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How to Write a Movie Review

Updated on July 13, 2011

Really I should call this article "How I Write a Movie Review" because I don't honestly believe there is a right way or wrong way to write a movie review, there are just some do's and don’ts as well as some common practices. What I will say is writing movie reviews is a nice way to earn a little bit of extra money be it for your own website/blog or on review and article sites such as hubpages. So here we go how I go about writing movie reviews.

Watch the movie and watch it again

Because I generally review movies which I've got on DVD or recorded from TV I tend to watch them twice when writing a review of them. The first time is to just get the viewing experience and formulate opinions as to whether I enjoyed the movie or not and more importantly why. The second time is to make notes to back up my opinion be it a memorable scene, a joke or a poignant quote. It may sound like a bit of an overkill to watch a movie twice but for me I've found that whilst I may formulate an opinion from just watching a movie once I can't always remember the details correctly to back that opinion up.

Of course you could just watch a movie once making those notes as you go through but then again I've found that I lose something from that initial viewing experience if I am trying to split my mind from watching to taking notes.

Do the research

So you've got your notes and opinions from watching the movie now get the facts to back them up. What do I mean well before I even start formulating the review I will check details like was it a remake, who the actors were, who the director was and also what they have done before. There is nothing worse than getting the details wrong especially when you are trying to sound informative such as saying it was such a pleasure to watch such and such an actor starring in their first comedy when a little research may tell you that it's not the first time.

There is of course another plus point of doing this research; you usually discover a lot of other movies, sometimes older ones which may take your fancy. But when doing your research try not to read other people's reviews because their opinions may cloud your own especially when you read the review from a respected critic who detested a movie which you actually enjoyed.

Get writing get their attention

Now everyone has different ways of writing movie reviews, they lay them out in different ways some start with a synopsis others start with an introductory paragraph. I've tried both and would say that going with an introductory paragraph works best, well for me anyway. The reason being is that if someone discovers your review it's the 2nd thing they pay attention to after your title, if you give it one, and as such you need to grab their attention, keep their attention and quickly tell them what you think of the movie.

But rather than just saying it was good, bad or average you need to give them an idea of why. For example saying "I really didn't find it funny" doesn’t tell the person anything but expanding on it to say "I really didn't find it funny because the jokes were crude, unoriginal and juvenile" gives them an idea why and as such will also get a gist of what the movie is like on top of your opinion before they continue reading.

Most people who read online will look at the first few words, maybe a line and if you're lucky the first paragraph. If you don't grab them and keep them with those initial lines they will have moved on or hit the back button before you know it, no matter how good the rest of your movie review may be.

Tell 'em the story

Again everyone has a different take on writing movie reviews and often there is debate as to how much of the storyline do you go into. Do you give a brief synopsis, a single paragraph where you surmise what the movie is about or do you go into more detail giving paragraph after paragraph of storyline interweaving it into your opinion of the movie? There is no right or wrong way it boils down to what you feel comfortable with but the most important thing is that you don't give away the ending or significant twists, no one wants to read a review and then find every single moment of the story is revealed.

Personally I subscribe to the short single paragraph, the 3 or 4 line summary of the storyline because the last thing I want to do is write a review which spends more time recounting what goes on in the movie than giving my own personal opinion on it.

Back it up with facts

So in that first paragraph you gave them an opinion and an idea of why you had that opinion now it's time to expand on it some more and explain why you though that of the movie. This means saying what you thought of the storyline, the acting, action, special effects, comedy, dialogue and so on. This is where those notes and research come in because you will have it all their ready, it just needs to be pieced together into some coherent manner over a few short paragraphs. I say short because short paragraphs are easier to read from a screen than long rambling ones.

The thing to remember is that we all have are own opinions and what you may think of a certain storyline, joke, action sequence may not be the same as what someone else thought. There is nothing to say who is right or wrong and as such you should write not caring whether some disagrees but be honest with your opinion, it will come across to who ever ends up reading it.

You also should remember who you are writing for, what do I mean? Well it's nice to make your movie review flow with elegant vocabulary and show off your knowledge of movies but will that help the person on the end reading make a decision over whether to watch or buy a DVD. There is a fine line between writing a helpful movie review for your average person on the street and writing something which would impress any movie critic with your knowledge but end up being worthless and self-indulgent, just remember who you are writing for.

Conclude summarise and so on

You’re nearly done, or actually I would be nearly done when writing a movie review. My almost final step is to write a conclusion, a summary, a final paragraph which reiterates what I thought of the movie and why. In my opinion it's nicer to summarise to give your review an ending rather than just stopping, which some critics seems to do.

It goes without saying ...

And finally, you've written your review, your critical masterpiece and you're ready to publish it on what ever site you write for .... STOP. As with any writing never just write then publish it, read it over, let it sit for a day or two and look at it again, 9 out of 10 times you will find something you can improve on or something you forgot to add. Plus of course spell check it.

So that is how I go about writing my movie reviews, I don't profess to being an expert but I have tried and continue to experiment with different ways to writing reviews to find the perfect formula which I am comfortable with. Which in a way is most important you have to be comfortable with writing a movie review, you should enjoy doing it because it is fun and it will show in the way you write if it comes across naturally.


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      ericvonjed 7 years ago

      You might also consider getting someone else to read the review and offer suggestions, since editing and revising your own work is a bit like trying to cut your own hair.