Rotten Tomatoes is a website devoted to reviews, information, and news of films. The name derives from the historical cliché of throwing tomatoes and other produce at stage performers if a performance was particularly bad.
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Rotten Tomatoes includes online reviews from authors that are certified members of various writing guilds or film critic associations. The staff then determine for each review whether it is positive ("fresh", marked by a small icon of a red tomato) or negative ("rotten", marked by a small icon of a green splatted tomato).
The website keeps track of all of the reviews counted (which can approach 270 for major, recently released films) and the percentage of positive reviews is tabulated. If the positive reviews make up 60% or more, the film is considered "fresh" in that a supermajority of the reviewers approve of the film. If the positive reviews are less than 60%, then the film is considered "rotten." In addition, major film reviewers like Roger Ebert, Desson Thomson/Stephen Hunter (Washington Post), and Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly), are listed in a sub-listing called "Top Critics", which tabulates their reviews separately, while still including their opinions in the general rating. When there are sufficient reviews to form a conclusion, a consensus statement is posted which is intended to articulate the general reasons for the opinion. The ratings favor recent releases and films with large numbers of reviews over older films, due to the scarcity of archived reviews for such older films.
This rating in turn is marked with an equivalent icon when the film is listed, giving the reader a one glance look at the general critical opinion about the work. Movies with a Tomatometer of 75% or better and at least 40 reviews from Tomatometer Critics (including 5 Top Critics) receive the "Certified Fresh" seal. As a result of the requirements for quantity of ratings, there may be films with 100% positive ratings which don't have the certificate due to insufficient reviews to be sure of the freshness.
There are several films that have received a 100% freshness rating with fewer reviews including Toy Story, Toy Story 2, The Evil Dead, The Wizard of Oz, The Terminator, Before Sunrise, Dr. Strangelove, The Godfather, All About Eve, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Pinocchio, Rear Window, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Jaws, Triumph of the Will, Man on Wire, Mary Poppins, Zulu, and The Killer, and there are over 200 films that have so far received a 0% freshness rating such as universally panned films like Witless Protection, One Missed Call, and Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2. The site has recently included a page of the "100 Worst Reviewed Films of All time."
In addition to reviews, Rotten Tomatoes hosts message forums, where thousands of participants take part in the discussion of movies, video games, music and other topics. In addition, users are able to rate and review films themselves. Every movie also features a "user average" that calculates the percentage of users that have rated the film positively in a manner similar to how the critics' reviews are calculated. However, this score is more specific as the users are able to rate the movie on a scale of 1-10 (compared to critic reviews, which usually use 4-star ratings and are often simply qualitative). Like the critic's reviews, a score of 6 or higher is considered "fresh".