Regular users of the Internet Movie Database, a group that includes virtually everyone with online access and even a passing interest in film, are advised to brace themselves for a shocking revelation: Christopher Nolan might not be the single greatest filmmaker in the history of the medium. Furthermore, Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption might not actually be the finest film ever made, at least not in any empirically provable way. These are among the assertions made by writer Jonny Coleman in a new article for Mel called “Can IMDB’s Ranking System Be Trusted?” According to Coleman, the site’s famous 10-star rating system is “completely and irrevocably rigged,” despite its outward appearance of fairness and democracy. Though the cagey, inscrutable IMDB plays things close to the vest when discussing the algorithms behind its famed Top 250, Coleman asserts that the site’s math leans too heavily toward “bros,” i.e., young men between 18 and 29 who have plenty of free time to cast their votes for particular movies.
Such young men are the people most likely to be regular voters at the movie information site, and it’s only the opinions of IMDB regulars that shape the Top 250. Casual users of the site don’t have a say in the matter. Bros were the ones who decided that The Shawshank Redemption was the best film ever made, while electing all but two of Nolan’s guy-friendly films to the Top 250. Meanwhile, no films directed by women even make the list, and not a single film in the top 20 has a female protagonist. Part of the problem, the article asserts, is that the guys who normally vote on the IMDB are selecting movies based on what image of themselves they’d like to project to the world. As film critic Amy Nicholson puts it, nominating Shawshank “makes you sound tough but sensitive and smart.” Meanwhile, the upper reaches of the Top 250 are dominated by characters and franchises beloved by young men, like Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings. The IMDB’s rankings are intended to give power to the people rather than to the industry elite, but it seems that one group of people may be wielding entirely too much influence within the current system.