Rotten tomatoes is a great way to judge a movie. If a movie’s Rotten Tomatoes score is under 60%, the movie’s probably not worth watching unless you want to study its mistakes. Any movie scoring above 90% in Rotten Tomatoes is usually worth watching.
However, there are exceptions. Two notable exceptions are “Miss Congeniality” (44%) and “The Greatest Showman” (56%). Yet both of these movies were popular, commercial successes. Even worse, you can watch highly rated movies and wonder what was so special about them. The key is that what critics think is far less important than what audiences think.
Critics often dislike movies for trivial reasons. Yet audiences often love movies without understanding how well-structured that story really is. All they know is that the well-structured delivered an emotional story that they enjoyed.
In the case of “Miss Congeniality” and “The Greatest Showman,” the story structures were sound but critics disliked minor aspects of the story, often that didn’t even matter. Rather than focus on whether the story made any sense or not, critics will point to what they thought the movie needed, even though the movie did fine without the critics’ suggestions.
This goes to show that the Rotten Tomatoes score can be useful to find great movies, but sometimes the critics can ignore a well-structured story in favor of a movie with visually stunning photography but devoid of any type of emotional storytelling whatsoever.
The bottom line is that Rotten Tomatoes can be handy to keep you from wasting your time watching a really bad movie, but if a movie still did well commercially, yet got a low Rotten Tomatoes score, it’s likely because the critics failed to recognize a well-structured story when they saw one.
A well-structured story has a great chance of being successful even if the critics hate it, but a poorly structured story has almost no chance of success despite all the A-list actors and cinematography that went into it.
Ultimately, story matters, even if the critics can’t see it.