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Watching the trailer for It Comes At Night definitely induces a sense of dread. With tense music, atmospheric cinematography, and dynamic editing, those 2 minutes are enough to make anyone wanna sleep with the lights on. So naturally, any horror junkie would gravitate towards the film, especially with Joel Edgerton in the lead role (who didn’t love The Gift, which he wrote and directed?). Our interest in the feature was only heightened by the amazing critical reviews, as it currently holds an 86% score on Rotten Tomatoes. David Edelstein of Vulture writes, “It Comes at Night Is a Slow-burning, Nerve-racking Horror Film” and he’s not the only critic to emphasize this horrific uneasiness. With a stellar distribution company behind the movie, it’s an obvious must-see. We definitely flocked to the theater for it and were not disappointed. It’s moody and insidious, creeping into your thoughts (and dreams) days after the first viewing. With those sentiments, we’re a little disheartened to see an audience score of 43% on Rotten Tomatoes. What happened, guys? Why didn’t you love the film as much as we did or as much as the critics?

You have to admit, that there’s an interesting topic of discussion, here. Why is there a disparity between what the critics think and what we, as the audience, think of a film? At the end of the day, we’re all filmgoers. Opinions obviously differ from person-to-person, but why is there a divide between the critics and the audience? Maybe too much critical hype builds overwhelming expectations? Or, maybe there’s a cultural divide between the two types of cinephiles. Not sure we can answer that question, but let’s look at other films that experienced the same phenomenon.

KING KONG (2005)

Peter Jackson’s revival of the King Kong epic was adored by critics, with an 84% score on Rotten Tomatoes. However, filmgoers were heavily divided, with an even 50% audience score. While the critics admired its action, heart, and performances, audience members lamented about its length and inconsistent tone between the first and second halves.

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE (2005)

We can all agree that Tim Burton is a visionary. Even if you’re not a fan of his work, you have to admit that it’s definitely one-of-a-kind. So, a remake of the beloved Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory screams Burton territory. And with an 83% score on Rotten Tomatoes, critics seem to be in consensus that Burton was the right man for the job. However, filmgoers didn’t feel the same way, as the film holds a 51% audience score. We’re gonna argue that nostalgia may be the culprit here.

SPLICE (2010)

A creature feature? What’s not to love? Apparently, a lot. With an audience score of 37%, filmgoers were none too pleased with this sci-fi tale about a highly intelligent, incredibly threatening human hybrid. On the other hand, critics seemed to enjoy it, as evidenced by a 74% score on Rotten Tomatoes. 

KILLING THEM SOFTLY (2012)

Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, and Ben Mendelsohn headline this cast of superb actors. And with Andrew Dominik’s (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) direction, it’s no wonder why the film faired pretty well among critics, earning a 74% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Among audiences, it only holds a 44% score.

HAYWIRE (2011)

A Steven Soderbergh film with a femme fatale in the lead (and Channing Tatum)? Critics seemed to appreciate the joyride that is Haywire, giving the film an 80% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences, on the other hand, were less than pleased, giving the film a score of 41%.

BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS (2009)

Gotta love the cinematic genius Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man). Whether it’s a documentary or a narrative feature, he can definitely keep his audience engrossed. Add Nicholas Cage and Eva Mendes to the mix (let’s not forget Ghost Rider) and you’ve got one intriguing film. Luckily, critics’ curiosity paid off, as Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans holds a high score of 87%. The audience score is significantly lower at 57%.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999)

Who can forget the turn-of-the-century cult classic, The Blair Witch Project? It completely made us rethink both, the found footage film and the micro-budget production. With a spend of $60,000, the feature made a whopping $2486.6 million! It impressed critics, earning an 86% score, but its audience score is a polarizing 55%.

ABOUT A BOY (2002)

What a classic! How audiences got this wrong, is really beyond us. Between Hugh Grant (who is charming as hell) and a young Nicholas Hoult, if you’re not laughing or crying, then you’re probably not a human being. Among critics, the feature has a whopping score of 93%, while the audience score is a mere 54%.

WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (2013)

Gotta love a good indie horror flick. And with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 86%, it seems like critics definitely did. However, among audiences, this cannibalistic tale only scores 49%.

WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005)

Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, and the narration of Morgan Freeman? How is this not an instant classic? With a box office gross of $704 million, the film definitely had all of the right elements to attract the public’s attention. And critics seemed to enjoy it with a score of 74%. However, an all star Hollywood cast and crew weren’t enough to satisfy moviegoers. The film only holds a 42% audience score.

We know that there are TONS of films that we missed, so feel free to let us know which ones! Or, if you’d prefer to pick a side, we’re always up for a good ole fashion film debate, we mean discussion….;)

20 thoughts on “Critics Love It, Audiences Not So Much Leave a comment

  1. Nice article; how about doing one on the reverse, films that were booed by critics but loved by audiences.

    • Thanks, Jimmi! We’d love to do another about films that audiences loved, but critics didn’t. Let us know if you’ve got any suggestions!

  2. I actually really loved About A Boy! I remember watching it in a hotel with my mother when I was a junior in high school, and we had an amazing room service dinner, and watched this film and adored it–it was like a perfect night!

    • Awwww. That does sound like a perfect night! It’s mind blowing that so many people didn’t adore this movie as much as you did! Also, they made it into a TV show in 2014. So, clearly, it’s a classic!

  3. To be fair to the audiences here, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory really isn’t a good movie. It’s visually impressive, sure, and it picks up more of the original book than Gene Wilder’s version did, but what it adds really does pale. The backstory that Burton gives Wonka is, honestly, both unnecessary and outright *dull* rather than tragic. Christopher Lee *isn’t* frightening just on the basis of being Christopher Lee, and what he’s given to do in this movie might as well not be done. (Does he pull it off well? Yes. Should it have been left on the cutting room floor, anyway? A thousand times yes.) While Depp’s version of Wonka is misopedic, to be honest, if one didn’t know that, one could be forgiven for being glad that none of those children’s parents were cops, lest the movie be a lot shorter to the tune of a child molestation trial, given how he plays him.

    Also, as much as studios love to shove him down our collective throats, Tom Cruise is *not* a strong actor, and might never have been. In the 80s, he had pretty-boy good looks, and got good scripts due to that. First off, look at the movies he’s been in overall on Rotten Tomatoes. In terms of what movies he’s in, he has some movies critics love, sure, but he’s also got plenty of movies that they’ve loved to hate, including some of what are considered his classics. (Top Gun, for instance, stands at a 5%.) If he’s in an otherwise good movie, he’s a competent, even good actor, but from what the critical scores for him overall say, he’s not an actor worth seeing just because “hey, it’s Tom Cruise. You can’t go wrong.” As Vanilla Sky and the Mummy prove, you sure *can* go wrong with Cruise.

    Also, can the author actually stick to the point of the article? The headline itself asks why there’s a split between critics and audiences and then gives examples without offering a central overall hypothesis, instead, honestly, just trying to be sardonic and elitist towards ‘common’ people who actually go to films, given the supposed ‘reasons’ offered for not liking the critics’ choice.

    • Hey Seth. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the films that make this list! Since they’re pretty divisive, we were wondering what other people thought. Completely understand your opinions on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “War of the Worlds.”

  4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a flat out terrible film with incredible sets, costumes and overall art direction. Burton and Depp seemed to take glee in tuning up the weird for no apparent reason and audiences walked away disgusted. So they turned around and did it again with Dark Shadows.

    War of the Worlds looked great too, but Cruise was too bland to carry the movie. I liked this film until the end, when a character that should have been dead “magically” turned up alive and gave the movie a ridiculous happy ending. Completely destroyed the impact of his loss and ruined the film.

    Blair Witch was unique at the time; full of amazing tidbits; and had a haunting ending, but it was full of dull stretches. My companion fell asleep and I couldn’t blame her.

    Critics often give high marks to films that are well crafted, but good cinematography can’t save bad storytelling. Audiences like both. Haywire was really interesting but was clunky and ugly at times – too ugly.

    • Super interesting points, James! There are very few films, if any, that are perfect. And there are so many different aspects that can make or break a viewer’s experience, right? Since there are so many more audience members than critics, it’s easy to get a more nuanced score from the audience.

  5. War of the Worlds and Chocolate Factory are the only ones here that I’ve seen that aren’t very good. Even critics, mostly, are pretty cool on it in hindsight, especially compared to Gene Wilder musical. My favorites on this list are King Kong, Blair Witch Project, and About a Boy.

    • We definitely think “King Kong” did the epic justice, which is pretty hard to do. Peter Jackson did a pretty great job at making a layered story. Also, “Blair Witch Project” totally changed the game for horror films. And “About a Boy” is just perfect. It makes you a cry a little and laugh a lot.

  6. What we’ve got here (for the most part) is different motivations for going into a film. A critic will consider how well constructed a film is where the average film goer often only considers if their experience watching it was positive or negative (which has a lot to do with anticipation/disappointment). The downfall of the critic is when they go into a movie and give something a better/worse review based on liking/not liking the people involved or even the franchise/genre. There are plenty of films that technically speaking are well made, but are forgettable when we try to lift it up to the scrutiny of art (or even custom made entertainment). This is especially true with remakes/sequels/reboots/etc. A chair is a chair is a chair, but reproduce the same movie and you don’t always get the same product (rather you rarely do). Case-in-point: Gus Van Sant’s 1998 Psycho shot for shot remake. While I don’t like the movie, I deeply respected the attempt to literally reproduce the same movie with mirror like accuracy. It wasn’t a good movie, but why not? That’s because movies are as much about the time they come out and the people who make them as much as the franchise. The sweetness (forgive the pun) of Willy Wonka is lost in Depp’s tacky portrayal of him and the film feels like a nightmare, not a child’s wonderland… thus audiences rejected it (whether or not Rhaul Dahl would have liked it better). Sometimes audiences pay too much attention to the experience and overestimate how good a film is and (getting back to this article) sometimes critics pay too much attention to the broad strokes of what is artistically sound and don’t consider the experience enough.

    Secondly, outside of the big budget films some films aren’t meant (or are unable) to please everybody… they are really meant to select audiences. About a Boy probably falls into this list. What Hollywood investors need to remember is it’s better to please one audience really well than do a mediocre film that everyone shrugs their shoulders. This problem is getting worse now, as Hollywood tries to please emerging markets like China first, leaving American sensibilities and values as a last thought.

    There are so many movies nowadays. If you’re not watching at least the top 100 each year, you probably missed the best films (and thought you knew what was good). Critics jump on bandwagons sometimes to save time. Every year my top 30 films are at least half full with films that got very little critical love (last year’s Jackie for example). It suffered from an inability for people to even see it (I blame the monopoly of theater companies verses the mom-and-pop theaters that used to pick films based on profits and what was worth playing).

    Lastly, since people go to films for different reasons than critics there will always be differences (and as more people shy away from reading or going to live shows and have less in common with intellectual criticism this will widen). Critics, I think rightfully, think a lot about originality… something that seems to scare a lot of moviegoers who fear wasting money on unknown franchises (or gasp… non-franchise movies).

    In summary, these reasons lend to the separation; but sometimes critics just get it wrong. They give a film slack when they shouldn’t or just don’t GET the genre.

    • Wow! Thanks for your extensive thoughts, Curtis. You’re pretty fair to both, viewers and critics. And you’re right: people do see movies for different reasons. So, even attempting to critique a film is difficult. Should we even use reviews as guidelines? Or maybe, we should be much more aware of who is writing the review and whether their tastes align with our own.

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