How to Write an Excellent Movie Review Assignment

author By Mary Boies

You enjoy watching movies. Now, you've been tasked with writing a review about one.

It should be simple, right?

Sit down, watch the movie and tell a stranger about it. Let them get lost in the movie even though you are just giving a summarized version of it. Next, state your highlights, mention your disappointments, if any, and make the narration interesting. That's it!

Sounds easy, but that's not always the case for many students.

How to write a movie review and score the best grade

An academic movie review is a creative type of assignment. It is distinctive from a typical essay or research paper in that it includes a critical analysis of the theme and technical details of the film and your personal opinion.

So, how will you write a high-quality movie review? That's where we come in. In this guideline, we explore everything that you need to know about writing a good movie review. As with writing excellent papers, the aspects we share here will make your writing process easy, seamless, and worthwhile.

So, let's see what the mysterious world of film criticism looks like and how we can bring the fun to the doorstep of the instructor, professor, or any marker.

Table of contents

What is a movie review?

A movie review is a creative piece of writing that reports the major happenings of a film and includes an unbiased opinion.  It entails the synthesis of personal views on a movie and an in-depth critical analysis of the thematic and technical content of the film in question.

The main goal of writing a movie review is informing your audience, as some people rely on the reviews of a movie to decide whether or not they will watch it.

In a scholarly setting, however, a movie review is a piece of academic writing whose purpose is for the student to analyze the main elements of filmmaking.

An academic movie review differs from other movie reviews by movie critics in that it is not so much focused on the entertainment factor.

By making solid analyses, students are required to showcase their understanding of the key elements that they have been taught in their course work. You need to bring forth your creativity, analytical reasoning, and critical thinking when writing the review to produce a high-quality review of the chosen film.

In terms of length, most movie reviews are at least 1000 words in length and written in APA, Harvard, Chicago/Turabian, or MLA formats. However, we've seen movie reviews, especially those applying concepts from medicine, sociology, nursing, psychology, geography, counseling, or divinity studies extending even up to 10-12 pages in length. It is, thus, advisable not to wait until the last minute to begin working on your film review.

This brings us to the next question

Why do students write movie reviews?

Movies are the visual representations of stories. However, all films vary in terms of how they are presented. In brief, professionally written movie reviews are meant to convince, inform, entertain, analyze, and critique a movie. Tutors assign movie reviews for the following reasons:

  1. To test students' ability to report events in a manner that is easy to understand.
  2. To examine how students investigate different stories.
  3. To gauge students' ability to give an objective analysis.
  4. To check if students have organized writing skills
  5. To check the vocabulary of students in their storytelling.
  6. To examine students' ability to adapt to different genres.
  7. To polish students' eye for details.

Now that you understand the main purpose of this type of creative and analytical review let us look at the preparation stages of writing a movie review.

Steps to writing a great film review

In a nutshell, the movie review mentions and analyzes all the technical aspects of the film, documenting any interesting facts about the filmmaking process and stating your personal opinion after watching the film. 

These are the best steps to follow to write an A-worthy movie review:

1. Choose the movie, if none is assigned

If your lecturer hasn't assigned a movie, you should start by choosing the movie you will review. Since you have more freedom here, you can opt to go for a genre that you are familiar with and would like to sharpen your skills on. Alternatively, you can choose to challenge yourself by choosing a film that you are not familiar with. Just keep in mind that the latter choice will be slightly more indulging.

If the instructions specify the genre, then you're safer choosing a popular film as not only will you enjoy it, but you will also feel more motivated to review it and add your own take on it.

2. Watch the film

Next, watch the movie. Watch it again. Watch it once more.

It is hard to note all the details of the movie the first time you watch it. This means that the first time you watch the film will be to familiarize yourself with the overall plotline. At this point, you are just following the flow of the story as though you aren't watching the film for an assignment. Therefore, your only role is to allow yourself to truly be immersed in the story, as this will make you invested in giving your take on it.

In the second viewing, you will start to notice a lot more detail. This is because you already know where the story is going, so you are watching it with an inner ˜eye.' What that means is that you should look for specific details that add to the storytelling. At this point, you are looking for the ˜how' the movie was made as opposed to ˜what' the movie is about.

If you have done the above steps but still don't have clarity on key aspects of the film, then a third viewing may be necessary. Because you already know the plot of the film, you might just have to watch the key scenes and major turning points of the film.

3. Take notes

Take notes on everything that you may want to include in your review, as they will be helpful during the actual writing process of the review.

These include the turning points of the movie, eye-catching scenes, inspiring quotes, and so forth. Consider how the actors played their roles, music effects, costumes, lights, etc., and take notes about them too.

At this stage, you want to ensure that you are looking at both the analytical and creative aspects of the work to come up with a comprehensive report. So as you are taking notes, try to define key elements of filmmaking that you will use to analyze the film

4. Conduct background research

You need to understand that you can't grasp everything about the film by just watching it. Therefore doing background research will be imperative in making your review complete.

You might find some interesting facts about the shooting process, difficulties that were dealt with by the production team, or any prestigious awards. These are an excellent touch to spice up the review and give the reader an understanding of how the whole process came about and its impact.

You can research previous works of certain actors or the cast and gauge whether their portrayal of the character in the film you watched is in line with their specialization.

You can also check out other movies directed by the same director to have an understanding of their style of work.

You may also need to conduct research on any key issue that was mentioned in the film; that you are not familiar with. If you don't have a grasp of what you are talking about, you will not convince your reader of anything. The thing is that most audiences are probably familiar with the theme of the movies they want to watch. So the worst mistake you can make is to present wrong information to an audience that is more knowledgeable than you.

5. Structure the paper

 Now that you have all the research done, your next step is to make a layout that you will follow. We will dig into this part in just a bit, but the key step is to arrange the different parts of the review.

6. Outline the main points

Chisel out the main concepts that you will investigate from the bundle of work that you have created during the research stage. Determine what points you are going to prioritize over others in the review.

7. Look for scholarly sources that support your main points

An academic paper is only as credible as the facts that support it. If the word is not evidence-based, you will probably fall short in convincing your reader about your points.

8. Develop a thesis statement

The main purpose is to analyze how the thematic and technical content was combined and how successful or unsuccessful it was. Look out for the acting, editing, sound, cinematography, etc, then form a central claim for your review.

9. Write the first draft

Before finally writing your first draft of the movie review, you can take some time to read the professional reviews written by professional critics. Cinephiles love reading these a lot to whet their appetite before watching either a trailer or a movie. Doing so helps you gather facts and lingo to use when writing your review. You can find such reviews online on websites of magazines, movie projects, and newspapers such as Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, etc. Once you have a grasp of what you want, you can now put the flesh into your movie review outline. Write as you cite your sources and the movie itself.

10. Edit and proofread your work

Lastly, read and re-read your work to correct any errors. Your choice of grammar and spelling should be top-notch so that the reader doesn't get distracted with the errors and have their attention drawn from the points you are trying to put across.

That's it! As promised, we will delve into a step-by-step guide on how to arrange the movie review from beginning to end. But first

11 Questions to ask yourself before writing a film review

These questions will help you in organizing and sift through what you want to add and remove from your review. The answers to them are the nuggets that you are going to look for as you watch and do background research.

  1. What is the plot based on? Is it novel-based, fantasy, or drawn from a real-life event?
  2. Was the plotline clear and engaging for you?
  3. Did the movie have a smooth or dynamic rhythm?
  4. How did that film make you feel?
  5. Were your expectations met or not? Was the ending satisfying, or were you left with unanswered questions?
  6. What shooting techniques are used in the film, and how do they affect the narration?
  7. Was the movie entirely for entertainment purposes, or was it based on serious issues? Is the atmosphere of the movie light or tense?
  8. Were the characters successful in playing their roles? Could there have been better casting?
  9. What was the target audience of the film, and is the content appropriate for them?
  10. Are there any movies based on the same topic that are worth a mention?
  11. Is the film part of a franchise? And if so, how does it suit the series?

Now let's have a step by step guide on how to write a successful review

The basic Movie/ film outline/Template

At this point, you have all the bits and pieces that make the first draft of your review. The only problem is, how do you organize all the details for a great movie review?

Well, every key to any piece of writing is having great flow. So naturally, therefore, the organization is vital. So here's a practical guide that will breaks down the entire process into feasible bits.

1. Start by writing a Catchy introduction

The introduction should include all the essentials; the film's title, genre, director's name, and release date.

Aside from these facts, your thesis should be mentioned as early as possible as it is one of the most integral parts of the review. Therefore, your thesis needs to be both compelling and cohesive. You can derive your thesis by establishing either one or more of the following:


The most important rule of the body and concluding paragraphs is that they have to be congruent with the thesis statement that was made from the beginning of the review.

You will notice the clear difference in the structure of the body of a movie review.

The first body paragraph entails a summary of the film. The next body paragraphs will entail an analysis of the main elements of the film. You may use specific scenes to bring out your main points or opt for generalizing the entire film. However, you must include scholarly articles that support your main points

2. State your personal opinion

You want to keep your readers from the word go. And the truth is that most readers of a movie review are looking for your personal opinion about the movie for them to establish whether or not they want to go on and watch it.

State what you liked the most about the movie, your biggest takeaway, and any other key evaluation that you noted.

3. Create a brief plot summary

The purpose of the summary is to tell the reader what the film is about simplicity.

Every movie review must consist of a brief plot summary. However, the key here is to avoid any spoilers. If you feel the need to include how the film ends to help drive a certain point home, then be sure to warn your reader beforehand.

The summary should not be lengthy. A great way to establish what to include in your summary is to note down key events that took place in the film.

4. Describe an overall impression

Because you have already stated what the movie is about, you now want to state how you felt. This will make the review more personal as the entire purpose of a film is to evoke a certain feeling in the audience.

What was your overall takeaway while watching the film? Describe the emotions that were awakened as they well as the thoughts that were provoked by the main scenes of the movie.

If the movie scores had a great impact on elevating those emotions, you could also mention that.

Consider whether the film felt rushed and whether or not the ending was satisfactory to you.

5. Establish the purpose of the film.

The next step is to mention the reason why this movie was created and for whom.

If there is a deeper meaning to the film, it will be notable in key phrases, symbolic elements, or repeated aspects.

Sometimes, movies are created to change a certain trend in society by highlighting its negative impacts. Others are created entirely for entertainment purposes and really just easing the hardship that people face in their everyday lives. If that is the case, don't try to dig for a deeper meaning.

If you can't establish the purpose of the film by simply watching the film, then do some background research and find the answer from interviews done by the production team and other corresponding members of the film.

6. Describe the technical elements used in the film-making

Another integral element of your review is an analysis of the techniques used in making the film. Because there are too many elements to fit into a movie review, filter out one or two key aspects. Here are some of the key elements that you can choose to mention:

This has to do with how the sound has an effect on the visual elements of the film.

The sound factor can be categorized into two; diegetic and non-diegetic.

Diegetic sound is that which is part of the film's narration. This can include birds chirping, lightning, the howl of the wind, etc.

Non-diegetic sound is that which enhances the film/highlights other elements from outside the universe of the film. This can be a film score or an off-screen commentary.

It could be used to enhance emotional scenes. For instance, happiness, joy can be elevated by lively music. The movie score could then change to somber for sad scenes.

This has to do with all the camerawork involved in the shooting process. That is the camera angles, movements, and distances.

Refers to the manipulation of camera settings to achieve different lighting results. As you consider the exposure of the film, ask yourself, How did the lighting add to the story? Did it enrich it? Did it add some pizzazz to the overall theme of the movie?

The purpose of editing is to piece together all the different parts of the film seamlessly.

To create a ˜reality' of a non-existent world believable, filmmakers use eyeliner matches, graphic similarities, etc.

This comprises all the visuals of the film. These includes:

When analyzing the characters in a film, you want to find out if they were successful or unsuccessful in portraying the feelings and ideas they are presenting to the audience.

How do the actors play out their roles? First, consider their physical expressions as an aid to the storytelling.

The costumes/ clothes of the characters have to correspond with both characters and the setting of the film. 

The best show of accuracy in costume is in historical films whereby we expect the costumes of the actors to match the time of the film.

This refers to the different elements that contribute to the final picture of a scene at one time. This includes the subject, objects, background, etc.

All in all, the quality of a picture is dependent on its composition.

7. Mention examples to make your review credible

The way that movie reviews relate to other academic works is by requiring evidence to support claims. This makes the review more credible.

For instance, if you claim that this character's casting was bad, go ahead and show examples of instances in the film where the acting was bad. For example, you can mention how their facial expressions did not accurately portray emotions or how their manner of speaking was inconsistent with the words they were saying.

In the same way, if you claim the sound was good' go ahead and state how certain film scores elevated specific scenes. It is not enough to state that ˜some character's casting was bad' or that ˜the film was really good.'

8. State the relevance of the content of the film to your course.

It would help if you outlined how the film fits into your coursework. For instance, if you are doing an assignment for a history class, state how important the film is to your coursework. If the film is about applying psychological concepts such as PTSD, CBT, counseling, or therapy, be sure to diagnose the issue with the presented character and how you would solve them in a real-world setting. As you analyze key elements, you need to note and mention any cases of over-dramatization, distortion of facts, or consistency with actual facts.

9. End the review with a strong conclusion.

A good review is only as strong as it ends. So if the reader makes it to the end of the review, they expect an end that is just as strong as the beginning and body of the analysis.

By the end, the reader is wondering whether or not you give the movie your stamp of approval. Restate the elements of the film that were the most impressive to you. State whom the film was created for and, in your opinion, who the film is best for and why you think so.

Basically, you should reinstate the thesis and use the conclusion as the opportunity to state whether you would or wouldn't recommend the movie.

Mistakes most students make when writing a movie review and Remedies

Students usually make mistakes that either lengthen the writing process or make the content substandard. Here's a list of mistakes to avoid when writing a movie review:

Watching the film without taking notes

Mistakes can begin as early as the preparation stage of the review. Assuming that you can take in and remember all the facts that you want to mention in the review will cost you.

Be sure to take notes to ease the actual writing process.

Stating claims without examples

As a rule of thumb for every academic work, every claim made has to have supporting facts to make it credible. So, for whichever claim you make, ensure that you give supporting evidence from scholarly works or from the film itself.

Not mentioning your personal opinion

The film review goes far beyond mentioning the plot summary and technical aspects of the filmmaking. However, the reviewer should not neglect the importance of mentioning their personal opinion of how all these elements correlate.

Focusing on personal feelings rather than facts

Stating your opinion based on something other than the actual elements of the film is the hugest mistake you can make. Don't base your opinions on personal feelings. That is how an unbiased opinion is made

Not having an outline

The biggest mistake you can make is to start the process without a structure to follow. The writing process will be more time-consuming if you don't know what facts to include in the introduction, body, or concluding paragraphs of your work.

All in all, do not wait until the last minute to start working on your review. The process of analyzing any type of content cannot and should not be rushed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can someone write a review without watching a movie?

Absolutely not! The farthest you can go in writing a movie review by not watching the film is either reading the script or paraphrasing someone else's review.

However, neither of these can be successful because

  1. While reading a movie script gives you the plotline, it doesn't give the cinematic experience that allows you to analyze other key aspects of a film such as the character's acting, the movie scores, the editing, etc.
  2. Paraphrasing someone else's review is hard to get away with because certain aspects of filmmaking require personal analysis.

The best way to write a comprehensive movie review is by watching the movie yourself.

Is a movie review similar to a script?

No. A movie review is a critic of the motion film, while a script is a written form of the film. The script precedes the actual movie by giving directions for dialogue, setting, and scenes while the movie review succeeds the movie.

How should I start a movie review?

The introduction of every movie review has two key parts.

The first is the title of the film and director(s), which must always be mentioned at the beginning of the review.

The second is a clear thesis statement whose purpose is to indicate the approach that the review will take.

Lastly, end your introductory paragraph with a brief mention of the main elements that the review is going to highlight.

How do I conclude a movie review like a pro?

How to conclude an academic movie review is an area that a lot of students usually struggle with. It's simple.

Just reflect on the main points stated in the body paragraphs and then restate the thesis.

Based on your analysis, you can choose to add the strengths and weaknesses of the director that you have established. The purpose of the last sentence of the conclusion is a final attempt at giving the reader reason(s) why they should or shouldn't watch the film.

How long should a movie review be?

Each movie review should be about 1000 words.

The lion's share of a movie review is in the preparatory stage, where the reviewer has to start by watching the film and then synchronizing through their notes to determine what they should include and how they should include it in their review.

However, when it comes down to writing, only a condensed and straightforward version of the analysis is needed.

Wrap Up

Writing a movie review is a detailed and extensive process that requires careful analysis.

Also Read:

To get an overall idea of how your movie review should look, you can research professional reviews or movie review examples on academic writing sites as an aid to your writing process.

We hope that this comprehensive guide has been helpful in writing your academic movie review. If you want someone to write your movie review, we have professional movie review writers available.

Best of luck!

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