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Do You Think Like a Critic or the Average Moviegoer?

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | December 22, 2010 |


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Not all movie reviewers are fortunate to have a readership whose opinions align well with their own, a notion that the exercise I embarked upon today elucidated. Critics and so-called "average moviegoers" don't always agree obviously, and often the difference of opinion is wide. While I'd say that a critic's opinion and that of the "average moviegoer" align (within 10 percent) on about 65 percent of films, there's plenty of cases where audiences think much more highly of a film and vice versa. I think we're fortunate that our readership, for the most part, is better aligned with the average critic, which is to say: You have a modicum of discretion.

You don't know how rare that is.

In examining Rotten Tomatoes critics' score and comparing it to the average percentage score from "aveage moviegoers," (or at least those who read Rotten Tomatoes) a few things stood out. Critics and audiences are more separated when it comes to broad comedies (like Adam Sandler movies), action pics, and especially movies geared toward young women (which makes sense, if you think about who the average critic is: Older white men with beards). Critics and audiences are more closely aligned when it comes to documentaries, which also makes sense because critics probably make up 80 percent of a documentary's audience. Anecdotally, most films that received only average scores from critics also received average scores from audience members, while most of the awards contenders this year (The Fighter, Black Swan, The King's Speech, The Town, etc.) also fared just as well with audiences as they did with critics, which is probably why they're receiving so many awards.

It's interesting to me: I know that a lot of people are inclined to call film critics pretentious elitist, and obviously I'm biased because I am one, but in 18 of the 20 instances below, I agree more with the critic's score and I think that our readers would probably, as well. (And this post is by no means an attempt to prompt a culture war. It's the holidays, for God's sake).

Anyway, I was fairly surprised by the top two films here, two of the worst reviewed films on the site this year, and it makes me wonder how far out of the "mainstream" we can occasionally be. I guess it does, however, give the Golden Globes some credibility with audiences, at least.

Anyway, here at the ten movies released in 2010 with the biggest positive differential between moviegoers and critics, that is: Movies that were rated substantially higher by audiences than critics.

1. Skyline 14 percent (critics), 75 percent (audience) (61 percent differential)

2. The Tourist 21 percent (critics), 78 percent (audience) (57 percent differential)

3. Grown Ups 10 percent (critics), 61 percent (audience) (51 percent differential)

4. The Last Song 19 percent (critics), 67 percent (audience) (48 percent differential)

5. For Colored Girls 32 percent (critics), 77 percent (audience) (45 percent differential)

6. Remember Me 28 percent (critics), 71 percent (audience) (43 percent differential)

7. Burlesque 37 percent (critics), 76 percent (audience) (39 percent differential)

8. Life As We Know 29 percent (critics), 68 percent (audience) (39 percent differential)

9. Dear John 28 percent (critics), 66 percent (audience) (38 percent differential)

10. Valentine's Day 17 percent (critics), 54 percent (audience) (37 percent differential)

Conversely, here are the nine movies that had a significantly higher score from critics than they did with the average moviegoer. I would side with critics on 8 of these, but I can definitely see where audiences are coming from with regard to The American and, especially, Tiny Furniture. I don't think either were badly made movies, but I didn't find them very entertaining. Notice, too, that with the exception of The American, all of these movies were liked by audiences, just not as much as by critics.


1. Splice 74 percent (critics), 38 percent (audience) (-36 percent differential)

2. The American 65 percent (critics), 38 percent (audience) (-27 percent differential)

3. Tiny Furniture 79 percent (critics), 52 percent (audience) (-27 percent differential)

4. Cyrus 80 percent (critics), 55 percent (audience) (-25 percent differential)

5. Please Give 88 percent (critics), 64 percent (audience) (-24 percent differential)

6. Piranha 3D 74 percent (critics), 51 percent (audience) (-23 percent differential)

7. The Kids Are All Right 94 percent (critics), 75 percent (audience) (-19 percent differential)

8. The Crazies 71 percent (critics), 55 percent (audience) (-16 percent differential)

9. The Ghost Writer 83 percent (critics), 68 percent (audience) (-15 percent differential)



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