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From the first day that the Moneyball phenomenon entered popular culture, the word “metric” began to take a greater use and meaning in our lives. Now, people crave these metrics to evaluate everything, from sports to political elections. So it only makes sense to use metrics to evaluate one of the many things that bring us all together: movies.
While critical aggregator sites are mainly focused on telling you whether or not a movie is good. But we don’t always want to eat our vegetables and watch a well-crafted film. Sometimes, I just want to sit back and watch an entertaining, albeit stupid, story full of guns, sex, fight scenes, and sappy romantic plots. This isn’t to say the art and craft of making movies are irrelevant, but many critics elevate those qualities above whether that was a fun way to spend 90 minutes.
After years of research, I’ve figured out the formula to quantify and compare movies. The quality of the acting, directing, and cinematography matters, sure, but it will also take into account the over-the-top action, humor, or romantic plots that will have audiences coming back for a rewatch. Some movies are good, but not awesome, while some movies are awesome, but not good. Here’s how to judge those perfect movies that are both.
# 1: Critical Ratings
From IMDB to Rottentomatoes, there are plenty of places one could look to see which Fast and Furious movie they should watch tonight (the answer, according to both, is Fast 5). But because all that boring crap that defines a good movie matters more to them, the ratings possess substantial flaws. I mean the Justin Bieber movie has a 64% approval rating on Rottentomatoes but the Running Man is only 63%??? And, apparently the Nicholas Sparks fangirls upvoted the Notebook on IMDB so that it is considered to be a better movie than Predator (7.9 ranking vs. 7.8).
So, while we have to consider the opinions of the professional critics and our fellow audience-goers, it’s not the end-all. We’ll average the IMDB and Rottentomatoes rankings, and convert them to a 1 to 10 scale. And, fair warning, if you actually think the Notebook is better than Predator, you are wrong, your opinions are bad, and you should feel bad.
+1 for a lastingly great soundtrack (+2 if it was scored by John Williams).
+3 when the movie is a “cable classic,” a crowd-pleaser that you can start watching half-way through and still enjoy.
# 2: Epicness of the Quest
We want our storytellers to give us high stakes. Seeing if an unrelenting killing machine can be beaten is compelling! But watching some girl going around trying to get the guy of her dreams? Uh, there are 3 billion plus other guys–who are probably richer and better looking–out there sweetie. Rachel McAdams not ending up with Ryan Gosling, isn’t as suspenseful as aliens blowing up New York. I mean, she’s Rachel Fuckin’ McAdams. She’s not gonna have a hard time finding a dude.
Now, high stakes don’t necessarily mean the world has to explode in every damn movie. Sometimes, our protagonist is motivated by pure guilt, revenge, determination, hatred, and even love. All that matters is whether we should care. In any case, we will judge these quests on a scale of 1-10 (1 being Harold and Kumar are stoned and want hamburgers, 10 being Luke taking down the Empire).
-1 if the quest is revealed at the end to be impossible, all a dream or some symbol for the protagonists own personal growth.
#3: Awesomeness of Protagonist
John Rambo, “Dirty” Harry Callahan, Ron Burgundy, Rocky Balboa. We love our heroes to be able to jump out of an exploding helicopter while firing two machine guns, making out with a model, and then landing into the driver’s seat of his car at the same time. We want a dude to idolize for all the superhuman things he can do. None of this is to say that a woman couldn’t also be an awesome protagonist as well. Ripley in Alien, the Bride in Kill Bill, Alice in Resident Evil, all bad-ass ladies that deserve respect.
Man or woman, the hero of every good movie must be more than ordinary. Whether it be superpowers, skills learned as a black-ops soldier during Vietnam, or just plain rising to the occasion and being the one who takes care of fuckin’ business, a great movie hero does what regular people do not. Every movie hero will be ranked, on a scale of 1-10 of badassery (1 being constantly crying Frodo, 10 being the leader of the greatest warriors, King Leonidas).
+1 if your protagonist has a comically awesome name (e.g. Napoleon Dynamite).
+2 if your protagonist holds himself to a high moral code while doing badass things (see, motherfucking Batman).
-1 if your protagonist weeps. There is a key distinction here from crying. Men are allowed to cry in certain situations, such as the death of a loved one or a playoff elimination game loss. However, a man is never permitted to weep. This also applies to our badass female protagonists.
#4: Sexiness of the Love Interest
“Sex sells” – Unknown.
It is unknown who was the first human to speak the words, “sex sells,” because this is such a basic premise of human social structure and economics that every person implicitly understands it from about the time of puberty. The first time someone stood up in an advertising meeting and said “you know, sex sells,” his co-workers probably looked at him and said “well obviously sex sells, everything that society creates is just people trying to get laid. Now sit the fuck down, Stan, you idiot.”
Look, Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts are terrific actors, but there’s a reason we don’t see them in the Fast & Furious franchise. As dopey as it may be, awesome movies tend to have a love interest being mainly there for eye candy. Therefore, I’ll rank the female love interests based on hotness…for science. (1 being Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies, 10 being Rosie Huntington-Whitely from Transformers 3). Oh and I’ll get one of my female friends to rank the dude if it’s a female lead with a male love interest. I’m not opening that can of worms.
+1 if the female lead also has a ridiculously hilarious/sexified name (Pussy Galore, Xenia Onatopp…you know any James Bond girl).
+2 if the female love-interest actually maintains a level of consistent badassery throughout the movie equal to the male lead (e.g. Trinity, Natasha Romanov, Ellie Sattler).
+2 points for any sort of on-screen nudity. Yes, I know I’m a pig.
+3 if the female lead fights an equally hot female villain, aka a catfight. Again, me pig.
#5: Nefariousness of the Villain
A great villain is the psychotic foil to our badass hero, the forge that molds an otherwise wimpy hero into full badass mode. You don’t need to be that cool to stop a guy who’s whole evil plan is to steal some kid’s lunch money. The backbone of a great villain is his dastardly plan, but you have to have a good reason for it. Childhood trauma, the unjust death of a loved one, or just plain being psychotic is clearly an appropriate emotional trigger for someone to hunt other humans. But just because a petty criminal falls into a particle accelerator, it doesn’t suddenly make you a supervillain.
The grandiosity of the plan matters too. Instead of one bank robbery, try to rob seven banks, kidnap the President’s daughter, or steal a nuclear warhead. Do something to warrant Vin Diesel’s attention. Of course, it doesn’t help when a villain goes so far over the top that his plan goes from dastardly to comically impossible. You want to melt the polar ice caps with heat rays on satellites? Don’t even try to stop him Keanu, this will never get past the R&D phase. So the best movie villains and their nefarious schemes shall be ranked as well (1 being Ivan Ooze, who really just hated teenagers, 10 being Darth Vader).
+1 if your villain has some sort of prop, disfigurement, or hilarious accent (a man with an eyepatch, hooks for hands, or an Australian accent clearly has a legitimate reason for trying to flood Detroit).
+1 if your villain tampers with nature. An army of henchmen isn’t cool. You know what is cool? An army of hybrid man-bears.
-1 if your villain is so physically weak he would get KO’ed by Sidney Crosby if they fought.
+3 if the villain is also a chick who uses her sex appeal. Yep, still a pig.
#6: Quirkiness of the Sidekick
As awesomely badass as our protagonist is, he’ll occasionally need help with some of the mundane tasks on his journey. Sometimes, he’ll need to disarm a nuclear bomb and also free the hot chick from the clutches of our diabolical super-genius. Since he can’t be in two places at once, the trusty sidekick will have to be the one to disarm the bomb (no, obviously he isn’t saving the girl and getting the passionate “just saved my life kiss”).
In some cases, there may be an entourage of sidekicks who help the hero through his journey (lending a bow, a sword, an ax, and whatever having three more Hobbits might do). These sidekicks will be judged as one unit on their overall strength rather than the sole merits of a few outstanding players (sorry Expendables, but having Jet Li doesn’t compensate enough for Randy Couture). In general, the sidekick will be ranked on a scale of 1-10 (1 being Jar Jar, 10 being the Rock in Fast 6).
+1 if sidekick dies tragically, re-energizing the hero to go on a rampage.
-2 points if the sidekick is clearly just a ploy to add diversity, with stereotypes so overt and uncomfortable that you couldn’t watch it along with another member of that minority (most Michael Bay movies).
+1 if the sidekick manages to land a girl of his own.
-3 points if the sidekick snakes the girl from the hero. Come on bro.
#7: Zen-ness of the Mentor
Heroes don’t always start off as a pure badass. They need to be built into that suave man with a great head of hair who always gets the girl. From Morpheus to Master Splinter, their methods may be unorthodox and painful, but dammit they produce results. No matter how many chickens have to be chased, cars need to be waxed, or logs need to be thrown across swamps, it’s all worth it when you finally win the Death Race.
The old saying is that behind every great man, there’s a great woman. That’s true, in a sense. But in a truer sense, behind every great man, there’s a thousand-year-old wizard sitting atop a mountain who taught the great man the ancient and forbidden martial arts. So, we rank these wise teachers (1 being Patches O’Hoolihan, and 10 being Mr. Miyagi).
+1 if the mentor has incredible facial hair, or some other badass facial figure or disfigurement.
+2 if the mentor snakes the girl from the hero (as opposed to the sidekick, it’s incredible if an ancient wizard snipes the model. Respect.)
-1 if the mentor is killed by someone other than the main antagonist. By the transitive property, that means that the hero is unqualified to take on the mentor’s killer and shouldn’t stand a chance against the main baddie.
#8: Amount of Gratuitous Explosions
Cool guys never look back at the explosions. That’s because explosions are awesome and only a stone-cold badass could walk off as a thousand gasoline canisters explode like it’s no big deal. But, there’s a GIANT BALL OF FIRE over there where that gas station used to be. I mean, how fucking cool is that? Sure, you could shoot the tires out of that car that’s flying down the freeway with nuclear launch codes in the trunk. But sniper rifles are for little fairy boys (just like jazz flutes). Better blow it up to be safe. As my grandpappy always said: if it can’t be fixed with duct tape, just blow it the hell up. We’ll grade all the movie’s explosions (1 being a cherry bomb in a mailbox, 10 being an atom bomb exploding on the surface of the sun).
+1 if an explosion completely defies the laws of physics.
+1 if an explosion is created only by using household items (McGuyver points).
-1 if the hero sets up some sort of explosives and then doesn’t blow them up. This is the movie equivalent of blue balls.
#9: Amazing and Unrealistic Special Effects
While explosions are the main course, there are other amazing effects that bring us into the theater. Some movies can even have amazing effects without a single bomb going off.
Car chases, aerial dogfights, wire-fighting Kung Fu moves, curving bullets, or Death Stars. It doesn’t matter, we all just love to marvel at the impossible awesomeness playing out in front of our eyes. We’ll rank the special effects on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being “ok, you’re showing us that the Predator has heat vision, big whoop” and 10 being “HOLY FUCK THERE ARE ACTUAL DINOSAURS! ON THE SCREEN! WITH THE PEOPLE! FUCKING DINOSAURS!”).
-1 if the CGI is so crappy you can see the green screen.
+2 points if the CGI and special effects are so crappy that it becomes unintentionally hilarious (see, Sharknado)
#10: Nonsensical Moments
Now, you might think from the above points I and those like me are idiots who like any movie that is full of action, no matter how little the movie makes sense or how shitty the acting is. Now that’s partly true, but for a movie to be awesomely good, we cannot completely overlook those plot points that are just too ridiculous, or horrible acting that makes you cringe.
For instance, is there ANY reality in which Shia Lebouf can end up with Megan Fox and then move on to a Victoria’s Secret Model? I mean transforming robot alien cars is waaaaaay more believable. Those moments, the ones that take us out of the movie experience and make us look at our friends in disbelief, are the ones that guys hate. So for every one of these terrible moments, the movie will lose one point.
#11: Quotability/Gifability/Memorable Scenes
We love to tell others about the movies we love, but we’re not going to do a full blow-by-blow recap of Good Will Hunting for our idiot friend Seth who hasn’t seen it yet (get your life together Seth!). Instead, we want to communicate to our friends that we have indeed seen the newest Will Ferrell movie in the most efficient way possible. From Doc’s “great Scott!” to the Wayne’s World not-worthy gif, some movies have tidbits that will remain in pop culture forever. Those moments that stick with us make movies great, and so we add an extra point when such quotable lines or great scenes show up in our favorite movies. .