Critical Mass: Why Are Movie Critics So Harsh?

As the summer movies are rolling out, moviegoers once again turn to their two main sources for info on a film: critics’ reviews, and word of mouth. More often than not these days, the two are at odds with each other. Who do you trust–the critic or the fan?

It happens every now and then: a great movie gets terrible reviews from critics. Everyone’s got their own opinions, so it’s understandable that not every person is going to like every movie equally. The problem lately, though, is that movie critics have been turning up the heat on their critiques. It seems like the only movies that get rave reviews from critics are those Oscar contenders that have big-name actors and lots of drama.

Whatever happened to the critics who would look at a movie for what it was? Whether serious or silly, dramatic or ditzy, films were critiqued based on their target audience and their ultimate goal. Is the movie supposed to be a campy B horror film? Does it live up to those criteria? Great! Four stars! Is the movie geared towards children with lots of heartfelt messages about love and acceptance? Does it just have a rambling story with a bunch of talking stuffed animals and no meaning? Two stars…on a good day.

Now critics have started baring their teeth and chomping down on any film that doesn’t meet their standards of quality Hollywood fare. Films that have perfectly good entertainment value are being dissed for being tawdry or inane or unimaginative…things that can be forgiven if the movie provides a good laugh on an otherwise boring summer night. It no longer matters what the goal of the movie is; all that matters is that it better have plenty of award-winning material in it.

Perhaps the critics are feeling threatened by the fact that everyone’s a critic nowadays–quite literally, in fact. With sites like Rotten Tomatoes providing viewers with play-by-plays from both professional critics and Average Joe fans alike, critics are under more pressure to make their critique stand out. It used to be that Siskel and Ebert would get on stage and tell us what movies to watch, and we’d listen. In today’s social-media-fueled market, though, the pros’ voices are muffled among the shouting of the fans. “Great movie! Can’t wait to see it again!” “It blew, don’t even bother.” Today’s moviegoer is just as likely to turn to Twitter for advice on which film to watch as they are to go to actual movie review sites–perhaps more so. People want to hear from their peers, and critics’ views no longer carry the weight needed to tip the scales when viewers are undecided.

It’s time that critics quit taking themselves so seriously and started looking at movies from a fan’s point of view. Does this movie hold true to the genre? Is this B horror movie one that B horror movie buffs should flock to see, or should they avoid it? Is this a movie that needs to be viewed as a serious contender for next year’s Academy Awards, or does it need to be viewed as a “fun summer romp”? We (the fans) need to know if this movie is going to entertain us or educate us or maybe bore us to death, not whether the critic thought the directing was up to snuff.

Are there going to be films that leave critics and fans butting heads? Sure. But does it need to be every film? Maybe critics should listen to fans’ reviews and learn a thing or two. Maybe critics should go see a film as a fan every once in a while, rather than looking with their critical eyes, and see what we see: summer fun, date night, girls’/boys’ night out, or simply an excuse to eat popcorn.

Calm down, critics. Chill out. Relax. Don’t worry about how your review is going to look in the paper or on Rotten Tomatoes…just enjoy the film.


  1. I totally agree with you and this is why i no longer read reviews from critics because they don’t give men the information I need. Not every movie is supposed to an Oscar winner. I don’t expect a superhero film to be judged the same way as say 12 years a Slave. But let me know is is well made for its genre does it do what is expected of it.

  2. Critics are just stuck up bozos that can’t take other people’s opinions. I agree with every word of this! Critics are just scum in my eyes, and they don’t know fun if it hit them in the face.

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