Coming out of The Avengers this past weekend, my friends and I were giddy. We all read comic books as kids (some of us still do), so we all loved the movie. Indeed, we were quick to praise it as the best film of all time.
We were, of course, suffering from the sort of irrational exuberance that one typically feels after having one’s adrenal glands stimulated for several hours. Once post-film sobriety settled in, we did return to sanity. As good as The Avengers was and is, surely it’s not the best movie of all time. Or is it?
For much of cinema’s history, the quality of a film has been a purely subjective discussion. Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder and everyone likes different things.
But I started wondering if there is a way to mathematically prove which movies are good, if not the best. In an age where data on everything is gathered and mined, surely there’s some way to apply actual science to such a subjective debate.
When it comes to movies, I believe there is. Or rather, such a system is emerging.
Firstly, there are some factors that should not be counted. Oscar nominations, for example, should not be included in any empirical attempt because they are decided on by a relatively small group of people. Films can also rack up wins in technical categories, but that doesn’t necessarily make them good.
Box office take or any other revenue should also be irrelevant. Otherwise, Michael Bay would have several of the best movies ever made. Ahem. Excuse me, I think I just threw up on myself.
Turning to resources that should be counted, there are two large websites that should be integral: Metacritic and the Internet Movie Database. Metacritic launched in 2001 as an aggregation site for reviews, while IMDb started in 1990 as a general repository of film information. Metacritic compiles reviews from well-respected critics, assigns them a numeric value out of 100, then averages them. The Avengers, for example, has a score of 69, which means the 42 critics counted (at the time of this writing) have been generally positive about it. Read the rest of this entry »