Movie Critics and Audience Viewers Never Think Alike

Is it just me, or has the gap between critics and regular viewers become wider than usual? Movies that critics love, viewers find disappointing. Current examples include Wolf of Wall Street, Her, 12 Years a Slave. All of these were loved by Critics and given 5 stars very frequently. But by the public… mediocre, ripped into by many, deemed overrated. The exact opposite is true for the likes of Lone Survivor (which viewers particularly loved) and Ride Along, yes the one with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube.

The latter is what tends to make money (Grown Ups 2 being an example you often hear, critics hated it, yet it banked $120+ million). Perhaps Hollywood has the average human mentality and preferences understood as a money making blueprint after all. They like silly comedies that let them forget their days otherwise and the theme of underdogs overcoming in conflict, particularly war movies in the US (less so in other markets).

I looked around the web for a bit, to see if it was a “is it just me” moment. As usual with the web, those moments are quickly crushed. There are some interesting comments and analysis of this so called gap, one that was worth a read was this one on the NY Times – not just as a post itself, but the user comments (which perhaps is a biased audience and publication in itself, but that’s another post).

Some of general consensus included a bit of bias for both sides such as:

– Reason for the discrepancy is that the public writes reviews for movies they LIKE more often than for ones they don’t. (hmmm…. totally not true, public love to complain actually)

– Most moviegoers watch a film to enjoy it for what it is, and don’t necessarily mind formula or cliche dialogue. These films are comfortable escapes. (yes, that I agree with)


– Just because the masses seek easy and cheap movies to wash away their daily routine does not make them better movies (similar to above, and often mentioned in this way).

– It’s basically an intelligence gap! (ouch, as if you never found a bad song/movie/restaurant/bar/person/etc to be good)

– Imagine that Michelin food critics were required to rate all restaurants, including fast food chains, airport concessions, etc. (ha, amusing analogy), which went well with…

– Just because McDonald’s is convenient and easy and cheap it doesn’t make it a good meal (um, but movies aren’t cheap these days).

– The conversation should be less about the difference between expert-popular taste, and more about why the people no longer value expert opinion (not quite, there may have been a gap all along, they just openly disagree in places you can see nowadays such as online)

Look further back and you find another open debate at Screenrant – which kicks off with:

– “Opinions are like armpits – everyone has them and some of them stink,” so the old adage goes. This phrase rings doubly true when it comes to movie critics and their reviews of films.

There’s more analysis of the top flicks that experienced this large disparity (both ways) at The Guardian and I’m sure there’s often many articles and discussions about this, the more I look, the more I ask people, etc.

Perhaps this post is guilty of catering to users (viewer equivalent on the web) rather than experts. I’ve covered the point, the topic at end, cited examples and trends instead of digging too deeply into my own thoughts and put some one-liners that sound all too familiar in context. Hmmmm, I feel like I’ve got the movie formula down pat now.

In the end, see what you want to see. I used to get annoyed when people went to see movies that I thought were pointless (e.g.: most sequels and remakes, rehashed romcoms, overdone war movies, etc). But these days I get it. Movies are entertainment. Paraphrasing what a friend of mine says about indie film making in general – sure, you want it to be an art, but if you also want people to like it and you want to make a living out of it, you have already compromised.

Let us know what you think. Does it even matter what viewers or critics say, and why its often the opposite of one another?