How to Write a Movie Review: Step-by-Step Guide
Each person could find what he or she needs in a movie: humor, adrenaline, drama, love, a journey back through time, or an alternative reality. So, writing a movie review seems to be one of the most interesting assignments for most students. However, enjoying a good film in the evening and watching it solely for the purpose of writing a review are not quite the same. This article is aimed to teach you how to avoid common mistakes and how to write an excellent movie review.
What Is a Movie Review
Generally, a movie review is a genre of art criticism and journalism. It is a complex overview, usually made by a professional critic, on films that have just been released, to help decide what film to watch.
Professional reviews differ from those made by amateurs; they are more structured, sharper, more detailed, but at the same time more compact in wording. In a professional movie review you will always find awareness of the film’s director(s), their previous works and previous filmmaker’s pictures, as well as a deep understanding of different film genres and classics for each of them, and filming techniques and modern trends.
Though, you can find a lot of reviews that are made by ordinary movie fans — and sometimes they can end up being more informative and useful than a professional one.
Movie Review Purpose
The key to writing an outstanding movie review is understanding its purpose. So, keep your goals in mind while writing:
- Discuss the film plot briefly. Share some information about characters, relations and events, but don’t tell the whole story. Reading the review shouldn’t replace watching the film. Yet, you are free to mention the most important moments or turning points that make the film worth watching.
- Analyze the film in general and in certain aspects, such as the acting, the work of the director, theme, music, and special effects. Make a conclusion if the main idea of the film was duly implemented. Try to be objective and detailed in your evaluations.
- Share your opinion. Describe your feelings during, and after watching the movie and specify what you liked, and what you didn’t like. Provide your general impression about the film based on examples, descriptions, and comparisons to enable readers to make their own decisions.
- Give a recommendation. Try not to be categorical, but let your readers know what they can expect from the film, and who might find it interesting. Say if it matches an official film description and declared genre, why it might be worth watching, and what its weaknesses are.
- Entertain the reader. Reading movie reviews is actually kind of fun in itself. We’ve, as a society, gotten used to using this option before choosing a film to watch. Try to make an easy-to-read review, and write in an interesting manner.
Step-by-Step Guide on How to Write a Movie Review
Writing a movie review may not be as challenging as it first appears. This type of academic assignment is not the most complicated one by far. However, it still has its own peculiarities – and if you can get these right, you will succeed.
To get started with your paper, you need to know and understand the main characteristics of a good movie review:
- It provides bibliographic information;
- It shares a clear but concise characterization of the movie in question;
- It includes a description of the plot, which, however, does not give away any spoilers;
- It identifies the key characters and actors;
- It identifies the setting, themes, conflicts, in addition to other details present in the movie and evaluates them;
- It compares the film to other similar ones;
- It identifies the key strong and weak points of the film;
- It gives an overall evaluation of the movie.
Also, another important thing to be aware of in order to understand how to start a movie review is the proper formatting of such an assignment. The key to success in handling your movie review is decent organization. Just like every other academic paper, a good film review essay should follow a specific structure, style, and, most importantly, formatting.
Here are the key takeaways for how to format your paper:
- Use 1-inch margins on all sides;
- Pick a clear and readable font (the preferred fonts are Times New Roman, Courier, and Bookman);
- Set the font size to 12 pt.;
- Center the title of the paper along with your name.
Finally, to succeed in writing a movie review, all you need to do is follow the right sequence of actions that will gradually bring you to your desired result. In this section of our article, we are going to share a detailed step-by-step guide for how to write a film review.
Choose a Film
If you have a choice, think carefully about what film you would like to analyze. Surely most of us would choose one of our favorites. Though, it’s not obligatory to write a review on tone of the films you like, you may write about one you don’t like, and explain why. Such an approach could be different and refreshing, and could bring you extra credit.
Watch the Movie
Even if you’ve seen it a hundred times, watch it again in order to discover new details, and to understand the characters and their motives betters. We recommend watching a film at least two, or better yet three times. While watching it for the first time, we usually concentrate on the main heroes, their storyline and emotions. The second time around usually helps you to notice the details of minor characters and their stories, such as music, timelines, costumes, decorations and locations. All these things contribute to how you perceive the movie and your critique.
Keep a paper and pen near you to write down things you notice in the film, or to note your ideas while watching, or right after it. Write your notes immediately once an idea comes to mind.
Research the Movie
Filming is a long and complicated process that involves many people, which usually makes the shooting process an interesting story in itself. Find out as much as possible about it. Is it an original scenario, a re-telling or a remake? Is the plot based on a book? What was the available budget? How has the cast changed in the process? Pick up two or three of the most impressive facts about production and share them in your work.
Analyze the Movie
Think about everything you saw in the movie and determine your impressions of the film. Does the picture involve any social context? What was the original idea for the film and how successful were the producers at implement them? Pay attention to how it was filmed and and what techniques were used. For example, in Psycho, produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, we can definitely notice an unusual zoom effect called vertigo. Think of which actor impressed you the most and why. Compare this role with his or her previous works. Discuss the movie you’ve chosen with your friends or family to get fresh ideas to support your opinion, or for another point of view.
The vertigo effect in Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock
Draft a Review Outline
A plan is always a good idea, and could lead to half of your success. Before writing the actual movie review, make an outline of your work to structure all your thoughts and arguments. Read further to get an example of a movie review outline.
Come up with a Catchy Title
“My review for Titanic” sounds boring. Think of intriguing or impressive title, like “Why taking a cruise is not always a good idea”. Make your readers want to read further.
Write Your Review
Now after you’ve done your research and prepared your work, it’s time to compose everything together and write a review. Put all your thoughts and arguments together and stick to the outline you wrote before. Make a general overview of the film so that readers are able to understand what problems might arise from it, but don’t spoil the outcome, as they might not have seen the movie yet. Write main points that you liked, and ones that you didn’t. Reinforce your thoughts with evidence and examples. Comment on the originality of the movie and compare it with other films of the same genre, films with the same topic, or films directed by the same person.
Edit Your Final Draft
Once you’ve written your review, take a rest. A little pause before a final reading and editing will help you to look at it with a fresh outlook. Read your work several times. Check for spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, the sequence of presentation, compliance with the outline and professor’s demands, and the format and style.
Movie Review Outline
Structuring is extremely useful in any type of paper and a movie review isn’t an exception. A written outline will help you organize your thoughts properly, not to forget anything and to actually end up writing it faster. Here is an example outline you may use:
- Introduction: In this part you need to provide some general information about the picture: title, release date, main actors, filmmakers, film company and filming budget.
- Summary of the story: This is a short exposition of movie plot, characters and their interaction.
- Analysis of the movie, that includes:
- ~ Analysis of the plot elements: starting point, rising action, and climax.
- ~ Analysis of creative elements: dialogues, characters, use of colors, camera techniques, mood, tone, symbols, costumes or anything that contributes or takes away from the overall plot.
- ~ Analysis of the topic and its implementation: viewers’ understanding of the topic, relevance of the topic, and comparison with other resembling works.
- Opinion. Your point of view supported with examples and facts from the story.
- Conclusion. Announce whether the filmmaker was successful in his/her purpose. Explain how the motion picture was helpful in providing a deeper understanding of the course topic.
Short Movie Review Form
If you are in the middle of writing a movie review one-off, then reading our comprehensive guide and following the tips and steps mentioned here should be enough to get an excellent grade. However, what if you know that you will be writing plenty of reviews in the future? In this case, we recommend that you create a standardized movie review form (aka template) that will help you save time and succeed in your future assignments.
Format and structure your template according to the general rule of film review writing and leave empty text boxes. Alternatively, you can search for a template on the Internet and save even more time.
If you need a starting point to get going, here is a basic movie review template you can use to outline your own review:
Now, once you know how to review a movie and learn the most valuable tips to handle this type of assignment, it is time to look at some movie review examples to get you on the right track.
Check out the following pieces to see which of these movie review essay examples you might want to keep at hand when working on your own assignment:
The film, Norma Rae (1979), presents the story of a woman during an American labor movement where labor was depicted to be too intricate and prosperous to care for the underprivileged. The labor movement portrayed in the movie is perceived to be extremely powerful, powerful to the extent that its interests are always met. The movie is set in the present day (1979) rural south with the protagonist Norma Rae, a Southern mill worker with two children. The film provides a significant evaluation of the radicalism that was portrayed in the post-1960s by southern managers and how they learned to oppress the unprivileged when they were able to resist their legal rights.
The movie, Hidden Figures (2016), not only serves as an item of good
entertainment, but is also admirable in depicting the scientific changes in the USA in the 1960s, the social life issues of that era, and differences that existed in the country, especially among African-Americans. The movie centers around the lives of three women: Katherine Johnson, who is recreated by movie star Taraji P. Henson; Mary Jackson, who is played by Janelle Monáe; and finally, Dorothy Vaughan, as the mathematician portrayed by Octavia Spencer. Essentially, all three women of African-American backgrounds, they play vital roles in society through their contributions while working at NASA towards the successful launch of a spaceship into
Mistakes to Avoid
Here are some common mistakes among students that we recommend you avoid.
- Retelling the film plot in detail. As we mentioned above, the idea of a movie review is not to put the film on paper—nobody likes spoilers. Share the general plot to make your reader curious about seeing the film in order to get their personal opinion.
- Giving a too general opinion of the film. Remember that things are rarely unequivocal. Even if you don’t like the content and quality of the film, don’t forget to mention if the music was actually pretty good, or if one of the actors managed to portray a believable character.
- Lack of evidence. Presenting your opinion without any explanation why you think that way won’t be considered reliable. The unfounded statement isn’t a good resource for a decision, even if we are talking about a choice of which movie to watch.
- Lack of film research. Don’t force your readers to conduct their own research, or to look for another review to find out the background information of a movie.
- Absence of structure. If your work is not structured properly, it will be really difficult to follow your thoughts and understand your points. Reviews should be helpful to readers, and good structure helps get your message across correctly.
- No conclusions and recommendations. As we mentioned above, providing recommendations regarding the film is one of the main purposes of writing a movie review. Do not deprive readers from your findings and thoughts. By advising a good movie to watch, you may make someone’s evening.
Movie Review FAQ
Am I Required to Write a Film Review in a Specific Formatting Style?
Typically, the formatting style of the movie review is determined by the specific assignment instructions provided by your teacher. In some occasions, a movie review may be free of academic formatting. However, you should double-check this with your teacher.
Can I Copy a Movie Review from the Internet and Submit It as My Own?
No – if you simply copy an existing review and submit it as your own, your teacher will detect plagiarism in your paper and will penalize you for it. However, you still can search for examples of movie reviews on the Web to get ideas for how to write your own. Instead of taking the risk, entrust your movie review to one of our professional academic writers. This way you will save your time, without giving up on your success!
How Do You Write a Movie Criticism?
In a nutshell, a movie criticism is a peer-reviewed academic paper that analyzes and evaluates movies and the film medium. This concept is often used interchangeably with that of a film review. Therefore, when writing a movie criticism, you may as well follow the same steps and tricks as defined in this article for how to write a movie review.
What Are Good Movies to Write About?
Basically, you can write a movie review on pretty much any film. However, we advise to be very careful with these choices. It is important that you pick a movie that you will be able to analyze and evaluate. Typically for a movie review, students choose films they either like or don’t like.
What Makes a Movie Great?
There are several key things that define whether a film is good or not, these are: the plot, the visual aesthetics, the quality of directing and acting, the impression it makes on the audience, etc. Generally, you can tell a specific movie is great when it keeps the audience engaged and able to follow the story, and then leaves them with a powerful impression and then something to think about once the credits roll.