Ghostbusters has driven divisions down several fissures in society. We’re not talking about the gold standard 1984 comedy, or the multi-million franchise that followed – we’re focusing specifically on the 2016 reboot.
It divided fans and critics, old and young, and – most tellingly – men and women. This data went viral on the film’s release. It pointed out the cavern of difference between Ghostbusters‘ ratings from men and women: the average male rating was 3.6, average female 7.7, and IMDb’s proprietary average was 5.5.
These figures are easily available for every film on IMDb so we decided to delve deeper and compare the ratings from different genders across about 14,500 top films.
Despite what many comment sections and, er, Twitter would have you believe, the gender split of people who use the internet is about 50/50. That’s not the case with people who rate films on IMDb.
For the 14,500+ films we analysed, 81% of ratings were from men and just 19% were from women. That’s a huge disparity.
When you break that down on a film-by-film basis, it means just 296 films had more ratings from women than men. The remaining 14,043 all had a more active male rating-base, and the numbers of men and women were exactly equal for 41 films.
Some of those films split 50/50 are Dirty Dancing, The Phantom of the Opera and P.S. I Love You.
Ghostbusters proves how polarised IMDb ratings can be – though our suspicion is that both sides mostly were rating to make a point, rather than reflecting their opinions. That’s backed up by the fact that 45% of women voting on Ghostbusters rated it 10/10 and 35% of men voted it 1/10. Outside this example, the IMDb top charts show the broad subtle nuances in film preferences across gender lines.
Mostly, the top films for both men and women are the same. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest makes an appearance in the women’s list, but not in the men’s. Likewise for The Matrix and Star Wars: Episode V in the men’s list.
When hate starts coursing through filmgoers’ veins, the differences start to show. Who can forget Tom Green’s 2001 cult classic Freddy Got Fingered, the film that birthed ‘Daddy Would You Like Some Sausages‘?
I certainly can’t. Women on IMDb can’t either, as much as they wish they could. Unlike men, they ranked it in their ten worst films of all time, shown below. They also hold 2003’s freakish The Cat in The Hat in slightly higher esteem than men. Which is odd, given it’s the film that made Dr. Seuss’ widow ban any future live-action remakes.
By comparing the rating for each and every film, we can find the films where men and women are most split.
2016’s Ghostbusters does indeed set the record for the biggest gender differential, with a huge 3.3 point gap. Also, the entire Twilight series makes the list – though everyone’s in most agreement on the first one.
I had never heard of the rom-com Practical Magic, which Roger Ebert said “veer[s] uncertainly from horror to laughs to romance”, before writing this article – perhaps it’s because I’m a man.
Nor had I heard of Middle Men, a 2009 business drama starring Luke Wilson, but it’s the film that men rated consistently higher than women. Men only rated it 6.7, though – so maybe women just have it in for Wilson after his portrayal of Casey Kelso in That ’70s Show.
So, what conclusions can we draw from the chart?
Well, there two types of film that are divisive along gender lines: low-brow, juvenile comedies and films with female leads.
Dumb & Dumber, Freddy Got Fingered and Borat are all crammed with jokes about fecal matter and private parts – and they’re scored much higher by men than women. Almost every film with a higher female rating has a female lead – all apart from High School Musical 3: Senior Year. We can’t work out why the difference is so large here, so we’ll let you speculate in the comments.
Also, it’s worth noting the calibre of films on each list. Where women’s votes are much higher, the films are mostly mediocre blockbusters. Men’s preferred films are more diverse. Among the gross-out comedies are some critically (but not commercially) acclaimed films: Punch-Drunk Love, The Wild Bunch and Patton were all received well by both male IMDb users and the critics – Patton in fact won seven Oscars.
For Me, For You
There’s some back-of-the-napkin research out there that shows films about women have tended to earn more at the box office than ones about men. Our number-crunching also showed that films watched and rated more by women tended to have lower average scores.
A similar phenomenon has been looked at before by data-journo-extraordinaires FiveThirtyEight, which found that TV shows with a high proportion of female ratings tend to get bombarded with ratings of 1 by men. (Note: We haven’t done that same test with films, but when we do, we’ll let you know.)
You might be concerned by the seemingly huge male bias on IMDb. The back-end people actually make sure the headline film rating figure is a weighted average, and they’re really cagey about how they weight it.
There’s bound to be another film in the near future that cuts along gender lines as hard as Ghostbusters or Twilight – if you want to make a bet on it, I’d recommend scanning the comment sections on Breitbart for movie titles.
For any questions about the data, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.