As I noted here, this grading system has (unashamedly) been inspired by a certain music critic, only appropriated for film criticism. If one wanted to make some kind of equivalence with a numbers system, think of A+ as a 10/10, dropping 1 point for each step lower you go (though you’re encouraged to take the grades as they are). Once you get to D+, you’ll notice you’ve run out of numbers. Below this point, we’re only discussing degrees of awfulness. The grades and their criteria are as follows:
A+ – A film that demands complete attention, at turns challenging, thought provoking, unrelenting in its proficiency and excelling in many aspects of cinema (acting, directing, writing, for instance). Masterpiece.
A – A great film that, whilst perhaps not sustaining its grasp on excellence throughout its run time, excels in several areas and repays repeated viewing. You should see this film.
A- – A commendable film with apparent flaws that nonetheless engaged me emotionally, or a strong production that had me asking questions, yet left me wanting more.
B+ – A good film that most viewers will find things to enjoy in. Perhaps its flaws were too problematic for me to grade it higher, or a solid production failed to engage me emotionally, or simply a pleasant, undemanding fare – Popcorn cinema.
B – Slightly above average or slightly less than good depending on your outlook in life. Unremarkable, put it that way.
B- – It can be hard to summon the energy to write home anything about a B-, a middling film that exists in some kind of purgatory.
C+ – Either a brilliant detail has lifted an otherwise balderdash affair, or something one should expect better from proves less than the some of its parts.
C – Your garden variety rubbish film. Other adjectives such as ropey, feeble and inept will come into greater usage here. This is unremarkably poor cinema. Should be discarded sooner rather than later.
C- – Teetering on the edge of terrible, viewing at this point can be a real slog. Watch at your own peril.
D+ – A terrible film. Films that sink below C level are either particularly poorly made – lax across the board in an egregious way. Or, if the production isn’t the problem, something about the film has evinced contempt. Should be discarded immediately.
D – Willingly watching a D grade feature can be grounds for a thorough psychological examination.
D- – Willingly watching a D- grade feature can be grounds for committal to an institution.
F – A film of punishing, unrelenting ghastliness, so audacious in its depravity that it will leave the viewer feeling physically sick. Offensive and contemptible in equal measure.