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Step-by-Step Guide on How to Write a Movie Review

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Write a Movie Review

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.


Table of Contents

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.


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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

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.

Make Notes

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Summary of the story. This is a short exposition of movie plot, characters and their interaction.
  3. 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.
  4. Opinion. Your point of view supported with examples and facts from the story.
  5. 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.

Example Papers

Movie Review: Norma Rae (1979)

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.

Movie Review: Hidden Figures (2016)

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
orbit.

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.

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