My Movie Review Rating Scale
I’m going to start doing more film reviews here on my blog and I’m going to be using my own movie review rating scale. Rather than repeat it in every blog post about movies I’m writing this article that I can link to from all my reviews. This lets me go into more depth into how I designed my ranking scale.
Rating systems get used by a lot of reviewers, but I don’t think a lot of thought goes into most of them. My rating system has set criteria for each grade and is probably harsher than most rating systems because I want to use every number between zero and ten. Most movies will land between three and seven with only the very best films getting an eight or higher and only the very worst films getting a two or lower.
0/10 Unwatchable / Terrible
A movie only gets a zero if I can’t finish it. If it was so bad I stopped watching then it automatically gets a zero. Otherwise a movie will get at least a one out of ten no matter how bad it is.
1/10 Hard to Watch / Very Bad
Just because I finished watching the movie doesn’t mean I enjoyed it. If I hated watching it and struggled to finish watching it that means it’s a one out of ten. This might be because the movie is really boring or just complete nonsense. It might be full of jokes that aren’t funny or because the characters are completely unlikeable. Bad movies will usually get a two out of ten but if they are painful to watch then they only get a one out of ten.
Perhaps the biggest sin a movie can commit is to be completely forgettable. If I can’t remember anything about the movie as soon as the credits start rolling then it’s a two out of ten. These aren’t the movies I hated watching, just the ones I didn’t care about.
Most of the movies that get a two out of ten will be bad movies, but not all of them are. Sometimes I just want to watch a dumb action movie and don’t really care how good it is. A film can satisfy that need but fail to make any sort of impression on me. These films also get a two out of ten.
3/10 Not Bad / OK / Some Memorable Moments
If a two out of ten is forgettable, it should be no surprise that anything above a two has something that I remember. It might be jokes that made me laugh, one great action scene or even great special effects. It doesn’t matter that the rest of the film is terrible if there is at least one thing the film did well enough to stick in my memory.
The quintessential hallmark of a three is that I enjoyed watching it but don’t care if I never watch it again. Perhaps I’ll watch a clip on youTube of that one great part that I remember but I probably won’t watch the entire thing again. Perhaps it was a movie I watched so I could tick it off a bucket list but it wasn’t my cup of tea. There are plenty of reasons I might have enjoyed a film I might not want to watch again.
It gets trickier if the film is part of a big franchise like the Marvel Cinematic Universe or James Bond. Here getting a three suggests this is a movie I might consider skipping when watching a marathon of the whole series and I might only watch it for completeness.
Getting a three out of ten was pretty straightforward. Just one good scene can be good enough to give a movie a three. To get a four out of ten the movie as a whole needs to be memorable and enjoyable. The movie might still be inconsistent and even terrible in places but as a whole it must be enjoyable. These are movies I would consider watching again but not so good that this is guaranteed to happen. There will still be flaws that stop me getting too excited about watching this movie again, but enough positives that I enjoyed watching it and would probably watch it again eventually.
If a four out of ten is part of a larger movie franchise then it is one I would never skip when re-watching the entire series, but not a movie I would get excited about watching again.
The quality starts to really improve once we hit five out of ten. A five out of ten is a movie I definitely want to watch again. I am OK waiting a long time before doing so, but if I suddenly remember this movie in ten years time I’m likely to be excited to watch it again.
This is also where we start to get films I might recommend to other people. A five out of ten isn’t a movie I would recommend to most people, but it might be a film I recommend to the right person.
Movies that get a five out of ten are often the most interesting to talk about. There might be something that makes them special whilst also being flawed or even difficult to watch. If a film has an excellent and completely novel concept but the execution doesn’t quite work, then it’s quite likely to be a five out of ten. This is also where weird films often end up if I enjoyed them but they aren’t good enough to recommend to anyone apart from the most open minded people.
6/10 Very Good
To reach the next level a film must be one I am more certain about watching again in the near future. This is a much higher threshold for a film to reach and I’m much less likely to tolerate any flaws when giving a six out of ten. However this is still a movie I am hesitant about recommending to a wider audience. I might strongly recommend it to the right person or give muted praise to that wider audience. This is one of the hardest grades to pin down because I must be confident about watching it again but not so blown away that I am strongly recommending the movie to lots of other people. This grade is for films that fall halfway between the two grades either side of it.
Once we get to seven out of ten we are talking about films I strongly recommend. If a film is merely very good my praise will be muted, but when a film is great? Then it’s so good that I probably have lots to say and multiple reasons for recommending it. Expect the quality of the whole film to go up another level. Films are also much more likely to be so good that they get nominated for awards and possibly even winning awards. If they aren’t, this is likely to be a film which I think deserves greater recognition.
Sometimes it helps to compare a film to other films in the same genre. If a film belongs to some niche genre then a seven out of ten usually means it’s one of the best in that genre. Of course in larger genres with more competition, the pinnacle of the genre will probably get a higher grade. Here a seven out of ten means it’s amongst the best films in the genre without being at the very top.
8/10 Excellent / Films I Love
There are two ways to get an eight out of ten. The first is to simply be a movie I love and one that I can watch over and over again without getting bored. If a movie meets that criteria then it automatically gets an eight out of ten, even if it is deeply flawed. This is my rating system and if I love a movie it gets at least an eight.
The second kind of eight is a film that is just clearly excellent. It won’t be a film I love and might be in a genre I usually avoid but I still have to give the film a grade that reflect it’s brilliance. These films are often critically acclaimed and widely recognised as excellent movies. They might be films that transcend their genre and attract an audience that wouldn’t normally watch that kind of movie. However a movie qualifies for this grade, it will be an excellent movie from start to finish. it will also be one that shines in many different areas, from the acting, to the writing and the cinematography. Getting an eight out of ten should be no easy achievement.
Everything I said about eight out of ten applies here too. There is only one real difference in the criteria to get a nine out of ten. To get this grade a film must be so good, that as soon as I finish watching it, I just want to watch it again immediately afterwards. I rarely actually do this, but if I find myself thinking about doing so, that is usually a good sign that a movie deserves a nine out of ten. I mentioned two ways for a film to qualify for an eight out of ten. If a movie gets a nine out of ten it will typically be both a film I love and a film that is clearly excellent.
I’ve tried to make my ratings somewhat objective but this one is definitely subjective. There are whole genres where a movie cannot get a nine out of ten because I personally don’t enjoy the genre enough. For example if a film is too intense or depressing then I’m much less likely to give it a nine. On the whole though this is a very effective way of finding the crème de la crème. I find it a very reliable way of working out which movies are my absolute favourites.
10/10 Possibly my Favourite Movie of all Time
The final grade is one that is almost impossible to get. Being exceptional isn’t enough. It has to be a genuine candidate for my favourite movie of all time. These films are probably so good that I wouldn’t change a single thing about them. I mentioned that being a nine out of ten was somewhat subjective. This is even more true for a ten out of ten and this is quite likely to be a film I have a very deep and personal attachment to. Another common theme here is that it’s a movie that changed the way I view movies or make me wish I could make a movie. This is a very difficult grade to get and only a handful of movies are ever going to be considered for this grade. If I’m not sure whether a film is a nine or a ten, it gets a nine. Only my absolute favourite movies are eligible for this grade so don’t expect to see many ten out tens.