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The Top Critics Program Just Got an Upgrade

Read about our revamped criteria and selection process, and learn who’s joining the Top Critics pool.

by | December 3, 2020 | Comments

If you’re a regular Rotten Tomatoes user, you’ve probably noticed when looking through our movie and TV pages to decide what to watch that some reviewers are marked as a “Top Critic” – they’re the ones with the little red star next to their name. You might have also noticed that you can sort reviews for a title by “Top Critics,” or even see a separate Tomatometer score for “Top Critics” when you click into the score details.

We established the Top Critic designation back in 2008 as a way to recognize Tomatometer-approved critics who excel at and are deeply committed to the craft of film criticism, as well as to offer users another layer of info to help them choose what to watch. The designation also factors into our Certified Fresh program: no film or TV season can reach that status unless there are five reviews for it from Top Critics.

This week we’re revamping the Top Critics program with changes to our criteria and selection process. The refresh puts more emphasis on critics’ individual qualifications – i.e. they no longer need to work for a major publication to qualify – and opens up Top Critic status to critics who work in newer media platforms, like podcasts and digital video.

The media landscape has changed dramatically over the last 12 years, and we want our pool of Top Critics to reflect where we are today – and, crucially, better guide you to the right movies and shows for you.

Top Critics

(Photo by © Rotten Tomatoes)

So, what exactly has changed? Let’s dive in.

Traditionally, Top Critic status was mostly awarded to ‘top’ publications rather than individuals, so that the Tomatometer-approved critics working for Top Critic publications were given the label on our site when their reviews were published. We’ve removed that requirement so that individuals who write for multiple publications or for themselves, and aren’t necessarily working for one masthead full-time, can be Top Critics.

At a time when being “on staff” is rarer and rarer for journalists, this change makes the Top Critics pool more representative of the active critics’ community at large.

The criteria are still rigorous – these are the top critics, after all. We’re looking for the highest quality work, the deepest commitment to criticism, and significant reach. To that end, we’ve introduced new metrics that potential individual and publication Top Critics must hit, including how long they’ve been publishing reviews for, how frequently they do so, and audience size benchmarks. (For critics and publications serving underrepresented groups, the metric minimums are looked at on a case-by-case basis.). If you’d like to check out the new criteria, you can do so HERE.

Also new is our Top Critics Advisory Committee, which works closely with the Rotten Tomatoes team to evaluate candidates. The Board, made up of several critics and industry professionals of diverse backgrounds and prominence, will meet regularly to consider potential Top Critics, which will be designated on a rolling basis.

(Photo by © Rotten Tomatoes)

How do the new criteria impact the makeup of our Top Critics?

With the launch of the revamp, we’re adding 170 new individually approved Top Critics. (And note: previously approved Top Critic publications and individuals aren’t losing their designation; we’re looking to add more voices, not remove them.) Among the new Top Critics, 60 percent are women, an estimated 25 percent are people of color, and 24 percent publish via video and podcasts.

At Rotten Tomatoes, we are committed to building an inclusive critics community that reflects not just the current media landscape, but the global entertainment audience. Modernizing our Top Critics selection process is a big part of that and continues the work we did in revamping our overall critics’ criteria in 2018, which introduced more fresh voices and platforms into the pool of opinion that makes up our Tomatometer scores. You can read about those changes HERE.

Now, a richer and more diverse set of reviewers will be showcased as Top Critics, spotlighted at the top of our movie and TV pages and playing their part in Certified Fresh designations. If you see that little red star next to one of their names, go on and check out their work – we think you’ll like it.

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