Redefining “Good Movies:”
An Algorithm that Rates Films
on Craft and Social Justice
The first-ever film scoring system to account for systemic oppression has arrived.
The REF Score is the first and only scoring system to rate movies on both film craft and social justice. It was created to better critique films, by holding a film’s quality as inextricable from its social impact.
REF Score founder, film critic, and psychologist, Regan Humphrey, was hardly the first to notice that often films lauded as “good movies” contributed, in substantial ways, to the systemic oppression of minority groups. Working to create a healthier and more inclusive film industry, she invented the score to highlight cinematic disparity.
She developed the scoring algorithm as a way to formalize and standardize her particular method of film critique. She found, after bumping heads with other film buffs, that her definition of a “good movie” often differed on the grounds of social justice. When arguing this point, the most common reaction she received was, “But it was the [Insert time period here]!” Regan believes that when a movie was released—that is to say, the thinking and values of the time when it was made—should not excuse the elements of it that make it problematic.
The classic example is John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles (1984), a critical and commercial success, which features one of the most racist portrayals in cinematic history. Or the original Star Wars trilogy, beloved by fans everywhere, in which a man sexually harasses a woman at the office and she decides to marry him, known more colloquially as Han Solo and Princess Leia.
“If a movie is perpetuating exclusive practices or reinforcing racist, sexist, heteronormative, or homophobic sentiment, should it really be considered a good movie?” Traditional film critiques don’t take into account her questions, nor do they offer a systematic scoring system to address them. The REF score fixes that.
REF scores are percentages, generated by a numeric algorithm that takes into account aggregate ratings (between -100 and 100) on the basis of a film’s performance across the eight domains—according to REF Score’s founder–that make films excellent. Five of the domains correspond to film craft, the remaining three correspond to social justice.
The eight are: Story, Writing, Soundtrack, Diversity, Daring, Racism, Gender Bias, and Homophobia.
Launched in April of 2020, the REF score gives cinephiles a film rating that marries craft and critical thinking by scoring films based on both their quality and cultural impact. The system invites filmmakers and film critics to think accountably and inclusively about the work they make and review.
Combatting the impact of racism, gender bias, and homophobia requires forethought, intention, and understanding. To help affect necessary evolutions in the film industry, REF score delivers on these ideals from both ends of the filmmaking process.
Regan Humphrey is a writer, psychologist, and consultant and is available to assist with matters of equity and inclusion in pre-production, on and off set. Filmmakers looking to create movies that will score high on the REF score can hire Regan to consult on scriptwriting, casting, and film direction. Film critics looking to become practitioners of the REF score (known as REFerees) can apply for REF score certification and membership.
To connect with Regan or the REF Score community, visit our Contact Us page.