How to Write a Movie Review: Tips, Samples, Template

Writing a movie review is one challenging task and there's more to it than just watching, understanding, and knowing. The purpose of a movie review is to tell readers if a movie is worth watching. Read this guide on how to write a good movie review.

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How to Write a Movie Review: Tips, Samples, Template

Writing is a big part of any student’s life. Professors give students written tasks like writing movie reviews and reaction papers. They often use inspirational or educational films to help students learn important life lessons like feminism and equality. This is why writing movie reviews is not just a trivial assignment but also a good way for students to deeply analyze a certain film and develop new ideas from it. People passionate about moving pictures such as film critics and loyal fans may also find themselves writing movie reviews. If you are someone currently tasked to write a review paper, reading about some movie review tips will help you make a well-written film review.

What Is a Movie Review?

This review paper type is a critical document that summarizes the film’s plot, analyzes its various aspects, and contains a viewer’s personal opinion regarding the whole film. A movie or film review should be a thorough and objective task that provides readers an overview of a film. It should give readers substantial information which should allow them to decide whether a film is worth watching. This type of paper can be a written piece or in video format. For this article, the focus will be on writing film reviews.

What is a movie review?

This type of paper can contain technical criticism on how a director designed the film scenes or it can be a medium in which the author shares only their personal opinion about a film and not touches any of the film’s technical aspects. Writing movie reviews may be a task that professors assign to their students to improve their critical thinking and reflect upon an idea. It can also be a full-time job for professional film critics. Loyal and passionate fans also tend to write movie review papers with great articulation and skill that can often compare to the works of professional critics.

Guide on How to Write a Good Movie Review

In writing this type of paper, the author should aim to give a summary of the plot and analyze behind-the-scenes and on-screen aspects of the moving picture. Depending on the nature of the review, an author may reveal important parts of the film that some readers may consider as spoilers. This is why when writing movie reviews, it is best to just summarize the plot instead of providing a lot of specific details. The paper should also tell readers if the film is worth watching or if it does not hold up to the trailers and advertisements. Below is a guide on how to write a good review paper:

1. Watch and finish the entire film

To be able to write a criticism of a certain film, a writer should watch and finish it. Even if the show is dreadful and boring to watch, a writer should finish it in order to produce a complete and honest movie review paper. Some film critics recommend watching films at least two to three times before writing the whole paper. This allows a critic or a writer to focus on one specific aspect of a film while watching a film. The first time a writer watches a film, they can focus on analyzing the main plot, the characters, the theme, and how enjoyable the film was. For the second time, the writer may focus on the more technical aspects such as how the cameras were angled and how the lighting affects the emotions in a film. The more times a writer watches a show, the more details they will be able to discover and write in their paper.

2. Take notes and analyze while watching

While watching a film, the writer should pause the film when they think of an idea. Watching a scene may give the writer an idea for their paper’s outline. For example, watching a montage-like scene where the protagonist is talking to a lot of minor characters may give the writer the idea of adding a minor character list section in the movie review outline. The writer should also take note of specific details such as a character tattoo or a painting inside of a character’s house. Taking notes will be more crucial if the writer is watching the film in class or in a theater. Since the writer will be unable to pause or replay scenes, they should be actively taking notes. 

While taking notes, the writer should also analyze the scenes they are watching. The writer should ask themselves questions that can help them better analyze a scene or the entirety of the film. These questions can also help when planning the paper’s outline. Ask such questions as:

  • How well did the story writer construct the plot?
  • Do the actors fit the characters they are portraying?
  • Is the show interesting? Does it make the viewer think?
  • Do the music, lighting, and camera angles give justice to the important scenes?

3. Research the film

Once a writer finishes a film and has taken notes, the next step is to research additional information about it and the people behind it. Research about the directors and actors and their previous works. Search for interesting stories that happened during the filming that the actors may have told in interviews. Try to look for existing papers that other writers have written. Writers may also look at movie review examples from other films but within the same genre. If the subject is a biographical film such as Roman Polanski’s The Pianist, a writer should also look for sources that can validate their notes and personal opinions.

4. Start with the film review outline

Before writing the paper, a writer should start by looking at their notes to create a film review outline. The paper’s outline is simply the plan on how the writer will structure their paper. The outline can look like a list of topics that the writer will discuss. It can also include the subsections of the movie review paper. This will help a writer avoid running out of ideas during the writing process and make the paper flow naturally. Writers can refer to the questions they asked themselves while analyzing the film.

How to write a good movie review

5. Write the introduction for the paper

After creating the paper’s outline, the writer can now begin writing the first draft of the paper. Begin with an attention-grabbing introduction. As with any other written works, the introduction of the paper should provide an overview of the topic and make the readers interested in reading the paper. The writer should write a thesis statement that tells the readers the main idea of the paper. The writer should also state in the introduction if they liked or disliked the film. This will help readers get a feel of how the paper’s content will proceed. Giving a film a score or simply stating that it is a “great” or “bad” film should be enough for the readers to get an idea of the perspective of the writer.

6. Write the paper’s body

The writer should refer to the notes that they have written while writing the main body of the movie review paper. Include a concise summary of the plot to help readers an overview of what happened in the story. Also, include important information about the movie’s production such as the director’s name, producer’s name, lead actors’ names, release date, genre, and other similar information. This can help readers know if it’s a big-budget movie or an indie film. It can also help readers know if the movie’s genre is something that they are interested in and if they should continue reading the movie review paper.

Once the writer has established the plot summary, they can now write their analysis of the movie. The writer should start with one idea and follow the movie review outline that they made. The writer should describe and discuss specific scenes to help them prove their points and opinions. If they think the show is lacking, they can compare it to other similar movies and explain to the readers how it failed to deliver. The writer should also discuss the cinematography in the movie review paper. Tell the readers if the lighting and music complement the emotions being portrayed in a scene. The writer can also explain in detail the plot holes that they notice in a movie.

7. Conclude the movie review paper and rate the movie

After the writer has presented all the points of their movie review paper, the last thing to do is write the conclusion. The conclusion should retell the paper’s thesis statement and summarize the main points of the paper. The writer should say if they believe that the movie is good and if they think the readers should watch it. If the writer thinks that the movie is bad, they can recommend other movies to the reader. Giving the movie a score or a grade is a good way to end the movie review paper. The writer can use any grading system such as numerical or letter grades. Some creative critics even use a customized grading system for their movie review papers.

8. Proofread and finalize the movie review paper

One of the most important parts of writing the movie review paper is proofreading. The writer should look for mistakes such as grammatical and typographical errors. Readers may not take the movie review paper seriously if they find too many mistakes. They can also show the paper to a colleague or a friend and ask them for their opinion. This will provide the writer a fresh set of eyes to proofread their movie review paper. The writer should also fact-check their opinions and statements so that they will not be giving misinformation to the readers. A writer will need to revise their movie review paper at least once. If they want it to be perfectly written, they may need to do two or more revisions.

Film Review Format

As with all other kinds of documents, writing film reviews will require the writer to follow a structure. This is why creating a film review format is important. It will make the task of organizing the writer’s thoughts and ideas easier. The writing process will also be faster since the writer will just have to fill in the sections in the format. A movie or film review format follows the standard essay format of Introduction - Body - Conclusion. Here is a movie review outline that writers can follow:

  1. Introduction - The introduction of a movie review paper should provide the title, release date, director, writers, producers, the whole cast, the publisher, and the genre. The introduction should also contain a thesis statement that gives an overview of the main idea of the movie review paper.

  2. Summary of the movie - Include a brief summary of the plot. Depending on the nature of the movie review paper, the summary can include specific events that reveal some integral part of the plot. The summary should include key events that will provide readers enough information to understand the story.

  3. Complete movie analysis - This is one of the main parts of writing movie reviews. The writer can start with a discussion of the film’s plot. They can tell the readers if they think it has a well-written story progression. They can then proceed with the technical aspects of the films such as the directing style, camera techniques, editing, and symbolism in the film. They can also include their analysis of the philosophies and ideas that the characters of the story believe or practice in the movie review paper.

  4. Personal opinion - This is the part of writing movie reviews where the writer is able to share their own thoughts and ideas about the movie. The writer should express how a specific scene made them feel and think. They can relate some scenes to their own life experience and compare how they acted with how the characters acted. The writer should make it clear in this movie review paper part if they liked it or not. They should use examples and facts from the movie to back up their opinions and discussions.

  5. Conclusion - This is the last part of a movie review paper. The writer should state if they think that the moving picture was successful in telling the story and delivering the message of the filmmaker. If the subject of the movie review paper is within the horror genre, the writer should say if they think that it did a good job of scaring the viewers. The writer should express their closing thoughts about the moving picture and tell the readers if they learned something from watching it. This should also be the part of the movie review paper where the writer rates the show.

Movie review format sample

Film Review Template

Besides creating a movie review outline and following a film review format, a writer can use a film review template to help in organizing ideas. A film review template is helpful if a writer is going to write multiple movie review papers. It is basically a questionnaire that asks the writer about the movie. A film review template can help writers save time. Instead of sitting in front of a screen and thinking about what they should take note of, the writer can use the film review template as a guide. Writers can search online and find a variety of film review templates to use. Here are sample questions that writers can use if they opt to create their own template:

  • What is the title of the show?

  • Who are the main characters and how are they related to one another?

  • Where and when did the story take place? Give a brief summary of the plot.

  • What is the moral lesson in the story?

  • What scene/s did you like the most?

  • What scene/s did you hate?

  • Which character/s did you like the most?

  • Which character/s did you dislike?

  • What are the issues that you have with the film?

  • Do you recommend the film? If so, to whom will you recommend it?

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Movie Review Example

Review on Doctor Strange (2016)

Doctor Strange (2016) is the story of a brilliant but arrogant surgeon who lost full control of his hands after an accident. He discovered that there is a reality far larger than himself and learned the lesson of humility. It showcases a story of falling from grace and finding the way back up, becoming a better person. The actor Benedict Cumberbatch played the main character of Stephen Strange while actor Mads Mikkelsen played the antagonist Kaecillius. Both were powerful but arrogant individuals, focused only on their own selfish needs. Director Scott Derrickson directed the film who is also known for his work on “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and “Deliver Us from Evil”.

The first 20 minutes of Doctor Strange (2016) showed how Stephen Strange lost full control of his hands after a car accident. He began looking for ways to heal himself which led him to a group of sorcerers and their leader called the Ancient One. He trained with the Ancient One and quickly excelled in controlling magical forces. He then learned of a student called Kaecillius who has begun a crusade to summon a powerful being that can destroy the earth. When Kaecillius attacked the sorcerers, he crossed paths with Stephen Strange who despite all odds managed to beat Kaecillius. However, Kaecillius escaped and was able to successfully summon the being Dormammu. Stephen Strange made a risky move by imprisoning himself and Dormammu on a never-ending time loop. Dormamu later succumbs to Stephen’s torment and agrees to leave earth in exchange for his freedom.

From the beginning of Doctor Strange (2016), it showed how arrogance can be a dangerous thing. Stephen was driving his sports car at a dangerous speed in the rain and was also talking on the phone. Due to his arrogance, he fell into an accident. He also pushed people away during the time that he was recovering. He was broken due to the fact that the very thing that made him special - his hands, are now injured. This was his life’s lowest point and Benedict Cumberbatch successfully portrayed a broken and desperate man.

The director then showed the incredible skills and abilities of Stephen Strange when he was able to quickly progress as a skilled magician. At first, he was having a hard time creating simple spells but when he successfully cast his first spell, a domino effect transpired. This for me was the weakest part of the plot and whole of Doctor Strange (2016) itself. It showed that his arrogance and high opinion of himself were not without reason. However, it made the character archetype so generic. The main character was the chosen one. He has a gift and fate seems to be in his favor. This is also depicted when he was able to defeat the antagonist Kaecillius during their first fight. Kaecillius was a sorcerer far longer than Stephen Strange yet the latter was able to beat him.

One of the best parts of Doctor Strange (2016) for me is when Stephen Strange was talking to the Ancient One’s spirit. The Ancient One was on the verge of death and she was telling Stephen that he has a choice. To go back to his life and use his magic to become the best surgeon once again or serve something greater than himself. This was a crossroad for Stephen Strange and the last moments of the Ancient One. What made the scene great for me was the emotion that the actress Tilda Swinton who played the Ancient One expressed during her last scene. She was dying and in her words, she said “You would think after all this time I would be ready. But look at me, stretching one moment out to a thousand, just so I can watch the snow.” Her spirit, once beside Stephen Strange, was now gone. The scene, for me, was perfectly directed and acted. The refutation of the concept of death, of a dying soul, gently clinging to life, was perfectly captured in that well-directed and acted scene.

Doctor Strange (2016) was a moving picture that attempted to teach the lesson of humility. For me, the film failed to do this simply because it ended with Stephen Strange becoming a master magician. Though he chose to become a protector of the earth instead of pursuing his surgeon career, he is now more powerful. Though he learned about humility and that he is just a smaller piece in a bigger puzzle, he is now a guardian of the earth and can bend reality through his will. I would recommend Doctor Strange (2016) to any Marvel fans who have not watched it yet. For those who are not Marvel fans, if they are interested in magic or a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch, then perhaps they can give Doctor Strange (2016) a try. 

Movie Review Writing Service

Moving pictures are entertaining and fun to watch. In contrast, writing papers and criticizing a show you just watched can be a pain, especially when your professor gives you a deadline. Since part of the review process is watching the film, you will spend hours looking at a screen, observing and analyzing the film. Instead of stressing out about not having enough time to write a movie review paper, try hiring a professional writer from CustomEssayMeister to write your paper. Our writers can guarantee an impressive paper that will surely impress any professors.