How does IMDB rate their top 250 films?
September 3, 2004 7:45 AM   Subscribe

This has been bugging me for a while: On IMDB, why are some highly-rated films not listed in the top 250? [more inside]

For example, The Station Agent, rated 8.1 out of 10 (in 3833 votes), is ranked #231 on the list. But The Fog of War, rated 8.4 out of 10 (in 2047 votes), doesn't make the list. What gives?

As an aside: what's the highest-rated non-top-250 movie you can find? The Fog of War is high, yes, but higher still is Pride and Prejudice, 9.2 out of 10 (in 4667 votes). That's higher than the film ostensibly #1: The Godfather.

(I'm assuming Pride and Prejudice is disallowed because it's made for television, but that's a shame. It really is quite good.)

Are there other highly-rated films that don't make the top 250 for some reason?
posted by jdroth to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
If you scroll to the bottom of the Top 250 page, you'll notice that they have the formula for calculating positions on the list posted. It uses a weighted rank that takes number of votes and the rating into account.
posted by mikeh at 7:57 AM on September 3, 2004

Right. I've seen that formula before, and I've even run some of the numbers, but it doesn't really help answer the question.

For example, using the formula, I get the following results for the movies I mentioned:

The Godfather: 8.97
Pride and Prejudice: 8.69
The Fog of War: 7.79
The Station Agent: 7.78

It seems that more votes mean a better score, which makes a little sense. But it still doesn't explain the absence of The Fog of War. Are documentaries not allowed on the list?
posted by jdroth at 8:38 AM on September 3, 2004

Right at the bottom, it says "only votes from regular voters are considered." Not sure what exactly that means, but the User Ratings page for Station Agent shows 145 votes from "Top 1000" voters, while Fog of War shows only 114. If that's the number of votes they're using in the Top 250 tally, that could mean the difference between being #231 and not being on the list at all.
posted by bcwinters at 9:19 AM on September 3, 2004

What irks me is that truly great films are often bumped down the list by recent flash-in-the-pan mediocre films.

IMO the list should be populated by those films which will stand the test of time.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:37 AM on September 3, 2004

And how would you do that, five fresh fish? Add a "this film will stand the test of time" checkbox? As far as "popular" votes go, the IMDB's system is pretty decent. If you want lists balanced by a film's "importance" you'd really have to go to a list compiled by critics (or maybe directors), who are more likely to think of a film in its grand context. I'd love to see a list of these if anyone has any good links.
posted by bcwinters at 11:53 AM on September 3, 2004

The worst part about IMDB ratings is how they're calculated in the first place. Look at this upcoming movie, which has a rating of 4.4/10 (21 votes), but if you bother to click the 'Vote here' button, you see that it has a median rating of 9 and mean rating of 8.0. If their excuse is that such few number of votes tend to provide a 'skewed' unrepresentative rating, then they shouldn't display any rating till they get a fair number of votes. The current system is ridiculous, though. It provides a misleading picture for people unaware that one click away is a more complete picture of the ratings.
posted by Gyan at 1:21 PM on September 3, 2004

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