Movie Review Essay Assignment



With storytelling, it's important to think about not only the story itself (content: plot, setting, character) but also about how the story is being told and who is actually telling it.  As with most things in life, asking who, what, when, where, why, and how will take you deep and wide. Ultimately, you can only make sense of the story if you examine the perspective from which it’s being told.  But, as with life in general, we are easily swept away by the plot and characters and seldom ponder the narrator's point of view.  In film, many times the viewer will literally look through a particular character’s eyes, forging an instantaneous but potent psychological affinity with that particular character. 

  • What is the difference between a story narrated from a first person point of view and a story told from a third person point of view? 
  • What’s the difference between a third person limited and a third person omniscient point of view? 
  • How close are we to the characters in each case?
  • Think about the effect of a hero telling his own story as opposed to another person who witnessed the heroic deed telling the tale.

If art is a creative expression that intentionally emotes a response from the viewer, then many films are works of art.  Film is a unique artform. Probably the most distinctive quality about film as an artform is the fact that it is, by its very nature, a creative collaboration whose creators are its screenwriters and composers, actors and cinematographers, directors and producers, make-up artists and other technicians…The list goes on and on, as you well know if you've ever sat through the entire list of credits at the end of a film! In the end, however, what does it tell us about a particular film to say that it is a Hitchcock or Tarantino film as opposed to a Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt box-office-blockbuster?



Sound-- How do the music/sound effects manipulate your emotions or mood?Instruments? Lyrics? Volume? Intensity? Tempo? Rhythm? Background or foreground?
Diagetic sound is sound that is natural to the environment of the scene: birds chirping, dialogue between characters, traffic and street noises, gravel crunching beneath feet, music playing on the stereo, etc. Nondiagetic sound is sound that is not within the scene, such as voiceover narration or background music.


Mise-en-scene--whatever appears within the frame of the shot (organization of things like stage props, acting, movement, lighting, makeup, costumes, etc.)


Lighting—can be used various ways and varying degrees to create particular moods; can be used symbolically

·         High-key lighting: brightly lit scene; creates cheerful, light atmosphere

·         Low-key lighting:  illuminations create contrast and a chiaroscuro effect; creates a mysterious, suspenseful, eerie, or ominous mood

·         Front lighting—softens or flattens; may suggest innocence by casting a halo effect

·         Bottom lighting—casts shadows from below; eerie, ghoulish, sinister effect

·         Side lighting—casts images in light or shadow

Camera Angles:

·         Low angle shot from below—shows power or status of the subject or object viewed from that angle, and conversely, the possible vulnerability or powerlessness of the POV the camera is reflecting (this can be the viewer or a character in the story).

·         High angle shot from above—shows weakness or vulnerability or an objective overview, i.e., God's eye view.  If you're looking into a small space, like a jail cell, it intensifies the claustrophobic feel of the cramped space.

·         Dutch angle shot tilted sideways on the horizontal axis--creates a sinister or distorted effect that skews the view of a character and perhaps indicates a distorted viewpoint or confused state.

·        Eye-level angle shot (90-95% of all shots used)--camera is level with the key character's point of view

Framing/Shots:  what the camera sets as the perimeter of our view.  What's in and what's out?

·         Establishing shot:  shot taken from a distance that establishes important locations or situates/contextualizes important characters in place, time or in relationship.

·         Long shot:  shot from far away; gives overview and is often used in establishing shots at beginning and final shot.

·         Medium shot: shot that's neither near nor far

·         Close-ups: used to impart an emotion, to show us inside a character's thoughts,  or to emphasize a particular aspect of something/someone.

·         Matching shot—change from one scene to the next by matching images and placement.

·         Pan—the stationary camera moves from left to right or right to left

·         Tilt—the stationary camera moves up or down

·         Tracking or dolly shot —the camera itself moves in or out by traveling rather than using the zoom feature

·         Following shot—the camera keeps pace with a moving figure

·         Crane shot—the camera is attached to a crane and moves up or down

·         Hand-held shot—the camera is carried or strapped onto a character or camera operator


·         Fade in and out

·         Jump cut—most commonly used transition where the camera shot jumps from one thing to another without benefit of fading or superimposition

·       Smash cut—abrupt, unexpected cut without transition with the intention of perplexing or startling viewer; usually occurs at seminal moments in scene; shifts radically from one type of scene to another; can be frenzied to tranquil; a very versatile type of transition.

·         Dissolve—one image fades out over another image that is simultaneously fading in—sometimes used to show the unfolding or condensed passage of time.

·        Wipe one image appears to wipe over another, replacing it; this can also be done with black or white or colored screens and can also be horizonal, verticle, diagonal, or circular.

·         Rack (or pulling) focus—an obvious shift in focus from foreground to background or vice versa.  This shifts your attention from one thing to another and directs your focus. Shifts in perspective.

·         Eye-line match —a shot that begins with what the person is looking at that then shifts to what they are seeing; usually followed by a response or reaction to what they have just seen.

·         Crosscutting—cutting back and forth between actions that happening simultaneously; also known as parallel editing

·         Montage sequence—events are connected by circumstance, theme, or idea but are disconnected physically; spliced together to show movement toward one another or parallel or converging events unfolding.


Pay careful attention to

· Costumes & props

·         Film technique/codes

·         Movement on the set / camera movement / body movement and facial expressions

·         Rhythm and timing of actions and events (real time, condensed time, elapsed time--how are these shown?)

·         Color—visually imparts emotional, symbolic, and cultural perceptions

·         narrator/point of view character, allusions, symbolism, character development, passage of time, names, setting (historical, cultural), circularity.


Contemplate these questions:

What is the generating circumstance leading into the story?

What is the plot structure--what parts of the story comprise beginning, middle, end?

How do films reflect and inform culture?

How do films translate stories from page to screen?

How do filmmakers deal with the rhythm and passage of time within the narrative flow of the story?

What qualities does film have that literature does not and vice versa?

What is the mythic quality of film?

What is it about particular films that qualify them to be considered works of art?



·         Your essay should be a movie critique that is approximately 5-7 pages: typewritten, double-spaced with one inch margins, 12 point normal font

·         Your plot summary should only be no more than two paragraphs.

·         The lion's share of your discussion should focus on the scene you select as the keystone of the film.

·        This paper must contain the following elements: 
1) Introduction: overview of what the film is about and brief plot summary;
2) Identify what you consider to be the most important scene in the film and explain why;
3) Describe, analyze, and interpret the composition and design of the key scene using the film codes detailed above.
4) Conclusion: Briefly discuss what you consider art to be and then evaluate this film as a work of art. and evaluation/judgment.

·        Be sure your title is clever as well as meaningful.

1)      No writing is complete until it has undergone revision!!! It’s a good idea to give your paper a couple days’ rest between your final draft and your revision.

2)      When you think you’ve done your best, read your paper aloud and see if it really says what you mean to say.   Wherever you get tongue-tied, stammer, or stumble over the words, mark the spot and work it over in your revision.

3)      Every major point you make needs to be illustrated with specific examples to show how what you say is true.  Whatever you assert, you must demonstrate. (Remember that too many details make writing seem boring, and too few details make it confusing &/or unconvincing.)

4)      Organization and interpretive analysis are key. Be analytical and organized, brief yet eloquent.

5)      Always spellcheck before you print.



Content of this article

  1. Movie review writing guide
  2. Forrest Gump analysis (example)
  3. Review structure
  4. Polishing
  5. More examples
  6. Movie related essay samples

1. Movie Review Writing

A lot of people like movies and films. These things add thrill and imaginations to our lives. This, therefore, makes us come to the conclusion that a movie is worth a review if it has been watched. Everyone has a different opinion on the movies they watch – the ratings can range from being great to good or even bad. Thought there are an increasing number of movie sites available on the Internet (some of which are authoritative, others less so (more below)), movie reviews and reviewers are still very much in demand for their own unique takes on a movie. The different types of reviewers can offer different types of writing, which is something that is good in a market which is rapidly becoming over-saturated. Everyone can review a movie, but there are still some differences between the reviewing done by experts, and reviewing done by amateurs – the amateurs are not usually focused on the minutiae of the film in the same way, and are instead focused more on the general ideas presented.

The primary purpose of movie review writing is to give the reader a rough idea of what the movie is about. The movie review greatly determines if an individual wants to watch the movie or not. This type of writing should, therefore, be detailed enough to assist the reader in making an honest decision. As much as the review is based on elaborating the movie review outline, it should not give away the plot of the movie or the surprises that make the movie enjoyable. Opinions on a movie need to be stated clearly, good or bad. If the review is to be brief, stars and scores can also be used to express the reviewer’s thoughts. A good writer should, therefore, have the basic knowledge of how to write a movie review.

Examples include:

  • Great movie: Almost Christmas is a movie that has balanced all its features to make a great movie. All the characters fit their roles and make the plot come to life. The costumes and the soundtracks are a plus as they enhance the emotions and feelings of every story line. Almost Christmas is, therefore, a movie worth watching.
  • Good movieLondon has Fallen is an okay movie. The graphics were on point as well as the sound effects. The cast, however, I felt weren’t up to the task, and did not bring out the feel of the movie. The actors, therefore, led to what was otherwise quite a good time-killing movie (if not a good movie overall) being let down. Additionally, the plot was difficult to comprehend.
  • Bad movieNo matter how much you watch Central Intelligence, you can’t get a hold of the movie. The stunts are overrated, and the storyline is off, making the movie boring. The movie is a definite no, and not even worth spending time watching when there is nothing else to watch on TV. Definitely a flop.

2. Complete analysis (Forrest Gump)

  • Plot analysis: the movie falls in the genre of modern fiction (modern history is generally considered to stretch from the fifteenth century up, although this category is further divided into early modern (1500s to 1700s) and late modern (1700s to present), with Tom Hanks playing the role of Forrest Gump. His character moves through history and survives all the hardships with decency and honesty.
  • Soundtrack analysis: the soundtrack reflects the mood that was popular at the time, which, in turn, creates urgency. The songs are great hits and are appropriate for children to listen to as well. The soundtrack helps to illustrate the transitions of the film’s locations – from warm and safe territory to a more hostile borders. For instance, the song by Fleetwood (Go Your Way) is used to illustrate how Forrest is joined by his friends in his journey. The soundtrack is an integral part of the movie experience, as it brings an emotional centre-point to the move by helping people to better understand just how high the stakes are in certain scenes. The soundtrack is also to convey the terrifying nature of the war scenes, thus helping the movie to pack even more of an emotional punch.
  • Atmosphere: later on in the movie, the atmosphere changes – the troops go out on patrol and are far away from their bases which are safe. The atmosphere becomes tense, and at the same time captivating. Having the atmosphere change throughout a movie emphasises that what is happening is actually serious and will have consequences, and the movie Forrest Gump is no different. If the atmosphere is incorrect, then, the movie will not feel so real to the people who are watching it. the movie starts with the atmosphere of the beach party. Music is playing in the background, and people are enjoying barbecue and playing cards. The troops are not left behind as they are seen loading crates of beers in their trucks.
  • The main idea of the film: The main idea portrayed in Forrest Gump is that life is filled with unknown surprises. This is substantially illustrated by Forrest Gump himself, who is just a country boy with learning difficulties. Forrest, however, does not let this obstacle define him, and goes to great lengths to be a relevant person in history. The film, while containing some darkness and violence due to the war and its aftermath, is therefore an uplifting and invigorating film, as it shows how people can prevail against all odds, and even thrive. A film needs to have one (or possibly two, though more is of course harder to maintain) main idea if it is to remain coherent throughout.
  • Actors play analysis: Tom Hanks fits the role perfectly as he manages to express the love for the country. He portrays the feelings of sadness and comedy at the same time. Forrest, therefore, makes the movie interesting. Tom Hanks is a strong actor, and it is mainly due to his efforts as the lead which make the film as powerful and memorable as it is.

3. Review structure

The structure of a movie review follows the basic steps of the introduction, the body (analysis), the recommendation and the movie review conclusion. A movie review writing guide gives the writer instructions on how to write a movie review. The movie review structure is as follows.

3.1 The introduction

A movie review should open up with an introduction. The introduction is the most appealing way of how to start a movie review, and contains the summary of the movie and opinion that will be stated. Movie review writing hooks give the readers a general feel of what will be illustrated in the review. The introduction for a movie review has to be appealing, so that the reader can get the feel of wanting to read more.

Give a brief illustration of what will be discussed in the review and then proceed to the thesis. Ensure that the thesis is original and at the same time based on the analysis. The thesis for a movie review should be compelling and reflect on a contemporary issue, while the argument should go beyond the plot and straight to the film criticism. Illustrate both the message of the movie and how the film connects to an individual.  The thesis paragraph can be followed up with a short summary plot. The section will also give an overview of what will be contained in the body.

3.2 Body paragraphs (analysis)

The analysis covers the fails and accomplishments within the movie, and also gives the writer a chance to express their feelings towards it. The cinematography, acting, the setting, and soundtrack can also be discussed in this section. Ensure that the writing is smooth and easy to comprehend. For the review to seem realistic and professional, present facts and opinions in the same page, and try to use examples that are descriptive in order to bring the plot to life. Dialogue snippets can and should be quoted to give the review snappiness. You can add a few movie review tips such as giving the language used some personality, in order to create a style which will reflect a unique perspective to entertain the reader.

3.3 Recommendation

A movie review structure can also have a recommendation. The recommendation gives the writers a chance to commend the film and decide if it’s worth the money.

3.4 Conclusion

The conclusion for a movie review should be in a position to be tied up with the thesis. The conclusion should also offer guidance of whether to watch the film or not. There are a number of ways of how to end a movie review. However, the most effective style is to make it compelling and at the same time entertaining.

4. Polishing the review

The review is polished through editing. The final content should go hand in hand with the movie review draft. Fine tune the review to ensure it is in line with the thesis. Ensure that the content has enough examples to back up the claims. You should also proofread the review to eliminate any spelling mistakes and errors that can be avoided – movie review writing needs to be precise and free of errors. Finally, share the review with friends and family and see if it has an impact on their opinions of the movie.

5. More examples

5.1 Martian review

5.2 The Shawshank Redemption review

5.3 Star Trek review

5.4 Man of Steel review

More movie related essay samples

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