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I recently visited IMDB and I was shocked to see that "V for Vendetta" and "The Avengers" share the same rating which is 8.2. I could not believe it, like a movie with social and political impact like V for Vendetta and a movie which is no doubt an entertaining one but will not be remembered after two or three years. I know this question is rather on subjective side but still I had to ask.

So is there any credibility at all in the IMDB ratings? Are they just, like many other polls, a subjective list of things the public can remember seeing recently? Are they better than other ways of rating movies?

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You are right, this is highly subjective, considering V for Vendetta has probably been forgotten by the masses while the Marvel films have a longer shelf-life. That said, each to their own opinion :) It should also be noted that the IMDb ratings are heavily influenced by fan campaigns and even production companies - so they really can't be relied on for objective opinions of the films. –  Nobby Dec 20 '13 at 16:04
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@matt_black "The mechanisms used to create the ratings can, to some extent, limit subjectivity and a discussion of those mechanisms is not itself subjective." - Might be true (provided the question is completely reworded). But even then it's still off-topic to discuss the rating mechanisms of some arbitrary third party site. –  Napoleon Wilson Dec 20 '13 at 16:52
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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about some site's internal ranking mechanism, and not about a movie or a TV show. –  Vedran Šego Dec 20 '13 at 17:48
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Yes don't feel bad about the question - but it should be reworded to be less subjective. Please flag to be reopened. –  iandotkelly Dec 20 '13 at 18:08
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All ratings are based on people's opinions and such opinions do differ with each other. I have seen several Oscar-awarded movies and wonder later on why or how they got the award. Ratings do provide a general idea but you should like what you like. –  Farhan Dec 20 '13 at 20:02
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3 Answers

It is credible insofar as the viewing public is the arbitrator. Anyone can vote, and since more people like blockbusters and franchise movies than independent or foreign films, the votes reflect that. The ratings are only as useful as box-office receipts. They measure popularity, not importance or quality.

Plus, I think Rotten Tomatoes does a better job by having a critic's score and a user's score. Hobbit 2 got 74% from critics and 87% from users. I feel that gives a better overall view.

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I have to agree with this answer, when Dark knight briefly topped IMDB ratings when it came out. I cast 4 votes myself for the movie. –  Dredd Dec 20 '13 at 17:33
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The ratings used on IMDB are not just straight votes from anyone who chooses to participate. They are, to some extent, protected from the short term whims of the masses who find a particular popular movie to be good. The ratings in the top 250 are also adjusted to some extent to account for the number of people voting and the total number of votes cast in the list. Also, only regular voters count in the top 250.

These adjustments make the ratings more consistent and somewhat more "objective" than would be obtained by just counting votes from anyone with an equal weighting.

IMDB explain thus:

The formula for calculating the Top Rated 250 Titles gives a true Bayesian estimate:

weighted rating (WR) = (v ÷ (v+m)) × R + (m ÷ (v+m)) × C

where:

  • R = average for the movie (mean) = (Rating)
  • v = number of votes for the movie = (votes)
  • m = minimum votes required to be listed in the Top 250 (currently 25000)
  • C = the mean vote across the whole report (currently 7.0)

for the Top 250, only votes from regular voters are considered.

Overall I think this enhances credibility and consistency. But perfection is impossible and there will always be some subjectivity and we will all have scores we strongly disagree with.

On the other hand there can never be a perfect scale of merit on which we will all agree so we should never expect that. IMDB rob ably does a better job than most.

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The Shawshank Redemption is the best movie of all time? Citizen Kane (at #52) barely beats out The Dark Knight Rises (#54)? I call hijinks on any credibility to IMDb's ratings. –  Meat Trademark Dec 20 '13 at 17:27
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The ratings are a rich source of subjective disagreement for individuals. They are far from perfect. But they are way better than just some random unweighted poll. There are many old movies in there like Casablanca (26) and many obscure foreign movies of limited release like The Secret in Their Eyes (147). So it looks a lot better than some random poll of things people can remember from the last few years. –  matt_black Dec 20 '13 at 18:03
    
It's also probably better than listening to what the critics have to say ... –  Paulster2 Dec 21 '13 at 15:12
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The IMDB rating is highly subjective. The arithmetic used for averages or exclusion of voters for the top 250 are a way to adjust the ratings to misuse or exceptional values. But they work on the elementary data point which is bluntly: How many "stars" do you give this movie?

This is not an objective data point in any way. It isn't even explained what this value should express. Is the user expected to rate the movie quality, as "objective" as possible for him? Or should a express if he liked the movie? Overall or will certain special features influence the overall rating (e.g. the presence of a favourite actor or a brilliant soundtrack in an otherwise "bad" movie)? There are movies I love but I know they are of low quality in general. I like them because of a certain song in the soundtrack or a special memory they raise. For me those are ten-star movies. By any quality measures or how I would estimate them to be liked by others some of them are at best mediocre. Other movies I have to admit are technical and narrative brilliant, influenced the movie world - and bore me to hell. What rating should it get from me? I seriously don't know.

The basic question is not only highly subjective but also unclear. Without explanation the user enters a value of one to ten "stars". It is completely up to the user what this means to him. Without any doubt your question about objectivity can be answered only with no, it is not objective at all.

But you ask for credibility at all and better ways of rating.

IMDB is the most famous movie site (by my estimation). Even lesser known movies get some attention there. But as always most attention is by fans. Popular movies with a high fan base get much more attention than others, and mostly positive. Just look at the "top" list (or the "bottom" list for the same reasons). It seriously differs from "best of" lists of established institutions, critics, or media. The proportion of fandom movies (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Pulp Fiction, Matrix...) at the top is definitely higher. This doesn't mean one is "right" or "wrong" but the difference is apparent.

The alternative are "qualified" reviews, e.g. averaged critics by professionals who tend to be more unbiased against fandom. This is what sites like Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes do. Panels like the Oscar committee or are also an alternative.

The problem here is in selecting the critics who participate. If you select a small homogeneous group it will be biased to certain movies. Select a panel of Swedish intellectuals to decide over the "best" (by certain criteria) literature in the world in the last year and you will get a high proportion of Swedish literature. Their expertise with e.g. Chinese literature may be not so high.

I think that sites like Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic do a good job of averaging it out. You can get a "popular" vote aside of the critics vote to see how they differ; and they often do. A successful movie doesn't have to be a technical or narrative good one. That doesn't make it less enjoyable but influences the typical "popular" vote. And that is what IMDB delivers.

So what rating system is "best" depends highly on what is "best" for you. That is a little bit vicious, of course. I personally think that you should find and follow a few bloggers, professional or not, that you like and that typically hit your taste. That is highly subjective but after all enjoying a movie is highly subjective. Apart from a very rough estimation I don't see much value at all in a single aggregated rating value without explanation of its consistence. Discussing why one movie is a 7 and another an 8 is beyond my comprehension.

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