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What should we write in a movie review?

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Whatever you do, don't confuse movie review with movie summary. I'm only saying this because I've seen way too many amateur movie critics you couldn't tell the difference. –  Phong Feb 3 '12 at 18:29
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2 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

When you write a movie review, you are giving a recommendation to strangers. Were your best friend asking about whether he or she would like a particular movie, you could base your answer on your knowledge of his or her likes and dislikes. You can't do that when writing for a general audience. So the focus of a movie review is less "You'll love/hate this" and more "I loved/hated this and here's why."

Roger Ebert has written that a reader should ideally be able to tell whether he or she will enjoy a movie regardless of whether the reviewer did. Part of the trick to that is providing an accurate description of the film. Tell your readers what genre the film is in, who made it, who is acting in it, and any other relevant information that will help them decide if it's the kind of movie they would enjoy.

After that, you relate your own reaction to the movie. This means not just saying what you thought of the movie, but why you feel that way. The more you can explain your reactions to a movie, the more your readers will be able to trust that you know what you're talking about.

While you don't have to mark the movie you're reviewing as either a gem or junk with nothing in between, you do want to leave your readers with an understanding of how you feel about the film and whether you think it's worth seeing.

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  1. Snappy headline.
  2. Compelling lead.
  3. Say what you liked.
  4. Say what you didn't like.
  5. Optional: a little analysis.
  6. Optional: compare some aspect of the film, actors, or director to something else in the genre or the person's body of work.
  7. Solid close.
  8. Write it as though you were addressing a good friend who wanted to see the film, either to recommend it or warn against it.
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