When all that tedious critical analysis is said and done and a film’s narrative mechanics have been thoroughly unravelled, we are still left with our feelings, opinions, and recommendations to express to friends, family, and YouTube comment-section foes.
How exactly are we to convey these sentiments, you ask? With stars? Percentages? Popcorn kernels? Subjective words like ‘good / bad / great / sad / terrible / meh / confusing / made-me-want-to-slit-my-wrists?’
Here at SnootyFilmCritic, they’re conveyed through a patented numerical ratings grid suitable for the modern film scholar. Once assessed, films are graded on a 0 to 10 scale that factors both narrative effectiveness as well as personal like or dislike, because ultimately a 9 in my playbook might only be a 3 in yours (but if this is the case, we probably aren’t going to get along – just FYI).
Selected films enter the grid dead centre at 5. The better the film, the further it moves up the grid towards 10; the worse it is, the further it moves down the grid to 0 (or beyond!). Each rating on either side of 5 possesses an antithetical counterpart with an equal but opposite value (i.e., in order to properly understand the value of a 7, one must also understand the meaning of 3, etc).
Make sense? No? Great – let’s dive in! And before you say it, no, it’s not like IGN’s review scale. What’s IGN? Sounds made up. Anyway…
10 – MASTERFUL. Residing regally at the fabled snow-tipped peak of the grid, the Masterful 10 is a rare pinnacle of cinematic storytelling, one that embodies nigh flawless execution. Epic in scale, sweeping in grandeur, and inspirational to the soul, these films are timeless classics whose viewing experience elevated my love of cinema to new heights and whose very DVD cases I am unworthy to unclasp (ok, maybe not quite, but you get my drift). As a rating it is assigned sparingly and only to those select masterpieces that proved revolutionary in some way, either in cinema as a whole or in my very soul. Its antithesis is the Abysmal 0.
My complete list of 10’s contains The Godfather Parts I & II together, The Lord of the Rings trilogy collectively, Goodfellas, and Citizen Kane. It is highly unlikely that I will ever see another in my lifetime.
9 – EXCELLENT. A more apt name for the Excellent 9 might be the Favourite Class, because that’s what these films are – my all-time favourites and the ones I recommended most enthusiastically to friends, loved ones, strangers, roommates, coworkers, first dates, random bystanders, and emergency responders. They are memorable, thrilling, well-written, smart, engaging… the list goes on. While not necessarily flawless (let’s face it – few films are without CinemaSin), they represent excellent quality, highly effective stories that provide the optimal cinematic experience simply because they succeed in entertaining. These are the films I hunt for throughout the year and am quick to add to my DVD collection. Its own antithetical counterpart is the Shockingly Terrible 1.
Several of my own 9’s are The Usual Suspects, Fargo, Die Hard, The World’s End, Airplane!, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, Gremlins, Alien, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Blazing Saddles, Platoon, Inglorious Basterds, Ghostbusters, The Nice Guys, Cabin in the Woods, Krampus, The Grey, and Animal House.
8 – GREAT. Here’s where the fun begins on the way up the grid. It is with the Great 8 rating that my true enthusiasm for films kicks in, extending up the grid to encompass the Excellent 9 and the Masterful 10. As such, the 8, 9, and 10 together can be considered something of a Triad of Cinema Love, standing in opposition to the 2, 1, and 0 – or, the Triad of Cinema Hate. In essence, an 8 is a highly enjoyable film of great quality, worthy of repeat viewings and likely to be recommended to others. I loved it and would make a point to purchase it on DVD to supplement my collection – but, it’s not included among my favourites. If I had to make a top ten list of anything they wouldn’t be considered before a 9, despite certainly being better than most other movies on the market.
Some such films in my playbook include Deadpool, Argo, Django Unchained, Batman Begins, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, RoboCop (1987), Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, The Departed, Gone Girl, The Prestige, District 9, most Pixar films, and The Social Network.
7 – GOOD. A 7 is what Joe and Jane Moviegoer might consider a standard good film. For myself, I might also dub it ‘the popcorn muncher.’ They are generally enjoyable films that epitomize good, casual theatre-going fun, which makes them the antithesis to the Bad 3. If asked for my thoughts on a 7 I would readily confess that it was good and I liked it, but not with the enthusiasm of the 8 or higher that begs someone to dash out and see it. As far as films go it’s inoffensive and palatable to most of the general public and easy to digest as entertainment, but seldom presents anything challenging for the viewer or even demands they pay attention. In summary – I went to the theatre and enjoyed myself, what more do you want?
Offhand examples might be Bridge of Spies, The Martian, Zodiac, The Lincoln Lawyer, both of Marvel’s Avengers installments to date, Captain America: Civil War, Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, the new Planet of the Apes trilogy, Pacific Rim, and all the Harry Potter films (up to Deathly Hollows: Part II).
6 – DECENT. Decent 6’s fall short of the enjoyable entertainment embodied by the 7. While still falling on the positive side of 5, they’re only just decent – noticeably flawed, semi-memorable, and held back by their very noticeable shortcomings. A 6 is still an okay movie overall and the positive does outweigh the negative, but it’s fairly evident it wasn’t as good as it could have been and prolonged discussions of it generally highlight its faults and shortcomings. I might watch it again, if pressured, but I’m not libel to own it and any recommendations may be halfhearted, expressed with a resigned ‘it was fine,’ or punctuated by a caveat. To truly understand the Decent 6, one must understood it in relation to its counterpart, the Poor 4.
Noteworthy examples are Black Mass, Interstellar, Oblivion, Dr. Strange, The Expendables, Burn After Reading, Hail Ceasar!, War of the Worlds, Looper, and Lord of War.
5 – NONDESCRIPT. The Nondescript 5 is at the dead centre of the grid because, theoretically, it is where a movie sits before it is viewed and an opinion on it can be formed one way or another. However, while a 6-upwards signifies rising positive opinion of a film, and a 4-downwards represents a falling negative reaction, a 5 ultimately failed to generate any emotional reaction of any kind. Movies rated a 5 are so bland, unremarkable, or forgettable they made no impression on me either good or bad. I either fell asleep in my seat, sat blankly before the screen musing on the physics of active paddle-balls, or info-dumped the entire experience on my way out the theatre doors. In many instances I actually had to be reminded of key moments or, worse still, that I had even seen it at all.
Such examples (that took a thorough perusal through my viewing history to recall) include Jason Bourne (2016), American Hustle, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, Captain America: The First Avenger, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Ant-Man, and Thor: The Dark World.
4 – POOR. This one can be tricky, and as such it helps to think of the Poor 4 as the yin to the Decent 6’s yang. Movies in this slot don’t have much going for them, which is why they’ve sadly found themselves on the wrong side of 5. Overall a 4 was bad, but not entirely – it has some evident redeeming qualities mixed into the batter and there were even elements of it that I would say I liked. In better hands or in a superior film, these elements might have shone as a defining attribute instead of merely sticking out as squandered potential. Unlike the 6, here the bad ultimately outweighs the good, but not to such a degree that the movie is completely rotten at its core.
I cite Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, the first Transformers movie, World War Z, The Dark Knight Rises, Thor, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park as notable examples.
3 – BAD. Just as the 7 personifies a standard good film, the Bad 3 personifies a standard bad one. Bottom line, a 3 failed where a 7 succeeded – that is, providing an allotted run time of fun, quality entertainment to Joe and Jane Moviegoer. 3’s are your garden variety bad movies that simply failed to engage with their audience. It doesn’t take much prodding to denounce a 3 as a bad movie that I didn’t like. However, 3’s are not so bad as to illicit hatred – that’s 2’s turf. I would not recommend a 3 to anybody and, in fact, will vocalize my dislike for it in the hopes that others don’t waste their evening viewing it. Now, I realize that many movies I would brand a 3 are considered 7’s by the general public – but I’m the Snooty Film Critic, and the general public is wrong. To summarize, I went to the theatre and didn’t enjoy myself. What more do you want?
Memorable examples from my playbook are Prometheus, Clash of the Titans (2010), Robin Hood (2010), Terminator Salvation, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Monuments Men, Jurassic World, Armageddon, and yes, Godzilla (2014).
2 – TERRIBLE. Here’s where emotion kicks in on the way down the grid – specifically, the emotion of pure hatred. Just as my enthusiasm for great films begins with 8, so my disdain for terrible movies commences at 2. Let’s not kid ourselves, these movies were terrible and I hated them – my time was wasted, my intelligence was insulted, and I wanted my money back. The 2 is where people start vacating the theatre in the second act and taking to Twitter with torch and pitchfork emojis. While a Bad 3 merely makes for an unpleasant evening and might be eventually forgotten, the Terrible 2 sticks with you forever and leaves an acidic taste in your mouth and a dark blot in your memory banks (unless you repress it, which you certainly wouldn’t be faulted for doing…)
Such terrible experiences in my past include Green Lantern, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Reign of Fire, Next, Sharknado, Eragon, 10,000 BC, After Earth, The A-Team, all the Star Trek: Next Generation movies, and whichever miserable Transformers movie had the dinobots.
1 – SHOCKINGLY TERRIBLE. If the shelf of Excellent 9’s preserves my all-time favourite quality films, then the bin of Shockingly Terrible 1’s contains my standout favourite terrible movies – the ones I love to hate. These movies are so utterly unpleasant and devoid of any nutritional value one can only sit in transfixed shock and awe at how comically horrible they really are and wonder who in Hollywood got fired over them. Honestly, I don’t even really hate these movies – I’m basically awestruck at how astoundingly bad they are and in many ways I find myself relishing the prospect of dissecting what exactly went wrong during their production. Under the right circumstances (alcohol), I might be persuaded to watch a 1 again just for the pure spectacle, like how some people enjoy spending their afternoons watching apartment buildings burn just to see what pieces will crumble to the ground first.
Note: not to be confused with the ‘so bad it’s good’ class – trust me, we’re getting to that.
My personal favourites are The Last Airbender, Suicide Squad, Battlefield Earth, Twilight, Batman and Robin, and, yes, The Star Wars prequels.
0 – ABYSMAL. The parallel-universe evil twin of the Masterful 10 – a movie representing the absolute lowest of the low and whose viewing experience is akin to choking to death on a dog turd. Far beyond being poorly written, lazily characterized, and sloppily produced, a 0 is an absolute assault on the senses. Just as a 10 elevates my love of films to soaring heights, a 0 plummets my cynical loathing of bad movies and Hollywood in general to new depths. The very mention of a 0’s title is cause for me fly into a blind rage and start throwing rear-projection television sets from hotel windows. Though this rating is also rarely applied, I’m sadly far more likely to see another 0 in my lifetime than a 10.
To date I’ve only seen two: Man of Steel, which actually destroyed my love of going to the theatre, and Zoolander 2, which actually made me want to die.
-1 – BEST OF THE WORST. Credit where credit is due to RedLetterMedia for their wonderful titular series. These movies plummet past every number on the grid in glorious failure – past the Terrible 2, through the Shockingly Terrible 1, and straight through the Abysmal 0 into a class of their own. This is the almighty ‘so bad it’s good’ category – representing movies that failed so spectacularly they became legends in their own right and generated cult followings. If they were playing Halo online these movies would have inadvertently shot themselves in the face and been docked -1 points for a friendly-fire team kill.
Troll 2, The Room, The Star Wars Holiday Special, and Birdemic are the famous ones. Me personally, I include Independence Day 2: Resurgence in my playbook right beside them.
Half-points. Half-points are awarded when a film or movie has a noteworthy edge that elevates it slightly above its numerical category, without quite giving it a full bump. For instance, I actually give Suicide Squad a 1.5, because though it was like watching a dumpster fire, Margot Robbie is phenomenal as Harley Quinn. The World’s End I award a 9.5, because it treads the line of cinematic perfection – but I’m reluctant to start tossing around 10’s lest they lose their impact.