The Scoring System

The LWLies Scoring System

LWLies has a unique three part scoring system which, for those having to use it, can be slightly tricky to wrap your head around, so we’ve put together a little guide on things to consider when you’re scoring a film, for our writers and curious readers. Remember: we score 1-5 and don’t use half numbers. You should also include a little caption to go with each score – it can be a pithy comment or just a very short summary of your thoughts.

What does it mean?

Here’s how to think about each of the scores.


Ever waited six months for a box-office behemoth? Read a book that you loved and nervously awaited the adaptation? Been pleasantly surprised by an off-the-radar independent? Anticipation plays a crucial role in your reaction to a movie. Rather than ignore it, we think it should be measured and acknowledged as part of the moviegoing experience.


All other things aside, how did you feel for those two hours? Were you glued to your seat? Did the film speak to your soul? Was it upsetting, disappointing, or just plain boring? Were you even awake?

In Retrospect

Great movies live with you; you carry them around wherever you go and the things they say shape the way you see the world. Did this movie fade away or was every moment burned into your retinas? Was it a quick fix action flick, good for a rainy Sunday afternoon? Or the first day of the rest of your life? Did you hate it with a fury? Or fall in love with a passion?

The Stars

5 stars

Denotes one of the two or three finest films you’ll likely encounter in a given year. A film that brings something new – aesthetically; formally; thematically – to the language of cinema. A film for which you can see no fault. Tonally speaking, the text of the review must justify the awarding of 5 stars.

4 stars

Denotes that this would comfortably find a place in a personal top ten for the year. A film that perhaps employs tried and tested methods to tell its story, but does so in a way that makes it a truly satisfying piece of art. A four star review would tend to be predominantly highly positive, with perhaps very minor/forgivable criticisms. A four star review can also be wholly positive.

3 stars

Denotes that you’ve seen a good film which has much to recommend it, but that doesn’t quite land in a way that makes it fully satisfying. A three star film would still err more towards the positive, though it may be considered to contain some negative elements that are more problematic or egregious. A three star review may also denote a more subjective take on a film that might objectively be considered poor, but that the reviewer believes works on a superficially enjoyable level.

2 stars

Denotes that you’ve seen a poor film, with perhaps some sparks of promise. Maybe a disappointing work from a usually good filmmaker with some elements of auteurist pleasure. A two star film would likely mean that this film stands among the 10 or 15 worst you’ve seen in a given year.

1 star

1 should be the lowest of the low, films that are an affront to cinema. From an editorial standpoint, we are most selective about the films we award 1s and 5s to and it must really feel like this is justified by the content of your review.


A few hypothetical scenarios: you might be excited for a film, see it and enjoy it, but know it’s not going to leave a lasting impression, so scores for that situation could look like 4-3-3. Equally, you might go into a film with a little trepidation, find it exceeds expectations, and recognise it’s a solid effort, so you go with 2-4-3. Maybe a film that you thought was good lingers and grows in your mind afterwards? That could be a 3-3-4. It’s a little bit of a whimsical system really, but our aim is to encourage our writers to think about multiple aspects of the viewing experience when they’re reviewing a film.

Here are some reviews that we feel really nail the LWLies scoring, with the scores reflected by the tone and detail of the review. We’re not asking you to emulate them, but they’re great examples of how your scoring should be informed by your writing. We should get a clear sense of why you have given a film a rating from what you have to say about it.


We use the same scoring system on the podcast but we tend to be a bit more relaxed because it’s in-the-moment. Try to have a think about your scoring before you record, but we’re not going to hold you to it forever, so don’t get too fixated on it. Have fun!

But why don’t you score your festival reviews?!

When we’re at a festival we’re doing a bit of a hybrid job of reviewing and reporting, often watching 4 or 5 films a day and turning reviews around quickly, and we’re only human – it feels a bit unfair to be slapping a score on films the second we dash out of the cinema. Our regular reviews are a little slower to come together, and writers have time to think about the scores. It just gives us a bit of breathing room this way.

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About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.