People often read film reviews not just for a pithy assessment on whether or not a film is worth their time and money, but for a general score attached that quantifies the review either by itself or in the vast pile of all other reviews.
From a critic’s perspective, obliging on such a request is seldom easy. But here at Cinekatz, we understand that scoring is a quintessential part of writing reviews, for better or for worse. And Cinekatz’s system of scoring films is based on a 10 point scale with the inclusion of decimals up to the tenth.
So we thought it might be a good idea to provide a general explanation for what each range roughly translates to. Please note that none of this is to be taken literally. They’re more like guidelines.
Also, Cinekatz is aware that the manner in which we score films is analogous to the way schools (in America at least) give letter grades. And we would like to stress up front that just because we might give a film a score in the 7 range does NOT mean that it deserves the tantrum that usually follows a C grade. As you’ll see, we consider films in the 7 range to be “pretty good”, not fiascos. To put it another way, we grade films the way your teachers grade homework assignments, not final exams. Do you throw a fit when you get a 7.9/10 on single paper that will aggregately make up roughly 15% of your overall grade? Didn’t think so.
The point is that scores simply aren’t as cut and dry as a lot of people want them to be. They just are.
DISCLAIMER: The films chosen as examples of each score range are chosen based on how most critics and audiences see them. If you have a particular emotion towards any of them and disagree with its placement, we’re happy to see you make a case for such in the comments, but don’t blame the author(s) for putting it there.
9.6+: This film is normatively destined to go down in history as one of the greatest achievements in the history of film. It’s not perfect (no film ever is), but it is a one of a kind masterpiece and an absolute must-see. It is a new hallmark by which all future films belonging to the same genre will be compared to. Films like these are more than just great works of art. They are revelations. Not only can they be watched over and over again with no diminishing returns, but they penetrate our minds, cutting deep, and influence the way we think and the way we perceive art, reality, and our own social consciousness. You need to make seeing this movie ASAP a top priority.
Examples: The Shawshank Redemption (1992), Schindler’s List (1993), Toy Story 2 (1999), & The Godfather (1972)
9.0 – 9.5: This film is a phenomenal cinematic experience that not only represents the best that its genre has to offer, but is also just a great movie in and of itself that pretty much anyone can appreciate. Its problems are reduced to mere nitpicks and what it does right distantly surpasses its missteps that are so few and far between, they’re barely noticeable unless you dissect the film frame by frame. It’s an event film that not only turned out better than expected, but will become instant candidates for your personal collection. So go see it.
Examples: Straw Dogs (1971), The Deer Hunter (1978), Ghostbusters (1984), & Apollo 13 (1995)
8.0 – 8.9: This film is definitely very good and certainly worth recommending, especially if it belongs to a genre that you enjoy or a series that you’re interested in. A film like this will almost certainly have you leaving the theater generally satisfied, but it’s definitely got some issues that keep it from being exceptionally brilliant. Maybe it feels like there are some extraneous limbs or a few missing pieces. Maybe it has some sloppy editing, an acting flub, or some offbeat dialogue here and there. Maybe a couple of its minor characters are a few scenes short of being anything more than plot devices. Still, the film works and it has enough redeeming qualities about it so that these aren’t that big a deal in its grand scheme. If you were at all worried, you can relax. It’s perfectly fine. Check it out.
Examples: Independence Day (1996), Rambo (2007), Edward Scissorhands (1990), & October Sky (1999)
7.0 – 7.9: This film is definitely more good than bad and it’s probably worth watching once, but it’s not something you need to rush to see. Check it out if the genre appeals to you or if its trailers piqued your interest, and who knows? You might like it more than the critic did. But it’s nothing all that special. There are definitely some beats that miss the mark and they’re definitely noticeable but the film probably stands out in some way too. A critic may recommend it, but not with much enthusiasm.
Examples: The Italian Job (2003), Mission Impossible (1996), The Croods (2013), & Ghost (1990)
6.0 – 6.9: This film is dangerously treading the threshold of mediocrity and may be called “almost good”. There’s definitely something in it that works, maybe even beautifully so, and watching the film might have been worth it just for that, but otherwise, there’s not much to say about it. It does enough right to keep it from being a bad movie but its problems – while not necessarily crippling – aren’t exactly nonissues. Maybe there are some plot holes you’d have trouble letting go of. Maybe the ending is underwhelming or the second act is needlessly lengthy and/or a convoluted slog that lacks some cohesive direction. Maybe it’s just really dull, boring, or empty sometimes. Whatever the case may be, a movie like this would not come recommended very positively even if the criticism leveled against it isn’t fire belched from the critic’s mouth. I guess the final word would be – “whatever?”
Examples: The Fast and the Furious (2001), The Rocketeer (1991), Miss Congeniality (2000), & Super 8 (2010)
At what rating do you consider a film unwatchable?
5.0 – 5.9: This film may either be the most forgettable 90 minutes or so of your life or a film that is spectacularly mediocre. Your mileage may vary. Either way, don’t expect any love, as there is something major in the film that has gone very, very wrong. “Not bad” is probably the nicest thing a critic can say about this movie, if he/she is inclined to be so generous. All you can hope for is that you were too predisposed to the material/genre to care about how little of the movie actually works.
Examples: Flash Gordon (1982), What Women Want (2000), Crash (2005), & Frankenweenie (2012)
3.5 – 4.9: This film is somewhere between bad and very bad, with variance not only on the degree but also the kind of bad. It might be the sort of movie a person can appreciate ironically and it may not be the kind of torturous violation of an audience’s dignity that the bottommost category is, but as it stands, it just doesn’t work. Like, at all. If it’s a comedy, it might have its moments but is otherwise useless. It might be the reciprocal of the 6 range, where a good amount of it may be serviceable but all of it fails because of one horrific thing that breaks the film. Or it could be the kind of film that is trying to do something interesting or nuanced – one that may even present a taste or semblance of such – but it either comes ass half-baked or is abandoned in favor of something stupid. Give this one a pass.
Examples: The Expendables 2 (2012), Fantastic Four (2005), Bicentennial Man (1999), & Armageddon (1998)
3.4 –: This film is an unmitigated disaster on just about every level, where the critic has to nitpick in order to find something that actually isn’t as horrible as everything else. It is a strain on the eyeballs and sensibilities of anyone unfortunate enough to have to endure such an abysmal piece of garbage. It’s either a horrific fail of a sincere experiment or something that just shouldn’t have been made at all. If it belongs to a franchise, let the nostalgia for its better predecessors begin (if it hasn’t already), because the chance of it making a rebound after this debacle are slim to none. This film is a complete waste of your time and you should stay as far away as possible from it…for your own sanity.
Examples: Battlefield Earth (2000), Gigli (2003), Skidoo (1968), & Green Lantern (2011)
How do all of you rank movies? Some of you are writers as well, but how do you rate films in every day conversation? Do you have a system?
Do you compare one score to another, in hopes of keeping “up the continuity” or do you just rate a film however you see fit at the time?