Data reveals the films where critics and audiences disagree most


Have you ever sat down to watch that film that critics are raving about only to be massive unimpressed? Sure, Mark Kermode might have loved The Florida Project, but let’s be honest – what it really needed was a few more car chases and explosions to liven things up.

In fact, it often seems like critics and ordinary cinema-goers are at loggerheads: They want beautifully crafted tales about people in the olden days having feelings, which elucidates universal truths about the human condition. While we want massive robots hitting other robots.

This kind of stuff always fascinates me – how critics can love or hate a movie but audience reaction is the complete opposite. I first noticed this when I saw Naked Lunch and Barton Fink in 1991. Critics loved the two films so I saw them for that reason alone. I hated both of them.

But then again, I hated Forrest Gump so go figure.

  • Mo

    Like many of the critics I tend to agree with, I go into most big-budget, Hollywood-tentpole movies with my eyes already rolled back, expecting very little in the way of the kind of genuine storytelling that I expect from my favorite small indie productions.

    The former group is the equivalent of empty-calorie candy. The latter is genuine food. “A few more car chases and explosions” aren’t what normally get me interested in the first place.

  • DanielSw

    What “fascinates” me is how much people rely on critics’ and others’ opinions abut ANYTHING!—films, computers, cars, politics, etc.

    And I LOVED “Forest Gump”. 😉

  • wince

    Good critics, critics who have trained (formally or informally) in the field of criticism, are invaluable. That doesn’t mean they’re “right” — most of the fields in which criticism appears are purely subjective and personal. It does mean they can analyze movies/music/art in a way that gives us insight into what we’re looking at/listening to in a way that goes deeper than most of us can.

    That means what we do with what critics write is more important than what they write. We have to read it, we have to understand what they wrote*, and we then have to determine whether we have the same values, for what they’re writing about, as they do. If we don’t, then we can appreciate the critic while still ignoring them (in that instance). If, over time, we determine they consistently have different values than ours, we can stop reading them — they’re not going to help us.

    For me, Roger Ebert was the greatest American movie critic (and I qualify it only because I’m not familiar with foreign movie critics) because he wrote clearly and with humor, his values were evident, and he (almost) always said why he liked or didn’t like a movie, not just that he liked or didn’t like it. That allowed me to decide whether the things that bothered him would bother me. I agreed him more often than not. But sometimes things bothered him that don’t bother me in the slightest (he hated “Sliding Doors,” I loved it).

    Critics, in light of what they do, sometimes come to value “different” as being the same as “good”/”great”. We (and they) have to be aware of that as well. “Fargo” and “Barton Fink” were different in very different ways, but the former was great and the latter was … not.

    So, don’t bash critics in general, the good ones really are doing a valuable service. Just learn enough about them to know which ones to pay attention to, which ones to ignore because they don’t value the same things you do, and which ones to ignore because they’re idiots. And learn to recognize the difference between the last two.

    (Although I didn’t “hate” Forrest Gump, I certainly didn’t see what all the fuss was about. A ‘C’ movie if ever there was one, IMO.)

    *(This means, critics, that if you write incomprehensibly, you’re of no value as a critic. )

  • Meanwhile, I would classify Naked Lunch and Barton Fink as Turing tests. If one doesn’t like them, they’re barely a person, and certainly not weird enough to be interesting to me.

    Forrest Gump was a trash ripoff of Zelig, over-emotional nonsense about an idiot, for idiots.

    Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert were a great pairing, because 90% of the time I liked what Siskel liked, and thought Ebert was an emotional sap afraid of his own shadow. Ebert hated A Clockwork Orange, Siskel loved it; that says everything.

    Now, I check christian fundamentalist review sites; if they hate a film and think it’s the work of their Satan, I’m likely to enjoy it.

  • rick gregory

    Most people go to a movie to be entertained. That doesn’t have to mean mindless junk, but it usually means were not there for Art (though sometime we might be). Critics often look for more than simple entertainment and so the two groups can easily start out with different goals in mind.

    Also, a regular film critic might see 50-100 or more films per year. Most of us don’t do that. I’d bet most people see 10 or fewer movies a year in the theater.

    Finally, they used Metacritic scores which are suspect on several levels (hell, I can go rate a movie that I’ve not even SEEN).

  • Critics don’t always go into a film expecting the same things as its audience.

    Case in point the movie adaptation of the comic book series “Spawn”. Roger Ebert loved it, largely based on it’s style, he cared little about the plot or characters. He dismissed the entire superhero genre as a form of storytelling, and only judged the film on spectacle.

    It took the release of “The Dark Knight”, for Ebert finally see the potential of the genre.