Review aggregators are websites that collect film reviews and reflect overviews of critical reception by providing a score for a film based on the reviews. Some review aggregation websites, such as Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, are considered reliable sources, but information from them should be used in proper context and have some limitations. Each website follows its own scoring process, so they are typically paired in articles to offset each other. Review aggregators are not arbiters of critical consensus; sections about critical reception should also benefit from other reliable sources, such as books and periodicals reporting in retrospect how a film was received by critics.
Use in articles
- Index of usable sources: Editors can visit Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic to find film reviews that can then be used to illustrate critical reception. If a specific review is considered for inclusion, always ensure that it is a reliable source. The "Top Critics" at Rotten Tomatoes and the critics at Metacritic are generally considered reliable and authoritative sources and are ideal for sampling. However, other usable reviews exist outside these websites; they may be found in academic journals or publications that do not provide online access to their reviews.
- Critical response: The websites can provide fragments of what critics thought of a given film. When either website is cited when writing about a film's critical response, provide a brief explanation of the scoring process. Include the number of reviews used to create the score to give readers context, and avoid using relative time references or specific dates. Two examples from Hancock are listed below. In addition, Rotten Tomatoes's reported "consensus" and Metacritic's "metascore" description are prose that may help readers understand a film's reception.
- Placement: Per MOS:FILM#Critical response, "Commentary should... be sought from reliable sources for critics' consensus of the film." Such commentary should come before reporting aggregate scores because such sources are likely to be more authoritative and to provide descriptive prose. The aggregate scores can complement this commentary. Single-number "averages" of opinion can be insufficient on their own, especially where there is a wide diversity of opinion about a film. For example, a reviewer may consider a film to be excellent for kids, but awful for adults; this should be addressed in prose.
- External links: WP:EL discourages linking to individual reviews in the "External links" section. Since only a sample of reviews will be cited as references in a film's article, external links to Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic can be included to provide readers with access to additional reviews in centralized locations. If external links to Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic are already provided in the article's "References" section, it may not be necessary to repeat these links in an "External links" section.
- English-language: Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic link to reviews that are English-language and are published in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and similar territories. Foreign-language films at the websites are scored using English-language reviews, so ensure this English-language context and seek out other sources to cover a film's critical reception in a country where English is not the primary language. E.g., Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic cannot provide an overview of what critics in Spain thought of a Spanish-language film.
- 2000s and beyond: Aggregator scores are most effective and accurate for films released in the 2000s and beyond. This is because more reviews are available online and as a result contemporary critical reception is more clearly defined. Prior to the 2000s, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic did not exist, and reviews were typically not online. Sources besides Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic should be sought out for films released before the 2000s; reports of critical consensus will likely exist in print sources. E.g., Alien, released in 1979, has a score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, but the critical reception at the time of release was mixed.
- Exception: Aggregator scores may be appropriate in 2000-and-beyond re-release, restoration, director's-cut, DVD/Blu-ray and streaming releases, in a distinct subsection of Reception.
- Limited number of reviews: The websites tend to focus on relatively mainstream films. Their collection of reviews for more obscure films is smaller, which affects their scores. For example, Rotten Tomatoes will have a sample of over 200 reviews for a Hollywood blockbuster film, which is large enough for statistical accuracy. However, if Rotten Tomatoes has a sample of 10 reviews for an independent film, the sample is not large enough for the score to be statistically accurate.
- Top Critics in Rotten Tomatoes: The "Top Critics" section on Rotten Tomatoes is a smaller sample size and may be statistically inaccurate. The section's overall score may also differ depending from where in the world Rotten Tomatoes is accessed. This is because a query may redirect a reader to a local English language site (such as uk.rottentomatoes.com in the United Kingdom and au.rottentomatoes.com in Australia) and the Rotten Tomatoes staff is given some subjective control in selecting "Top Critics", allowing for different make-up on different local sites.
There exist websites (like Movie Review Query Engine) other than Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic that also aggregate film reviews and calculate scores based on them. However, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic are the most well-established of such websites. If another website can cover critical reception better than these two (such as overcoming one of the limitations) and is vetted as a reliable source, it can be implemented instead.