“Everybody's a critic.” That is an expression that everybody has heard at one point, which is simply not true. Everybody has an opinion, for sure. Most people can tell you whether or not they liked a movie, a book, or a kind of food.
However, most people lack the critical tools to explain why they do or do not like something. That is where a real critic comes in.
Film criticism has been blown wide open by the internet. Every day, more and more people try their hand at film criticism, and a high volume of those people will not get very far at it. Unfortunately, some people stop at simply telling the reader or viewer that they did not like the movie or loved it.
Film criticism requires more than saying if you liked or disliked a movie. If you want to review films on your own website or for a publication, you need to have the right tools at your disposal. You need to be willing to dive deep into the films you watch. It’s harder work than it may first appear, but if you are passionate about films, then it won’t feel like work at all.
Here is everything you need to know about movie review writing to start your new path as a film reviewer.
Nobody wants to sit through a movie they did not enjoy for a second time. On the other hand, nobody has a problem watching a movie that they loved for a second time. Whether you enjoyed a movie or hated it, you need to watch the film you are reviewing at least twice.
One's first impression of a movie is not enough to build a complete review. There are always details and moments that you may have missed the first time around. Some details may not be too important, but other details could completely alter the way you see the film.
If you're going to review a film, you need to know more about it other than merely what you saw on the screen. These details will enrich your review with information that your readers will appreciate.
The easiest details to learn are who the film stars are and who directed it. It also helps to learn who the other, potentially lesser known, actors are in the production. The more factual information you have, the better off your article will ultimately be.
When writing a film review, recalling your thoughts as you watched it can sometimes be difficult. This reason is why many film reviewers will use a notebook while watching. Taking notes as you watch will help you keep your thoughts on a film in a place where you can reference them later.
Writing down little details, character moments, or even seemingly unrelated thoughts can better serve your review because you will have a record of what specifically you thought as you watched the movie.
You can highlight things that stand out to you while you watch the movie by writing them down in your notebook. For example, there could be performances you wish to spotlight, moments of foreshadowing, music choices, or other creative elements the reader may wish to know about. Think of the audience you are going for, whether they are general audiences or cinephiles, and note the details you think they will find important.
There are plenty of people who watch a movie and only zero in on the story and acting. Those are fine elements to focus on as they are typically what can leave the biggest impression on an audience. However, as a movie reviewer, it is your job to understand the different elements that make up a film and how they connect to one's overall impression of a film. The following elements are of particular importance.
If filmmaking was considered a team sport, then the director is the coach. The director is the creative spearhead and chief decision maker in every film. They may not necessarily write the story (though plenty do), but they are the mind through which the story is filtered through when presented to the audience.
Writing may be the feature of a movie that is often most at the forefront for some. The story and the dialogue are obvious features of writing, but it’s not just about pretty words. Good writing knows how to play with the audience and how to make them react emotionally.
It would be easy to boil this down to just the camera work, but cinematography encompasses more. The way the film looks, the lens choices, the way a picture moves, and the lighting are all factors that make up a film’s cinematography.
If there is an unsung hero in what makes a good movie, it would be the editing. The editing not only determines a film’s length but how a film flows. Without good editing, shots would drag on too long, there would be awkward pauses, and we would see plenty of mistakes. Good editing can even enhance the storytelling at work.
A motion picture soundtrack is about more than good music or sound effects. A good soundtrack is made up of the right sounds. The right soundtrack enhances the world that a film shows you.
Good set design can be flashy. It can be understated. But above all, it has to suit the characters and the story the film is telling.
Costuming is what the characters are wearing, but when critiquing the costumes in a film, you need to consider several factors. You should be able to tell if the costumes suit their respective characters along with the style of the film.
Casting is about more than getting great actors. Casting is about finding the right actors to bring characters to life.Sometimes this means seeing actors play characters that we are used to, as well as watching them play characters who are completely against their type.
These elements give a film its personality, and knowing those elements will help you better craft a good review that helps the reader decide if watching the movie is worth their time and suits their tastes.
When you watch a movie the first couple of times, you may only be thinking of things from the main character's perspective. Rewatching a movie from the perspective of another character can sometimes reveal layers to the film that you had not considered before. It can also draw attention to nuances in the performances that you did not pick up on the first time around.
A good example is Blade Runner. If you watch the film only from Rick Deckard's perspective, it's a movie about a cop struggling with the morality of the job he does while falling in love with one of the replicants he's supposed to be chasing. If you rewatch the film from the perspective of Roy Batty, it becomes a film about an escaped slave desperately trying to stay alive. Finally, if you watch it from the perspective of Rachel you have a film about a woman questioning her identity after learning she is not what she always believed herself to be.
These different perspectives lend strength to the film and give viewers something different to latch onto.
With so many film reviewers and professional writers out there, it can be quite difficult to stand out. This is why you need to make sure to have a killer introduction to your review. It doesn't have to have flashy or pretentious writing, but it does have to have something that hooks your readers from the get-go.
One of the best ways to hook your readers with your intro is to set the context for the movie that you are reviewing. Compare it with other films that have come out recently. Create an analogy between the film and current events. Give details about the history of the film's production to see if the filmmaking process yielded a product that was worth the effort. Whatever you do, just make sure that the content adds value for the reader and your review.
Movies are art. They are the most populist form of art on the planet, but they are still art. This means, try though we might, it is not always easy to simply judge a film as being good or bad. While you should always endeavor to point out a movie's strengths and weaknesses, you mustn't leave your own opinion of the film's overall quality ambiguous. One of the best ways that you can make your personal opinion concise and clear for the reader is to implement a rating system.
Siskel and Ebert had an almost flawless system to tell audiences if a movie was worth seeing or skipping; by giving it a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. Two thumbs up meant the film was great. Two thumbs down meant it stunk. One thumb up and one thumb down meant it could be a mixed bag depending on the viewer.
It was a simple system, and it may seem to support the idea that movies can only be considered good or bad. However, in practice, it was a great way to speak to general audiences while still offering up a middle ground that challenged them to see the movie for themselves to make their own judgment.
Whatever you do for your rating system, do your best to ensure that it is recognizably your own. This can be a feature that keeps your readers coming back for more reviews.
A film critique can often be like building a case. You are trying to persuade the reader to either see or skip a movie based on your opinion. That means you need to be sure that your review is persuasive. The only way to do that is to give examples that prove your opinion correct, or at the very least prove the merit of your opinion.
The best way to do this is to give examples of scenes, performances, effects, or even music that works in or against the film's favor. If there is a dialogue that you think exemplifies whether or not the writing is good or bad, then use quotes that highlight that stance. This goes for the remainder of the creative choices used in the film. Just be sure to emphasize what makes those things work against the film.
One of the easiest things you can do when you write your review is to give it a summary. You do not have to wander into spoiler territory; just provide a reader who may not be familiar with the film you are reviewing an idea of what the film is about. This section of your review is especially important if you are reviewing a film that has not had a major marketing push from the studios or if the film is independent or obscure.
Sometimes writing a film review can be a little bit like being a psychologist. When you look at a film, you often have to look beyond the surface level of the story and see the themes that lie beneath it. For example, on the surface of the film The Dark Knight, you have a story of Batman fighting the Joker. Simple stuff on the surface. When you look beyond the story itself, you have a film that carries numerous themes such as order vs. chaos, the limits of the law, and whether the ends ever justify the means.
When you analyze a film on that level, all of the previously mentioned elements that make up a film come back into play. Suddenly you may find that certain shots in the film carry more meaning. You may find that the song choices highlight the themes. With film analysis,, you ultimately find the deeper levels of worth that it has to offer, or you may find that the film is not very deep at all. Regardless of your findings, probing a film in this manner will only serve to enrich your review for the reader.
One of the pitfalls of the internet in regards to movie critique is that it is difficult for a film to hold any real surprises for viewers anymore. We live in the age of the spoiler. While many viewers have learned to accept, and even enjoy, having movies spoiled, there are still plenty of viewers out there who do their best to avoid spoilers.
As such, you should make sure to avoid as many spoilers as possible. This can be a difficult task when you are reviewing details of the plot. Therefore, you should consider carefully the scenes that you choose to highlight and make sure that talking about them does not give too much of the story's events away.
If you feel that part of your voice as a movie reviewer requires that you spoil some details, then you can always do a separate review called a spoiler review. By labeling your review in that regard, you will attract the reader who does not mind having the film spoiled. Sure, it may be extra work, but it offers you a chance to mine one film for two reviews, which can be beneficial in your movie reviewing career.
The wonderful thing about film criticism is that every critic approaches film criticism from a unique point of view. The best film reviewers are the ones who place their own stamp and personality onto their reviews.
Do you like to be funny when you write? Find a way to weave humor into your review. Do you like to get down to the nitty gritty of a review and offer no fluff? Then stick to that.
Give the reader an idea of who the person reviewing the movie is. That will allow the reader to know what to expect from your movie reviews and will make them more likely to come back to you for more.
It does not matter how articulate your review is or how many good points you may make in it if you do not have a well-edited review. Editing is arguably even more important than the writing of your review because it is the last opportunity you have to put some polish on your review before it is published.
If you have a review that is fraught with misspellings and poor grammar, it will damage your credibility as a critic.
The first thing that must be done when proofreading is getting rid of any typos and misspellings. This is particularly important when it comes to the names of actors, directors, and other people who worked on the movies you review. After all, it would be hard to get anybody to listen to your review if you cannot even get the names right. A simple spell check program will cover most of your misspellings, but you should keep a list of cast and crew handy for any proper nouns.
As for the grammar of your piece, you should use software such as Grammarly to handle that. Such software can help you take care of not only grammar problems but help you create a review that is ultimately more readable and coherent. After all, you can't grow a readership if your work isn't readable.
Now that you've got your review written up, you need to take the next step and get it out there for the world to see. The most obvious step that you need to take is to publish your review on your blog.
Now the real work begins.
Simply writing and publishing your review will not get you the audience you need. It's time to start promoting your great movie review.
Social media is the first and most obvious avenue to promote your review. If you do not already have a lot of followers online, that's okay. There are ways to get your review noticed while building your social media followers at the start. The first thing to do is go to any film-going groups or communities that you find on social media, particularly Facebook groups.
Facebook groups will have individuals who are passionate and engaged with movie-going regularly and will be more likely to read your review than general audiences. If you have chosen to write reviews in a particular genre or niche, choose groups that meet that niche. If you write primarily about horror films then find groups that are dedicated to horror films.
Do not forget to also utilize hashtags when you share your work. If you have never used hashtags before, think of them as a sort of viewer magnet. A hashtag enables your post about your review to be seen by people looking for that specific topic using in-site search engines. Even if they are not specifically looking for your content, the hashtag will get your content in front of them and potentially pique their curiosity. In addition to making your review easier to find, it will become easier for readers online to share.
Now that your movie review is out there in the world and finding its audience, the time has come to start again. That's right. You've got to get cracking on your next review. This is arguably what separates the professional movie reviewers from the amateurs: consistency. Doing regular posts and sticking to a consistent methodology will ensure that you can build your readership. So get out there, check out some films, and start writing your next great movie review!
Write 10x faster, engage your audience, & never struggle with the blank page again.