Expectations and Their Effect on a Movie’s Rating

This summer has been packed full of movies, and summer’s barely started. Usually, I’ve had a pretty good track record of being consistent with what most people like and dislike. However, a few times this summer I’ve stirred up conversation because movies that are “horrible” are getting 4/5 while movies that people absolutely adore are getting 3/5. As commenter Jagadish so nicely put, “You suck. Stop reviewing.” Well, no, I’m not going to stop reviewing.

But I thought it’d be nice to look back at why some movies got scored the way they did and maybe explain the concept of expectations and how they might affect my rating.

Here’s an example that might set the tone.

If someone were to hand me an envelope and they said, “Inside is a painting of a tennis match made by Leonardo DiVinci,” I would expect one thing. If they said, “Inside is a painting that my 3-year-old did at the babysitter’s today,” I’d expect a very different thing.

So, you might be disappointed if you knew that this painting was made by Leonardo DiVinci. You know he can do better. If a 3-year-old did this painting though, you’d be pleasantly surprised (probably, I’m not an expert on child development and how “well” a child should paint by 3 years).

However hard we might try to judge movies independently, that’s near impossible. Movie trailers, past movies in the franchise, even directors/actors/etc can affect our expectations.

Let’s dive into some real examples.


The previews for Prometheus were mindblowing. Ridley Scott has directed some of the best science-fiction movies ever made. And once the movie was attached to the Alien franchise, expectations shot up even further.

So when the movie was released… It didn’t meet my expectations. You can’t just clear your mind and forget everything you know. It sticks with you. When you see a scene unfold from the trailer and it’s underwhelming, you’re not doubt disappointed. Believe me, I wanted to love Prometheus, but I was constantly badgered with thoughts of “This guy directed Alien?” and “The trailer made this scene look way cooler.” So when I leave the theater and I sit down to write a review, all of those thoughts add up.

I thought Prometheus was a gorgeous movie but it failed to live up to any of the expectations I had. So it ended up scoring a 3/5 because I expected more. The same goes for Snow White and the Huntsmen, which had a stellar trailer and amazing cast (aside from Kristen Stewart) but the movie as a whole was unimpressive.

And now the flip side…

Men in Black 3.

After Men in Black 2, I wasn’t even expecting a follow-up film. And while it was 10 years later, I still had a bad taste in my mouth. The trailers didn’t look especially hilarious so my expectations were minimal. I thought it’d be horrible.

But when the movie cracked me up, had me smiling from ear-to-ear, and made for a generally entertaining experience, it exceeded all my expectations. So it received a 4/5 because it came out of left field and blew me away.

So, while Prometheus might be a better “film”, Men in Black 3 got a higher rating. I wouldn’t change anything at this point, I still stand by that decision. If people ask me what movie they should see, Men in Black 3 will definitely top Prometheus in terms of my recommendation.

“I judge movies fairly! Your blog is crap.”

Some of you may be thinking to yourselves that my blog is crap now. Once Prometheus scores lower than Men in Black 3, maybe that’s enough to make you delete the bookmark for my site. And that’s fine. But know that nothing’s going to change. Our expectations of a movie undoubtedly follow us into the theater and affect our thoughts of it. It’s the same premise as when everyone hypes up a movie and then you see it and it’s a complete letdown. You can’t just ignore those thoughts, they follow you (and they follow me, right here to the written page).

So, I do my best in my reviews to speak a little about my expectations. I expected greatness from Brave because it was Pixar. I expected a Van Helsing clone with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, so I was pleasantly surprised by it. Expectations play a crucial role in our movie experience and hopefully you all can understand that.

Until the next batch of movies comes out, ciao!


About adamryen

Entertainment. Gaming. Dreaming.
This entry was posted in Movies and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Expectations and Their Effect on a Movie’s Rating

  1. One of the most fun I’ve had at the theater was when I saw the first Pirates movies. I thought it would be crap and ended up really liking it so I understand the idea of expectation effecting your overall enjoyment. Continue to do your thing. A blog is a place to express YOUR opinions, and if someone doesn’t agree, they can stop reading.

  2. Ry says:

    Try seeing a movie without watching the preview. It’s a fun experience, I’ve done it with CDs from bands I like.

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