Top 20 Useful Tips for Writing a Film Analysis Essay

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Being assigned a film analysis essay might just be the most exciting assignment you have ever had! After all, who doesn’t love watching movies? You have your favorite movies, maybe something you watched years ago, perhaps a classic, or perhaps it is something new. Or your professor might assign a movie for you to analyze. Regardless, you are totally up for watching a movie for a film analysis essay assignment.

But here’s the kicker:

You will actually have to write a movie analysis essay after you watch the movie (and proofread it by Grammarly). This video gives you a great idea of how a movie analysis essay is assigned.

Once you have watched the movie, facing the act of writing might knock the wind out of your sails because you might be wondering how to write a film analysis paper. Fortunately, writing film analysis papers it isn’t as difficult as it might seem and experts will prove this. Just keep reading our advice on how to get started.

Before you writeBefore you write

Obviously, there are a few things you need to do before you start actually writing your film analysis paper. First and foremost, you have to watch the movie. Even if you have seen it a hundred times, you need to watch it again and you learn how to analyze a film.

When watching the movie, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Consider your impression of the movie.
  2. Enumerate memorable details.
  3. Try to interpret the movie message in your own way.
  4. Read/listen to experts talking about the given film.
  5. Base your arguments on the various elements of movie theory.
  6. Present and discuss conflicting opinions about the movie.
  7. Combine theory and analysis.
  8. Offer proof of your statements (quotes from the movie).
  9. Comment on the plot, settings, characters, and source material.
  10. Draw parallels between the movie you are reviewing and some other movies.
  11. Search for details that no one has spotted yet.
  12. Create an interactive analysis: involve the audience in the discussion!

At this point you might be wondering what aspects should be considered when analyzing a movie? What follows are several pointers for making good film analysis essays.

  1. These days, people simply watch movies for entertainment. Such an approach will not work if you have to prepare a film analysis essay. Get ready for critical perception of the chosen/assigned film. Watch it for the first time and think about the following:
  • What is shown in the movie?
  • Why?
  • What is the main message of the film? How is it conveyed?

Man actors vs women actors

  1. To understand the meaning of the film and explain it in your film analysis essay, you should know the main elements of cinematic structure. Some of them are:
  • Camera placement
  • Scene composition
  • Shot structure, etc.

By the way, you should be aware and understand all basic terms and concepts related to the film industry.

  1. When analyzing the movie in your film analysis essay, it is a good idea to think about current and historical events, phenomena. Very often, themes depicted in films are linked to various events. This will help you develop a better understanding of the movie.
  2. Do not forget about history. Say, you are writing about a horror movie. Investigate the history of this genre and learn more about famous horror film directors, their styles, etc. This will help you prepare an informative film analysis essay.

With these tips, your film analysis is bound to be great, yet there is a way to make it even better! And you’ll see how to do it below.

But first:

You need to understand that you aren’t writing a movie review essay. There is a difference between a movie review and a movie analysis and it is important to understand this difference.

Film analysis vs. critical reviewFilm analysis vs. critical review

A film analysis is not the same as a film review and a critical review of a film is not something that is generally requested in academic circles. Writing movie reviews is generally best left to the media.


  • Offers a short summary of the movie plot
  • Specifies the peculiarities and describing the characters
  • Compares the movie to the original text (play/novel/story/etc.)
  • Evaluates the movie according to certain standards
  • Provides the writer’s impression about the movie and the characters


Film analysis:

  • Is objective
  • Offers an evaluation the movie
  • Follows a certain structure
  • Analyzes one movie
  • Contains a summary of the ideas

Critical review:

  • Relies more on subjective ideas
  • Suggests means to improve the movie
  • Creates a specific outline
  • Compares and contrasts several movies
  • Makes up a clincher!


Film analysis:

  • Mise en scene
  • Cinematography
  • Sound
  • Editing
  • Plot devices

Critical review:

  • Peculiar movie facts
  • Qualitative and descriptive elements
  • Technical aspect
  • The critics’ opinion
  • Your personal opinion

Types of movie analysisTypes of movie analysis

You might also be wondering what can be gained through analyzing film. According to the University of North Dakota, movies are the following:

  • A form of entertainment
  • Documents of the place and time in which they are made
  • A form of art and self-expression
  • A way to tell a story

The University of Colorado discusses the different types of movie analysis papers that can be written. The two primary types are the critical essay and the theoretical essay. The critical essay can look at the following:

Critical types of analysisCritical types of analysis

  • Formalism: This is a look at the style and structure of the movie and is concerned only with what has occurred on-screen, including sound, lighting, cinematography, editing, etc. What implications do these various elements have on the movie’s overall meaning?
  • Genre: This is a combination of looking at structure and form and the content of the movie with a consideration of the historical changes of the genre over time.
  • Historical: A common theme for a movie analysis, this is concerned with how a historical occurrence is portrayed in a movie and whether knowledge of the historical background of the movies subject matter is relevant or helpful when analyzing the film’s content or the technique used to create it.

Theoretical types of analysisTheoretical types of analysis

The theoretical essay offers the following types of analyses:

  • National Cinema: This is a type of essay that explores the contributions each country makes to cinema and how the world is portrayed through their cultural lens.
  • Auteur: This is a way to examine analyse how directors, producers, actors, and others in the film industry make use of universal themes in their work.
  • Ideology: This is simply the analysis of the underlying political message in a movie and can include studies in feminism, class, race, sexual orientation, gender, and how the world is seen through the lens of the Hollywood movie.

Remember that a single essay can cover more than one of these types of analyses. You will need to determine the type of essay you will be writing and which of the above analytical elements you will include.

But that’s not all:

It is also important to conduct an analysis of film reviews and integrate what other people think of the movie into your analysis. Once you have done this, you are ready to outline your analysis.

Film analysis essay outlineFilm analysis essay outline

Once you have watched and possibly re-watched your assigned or chosen movie from an analytical point of view, you will need to create a movie analysis essay outline. This is pretty straightforward and follows the same type of outline as you would use for a literary analysis or an article analysis. The outline is as follows:

  1. Introduction: This includes the basics of the movie, including the title, director, and the date of release. You should also present the main theme or ideas in the movie, along with your thesis statement outlining what your focus is.
  1. Summary: This is where you take the time to present a summary of the primary concepts in the movie, including the five Ws (who, what, when, where, and why)—don’t forget how!—as well as anything you wish to discuss that relates to the point of view, style, and structure.
  1. Analysis: This is the body of the essay and includes your critical analysis of the movie, why you did or did not like it, and any supporting material from the movie to support your views. You should also discuss whether the director and writer of the movie achieved the goal they set out to achieve.
  1. Conclusion: This is where you can state your thesis again and provide a summary of the primary concepts in a new and more convincing manner, making the case for your analysis. You can also include a call-to-action that will invite the reader to watch the movie or avoid it entirely.

You can find a great critical analysis template at Thompson Rivers University. And now let’s take a look at two film analysis essay samples, starting with Do the Right Thing.

Do the right thing example analysisDo the right thing example analysis

The first film analysis essay example we will take a look at it for Do the Right Thing. This is a film directed by Spike Lee that was released in 1989. In 2007, it appeared on the list of the most controversial movies. Although it is a famous movie, many people have not seen it, yet Do the Right Thing essays are frequently assigned.

The U.S. Library of Congress has published a great article on Do the Right Thing. This will be helpful when writing an analysis on the subject. When writing an analytical essay on Do the Right Thing, you can follow this simple plan to organize your work.

Where to start:

Start your Do the Right Thing essay with general info about the movie, director, etc. Mention that in 2007, the film was admitted to be the 96th greatest American movie. Explain in your essay why the movie is considered to be so controversial.

Character analysis and major themes:

In your analysis of the movie, discuss the major themes raised in the film. What conflicts other than that of race do you see? Then, analyze the main characters of the movie. Create profiles for Mookie, Sal, Giuseppe (Pino), Radio Raheem, Da Mayor, and others and compare and contrast them.

The main idea of the movie:

Finally, you need to explain the main idea of the film, the reason why it was made. Who did the right thing? What exactly is meant by “the right thing”? Don’t be afraid to express your opinion and present your vision of the movie.

Now let’s take a look at the second of our film analysis paper examples by looking at what could be included in a Truman Show essay.

Truman Show essay example analysisTruman Show essay example analysis

The Truman Show is a comedy-drama released in 1998, directed by Peter Weir and starring Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank. This is a story of a man who one day realizes that he is living a false life and that everything around him, including his wife, parents, and friends is not real.

Preparing an analytical essay about The Truman Show might include some of the following ideas:

  • Reality shows and the way television manipulates people’s minds
  • How movie relates to Marxism
  • The religious themes in the movie
  • A comparison of the movie the Thomas More’s Utopia
  • A comparison of the movie with Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Here are examples of how the last three ideas on this list can be presented.

The Truman Show religious analogiesThe Truman Show religious analogies

Religious themes are clearly depicted in the film. Talk about Christof (a man who controls and manipulates Truman’s life) or Truman’s search for truth (something that millions of ordinary people try to find).

The Truman Show parallels with Thomas More’s Utopia:

Truman lives in a small community along with like-minded people who have a lot in common. As in Utopia, no one can come up with a good way to escape the small world in which they live.

The Truman Show parallels with Hamlet:

Just like Hamlet, Truman is a young man who has great potential and who is trying to answer one major question: “Who am I?” But some people, even those close to him, prevent him from finding the answer.

Both the University of Utah and UCLA provide good examples of analytical essays of The Truman Show.

Courses and programsCourses and programs

If you are interested in learning more about the theory behind movie-making, you can always check out the courses and programs offered best movie schools. The top four in the U.S.:

Writing a film analysis essay is not as difficult as it might appear and you are sure to love watching the movie and looking deeply at its core meaning while doing so. If you still feel unsure of writing your essay, you can check out these articles: Analysis Essay and How to Write an Analytical Essay. You can also hire a custom writing service to help.

Happy movie watching…and writing!


Comments (4)



    • Jack Milgram Jack Milgram Posted:

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    • Jack Milgram Jack Milgram Posted:

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