No Consensus! Our Most Divisive Films

In which we go hunting for the most divisive films on Letterboxd, and find cool cats, Justin Bieber, Tommy Wiseau and the High School Musical franchise.

“Hey @letterboxd,” our pals Whitlock and Pope tweeted, “any chance of a ‘no consensus!’ rundown of ‘broadest distributions’ of scores?” In other words, they were asking, what’s the most divisive film on Letterboxd? The movie that we can’t agree on; the histogram equivalent of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Honestly, it doesn’t take much to talk us into mining our own data. It’s one of the few things we at Letterboxd HQ enjoy more than cake.

We tackled the task from two different angles. First, we calculated the 100 most divisive films rated by at least 500 Letterboxd members, because we knew this would mean that a good number of obscure and weird films would make the list. (We compute divisiveness by calculating the standard deviation from all member ratings cast for a film.)

Sure enough, it’s a truly odd assortment of polarizing cinematic treats, topped by Derek Savage’s 2015 straight-to-video “anti-bullying kids’ gun safety movie” Cool Cat Saves the Kids. (Get ready, Savage confirmed a sequel is due this year.)

Cool Cat Saves the Kids (2015).
Cool Cat Saves the Kids (2015).

Other films to make the list include a 1978 musical, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, that tells some sort of story—maybe?—involving the BeeGees, Peter Frampton, Alice Cooper and Earth, Wind and Fire singing the music of The Beatles. Here are some of your divided thoughts:

“Well, this was light-hearted. And insane. Absurd, in a good way, but nonsensical in a bad way.” —⁠Sally Jane Black

“The movie’s aesthetic strategy consists of a kind of war of attrition against the viewer, wearing down your tolerance of its forced whimsy, stiffly choreographed musical numbers, and constant bug-eyed mugging til you’re forced to admit, ‘Yeah, this is kind of colossally shitty.’ ” —⁠Paul Anthony Johnson

“Am I wrong for loving this movie? I don’t think so.” —⁠Jason Alley

Also on the list: the Biebs, Miley Cyrus and One Direction, all of the High School Musical movies, a talking cat, and attack eagles.

For balance, and because it didn’t take all that long to do the first list (and nobody brought us cake in the meantime) we also computed the 100 most divisive films rated by at least 10,000 members. In other words, a set of more popular films that have you completely divided.

The Room (2003).
The Room (2003).

It’s really no surprise that Tommy Wiseau’s The Room topped this list. It’s a perennial favorite audience-splitter. All the High School Musicals are here, too, along with the Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey series, the entire Transformers franchise and many, many Adam Sandler vehicles.

Also of note:

  • The most divisive superhero and comic book adaptations are: X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Suicide Squad, Batman v Superman and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Andrew Garfield’s second spandex outing).
  • Multiple appearances by directors Michael Bay (Transformers), Peter Jackson (The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, The Lovely Bones), and actor Hugh Jackman (Wolverine, The Greatest Showman, Les Misérables).

And something else we noticed: several movies that are known for being super popular among viewers who identify as women—The Notebook, Magic Mike XXL, the recent Ghostbusters reboot and Baz Luhrmann’s joyous Moulin Rouge!—made the list. Gender bias has long been known to affect the reception of films targeted for a female audience (there was that time Jane Campion’s In The Cut got an F from CinemaScore). We suspect that if we took Letterboxd members who use the “he/him” pronoun out of the equation, many of those films might slip off the divisive list.

On that note, we did a cross-check with this list of films with most fans on Letterboxd (where “fan” means a member who has the film as one of their four favorites). Our theory checks out, for Moulin Rouge! at least: the musical is ranked 36th out of the 100 films with the most fans on Letterboxd with the “she/her” pronoun, and was your seventh favorite musical in this week’s Showdown.

So we’ll leave you with this: the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

Moulin Rouge! (2001).
Moulin Rouge! (2001).


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