The Use of Film Critics Today

Last issue in “The function of campus newspapers,” a potential new relevant function for the idea of a campus newspaper – like The Wheaton Wire – was discussed. Though the conclusion was not necessarily a fixed or determinant deduction, it was, nonetheless, framed within the context of digital reproduction and whether or not the publication of college events before they occurred was entirely compulsory.

A similar framework can and should be applied to the function and use of the film critic with the understanding that digital reproduction is instant and widespread.

Previously, a film critic would go to a theater, write a review, which would then be published in a newspaper, magazine or journal. The process was not slow, but it was not instantaneous. Now, there are websites like Rotten Tomatoes, which assign numeric values to the critics’ respective opinions on the films they watched. Those numeric values are then compiled, made into an average and display an overall score for the film the values represent.

In other words, the film critic who is known for their persona and style (i.e. Roger Ebert, Leonard Martin, etc.) are no longer in style and do not hold as much weight as they did previously. The film critic is often not a household name, nor are they a big player in the industry.

Likewise, the consumption of reviews has changed. Audiences do not need to read entire critiques of films to decide if they are worth their money and time. Instead, they just need to observe the assigned numeric value and decide for themselves.

On that note, not only has the landscape for professional critics changed given the instantaneous nature of online reviews, but audiences, too, have a space to share their opinions on newly released films. There are, of course, blogs that audiences can make and maintain, but there are also websites – like – that encourage audiences to write their own reviews of films and ask that other spectators use said reviews in their decision to watch a film.

Previously, a critic was someone who specialized in how to think about film and how to write about it, now that certification means less to audiences. There is little need or value for an authority on the quality of film. The value is, instead, placed on the audience who decide for themselves if a film is up to par or not.

Unlike college newspapers in the previous opinions piece, which still serves a function even if that justification is different than it had been, the critic as an authority is less salient to audiences. The process of deciding a film’s quality is much more democratic and does not rely on the opinion of a film authority.

So, what is the function of a film critic? Is their authority still valuable give the changing landscape of the reproduction of ideas? Most likely, there is still some value, but it is undetermined. As it stands, the audience decides what is most important to them.