So you want to write a movie review. Great! Movie reviews are an important way that audiences learn whether a movie is worth their time and their money. But not all movie reviews are created equal. A lot of reviews don’t really tell the audience whether they would like a movie but rather whether the reviewer did. Knowing the reviewer’s opinion is part of a review, but as we will see, it’s not the only or even the most important part of a good movie review.
Let’s take a look at some easy steps to help you write a great movie review.
Watch the Movie.
Yes, this is the most obvious step, but it’s also an important one. When we say to watch the movie, we don’t just mean to sit through the movie like any member of the audience. We mean to watch and observe the movie closely, carefully observing every aspect of its production, from the story to the acting to the set design and even the lighting. You should look at the movie through a critical lens, evaluating how well the production accomplishes the goals it set out to achieve. In the Sherlock Holmes stories, Holmes said that Watson sees but does not observe. Your goal is to observe at every step.
Take Notes While You Watch.
As you watch the movie, take notes to keep a record of plot points, character names, important production elements, and your reaction to each part of the film. Some critics prefer to write these by hand on a notepad, using only a small light so they can immerse themselves in the film. Others use a laptop to type notes for speed and legibility. If you are attending a press screening, the exhibitor will expect these sorts of aids, but if you are attending a public screening, be sure to check with the theater before using a light-emitting device.
Summarize the Plot
The most basic element of a movie review is a summary of the story, telling the audience what the story is about so they can determine if it is something that interests them. When summarizing the story, focus on the setup and the hook, but avoid giving away major twists or the ending, especially for new releases. If you are reviewing a well-known or classic movie, you can discuss more plot details and even the conclusion, though it has become typical, even for familiar movies, to warn readers before spoiling the ending.
Evaluate the Effectiveness of the Movie.
A movie review shouldn’t be an unconditional cheerleading of the movie, nor should it be an unmitigated litany of criticisms of what it did wrong. Few movies are either completely good or completely bad, so try to fairly assess what it did well and what it did badly, and whether the good outweighs the bad, or vice versa. Evaluate the quality of the acting and the believability of the characters and the story. A few movies will be so good there will be little negative to say, or so bad there is nothing good to say, but those will be few and far between.
Discuss the Movie’s Major Themes, Motifs, Etc.
The final thing that a movie review should do is to look at the larger picture. What does the movie have to say about the people, groups, cultures, etc. depicted in it? How does comment on how we live today? Try to put the movie into context and talk about some of the ways that the film reflects important themes. Is there more to it than just the story we see on the screen?
Movies are important pieces of art that reflect our lives and hold a mirror up to our world. A good movie review needs to do more than simply tell the audience what you thought of a movie. You should use your movie review to have a conversation with your readers about the movie in the broader context of cinema and culture. By doing so, you will elevate your analysis from the basic level of summarizing a movie to a full fledged and well developed movie review that will help the audience to make an informed decision about whether to watch the movie.
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