What do a four-star Army general, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa have in common? Besides setting up the punchline for the worst dad-joke ever… they all have a four-star rating. As a culture, we’re pretty accustomed to this rating system and generally associate more stars with a higher price tag and/or more prestige and while this is pretty true for hotels, restaurants, and generals, but can the same really be said for movies?

The above chart depicts the star ratings of movies compared to their gross dollars. If there were a strong association between the star rating and movie gross, we’d see a trend line (the black line in the chart) with a much steeper slope. This line in this chart is relatively flat, indicating that more stars don’t necessarily mean a movie brings in more money. However, if we remove the outliers — those with less than 5 stars or with less than $3M gross — we do see a trend line with a steeper slope (see below). Clearly, these movies were influencing the shape of this trend line so why are they on the top 100 list to begin with?

IMDb creates its top movie and TV list by using a proprietary algorithm called MOVIEmeter. This algorithm measures how IMDb users interact with the listings of these movies and shows to create the MOVIEmeter score. It is not known how much a movie’s star rating or gross amount factors into these scores. Additionally, how much a movie grosses is dependent on how it was released. A dollar amount cannot be calculated for those movies and shows released by streaming services as membership fees provide access to a variety of content. What we can determine though, is how vote counts and movie category are related to overall success.

Action-based movies stole the show in 2018. In looking at the IMDb ratings of the top 100 movies from that year, 45 are action-based. Additionally, action movies seemed to have relatively higher vote counts. Vote counts are represented in the charts by bubble size and category by color. As you can see, the navy blue circles dominate the graph and are also larger, on average, than bubbles belonging to other categories.