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How to Write Movie Reviews

Updated on August 25, 2010
Photo copyright Cloudzilla via Wikimedia Commons
Photo copyright Cloudzilla via Wikimedia Commons

Film reviews that are not from professional film critics are slowly rising in popularity as the go-to source for finding new films to watch. In fact, good reviews are making money for all manner of writers, including freelance writers and writers on affiliate sites. The question on many a small-scale writer’s mind may be, “Alright, how do I write a good film review? Where do I start?” That is what we’re going to delve into today.

First, every film review has to have a few essential parts that everyone is looking for. Namely, they like to hear the basic plot, acting, the good and bad points of the movie, and the reviewer’s take on the movie as a whole. Mentioning the quality of the script, pacing, costuming, etc. is generally also appreciated, as well as a little background on the historical context on which the movie was built (if applicable). Let’s break this down a little bit more, shall we?

The Parts of a Film Review

Plot – People want to hear the basics setting of the movie, and maybe a little tease about where it’s heading. Generally, they do NOT want to read spoilers that give away the intricate plot twists before someone has a chance to watch the movie themselves. If you can’t restrain yourself from interjecting a spoiler or two, clearly denote a **~SPOILER ALERT~** to your readers, so that those who do not want to know can still enjoy the rest of your review.

Acting – We don’t need a run-down of the entire cast. Whenever characters are mentioned in the summary, denoting who played the character is generally appreciated. During your critique, mentioning specific actors who stood out (whether for good or bad) is certainly a great thing…but much more than that can get overly dense and boring.

Context – If you’re reviewing a movie on the Civil Rights Movement, medieval England during the Black Plague, or set in 17th-century Mongolia, then your review can help set the stage for potential viewers in a way that may be difficult to glean from the movie itself. A sentence or two on when or where it’s set and why this is significant can also bring in interested viewers that may have otherwise completely overlooked that film. The age of the film is often relevant as well, especially for very old films with which you include commentary on the quality of the filming, or films made in a particular political or cultural climate.

Audience – Not every movie is meant for all audiences, and if there’s something that is definitely NOT for certain groups or that others may particularly enjoy, you may want to say so. If it’s not for kids, be sure to mention general reasons why (nudity, graphic violence, etc.), or if there’s a lot of crass humor then people who are easily offended by such things may wish to avoid the film.

Critique – Here’s the most important part of the entire review…the part that’s completely unique to you. Depending on your review style, it’s often better to make definite statements about the film – i.e. “Superb directorship turned this weak script into a truly memorable film” – rather than couch it completely in personal terms – “I think the director did a great job, he had what I thought was a really weak script to work with but turned it around beautifully.” Try to highlight at least a few good and a few bad points on every movie…unless you just really can’t find one or the other, and then your job as a reviewer is to make a strong case for why it was so great or so horrible.

Other Considerations

While you want to try to make a film review very detailed and helpful, beware of over-analyzing or putting in way too much detail. A scene-by-scene review of a particular film may not miss anything…except readers, by time you get to page 15 or so. Be sparing with your words, avoiding overly flowery speech, and get to the point. Try to organize your review in an easy-to-read format and keep it down to a page or two, allowing readers the time to go over reviews for all the films they might be interested in and maintaining their enthusiasm for your opinion on those films.


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    • SteveoMc profile image

      SteveoMc 7 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Thanks for all the good information. I might try to review one or two for the practice.