How to Write a Great Movie Review Like a Professional Critic
Moviemaking is an amazing and colorful world filled with magic, joy, and fantasy. The films have become an important part of our culture. We watch them, we discuss them, and we love them. And one more thing: we write movie reviews. Unfortunately, creating a high-quality review may seem a difficult task, especially for beginners.
We examine all aspects of writing great papers in our guideline on how to write a movie review: structure, preparatory work, purposes, stages, etc. The writing process can be exciting and easy if you have detailed and helpful instructions. Don’t miss your chance to learn more about the mysterious world of film criticism!
What Is a Movie Review?
A movie review is a well-balanced synthesis of personal opinion about the film and critical analysis of its technical and thematic content. As a rule, the word limit of a movie review is about 1000 words. Although the text should not be very long, the preparatory work may take a few days. That is why you should not wait until the last minute to start working on your movie review.
The film review is classified as a creative review. It means that any film is considered as artwork, and you need to pursue both analytical and creative approaches while writing your review.
Their combination will allow you to create an exhaustive and persuasive paper. In order to produce a high-quality review for the chosen film, you should, in the first place, figure out how to write a good movie review. Our article includes all necessary information to help you learn more about writing film reviews.
The Main Purposes of Your Movie Review
The fundamental functions of a professional movie review can be expressed in four words: to inform, analyze, convince, and entertain. Let’s take a closer look at each of these aspects.
Your top-priority task is to inform your readers about the content and the quality of the film. Without basic knowledge, it is impossible to decide whether you’d like to watch the movie or not. If you write only about technical elements without a word about the genre of the film or its cast, your review will not be informative enough. For example, imagine your reader has a soft spot for the movies featuring Ryan Reynolds and doesn’t actually care about formal techniques. You may discourage him or her (more likely her) from watching the movie that she’d probably like if you omit mentioning Ryan Reynolds in your review and concentrate exclusively on the editing or plot.
If you are sure that the movie is great and worth watching, you have to be persuasive enough in order to convince your readers that your evaluation is correct. On the other hand, if you want to keep your readers out of wasting their time on bad movies, you also have to use your power of persuasion. The destiny of their leisure time is in your hands!
Sometimes, an inexperienced audience needs some instructions for the right way of watching a certain movie. A detailed analysis will help them to notice the most important film elements and not to look over the best scenes. Moreover, particular movies have a confusing plot with unexpected twists that need additional explanations.
Finally, your movie review should be exciting and catchy. Nobody would prefer reading a boring list of advantages and disadvantages without interesting facts and funny stories about the actors and shooting the film.
Now that you are already aware of the main purposes of the movie review, we can proceed to the next subpoint about the preparatory work.
How to Prepare for Writing a Movie Review
Before we explain bit by bit how to write a film review, it is necessary to tell more about the prewriting activities.
As mentioned above, the length of a movie review doesn’t usually exceed the limit of 1000 words. Unfortunately, even a short film review requires thorough preparation that may last a couple of days.
First of all, you should choose the movie if your instructor doesn’t assign it. Sometimes, the instructions only specify the genre or the thematic content of the film. In that case, try to find a renowned film that has been well received both by critics and the audience. As a result, chances are high that you’ll enjoy the movie and write a good review.
Next step is to watch the film. Be ready for two or even three viewings, because it is almost impossible to notice all details on the first attempt. During the first viewing, you should immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the movie in order to get an overall impression. At that moment, don’t worry about details and content; just go with the stream of the story. The second viewing requires much more attention than inspiration. Look closer at the specific aspects of editing, cinematography, acting, sound, etc. If the film touches on some events or issues that you don’t know much about, provide research. You have to gather enough information, otherwise your opinion can’t be considered as cogent and credible.
If you don’t succeed at formulating a central claim for your review after two viewings, you should probably watch the movie for the third time or, at least, a few key scenes. Your task is to find a suitable way to connect the thematic and the technical content of the film in order to evaluate their combination.
You may also watch the movies created by the same director for a better understanding of his or her individual style. Since acting is the base of every film, you can also check out how actors portray other characters and decide if this particular role corresponds with their regular specialization.
Take notes about the breathtaking scenes, key moments, and impressive details. Your memos will serve you as a starting point for your review. You should also note verbatim some phrases of the main characters. They may serve as a great epigraph for your movie review.
You can’t know everything about the film just from watching it. Investigate the background and, with a bit of patience and luck, you’ll find a great number of interesting facts that can decorate your review and make it more attractive for readers. You should mention some details about the process of shooting, the difficulties faced by the production team, and other curiosities.
If the movie claimed prestigious awards, it would sound like an immaculate argument for cinephiles to watch it immediately. You shouldn’t neglect the informative details, but don’t get carried away! Remember that the review has to also include your personal opinion along with general information about the movie.
Before writing your own movie review, you can read some professional reviews written by professional critics. You can find them on the websites of well-known newspapers or magazines like The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, etc.
10 Questions to Ask Before Writing a Movie Review
- Is this film part of a franchise? How does it suit the series?
- Is the plot based on a novel, fantasy, or real-life events?
- Did the writer manage to create a clear and captivating plot?
- Is the rhythm of the movie dynamic or smooth? Are there too many needless details?
- What is the target audience of the film? Is it G-rated, R-rated, or unrated?
- Do movies on the same theme/topic that are worth mentioning in your review exist?
- What sorts of shots does the cameraman use in the film? How do these techniques affect the overall impression?
- Does the movie have an exclusively entertaining character or touch on serious issues?
- Was the casting successful? Did all actors manage to portray their characters?
- What is the general atmosphere of the movie? Is it tense/joyful/obscure?
If you answer all these questions, you’ll get an approximate draft for your movie review. Of course, that is not enough. Now, we will continue our helpful guideline on how to write a movie review step by step.
How to Write a Great Movie Review Step by Step
Writing a film review is a complex and long process. The reasonable question here would be, “How do you write a movie review and avoid getting puzzled by all the details?” The easiest way to complete your paper is to break the writing process down into a few stages. This method allows for managing your time more accurately.
1. Begin with a catchy introduction.
Your introductory paragraph should include essential information about the movie: title, genre, director’s name, and release date. You can also mention, if appropriate, the awards (the most prestigious ones), the budget and the box office (if they are impressive), and the cast members. In addition to the general information, it is necessary to include your thesis into the introduction. A compelling thesis is a starting point for the critical part of your review that goes beyond the elementary plot summary and description of the technical elements. The thesis may display different aspects such as:
the connection between the film’s central idea and the current issues or events;
the similarity between the plot and your personal experience;
the interrelation between the thematic content of the film and its formal elements.
2. Don’t put your evaluation into cold storage.
If your readers don’t have much time to read the entire review, you can, at least, provide them with your evaluation at the beginning of the text. Don’t reserve your personal opinion for the concluding paragraph. You are not a crime writer: lay your cards on the table in the first or the second paragraph.
3. Compose a brief plot summary.
Describe four or five major events but don’t reveal the ending. Besides, avoid the “spoilers” by all means because your readers will hate you for destroying the suspense. If you still want to mention a significant turn, please, warn the readers about it.
4. Describe an overall impression.
The main purpose of the plot summary is to tell what the film is about. The description should inform the readers not about what you’ve seen but what you’ve felt. Mention the emotions and thoughts awakened by the concrete scenes, the most touching score, and the moments that pulled your heartstrings. Share your cinematic experience in order to make your review less formal and more personal.
5. Determine the purpose of the movie.
Answer the question, “Why was this film created?” Sometimes, you may find the response in the interviews with the members of the shooting team. In other cases, the purpose can be obvious thanks to the plot. If the movie has an entertaining characteristic, don’t try to dig deeper to find some implied sense. Certain films are good because of their simplicity.
6. Add some details about filmmaking.
The analysis of the formal techniques is an indispensable part of any exhaustive movie review. Concentrate your attention on one or two elements that you consider to be the most significant for this particular film. Be careful with the specific terminology because your movie review shouldn’t look like a crossword. Here are some aspects that you can describe:
This term includes everything that happens with cameras during the shooting. You can describe three main aspects of cinematography if you see them as important for comprehension of the film: camera movement, camera angles, and camera distances.
Although the sound affects the atmosphere of the movie as well as the visual elements, it is often underestimated. However, talented film score composers are highly praised in the movie-making world. Every sound in the film can be classified as diegetic and non-diegetic. Diegetic sound is like thunder, birdsong, barking, or conversations in the restaurant are the part of the narration. Non-diegetic sound is like off-screen commentaries or film scores that come from outside the universe of the film.
In a nutshell, the goal of editing is to create a smooth connection between all pieces of the film. The editor creates the “world of the story” in order to give the viewer a sense of space. The filmmakers use various methods to compose the integral reality of the movie: graphic similarities, eyeline match, establishing shots, etc.
This aspect is the most global because it includes literally everything that you see on the screen. Every landscape, actor’s smile, and visual effect is a part of the mise-en-scène.
7. Look for the deep meaning.
A good movie is never superficial. There are always key phrases, symbolic things, and repeating elements that are significant for the deeper understanding of the film and, consequently, for your overarching review. Be attentive in order to unlock all secrets of filmmaking!
8. Provide the examples.
No review can sound trustworthy without examples. Phrases like “the acting is great” or “the sound is bad” don’t inspire trust. Be more specific! For example, when you talk about the portrayal of a particular character, mention what exactly makes the actor relevant for this role: appearance, manner of speaking, facial expressions, etc.
9. Write a strong conclusion.
Remind your readers about the film elements that impressed you the most. Add some personal recommendations and specify for whom this film will be more interesting and why. Remember that your conclusion is the last chance to convince your readers, so do your best!
10. Edit and proofread your movie review.
Read your paper two or three times. Correct all the mistakes: word choice, grammar, style, spelling, typos, etc. Errors can spoil even the most professional review!
How to Write a Movie Review: Example Analyzed
In our opinion, the best way to explain how to write a movie review paper is to provide you with a particular movie review examples. Below, you’ll find not only an excellent example of a review, but the comments written by one of our professionals who describes different elements of the movie review template and their functions.
Click the images to see their full size.
We hope that our guideline has given you a detailed and extensive response to the question, “how to write a great movie review?” We are always glad to provide you with helpful information about writing academic papers of any kind. Read our guidelines and improve your writing skills every day with our essay writing service!
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