I use a five-point rating scale, because most critics only use four ratings anyway and this greatly simplifies things.
- 5 out of 5: The creme de la creme. The greats. The films that you must see before you die. If I give a film a 5, you have my word that it is absolutely amazing. But hey, what do I know.
- 4 out of 5: These films may not be perfect, but they are still exceptionally well-made and definitely worth your time. Even if you're only a lukewarm fan of the genre, this film may change your mind.
- 3 out of 5: Decent, respectable, middle-of-the-road movies that either don't do much new or interesting with their genre, or have some noticeable problems that hold them back from being true standouts. Before you spend money to see it, ask yourself, "am I a fan of this genre? How did the advertising sit with me? Do I like the director, writer(s), and/or actors who made this?" Still, chances are good you'll get your money's worth.
- 2 out of 5: Films that are either too dull to hold my interest for very long, or are beset by crippling flaws that run deep to the heart of the production and make it very difficult for me to enjoy in more than bits and pieces. Recommended only for die-hard fans of the genre or the people involved.
- 1 out of 5: Godawful. A film has to truly suck in order for it to sink this low. Not worth your time even if you catch it for free on cable.
- 0 out of 5: Just kidding! I don't give out zeroes for one simple reason: if a film exists, then that means that somebody put some effort into making it, no matter how little it was. Effort of any kind is better than sitting on your ass doing nothing. Orson Welles once said that "a poet needs a pen, a painter a brush, and a filmmaker an army"; even the simplest films require the collaboration of several people to produce, and some of the most notorious films in history (Cleopatra, Heaven's Gate, etc.) were the product of some of the biggest, most out-of-control productions Hollywood has ever borne witness to.
The only time I will even consider giving a film a zero is if it offends me on some deeper level than "man, this film sucks" -- if it makes me think that it is doing actual harm merely by existing. (Sorry, Twilight doesn't count.) So far, the only things I can think of that would qualify are documentaries pushing pseudoscience, bigotry, or fundamentalism.
Got it? Good.