What does 2/5 Stars Mean? (a.k.a How I Decide My Rating Criteria)

Some sites use a rating scale from 0-10; other sites merely use a thumbs up or thumbs down score (Netflix – I’m looking at you!) – but what do they mean? And how do you compare one rating to another? At first glance, most rating systems appear arbitrary and care more about how the reader will view the score rather than following a rubric that actually compares films. And some just give out a random score based on a general impression afterward!

So how do I overcome this? By creating my OWN rating criteria, of course! Except I have tried to compensate for some of the inadequacies and inconsistencies of other systems by basing my scale off specific elements. So throw out any prior conceptions about what a rating means to you and check out the breakdown below of how I rate my films.

My Rating Criteria

Key Notes:

  • Each element has the potential for one (1) point, with a total of five (5) points for each film
  • If the elements of that category are met or exceed expectations, then the full point is awarded
  • A half point is awarded when parts of the element work, but there are some issues
  • If that element is bad, zero points are awarded
  • There are some films where certain elements may not be fully present, i.e. documentaries that are unscripted or use real persons instead of actors. I try to be fair, but equally, I sometimes cannot grant a full point in these cases. If this is the case, it will be noted.

Element 1: Plot & Script

If the film is based on a book, does it do the book justice? How well-written is the script? Does it keep me engaged or is it so cheesy that I should bring out the wine? Is the plot interesting and new – or just a rehash of stereotypes and cliches?

A full star will be granted to a film with a great storyline, one that keeps the viewer engaged and on edge awaiting what comes next.

Element 2: Casting & Acting

Are the actors/actresses cast appropriately? Do the leads have good chemistry – or is it akin to watching paint dry? Are the characters fully fleshed out and believable – or are they just reading lines as themselves? Or are they portraying stereotypical tropes? (which is not always a bad thing!)

A full star indicates well-developed characters that the viewer can relate to and empathize with throughout the film.

Element 3: Directing & Editing

The director brings everything together into a cohesive film – or at least that’s the goal! A bad director can ruin an otherwise great film, while a good director can bring bad actors (or other elements such as low budget/production values) together to make a good story. And let’s not forget the editing, as the timing and flow of a film are key – especially for comedy.

A full star in this element means that everything works well together to create the right mood for the story.

Element 4: Cinematography

This is a rather broad element that encompasses a lot of facets of the film that are critical, but individually don’t hold as much weight as the other elements. Does the music or sound of the film work to support the story, or does it clash? If it’s a film set in a specific time period, are the costumes accurate? (as a costumer, I will be critical of this!) Are the camera angles and shots planned out – or does it look like someone grabbed their camcorder and started filming?

A full star for cinematography is awarded when all of these smaller elements come together so that it all jives; nothing stands out for being wrong or off.

Element 5: My Opinion

Let’s face it, this is MY review – so my opinion has to count for something! For this last element, I will consider my overall perception of the film afterward. Did I enjoy watching the film – or did I want to turn it off after a few minutes? (but didn’t because I needed to write my review for you!) Would I watch the film again – or is once enough?

A full star will be awarded for the films that I consider “great” overall.

Queer/LGBTQ Relevance

Additionally, because this is a queer film review site, I will discuss the Queer or LGBTQ Relevance as part of my review. It could be for a political stance, recreating a key facet of the community, or just simply because there is a queer character in the film.

But please note: this is not factored into my rating scale since there are so many ways a film may or may not be Queer relevant. The film itself may be great – but not really queer relevant; and vice versa.