Analytical Film Reviews



What is a review?

Reviews are a common genre – we often read reviews online and in newspapers and magazines. For example, if we want to try a new restaurant, reading a review helps us to learn more about it.  Is it thumbs up or thumbs down? A review helps us decide whether to go there for a meal or to save our money and eat elsewhere.

Reviews can be for many things - restaurants, books, musical performances, TV shows, and films. These various types and formats of reviews all describe and evaluate something.

An analytical film review goes one step further than a usual review. It briefly describes the film, evaluates it, and also analyzes the film by focusing on an interesting, significant or important area of the film, such as its theme, to explore in depth. 


Who is the audience? (the reader of your review)

The audience, or reader, of the film review is your professor and possibly classmates. This is an educated audience who has likely already seen the film and has an understanding of film theories and history. So, it is not necessary or helpful to discuss general information which is already known or to give a long summary of the film’s plot.

Instead, the reader wishes to learn something new - something interesting, important or significant about an aspect of the film.


What is the purpose of an analytical film review?

An analytical film review aims to:

  • Briefly describe or summarise the film
  • Interpret and analyse the film
  • Connect the film to theories and ideas learned in class
  • Evaluate the film

Writing an analytical film review challenges you to demonstrate and apply your knowledge of film. This involves watching the film several times and focusing on specific aspects of the film to discuss. You will think about how the ideas and information learned in class relate to your film of choice, and may do research to see what others have written about the film. After much viewing, reading, and thinking, you will create something new and original to say about the film in your review.


Your review might focus on questions such as:

  • What is the message or theme of the film?
  • How do the filmmakers create that message?
  • How do film elements (such as scenes, cinematography, color or sound) convey that message?
  • How does the film create a strong impression on viewers?

What is film analysis?

Film analysis involves examining how a film combines its various elements (plot, characters, costume, dialogue, etc.) to create meaning. Analysis can also include connecting the film to other films of the same genre or to other films of the same director. It can include investigating the influence of history, society, or culture on the film.  It can also explore how the film relates to other similar films, and/or how the film contributes to cinema or society.

Critical film analysis is a process used to develop a unique idea about a film which is backed with evidence. It involves two main steps:

The first step is breaking the film down into parts and relationships. These parts are called film elements or cinematic techniques. These elements are all of the important pieces that are put together to make the film, such as scene, dialogue, settings, costumes, etc.

The next step is evaluating how these parts work together to create the larger meaning of the film. For example, how does the editing of Psycho create its strong sense of horror?  How does the setting of In the Mood for Love contribute to its nostalgic mood?


What is an Analytical Film Review?

An analytical film review briefly summarizes, and then analyzes and evaluates a chosen film. An analytical film review is typically an academic assignment, so it is important to include proper citations and references for all outside sources used.

This assignment asks you to explore the meaning and construction of the film, focusing on elements such as theme, character, setting, costume, and others. You examine the film closely and carefully to discover how and why it was put together the way it was. Then, you discuss your final views about the film and give your overall recommendation to the viewer.

This assignment asks you to think about how and why a film was constructed. Remember that filmmakers make specific choices for specific reasons. Directors may choose a close-up camera angle, or a long shot.; these different camera angles elicit different reactions from the audience. From the setting and mise-en-scene to the color and style of costumes, each element is carefully chosen and put together to create the overall film. 

Film analysis involves examining these parts and thinking about how these elements create certain effects. For example, how is the theme of the film depicted through the choice of costume, setting, cinematography, etc.? Your essay should discuss these choices, or elements, and explain their overall significance.

The analytical film review can also include discussion of the wider context of the film, which can be cultural, historical, etc. Theories and ideas learned in class which are relevant to the film should be applied and discussed. The review may include ideas of other reviewers and scholars, with proper citation and reference.

About this website

EWRite is an open access online literacy platform for PolyU community that has two major objectives:

  • to support PolyU students’ literacy development within and across the disciplines
  • to support subject and language teachers to implement system-level measures for integrating literacy-sensitive pedagogies across the university

This platform provides access to generic genre guides representing typical university assignments as well as links to subjects offered by faculties with specific disciplinary genres and relevant support materials.

The materials can be retrieved by students by choosing the genres that interest them on the landing page. Each set of materials includes a genre guide, genre video, and a genre checklist. The genre guide and video are to summarize the genres in two different ways (i.e. textual and dynamic) to fit different learning styles. The genre checklist is for students to self-regulate their writing process. The genre guide and checklist include links to various ELC resources that can provide further explanation to language items (e.g. hedging and academic vocabulary).

The platform also acts as a one-stop-shop for writing resources for students, language teachers and subject leaders. Information about the English Writing Requirement policy can also be found on this platform. There are training materials for new colleagues joining the EWR Liaison Team.