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Whether a movie is a rotten tomato or a brilliant work of art, if people are watching it, it's worth critiquing. A decent movie review should entertain, persuade and inform, providing an original opinion without giving away too much of the plot. A great movie review can be a work of art in its own right. Read on to learn how to analyze a movie like a professional film critic, come up with an interesting thesis, and write a review as entertaining as your source material.
Sample Movie Reviews
Part 1 of 4:Writing an Intro for a Movie Review
1Start with a compelling fact or opinion on the movie. You want to get the reader hooked immediately. This sentence needs to give them a feel for your review and the movie – is it good, great, terrible, or just okay? – and keep them reading. Some ideas include: X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
- Comparison to Relevant Event or Movie: "Every day, our leaders, politicians, and pundits call for "revenge"– against terrorist groups, against international rivals, against other political parties. But few of them understand the cold, destructive, and ultimately hollow thrill of revenge as well as the characters of Blue Ruin."
- Review in a nutshell: "Despite a compelling lead performance by Tom Hanks and a great soundtrack, Forrest Gump never gets out of the shadow of its weak plot and questionable premise."
- Context or Background Information: "Boyhood might be the first movie made where knowing how it was produced–slowly, over 12 years, with the same actors–is just as crucial as the movie itself."
2Give a clear, well-established opinion early on. Don't leave the reader guessing whether you like the movie or not. Let them know early on, so that you can spend the rest of the time "proving" your rating. X Research source
- Using stars, a score out of 10 or 100, or the simple thumbs-up and thumbs-down is a quick way to give your thoughts. You then write about why you chose that rating.
- Great Movie:ABC is the rare movie that succeeds on almost every level, where each character, scene, costume, and joke firing on all cylinders to make a film worth repeated viewings."
- Bad Movie: "It doesn't matter how much you enjoy kung-fu and karate films: with 47 Ronin, you're better off saving your money, your popcorn, and time."
- Okay Movie: "I loved the wildly uneven Interstellar far more than I should have, but that doesn't mean it is perfect. Ultimately, the utter awe and spectacle of space swept me through the admittedly heavy-handed plotting and dialogue."
3Support your opinions with evidence from specific scenes. This is where taking notes during the movie really pays off. It’s hard to sway other people with your opinion if you can't give facts that support your argument. X Research source
- Great: "Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer's chemistry would carry Fruitvale Station even if the script wasn't as good. The mid-movie prison scene in particular, where the camera never leaves their faces, shows how much they can convey with nothing but their eyelids, the flashing tension of neck muscles, and a barely cracking voice."
- Bad: "Jurassic World's biggest flaw, a complete lack of relatable female characters, is only further underscored by a laughably unrealistic shot of our heroine running away from a dinosaur – in heels."
- Okay: "At the end of the day, Snowpiercer can't decide what kind of movie it wants to be. The attention to detail in fight scenes, where every weapon, lightbulb, and slick patch of ground is accounted for, doesn't translate to an ending that seems powerful but ultimately says little of substance."
4Create an original thesis based on your analysis. Now that you've thoroughly studied the movie, what unique insights can you bring to the table? Come up with a thesis, a central idea to discuss and back up with your observations on the various elements of the film. Your thesis should be discussed in the first paragraph of your review. Having a thesis will take your review beyond the plot summary stage and into the realm of film criticism, which is rightfully its own art form. Ask yourself the following questions to come up with a compelling thesis for your review: X Research source
- Does the film reflect on a current event or contemporary issue? It could be the director's way of engaging in a bigger conversation. Look for ways to relate the content of the film to the "real" world.
- Does the film seem to have a message, or does it attempt to elicit a specific response or emotion from the audience? You could discuss whether or not it achieves its own goals.
- Does the film connect with you on a personal level? You could write a review stemming from your own feelings and weave in some personal stories to make it interesting for your readers.
Part 2 of 4:Composing Your Review
1Follow your thesis paragraph with a short plot summary. It's good to give readers an idea of what they'll be in for if they decide to see the movie you're reviewing. Give a brief summary of the plot in which you identify the main characters, describe the setting, and give a sense of the central conflict or point of the movie. Never break the number one rule of movie reviews: don't give too much away. Don't ruin the movie for your readers! X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source
- When you name characters in your plot summary, list the actors' names directly afterward in parenthesis.
- Find a place to mention the director's name and the full movie title.
- If you feel you must discuss information that might "spoil" things for readers, warn them first.
2Start to talk about the film’s technical and artistic choices. Plot is just one piece of a movie, and shouldn't dictate your entire review. Some movies don't have great or compelling plots, but that doesn't mean the movie itself is bad. Other things to focus on include: X Research source
- Cinematography: "Her is a world drenched in color, using bright, soft reds and oranges alongside calming whites and grays that both build, and slowly strip away, the feelings of love between the protagonists. Every frame feels like a painting worth sitting in."
- Tone: "Despite the insane loneliness and high stakes of being stuck alone on Mars, The Martian's witty script keeps humor and excitement alive in every scene. Space may be dangerous and scary, but the joy of scientific discovery is intoxicating."
- Music and Sound: "No Country For Old Men's bold decision to skip music entirely pays off in spades. The eerie silence of the desert, punctuated by the brief spells of violent, up-close-and-personal sound effects of hunter and hunted, keeps you constantly on the edge of your seat."
- Acting: "While he's fantastic whenever he's on the move, using his cool stoicism to counteract the rampaging bus, Keanu Reeves can't quite match his costar in the quiet moments of Speed, which falter under his expressionless gaze."
3Move into your analysis of the movie. Write several paragraphs discussing interesting elements of the movie that support your thesis. Discuss the acting, the direction, the cinematography, the setting, and so on, using clear, entertaining prose that keeps your readers engaged. X Research source
- Keep your writing clear and easy to understand. Don't use too much technical filmmaking jargon, and make your language crisp and accessible.
- Present both the facts and your opinion. For example, you might state something such as, "The Baroque background music was a jarring contrast to the 20th century setting." This is a lot more informative then simply saying, "The music was a strange choice for the movie."
4Use plenty of examples to back up your points. If you make a statement about the movie, back it up with a descriptive example. Describe the way scenes look, the way a certain person acted, camera angles, and so on. You can quote dialogue to help you make your points as well. In this way you are giving your readers a feel for the movie and continuing to express your critique of the film at the same time. X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
5Give it some personality. You could treat your review like a formal college essay, but it's more interesting if you make it your own. If your writing style is usually witty and funny, your review should be no exception. If you're serious and dramatic, that works, too. Let your language and writing style reflect your unique perspective and personality - it's much more entertaining for the reader. X Research source
6Bring your review full-circle in the ending. Give the review some closure, usually by trying back to your opening fact or thesis. X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source Remember, people read reviews to decide whether or not they should watch a movie. End on a sentence that tells them whether it’s worth seeing. Try to make your conclusion entertaining, too! X Research source
- Great: "In the end, even the characters of Blue Ruin know how pointless their feud is. But revenge, much like every taut minute of this thriller, is far too addictive to give up until the bitter end.""
- Bad: "Much like the oft-mentioned "box of chocolates", Forest Gump has a couple of good little morsels. But most of the scenes, too sweet by half, should have been in the trash long before this movie was put out."
- Okay: "Without the novel, even revolutionary concept, Boyhood may not be a great movie. It might not even be "good.” But the power the film finds in the beauty of passing time and little, inconsequential moments – moments that could only be captured over 12 years of shooting – make Linklater's latest an essential film for anyone interested in the art of film."
Part 3 of 4:Polishing Your Piece
1Edit your review. Once you've finished the first draft, read it through (you can even read it out loud!) and decide whether it flows well and has the right structure. You may need to shift paragraphs around, delete sentences, or add more material here and there to fill out parts that are stunted. Give your review at least one editorial pass, and maybe two or three, before you consider it to be editorially sound. X Research source
- Ask yourself whether your review stayed true to your thesis. Did your conclusion tie back in with the initial ideas you proposed?
- Decide whether your review contains enough details about the movie. You may need to go back and add more description here and there to give readers a better sense of what the movie's about.
- Decide whether your review is interesting enough as a stand-alone piece of writing. Did you contribute something original to this discussion? What will readers gain from reading your review that they couldn't from simply watching the movie?
2Proofread your review. Make sure you've spelled all the actors' names correctly and that you got all the dates right. Clean up typos, grammatical errors, and other spelling errors as well. A clean, proofread review will seem much more professional than one that's full of silly mistakes. X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source
3Publish or share your review. Post it on your blog, share it in a movie discussion forum, put it up on Facebook, or email it to your friends and family. Movies are the quintessential art form of our time, and like all art, they spark controversy, provide a venue for self-reflection, and greatly influence our culture. All this means they're worth discussing, whether they're flops or works of pure genius. Congratulations for contributing your valuable opinion to the discussion.Advertisement
Part 4 of 4:Studying Your Source Material
1Gather basic facts about the movie. You can do this before or after you watch the movie, but you should definitely do it before you write the review, because you'll need to weave the facts into your review as you write. Here's what you need to know: X Research source
- The title of the film, and the year it came out.
- The director's name.
- The names of the lead actors.
- The genre.
2Take notes on the movie as you watch it. Before you sit down to watch a film, get out a notepad or a laptop to take notes. Movies are long, and you can easily forget details or major plot points. Taking notes allows you to jot down little things you can return to later. X Research source
- Make a note every time something sticks out to you, whether it's good or bad. This could be costuming, makeup, set design, music, etc. Think about how this detail relates to the rest of the movie and what it means in the context of your review.
- Take note of patterns you begin to notice as the movie unfolds.
- Use the pause button frequently so you make sure not to miss anything, and rewind as necessary.
3Analyze the mechanics of the movie. Analyze the different components that came together in the movie as you watch. During or after your viewing, ask yourself what impression the movie left with you in these areas: X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
- Direction: Consider the director and how he or she choose to portray/explain the events in the story. If the movie was slow, or didn't include things you thought were necessary, you can attribute this to the director. If you've seen other movies directed by the same person, compare them and determine which you like the most.
- Cinematography: What techniques were used to film the movie? What setting and background elements helped to create a certain tone?
- Writing: Evaluate the script, including dialogue and characterization. Did you feel like the plot was inventive and unpredictable or boring and weak? Did the characters' words seem credible to you?
- Editing: Was the movie choppy or did it flow smoothly from scene to scene? Did they incorporate a montage to help build the story? And was this obstructive to the narrative or did it help it? Did they use long cuts to help accentuate an actor's acting ability or many reaction shots to show a group's reaction to an event or dialogue? If visual effects were used were the plates well-chosen and were the composited effects part of a seamless experience? (Whether the effects looked realistic or not is not the jurisdiction of an editor, however, they do choose the footage to be sent off to the compositors, so this could still affect the film.)
- Costume design: Did the clothing choices fit the style of the movie? Did they contribute to the overall tone, rather than digressing from it?
- Set design: Consider how the setting of the film influenced its other elements. Did it add or subtract from the experience for you? If the movie was filmed in a real place, was this location well-chosen?
- Score or soundtrack: Did it work with the scenes? Was it over/under-used? Was it suspenseful? Amusing? Irritating? A soundtrack can make or break a movie, especially if the songs have a particular message or meaning to them.
4Watch it one more time. It's impossible to fully understand a movie you've only seen one time, especially if you're pausing it often to take notes. Watch it at least once more before you compose your review. Pay attention to details you might have missed the first time around. Pick new points of focus this time; if you took a lot of notes on the acting the first time you watched the movie, focus on the cinematography the second time around. X Research sourceAdvertisement
QuestionHow do I format a student movie review?wikiHow Staff EditorThis answer was written by one of our trained team of researchers who validated it for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Staff AnswerwikiHow Staff EditorStaff AnswerDifferent instructors will have different expectations about how you format your review. Ask your instructor or take a look at the assignment handout to find out if they have specific instructions. Otherwise, you can search online for samples of student movie reviews online to get an idea. Make sure you look at examples that are appropriate to your school level (e.g., middle school, high school, or college).
QuestionWhat should I look for in a movie when writing a review?wikiHow Staff EditorThis answer was written by one of our trained team of researchers who validated it for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Staff AnswerwikiHow Staff EditorStaff AnswerThere are a variety of factors you can look at. For example, if you’re interested in the more technical aspects of the movie, you might pay attention to things like the cinematography, lighting, and sound quality. If you want to take a more artistic approach, study things like the plot, pacing, and acting.
QuestionIf the movie has a lot of main characters, should I write about all of them?Community AnswerYou would want to mention the ones that you think are the most important to the plot. Also, don't give a full detail about their role in the movie--just a sneak peak.
QuestionHow do I end a movie review?Community AnswerThink of a conclusion that sums up all of the different parts of the movie so that you can decide which things are good, which things are bad and how good the movie is in general.
QuestionDo we need to tell what is happening in the movie when writing a review?Community AnswerTo some degree. There is no need to write out the whole plot, but you will want to make the general idea of the move clear, and you might also focus on a few scenes or aspects of the movie that particularly stood out to you.
QuestionAt minimum, how many words are to necessary when writing a movie review?Community AnswerThere is not set minimum amount of words for move reviews. However, it is necessary to be clear and concise. In order to keep readers interested, don't give too much detail or make it too long.
QuestionWhere can I find movie reviews?Community AnswerSearch online or in your local paper. You can also visit sites like Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes, which compile all of the reviews for every movie that comes out, with links to the full review.
QuestionHow do we start an introduction for a movie review? Should I start with a question or a declarative sentence? Do I have to relate it to other events?Community AnswerYou can start your review however you want. Whether it's a quote, statement or question, nothing is wrong. And no, you do not have to relate it to other events. It will add some depth to the review, but it is not mandatory.
QuestionHow do I start my movie review?Community AnswerStart your review by writing the names of the actors, director and producer.
QuestionDo you have to give a "star" rating to your review?Community AnswerNot if you don't want to. Stars, number ratings, and other "quick" reviews are helpful for some readers who just want to scan the review, and many sites require them if you want to write for those sites. However, thoughtful pieces without numbers are equally common, and are often a better way to give a nuanced review.
- If you don't like the movie, don't be abusive and mean. If possible, avoid watching the movies that you would surely hate.
- Understand that just because the movie isn't to your taste, that doesn't mean you should give it a bad review. A good reviewer helps people find movie's they will like. Since you don't have the same taste in movies as everyone else, you need to be able to tell people if they will enjoy the movie, even if you didn't.
- Structure is very important; try categorizing the different parts of the film and commenting on each of those individually. Deciding how good each thing is will help you come to a more accurate conclusion. For example, things like acting, special effects, cinematography, think about how good each of those are.
- Make sure to take a lot of people’s opinion on the movie and include it in the review. Also, state if you enjoyed it and why.
- Read a lot of movie reviews, and think about what makes some of them more helpful than others. Again, the value of a review is not always in its accuracy (how much the reader agrees with the reviewer) but in usefulness (how well the reviewer can predict whether the reader will enjoy the movie).
- Make sure not to add spoilers!
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/subject_specific_writing/writing_in_literature/writing_about_film/terminology_and_starting_prompts.html
- ↑ https://www.spiritofbaraka.com/how-write-a-movie-review
- ↑ https://www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/9-tips-for-writing-a-film-review/
- ↑ https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/writing-help/top-tips-for-writing-a-review
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/summary-using-it-wisely/
- ↑ https://twp.duke.edu/sites/twp.duke.edu/files/file-attachments/film-review-1.original.pdf
- ↑ https://www.dailywritingtips.com/7-tips-for-writing-a-film-review/
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/subject_specific_writing/writing_in_literature/writing_about_film/film_writing_sample_analysis.html
- ↑ https://learning.hccs.edu/faculty/onnyx.bei/dual-credit/movie-review-writing-guide
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/conclusions/
- ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/how-to-write-a-movie-review/
- ↑ https://gustavus.edu/writingcenter/handoutdocs/editing_proofreading.php
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/editing-and-proofreading/
- ↑ https://edusson.com/blog/how-to-write-movie-review
- ↑ https://sdfilmfest.com/how-to-analyze-a-movie-step-by-step-guide-to-reviewing-films-from-a-screeners-point-of-view/
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/subject_specific_writing/writing_in_literature/writing_about_film/terminology_and_starting_prompts.html
- ↑ https://learning.hccs.edu/faculty/onnyx.bei/dual-credit/movie-review-writing-guide
About This Article
To write a movie review, start with a compelling fact or opinion to hook your readers, like "Despite a great performance by Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump never overcomes its weak plot." Then, elaborate on your opinion of the movie right off the bat so readers know where you stand. Once your opinion is clear, provide examples from the movie that prove your point, like specific scenes, dialogue, songs, or camera shots. To learn how to study a film closely before you write a review, scroll down!