Tips for Writing a Film Review
There are no real rules for writing film reviews—they’re more of a commentary than an assignment. The best way to approach them (and any other piece you write) is to get your thoughts down first. Then you can edit it for clarity, voice, and style. To help get started, here are nine tips on how to write a film review that people will want to read.
Read Also: How to Write a Movie Review
1. Watch the film at least once
The first time you watch a film, focus on the basics: plot, characters, and cinematography. But don’t be afraid to take notes or pause the movie when something catches your eye if you can watch it again the next day (or a couple of days later, at the very least). This helps give you some time to reflect on what you saw and will help prepare for writing your review.
Even better if you can wait until the film comes out in theaters. Not only is viewing a movie in a theater different from watching it at home, but sometimes all those people around add to your experience of the film (especially if kids are laughing during scary scenes or someone who makes comments aloud).
2. Express your opinions and support your criticism.
Now that you’ve written down your thoughts, it’s time to give some rationale. Why did you feel the way you did? Your opinions should be supported by your observations and details from the film itself.
- Avoid vague statements like “This movie was bad.” Instead, provide specifics about what was bad and why.
- Avoid adjectives like great, good, bad, and terrible. Instead of saying, “The acting in this movie is terrible,” say, “The actors in this movie seem to be reading their lines off cue cards,” or “All of the actors in the film speak with a Southern accent except for one character who speaks with an Australian accent.”
- Say exactly why you felt a film was good or bad rather than generalizing its worth as art or entertainment. Saying “This move is great” isn’t helpful for readers to understand why you liked it so much or whether they’ll agree with your assessment. What makes it great? There are always specific reasons behind our feelings towards a piece of art; dig deeper into those reasons so that your reader will understand exactly what you’re getting at
3. Consider your audience.
As you write your review, consider who else would be reading it. This is important because different audiences will be looking for different things when reading reviews. For example, suppose you are writing about a fantasy film, and your audience is largely young adults with very little knowledge of the context and history of the genre. You might want to explain key concepts or background information in more detail than if you were writing for people who have read Tolkien’s works.
You might also need to consider the age range of your readership. If younger children read your review, they may not want to hear some of the harsher criticisms that older readers may appreciate. Similarly, an audience of senior citizens may not like seeing obscenities and another offensive language in your review.
4. Know the Actors’ portfolios
Knowing your actors’ portfolios and how they’ve been used in previous movies is another great way to improve your film reviews. An actor’s portfolio will help you understand more about their acting skills and inform some of the director’s casting decisions. For example, suppose you know that the director loves to cast a particular actress in roles that combine comedy and action. In that case, it’ll be easier for you to figure out why she was cast in a specific role in the movie you’re writing about, which will likely influence what you write to some extent.
5. Call out directors, cinematographers, special effects
Great films are distinguished by much more than just the actors in them—they’re also a product of the director who translated the screenplay into a movie, as well as all of the other people who worked on it, including but not limited to:
- The cinematographer(s) are responsible for the movie’s looks and feelings. Some famous ones include Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049), Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity), and Albert Wolsky (All That Jazz).
- The editor(s) work with the director to assemble raw footage into a cohesive story. People like Thelma Schoonmaker (Goodfellas) and Michael Kahn (Raiders of The Lost Ark) have made careers out of this job.
- Special effects artists whose creations often make or break sci-fi and fantasy films like Star Wars: The Last Jedi or Inception.
6. No spoilers
A film review is an article, not a summary of the movie. Therefore, don’t reveal any information about how the story turns out in your review. It’s okay to mention whether you enjoyed the film, but avoid summarizing the plot as much as possible. Instead, focus on discussing why you think people will like or dislike it and what makes it stand out from other movies in its genre.
7. Study the professionals
As you review more films, you may find that not all of your reviews will be the same. It’s good to study what is considered a good film review and how different people approach them. Here are some places to look:
- Review publications: These are magazines or websites whose main purpose is to publish reviews. They often feature expert columnists and also accept submissions from regular readers.
- Newspapers: You can find film reviewers working for local newspapers, as well as larger ones such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today. See if you can find several examples online that go into depth about the movie they’re covering.
- Blogs: Most blogs don’t pay their writers unless they’re run by someone who’s already established an audience and can make money from advertising or sponsorships. Still, there are many blogs devoted to movies and entertainment out there—see what kind of posts get shared a lot on Twitter or Facebook for ideas of where to start looking for examples of good writing.
8. Reread, rewrite and edit
Once you’ve finished writing your review, read it over to check for any mistakes you may have made. Make sure there aren’t any errors in spelling or grammar. If your writing isn’t very well-developed, don’t be afraid to use a thesaurus to look for better verbs and adjectives to make your writing more interesting. You could also get a friend who knows about films to read them over. If they catch any mistakes or think that some parts are unclear, you can change them so that your review makes sense and is error-free!
If there are any points you didn’t cover well enough because you weren’t sure of the facts, now is the time to go back and do some research to add this information to your final copy of the review. The more knowledge you have on a particular topic (especially when it comes to films), the easier it will be for you to write about it! Once everything has been checked and edited by yourself (or someone else), it’s ready for submission!
9. Find your voice
While it’s important to avoid being overly verbose, try to be yourself with your review. Write the kind of review you’d want to read. Don’t worry about being like your favorite critic or reviewer; write as though you were explaining what you liked (or didn’t) about the movie to a friend. If you have trouble with this, consider printing out a draft of your review and reading it aloud—this will help you see whether or not you’ve made the style and flow naturally.
Try not to feel intimidated by other film reviewers; by having confidence in your own opinion and writing style, you’ll find that many readers will come away from reading your review feeling that they understand what they might expect from the movie.
Writing a review of a film you have seen can be fun and easy, even if you are not a professional writer. It is a great way to start your writing career — or continue to write for fun. You may never get paid for your reviews, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth writing! The article has provided some amazing tips to help you get started.
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