Kaitlyn Waller, Staff Writer
Rotten Tomatoes has grown in popularity over the last several years, often being used as the definitive answer for movie watchability. It often eclipses other movie and television review sites such as IMDb or Metacritic in movie advertisements and in entertainment news segments. The website was founded in 1998 by three undergraduates at the University of California, Berkeley and is currently owned by Fandango, an online ticket selling company that is a unit of NBCUniversal, which also owns Universal Pictures. Warner Bros. Entertainment also holds stake in the company.
The review-aggregator website has recently received criticism claiming it trashes box office performances by releasing scores before the movie has debuted in theaters, thereby deterring viewers from seeing a film that has received a “rotten” score. It has also been criticized for possible conflicts of interest and for the apparent lack of diversity in its critics.
When ranking a movie, Rotten Tomatoes uses the “tomatometer,” which is the percent of positive critic reviews given to a movie or television show. A film is considered “fresh” if its score is above 60 percent and “rotten” if its score is below 60 percent. Films are considered “certified fresh” when the film secures a ranking of 75 percent or higher aggregated from at least 80 critics, five of whom are “top critics.”
Aside from the critic score, Rotten Tomatoes also lists an “audience score,” which is the percentage of audience members that positively reviewed the film or television show. The “tomatometer” score and the “audience score” are usually close in percentages, often differing by a mere 10 to 15 percent. Lesser-known films normally do not have a score on the website or, if a score is listed, the score is formed only from a handful of critics.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, critics must fulfill certain criteria to qualify as a critic for the website. Applying critics must be employed at a “tomatometer-approved” publication for at least two years. If an applying critic is an online critic, they must have published no less than 100 reviews across two calendar years at a “tomatometer-approved” publication. Rotten Tomatoes does not specify what a “tomatometer-approved” publication is, but its critics include reviewers associated with Vox, Metro (UK), E!, Boston Globe, Seattle Times, and Screen Rant, in addition to lesser known movie review websites. Rotten Tomatoes also does not specify if its critics are required to have certain backgrounds, such as experience in film theory and history or specialization in the sub-genre of the movie he or she is critiquing.
Is it accurate then, to use Rotten Tomatoes?
I have found the website fairly accurate despite criticisms against it. Of course, there will be subjective views above objective film criteria, whether from interest, fandom, or otherwise. I have enjoyed films with “rotten” scores and have disliked movies with “fresh” scores, but it is usually apparent, even to those who are not “tomatometer-approved” film critics, why the “rotten” or “fresh” score was merited; however, I would modify the website’s “tomatometer” explanation.
As a guide, I have found movies scored under 40 percent to be generally poorly done, whereas a movie at 50 percent could be good or bad depending upon the viewer. Anything ranked 60 percent or higher is generally well-made, whether for plot, cinematography, acting, or otherwise. Overall, regardless of fandom or personal interest, I would posit Rotten Tomatoes a useful reference in finding a quality well-known movie or television show to see.