Writing a Film Review
Movies have become a cultural mainstay of our society. Not only are they art and entertainment, but they have also become a way for people to bond and make connections. Finding someone who has a similar taste in movies can create new friendships and start interesting conversations. That's why understanding how to analyze a movie and write movie reviews is such a useful skill.
Do you need to know how to write a movie review for college? Or how to write a movie critique? Or maybe just how to do a movie review? In this article, you will learn how to write a movie review step by step, as well as get an in-depth guide into each section of a movie review.
What is a Movie Review?
A film review essay is more than just a plot summary followed by a recommendation. A movie review analyzes different elements of a movie and mixes personal opinion with objective analysis. The goal of the movie review is to tell the reader about the details of a movie while giving them enough information to decide for themselves whether it's worth watching or not. Of course, a good movie review also has to be interesting and engaging!
How to Write a Good Movie Review
More than most other pieces of writing, there are a lot of steps to take before actually getting into writing a movie review. But don't worry though, most of these steps are pretty fun and if you follow them, you will know how to review movies.
Watch the film!
It goes without saying that you need to watch a movie before you write a review for it, so, before you do anything else, watch the movie at least once. Don't worry about trying to pick up specific details on your first watch, just enjoy the movie and get a general impression of whether you liked it or not and what you liked or disliked. Ideally, you should watch the movie at least two times. On your second and third viewings, pay attention to movie review criteria like cinematography, acting, dialogue, character development, deeper meanings, etc. Read some film review examples to get a sense of the things they talk about.
Pause the movie on your second and third viewings and take notes on things that stand out to you. Don't be afraid to take as many notes as you want, after all these notes are just for you. You might not use all the notes you have taken, but they will help you compose the main part of your body paragraphs.
Express your opinions
Once you have watched the movie a few times and taken notes, make a list of the strongest opinions you have about the movie. If you think that the quality of acting was one of the best parts of the movie, use your notes to come up with specific examples. You should have between 3 and 5 key opinions that you will elaborate on when writing a film review along with examples to back up your claims.
Think about your audience
The language you use is going to change based on who you are writing the movie review for. If it is an assignment for school or university, then you may have to use more technical language. If you're writing an article for a website or personal blog, then think about who the audience is and use language appropriate for them. Keep in mind that your audience also depends on the genre of the movie you are critiquing. A movie review for a serious period drama will have a different audience than a buddy cop comedy and therefore different language. Look at a movie review sample from different genres to get an idea of the type of language to use.
Research the actors
Having big movie stars associated with a film is often one of the main selling points of a movie. If an actor is critically acclaimed, it’s especially important to mention the awards they have won as this is often a sign of the overall quality of the movie. It's also possible that you didn't like the movie overall, but one of your favorite actors was in it so you enjoyed the movie and another fan might enjoy it too.
Do background research
An easy way to make a movie review interesting is to search for interesting details about the making of the movie. It may be worth mentioning if it was shot in a particularly beautiful place or a unique location, or if the special effects were practical rather than CGI. Include interesting casting decisions or other actors that were considered for a particular role. Think about what information could be interesting to someone who might want to watch the movie and include those details. Go over some movie critique examples to get inspiration.
Research the professionals
People can be fans not just of the actors, but of directors, writers, cinematographers, costume designers, and many other elements of filmmaking. Many directors are auteurs, which means they have a very particular visual style or storytelling method. How much time you spend on this section is dependent on your audience. If you're writing for social media or a blog for general people, then this might not be interesting to most. But if you're writing for film school or for a specific audience interested in filmmaking, then this section will need to be more elaborate. Look at a film review example written for different audiences to understand the differences.
Draft an outline
Now that you've done all the required research, it's time to come up with a review outline. An outline is always useful when doing any piece of writing because it gives you a chance to visualize the structure and plan how you want to incorporate information. This is the general film review format.
- Brief summary of the film
- Discuss plot, tone, characters
- Discuss creative and technical elements
- Your opinions
Come up with a catchy title
Almost more than any other piece of writing, a movie review’s title needs to be engaging. A title like ”film review of (name of the movie) might be to the point, but isn't going to stand out. A good title should grab the reader's attention and make them want to read more. A few ways you can do this is by talking about a specific actor or director, or by using one of the main plot points of the movie. For example, “A Romantic Comedy for the Unromantic”, or “Chris Pratt Plays Against Type in the Best Possible Way”. Look at the titles of some movie review examples for inspiration!
Write your review
It's finally time to get to the actual writing! The next part of this article talks in-depth about each section of a film review.
People aren't going to take a review seriously if you have spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. If it's an assignment for school, then you’re going to lose marks because of mistakes like that. Make sure you reread your paper a few times and check for typos and other silly mistakes. Read the paper out loud once or twice to get an idea of if it has a good flow. Don't be afraid to move sections around if you think it helps you build a stronger case.
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How to Write a Film Review
Do you want a ‘how to write a movie review’ template? Let's go over the specific parts of a film review and what to include in each one.
Your first sentence needs to capture the reader's attention. You can do this by stating an interesting fact about the movie, starting off by expressing your opinion of whether it's good or bad, mentioning some of the important actors, comparing it to other movies in the genre or to real-world events, whatever it is, make sure it's catchy!
Next, give background information about the movie. This includes things like the title, release date, studio, important cast members, director, budget, etc. Make sure to highlight any achievements of the movie, for example, if it was nominated for any awards. The same goes for the director as well as important members of the cast. This shouldn't just be a dry stating of facts, rather this should be a collection of interesting information about the background of the movie.
Finally, end your introduction paragraph with your thesis. In the case of a film review, your thesis is essentially what you thought about the film. Without giving away too much, express your overall impression of the movie noting particular things that you thought stood out or were weak.
Summary of the story
The trick to writing the summary of the story is giving readers an idea of what to expect without giving away any important plot points or spoilers. The goal of this section isn't to explain the plot of the movie, It's to make sure that people have a basic understanding of the story so that the rest of the review can make sense. Describe the setting of the movie, which includes the main locations and time period. Introduce the main characters (including the name of the actor in parentheses after the name of their character). And go over the general storyline.
This is when you start explaining what you thought about the movie. Start with an analysis of the plot itself. Did it have a rising action that builds suspense? Was the climax a good payoff? What were your overall impressions of the movie? How did it make you feel? What do you think the purpose of the movie was and did the director succeed in their goal?
This is also the section where you get to talk about the different characters in the movie. Why did you enjoy certain characters? Were some characters better developed than others? Could some characters have benefited from more development? Was the villain particularly interesting?
Think about the overall mood of the movie, did it change over time? How did the tones and symbols of the movie emphasize elements of the plot? Remember that any point you make in this section has to be backed up by examples. So if you say that there are several plot holes that make the movie complicated to understand, mention the specific scenes.
There are a lot of technical and creative elements in a movie that can stand out even if the overall plot and story weren’t the best. On the other hand, even a great story can be spoiled by bad dialogue or set design. These are some of the creative elements you should pay attention to especially when rewatching the movie and taking notes.
Dialogue: This can refer to the overall writing of the movie as well. If you can get your hands on a script then read it! When thinking about dialogue ask yourself, did the conversation between characters seem natural and flow easily? Or did it seem choppy and unnatural?
Cinematography: Cinematography refers to the camera effects and the choices of how to film a certain scene. The lighting, the choice of camera angles, essentially the unique perspective of the story as told through the camera.
Editing: Editing refers to the transition between different scenes as well as how well the movie flows together. This could include things like clever montages, longshots, different perspectives, etc.
Costumes: Some movies, especially historical movies, fantasy films, and science fiction films, depend heavily on costume design. Costumes are an integral part of making a character stand out or making the world seem more real.
Set Design: Set design refers to the backgrounds of scenes. Some sets might be more elaborate whereas others can be minimalistic. Each choice has its pros and cons and effective set design creates proper ambiance, setting the tone and mood for a scene or the movie.
Music and Sound: Sometimes the movie has a great soundtrack or just incredible sound effects that help make it stand out.
Stunts: More important for action movies, but in general stunts and action sequences can be a major selling point for a film.
Special Effects: Most movies rely on some amount of special effects, and whether it be CGI, or practical, or a combination of the two, the quality is important.
Once you have analyzed multiple different elements of the story from its plot, characterization, and other technical and creative elements, you can state your opinions and provide evidence for them. Make sure you refer to specific scenes or specific situations when looking for substantiating evidence. Remember that the goal of a movie review is not to just state whether you liked or disliked a movie, it is to analyze it in an objective way, and give information so that somebody else can decide whether they want to watch the movie or not.
In the conclusion you express your main opinion of the movie along with the most important pieces of evidence. You can talk about the purpose of the movie and whether the director was successful in showing that purpose. End with a recommendation of whether the movie should be watched or not, along with suggestions of movies that are similar to it.
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Mistakes to avoid
You now know how to write a review on a movie but let's take a look at some mistakes that you should be careful to avoid.
Not focusing on the film
It's easy to start writing about things like the historical events the movie you loved is based on or the importance of the Marvel Cinematic Universe overall rather than focus on the movie itself. While those elements can be interesting to include as background information, the point of a film review is to go over a particular movie so that is what you should spend the most time on.
Not providing evidence
A common mistake people make when they write movie reviews is to state their opinions without any objective analysis. An easy way to overcome this mistake is to make sure that you provide evidence for any claims that you make.
Spoilers are an easy way to make sure that people will be upset with your movie review. It is common to accidentally give away too much, especially when writing the plot summary. Find the line between giving enough information so that people understand the general story and revealing important plot twists and turning points. Read some sample movie reviews for examples of how to avoid spoilers.
Using personal pronouns
Statements like “I did not like the special effects” or “I did not like the pacing of the movie” are clearly expressions of opinion. It is better to make statements like “the special effects in certain action scenes were cartoonish and took away from the realism of the film”.
A movie review essay can be incredibly fun to write, especially if you have a strong opinion about the movie. But keep in mind that a movie review isn't just about your opinion, it has to include an objective analysis with claims backed up by evidence from specific scenes. It's difficult to have a movie review definition, but a great movie review is a blend between personal opinion and objective analysis. It informs the reader about the strengths and weaknesses of the movie while letting them make the decision whether they want to watch it or not.
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