants.
Well if you can't recall it well, why not watch it again? Then you'll have seen it around ten hours ago and can feel better about giving it a number. Really I give numbers based on how much I like the movie, and I have a loose guideline that goes with the numbers, and I'm fine. One thing is that you are allowed to change your mind. Maybe the effects have worn off, and you decide, once the dust settles, it isn't as good as you remember, go ahead and change it. There are zero rules for rating films. You just do whatever works for you.
Follow Pants' Link and Be Blessed by Heaven
Thanks again, Mr Portridge.

I have a 20-dimensional rating system for movies and refuse to use any site's rating system that doesn't support it.

Or I cave and use letterboxd's two dimensional system.

Which, the honest answer is, going with the knowledge that the value is going to be flawed, I've noticed on the 5 star rating system, anything I choose has a margin of error of +/-1, and thinking through the consequence that that might mean something with 3 stars might be as good as something with 5 stars in some circumstances, I've found that if I really like something in a notable way, I'll rate it 4 stars or higher. Less than that, I find 3-3.5 stars to be so uninformative, I just fall back to the like button to note if I found myself enjoying it or not (3-3.5 covers both "meh, it was alright, I guess," to, "it was interesting, and I enjoyed watching it in the moment, but I don't know if I can call it good," which are two completely types of in-betweenness of quality that highlights why that rating is useless to me). And there are some movies over the years that were probably 4+ that I didn't know to what degree I felt about them, so I didn't give them a star rating and simply said "liked," on them.
I try not to feel so trapped by previous ratings of a film to not change the rating on rewatches. Especially for ones that feel like they've settled more in my opinion of them. I'm becoming more comfortable with the idea of just giving those movies 4 stars with the knowledge my opinion of them might be higher, but just have the fact I have them 4 stars to be some marker of quality.
I also watch a lot fewer movies, so I don't have to scroll back through things.

Ratings are the worst evaluation system...except for all the rest.

They're a useful and necessary shorthand. But like all useful and necessary shorthands, they elide a lot of nuance and will inevitably be referenced thoughtlessly or vapidly by others sometimes.

Anyone who is capable of getting anything from your "full" reaction to a film is probably going to be thoughtful enough not to overreact to a facile rating shorthand anyway, so I don't think you really lose that much with them.

I've got a masterlist of 10,000 albums rated from best to worst, and after ten years of working on that list, it comes down to this: gut instinct evolving from the experience of each album I listen to. Always hold onto the experience. And when your ratings system down change every so often, it will be time for a few re-evaluations, but choosing what to re-evaluate also relies on gut instinct. When you're sure an album doesn't need to be re-evaluated, focus on everything more questionable than the rest.

The same applies to my list of all 2000+ films I've seen. Right now, with that list specifically, I don't feel that any movies need to be re-evaluated, save switching Tarzan's position to the 85/100's.

I enjoy rating movies as a personal barometer. Like making lists and it helps me recall what I saw and the experience. I donít put any stock in it past the joy, which is important to me. Itís like rating Joe Montana vs Tom Brady. Fun to kick around, but ultimately meaningless.

Victim of The Night
I never rated films, ever in my life, until I recently started submitting my long-winded reviews for inclusion in the Reviews section, which I am told is made easier for the mods by rating.
So I did my best with a system I absolutely do not believe in.
I almost never watch films that I don't feel reasonably confident going in are going to be pretty good except for my deep-dive genre movies. So it becomes hard to parse anything. If the floor of what I watch is 4 and the ceiling is 5 and the rating system only has 4, 4.5, 5, how do I parse the hundreds of films I watch?

10- love it
9- love it. but something bothers me
8- favorite of mine
7- good
6- worth a watch
5- waste of time, but not too bad
4- bad, but I see why others could like it
1 to 3- terrible

That's the reason I only rate films in this forum, because it's something that will be lost in time, a month from now, there will be 10 to 20 pages above my rating, no one will remember, or care. The more knowledge and experience one acquires about something, the higher your standards will be; what you did a year ago, today, might not be in accordance. You won't see me rating films on Letterboxd, it's just nonsense; I only have three ratings: half a star for the dislikes, a heart for the ones I liked, five stars for my favorites of all time, that's it.

Who feels compelled to rate and log everything they've seen? Do you do this? If so why?...and what happens if you skip rating a movie now and then?
I log and rate every movie I watch on IMDb and Letterboxd. It helps me keep track of what I have seen and what I thought of it. I havenít skipped logging a movie since I started using IMDb. If I skipped logging a movie, I would cry 😢 (not really)