How I Score Movies

M. W. McCabe
Jan 3 · 5 min read
Photo by Nathan Engel from Pexels

I love movies. I have my entire life. A darkened theater is my happy place. I have seen a lot of movies. I have a strong opinion about what makes a good movie and what makes a bad movie. In my experience, most movies are have something good in them.

I don’t like horror movies or very violent movies. I just don’t see them.

I don’t like horror movies or very violent movies.

I just don’t see them.

Over the years, I have developed a scoring system to tell one movie from another. Based on the old “5 star” method, I rank films like this.

5 Star = Excellent, Must-See
4 Star = Pretty Good
3 Star = Meh, Mediocre, Neither good nor bad
2 Star = Bad movie
1 Star = Horrible, very bad movie

I usually give 1-star ratings to any horror movie I am tricked into seeing. I do not like them, Sam I Am.

I do not like them, Sam I Am.

I start with this base score, and then I add different modifiers…

Modifying the Scores

Is it worth 3D, IMAX, or any other special viewing? Some movies were made for a huge screen. Others were made for 3D. 3D really shines where there are a lot of particles on the screen at one time. “Dr. Strange” was a good example of this.

But you have to spend more money to view in 3D, IMAX, or a special screen. For that reason, I only pony up the cash if I know it’s going to be good in that format. Or if the movie played really well in 2D and I’m going to see it again. “The Avengers: Endgame” was a good example of that.

Ultimately, movies are a 2D medium. I don’t hold it against a movie if it’s good or bad in 3D. I don’t give bonus points if it plays well in 3D. I don’t reward the rich, I just call it out.

Would I see it again? This is a good test of a movie’s “strength.” If I want to see the movie again, it’s a keeper. I give a +.5 score adjustment to one of these. On the other end, there’s some movies I actively discourage others from seeing. For these, I will take away .5 points.

Good recent examples are “Spies In Disguise” (a Must-See) and “Midsommar”…. the latter was horrific. I almost contemplated never seeing a movie again. I wondered, “Is this the current state of films?” I finally returned to the theater (it’s my happy place!), but I no longer make it a point to see every film.

Should I rent it? Buy it? This is another measure of a movie’s strength and staying power. It can also be a measure of a movie’s mediocrity. You might want to skip the large screen and dive into the small screen first. You could have a perfectly acceptable movie that just isn’t worth spending your hard-earned folding money on.

Maybe you should own a copy and add it to your own collection… This is especially true of really good movies or family-friendly movies (“Yes, kids, we can watch ‘Barney Goes to Jail’ one more time”).

If it’s not strong enough for the big screen, I take away .5 points. If it’s worth buying, I add .5 points.

Is it family safe? It’s hard to find a family-safe movie nowadays. Movies are pushing PG-13 and R. It seems like everything wants to be “gritty” and “real.” Bleck.

What’s wrong with a PG movie? What’s wrong with a G movie? I applaud the family-friendly movies with a .5 point boost. We should support good, family-friendly films with our hard-earned cash.

If you do, they’ll make more of them.

And that brings up another point. I really good family-friendly movie will appeal to kids and adults. You don’t have to look very far to find an animated film that appeals to kids. These same movies do not appeal to adults. An example of this is “Norm of the North.” Kids may like it. I thought it was trash.

Then you have animated movies aimed at adults that kids should not see (“Sausage Party,” anybody?). If you ask me, nobody should see this kind of film.

There was a day and age where any Disney film would appeal to kids and adults. Sadly, that time is past. “Monsters, Inc.” was great. “Cars” was not. “Frozen 2” was not. It’s kinda hit-and-miss now. Read your reviews.

Oh, dear. I seemed to get up on my soapbox there. Let me climb back down.

Oh, dear. I seemed to get up on my soapbox there.

Let me climb back down.

Did it have “the look?” I am an artist. I dabbled in film work. I can spot some dazzling camera work, costume design, and set design. Some movies just have a unique style and look to them. Movies that do a particularly good job get a .5 point adjustment.

Also, watch for these films to perform well at the next Oscars.

Did it have “the feels?” I can feel when a movie is good. It hits me right in the chest. If it’s particularly strong, it brings tears to my eyes–not because it’s sad. Because it’s awesome.

Usually, a triumphant moment where characters work together toward a common goal creates this feeling. It can elevate a movie from “pretty good” to “must-see.”

This one is hard to explain. A movie either “has it” or it does not. The first “Toy Story” movie made me cry because it was just so cool.

5+ and 0- Movies

Yes, it possible to have movies that have more than a perfect score or less than a horrible score. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles. You have one movie that just has something special. You have another movie that’s many levels of horrible. That’s why we do these here movie reviews.

With an evening movie running $20, you should do a little research.

If you go to as many movies as I do, you should consider Regal Unlimited, but that’s a topic for another day.

What if I Don’t Agree with You?

My movie reviews are polarizing. I don’t know why. I just write what I feel.

Some people really agree with me.

Some people really do not agree with me.

I haven’t seen a lot of in-between.

What kind of person are you?

If you find that you hate my reviews, you’ll find a list of movies that are “Must-See” for you.


This article was originally published on

M. W. McCabe

Written by

Homicide Survivor, Weight Loss, Movies, Travel, Writing, Serial Fiction, Grief/Trauma, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Productivity ✝

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