Overview of an Essay on a Movie

Just like a book report, a book review, or an article critique, an essay on a movie is a very common assignment in college.

Note that an essay on a movie is also referred to as a film studies essay or a movie essay.

It is one of the different types of essays you are likely to come across in film studies school. The essay requires you to demonstrate good skills on how to write an assignment.

Usually, writing a film studies essay should be easy, right? Not if you have not yet developed the requisite skills.

However, with a little guidance, skills on how to write an essay on a movie could be acquired over time.

To start with, you have to understand what such an essay entails. The basic definition of an essay on movie could be:


“A literally work that requires you to describe a film by sharing your thoughts about the film.”


Approaches on how to Write an Essay on a Movie

You could adopt various approaches when doing a movie analysis. Among these approaches, you should choose the one that effectively highlights the most prominent features of the movie.

Such approaches include:


1. Contextual Analysis

This is one of the major approaches when it comes to how to write an essay on a movie. It entails the analysis of the film within a broader context.

In this, areas to explore in your film analysis essay assignment may include:

1. Culture: This area may look at what the film says about the culture that shaped its creation.

2. Time of creation: For time of creation, the movie essay could examine the political and social concerns of the creation period.

3. Place of creation: This would usually focus on the key people involved in the making of the film, including the director and the producer.


You could for instance study the film’s place in the director’s career, examining whether it is aligned to the common directing style or it takes a new direction.

Place of creation may also analyze the film from the feminist and civil rights movement.

As an example, you could do a contextual analysis of the film “Hidden Figures’ from a civil rights movement angle.

In advancing this angle, the contextual approach on how to write an essay on a movie would use evidence from the film to support or disapprove this argument.

Other areas to explore in contextual analysis could include:

1. The characteristics that make the film to be within a specific culture.

2. Change in the film’s meaning when examined outside the confines of its culture.


2. Semiotic Analysis

When it comes to how to write an essay on a movie, the semiotic analysis entails the analysis of signs and symbols and their meanings.

Such an analysis usually revolves around:

1. Analogies,

2. Metaphors, and

3. Symbolism.

In this, your movie review essay could use small signs to decipher the personality of the characters in the movie.

For example, simple things in one’s appearance such as different socks could be interpreted as carelessness.

There are several questions you ask yourself when writing the movie essay from this approach, including:

1. What can be inferred about characters from the small hints provided?

2. How have the hints been used to develop the characters?

3. How do the hints relate to the general role of the characters, or entailed characters’ relationships?


Good skills on how to write an essay on a movie require you to understand the way symbols denote concepts and feelings they are not directly linked to.

To identify these symbols and their meanings, you should ask some key questions during the process of writing your film analysis essay assignment.

Such questions include:

1. What images or objects have been repeated in numerous instances?

2. Within what context do the images and objects appear?


3.  Narrative Structure Analysis

As an in important approach in a film analysis essay assignment, the narrative structure analysis examines the story elements such as:

1. Theme,

2. Plot structure, and

3. Character motivations.


When it comes to how to write an essay on a movie in line with this approach, you have to comprehend the Three-Act Structure.

This structure encompasses:

1. Act One: Setup,

2. Act Two: Confrontation, and

3. Act Three: Resolution.


Accordingly, a movie review essay adopting the narrative structure analysis approach should break the film’s story in the above three elements.

Doing this would require you to consider important factors like:

1. How the story follows or deviates from the usual structure.

2. The effect of observing or deviating from the usual structure.

3. The film’s theme and its construction.

Note that the narrative structure can be used in conjunction with symbolism where symbolic events or objects are placed within the narrative structure’s context.


4. Mise-en-Scene Analysis  

This is also an important approach when it comes to how to write an essay on a movie. It entails the analysis of compositional elements’ arrangement within a film.

In this approach, your movie review essay should focus on the audiovisual elements that are characteristic in film analysis as compared to literary analysis.

You have to identify these elements and then go ahead to explain their importance or role.

Doing so would require your movie essay to consider the following.

1. The effects created within a scene and their purpose.

2. How the film attempts to realize its goal through how it looks and if it succeeds to do so.


Some of the audiovisual elements that your film analysis essay assignment could focus on include:

1. Setting,

2. Props and costumes,

3. Special effects,

4. Lighting,

5. Frames,

6. Camera angles,

7. Music,

8. Choreography,

9. Placement of characters,

10. Depth,

11. Color values, etc.


Rules on how to Write an Essay on a Movie

In the analysis of a film form, there are certain rules your movie essay should observe. These rules are important in the identification of the film’s tools and examination of their effects.

These rules are as elaborated below.


1. Pay Attention to Details

When it comes to how to write an essay on a movie, attention to details is key to effective analysis. All the smaller details have to be observed during the analysis of scene.

You can adopt different strategies to keep track of these details, including:

1. Taking notes while watching the film,

2. Re-watching film,

3. Focusing on a particular tool such as framing, lighting, setting, etc.


Your movie essay should contain just adequate details. For instance, a film analysis essay assignment may not require extensive details about the plot.

In such a case, you should include details about the plot only where they are essential in the understanding of how the film works.


2. Interpret Symbols’ Effects

This is another important rule on how to write an essay on a movie. It requires you to avoid over-simplification of symbols during their interpretation.

To do this, you should desist from apportioning huge segments of your movie essay to the interpretation of symbolism.

This is because extensive interpretation is likely to result into high subjectivity levels, and proper film techniques analysis does not involve overt symbolism.

For example, you should avoid overt interpretation of colors red and blue as angry and sad respectively unless it is in unavoidable circumstances.

You should also ensure that your interpretation perfectly relates to the form of the film.


3. Justify the Analysis

This is a very important rule on how to write a film critique essay. It demands that you go beyond stating the position of things to further explain this position and its importance.

Justification of analysis should focus on explaining the how and why in regard to the film’s tools under discussion.

In this, you have to justify how a particular technique achieves the effect you have identified. As well, you should explain why something is important by relating the technique to a bigger point.

All techniques mentioned should also be linked to each other in some way.


4. Be Specific

When it comes to how to write an essay on a movie, you need to be as specific as possible to the particular movie.

You cannot have general statements about tools used in the film.

For instance, you should not just say that “the director has used lighting to capture the attention of the audience in this scene.”

Your film essay analysis assignment has to evaluate the use of a tool like lighting within the film’s unique context.

It is important to understand that all choices the director has made have played a role in shaping the movie as a unique art work.

You also need to know that film essay focusing on tools should explore how techniques used play a role in portraying a particular story as well as a particular emotion in a certain scene or the whole film.


5. Focus on the Audience  

This is another very important rule on how to write a movie on an essay. The rule looks at the pedagogical purposes the movie essay seeks to achieve.

From the movie review essay instructions, you should identify the different keywords that tell you what to do.

These keywords may include:

1. Explain,

2. Analyze,

3. Discuss,

4. Evaluate,

5. Comment,

6. How,

7. What,

8. Why.


After drafting your film analysis outline, you should reread the prompt to ensure that the prompt effectively answers the entailed questions.

You should make sure that the film essay is written within the context of the themes studied during the semester or course.


Structure of an Essay on a Movie

Skills on how to write an essay on a movie demands a good understanding of the film analysis format.

This format acts as a guide on how to navigate through the film analysis essay assignment and encompasses the various sections to focus on as parts of your film analysis outline.

Note that this film analysis outline is quite similar to the one usually used when writing an essay step by step.

A basic film analysis format should be as explained in the outline below.


1. Introduction

This is one of the most important parts of a movie essay. It should contain key information about the movie, including:

1. Movie’s title,

2. Release date,

3. Genre,

4. Main characters,

5. Key facts,

6. Target audience.


Although the introduction is usually brief, it is an instrumental part of a film analysis outline as one of its objectives is to capture the attention of the audience.


2. Brief Description

This entails a short summary of the film. The summary does not need to include all the scenes from the movie, however, it should include important details about the scene.

This is the paragraph of the movie essay that stiches together everything that happened in the movie.

The target audience should be able to understand the events in the film from the description.


3. Analysis

When it comes to how to write an essay on a movie, this is the bulk of the work. It requires you to express your impression without necessarily being biased.

The analysis should be supported by claims from the film and other necessary materials.

Doing so would require you to identify the different tools in the movie and analyze them within the film’s context.

This context should be specific as guided by your film analysis outline and determined by the assignment’s requirements.


4. Conclusion

This part requires that you re-state the thesis of the movie essay and summarize the key points in the previous parts.

You could also include a statement that supports your analysis.

Finally, you could recommend the movie to the audience for watching or advise them to avoid it.

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