Film Analysis

Film Review Guidelines

Paragraph 1:  Offer your overall impression of the film while mentioning the movie's title, director, and key actors.

Paragraph 2:  Summarize the plot of the film

Paragraph 3: How did the actors portray key character roles?  Did they fulfill your expectations given your knowledge of the original novel or play (if one exists)?

Paragraph 4:  Were any particular film techniques used in key scenes?  How did the film techniques anmd music enhance the setting and themes of the film?  You may need two paragraphs to explain this information.

Paragraph 5: Address how well the film represents the novel or play.  Offer evidence for your opinion. Remember to mention use of symbols and literary devices.  Do they "transfer" from the novel/play into the movie well?

Paragraph 6: Ending paragraph--your last opportunity to guide the reader.  Offer a clincher that tells the reader to attend the film or not.

Guidelines by M. Garbis and C. Adams,  Baltimore, 2001.

General Terms

  • Shot: continuous, unedited piece of film of any length
  • Scene: a series of shots that together form a complete episode or unit of the narrative
  • Storyboard: Drawn up when designing a production. Plans AV text and shows how each shot relates to sound track. (Think comic strip with directions - like a rough draft or outline for a film.)
  • Montage: The editing together of a large number of shots with no intention of creating a continuous reality. A montage is often used to compress time, and montage shots are linked through a unified sound - either a voiceover or a piece of music.
  • Parallel action: narrative strategy that crosscuts between two or more separate actions to create the illusion that they are occurring simultaneously


  • Long Shot: Overall view from a distance of whole scene often used as an establishing shot - to set scene. Person - will show whole body.
  • Medium or Mid Shot: Middle distance shot - can give background information while still focusing on subject. Person - usually shows waist to head.
  • Close Up: Focuses on detail / expression / reaction. Person - shows either head or head and shoulders.
  • Tracking shot: single continuous shot made with a camera moving along the ground
  • Reverse shot: shot taken at a 180 degree angle from the preceding shot (reverse-shot editing is commonly used during dialogue, angle is often 120 to 160 degrees)
  • Subjective Shot (P.O.V. Shot): Framed from a particular character's point of view. Audience sees what character sees.

Camera Movement

  • Pan: Camera moves from side to side from a stationary position
  • Tilt: Movement up or down from a stationary position
  • Tracking: The camera moves to follow a moving object or person

Camera Angles

  • Low Angle Camera: shoots up at subject. Used to increase size, power, status of subject
  • High Angle Camera: shoots down at subject. Used to increase vulnerability, powerlessness, decrease size

Editing (the way shots are put together)

  • Cut: The ending of a shot. If the cut seems inconsistent with the next shot, it is called a jump cut.
  • Fade in or out: The image appears or disappears gradually. Often used as a division between scenes.
  • Dissolve: One image fades in while another fades out so that for a few seconds, the two are superimposed.


  • Soundtrack: Consists of dialogue, sound effects and music. Should reveal something about the scene that visual images don't.
  • Score: musical soundtrack
  • Sound effects: all sounds that are neither dialogue nor music
  • Voice-over: spoken words laid over the other tracks in sound mix to comment upon the narrative or to narrate

Film Analysis Essay Guidelines

Guide to Critical Assessment of Film

The following questions should help you in your critical evaluation of your film choice(s) for your assigned essay. Please keep in mind that sophisticated film, like literature, requires more than one viewing to begin to appreciate its purpose beyond merely the plot. You will need to view your film(s) with this in mind. You should use some of these questions to complete a journal on your film. 


Who is the writer of the film? Has the screenplay been adapted from another work?

Who is the director?

When was the film made?


What does the title mean in relation to the film as a whole?

How are the opening credits presented? Do they relate to meaning?

Why does the film start in the way that it does?

Are there any motifs (scenes, images) of dialogue which are repeated? What purpose do they serve?

What three or four sequences are most important in the film? Why?

Is sound used in any vivid ways either to enhance the film? (i.e. Enhance drama, heighten tension, disorient the viewer, etc.)

How does the film use color or light/dark to suggest tone and mood in different scenes?

Are there any striking uses of perspective (seeing through a character's eyes, camera angle, etc.) How does this relate to the meaning of the scene?

How and when are scenes cut? Are there any patterns in the way the cuts function?

What specific scene constitutes the film's climax? How does this scene resolve the central issue of the film?

Does the film leave any disunities (loose ends) at the end? If so, what does it suggest?

Why does the film conclude on this particular image?


How does this film relate to the issues and questions evoked by your topic?

Does the film present a clear point-of-view on your topic? How?

Are there any aspects of theme which are left ambiguous at the end? Why?

How does this film relate to the other literary texts you have read on your topic (or in class this year or on your own)?

Many of the questions above are taken or adapted from Timothy Corrigan's A Short Guide to Writing About Film and David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson's Film Art: An Introduction (5th ed.) and Kurt Weiler of New Trier High School in Illinois.

Need more help? Read questions and answers from fellow students below. If you're question hasn't already been asked, ask it now.

Report This
Report This
Report This
Report This