Writing a Film Review

how to write a movie review

A film review is a type of review that provides a short description of a film and includes the reviewer’s opinion about it. A film review can be formal or informal. When talking about an academic writing assignment, a scholarly film review should definitely use formal language.

Steps for Writing a Film Review

  1. Select a film to review, if one was not assigned to you by your instructor. Usually, students are given either a specific film to review, or a list of films to choose from. Take note that your film of choice has to meet certain criteria your instructor has set (usually a subject you discussed in class).
  2. Watch the film at least twice. It might seem like a boring and unnecessary requirement, but this rule has been proven by many. It is practically impossible to write a solid film review having watched the film only once.
  3. Read about the story behind the film (whether it is based on real-life events, on a well-known novel, or on the personal experience of the director, etc.). Include any interesting and peculiar facts about the production process, the basis for the story, the cast and the crew, the budget and the shooting location.
  4. While the film is being watched for the second time, make notes of critical scenes or distinctive performances of the characters in the film, which you can later analyze in detail.
  5. Write an introduction where you include all the basic information so that the film can be easily identified and there is no confusion. Note the name, the director, main cast, and the characters in the story, along with the year (and possible date) of the premiere.
  6. Write the main body. Analyze the story on the whole, the performance of the actors, and vision of the director. Discuss what you would possibly have approached differently. Include examples from the scenes you noted earlier.
  7. Make a conclusion. State what the general perception of the film was by the audience and the critics. Then express your personal opinion and either recommend the film (in this case, specify what audience will most likely enjoy it) or not recommend it. Include the rationale for your opinion.

Topic Selection

A sound idea for this kind of review would be to choose a film you have certain sentiments about. It doesn’t matter whether you love it or hate it; if the film evokes emotions in you, it makes a fitting subject for your review. The topic of the film itself doesn’t matter as well. The only restriction may be that the film being reviewed and/or the film review itself doesn’t disturb the target audience.

Key Points to Consider

  • It is best to watch the film first of all, prior to reading anything about how it is perceived, so that you are not prejudiced or predisposed to a certain opinion about it. However, it is important to acquaint yourself with the critics’ opinions and the perceptions of the wider audience at some point, as this is basic information that any film review must have.
  • Think of other films in the same genre or that depict a similar story. Compare them with the film you are reviewing and make note of its comparative strengths and weaknesses.
  • It is advisable to allow yourself sufficient time to reflect on the film, then write a review after you have watched it for the second time, if time permits. A few hours of digesting what you have just watched might be enough to analyze the impact of the film and get a fuller sense of impressions.
  • A useful tip is to watch some behind-the-scenes footage or interviews with actors and crew to get a better picture of the production process.
  • Another interesting approach is to pick one distinctive scene from the film that made a particularly strong impression on you, and analyze it in detail. However, there is no need to describe the scene itself in specifics to avoid being a spoiler, especially if it is close to the culmination. Instead, focus on the actors’ performance, setting, music, light, characters’ behavior, and dialogue.

Do and Don’t

Do

  • Do keep the film’s target audience in mind. Consider whether or not you relate to this audience when analyzing the film.
  • Do include your personal, subjective comments on the film. However, make sure they are reasonable and not too general.
  • Do avoid spoilers when you discuss the plot. Remember, your aim is to summarize the film for those who are possibly interested in viewing it themselves after reading your film review.
  • Do analyze particular characteristics of the film separately. It is not enough to just decide whether or not the film is worth seeing. You have to go into detail and evaluate actors’ performance, the director’s vision, sound, light, setting, and other technical components one-by-one.
  • Do avoid generalizations. Be specific in your comments and expound on them adequately. Be precise and give examples to make sure you convey the right impression with your words.
Don’t

  • Don’t neglect watching the film. If one attempts to form an opinion on the film from just reading about the plot and the cast on the Internet, then there is little chance such a film review will be any good.
  • Don’t choose a film for review based on critics’ opinion. Even if the film was not exceptionally successful, it might be a great idea to write a review on it and try to highlight its strong points.
  • Don’t be afraid to disagree with critics. Your film review is more valuable when it is more critical. When it comes to film reviews, uniqueness and originality of thought is appreciated.
  • Don’t think you have to necessarily criticize the film in your review. Being critical does not mean you cannot admit if you liked the film and think that it is a great piece of art. Just make sure to base your opinion on something other than mere judgment.

Common Mistakes

  • Going too far into the details of the plot. A film review is normally about two to three pages long (400-700 words), so a simple outline of the story and a sentence or two about the general setting in which it takes place will be more than enough. It is your opinion and the detailed analysis of the film components that must be the main focus of your review.
  • Rushing into the actual writing process is a common mistake. Remember, you have to think of the particular audience you are addressing, outline the key points on which you want to focus, and do a sketch using the notes you prepared while watching the film.
  • Choosing a film you once watched and writing a review based on your distant memory. Even if you still remember the impression that the film left you with and the general plot, it is crucial to refresh your memory by watching the film again so you can recall all the details.
  • Watching a film in the company of other people and discussing it along the way. Your film review has to be based on your personal perception and most people find it challenging to remain independent in their views.
  • Attempting to make your film review sound too smart and sophisticated, while losing the whole idea of why you started writing your review in the first place. Remember, your film review has to be interesting, clear, and understandable to your target audience.

Now that you have acquainted yourself with the basic film review writing tips and rules, you can check out our film review samples to link theory with practice.

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Samples for Writing a Film Review

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