Need an excuse to go out to the movies? This Hollywood season, review a favorite film for the Write the World audience. Share with us the merits of storyline and plot, the nitty-gritty on cinematography, editing, and screenplay (to name a few).
Writing a good film review is an art. Critics carefully consider the intricacies of each element (costume, acting, score—to name a few more) and then turn their gaze to the magic of the whole, drawing the reader’s attention to how all the various components of the film come together to make meaning. So get watching, dear writers! Eight out of ten moviegoers consult reviews before deciding which film to see, and we want to read yours.
What is a film review, exactly? Movie critics set out to do the following, all while keeping the reader engaged with vivid description and insightful analysis:
The Planning Phase
- NFORM: Give the reader the nuts and bolts such as genre, notable actors, etc.
- EXPLAIN: Tell the reader just enough so that they understand the basics of the storyline.
- ANALYZE: Tell the reader what worked and what didn’t, and why.
- RECOMMEND: Is the film worth seeing?
The New York Times
The Washington Post
- Step One: One of the best ways to become a movie critic is to immerse yourself in published film reviews, noticing the various styles and techniques: How does the writing draw you in? What elements of the film does the reviewer discuss? How detailed is the analysis? Does the writer back up their recommendation (to see or not to see) with particular reasons/evidence? We recommend the following:
The Viewing Phase
- Step Two (optional): After reading some published reviews, watch the reviewed films for yourself. Do you agree with the reviewer? Where does your opinion differ?
- Step Three: Decide on a film that you’d like to review!
The Writing Phase
- Step One: Have popcorn (and other treats of your liking) at the ready so you won’t be interrupted mid-movie!
- Step Two: If you're able to see the film more than once, use the first viewing to take in the cinematic experience without a pen and paper in hand. Just listen and absorb. Then reflect, go for a walk, make a cup of tea, stare into space—all while thinking about what you just watched. Next, write down your initial thoughts: anything that springs to mind, uncensored.
- Step Three: Familiarize yourself with the “Elements to Consider” resource, and on your second viewing, jot down your observations and reactions as you watch, taking notes on performance, storyline, editing, etc.
- Step Four: After the film is over, take 10-15 minutes to record any other reactions, big or small. Make sure to include your thoughts on how the various elements contributed to the film's overall theme, meaning, and mood.
The order in which you write your review is entirely up to you, but almost all film reviews include the following:
- Opening Hook: Grab the reader’s attention!
- Key Information: Provide the film title, genre, lead actors, director, etc.
- Plot Summary: Because most readers know little if anything about the film, provide an overview of the premise, drawing your readers into the storyline, without giving too much away.
- Impression: Describe your experience watching the film, and how the film looks, feels, and sounds.
- Analysis: Explain which elements of the film were most compelling, and which fell short. If you were glued to your seat, describe what made the film so gripping. Alternatively, if you found yourself ducking out for more popcorn, explain how the film failed to hold your attention. This is the most ESSENTIAL part of your review—the main course. By making meaning of the film, you demonstrate that your recommendation (whether or not to see the movie) is founded in thoughtful, carefully considered observations.
- Final Rating: Tell the reader whether or not you recommend seeing this film, and what type of viewer would enjoy it (you might decide, for example, that action junkies will be thrilled with the latest James Bond flick, while those viewers hoping for a more nuanced plot should see Cate Blanchett’s newest film instead...)
- Title/Headline: Your title or headline should make your audience want to read on!
Finally, dear critics, remember the many different aspects of filmmaking to consider in your review—from the quality of the acting to set design, composition (music) and sound effects, photography, costumes, screenplay, editing, and special effects. You can brush up on your film terminology by consulting the “Glossary” resource.
Who is Eligible?
Young writers ages 13-18
600 – 1,000 words
is the critic-at-large for Vox
and the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.
His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Salon
, and Grantland
. He lives in Los Angeles.
Best Entry: $100 (winning piece + author interview will be featured on Write the World’s
website and blog)
Runner up: $50
Best Peer Review: $50 (reviewer interview will be featured on Write the World’s
website and blog)
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions?
Prizes: The winning entrant(s) will receive $100, and the best peer-reviewer will receive $50.
Professional Recognition: The winning entry, plus the runner-up and best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge.
Expert Review: Submit your draft by Monday, January 14th and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals.
January 7: Competition Opens
January 14: Submit draft for Expert Review (Optional. We will review the first 100 drafts submitted.)
January 18: Reviews returned to Writers
January 22: Final Submissions Due
February 1: Winners Announced
Our Book Review Competition opens Monday, February 4th.
Stay tuned for more details!