How to Write a Movie Review: Step-by-Step Guide, Examples

Writing a movie review is a great way of expressing your opinion of a movie. The purpose of most movie reviews is to help the reader determine whether they want to watch, rent or buy the movie. The review should give enough details about the movie so that the reader can make an informed decision, without giving any essentials such as the plot or any surprises. Below is a helpful guide on how to write a movie review:

Read also: What Is A Blue Book?

What Is a Movie Review

So, let’s get started.

What Is a Movie Review?

A movie review is a detailed analysis of the film, including its strengths and weaknesses. It also contains the reviewer’s personal opinion about the movie. A typical movie review follows this structure:

  • Introduction
  • Description of the movie plot and main characters
  • The thesis statement consists of the review’s summary and your opinion about it
  • Analysis of acting performances, directing, cinematography, special effects, soundtrack, editing (add one or two sentences on each element)
  • Conclusion – Express your opinion on whether you would recommend or not recommend watching it

Movie Review Purpose

A movie review is meant to entertain and entice. The purpose of the writing is not to merely summarize the film but rather to critically evaluate it using certain criteria and provide an interpretation that can be supported by evidence from the film itself.

Here are some of the main purposes of a movie review:

  • To Discuss the Film Plot Briefly: Some movie reviews give information about what happens in the film without delivering any specific opinion from the writer. However, most movie reviews evaluate the quality of the film and its significance for viewers.
  • To Analyze the Film: In an analytical review, you build an argument about how well—or not so well—the director portrayed their intent through visuals and audio effects. You may also analyze a scene by comparing different versions of it that were shown throughout the film as a means of foreshadowing upcoming events; for example, in “Titanic,” when Rose is first introduced to Jack on deck, she’s wearing a long black skirt and white blouse with long sleeves buttoned up tight over her neck. Later in the film, Rose wears similar clothes while standing on top of a car with Jack as they fly into New York City. This exemplifies that even though she has experienced wealth and privilege on this trip, she has opened herself up emotionally and physically (in both instances) to something new that excites her—and makes her feel free and happy.
  • To Share Your Opinion: Most people write movie reviews because they want to share their opinion on how good or bad someone else thinks a film is without reading any other opinions about it first. This type of reviewer wants others to know their perspective​ before reading those other opinions so they can form more informed judgments based upon all available information rather than just one person’s viewpoint, which could easily sway them one way or another – especially if that person was paid off by someone involved with making this particular piece!
  • To Give Recommendations: Sometimes reviewers will recommend movies based on whether they think it’s worth seeing again after seeing them only once at their opening night premiere date (which means you might still make changes before

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Write a Movie Review

You get an assignment to write a movie review, watch the movie, and then start writing, right? Not so fast. Writing a film review is not as easy as it may seem to be. It is much more complicated than just watching a movie!

So in this section of our article, we will share a detailed step-by-step guide on how to write a film review.

Let’s go!

Step 1: Choose a Film

First, you need to choose a good film that you know you will enjoy. It isn’t easy to write a film review if the movie is not entertaining to you and doesn’t grip your attention. Choose a movie that will interest your readers, too. A great example of this would be reviewing films that have been released recently so that your review is relevant to readers who haven’t seen them yet.

Choose films with mixed reviews to provide an interesting argument in your review. In this case, you can either focus on agreeing or disagreeing with these reviews and why they may be right or wrong.

Step 2: Watch the Movie

Watch the movie several times, at least once on a large screen and once with the sound off.

It would help with multiple viewings because you can only spot different film elements in specific circumstances.

When you watch the film with no sound, you’ll pay attention to camera techniques, lighting, costume design, and visual storytelling. When you turn up the audio (make sure it’s high quality), you’ll immerse yourself in the world created by songs and dialogues.

Note that this is not something important only for critics who love cinema as an art form; everyone will benefit from watching a movie twice or thrice. You’ll have time to read about what other people thought of it when conducting your pre-writing research.

This way, all your information will come from multiple sources, making a good movie review essay stand out from its mediocre alternatives.

Step 3: Make Notes

Take notes. Taking notes will help you in the next steps when you start writing the review.

  • Write down any details about the movie that stands out to you. You can use these to help build your analysis later on.
  • Remember not to spoil the movie for readers or even give away too much of what happens early in the film!
  • If something interesting happens, jot it down to remember it as you are watching.

Step 4: Research the Movie

Research the movie to find out more information.

There is nothing worse than watching a movie and not knowing who directed it, the names of the actors, or when it was released. You can use these facts as part of your review. However, do not include too many facts in your opening paragraph. You can save them for later.

Here are some things you should research:

  • Who directed the film?
  • What is their previous work? Did they make other good (or bad) films?
  • When and where was it shot? Is there anything significant about that location and period? (This could be important if there are historical references in the film).
  • Was it based on a book? If so, which book(s)? Do you think spending an hour or two reading before seeing the film will help you enjoy it more (or less)?

Step 5: Analyze the Movie

As you analyze the plot, characters, and acting in a movie, consider whether these aspects were convincing or not. Think about how well the plot unfolds and if it is engaging. Is it predictable, or does the film succeed at changing your expectations? How are the plot points tied to the main characters? Did their actions make sense?

It would help to consider what’s left out of a movie and how that might affect your analysis of its story. For example, something left out of ‘The Great Gatsby is Gatsby’s trip to New York City with Nick Carraway. Although visiting New York wasn’t an essential part of Gatsby’s character, it would have added more depth to him and his relationship with Carraway.

When thinking about acting performances, think about how well each actor portrayed their character: Did they convince you they were this person? If multiple actors played a particular role (like Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow), did they all do a good job conveying a similar character, or did each one play the role differently? What was your favorite performance by an actor in this movie?

Step 6: Draft a Review Outline

You can structure your movie review however you like. However, most people have a hard time writing unless they have a clear outline. In other words, it’s good to know what you’ll be writing about before you start. That way, it will be easier for you to organize your thoughts and make sure you don’t forget any crucial information or points that arise during watching and reviewing the movie.

The outline should include:

  1. Introduction: This section should include the movie’s title, the director, and the main cast. It might be a good idea to provide some context for the film. For instance, you could point out that “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994) is an adaptation of a Stephen King novella and consider how faithful it is to its source. You should also briefly state your thesis in this part of the introduction.
  2. Body paragraphs: These are where you write about each topic and support it with examples from the movie itself. Remember, this is not just a regurgitation of facts; you need to analyze and interpret them to make your point valid.
  3. Conclusion: Here, you summarize what you have said in your review. You can argue whether or not the filmmaker achieved their goal by using specific examples from your analysis of the film in question.

Step 7: Come up with a Catchy Title

A good movie review doesn’t just recap what happened in the film. Instead, it gives an opinion and concludes. A catchy title will do the same thing.

The best movie titles can convey a lot of information about your review in a few words. They should be short and to the point—no more than ten words each (and ideally fewer).

Here are just some of the things you could include in a great movie title:

  • The name of the film you’re reviewing;
  • Whether it’s funny or scary;
  • Whether you think it deserves an Oscar or is ordinary at best;
  • A pun;
  • A play on words;
  • Your favorite line from one of the characters; or even
  • A famous quote about movies—or your opinion about what makes a good move, like “Gone With The Wind: What Is Art?”

Step 8: Write Your Review

With your outline in hand, it’s time to knock out your review. Your first few paragraphs need to include a summary of the plot. When writing this section, avoid giving any spoilers away. The whole point is to give your readers some background and context for the film without ruining all of its surprises. You can do this by describing what happens during the movie without getting into any detail that would ruin it for someone who hasn’t seen it yet (for example, avoid expansive character descriptions that divulge too much about a character’s motivations).

After you’ve summarized the movie’s plot, share your opinion of the film with your readers. Be sure to cite specific evidence from both the film and your research to support your claims.

End by summarizing all of your major points in a conclusion paragraph. This should bring the review full-circle: touching on everything you mentioned in the introduction and body paragraphs without sounding repetitive or redundant.

Step 9: Edit Your Final Draft

Finally, read your review again and check for spelling and grammatical errors, common mistakes, and general readability. If possible, ask someone else to proofread your work. It is much easier to notice mistakes in somebody else’s writing than in your own. Make sure that all your ideas are included, and the structure of the review is logical:

  • Is there a clear introduction with an interesting hook?
  • Does each paragraph contain one main idea?
  • Do all paragraphs follow a logical sequence and connect?
  • Are any missing details added?

Movie Review Outline

First, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with the work. Could you read it, watch it, read about it? If you’re writing a book review, this is easier said than done—you’ll have to consider all the factors that make up a novel: characters, setting, tone, imagery, etc. For a movie review or essay on movies with strong visual elements, watching the film several times will help you gain insight into cinematic techniques. And don’t just watch passively! Take notes and keep track of how each shot works to achieve its purpose in the overall context of the film (and your review).

Next comes outlining your essay. Review outlines follow a more rigid structure than other types of essays:

  • Introduction: This is where you introduce what the movie is about (without giving away spoilers!) and clarify why you wanted to watch it. You should provide some background information about the movie. This includes what genre it is, its plot, and where it was filmed.
  • Summary: A brief retelling of the movie’s plot—and no more than a page! You don’t need to get super detailed here; just hit on major points.
  • Reaction: Your reaction to the movie, including whether or not you would recommend it to other people (and why). How did the film make you feel? What was interesting or surprising? Was there anything that didn’t work for you? Were there any scenes that made you particularly uncomfortable?
  • Analysis: Here’s where your thesis comes in again! Please explain how this movie relates to your thesis or its larger point about society as a whole. Bonus points if you can connect it back to current events. How well does the film portray its topic? What does this film say about society? Is there an underlying theme that you could interpret in more than one way? How do style and visuals on-screen contribute to this theme? How did you feel about how the movie portrayed a character on screen–did they seem real? What message does their portrayal send about gender, race, and class issues within society? These are all questions that you should answer in your analysis. You can express your opinion here but mostly focus on critiquing how well you used these elements in portraying whatever aspect of society they are portraying (class issues are often explored through movies that deal with family relationships and romance).
  • Conclusion: Wrap up your essay by explaining what this film means to society today. Is anyone talking about it online? Does anyone have an interesting take on it? You can also mention what movies are similar and which ones are better—or worse—than this one (be careful not to include too many spoilers!).
  • Recommendation / Works Cited. Finally, don’t forget about the Works Cited page of the sources you got information from during your research and writing.

Short Movie Review Form

If you know that you will be writing plenty of reviews in the future, we recommend that you create a standardized movie review form. That will help you save time and succeed in your future assignments. Format and structure your template according to the general rule of film review writing and leave empty text boxes. Alternatively, you can search for a template on the Internet. Here is a basic movie review template you can use to outline your review:

Short Movie Review Form

Movie Review Examples

Here are a few sample movie reviews:

Movie Review of “Jaws” by Steven Spielberg

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Movie Review of “The Hunger Games”

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Movie Review of “Mean Streets,” Directed by Martin Scorsese

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Mistakes to Avoid

  • Don’t give away any plot spoilers. It’s fine to mention that a movie includes a plot twist or two, but you should avoid giving away the ending.
  • Avoid retelling the film’s plot in detail. You want to focus on offering your own opinions and insights about what you saw, not chronologically relaying the film’s events.
  • Include plenty of evidence to support your opinions, and make sure to cite your sources if possible. Your movie review will be more credible if you support your opinions with examples from similar films and other reviews from respected critics and directors.
  • Conduct thorough research before writing a review. It can also be helpful to conduct research by reading reviews of other films that are similar to yours so that you can find out who else has written about this topic and whether or not they liked it.
  • Absence of structure. Your review should have an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The introduction should set up the premise of what you’re reviewing; the body paragraphs should explore all aspects of the film – good, bad, or otherwise; and then, finally, there should be some resolution in which a recommendation is made (or not) for viewers who might like this kind of movie themselves.
  • Beware of being either too positive or negative about the film you watched. Many people exaggerate their reviews; they make them more dramatic than they should be, eventually getting caught in lies while trying to support their point of view with wrong facts and logical errors. This may ruin your reputation and credibility as a professional critic in the future if you do it often enough. Be objective and honest when writing your review essay so that the readers can trust you and want to come back for more of your works.
  • Be careful not to be too critical when expressing your opinion on what can be improved in the film because it might offend its director or producers, who usually take all criticism personally regardless of whether it was meant to hurt them! However, try not to overdo it either since most people will have different tastes from yours, so don’t forget that everyone deserves respect even though there is something about which we don’t agree 🙂 So keep this balance by providing both positives and negatives (if any).
  • Make sure to explain your reasoning as you go along in the review. Don’t just state your opinion and then leave it at that – give readers concrete examples of why you think this movie is good or bad and what events in the film support your view.
  • Use plenty of evidence from the film itself with specific details, scenes, lines of dialogue, camera movements, etc. Give reasons for your opinions based on those details, e.g., “The fact that she says this shows…” or “The way he says this suggests….”
  • Don’t generalize things like ‘women’ or ‘men’ – these can be tricky to prove as they refer to huge groups of people and are often not particularly accurate stereotypes anyway! If a character says something sexist, then say so: “the character’s attitude towards women seems outdated,” but don’t say things like “men are always stronger than women” because that’s not true for everyone (not even all men).

Final thoughts

In conclusion, a review of a movie should be entertaining to read. It should include the elements discussed above, but each should be well-written and original. Remember, while you want to make a good impression on your reader and convince them that you know what you’re talking about, your opinion is still subjective. Be sure it’s clear; don’t leave the reader guessing whether or not you liked the movie (or whatever else it is that you’re reviewing). And as always, remember to cite any source material to avoid plagiarism!

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