You’ve been asked to watch the recently released movie, Joker.
You squeal with joy. “Best assignment ever,” you say, and the next thing you know, you’re asked to write a movie review on it.
If only reviewing a movie was as enjoyable as watching it. Am I right, or am I right?
You might know by now that writing a movie review for college isn’t all fun and games. It’s serious business - just like any other academic writing assignment.
A movie review is meant to be a holistic evaluation and analysis of the movie. You’re expected to share your opinion on the technical and creative aspects while providing thorough evidence to back up your statements.
The purpose of a film review is to help the reader decide whether they need to watch it. There is no right or wrong point of view - everything depends on your approach, attention to detail, and how you choose to demonstrate your personal opinions.
If you’re stressing about how to write a movie review for college - read on to learn how you can ace this assignment and submit a winning review.
How to Write a Movie Review for College in 6 Steps
Writing a movie review helps instructors review your critical thinking, analytical, and evaluation skills. It takes careful planning and exemplary writing skills.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on writing a movie review for college (and doing a great job at it!).
Watch the Movie (More Than Once) and Take Notes
Remember - you’re watching the film as a critic and not as just another audience which means you need to be extremely vigilant while watching it.
When you sit down to watch the movie, sit with a notebook and make it a point to take notes. You cannot expect to remember every little point after watching a three-hour-long film.
Note-taking enables you to jot down your thoughts and makes it easier to organize them during the writing stage. Take notes about critical dialogues, characters, and scenes that stood out. Look out for patterns and assess how the movie made you feel.
Apart from that, it also looks into the underlying themes and technical aspects such as the film-making technique used or cinematography.
While writing a movie for college, one watch is certainly not enough. Watch it at least two to three times. Let the first time be purely about watching the movie for what it is. After that, you can go on to re-watch it with the objective of reviewing or critiquing it.
Do Background Research
In the case of a movie review writing assignment, the movie is undoubtedly your go-to source and the holy grail, but it’s not enough.
Consider researching the director, the year it came out, what was the socio-political environment like, what were the director’s motivations, whether there was any inspiration behind the movie, where it was shot, etc.
Doing this additional reading will give you valuable insights that will help you write a qualitative and well-rounded movie review.
Analyze the Movie in Parts
How will you write a movie review if you don’t know what you’re watching it for?
It’s a good idea to analyze it in parts.
Crucial elements you must consider during your movie analysis
- direction - how did the director translate the script into a film, can this movie be compared to his/her previous films, etc.;
- cinematography - what are the camera angles and shots, what is the filming technique, what is the lighting technique, and how does it impact the scenes, etc.;
- writing - how developed are the characters, was the plot predictable, how does it start and end, how are the dialogues, etc.;
- acting - how would you judge the actors’ performances, etc.;
- music - how does the music and background score accentuate the story;
- editing - how to do the scenes transition, did the cuts seem realistic and smooth, how was the length, etc.;
- costume and set design - were they appropriate to the era and the theme, etc.
Let this serve as a checklist while you’re watching the movie and making your notes.
Here’s a useful video by The Misfit Pond on how to analyze movies
Create an Outline
Now that you have your notes and analysis-ready, you can go on to the next stage - writing.
The first step of this stage is to create an outline that forms the skeleton of your paper and gives it direction. The idea is to jot down the sub-headings and include the points you plan on including under each of them.
This is the ideal structure of a movie review for the college
- Introduction - start with a hook and include basic details of the movie such as name, year of release, director, actors, and central theme. This paragraph should end with the thesis statement;
- Summary - provide a concise summary of the plot;
- Analysis - discuss the film’s creative and technical aspects while enlisting its strengths and/or weaknesses;
- Opinion - put forth your opinion objectively while backing it up with evidence;
- Conclusion - reinstate your thesis and highlight whether the reader sees the film or not.
This is where your efforts will culminate - it’s time to put down your thoughts into words and get writing.
Even though movie reviews are generally not that long, they can make for an overwhelming writing experience because there’s so much you’re juggling with.
It’s a good idea to break down the writing process and give yourself breaks in between. There’s no way you can do justice to the paper if you’re tired or burnt out.
Edit and Proofread
Once you’re done writing, make sure you read it multiple times to submit a well-written and polished paper.
Let the first round of reading be about checking the logical flow and structure of the paper while ensuring there is no plagiarism. Make sure you’ve added all the points you intended to and that they flow in smoothly.
Next up, proofread the review and check for typos, and grammatical and spelling errors. It’s also worth getting a friend or family member to read the review to check for errors that you may have missed out.
6 Smart Tips to Write an Excellent Movie Review
The best film reviews are those that strike a balance between sharing one’s personal opinion and being objective.
Now, that’s a tough thing to achieve because sometimes we get so swayed by our personal point of view that we don’t realize that we are expected to be unbiased and objective in this assignment.
Well, here are 6 smart tips to help you write an excellent movie review for college.
Read Other Reviews
Writing movie reviews is an art - and not everyone can review a movie the way it needs to be reviewed.
So, before you even start watching the movie in question, you should read reviews by notable film critics just to understand how movie reviews are written.
You can read reviews by Andrew Sarris, Judith Crist, Peter Travers, Peter Bradshaw, and Roger Eber, among many others.
That said, try not to read reviews on the same movie you’re reviewing because that might influence your perspective and writing.
Watch Like a Critic
There’s a huge difference between watching a movie like a general audience and watching it like a critic. For this assignment, you need to do the latter.
What does that mean? Analyze the direction, story, and characters, make comparisons, understand the context, look out for motifs, and pay attention to the camera angles and shots, loopholes in the plot, and every little element that’s part of the movie (on and off-screen).
Watch Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post’s film critic, share insights on what it means to watch movies like a critic
Stay Focussed on the Movie
This is an assignment and you have a word count to abide by. Make sure you don’t go off-topic or get derailed while writing the movie review.
Ultimately, everything you write needs to be correlated to the movie you are reviewing. It helps to have your thesis statement written boldly where you can see it. This ensures you don’t wander off-topic.
While proofreading, do keep this in mind and ensure you haven’t added irrelevant information that’s not in line with the topic because that’s likely to go against you.
Be Objective and Support your Opinions
It’s important to note that just because a movie isn’t suited to your taste, does not make it a bad movie.
You need to be objective while writing a movie review. If there is something you disagree with or are critiquing, do include enough evidence in the form of facts, statistics, quotes, and examples to strengthen your argument.
At the same time, if you happen to review the movie of a director you’ve been a fan of, don’t let that come in between your writing.
Basically, keep your biases out of the equation.
Look into the Details
Be specific while expressing your opinion. Making generic statements such as “the story was poorly written” or “the characters were well-developed” does not cut it. You need to dive deep and back your claims up to convince the reader about what you’re saying.
The trick is to keep asking yourself questions until you cannot further.
One of the things you will be assessed for will be your attention to detail. Merely touching upon the surface will be reflected in your writing and will cost you your grades.
Avoid Giving Away the Plot
One of the most common mistakes students make while writing movie reviews is including spoilers. This is a grave error because it goes against the concept of writing reviews because adding spoilers ruins the reader’s experience of watching the movie.
While you are expected to give an idea about what the movie is about, you have to keep spoilers out of the way.
Once you understand how to write a movie review for college and what it takes to submit a winning paper, you’ll realize it’s not all that challenging.
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Last edit at Jul 27 2023