Thursday, February 10, 2011

So Bad It's Good, On imdb

My roommate was recently trying to convince me to watch The Room, employing the argument that, although it is poorly rated at a 3.2, it is "so bad it's good." The question is, can we quantify this?

The intuitive way seems to be to look at the distribution of scores, and indeed that is what Tomasz Węgrzanowski has suggested. The idea is that your typical movie tends to have a single peak at its mode, and the percentage of votes will drop off monotonically on both sides of that peak. Movies that are "so bad it's good," on the other hand, will have a bimodal distribution, with lots of high scores (9's and 10's) and lots of low scores (1's and 2's), and few in-between.

For example, The Hunt For Red October is a fairly standard movie, and you can see that it does show a bell-shaped trend, albeit with a ceiling effect:

So what does The Room's rating distribution look like? Frighteningly bimodal:

Eventually we started watching the movie. It is truly disgustingly bad, and in fact it's hard to even call it a movie, as the plot seems to be just a cheap excuse for softcore porn. Infamously, they seem to use the same sex scene twice, although the director vehemently denies this. Whatever. It's hard for me to evaluate whether the movie is "so bad it's good," but the above ratings speak for themselves.

Bottom line: It's a better sign if a movie is rated higher rather than lower. But, holding average rating constant, you should prefer movies with a wider distribution of votes, as they will tend to be more interesting.