More about the Quality of Films

In “The Quality of Films over the Decades,” I compare my ratings of 1,900-plus feature films with the ratings given those same films by IMDb users:


An obvious reason for the difference is that many IMDb users, unlike me, have a strong taste for films of the 1940s through the mid-1970s. I, on the other hand, generally prefer the films of 1932-1942 (the “Golden Age”) to what has been produced since. (My high marks for films of 1920-1931 are based on small samples, and should be ignored for purposes of this discussion.)

It is evident, however, that I am in step with IMDb users with regard to the average quality of films produced from 1975 to 1995. I am less enthusiastic than IMDb users about the output of the last 15 years. (The jump in my ratings for 2009-2010 reflects limited viewing.)

That I am selective in what I choose to view is born out by the following graph:

The blue bars denote the ratings given by IMDb viewers to some 113,000 feature films. The average rating assigned to all of those films is 5.8, in contrast with the 7.1 assigned by IMDb users to films I’ve rated (my average rating, 6.8). The distribution of the red and green bars, relative to the blue ones, attests to my selectivity in choosing films to watch.

It is the difference between the red bars and the green bars that I find most interesting. Because of my selective viewing habits, I have given ratings of 8, 9, or 10 to 13 percent of the films I’ve rated; whereas, IMDb users apply ratings of 8, 9, or 10 to less than 6 percent of the same features. The picture then changes. I am less generous with ratings between 5 and 7, and more willing to apply ratings below 5.

It gives me solace, for two reasons, to know that the average rating for all feature films at IMDb is only 5.8. First, it means that I haven’t missed much by being selective. Second, it means that the average viewer (at least the ones who rate films at IMDb) is willing and able (at least somewhat) to tell what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s indifferent.

Finally, there’s a good reason for being selective: It prevents a sad waste of time. If the average length of the 113,000 features rated at IMDb is 105 minutes (1.75 hours), it would take about 100 years (at five hours a day, five days a week) to watch every film all the way through. That’s a lot of popcorn.