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11 Things Movie Fans Don’t Know About Rotten Tomatoes

If you like to consult the movie ratings on Rotten Tomatoes before you decide whether or not to watch a film, you're not alone! However, what exactly goes into the rating process at this popular website? Here's a peek behind the product.

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rotten tomatoes homepagevia

What is Rotten Tomatoes?

The website Rotten Tomatoes was created for fans of movies and TV shows. The centrepiece of the site is an aggregator that pulls together critical reviews and determines a rating that is meant to inform viewers whether something is “Fresh” (worth watching) or “Rotten” (skip). A writer for Rotten Tomatoes sums up the results in a “Critic’s Consensus” that is either full of praise or totally slays the film in question.

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Wooden five star shape with Chat BubbleYagi Studio/Getty Images

Where can you find Rotten Tomatoes ratings?

It’s almost easier to point out where you can’t find Rotten Tomatoes ratings these days, but a few major partners that Rotten Tomatoes has are Fandango, iTunes, DirecTV, and Google Play, which are sites where you can buy tickets to actual theatre screenings (once movie theatres re-open, of course) or rent films to watch on your own device on your own time.

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frozen ii certified freshvia

What do the ratings mean?

Movies that receive a 60 per cent or higher rating on the Rotten Tomatoes site are considered “Fresh,” while anything that receives a 59 per cent or lower rating falls into “Rotten” territory. Colour also provides an indication of the rating; if you’re looking at a positively reviewed movie, you’ll see a red tomato or a “Certified Fresh” banner if it’s rated 75 per cent or higher, while the duds are going to look like green splats on your screen. Rotten Tomatoes starts generating ratings for movies once they have at least five reviews, and the ratings are subject to change as more reviews are counted.

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Empty Seats At Movie TheaterDaniel Schultze / EyeEm/Getty Images

How the ratings are determined

Rotten Tomatoes brings together reviews to aggregate a rating, but the process isn’t all automatic. “We don’t have an algorithm!” Jacqueline Coley, an editor at Rotten Tomatoes, insisted to Wired. Instead, staffers told Wired, there’s a meeting in the office every two weeks called “Review of Reviews,” where the articles that are shared are, themselves, reviewed to make sure they are actually reviews and therefore fair to include in the overall system.

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Anonymous crowdFotografiaBasica/Getty Images

How the reviewers have changed

In 2018, Rotten Tomatoes began a new diversity initiative that added hundreds of new critics who are women and people of colour to the critics’ pool, and promised more to come, as a response to years of critiques of the predominately monochromatic and male nature of the critics’ pool. The company also started a grant program to help diverse critics attend and cover film festivals, thereby broadening the perspectives of popular criticism.

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Filmmaker's Clapboard On Red Background.Isabel Pavia/Getty Images

Who’s behind Rotten Tomatoes

According to The New York Times, the highly popular movie ticketing site Fandango (itself a unit of NBC/Universal) has a 75 per cent controlling interest in Rotten Tomatoes, but representatives for RT told the publication that the staff operates independently of its corporate parents. Anyone purchasing movie tickets on Fandango can see a film’s Tomatometer rating right on the screen before they buy, which has helped Rotten Tomatoes’ reputation skyrocket.

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Directly Above Shot Of Popcorns In Bowl Against Red BackgroundVesna Jovanovic/EyeEm/Getty Images

How can I become a Rotten Tomatoes reviewer?

In short, you can’t apply to become a Rotten Tomatoes reviewer; not right now, at least. The Tomatometer-approved critic’s application is currently not active on the Rotten Tomatoes website, but you can read about the stringent Tomatometer Criteria that the company has in place to determine whether a critic or publication should be in the crew, which includes such factors as publication size and monthly online traffic. Critics must have a well-established following, whether that’s a readership or a viewership.

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staying alivevia

Lowest-rated movies on Rotten Tomatoes

Dozens of movies have scored zero per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, which is the worst possible rating. Among the more famous of the duds is John Travolta’s Staying Alive, the 1983 sequel to the smash 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever. “This sequel to Saturday Night Fever is shockingly embarrassing and unnecessary, trading the original’s dramatic depth for a series of uninspired dance sequences,” reads the Critics Consensus summary on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s worth a reminder that, good or bad, reviews are always subjective and don’t always correlate to the enjoyment of moviegoers.

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top 100 movies of all time according to rottentomatoesvia

Highest-rated movies on Rotten Tomatoes

The Top 100 Movies of All Time list that is kept on Rotten Tomatoes contains films dating back to Fritz Lang’s 1931 black and white thriller M, which received a coveted 100 per cent Fresh rating, and includes more recent hits, like 2018’s Black Panther and 2019’s Toy Story 4 (which both have a 97 per cent Fresh rating).

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Midsection of friends sharing popcorn while sitting in theaterKlaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Highly-anticipated movies

Rotten Tomatoes is also keeping a list of the 66 Most Anticipated Movies of 2020; staffers are excited about blockbusters like Godzilla vs. Kong, No Time to Die (the next James Bond film), and Pixar’s Soul, to name a few. (Of course, many of 2020’s movies have unfortunately been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and some of the movies still on this list could potentially be delayed as well.)

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Red raffle tickets scattered and piled up on one anotherkevinjeon00/Getty Images

Is Rotten Tomatoes as powerful as you think?

Rotten Tomatoes seems like a now-crucial part of the movie-deciding landscape, but Fandango executives have downplayed its influence on box office performance. “There is no question that there is some correlation to box office performance—critics matter—but I don’t think Rotten Tomatoes can definitively make or break a movie in either direction,” Fandango president Paul Yanover told The New York Times. “Anyone who says otherwise is cherry-picking examples to create a hypothesis.” (Keep in mind that Fandango owns the majority of Rotten Tomatoes.)

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest