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11 Things Movie Fans Don’t Know About Rotten Tomatoes

Updated: Jan. 13, 2023

If you're among the one in three Americans who consults Rotten Tomatoes to see if a movie is "fresh" before watching, you'll definitely want to read on.

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Couple Sitting On Sofa At Home Using Laptop Computer And Watching TV
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Behind the scenes

If you like to consult the movie ratings on Rotten Tomatoes before you decide whether or not to watch a film, you’re not alone—nearly one in three Americans is doing the exact same thing! There’s a lot that goes into the rating process behind the scenes at this company that the average moviegoer may have no idea is even taking place. Here’s a peek behind the product. Find out the most popular movie the year you were born.

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rotten tomatoes homepage
via rottentomatoes.com

What is Rotten Tomatoes?

The website Rotten Tomatoes was created for fans of movies and TV shows. The centerpiece of the site is an aggregator that pulls together critical reviews and determines a rating that is meant to inform viewers whether something is “Fresh” (worth watching) or “Rotten” (skip). A writer for Rotten Tomatoes sums up the results in a “Critic’s Consensus” that is either full of praise or totally slays the film in question.

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Where can you find Rotten Tomatoes ratings?

It’s almost easier to point out where you can’t find Rotten Tomatoes ratings these days, but a few major partners that Rotten Tomatoes has are Fandango, iTunes, DirecTV, and Google Play, which are sites where you can buy tickets to actual theater screenings (once movie theaters reopen, of course) or rent films to watch on your own device on your own time. Movie buffs will want to check out our list of the 50 best movie quotes of all time. 

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frozen ii certified fresh
via rottentomatoes.com

What do the ratings mean?

Movies that receive a 60 percent or higher rating on the Rotten Tomatoes site are considered “Fresh,” while anything that receives a 59 percent or lower rating falls into “Rotten” territory. Color also provides an indication of the rating; if you’re looking at a positively reviewed movie, you’ll see a red tomato or a “Certified Fresh” banner if it’s rated 75 percent or higher, while the duds are going to look like green splats on your screen. Rotten Tomatoes starts generating ratings for movies once they have at least five reviews, and the ratings are subject to change as more reviews are counted. These are 12 annoying things movies always get wrong about real life.

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How the ratings are determined

Rotten Tomatoes brings together reviews to aggregate a rating, but the process isn’t all automatic. “We don’t have an algorithm!” Jacqueline Coley, an editor at Rotten Tomatoes, insisted to Wired. Instead, staffers told Wired, there’s a meeting in the office every two weeks called “Review of Reviews,” where the articles that are shared are, themselves, reviewed to make sure they are actually reviews and therefore fair to include in the overall system. Sounds like some serious analysis; lighten up with the best 100 funny movies of all time.

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How the reviewers have changed

In 2018, Rotten Tomatoes began a new diversity initiative that added hundreds of new critics who are women and people of color to the critics’ pool, and promised more to come, as a response to years of critiques of the predominately monochromatic and male nature of the critics’ pool. The company also started a grant program to help diverse critics attend and cover film festivals, thereby broadening the perspectives of popular criticism. Find out 15 movies you never knew were banned in the United States.

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Who’s behind Rotten Tomatoes

According to The New York Times, the highly popular movie ticketing site Fandango (itself a unit of NBC/Universal) has a 75 percent controlling interest in Rotten Tomatoes, but representatives for RT told the publication that the staff operates independently of its corporate parents. Anyone purchasing movie tickets on Fandango can see a film’s Tomatometer rating right on the screen before they buy, which has helped Rotten Tomatoes’ reputation skyrocket. If you’re a brave movie-watcher, screening the 35 scariest movies of all time should be a piece of cake.

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How can I become a Rotten Tomatoes reviewer?

In short, you can’t apply to become a Rotten Tomatoes reviewer; not right now, at least. The Tomatometer-approved critic’s application is currently not active on the Rotten Tomatoes website, but you can read about the stringent Tomatometer Criteria that the company has in place to determine whether a critic or publication should be in the crew, which includes such factors as publication size and monthly online traffic. Critics must have a well-established following, whether that’s a readership or a viewership. Find out surprising movie facts you’ll have a hard time believing are true.

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staying alive
via amazon.com

Lowest rated movies on Rotten Tomatoes

Dozens of movies have scored 0 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which is the worst possible rating. Among the more famous of the duds is John Travolta’s Staying Alive, the 1983 sequel to the smash 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever. “This sequel to Saturday Night Fever is shockingly embarrassing and unnecessary, trading the original’s dramatic depth for a series of uninspired dance sequences,” reads the Critics Consensus summary on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s worth a reminder that, good or bad, reviews are always subjective and don’t always correlate to the enjoyment of moviegoers, as with these classic movies that got rotten reviews.

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top 100 movies of all time according to rottentomatoes
via rottentomatoes.com

Highest rated movies on Rotten Tomatoes

The Top 100 Movies of All Time list that is kept on Rotten Tomatoes contains films dating back to Fritz Lang’s 1931 black and white thriller M, which received a coveted 100 percent Fresh rating, and includes more recent hits, like 2018’s Black Panther and 2019’s Toy Story 4 (which both have a 97 percent Fresh rating). Find a compelling film to watch that feels close to your own home on our list of iconic movies that are set in every state.

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Highly anticipated movies

Rotten Tomatoes is also keeping a list of the 66 Most Anticipated Movies of 2020; staffers are excited about blockbusters like Godzilla vs. Kong, No Time to Die (the next James Bond film), and Pixar’s Soul, to name a few. (Of course, many of 2020’s movies have unfortunately been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and some of the movies still on this list could potentially be delayed as well.) Even if you don’t consider yourself the most romantic soul, you still might find something stirring in the 50 best romantic movies of all time.

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Is Rotten Tomatoes as powerful as you think?

Rotten Tomatoes seems like a now-crucial part of the movie-deciding landscape, but Fandango executives have downplayed its influence on box office performance. “There is no question that there is some correlation to box office performance—critics matter—but I don’t think Rotten Tomatoes can definitively make or break a movie in either direction,” Fandango president Paul Yanover told The New York Times. “Anyone who says otherwise is cherry-picking examples to create a hypothesis.” (Keep in mind that Fandango owns the majority of Rotten Tomatoes.) Next, read these 46 quotes that will make you nostalgic for your favorite movies and TV shows.