Writing a Movie Review
Gather 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. Here’s what you should know:Title of the film
Take 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.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.
Consider the mechanics of the movie. During or after your viewing, ask yourself what impression the movie left with you in these areas:Direction. Consider the director and how he or she choose to portray/explain the events in the story. Think about the way they presented the movie to the audience. 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.
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? Take note of the use of lighting and other ambient effects. If the move has computer-generated graphics, think about whether or not they looked realistic/fit in with the rest of 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?
Background music. 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.
Write down your thoughts. As you mull over these aspects of the movie, jot down what you’re thinking. Don’t worry about editing your work right now – just get it out, and worry about cleaning it up later. Think of this part of the process as similar to brainstorming before you write an essay.If you want to make sure your understanding of the movie is complete, watch it again. Many reviewers watch the same movie more than once to ensure the review is as comprehensive as possible.
Begin writing your review. Now that you have a good outline and all your important information, it’s time to commence the actual writing process. It’s a good idea to start typing now, even for your first draft, since it’s much easier to revise and review your work if it’s on a computer.
Keep your writing clear and easy to understand. Don’t use too much technical filmmaking jargon, and make your language crisp and accessible.
Remember that the person who reads your review might not have seen the movie, so before discussing a character or plot point you should provide a brief summary of its relevance.
Warn your readers about spoilers. If your review contains them throughout its body, put an disclaimer at the beginning. If you only mention one or two little things, however, you can just warn your audience quickly beforehand.
Start with the general information. This should include all the basics that you found out already. Try not to just list it all flatly–find a way to spread out the information in an interesting and informative way. You don’t necessarily need to list everything in the order listed above, either.Provide an overview of the plot, but keep it contained. You should have a one paragraph maximum for this part. Give the reader enough information that he or she will be well-oriented at the beginning of the movie, but not so much that you give away the story (unless you’re writing a spoilery review).
Critique the movie. Now that you’ve explained the general events, the reader has an idea of the movie and its general theme. You can now begin to add your own ideas.
It’s a good idea when critiquing to present both the facts and your opinion. For example, you might state something such as, “The music, which was all classical, mixed well with the eighteenth-century setting.” This gives your reader a good sense of both “what” and “how” (in the sense of how good or bad something was). This is a lot better and more informative then simply saying, “The music worked well with the movie.”
Explain the reasons for all of your criticisms and provide examples. For example, if you didn’t like a certain actor, explain what about them you didn’t like, and give examples of their bad acting. This “proof” helps your reader understand your viewpoint.
End the review with something memorable. You want the last sentence to give your reader a good idea of your general viewpoint about the movie. This is a good place to explain whether in general you liked the movie, or not. (For example: “The movie was intriguing and exciting, despite a few less than stellar actors” is a solid conclusion.)Read through your review. Make sure your writing is intelligible, complete, interesting, and written in a general viewpoint. Correct any factual errors and check for any spelling or grammar mistakes. These may seem minor and unimportant, but they actually are very important to your reader, as they may not trust your review if they see you’ve misspelled a lot of words or contradict yourself.