How to Write a Film Analysis Essay: Examples, Outline, & Tips

A film analysis essay might 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 a documentary. Or your professor might assign a film for you to make a critical review. Regardless, you are totally up for watching a movie for a film analysis essay.

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However, 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 essay. In summary, writing movie analysis is not as difficult as it might seem, and Custom-writing.org experts will prove this. This guide will help you choose a topic for your movie analysis, make an outline, and write the text.️ Film analysis examples are added as a bonus! Just keep reading our advice on how to get started.

❓ What Is a Film Analysis Essay?

  • 🚦 Film Analysis Types

📽️ Movie Analysis Format

✍️ how to write a film analysis, 🎦 film analysis template, 🎬 film analysis essay topics.

  • 📄 Essay Examples

🔗 References

To put it simply, film analysis implies watching a movie and then considering its characteristics : genre, structure, contextual context, etc. Film analysis is usually considered to be a form of rhetorical analysis . The key to success here is to formulate a clear and logical argument, supporting it with examples.

🚦 Film Analysis Essay Types

Since a film analysis essay resembles literature analysis, it makes sense that there are several ways to do it. Its types are not limited to the ones described here. Moreover, you are free to combine the approaches in your essay as well. Since your writing reflects your own opinion, there is no universal way to do it.

Film analysis types.

  • Semiotic analysis . If you’re using this approach, you are expected to interpret the film’s symbolism. You should look for any signs that may have a hidden meaning. Often, they reveal some character’s features. To make the task more manageable, you can try to find the objects or concepts that appear on the screen multiple times. What is the context they appear in? It might lead you to the hidden meaning of the symbols.
  • Narrative structure analysis . This type is quite similar to a typical literature guide. It includes looking into the film’s themes, plot, and motives. The analysis aims to identify three main elements: setup, confrontation, and resolution. You should find out whether the film follows this structure and what effect it creates. It will make the narrative structure analysis essay if you write about the theme and characters’ motivations as well.
  • Contextual analysis . Here, you would need to expand your perspective. Instead of focusing on inner elements, the contextual analysis looks at the time and place of the film’s creation. Therefore, you should work on studying the cultural context a lot. It can also be a good idea to mention the main socio-political issues of the time. You can even relate the film’s success to the director or producer and their career.
  • Mise-en-scene analysis . This type of analysis works with the most distinctive feature of the movies, audiovisual elements. However, don’t forget that your task is not only to identify them but also to explain their importance. There are so many interconnected pieces of this puzzle: the light to create the mood, the props to show off characters’ personalities, messages hidden in the song lyrics.

To write an effective film analysis essay, it is important to follow specific format requirements that include the following:

  • Standard essay structure. Just as with any essay, your analysis should consist of an introduction with a strong thesis statement, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The main body usually includes a summary and an analysis of the movie’s elements.
  • Present tense for events in the film. Use the present tense when describing everything that happens in the movie. This way, you can make smooth transitions between describing action and dialogue. It will also improve the overall narrative flow.
  • Proper formatting of the film’s title. Don’t enclose the movie’s title in quotation marks; instead, italicize it. In addition, use the title case : that is, capitalize all major words.
  • Proper use of the characters’ names. When you mention a film character for the first time, name the actor portraying them. After that, it is enough to write only the character’s name.
  • In-text citations. Use in-text citations when describing certain scenes or shots from the movie. Format them according to your chosen citation style. If you use direct quotes, include the time-stamp range instead of page numbers. Here’s how it looks in the MLA format: (Smith 0:11:24–0:12:35).

Even though film analysis is similar to the literary one, you might still feel confused with where to begin. No need to worry; there are only a few additional steps you need to consider during the writing process.

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Need more information? It can be found in the video below.

Starting Your Film Analysis Essay

There are several things you need to do before you start 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 to make a good film analysis essay.

Note that you might be given an essay topic or have to think of it by yourself. If you are free to choose a topic for your film analysis essay, reading some critical reviews before you watch the film might be a good idea. By doing this in advance, you will already know what to look for when watching the movie.

In the process of watching, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Consider your impression of the movie
  • Enumerate memorable details
  • Try to interpret the movie message in your way
  • Search for the proof of your ideas (quotes from the film)
  • Make comments on the plot, settings, and characters
  • Draw parallels between the movie you are reviewing and some other movies

Making a Film 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 . The task is pretty straightforward: the outline can look just as if you were working on a literary analysis or an article analysis.

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  • Introduction : This includes the basics of the movie, including the title, director, and the date of release. You should also present the central theme or ideas in the movie and your thesis statement .
  • Summary : This is where you take the time to present an overview 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.
  • 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 film to support your views. It would help if you also discussed whether the director and writer of the movie achieved the goal they set out to achieve.
  • 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 a 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 website. In case you need more guidance on how to write an analytical paper, check out our article .

Writing & Editing Your Film Analysis Essay

We have already mentioned that there are differences between literary analysis and film analysis. They become especially important when one starts writing their film analysis essay.

First of all, the evidence you include to support the arguments is not the same. Instead of quoting the text, you might need to describe the audiovisual elements.

However, the practice of describing the events is similar in both types. You should always introduce a particular sequence in the present tense. If you want to use a piece of a dialogue between more than two film characters, you can use block quotes. However, since there are different ways to do it, confirm with your supervisor.

For your convenience, you might as well use the format of the script, for which you don’t have to use quotation marks:

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ELSA: But she won’t remember I have powers?

KING: It’s for the best.

Finally, to show off your proficiency in the subject, look at the big picture. Instead of just presenting the main elements in your analysis, point out their significance. Describe the effect they make on the overall impression form the film. Moreover, you can dig deeper and suggest the reasons why such elements were used in a particular scene to show your expertise.

Stuck writing a film analysis essay? Worry not! Use our template to structure your movie analysis properly.

Introduction

  • The title of the film is… [title]
  • The director is… [director’s name] He/she is known for… [movies, style, etc.]
  • The movie was released on… [release date]
  • The themes of the movie are… [state the film’s central ideas]
  • The film was made because… [state the reasons]
  • The movie is… because… [your thesis statement].
  • The main characters are… [characters’ names]
  • The events take place in… [location]
  • The movie is set in… [time period]
  • The movie is about… [state what happens in the film and why]
  • The movie left a… [bad, unforgettable, lasting, etc.] impression in me.
  • The script has… [a logical sequence of events, interesting scenes, strong dialogues, character development, etc.]
  • The actors portray their characters… [convincingly, with intensity, with varying degree of success, in a manner that feels unnatural, etc.]
  • The soundtrack is [distracting, fitting, memorable, etc.]
  • Visual elements such as… [costumes, special effects, etc.] make the film [impressive, more authentic, atmospheric, etc.]
  • The film succeeds/doesn’t succeed in engaging the target audience because it… [tells a compelling story, features strong performances, is relevant, lacks focus, is unauthentic, etc.]
  • Cultural and societal aspects make the film… [thought-provoking, relevant, insightful, problematic, polarizing, etc.]
  • The director and writer achieved their goal because… [state the reasons]
  • Overall, the film is… [state your opinion]
  • I would/wouldn’t recommend watching the movie because… [state the reasons]
  • Analysis of the film Inception by Christopher Nolan .
  • Examine the rhetoric in the film The Red Balloon .
  • Analyze the visual effects of Zhang Yimou’s movie Hero .
  • Basic concepts of the film Interstellar by Christopher Nolan.
  • The characteristic features of Federico Fellini’s movies.
  • Analysis of the movie The Joker .
  • The depiction of ethical issues in Damaged Care .
  • Analyze the plot of the film Moneyball .
  • Explore the persuasive techniques used in Henry V .
  • Analyze the movie Killing Kennedy .
  • Discuss the themes of the film Secret Window .
  • Describe the role of audio and video effects in conveying the message of the documentary Life in Renaissance .
  • Compare and analyze the films Midnight Cowboy and McCabe and Mrs. Miller .
  • Analysis of the movie Rear Window .
  • The message behind the film Split .
  • Analyze the techniques used by Tim Burton in his movie Sleepy Hollow .
  • The topic of children’s abuse and importance of trust in Joseph Sargent’s Sybil .
  • Examine the themes and motives of the film Return to Paradise by Joseph Ruben .
  • The issues of gender and traditions in the drama The Whale Rider.
  • Analysis of the film Not Easily Broken by Duke Bill.
  • The symbolism in R. Scott’s movie Thelma and Louise .
  • The meaning of audiovisual effects in Citizen Kane .
  • Analyze the main characters of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo .
  • Discuss the historical accuracy of the documentary The Civil War .
  • Analysis of the movie Through a Glass Darkly .
  • Explore the core idea of the comedy Get Out .
  • The problem of artificial intelligence and human nature in Ex Machina .
  • Three principles of suspense used in the drama The Fugitive .
  • Examine the ideas Michael Bay promotes in Armageddon .
  • Analyze the visual techniques used in Tenet by Christopher Nolan.
  • Analysis of the movie The Green Mile .
  • Discrimination and exclusion in the film The Higher Learning .
  • The hidden meaning of the scenes in Blade Runner .
  • Compare the social messages of the films West Side Story and Romeo + Juliet .
  • Highlighting the problem of children’s mental health in the documentary Kids in Crisis .
  • Discuss the ways Paul Haggis establishes the issue of racial biases in his movie Crash .
  • Analyze the problem of moral choice in the film Gone Baby Gone .
  • Analysis of the historical film Hacksaw Ridge .
  • Explore the main themes of the film Mean Girls by Mark Walters .
  • The importance of communication in the movie Juno .
  • Describe the techniques the authors use to highlight the problems of society in Queen and Slim .
  • Examine the significance of visual scenes in My Family/ Mi Familia .
  • Analysis of the thriller Salt by Phillip Noyce.
  • Analyze the message of Greg Berlanti’s film Love, Simon .
  • Interpret the symbols of the film The Wizard of Oz (1939).
  • Discuss the modern issues depicted in the film The Corporation .
  • Moral lessons of Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond .
  • Analysis of the documentary Solitary Nation .
  • Describe the audiovisual elements of the film Pride and Prejudice (2005) .
  • The problem of toxic relationships in Malcolm and Marie .

📄 Film Analysis Examples

Below you’ll find two film analysis essay examples. Note that the full versions are downloadable for free!

Film Analysis Example #1: The Intouchables

Raising acute social problems in modern cinema is a common approach to draw the public’s attention to the specific issues and challenges of people facing crucial obstacles. As a film for review, The Intouchables by Oliver Nakache and Éric Toledano will be analyzed, and one of the themes raised in this movie is the daily struggle of the person with severe disabilities. This movie is a biographical drama with comedy elements. The Intouchables describes the routine life of a French millionaire who is confined to a wheelchair and forced to receive help from his servants. The acquaintance of the disabled person with a young and daring man from Parisian slums changes the lives of both radically. The film shows that for a person with disabilities, recognition as a full member of society is more important than sympathy and compassion, and this message expressed comically raises an essential problem of human loneliness.

Movie Analysis Example #2: Parasite

Parasite is a 2019 South Korean black comedy thriller movie directed by Bong Joon-ho and is the first film with a non-English script to win Best Picture at the Oscars in 2020. With its overwhelming plot and acting, this motion picture retains a long-lasting effect and some kind of shock. The class serves as a backbone and a primary objective of social commentary within the South Korean comedy/thriller (Kench, 2020). Every single element and detail in the movie, including the student’s stone, the contrasting architecture, family names, and characters’ behavior, contribute to the central topic of the universal problem of classism and wealth disparity. The 2020 Oscar-winning movie Parasite (2019) is a phenomenal cinematic portrayal and a critical message to modern society regarding the severe outcomes of the long-established inequalities within capitalism.

Want more examples? Check out this bonus list of 10 film analysis samples. They will help you gain even more inspiration.

  • “Miss Representation” Documentary Film Analysis
  • “The Patriot”: Historical Film Analysis
  • “The Morning Guy” Film Analysis
  • 2012′ by Roland Emmerich Film Analysis
  • “The Crucible” (1996) Film Analysis
  • The Aviator’ by Martin Scorsese Film Analysis
  • The “Lions for Lambs” Film Analysis
  • Bill Monroe – Father of Bluegrass Music Film Analysis
  • Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Harry Potter’ Film Analysis
  • Red Tails by George Lucas Film Analysis

Film Analysis Essay FAQ

  • Watch the movie or read a detailed plot summary.
  • Read others’ film reviews paying attention to details like key characters, movie scenes, background facts.
  • Compose a list of ideas about what you’ve learned.
  • Organize the selected ideas to create a body of the essay.
  • Write an appropriate introduction and conclusion.

The benefits of analyzing a movie are numerous . You get a deeper understanding of the plot and its subtle aspects. You can also get emotional and aesthetic satisfaction. Film analysis enables one to feel like a movie connoisseur.

Here is a possible step by step scenario:

  • Think about the general idea that the author probably wanted to convey.
  • Consider how the idea was put across: what characters, movie scenes, and details helped in it.
  • Study the broader context: the author’s other works, genre essentials, etc.

The definition might be: the process of interpreting a movie’s aspects. The movie is reviewed in terms of details creating the artistic value. A film analysis essay is a paper presenting such a review in a logically structured way.

  • Film Analysis – UNC Writing Center
  • Film Writing: Sample Analysis // Purdue Writing Lab
  • Yale Film Analysis – Yale University
  • Film Terms And Topics For Film Analysis And Writing
  • Questions for Film Analysis (Washington University)
  • Resources on Film Analysis – Cinema Studies (University of Toronto)
  • Does Film Analysis Take the Magic out of Movies?
  • Film Analysis Research Papers – Academia.edu
  • What’s In a Film Analysis Essay? Medium
  • Analysis of Film – SAGE Research Methods
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Have you ever read a review and asked yourself how the critic arrived at a different interpretation for the film? You are sure that you saw the same movie, but you interpreted it differently. Most moviegoers go to the cinema for pleasure and entertainment. There’s a reason why blockbuster movies attract moviegoers – cinema is a form of escape, a way to momentarily walk away from life’s troubles.

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Film Analysis

What this handout is about.

This handout introduces film analysis and and offers strategies and resources for approaching film analysis assignments.

Writing the film analysis essay

Writing a film analysis requires you to consider the composition of the film—the individual parts and choices made that come together to create the finished piece. Film analysis goes beyond the analysis of the film as literature to include camera angles, lighting, set design, sound elements, costume choices, editing, etc. in making an argument. The first step to analyzing the film is to watch it with a plan.

Watching the film

First it’s important to watch the film carefully with a critical eye. Consider why you’ve been assigned to watch a film and write an analysis. How does this activity fit into the course? Why have you been assigned this particular film? What are you looking for in connection to the course content? Let’s practice with this clip from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). Here are some tips on how to watch the clip critically, just as you would an entire film:

  • Give the clip your undivided attention at least once. Pay close attention to details and make observations that might start leading to bigger questions.
  • Watch the clip a second time. For this viewing, you will want to focus specifically on those elements of film analysis that your class has focused on, so review your course notes. For example, from whose perspective is this clip shot? What choices help convey that perspective? What is the overall tone, theme, or effect of this clip?
  • Take notes while you watch for the second time. Notes will help you keep track of what you noticed and when, if you include timestamps in your notes. Timestamps are vital for citing scenes from a film!

For more information on watching a film, check out the Learning Center’s handout on watching film analytically . For more resources on researching film, including glossaries of film terms, see UNC Library’s research guide on film & cinema .

Brainstorming ideas

Once you’ve watched the film twice, it’s time to brainstorm some ideas based on your notes. Brainstorming is a major step that helps develop and explore ideas. As you brainstorm, you may want to cluster your ideas around central topics or themes that emerge as you review your notes. Did you ask several questions about color? Were you curious about repeated images? Perhaps these are directions you can pursue.

If you’re writing an argumentative essay, you can use the connections that you develop while brainstorming to draft a thesis statement . Consider the assignment and prompt when formulating a thesis, as well as what kind of evidence you will present to support your claims. Your evidence could be dialogue, sound edits, cinematography decisions, etc. Much of how you make these decisions will depend on the type of film analysis you are conducting, an important decision covered in the next section.

After brainstorming, you can draft an outline of your film analysis using the same strategies that you would for other writing assignments. Here are a few more tips to keep in mind as you prepare for this stage of the assignment:

  • Make sure you understand the prompt and what you are being asked to do. Remember that this is ultimately an assignment, so your thesis should answer what the prompt asks. Check with your professor if you are unsure.
  • In most cases, the director’s name is used to talk about the film as a whole, for instance, “Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo .” However, some writers may want to include the names of other persons who helped to create the film, including the actors, the cinematographer, and the sound editor, among others.
  • When describing a sequence in a film, use the literary present. An example could be, “In Vertigo , Hitchcock employs techniques of observation to dramatize the act of detection.”
  • Finding a screenplay/script of the movie may be helpful and save you time when compiling citations. But keep in mind that there may be differences between the screenplay and the actual product (and these differences might be a topic of discussion!).
  • Go beyond describing basic film elements by articulating the significance of these elements in support of your particular position. For example, you may have an interpretation of the striking color green in Vertigo , but you would only mention this if it was relevant to your argument. For more help on using evidence effectively, see the section on “using evidence” in our evidence handout .

Also be sure to avoid confusing the terms shot, scene, and sequence. Remember, a shot ends every time the camera cuts; a scene can be composed of several related shots; and a sequence is a set of related scenes.

Different types of film analysis

As you consider your notes, outline, and general thesis about a film, the majority of your assignment will depend on what type of film analysis you are conducting. This section explores some of the different types of film analyses you may have been assigned to write.

Semiotic analysis

Semiotic analysis is the interpretation of signs and symbols, typically involving metaphors and analogies to both inanimate objects and characters within a film. Because symbols have several meanings, writers often need to determine what a particular symbol means in the film and in a broader cultural or historical context.

For instance, a writer could explore the symbolism of the flowers in Vertigo by connecting the images of them falling apart to the vulnerability of the heroine.

Here are a few other questions to consider for this type of analysis:

  • What objects or images are repeated throughout the film?
  • How does the director associate a character with small signs, such as certain colors, clothing, food, or language use?
  • How does a symbol or object relate to other symbols and objects, that is, what is the relationship between the film’s signs?

Many films are rich with symbolism, and it can be easy to get lost in the details. Remember to bring a semiotic analysis back around to answering the question “So what?” in your thesis.

Narrative analysis

Narrative analysis is an examination of the story elements, including narrative structure, character, and plot. This type of analysis considers the entirety of the film and the story it seeks to tell.

For example, you could take the same object from the previous example—the flowers—which meant one thing in a semiotic analysis, and ask instead about their narrative role. That is, you might analyze how Hitchcock introduces the flowers at the beginning of the film in order to return to them later to draw out the completion of the heroine’s character arc.

To create this type of analysis, you could consider questions like:

  • How does the film correspond to the Three-Act Structure: Act One: Setup; Act Two: Confrontation; and Act Three: Resolution?
  • What is the plot of the film? How does this plot differ from the narrative, that is, how the story is told? For example, are events presented out of order and to what effect?
  • Does the plot revolve around one character? Does the plot revolve around multiple characters? How do these characters develop across the film?

When writing a narrative analysis, take care not to spend too time on summarizing at the expense of your argument. See our handout on summarizing for more tips on making summary serve analysis.

Cultural/historical analysis

One of the most common types of analysis is the examination of a film’s relationship to its broader cultural, historical, or theoretical contexts. Whether films intentionally comment on their context or not, they are always a product of the culture or period in which they were created. By placing the film in a particular context, this type of analysis asks how the film models, challenges, or subverts different types of relations, whether historical, social, or even theoretical.

For example, the clip from Vertigo depicts a man observing a woman without her knowing it. You could examine how this aspect of the film addresses a midcentury social concern about observation, such as the sexual policing of women, or a political one, such as Cold War-era McCarthyism.

A few of the many questions you could ask in this vein include:

  • How does the film comment on, reinforce, or even critique social and political issues at the time it was released, including questions of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality?
  • How might a biographical understanding of the film’s creators and their historical moment affect the way you view the film?
  • How might a specific film theory, such as Queer Theory, Structuralist Theory, or Marxist Film Theory, provide a language or set of terms for articulating the attributes of the film?

Take advantage of class resources to explore possible approaches to cultural/historical film analyses, and find out whether you will be expected to do additional research into the film’s context.

Mise-en-scène analysis

A mise-en-scène analysis attends to how the filmmakers have arranged compositional elements in a film and specifically within a scene or even a single shot. This type of analysis organizes the individual elements of a scene to explore how they come together to produce meaning. You may focus on anything that adds meaning to the formal effect produced by a given scene, including: blocking, lighting, design, color, costume, as well as how these attributes work in conjunction with decisions related to sound, cinematography, and editing. For example, in the clip from Vertigo , a mise-en-scène analysis might ask how numerous elements, from lighting to camera angles, work together to present the viewer with the perspective of Jimmy Stewart’s character.

To conduct this type of analysis, you could ask:

  • What effects are created in a scene, and what is their purpose?
  • How does this scene represent the theme of the movie?
  • How does a scene work to express a broader point to the film’s plot?

This detailed approach to analyzing the formal elements of film can help you come up with concrete evidence for more general film analysis assignments.

Reviewing your draft

Once you have a draft, it’s helpful to get feedback on what you’ve written to see if your analysis holds together and you’ve conveyed your point. You may not necessarily need to find someone who has seen the film! Ask a writing coach, roommate, or family member to read over your draft and share key takeaways from what you have written so far.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Aumont, Jacques, and Michel Marie. 1988. L’analyse Des Films . Paris: Nathan.

Media & Design Center. n.d. “Film and Cinema Research.” UNC University Libraries. Last updated February 10, 2021. https://guides.lib.unc.edu/filmresearch .

Oxford Royale Academy. n.d. “7 Ways to Watch Film.” Oxford Royale Academy. Accessed April 2021. https://www.oxford-royale.com/articles/7-ways-watch-films-critically/ .

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Study Guide - Edward Scissorhands: How to write a Film Analysis Essay & Cinematic Techniques

  • Characters, Plot, Synopsis &Themes
  • Quotations & Bibilography
  • Film Reviews
  • How to write a Film Analysis Essay & Cinematic Techniques
  • Film Genres & Film Lighting Terminology, Film QUIZ

How to write a film analysis essay

How to Write a Film Analysis Essay

By Timothy Sexton

how to structure a film studies essay

Writing a film analysis essay is an assignment that is less likely to terrorize those who fear the idea of writing an essay, because it allows them to write about something most people enjoy. Film analysis is not the same thing as writing a movie review, which involves passively watching a movie. An analysis means you must engage on a level beyond that of storytelling.

Watch the movie. Then watch it again. Take notes during the first viewing and, if you are analyzing a movie that is available on DVD, be ready with your remote control to pause and rewind.

Critically engage the movie so that you can effectively produce a strong essay. Focus on a single thematic concept related to the film. Ideas for essays taking this route could include an analysis of how the film is photographed, how the movie relates a historical event in a dramatic way without compromising the facts or how a single sequence within the film relates to larger cinematic concepts, like overlapping dialogue or the utilization of dramatic irony.

Introduce the film and its major participants, such as the actors and director. Include the name of another technician on the film if your analysis will be focusing on that aspect. For instance, cite the name of the cinematographer if you are going to be writing about the importance of shadows to film noir, or include the name of the composer of the movie’s score if you are writing about the importance of background music to the emotional tone of the film.

Provide a brief overview of the story, but avoid the temptation to pad your word count by writing what amounts to a synopsis of the story rather than analysis. Reveal plots twists or the ending of the film only if they relate directly to your analysis.

Write your film analysis with the movie at hand if this is possible. Write next to a television and DVD player if applicable. Stay inside the theatre for the second or third showing with your notepad ready if this is possible. Writing an effective film analysis is best accomplished if you don’t have to rely on your memory of events, dialogue or cinematic techniques.

Familiarize yourself with technical jargon related to the art of filmmaking. Learn the difference between a cut and a dissolve. Write about subjective camera work if the analysis is dealing with a part of the movie shot from the point of view of one of the characters. Properly utilizing filmmaking terms will strengthen the authority of your essay.

Source:  http://classroom.synonym.com/write-film-analysis-essay-4125.html

Cinematic Techniques

Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands Film Analysis

Help with writing a film essay - Linda Rubens

Film Techniques

Film techniques is the term used to describe the ways that meaning is created in film.

Camera Shots

A camera shot is the amount of space that is seen in one shot or frame. Camera shots are used to demonstrate different aspects of a film's setting, characters and themes. As a result, camera shots are very important in shaping meaning in a film. Reviewing the examples on the right hand side of this page should make the different camera shots clearer.

An extreme long shot ( animation on right ) contains a large amount of landscape. It is often used at the beginning of a scene or a film to establish general location (setting). This is also known as an establishing shot.

A long shot ( animation on right ) contains landscape but gives the viewer a more specific idea of setting. A long shot may show the viewers the building where the action will take place.

A full shot ( animation on right ) contains a complete view of the characters . From this shot, viewers can take in the costumes of characters and may also help to demonstrate the relationships between characters. For more information on costumes and acting refer to Chapter 4.

A mid shot ( animation on right ) contains the characters or a character from the waist up . From this shot, viewers can see the characters' faces more clearly as well as their interaction with other characters. This is also known as a social shot

A close-up ( animation on right ) contains just one character's face . This enables viewers to understand the actor's emotions and also allows them to feel empathy for the character. This is also known as a personal shot.

An extreme close-up ( animation on right ) contains one part of a character's face or other object. This technique is quite common in horror films, particularly the example above. This type of shot creates an intense mood and provides interaction between the audience and the viewer.

When analysing a film you should always think about the different camera shots and why they are being used. The next time that you are at the cinema or watching television see what camera shots are being used.

Important: These camera shots are used in all forms of visual texts including postcards, posters and print advertisements.

Camera angles

It is important that you do not confuse camera angles and camera shots. Camera shots are used to demonstrate different aspects of setting, themes and characters. Camera angles are used to position the viewer so that they can understand the relationships between the characters. These are very important for shaping meaning in film as well as in other visual texts.

The following examples will help you to understand the differences between the different camera angles

A bird's eye angle ( animation on right ) is an angle that looks directly down upon a scene . This angle is often used as an establishing angle, along with an extreme long shot, to establish setting.

A high angle ( animation on right ) is a camera angle that looks down upon a subject . A character shot with a high angle will look vulnerable or small. These angles are often used to demonstrate to the audience a perspective of a particular character. The example above demonstrates to us the perspective or point of view of a vampire. As a viewer we can understand that the vampire feels powerful.

An eye-level angle ( animation on right ) puts the audience on an equal footing with the character/s . This is the most commonly used angle in most films as it allows the viewers to feel comfortable with the characters.

A low angle ( animation on right ) is a camera angle that looks up at a character . This is the opposite of a high angle and makes a character look more powerful. This can make the audience feel vulnerable and small by looking up at the character. This can help the responder feel empathy if they are viewing the frame from another character's point of view.

As with camera shots, you will be able to see many examples of camera angles in any film or visual text that you view. The next time that you watch television or see a film, take note of the camera angles and think of how they affect your perception (idea) of different characters.

Another camera angle that you might come across is a Dutch angle.

A Dutch angle ( animation on right ) is used to demonstrate the confusion of a character. The example above should disorientate you.

Camera movement

Composers of films also use camera movement to shape meaning. The following are some examples of common camera movements and how they can be used to shape meaning in films.

A crane shot ( animation on right ) is often used by composers of films to signify the end of a film or scene. The effect is achieved by the camera being put on a crane that can move upwards

A tracking shot and a dolly shot ( animation on right ) have the same effect. A tracking shot moves on tracks and a dolly shot is mounted on a trolley to achieve the effect in the example above. This camera movement is used in a number of ways but is most commonly used to explore a room such as a restaurant. By using a tracking shot or a dolly shot the composer of a film gives the viewer a detailed tour of a situation. It can also be used to follow a character.

Panning ( animation on right ) is used to give the viewer a panoramic view of a set or setting. This can be used to establish a scene

An Evangelion shot ( animation on right ) is derived from the popular anime series 'Neon Genesis Evangelion'. This camera movement begins as an extreme close-up and zooms out abruptly, creating a blurring effect to emphasise the speed and size of the object

Lighting is a very important aspect for shaping meaning in films. What kind of atmosphere is created in a room lit by candles? Have you ever heard of mood lighting? A room that is brightly lit by neon lights might seem to be sterile or a shadowy room might be eerie or scary. The lighting technicians in a film crew have the task of creating lighting to suit the mood and atmosphere of each scene in a film.

Consider the animations Lighting example one, Lighting example two, Lighting example three and think about what type of atmosphere is created in each.

For each example, do you think the lighting suits the characters in the frames? For instance, in Example Three the two people are very happy and the scene is lit brightly. What would be the effect on the atmosphere if the lighting were dark and shadowy, similar to Example Two?

Remember that lighting is used in still image visual texts as well as in films.

Cinematography

Cinematography is the combination of the techniques described in this chapter. This includes camera shots, camera angles, camera movement and lighting. Use the term cinematography to group all of these together, for example, 'The cinematography in that film was exceptional.'

Mise en Scene

Mise en scene refers to all the objects and characters in a particular frame. More specifically, it refers to the composition of the frame. When you use the term mise en scene, you are discussing where the composer or director has placed all the elements of the scene within the frame.

Source : Information taken from educational website - www.skwirkcom

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50 Film Analysis

Film analysis, what this handout is about.

This handout provides a brief definition of film analysis compared to literary analysis, provides an introduction to common types of film analysis, and offers strategies and resources for approaching assignments.

What is film analysis, and how does it differ from literary analysis?

Film analysis is the process in which film is analyzed in terms of semiotics, narrative structure, cultural context, and mise-en-scene, among other approaches. If these terms are new to you, don’t worry—they’ll be explained in the next section.

Analyzing film, like  analyzing literature (fiction texts, etc.) , is a form of rhetorical analysis—critically analyzing and evaluating discourse, including words, phrases, and images. Having a clear argument and supporting evidence is every bit as critical to film analysis as to other forms of academic writing.

Unlike literature, film incorporates audiovisual elements and therefore introduces a new dimension to analysis. Ultimately, however, analysis of film is not too different. Think of all the things that make up a scene in a film: the actors, the lighting, the angles, the colors. All of these things may be absent in literature, but they are deliberate choices on the part of the director, producer, or screenwriter—as are the words chosen by the author of a work of literature. Furthermore, literature and film incorporate similar elements. They both have plots, characters, dialogue, settings, symbolism, and, just as the elements of literature can be analyzed for their intent and effect, these elements can be analyzed the same way in film.

Different types of film analysis

Listed here are common approaches to film analysis, but this is by no means an exhaustive list, and you may have discussed other approaches in class. As with any other assignment, make sure you understand your professor’s expectations. This guide is best used to understand prompts or, in the case of more open-ended assignments, consider the different ways to analyze film.

Keep in mind that any of the elements of film can be analyzed, oftentimes in tandem. A single film analysis essay may simultaneously include all of the following approaches and more. As Jacques Aumont and Michel Marie propose in Analysis of Film, there is no correct, universal way to write film analysis.

Semiotic analysis

Semiotic analysis is the analysis of meaning behind signs and symbols, typically involving metaphors, analogies, and symbolism.

This doesn’t necessarily need to be something dramatic; think about how you extrapolate information from the smallest signs in your day to day life. For instance, what characteristics can tell you about someone’s personality? Something as simple as someone’s appearance can reveal information about them. Mismatched shoes and bedhead might be a sign of carelessness (or something crazy happened that morning!), while an immaculate dress shirt and tie would suggest that the person is prim and proper. Continuing in that vein:

  • What might you be able to infer about characters from small hints?
  • How are these hints (signs) used to construct characters? How do they relate to the relative role of those characters, or the relationships between multiple characters?

Symbols denote concepts (liberty, peace, etc.) and feelings (hate, love, etc.) that they often have nothing to do with. They are used liberally in both literature and film, and finding them uses a similar process. Ask yourself:

  • In Frozen Elsa’s gloves appear in multiple scenes.
  • Her gloves are first given to her by her father to restrain her magic. She continues to wear them throughout the coronation scene, before finally, in the Let It Go sequence, she throws them away.

Again, the method of semiotic analysis in film is similar to that of literature. Think about the deeper meaning behind objects or actions.

  • Elsa’s gloves represent fear of her magic and, by extension, herself. Though she attempts to contain her magic by hiding her hands within gloves and denying part of her identity, she eventually abandons the gloves in a quest for self-acceptance.

Narrative structure analysis

Narrative structure analysis is the analysis of the story elements, including plot structure, character motivations, and theme. Like the dramatic structure of literature (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution), film has what is known as the Three-Act Structure: “Act One: Setup, Act Two: Confrontation, and Act Three: Resolution.” Narrative structure analysis breaks the story of the film into these three elements and might consider questions like:

  • How does the story follow or deviate from typical structures?
  • What is the effect of following or deviating from this structure?
  • What is the theme of the film, and how is that theme constructed?

Consider again the example of Frozen. You can use symbolism and narrative structure in conjunction by placing the symbolic objects/events in the context of the narrative structure. For instance, the first appearance of the gloves is in Act One, while their abandoning takes place in Act Two; thus, the story progresses in such a way that demonstrates Elsa’s personal growth. By the time of Act Three, the Resolution, her aversion to touch (a product of fearing her own magic) is gone, reflecting a theme of self-acceptance.

Contextual analysis

Contextual analysis is analysis of the film as part of a broader context. Think about the culture, time, and place of the film’s creation. What might the film say about the culture that created it? What were/are the social and political concerns of the time period? Or, like researching the author of a novel, you might consider the director, producer, and other people vital to the making of the film. What is the place of this film in the director’s career? Does it align with his usual style of directing, or does it move in a new direction? Other examples of contextual approaches might be analyzing the film in terms of a civil rights or feminist movement.

For example, Frozen is often linked to the LGBTQ social movement. You might agree or disagree with this interpretation, and, using evidence from the film, support your argument.

Some other questions to consider:

  • How does the meaning of the film change when seen outside of its culture?
  • What characteristics distinguishes the film as being of its particular culture?

Mise-en-scene analysis

Mise-en-scene analysis is analysis of the arrangement of compositional elements in film—essentially, the analysis of audiovisual elements that most distinctly separate film analysis from literary analysis. Remember that the important part of a mise-en-scene analysis is not just identifying the elements of a scene, but explaining the significance behind them.

  • What effects are created in a scene, and what is their purpose?
  • How does the film attempt to achieve its goal by the way it looks, and does it succeed?

Audiovisual elements that can be analyzed include (but are not limited to): props and costumes, setting, lighting, camera angles, frames, special effects, choreography, music, color values, depth, placement of characters, etc. Mise-en-scene is typically the most foreign part of writing film analysis because the other components discussed are common to literary analysis, while mise-en-scene deals with elements unique to film. Using specific film terminology bolsters credibility, but you should also consider your audience. If your essay is meant to be accessible to non-specialist readers, explain what terms mean. The Resources section of this handout has links to sites that describe mise-en-scene elements in detail.

Rewatching the film and creating screen captures (still images) of certain scenes can help with detailed analysis of colors, positioning of actors, placement of objects, etc. Listening to the soundtrack can also be helpful, especially when placed in the context of particular scenes.

Some example questions:

  • How is the lighting used to construct mood? Does the mood shift at any point during the film, and how is that shift in mood created?
  • What does the setting say about certain characters? How are props used to reveal aspects of their personality?
  • What songs were used, and why were they chosen? Are there any messages in the lyrics that pertain to the theme?

Writing the film analysis essay

Writing film analysis is similar to writing literary analysis or any argumentative essay in other disciplines: Consider the assignment and prompts, formulate a thesis (see the  Brainstorming Handout  and  Thesis Statement Handout  for help crafting a nuanced argument), compile evidence to prove your thesis, and lay out your argument in the essay. Your evidence may be different from what you are used to. Whereas in the English essay you use textual evidence and quotes, in a film analysis essay, you might also include audiovisual elements to bolster your argument.

When describing a sequence in a film, use the present tense, like you would write in the literary present when describing events of a novel, i.e. not “Elsa took off her gloves,” but “Elsa takes off her gloves.” When quoting dialogue from a film, if between multiple characters, use block quotes: Start the quotation on a new line, with the entire quote indented one inch from the left margin. However, conventions are flexible, so ask your professor if you are unsure. It may also help to follow the formatting of the script, if you can find it. For example:

ELSA: But she won’t remember I have powers? KING: It’s for the best.

You do not need to use quotation marks for blocked-off dialogue, but for shorter quotations in the main text, quotation marks should be double quotes (“…”).

Here are some tips for approaching film analysis:

  • Make sure you understand the prompt and what you are being asked to do. Focus your argument by choosing a specific issue to assess.
  • Review your materials. Rewatch the film for nuances that you may have missed in the first viewing. With your thesis in mind, take notes as you watch. Finding a screenplay of the movie may be helpful, but keep in mind that there may be differences between the screenplay and the actual product (and these differences might be a topic of discussion!).
  • Develop a thesis and an outline, organizing your evidence so that it supports your argument. Remember that this is ultimately an assignment—make sure that your thesis answers what the prompt asks, and check with your professor if you are unsure.
  • Move beyond only describing the audiovisual elements of the film by considering the significance of your evidence. Demonstrate understanding of not just what film elements are, but why and to what effect they are being used. For more help on using your evidence effectively, see ‘Using Evidence In An Argument’ in the  Evidence Handout .

New York Film Academy Glossary Movie Outline Glossary Movie Script Database Citation Practices: Film and Television

Works Consulted

We consulted these works while writing the original version of this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find the latest publications on this topic. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the  UNC Libraries citation tutorial .

Aumont, Jacques, and Michel Marie. L’analyse Des Films. Paris: Nathan, 1988. Print. Pruter, Robin Franson. “Writing About Film.” Writing About Film. DePaul University, 08 Mar. 2004. Web. 01 May 2016.

Film Analysis Copyright © 2020 by Liza Long; Amy Minervini; and Joel Gladd is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Film Analysis: Example, Format, and Outline + Topics & Prompts

Films are never just films. Instead, they are influential works of art that can evoke a wide range of emotions, spark meaningful conversations, and provide insightful commentary on society and culture. As a student, you may be tasked with writing a film analysis essay, which requires you to delve deeper into the characters and themes. But where do you start?

In this article, our expert team has explored strategies for writing a successful film analysis essay. From prompts for this assignment to an excellent movie analysis example, we’ll provide you with everything you need to craft an insightful film analysis paper.

  • 📽️ Film Analysis Definition

📚 Types of Film Analysis

  • ✍️ How to Write Film Analysis
  • 🎞️ Movie Analysis Prompts
  • 🎬 Top 15 Topics

📝 Film Analysis Example

  • 🍿 More Examples

🔗 References

📽️ what is a film analysis essay.

A film analysis essay is a type of academic writing that critically examines a film, its themes, characters, and techniques used by the filmmaker. This essay aims to analyze the film’s meaning, message, and artistic elements and explain its cultural, social, and historical significance. It typically requires a writer to pay closer attention to aspects such as cinematography, editing, sound, and narrative structure.

Film Analysis vs Film Review

It’s common to confuse a film analysis with a film review, though these are two different types of writing. A film analysis paper focuses on the film’s narrative, sound, editing, and other elements. This essay aims to explore the film’s themes, symbolism , and underlying messages and to provide an in-depth interpretation of the film.

On the other hand, a film review is a brief evaluation of a film that provides the writer’s overall opinion of the movie. It includes the story’s short summary, a description of the acting, direction, and technical aspects, and a recommendation on whether or not the movie is worth watching.

This image shows the difference between film analysis and film review.

Wondering what you should focus on when writing a movie analysis essay? Here are four main types of film analysis. Check them out!

📋 Film Analysis Format

The movie analysis format follows a typical essay structure, including a title, introduction, thesis statement, body, conclusion, and references.

The most common citation styles used for a film analysis are MLA and Chicago . However, we recommend you consult with your professor for specific guidelines. Remember to cite all dialogue and scene descriptions from the movie to support the analysis. The reference list should include the analyzed film and any external sources mentioned in the essay.

When referring to a specific movie in your paper, you should italicize the film’s name and use the title case. Don’t enclose the title of the movie in quotation marks.

📑 Film Analysis Essay Outline

A compelling film analysis outline is crucial as it helps make the writing process more focused and the content more insightful for the readers. Below, you’ll find the description of the main parts of the movie analysis essay.

This image shows the film analysis essay outline.

Film Analysis Introduction

Many students experience writer’s block because they don’t know how to write an introduction for a film analysis. The truth is that the opening paragraph for a film analysis paper is similar to any other academic essay:

  • Start with a hook to grab the reader’s attention . For example, it can be a fascinating fact or a thought-provoking question related to the film.
  • Provide background information about the movie . Introduce the film, including its title, director, and release date. Follow this with a brief summary of the film’s plot and main themes.
  • End the introduction with an analytical thesis statement . Present the central argument or interpretation that will be explored in the analysis.

Film Analysis Thesis

If you wonder how to write a thesis for a film analysis, we’ve got you! A thesis statement should clearly present your main idea related to the film and provide a roadmap for the rest of the essay. Your thesis should be specific, concise, and focused. In addition, it should be debatable so that others can present a contrasting point of view. Also, make sure it is supported with evidence from the film.

Let’s come up with a film analysis thesis example:

Through a feminist lens, Titanic is a story about Rose’s rebellion against traditional gender roles, showcasing her attempts to assert her autonomy and refusal to conform to societal expectations prevalent in the early 20th century.

Movie Analysis Main Body

Each body paragraph should focus on a specific aspect of the film that supports your main idea. These aspects include themes, characters, narrative devices , or cinematic techniques. You should also provide evidence from the film to support your analysis, such as quotes, scene descriptions, or specific visual or auditory elements.

Here are two things to avoid in body paragraphs:

  • Film review . Your analysis should focus on specific movie aspects rather than your opinion of the film.
  • Excessive plot summary . While it’s important to provide some context for the analysis, a lengthy plot summary can detract you from your main argument and analysis of the film.

Film Analysis Conclusion

In the conclusion of a movie analysis, restate the thesis statement to remind the reader of the main argument. Additionally, summarize the main points from the body to reinforce the key aspects of the film that were discussed. The conclusion should also provide a final thought or reflection on the film, tying together the analysis and presenting your perspective on its overall meaning.

✍️ How to Write a Film Analysis Essay

Writing a film analysis essay can be challenging since it requires a deep understanding of the film, its themes, and its characters. However, with the right approach, you can create a compelling analysis that offers insight into the film’s meaning and impact. To help you, we’ve prepared a small guide.

This image shows how to write a film analysis essay.

1. Understand the Prompt

When approaching a film analysis essay, it is crucial to understand the prompt provided by your professor. For example, suppose your professor asks you to analyze the film from the perspective of Marxist criticism or psychoanalytic film theory . In that case, it is essential to familiarize yourself with these approaches. This may involve studying these theories and identifying how they can be applied to the film.

If your professor did not provide specific guidelines, you will need to choose a film yourself and decide on the aspect you will explore. Whether it is the film’s themes, characters, cinematography, or social context, having a clear focus will help guide your analysis.

2. Watch the Film & Take Notes

Keep your assignment prompt in mind when watching the film for your analysis. For example, if you are analyzing the film from a feminist perspective, you should pay attention to the portrayal of female characters, power dynamics , and gender roles within the film.

As you watch the movie, take notes on key moments, dialogues, and scenes relevant to your analysis. Additionally, keeping track of the timecodes of important scenes can be beneficial, as it allows you to quickly revisit specific moments in the film for further analysis.

3. Develop a Thesis and an Outline

Next, develop a thesis statement for your movie analysis. Identify the central argument or perspective you want to convey about the film. For example, you can focus on the film’s themes, characters, plot, cinematography, or other outstanding aspects. Your thesis statement should clearly present your stance and provide a preview of the points you will discuss in your analysis.

Having created a thesis, you can move on to the outline for an analysis. Write down all the arguments that can support your thesis, logically organize them, and then look for the supporting evidence in the movie.

4. Write Your Movie Analysis

When writing a film analysis paper, try to offer fresh and original ideas on the film that go beyond surface-level observations. If you need some inspiration, have a look at these thought-provoking questions:

  • How does the movie evoke emotional responses from the audience through sound, editing, character development , and camera work?
  • Is the movie’s setting portrayed in a realistic or stylized manner? What atmosphere or mood does the setting convey to the audience?
  • How does the lighting in the movie highlight certain aspects? How does the lighting impact the audience’s perception of the movie’s characters, spaces, or overall mood?
  • What role does the music play in the movie? How does it create specific emotional effects for the audience?
  • What underlying values or messages does the movie convey? How are these values communicated to the audience?

5. Revise and Proofread

To revise and proofread a film analysis essay, review the content for grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors. Ensure the paper flows logically and each paragraph contributes to the overall analysis. Remember to double-check that you haven’t missed any in-text citations and have enough evidence and examples from the movie to support your arguments.

Consider seeking feedback from a peer or instructor to get an outside perspective on the essay. Another reader can provide valuable insights and suggestions for improvement.

🎞️ Movie Analysis: Sample Prompts

Now that we’ve covered the essential aspects of a film analysis template, it’s time to choose a topic. Here are some prompts to help you select a film for your analysis.

  • Metropolis film analysis essay . When analyzing this movie, you can explore the themes of technology and society or the portrayal of class struggle. You can also focus on symbolism, visual effects, and the influence of German expressionism on the film’s aesthetic.
  • The Godfather film analysis essay . An epic crime film, The Godfather , allows you to analyze the themes of power and corruption, the portrayal of family dynamics, and the influence of Italian neorealism on the film’s aesthetic. You can also examine the movie’s historical context and impact on future crime dramas.
  • Psycho film analysis essay . Consider exploring the themes of identity and duality, the use of suspense and tension in storytelling, or the portrayal of mental illness. You can also explore the impact of this movie on the horror genre.
  • Forrest Gump film analysis essay . If you decide to analyze the Forrest Gump movie, you can focus on the portrayal of historical events. You might also examine the use of nostalgia in storytelling, the character development of the protagonist, and the film’s impact on popular culture and American identity.
  • The Great Gatsby film analysis essay . The Great Gatsby is a historical drama film that allows you to analyze the themes of the American Dream, wealth, and class. You can also explore the portrayal of the 1920s Jazz Age and the symbolism of the green light.
  • Persepolis film analysis essay . In a Persepolis film analysis essay, you can uncover the themes of identity and self-discovery. You might also consider analyzing the portrayal of the Iranian Revolution and its aftermath, the use of animation as a storytelling device, and the film’s influence on the graphic novel genre.

🎬 Top 15 Film Analysis Essay Topics

  • The use of color symbolism in Vertigo and its impact on the narrative.
  • The moral ambiguity and human nature in No Country for Old Men .
  • The portrayal of ethnicity in Gran Torino and its commentary on cultural stereotypes.
  • The cinematography and visual effects in The Hunger Games and their contribution to the dystopian atmosphere.
  • The use of silence and sound design in A Quiet Place to immerse the audience.
  • The disillusionment and existential crisis in The Graduate and its reflection of the societal norms of the 1960s.
  • The themes of sacrifice and patriotism in Casablanca and their relevance to the historical context of World War II.
  • The psychological horror in The Shining and its impact on the audience’s experience of fear and tension.
  • The exploration of existentialism in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind .
  • Multiple perspectives and unreliable narrators in Rashomon .
  • The music and soundtrack in Titanic and its contribution to the film’s emotional resonance.
  • The portrayal of good versus evil in the Harry Potter film series and its impact on understanding morality.
  • The incorporation of vibrant colors in The Grand Budapest Hotel as a visual motif.
  • The use of editing techniques to tell a nonlinear narrative in Pulp Fiction .
  • The function of music and score in enhancing the emotional impact in Schindler’s List .

Check out the Get Out film analysis essay we’ve prepared for college and high school students. We hope this movie analysis essay example will inspire you and help you understand the structure of this assignment better.

Film Analysis Essay Introduction Example

Get Out, released in 2017 and directed by Jordan Peele, is a culturally significant horror film that explores themes of racism, identity, and social commentary. The film follows Chris, a young African-American man, visiting his white girlfriend’s family for the weekend. This essay will analyze how, through its masterful storytelling, clever use of symbolism, and thought-provoking narrative, Get Out reveals the insidious nature of racism in modern America.

Film Analysis Body Paragraphs Example

Throughout the movie, Chris’s character is subject to various types of microaggression and subtle forms of discrimination. These instances highlight the insidious nature of racism, showing how it can exist even in seemingly progressive environments. For example, during Chris’s visit to his white girlfriend’s family, the parents continuously make racially insensitive comments, expressing their admiration for black physical attributes and suggesting a fascination bordering on fetishization. This sheds light on some individuals’ objectification and exotification of black bodies.

Get Out also critiques the performative allyship of white liberals who claim to be accepting and supportive of the black community. It is evident in the character of Rose’s father, who proclaims: “I would have voted for Obama for a third term if I could” (Peele, 2017). However, the film exposes how this apparent acceptance can mask hidden prejudices and manipulation.

Film Analysis Conclusion Example

In conclusion, the film Get Out provides a searing critique of racial discrimination and white supremacy through its compelling narrative, brilliant performances, and skillful direction. By exploring the themes of the insidious nature of racism, fetishization, and performative allyship, Get Out not only entertains but also challenges viewers to reflect on their own biases.

🍿 More Film Analysis Examples

  • Social Psychology Theories in The Experiment
  • Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader: George Lukas’s Star Wars Review
  • Girl, Interrupted : Mental Illness Analysis
  • Mental Disorders in the Finding Nemo Film
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Film: Interpretive Psychological Analysis
  • Analysis of Spielberg’s Film Lincoln
  • Glory – The Drama Movie by Edward Zwick
  • Inventors in The Men Who Built America Series
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  • A Review of the Movie An Inconvenient Truth by Guggenheim
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  • The Role of Music in the Films The Hours and The Third Man
  • The Social Network : Film Analysis
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❓ Film Analysis Essay: FAQ

Why is film analysis important.

Film analysis allows viewers to go beyond the surface level and delve into the deeper layers of a film’s narrative, themes, and technical aspects. It enables a critical examination that enhances appreciation and understanding of the film’s message, cultural significance, and artistic value. At the same time, writing a movie analysis essay can boost your critical thinking and ability to spot little details.

How to write a movie analysis?

  • Watch the film multiple times to grasp its key elements.
  • Take notes on the story, characters, and themes.
  • Pay attention to the film’s cinematography, editing, sound, message, symbolism, and social context.
  • Formulate a strong thesis statement that presents your main argument.
  • Support your claims with evidence from the film.

How to write a critical analysis of a movie?

A critical analysis of a movie involves evaluating its elements, such as plot, themes, characters, and cinematography, and providing an informed opinion on its strengths and weaknesses. To write it, watch the movie attentively, take notes, develop a clear thesis statement, support arguments with evidence, and balance the positive and negative.

How to write a psychological analysis of a movie?

A psychological analysis of a movie examines characters’ motivations, behaviors, and emotional experiences. To write it, analyze the characters’ psychological development, their relationships, and the impact of psychological themes conveyed in the film. Support your analysis with psychological theories and evidence from the movie.

  • Film Analysis | UNC Writing Center
  • Psychological Analysis of Films | Steemit
  • Critical Film Analysis | University of Hawaii
  • Questions to Ask of Any Film | All American High School Film Festival
  • Resources – How to Write a Film Analysis | Northwestern
  • Film Analysis | University of Toronto
  • Film Writing: Sample Analysis | Purdue Online Writing Lab
  • Film Analysis Web Site 2.0 | Yale University
  • Questions for Film Analysis | University of Washington
  • Film & Media Studies Resources: Types of Film Analysis | Bowling Green State University
  • Film & Media Studies Resources: Researching a Film | Bowling Green State University
  • Motion Picture Analysis Worksheet | University of Houston
  • Reviews vs Film Criticism | The University of Vermont Libraries
  • Television and Film Analysis Questions | University of Michigan
  • How to Write About Film: The Movie Review, the Theoretical Essay, and the Critical Essay | University of Colorado

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How to Write a Film Analysis Essay: Format & Examples

Movie analysis essays offer a unique opportunity to take a closer look at narrative techniques and artistic aspects of filmmaking. A paper on this subject lets you explore themes, characters, cinematography, and other elements that make movies stand out. Students can improve their movie analysis abilities by reading our comprehensive guide! It has enough information to make you a movie critic in your own right.

Our team has covered the main film analysis essay components to help you thoroughly analyze movies. By the end of this read, you’ll understand how to pick the right motion picture and craft a film review that best captures its essence. The guide covers all the crucial steps for students to make a film analysis essay captivating and thought-provoking for readers. Let’s dive into cinema analysis and discover the secret behind excellent papers!

  • 📽️ What Is a Film Analysis?
  • 🎞️ Types of Movie Analysis

🎬 Film Analysis Template

  • 🤩 11 Tips for Movie Analysis
  • 💡 Film Analysis Essay Topics

🔗 References

📽️ what is a film analysis essay.

In a film analysis paper, students should closely examine the various elements of the picture. These include directing , writing , cinematography , acting , and setting . As with any critical paper, the subject is evaluated based on specific standards. Sometimes, a film may be compared to other entries in its genre or series, for example, Star Wars vs. Star Trek.

🎞️ Types of Movie Analysis Essays

Before making a movie analysis outline, it’s essential to understand what kind of essay you want to create. There are several popular types with unique goals and aims. Understanding the difference between them helps you choose the right one for the paper you want to write.

4 Types of movie analysis essays.

The most common types of movie analysis essays include:

  • Semiotic Analysis. This type discusses the symbols and signs represented in a particular movie. With its help, you may uncover the meaning of objects or images repeated throughout the picture. It’s also possible to show connections between different examples of imagery in the film. For example, you may discuss the meaning of oranges in The Godfather .
  • Narrative Structure Analysis. This common type of analysis lets you look deeper into the various story elements, such as plot, narrative structure, and characters. For example, you may use it to explore the story and setting of Psycho.
  • Contextual Analysis. In a contextual analysis, you draw connections between the film and its cultural and historical context. This works well with documentary films or movies based on real events. For example, you can describe the atmosphere of the Cold War in Red Dawn and The Hunt for Red October .
  • Mise-En-Scene Analysis . If you want to go into deep detail about the beauty and meaning of scenes or single shots, mise-en-scene analysis is right for you. It lets you take a look at individual elements and interpret them. For example, you may try to explain how various details of the surroundings were depicted in Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. This analysis is as effective for short films as it is for feature-length ones.

Creating a high-quality, compelling essay isn’t just about being creative. It also needs structure and a systematic approach. You can’t write it right if you don’t know how to do it. So, we’ll take a closer look at each step of this process to make your journey more comfortable. Come with us and learn what makes a movie critique essay great.

Prepare for Writing the Film Analysis Paper

Before you begin your first draft, it’s vital to prepare for the film analysis. This process is divided into five stages. We’ve decided to provide some advice and ideas for each of them. Look closely at what should be done to better prepare for this task:

Movie Analysis Format & Structure

A well-organized film essay structure will help you properly present your ideas and arguments. That is why we have provided some advice on how you should format your essay.

Create a draft for your essay.

There are several parts you should include when writing your film critique:

  • Introduction . Any good piece of writing starts with a catchy introduction. It must give readers a small taste of what the paper will be about with unique insights and analysis. One look at it should be enough to hook your readers.
  • Body . After writing the perfect intro, summarize the work you’ll analyze and focus on the crucial plot points. Then, provide an analysis of the motion picture at length. Check your outline to ensure you only talk about relevant aspects. When organizing each of your paragraphs , you should remember its purpose and try not to stray off topic.
  • Conclusion . The last part of your paper should summarize the main points and present your final thoughts. Don’t haste and write the first thing that comes to mind. Ensure that the conclusion is as impactful as the introductory part.

Sometimes, students get too engrossed when watching a movie and leave out essential details. To make sure that doesn’t happen, follow this movie analysis template. It will help you retain information and avoid making mistakes.

🤩 11 Tips to Follow While Writing a Movie Analysis

A movie analysis essay writing requires exceptional attention to detail. We’ve come up with several terrific pieces of advice that will improve your writing skills regarding these assignments. They will work for you whether you’re analyzing a Tim Burton animated film or the legendary Titanic movie.

  • Even if you’ve seen the work before, rewatch it. It will refresh your memories of it.
  • Don’t rush things, and see the movie at least twice. Arrange your time to have the opportunity to refresh your memories of the plot details.
  • Sometimes, it helps to work on the body of the paper before adding an introduction.
  • Develop a clear thesis statement . It helps better organize the paper’s arguments.
  • Closely investigate the audio and visual elements. They often help bring more nuance to the story and the film’s atmosphere.
  • Don’t make the paper all about the plot. It should be an analysis and not a retelling of the entire story.
  • To make the paper more professional, incorporate some technical jargon. For example, you may explain the techniques used by the camera crew or the editors.
  • Do your best to remain objective. Your paper should analyze the movie elements and your opinions should be evidence-based.
  • Compare the film to other genre entries. Try to tell how other works tackle the same subjects and utilize similar cinema elements .
  • Check the structural integrity of the work. Comb the paper for any inconsistencies or sentences that seem to dangle in the air. Your text should be easy to follow.
  • Finally, remember to edit. It’s important to polish the paper until you have all the facts, grammar, stylistics, and spelling in order.

9 Essential questions to help you analyze a movie.

💡 Interesting Topics for Film Analysis Essays

  • Pandora’s Unobtanium: Analyzing James Cameron’s “Avatar”
  • Truth and Its Consequences in “Liar Liar” Directed by Tom Shadyac
  • The Feminist Revolution in “Mona Lisa Smile” by Mike Newell
  • Blade Runner’s Cyberpunk Aesthetic: A Scene Analysis
  • Society and Class Distinctions in “Pride and Prejudice” Movie
  • Power, Loyalty, and Betrayal in “The Godfather” by Francis Ford Coppola
  • The Heroine’s Journey into “The Wizard of Oz” by Victor Fleming
  • Generational Saga “Mi Familia” by Gregory Nava
  • Life Is Like a Box of Chocolates: A Cinematic Journey in ‘Forrest Gump’
  • Transformation in “Dances with Wolves” by Kevin Costner
  • Spirit of Nature and Childhood Innocence in “My Neighbor Totoro”
  • Subversive Masculinity in “Fight Club” by David Fincher
  • Intercultural Communication in “Lost in Translation” by Sofia Coppola
  • Ethical Dilemmas and Family Bonds in “My Sister’s Keeper” by Nick Cassavetes
  • Shakespearean Romance and Identity in “Shakespeare in Love” 

Three Brilliant Movie Analysis Examples

Theoretical knowledge will only take you so far. We suggest taking a look at several scene analysis essay examples. Check out these three creative samples with different analytical approaches:

  • “Remember the Titans” Movie by Jerry Bruckheimer. Outstanding achievement can only be won through hardship. It doesn’t matter whether you’re fighting for equality or striving to win a football game. Each small event resonates in history. Jerry Bruckheimer’s Remember the Titans is a testament to the sacrifice and struggle people endure to make a difference. This essay analyzes the work using several scenes that capture its central message.
  • The Analysis of Film “Wilby Wonderful.”   Interpersonal relationships remain a big issue from a psychological point of view for many despite the perceived ease of their maintenance. It causes many misunderstandings and conflicts people may inadvertently find themselves in. Daniel Maclvor’s Wilby Wonderful demonstrates these inadequacies in full view on the streets of the Canadian island town of Wilby. This essay analyzes the themes of self-denial and the consequences it brings.
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: 1994 Movie Analysis Essay.  1994’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, directed by Kenneth Branagh, is one of the many adaptations of the classic horror novel. Like the original story, it explores the consequences of man playing god. But, despite its star-ridden cast led by Robert DeNiro, the film doesn’t quite live up to its literary counterpart. This paper analyzes why the adaptation didn’t capture the spirit of the original.

We did our best to address all questions you might have had about film review writing. Feel free to use our guide and review essay examples to write excellent papers and share our articles with your friends.

  • Resources – How to Write a Film Analysis. – Northwestern University
  • Film Analysis. – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Film Writing: Sample Analysis. – Purdue University
  • How to Write a Movie Review: 9 Essential Tips. – New York Film Academy
  • Step by Step Guide to Writing an Essay on Film. – Film Threat
  • How To Write a Critical Analysis in 5 Steps (With Tips). – Indeed
  • Film Review. – Writing Studio, Duke University
  • How to Write About Film: The Movie Review, The Theoretical Essay, and The Critical Essay. – University of Colorado Denver
  • Film & Media Studies Resources: Researching a Film. – Bowling Green State University
  • Questions for Film Analysis. – University of Washington

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Film Essays: The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Film Essay

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By Essaywriter

Film Essays: The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Film Essay

If you’re a film buff or a student of film studies, you’ve probably encountered film essays at some point in your academic career.

Writing a film essay can be challenging, but with guidance, you can craft a compelling analysis of any cinematic masterpiece.

One of the world’s most well-liked and regularly watched forms of entertainment is a film, whether blockbusters or indie movies. The film has become an essential part of culture and society worldwide.

A film is a powerful tool for social critique and cultural expression. Despite changes, movies have never lost their capacity to amuse, instruct, and inspire. This post offers knowledge, suggestions, and resources for writing film essays. An analysis of a particular film’s many elements is done in a film essay.

Understanding the Elements of Film Analysis

Film analysis comprises evaluating and comprehending the many components that make up a film. These include the movie’s cinematography, sound, editing, acting, and narrative. It is possible to gain a deeper understanding of the movie’s themes, messages, and overall relevance by analyzing these components.

Films comprise certain components, which directors and movie producers tend to tweak to recreate different cultures and historical points in time. For instance, a movie set in the 1980s will have very different scenery, costumes, and soundtrack than a movie set in the present.

There has been a major advancement in technology, music, fashion, and social conventions between the 1980s and now. Therefore, these film components need to be properly considered when writing a film essay.

Tips for Writing Film Essays

Researching and selecting a film to analyze.

To explore possible films, choose your areas of interest, such as a specific genre, era, or filmmaker. After that, you can use various tools to gather information and ideas for new films.

Thousands of films, reviews, and ratings are available through online databases such as IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. Search engines such as Google and Bing can also be used to find articles, criticisms, and analyses of certain films or directors.”

Outlining and Organizing the Film Essays

Outlining and arranging a film essay can help ensure that your analysis is clear and succinct. Create an outline that breaks down the various parts of the film you will be analyzing, such as the narrative, characters, cinematography, and symbolism so that you can arrange your thoughts.

Maintain focus by avoiding needless details. Instead, concentrate on offering specific examples from the film to back up and connect your analysis. You should also employ transitions between paragraphs to make it easier for the reader to follow your train of thought.

Citing Sources and Formatting the Film Essays

Citation of sources and Proper formatting gives credit to the film’s creators, but it also demonstrates the credibility of your research and analysis. When citing a film, it’s important to follow the guidelines of the citation style you use, whether it be MLA, APA, or Chicago.

This includes the title of the film, the director, and the year of release. When citing sources such as articles or books, it’s important to include the author, title, publication date, and page number(s).

Tips for Incorporating Film Terminology and Analysis Techniques

It is critical to strike a balance between employing technical language and making it accessible to your audience when incorporating cinema vocabulary and analysis procedures in a film essay.

One technique is to start with a clear and short statement that defines your essay’s major argument or purpose. From there, you can support and deepen your thesis by employing specialized cinema terminology and analysis approaches. Use film examples to illustrate your views and make them more accessible to the reader.

Use a clear and simple writing style and be consistent in using technical language and analysis methodologies. This will help the reader follow your argument and understand your views.

Finally, to provide a full understanding of the film, employing a variety of analysis methodologies such as formalism or psychoanalysis. This will not only help you obtain a deeper understanding of many components of the film, but it will also allow you to provide a more sophisticated analysis.

Sample Film Essays Outline

Thesis statement: “Through its use of surreal imagery and unconventional narrative structure, ‘Mulholland Drive’ deconstructs the Hollywood dream and exposes the darkness at the heart of the film industry.”

Main point 1: The cinematography and mise-en-scène of ‘Mulholland Drive’

Main point 2: The themes and messages of ‘Mulholland Drive’

Main point 3: The cultural and historical context of ‘Mulholland Drive’

Conclusion: Recap of main points and analysis of the lasting impact of the film

Film elements are what make each film production distinct from every other. Therefore, understanding them empowers writers with the tools to analyze and write fitting essays adequately.

When writing a film essay, tips like researching and selecting a film to analyze, outlining and organizing the essay, citing sources and formatting the essay, and incorporating film terminology and analysis techniques help present your essay in the most logical, clear, clear, concise, and comprehensive way.

If you’re looking to write a film essay anytime soon, following this stepwise guide on writing film essays will get you critical acclaim when your work is peer-reviewed.

Perhaps you do not have the time to write a film essay or any other paper, or maybe you need professional help writing your paper.

Our website, ThePaperExperts.com , is a place you can visit to get your paper professionally written and delivered on time, irrespective of the type of essay you need to be written.

Try us now by calling 1-888-774-9994 and speak to an academic advisor today and get help with film essays!

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Film Writing: Sample Analysis

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Summary: A sample analysis of a filmic sequence that makes use of the terminology on the OWL’s Writing About Film page .

Written by Kylie Regan

Introductory Note

The analysis below discusses the opening moments of the science fiction movie  Ex Machina  in order to make an argument about the film's underlying purpose. The text of the analysis is formatted normally. Editor's commentary, which will occasionally interrupt the piece to discuss the author's rhetorical strategies, is written in brackets in an italic font with a bold "Ed.:" identifier. See the examples below:

The text of the analysis looks like this.

[ Ed.:  The editor's commentary looks like this. ]

Frustrated Communication in Ex Machina ’s Opening Sequence

Alex Garland’s 2015 science fiction film Ex Machina follows a young programmer’s attempts to determine whether or not an android possesses a consciousness complicated enough to pass as human. The film is celebrated for its thought-provoking depiction of the anxiety over whether a nonhuman entity could mimic or exceed human abilities, but analyzing the early sections of the film, before artificial intelligence is even introduced, reveals a compelling examination of humans’ inability to articulate their thoughts and feelings. In its opening sequence, Ex Machina establishes that it’s not only about the difficulty of creating a machine that can effectively talk to humans, but about human beings who struggle to find ways to communicate with each other in an increasingly digital world.

[ Ed.:  The piece's opening introduces the film with a plot summary that doesn't give away too much and a brief summary of the critical conversation that has centered around the film. Then, however, it deviates from this conversation by suggesting that Ex Machina has things to say about humanity before non-human characters even appear. Off to a great start. ]

The film’s first establishing shots set the action in a busy modern office. A woman sits at a computer, absorbed in her screen. The camera looks at her through a glass wall, one of many in the shot. The reflections of passersby reflected in the glass and the workspace’s dim blue light make it difficult to determine how many rooms are depicted. The camera cuts to a few different young men typing on their phones, their bodies partially concealed both by people walking between them and the camera and by the stylized modern furniture that surrounds them. The fourth shot peeks over a computer monitor at a blonde man working with headphones in. A slight zoom toward his face suggests that this is an important character, and the cut to a point-of-view shot looking at his computer screen confirms this. We later learn that this is Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a young programmer whose perspective the film follows.

The rest of the sequence cuts between shots from Caleb’s P.O.V. and reaction shots of his face, as he receives and processes the news that he has won first prize in a staff competition. Shocked, Caleb dives for his cellphone and texts several people the news. Several people immediately respond with congratulatory messages, and after a moment the woman from the opening shot runs in to give him a hug. At this point, the other people in the room look up, smile, and start clapping, while Caleb smiles disbelievingly—perhaps even anxiously—and the camera subtly zooms in a bit closer. Throughout the entire sequence, there is no sound other than ambient electronic music that gets slightly louder and more textured as the sequence progresses. A jump cut to an aerial view of a glacial landscape ends the sequence and indicates that Caleb is very quickly transported into a very unfamiliar setting, implying that he will have difficulty adjusting to this sudden change in circumstances.

[ Ed.:  These paragraphs are mostly descriptive. They give readers the information they will need to understand the argument the piece is about to offer. While passages like this can risk becoming boring if they dwell on unimportant details, the author wisely limits herself to two paragraphs and maintains a driving pace through her prose style choices (like an almost exclusive reliance on active verbs). ]

Without any audible dialogue or traditional expository setup of the main characters, this opening sequence sets viewers up to make sense of Ex Machina ’s visual style and its exploration of the ways that technology can both enhance and limit human communication. The choice to make the dialogue inaudible suggests that in-person conversations have no significance. Human-to-human conversations are most productive in this sequence when they are mediated by technology. Caleb’s first response when he hears his good news is to text his friends rather than tell the people sitting around him, and he makes no move to take his headphones out when the in-person celebration finally breaks out. Everyone in the building is on their phones, looking at screens, or has headphones in, and the camera is looking at screens through Caleb’s viewpoint for at least half of the sequence.  

Rather than simply muting the specific conversations that Caleb has with his coworkers, the ambient soundtrack replaces all the noise that a crowded building in the middle of a workday would ordinarily have. This silence sets the uneasy tone that characterizes the rest of the film, which is as much a horror-thriller as a piece of science fiction. Viewers get the sense that all the sounds that humans make as they walk around and talk to each other are being intentionally filtered out by some presence, replaced with a quiet electronic beat that marks the pacing of the sequence, slowly building to a faster tempo. Perhaps the sound of people is irrelevant: only the visual data matters here. Silence is frequently used in the rest of the film as a source of tension, with viewers acutely aware that it could be broken at any moment. Part of the horror of the research bunker, which will soon become the film’s primary setting, is its silence, particularly during sequences of Caleb sneaking into restricted areas and being startled by a sudden noise.

The visual style of this opening sequence reinforces the eeriness of the muted humans and electronic soundtrack. Prominent use of shallow focus to depict a workspace that is constructed out of glass doors and walls makes it difficult to discern how large the space really is. The viewer is thus spatially disoriented in each new setting. This layering of glass and mirrors, doubling some images and obscuring others, is used later in the film when Caleb meets the artificial being Ava (Alicia Vikander), who is not allowed to leave her glass-walled living quarters in the research bunker. The similarity of these spaces visually reinforces the film’s late revelation that Caleb has been manipulated by Nathan Bates (Oscar Isaac), the troubled genius who creates Ava.

[ Ed.:  In these paragraphs, the author cites the information about the scene she's provided to make her argument. Because she's already teased the argument in the introduction and provided an account of her evidence, it doesn't strike us as unreasonable or far-fetched here. Instead, it appears that we've naturally arrived at the same incisive, fascinating points that she has. ]

A few other shots in the opening sequence more explicitly hint that Caleb is already under Nathan’s control before he ever arrives at the bunker. Shortly after the P.O.V shot of Caleb reading the email notification that he won the prize, we cut to a few other P.O.V. shots, this time from the perspective of cameras in Caleb’s phone and desktop computer. These cameras are not just looking at Caleb, but appear to be scanning him, as the screen flashes in different color lenses and small points appear around Caleb’s mouth, eyes, and nostrils, tracking the smallest expressions that cross his face. These small details indicate that Caleb is more a part of this digital space than he realizes, and also foreshadow the later revelation that Nathan is actively using data collected by computers and webcams to manipulate Caleb and others. The shots from the cameras’ perspectives also make use of a subtle fisheye lens, suggesting both the wide scope of Nathan’s surveillance capacities and the slightly distorted worldview that motivates this unethical activity.

[ Ed.: This paragraph uses additional details to reinforce the piece's main argument. While this move may not be as essential as the one in the preceding paragraphs, it does help create the impression that the author is noticing deliberate patterns in the film's cinematography, rather than picking out isolated coincidences to make her points. ]

Taken together, the details of Ex Machina ’s stylized opening sequence lay the groundwork for the film’s long exploration of the relationship between human communication and technology. The sequence, and the film, ultimately suggests that we need to develop and use new technologies thoughtfully, or else the thing that makes us most human—our ability to connect through language—might be destroyed by our innovations. All of the aural and visual cues in the opening sequence establish a world in which humans are utterly reliant on technology and yet totally unaware of the nefarious uses to which a brilliant but unethical person could put it.

Author's Note:  Thanks to my literature students whose in-class contributions sharpened my thinking on this scene .

[ Ed.: The piece concludes by tying the main themes of the opening sequence to those of the entire film. In doing this, the conclusion makes an argument for the essay's own relevance: we need to pay attention to the essay's points so that we can achieve a rich understanding of the movie. The piece's final sentence makes a chilling final impression by alluding to the danger that might loom if we do not understand the movie. This is the only the place in the piece where the author explicitly references how badly we might be hurt by ignorance, and it's all the more powerful for this solitary quality. A pithy, charming note follows, acknowledging that the author's work was informed by others' input (as most good writing is). Beautifully done. ]

How to Write a Film Analysis Essay: Examples, Outline, & Tips

22 December 2023

last updated

This guideline is designed to teach people how to write a film analysis essay. Basically, students and anyone interested in writing a good movie analysis essay should read the details and tips that can help them to produce a high-standard piece. The article begins by defining what a film analysis is, listing the possible topics of such an essay, and giving a sample outline and example. The guideline also teaches about the various types of film analysis and the most common concepts that such a paper may address. As a result, the article concludes with tips, including ten things to do and ten not to do when writing a film analysis essay.

General Aspects of How to Write an Outstanding Film Analysis Essay

A college education is dynamic and robust because students undertake various academic activities in and out of the lecture room. Typically, activities within lecture halls are theoretical, and those that happen outside are practical. A critical academic exercise is a film analysis assignment, where professors require students to watch a movie and discuss using particular elements. The elements directors and producers use to bring the action alive include the stage, lighting, sound, and other special effects. As such, analyzing a film is a complex exercise that requires one to perfect the art of writing. In turn, this article is a guideline for how to write a film analysis essay. By reading this text, students can gain insights into the details and elements they must address when writing a movie analysis essay.

How to Write a Film Analysis Essay: Examples, Outline, & Tips

Definition of What Is a Film Analysis and Its Meaning

According to a simple definition, film analysis explores the use of particular elements in a film, including mise-en-scène, cinematography, sound, and editing. Students should talk about actors’ positioning, scenery adaptation, physical setting, stage lighting, and cultural context when writing this kind of essay. Another critical fact to consider is that films come in various genres, including action, documentaries, drama, horror, romance, and science fiction. Each type of movie analysis utilizes the above elements differently. Therefore, film analysis means writing an in-depth examination of how directors and producers approach their productions to make them entertaining and informative. For example, most science fiction films are futuristic, showing how society may change. In this respect, all films have a cultural context students must address in their movie analysis essay.

Unique Features of a Film Analysis

Generally, film analysis essays differ from other types of papers , including an argumentative essay , a cause and effect essay , and a research paper , because they focus on a single production and explore the use of the above elements. Some unique features that differentiate film analysis papers from other types of essays include a short plot summary where writers briefly tell readers what the movie is about, such as exterminating evil. In this type of analysis, writers evaluate the use of the elements above and state whether they make the film great or below expectations. Another feature is a poster showing sceneries to give readers a visual experience of the movie. Such visuals are essential to arouse the reader’s emotions and mental involvement in a movie analysis. Therefore, when writing a film analysis essay, students should focus on telling the story and depicting it.

6 Common Types of a Film Analysis Essay

Students must determine the type of film analysis essay to avoid sounding ignorant and irrelevant when writing about the movie. The most common types are semiotic, narrative, contextual, mise-en-scène, cultural, and historical analyses. Each type requires students to adopt a singular focus, meaning one cannot concentrate effort on elements that do not fall under the study. The reason for these types of analyses is that it is not always possible to understand an entire film in an essay, which is generally a short text of about two to three pages. Nonetheless, it is prudent for students to know how to write each type, meaning understanding the approach and unique features they must discuss and evaluate.

🔸 Semiotic Analysis

A semiotic essay involves discussing, evaluating, and interpreting the use of literary analysis elements, including analogies and metaphors, to inanimate characters and objects. Generally, these elements have different meanings, and students should determine what a particular feature stands for in the film they are analyzing vis-à-vis its broader cultural or historical significance in society. For example, when analyzing the 1958 film Vertigo , one may discuss the symbolism of flowers by stating how some images of them falling apart depict the heroine’s vulnerability. In turn, when conducting a semiotic analysis, one should consider several issues, including the repetition of objects or images throughout the movie, the association of a character with particular objects, and the relation between an object and other objects. Hence, a semiotic analysis essay requires students to examine the use of objects and symbols to communicate a deep meaning.

🔸 Narrative Analysis

A narrative analysis essay involves examining the elements that directors or producers use to construct the storyline, including characters, the plot, the setting, and the narrative structure. As such, students should focus on the entire movie and the message it seeks to communicate. Considering the example above of Vertigo , writers may discuss the narrative role of flowers by analyzing how director Alfred Hitchcock introduces them as the film begins and only brings them up again toward the end to complete the heroine’s character arc. Students should also consider several issues when conducting a narrative analysis essay, including the plot and how it unfolds. For example, one may talk about whether events are systematic or out of order and what that signifies. However, students should not focus on summarizing the plot at the expense of making and defending an argument.

🔸 Contextual Analysis

A contextual analysis of a film is a discussion of the placement of the movie within particular contexts, such as slavery, women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement, or the industrial revolution. In this case, filmmakers produce movies and base their identity on the unfolding circumstances or themes defining a particular time in history.

🔸 Mise-en-Scène Analysis

A mise-en-scène analysis essay involves discussing and evaluating compositional elements, including sets, props, actors, costumes, and lighting, and how they complement or conflict with cinematography, sound, and editing. The most effective approach in conducting this movie analysis is to focus on one or a few scenes rather than the entire film, telling readers how they support or undermine the plot. As such, mise-en-scène is part of the director’s narrative because this element influences how the audience understands the central message in the production. Taking Vertigo as a case study , one may discuss how Hitchcock incorporates lighting and camera angles to characterize Jimmy Stewart (starring as former police detective John “Scottie” Ferguson) as acrophobic. When adopting a mise-en-scène analysis, students should consider how particular scenes create effects and their purpose and how different scenes emphasize a theme central to the plot.

🔸 Cultural Analysis

A cultural analysis essay examines, evaluates, and interprets the broader cultural disposition the director adopts to tell the story. Students must understand that, regardless of a film’s production period, a culture influences its various elements, like characters and their mannerisms. Taking Vertigo as an example, one may interpret the scene where a man observes a woman without her knowing it to mean the sexual policing of women in mid-20th century America. When analyzing the context of a movie, students should consider how the film captures, reinforces, or critiques social norms in a particular culture or era.

🔸 Historical Analysis

A historical analysis essay means writing about a particular film from the perspective of the period underscoring its production. Ideally, filmmakers place their work into a historical context, such as the colonial era or ancient civilizations. Therefore, when writing a film analysis essay, students should focus on the period the director situates its plot.

How to Write a More Technical and Focused Film Analysis Essay

Film analysis helps readers to understand essential details, including the plot and its central themes, characters and their disposition, scenes and significance, and effects and the message they communicate. In this respect, one must be ready to undertake a technical, focused, and vigorous analysis of one or several of these elements. In most instances, instructions dictate the aspects students should write about. However, without such specifications, they should focus on a few elements and examine them vigorously. For example, one may decide to focus on the plot. In this instance, a movie analysis essay must examine the plot from different perspectives, including the characters, central themes, and the message. Such a focused analysis allows readers to gain an in-depth understanding of a particular element of movie reviews instead of an analysis that discusses several elements superficially. Some elements and terms that students can use for writing a film analysis essay include:

  • Flashback and flashforward: Flashbacks are scenes that recount events that have a powerful influence on the current or unfolding event. On the other hand, flashforwards are scenes that reveal events that will occur later in the film, and their purpose is to create anticipation in the audience.
  • Time framework: Film directors structure time linearly to depict an orderly unfolding of events. The most common time framework is omitting events to move the story forward.
  • Setting: The environment within which a director creates a movie, including physical surrounding like a city and period like a year or century.
  • Range of events: The different events in a film sustain the plot. Typically, these events directly or indirectly affect protagonists because they facilitate the storyline.
  • Cast: The people producing a film, including the main actors and the production crew. However, actors take priority when discussing the cast.
  • Plot: The sequence of events that directors create to communicate a central message in a movie analysis. When writing a film analysis essay, students should never ignore this aspect because it underscores the storyline.
  • Shot, scene, and sequence: Features that tell the quality of a film but, most importantly, the interconnectivity of elements in the director’s aim to tell a story.
  • Genre: The classification of movies into various forms, such as action, documentaries, science fiction, horror, or romance. Knowing a film’s genre under analysis is helpful in identifying the significance of cinematography and mise-en-scène elements.
  • Directing: Supervising film production by visualizing the script, controlling and managing the artistic and dramatic aspects, and guiding the actors and technical crew.
  • Scenario: The aspect of a movie analysis that provides the audience insight into the plot or characters. Ideally, scenarios are scenes that convey critical details of the storyline, such as climax.
  • Acting: The role that individuals play to bring a film’s plot alive. As such, it involves all people who assume different characters in a movie, including protagonists, antagonists, heroes, and heroines.
  • Visual effects: The qualities that filmmakers use to bring the action alive, such as images, shots, and scenes. When discussing visual effects in a film analysis essay, students should comment on how they reinforce certain concepts or themes, like mood, fear, and suspense.
  • Music and audio effects: Sound and language that enhance the audience’s understanding of the central message. Most films incorporate background sounds in multiple scenes to arouse reactions in the audience.
  • Camera angle: The positioning of the camera to capture precise shots in films. Filmmakers use camera angles in relation to scenes and characters to affect the audience’s perception.
  • Lighting: A mise-en-scène element that filmmakers use to create different effects in a film. Ideally, movies involve different lighting techniques, such as key light, fill light, and backlight, to guide the audience’s attention, create a visual impact, give the film a texture, or create an atmosphere.
  • References: Features that indicate how a film uses dialogue and images in its storyline to allude to, recall, or refer to another movie. Ideally, filmmakers use this feature to contextualize their productions within a cultural or historical space.
  • Animation: The use of drawings or puppets with mobility like humans. Although it is a movie genre for analysis today, filmmakers use animation to give objects animal or human qualities, such as walking, talking, crying, or fighting. Animations effectively depict society as a complex system comprising different life systems.
  • Protagonist: The character that takes center stage in a film and whom the director uses to construct the plot. While a film’s plot may revolve around several actors, only one is central, and others only assist the main hero in accomplishing agendas. In this respect, when students are writing a film analysis, they should tell the audience the main protagonist(s).
  • Antagonist: Characters that stand opposite of protagonists. Filmmakers use them to depict the main character as assailed by forces aiming to thwart their agenda.
  • Climax: The point in a movie where the plot peaks and where the protagonist puts into motion a series of events that significantly determine their final experience. These events may include betrayal, heroism, or tragedy. Therefore, one can identify a film’s climax by assessing how the plot intensifies and events directly impacting the protagonist unfolds.
  • Hero vs. anti-hero: Heroes stand out as brave because they attempt what others fear. In most movies, protagonists are heroes because they survive what consumes others. On the other hand, an anti-hero is a central character who lacks heroic qualities like bravery but is timid, fearful, frustrating, and irritating. As a result, the audience celebrates heroes under analysis and loath anti-heroes.
  • Atmosphere: The environment in which a movie imbues the audience through the sequence of events revolving around the plot. Generally, action films create an intense atmosphere because of the frequency of fights. On the other hand, romantic movies create an emotional atmosphere characterized by attraction and happiness. On their part, horror films create an uneasy atmosphere because of the constant anticipation of evil.
  • Background: The technique of capturing an image or object from a distance, often giving other images or objects prominence. Filmmakers use this quality to create a sense of authenticity in scenes. For example, a scene capturing a rioting crowd may have in its background an image of anti-riot police forming a barrier using their bodies. Looking at the imagery, one may see rioters more clearly but also understand the situation’s intensity because of the police in the background.
  • Cameo: The dramatic appearance of a famous actor or personality in a movie for various reasons, including fun, publicity, or to give the film credibility. However, such characters do not become protagonists because they appear briefly and only once. When doing a film analysis, students should indicate such personalities and the role they may have played in the plot.
  • Cinematography: The artistic use of technology and visual effects to dramatize the sequence of events in a film. Ideally, writers should examine the scenes’ general composition, locations’ lighting, camera angles and movements, and special effects, like illusions or camera tricks.
  • Comic relief: A scene that allows the audience to release emotional weight or tension that may have built up due to escalating events with a negative outcome, such as betrayal and a series of murders. Filmmakers interpose comic relief in tragic scenarios to avoid burdening the audience emotionally to the point of refusing to watch the film to its conclusion . The only film genre that rarely uses comic relief is gothic.
  • Film critics: Individuals who have made criticizing films a part- or full-time engagement. Ideally, these people watch movies to identify negative qualities, like a confused plot, poor lighting, and sound effects. While one may consider them an appropriate source of film reviews, they rarely highlight a good analysis of a movie.
  • Director’s cut: An edited film version that represents the director’s original edit before the release of the theatrical edit that reaches the screens. This part of the film is important because it shows scenes that some editors may cut or altered. By examining the director’s cut, the writer of a film analysis essay looks at the complete production and tells how it may enhance the audience’s viewing experience.
  • Foreshadowing: The technique of giving the audience a sneak preview of events yet to unfold to build anticipation and heighten dramatic tension. Filmmakers use this quality early in the film to create excitement in the audience and make them want to view the production to the end. Typically, foreshadowing focuses on events directly affecting the protagonist, such as a tragedy.
  • Editing: Perfecting a film by deleting, arranging, and splicing scenes and synchronizing all elements, including cinematography, mise-en-scène, sound, and special effects. The goal of editing is to make a film perfect for airing on the big screen. In this respect, it aims to remove all features affecting quality.
  • Long shot: A scene in a film that filmmakers shoot from a considerable distance to give images and objects indistinct shapes, almost unrecognizable. An excellent long shot captures people walking New York City streets from the city’s skyline. While one would know the images are people walking, they cannot describe their demographics, such as age, gender, or race.
  • Metaphor: A literary device that allows filmmakers to represent similarities between objects. An example of a metaphor in a movie is a visual metaphor, where filmmakers represent nouns through graphical images to suggest a particular association or resemblance. For example, an advert can represent beauty through the appearance of a flawless face, implying that beauty is equal to a look without flaws. Such an advert increases people’s interest in having a perfect face, leading to purchasing beauty products.
  • Montage: The film editing technique where filmmakers combine a series of short shots into one sequence to condense time, establish continuity, or provide contrast. Montages take different forms, including repetition of camera movements, minimal or no dialogue, quick cuts, music, and voice narration.
  • New wave: A French art film movement that emerged in the late 1950s to pave the way for experimentation and iconoclasm, thus rejecting traditional filmmaking conventions. Filmmakers who subscribed to this wave used film as a medium, like pottery or novels, for telling stories and translating thoughts and ideas by experimenting with form and style.
  • Mockumentary traits: Films that assume a documentary genre, although they do not tell true stories. Instead, filmmakers use parody, satire, and humor to describe contemporary society through events, ideas, and emerging trends. Simply put, a movie is a mockumentary if it is a fictional documentary.
  • Slow motion: A filmmaking effect where time appears to slow down because the film captures footage at a slower speed. This technique is common for rewinding scenarios to reinforce an idea in the audience. For example, most productions of sports tournaments use slow motion to provide viewers with detailed and perfect shots that leave no room for imagination and analysis.
  • Soundtrack: The sound, often music, which filmmakers incorporate in a plot to accompany scenes for heightened effects, such as arousing the audience’s emotions. In most instances, this music plays in the background, often from a low to high intensity and vice versa, depending on the scene.
  • Theme: The concept, idea, or principle that emphasizes a film’s plot and central message, such cas sadness, victory, morality, or community. By identifying the themes that a director uses to construct the plot, authors of a film analysis essay can tell the audience their meaning and significance through the story of the protagonist.
  • Symmetry: The quality of balancing shots between characters or placing shots symmetrically to each other to create a pattern. For example, visual symmetry involves repeating parts of an image along a path, across an axis, or around a center. Filmmakers use symmetrical patterns to convey a sense of unity or uniformity.
  • Symbolism: The literary device of using objects to symbolize ideas. For example, a filmmaker can use a dove to symbolize peace or the color black to symbolize evil. In essence, symbolism allows filmmakers to communicate profound messages to the audience. Therefore, students need to identify symbols representing ideas in film analysis.

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Topic Examples for Writing a Film Analysis Essay

  • Video Review: Salt (2010)
  • Video Review and Approval of Black Panther (2018)
  • Analysis Essay of Volodymyr Zelensky’s Speech “I Call for You to Do More”
  • Examining Gender Issues Through Symbolism in The Ugly Truth (2009)
  • Discussing the Narrative Structure in The Godfather (1972)
  • Evaluating Christopher Nolan’s Use of Mise-en-Scène Elements in Oppenheimer (2023)
  • What Features Indicate the Context of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club (1993)?
  • What Is the Cultural Context of City of God (2002)?
  • How Does History Feature as an Element in the Star Wars Trilogy?
  • How Does Roman Polanski Employ Flashback and Flashforward to Tell the Story of Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist (2002)?
  • Discussing the Conception of Time in The Matrix (1999)
  • How Does the Setting of The Departed (2006) Underscore the Film’s Contemporary Significance?
  • Describing the Chronology of Events in The Bark Night Rises (2012)
  • How Does Casting Affect the Plot in American Beauty (1992)?
  • What Central Themes Describe the Plot in Inglorious Bastards (2009)?
  • Discussing How Scenes in Idiots (2009) Facilitate the Plot
  • Analysis of Gothic Elements in the Horror Genre via the Lens of The Mummy (2017)
  • Evaluating Mel Gibson’s Directing of The Braveheart (1995)
  • Discussing the Scenarios that Construct the Climax in Capernaum (2018)
  • Evaluating Al Pacino’s Acting in Scarface (1983)
  • Analyzing the Significance of Visual Effects in Film From the Perspective of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
  • How Does Sound Affect the Audience in Monster House (2006)?
  • Evaluating How Camera Angle Enrich Viewer Experience in Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
  • How Does Lighting Fit in the Gothic Film Sleepy Hollow (1999)?
  • How Does Steven Spielberg Employ References in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)?
  • Analysis of Animation in a Film From the Perspective of King Kong (1933)
  • Who Is the Protagonist in The Wolf of Wallstreet (2013) and Why?
  • What Makes Saruman the Antagonist in The Lord of the Rings Series?
  • How Does Climax Underpin the Plot in Casino (1995)?
  • Analyzing the Difference Between Heroes and Anti-Heroes via the Lenses of Black Panther (2018) and Black Adam (2022)
  • How Does Suspense Create an Atmosphere of Anticipation in Black Swan (2010)?
  • Discussing How Background Influences Viewer Experience in No Country for Old Men (2007)
  • Evaluating the Impact of Harrison Ford’s Appearance in  Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)
  • How Does M. Night Shyamalan Employ Cinematography in The Sixth Sense (1999)?
  • Explaining Comic Relief in Film Using Uncut Gems (2019) as a Case Study
  • Criticizing Jurassic Park (1993) from the Perspective of Cinematography
  • How Does Director’s Cut Enrich the Storyline in Blade Runner (1982)?
  • Exploring Foreshadowing in the Film Using 12 Years a Slave (2013)
  • Explaining the Link Between Film Editing and Quality Using Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) as an Example
  • How Do Long Shots Affect Viewers’ Experience in Film?
  • Understanding a Visual Metaphor in Hotel Rwanda (2004)
  • How Does Dialogue Underscore Montage in The Terminator (1984)?
  • Analysis of How the Mid-20th Century New Wave Impacted French Filmmaking
  • How Does Forgotten Silver (1995) Incorporate Mocumentary Traits?
  • What Role Does Slow Motion Play in Films?
  • Analyzing the Importance of Soundtracks From the Perspective of Horror Films
  • How Do Film Directors Use Themes as Conveyors of the Central Message?
  • Discussing How Symmetry Affects the Quality of Films
  • Exploring Symbolism in the Film Using Angels & Demons (2009)

Sample Outline Template for Writing a Film Analysis Essay

I. College Essay Introduction

  • Introduce the film’s title, followed by the director’s name and year of production.
  • Give a short description of the film or some context underpinning its release.
  • End this paragraph with a thesis statement about the film.

II. Summary

  • Overview the film by describing its context, setting, plot, and main characters.

III. Analysis

  • Describe several scenes in more detail by focusing on various elements, including cinematography, mise-en-scène, and others that help to evaluate the film.
  • Provide and cite some scenes as details and supporting evidence for analysis.
  • Evaluate and interpret the use of the above elements.

IV. Conclusion

  • Remind the audience about the film’s context and plot.
  • Recapitulate information in the analysis section.
  • Interpret the film’s significance.

Example of a Film Analysis Essay

Topic: What Features Indicate the Context of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club (1993)?

I. Example of Writing an Introduction for a Film Analysis Essay

Films play a crucial role in educating people about the context within which movies come into their lives. Ideally, filmmakers implement various societal elements to construct ideas and use cinema as a conveyor belt to pass movies to different populations. Therefore, analyzing the film’s context is critical in understanding the ideas that the director embraced to produce the work. Several features in the 1993 film The Joy Luck Club indicate the film’s context.

II. Example of Writing a Summary Paragraph for a Film Analysis Essay

Directed by Wayne Wang, The Joy Luck Club tells the story of an Asian woman named Jun, born of the late Suyuan, who founded the Joy Luck Club social group. The movie’s plot revolves around the experiences of Asian mothers as immigrants in America from the perspective of their daughters. In this respect, the film takes a narrative approach. The movie’s setting alternates between San Francisco, California, and China, with the scenes in San Francisco representing the present day. Set in the 1980s, the storyline takes the viewer across generations. In this case, the mothers have flashbacks of the 1920s and 1940s.

III. Example of Writing an Analysis Paragraph for a Film Essay

A. physical landscape.

A key feature that reveals the context of The Joy Luck Club is the physical landscape. The film captures San Francisco as an urban place populated by buildings, busy streets, and a coastline. The movie contrasts this landscape with the mountainous landscape in China, where natural elements exceed physical structures.

B. Cultural Nuances

Another feature that reveals the film’s context is cultural nuances between mothers and their daughters. The viewer learns how mothers went through a world so different from that of their daughters to the extent they loathe some of the behaviors and mannerisms they see in them. However, the viewer can tell that some cultural differences between mothers and daughters may explain why there is confusion between two generations. Born in the conservative Chinese culture, mothers experience a cultural shock once in America, which does not happen for their daughters because they have only experienced the liberal American culture. In this respect, life values and perspectives of mothers and their daughters are constantly in conflict.

C. Conflict Between Generations

Although the scenes in San Francisco and China are essential to the storyline, cultural nuances of mothers and their daughters take center stage in a conflict between generations in the film. While daughters seem relaxed and willing to engage in fantasies, their mothers insist they embrace education as the noblest achievement. As such, two generations are always at loggerheads about leisure time because mothers seek to utilize every minute to work, while daughters want to have fun most of the time. Ironically, mothers see education as the tool to make their daughters truly American because it determines their quality of life.

IV. Example of Writing a Conclusion for a Film Analysis Essay

The Joy Luck Club exposes the experiences of Chinese mothers in America, showing some cultural nuances that influence their relationships with their daughters. The film depicts immigration as crucial to the women’s experiences in the movie because it is the avenue through which mothers arrived in America. In essence, the film depicts mothers as caring despite their unpleasant experiences and their daughters’ ignorance.

4 Easy Steps for Writing a Film Analysis Essay

Writing a good film analysis essay is a technical process that requires students to grasp and demonstrate certain qualities. Ideally, one should know how to produce a high-standard paper, including adequate preparation, stage setup, creating an initial draft, and perfecting a final draft. These details summarize the steps of writing a great film analysis essay.

Step 1: Preparation

Preparation is the first step of writing a film analysis essay and involves several tasks. The first aspect is defining possible essay topics if instructions from tutors do not specify them. In turn, one may select film research paper topics that are easy yet challenging. The second task is to generate ideas that the audience can relate to, such as the cultural or historical issues in the film.

Step 2: Stage Set Up

Setting the stage is the second step of writing a film analysis essay. It involves watching the film to understand its context and plot and using cinematography and other elements. The second task is to research credible sources that help to analyze the movie, such as scholarly reviews and scholarship on film, including gothic movies and the use of literary or rhetorical devices . The next task is to create a clear essay outline according to the sample above.

Step 3: The Writing Process of Starting a First Draft

The third step of writing a film analysis essay is to write a paper focusing on producing an initial draft. The text activity should combine all ideas to create a document with a logical order of ideas and content. Some of the activities in this stage include adding or deleting reliable sources to fit a paper and altering an initial outline to organize ideas. Students should also focus on developing a clear thesis statement when writing the introduction because it summarizes the paper’s aim. Students should adopt evidence-based writing by incorporating evidence and corresponding citations in the body. The last aspect is to restate the thesis and summarize the analysis in the conclusion by mentioning the most critical points.

Step 4: Wrap-Up and Finishing a Final Draft

The final step of writing a film analysis essay is to wrap it up by perfecting a first draft. In this respect, students should focus on revising their first drafts to eliminate flaws like inconsistent ideas. The second task is to edit a film analysis essay by adding to deleting words and sentences to foster a logical flow of thought. Students should also ensure each body paragraph has a topic sentence , evidence, scenes, or details cited from academic sources or films, explanation and analysis sentences, concluding remark, and transition to the next paragraph, not forgetting to check if the paper’s formatting is perfect. Concerning formatting, students should adopt one style in the entire document: APA , MLA , Harvard , or Chicago/Turabian . Considering The Joy Luck Club , templates and examples of citations should read as follows:

📕 Citing a Film in APA

  • Reference entry: Wang, W. (Director). (1993). The Joy Luck Club [Film]. Walt Disney Studios.
  • In-text citation: (Wang, 1993, 00:46:00-00:50:00)

📕 Citing a Film in MLA

  • Work Cited entry: The Joy Luck Club . Directed by Wayne Wang, performances by Suyuan Woo and Rose Hsu Jordan, Walt Disney Studios, 1993.
  • In-text citation: ( The Joy Luck Club 00:46:00-00:50:00)

📕 Citing a Film in Harvard

  • Reference List entry: The Joy Luck Club (1993). Directed by Wayne Wang. Burbank, CA: Walt Disney Studios.
  • In-text citation: ( The Joy Luck Club 1993, 00:46:00-00:50:00)

📕 Citing a Film in Chicago/Turabian

  • Bibliography entry: Wang, Wayne, director. The Joy Luck Club . Walt Disney Studios, 1993.
  • Footnote: 1. The Joy Luck Club , directed by Wayne Wang (Walt Disney Studios, 1993), 00:46:00-00:50:00.

20 Tips for Writing a Good Film Analysis Essay

Students must learn essential tips for writing a high-standard film analysis essay. These tips include watching a specific film before starting a movie analysis paper; determining the aspects to cover, such as the plot, cinematography, context, or setting; selecting suitable sources to construct ideas and defend arguments; and creating a well-organized outline.

10 things to do when writing a film analysis essay include:

  • watching the film at least once;
  • considering the audience;
  • commenting on the acting;
  • criticizing the directing by mentioning cinematography, mise-en-scène, or special effects;
  • supporting the criticism;
  • talking about the plot;
  • consulting professional reviewers, like Roger Ebert and Rotten Tomatoes;
  • reading, rereading, editing, and revising;
  • cultivating a personal voice to demonstrate knowledge;
  • proofreading the final text.

10 things not to do include:

  • retelling the film;
  • overusing sentences;
  • generalizing ideas;
  • continuously comparing the movie with its adaptations, like a book or novel;
  • ignoring or doing superficial research;
  • telling irrelevant details;
  • writing poorly with too many grammar and format errors;
  • getting too personal;
  • reviewing another film;
  • plagiarizing reviews.

Summing Up on How to Write a Perfect Film Analysis Essay

  • Watch a chosen film while notetaking.
  • Read several reviews focusing on the plot, context, setting, characters, scenes, and elements, like cinematography and mise-en-scène.
  • Create a list of ideas.
  • Organize the ideas to fit various aspects of a film indicated above: plot, context, and other elements.
  • Write an appropriate introduction.
  • Summarize the film.
  • Analyze the film by exploring one or several aspects comprehensively.
  • Write a conclusion, which must satisfy the audience.

The Writing Place

Resources – writing about film: the critical essay, introduction to the topic.

Like it or not, studying film may very well be a part of the well-rounded education you receive here at Northwestern University. But how to go about writing such an essay? While film reviews and theoretical essays are part of Film Studies, the most common paper that students will face is: “the critical essay”

Fear not. Though its title combines a serious undertone that implies it is both a large chuck of your grade and also really hard and vague, this post will guide you on your way.

First, what is the critical essay? It may surprise you to note that it is much more than 35% of your grade. In actuality, the most common form of the cinematic critical essay is one in which the writer explores one or more aspects of a film and analyzes how they enhance the film’s meaning and/or artistry. This is very similar to English analysis papers. For example,  The Scarlet Letter  can be analyzed in terms of its motif of civilization versus the wilderness. In the novel, the town is representative of human civilization and authority while the forest represents natural authority (Sparknotes Editors, 2003).  Likewise, the same motif illustrates Terrence Malick’s  Tree of Life.  The wilderness represents the way of nature while the family (or civilization) represents the way of grace. The crossing over of these settings enables the viewer to visualize the internal struggles of Malick’s characters as they seek higher meaning from God.

“Hmmm…” I can hear you wondering. “I already know how to do that! It’s all we did in high school English classes!” But here is where the cinematic essay diverges from the literary essay— the elements that we analyze. Films can be analyzed from traditional literary aspects such as themes, narrative, characters, and points of view but there are also uniquely cinematic aspects: mise-en-scene, the shot, aesthetic history and edited images.

Parts of a Critical Essay

Aspect 1: mise-en-scene.

Mise-en-scene refers to everything in a scene independent of the camera’s position, movement, and editing (Corrigan, 1998). This includes lighting, costumes, sets, the quality of the acting, etc. It is important to remember that every aspect of a scene was consciously chosen by the director and his or her team. Because movies often present themselves as instances of real life, this fact is easily forgotten and the artistic choices that the film crew made are overlooked.

In the following still from   Wes Anderson’s  Moonrise Kingdom  (2012), one can analyze it in terms of mise-en-scene. One could note the arrangement of the props. In real life, it would be unlikely that rocks, sticks, and supplies would arrange themselves in an almost perfect circular fashion around the map. However, Anderson’s decision to arrange the props focus viewer’s attention on the map and highlight the adventure that the two children are about to go on in  Moonrise Kingdom.

Click  here for an example of an essay dealing with mise-en-scene.

Aspect 2: The Shot

The shot refers to the single image before the camera cuts to the next scene (Corrigan, 1998). These shots can include a lot of variety and movement. We can analyze the effect that shots have in terms of their photographic qualities such as tone, speed, and perspectives created, to name a few examples (Corrigan, 1998). A single shot is composed of multiple frames, or stills of the same scene. We can analyze the shot in terms of framing, i.e. what was actually decided to be included within the image and the location of stuff within the frame.

Watch the following shot (beginning at the 30 second mark) for an example: Click Here to Navigate to YouTube

In this shot from Dayton and Faris’  Little Miss Sunshine  (2006), Dwayne has just found out he cannot join the air force. He had maintained a vow of silence to help him focus on getting admitted to the air force and breaks it from utter frustration. The shot’s stationary position as Dwayne runs screaming from his family helps highlight how the physical distance Dwayne puts between himself and his family reflects the emotional distance and frustration he feels at the moment.

Aspect 3: Edited Images

When one or more shots are joined together, they become edited (Corrigan, 1998). These usually have two main purposes. One is the logical development of the story. A shot in the morning connected with a shot in the afternoon connotes to the viewer that time has passed. Other times the editing of shots has artistic intent. For example, in a Chipotle commercial the first shot is of an industrial slaughterhouse. The next shot features animals grazing in a pasture. This is an artistic statement on the part of the advertising team to convey to Chipotle’s customers about the higher standard of care and ethics that they ensure their meat sources follow.

Edited images can also be analyzed from other aspects. For example, one could explain how meaning is created by the specific arrangement in shots, their collisions with each other, and the presence of visual motifs “echoing” through subsequent shots.

For instance, in the edited shots from Patar and Aubier’s movie  A Town Called Panic  (2009) the editing of the kitchen shot and the snow shot serves two purposes. One purpose is to further the logical chronological development of the story. The other purpose is to add humor. Because being asleep for an entire summer is impossibly long, it adds absurd humor.

Hopefully, the brief foray into the various cinematic aspects that one could examine was helpful. The world of film analysis is vast and wide, offering a fecund source for analytical and cinematic exploration and creation.

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How to Write a Film Studies Essay

Films are designed to be heard and seen, to appeal to our aural and visual senses. Just like any art form, films are also designed to be understood and felt, to appeal to our minds and emotions. The best measure of a film’s credibility is determined through assessing the elements that comprise the whole process. This is achieved through a film study, this post discusses how to write a film studies essay.

Film study essays require more work than movie reviews. This is because they entail that you engage on a level further than storytelling. The essays offer a critical analysis of a complete film. Analyzing a film gives rise to a variety of topics, including the role of propaganda with respect to political and social issues, the influence of cinema on your culture, as well as the emergence of auteur paradigm. The topics are fascinating and they enhance the insight and inspiration of film students. This is a crucial ingredient in the course of writing film studies essays.

The initial step when writing a film studies essay involves narrowing the scope of interest to a specific area. This stage calls for extensive investigation from a wide variety of sources to enhance insight into the area of study. An individual should provide key details and thematic issues under the scope of the study. This enables you to maintain the focus of the film analysis of a scene or sequence that may have escaped the audience’s attention during past viewings. This section also focuses on presenting crucial details on the formalism, genre, historical implications, national background, auteur, and the ideology behind the film. In the course of writing the film analysis, you should pay attention to length, source, and style requirements.

When writing about a specific film, it is always assumed that the targeted audience is familiar with the film under analysis. Such an analysis is always introduced by presenting the major topics of interest while avoiding getting into lengthy details. Special focus should feature while investigating the style and structure of a particular film. This section focuses on the screen events and ignores other outside factors like the historical context, the life history of the director and others. A good film essay should provide the most fascinating and crucial features of the style and structure of the film. Details like sound, lighting, and cinematography contributing to the meaning of the film should also feature.

A good film study essay should also consider the common sequences of form and content. This includes editing, lighting, cinematography, narrative, characterization, thematic concerns and others. This enables the target audience to ascertain how a film diverges or conforms from a genre category. A film study essay writer should consider a film’s historical moment as genre varies with time. At this point, it is important to emphasize the common structures, techniques, and themes associated with the genre of the film. If the genre conforms to expectations, it is necessary to make that acknowledgement.

Analyzing the historical features of a film is an important requirement in writing a film study essay. This approach investigates and positions the unique historical flash of the film’s content, as well as its production or release. You should inquire whether the historical moments /events are depicted in a particular film. Having a historical background enhances the understanding of the narrative or techniques employed in the film. An objective argument should be provided as it will help clarify the film’s place in history. The argument should show how the film relates to the evolutions resulted by technological advancements in the film industry. A film study essay writer should compare the subject matter of specific films to their unique historical moments. A documentation of the reception of a film by a certain audience will come in handy.

Some film studies have theoretical content in their analysis. This form in general requires the writer to have a good comprehension of film history, film technicalities, or film theory. Generally, the essay presents some of the complex and larger structures of the cinema, as well as how the audience understands them. The analysis should center on the national arena,auteur, and the ideology of the film.

An analysis of the national cinema assesses a film through considering each country’s unique mode of studying the cultural implications resulted by these effects. This also helps the audience create the distinction between local and foreign films. It is crucial to determine whether the meaning of the film is changed when a film is observed outside of its culture. After identifying the dominating culture in the film, a cultural research should be carried out to enable a deeper understanding of the themes.

A film’s auteur reflects a director’s individual creative vision and it makes him appear as the film’s author. This is always achieved by a filmmaker who exercises creative management  over his works and possesses a strong personal style. Auteur theory is one of the most persistent  theoretical forms. This analysis focuses on how directors and other dominant figures like actors and producers employ pervasive themes and styles in their volume of work. Though a director rarely has total control over a film, it is important to establish the degree of influence. This will help to ascertain how the historical circumstances of a film’s production promote or discourage the unity of the director’s work. This section should also show the most distinguishing indicators of the director’s control over the film.

The political and social implications of a film are captured in its ideological analysis. Every film has an objective to pass a particular message to the society. An ample film study essay should have a clear underlying message that the film is trying to pass to the society. An analysis of culture, gender, characterization and other tenets help reveal the main message(s) in the film. Ideology can also be broken down into Hollywood Hegemony (observes how classical film designs distort and dominate people’s perception), class analysis( investigates how economic and social arrangements are represented in and surrounding a film influence and reflect the distribution of social command), feminist analysis ( investigates the level of women representation in front and behind the camera both positively and negatively), race studies( determines how various races have been positively or negatively embodied behind and in front of the camera, post colonial analysis ( from an international perception, how the subjugation and subsequent reemergence of native culture is revealed and represented in a particular film.

Before writing a film studies essay, one should offer a brief overview of the narration. However, care should be taken to avoid coming up with a synopsis of the film’s story as it is more of an analysis. The author should reveal plot complications or the film’s ending only if they relay directly to the analysis. If possible, a writer should write the film analysis with the movie at hand. A sufficient understanding of the films sould be reflected by the writer before embarking on writing the analysis. If the analysis is about a part of the movie shot from the point of view of one of the actors, one should write about the subjective camera task. A proper utilization of a film making terms will strengthen the command of the film studies essay.

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4 thoughts on “How to Write a Film Studies Essay”

Good points. Good for me. Can I write a film analysis thesis using phenomenology and hermeneutics but not film theory? Thanks.

Hi, you can write using either but there is more reference material relating to phenomenology.

You have done a great job writing this essay to keep us informed. Please add more

Thanks Lacey – We are always adding new content. Be sure to keep an eye out.

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Film & Media Studies Resources: Researching a Film

  • Researching a Film

Types of Film Analysis

  • Finding Books
  • Journals & Articles
  • Finding Films

Watching Film Analytically

1. start with the assignment..

Review the assignment prompt and identify the tasks your instructor has asked you to perform and the questions you've been asked to address. Write them out at the top of your notes before watching the film.

2. Review film terms.

Review the terms you've learned in class and practice applying them while watching your film. Studying these terms before you begin watching can help you develop abbreviations and avoid searching for these words while you watch.

3. Watch the film.

Watch the film at least once without once before (unless you've seen it before) to watch uninterrupted. When you take notes, be sure to pause when writing. This disrupts the viewing experience. 

Starting the Film Analysis Essay

4. brainstorm.

After you've watched the film at least twice, it's a good idea to brainstorm ideas based on the notes you took. Cluster your ideas around the themes or topics that emerge in your notes, possible in a concept map. If you're writing an argumentative essay, your brainstorming ideas can be used to draft your thesis statement or research question.

Things to remember:

  • Use your assignment prompt as a guide.
  • Write about the film in the present tense in your essay. (i.e., “In  Vertigo , Hitchcock employs techniques of observation to dramatize the act of detection.”)

5. Make a research plan.

  • Review your brainstorming notes and decide what type of analysis you want to write.
  • Do you need research or other background information for your essay?
  • Do your sources need to be scholarly or can you use critics' review?

6. Find Sources and Reviews

  • Finding a screenplay/script of the movie may be helpful and save you time when compiling citations. But keep in mind that there may be differences between the screenplay and the actual product (and these differences might be a topic of discussion!). The Popular Culture Library has a great collection of movie scripts. 
  • Reading reviews and other analysis essays between viewings can help your own analysis of the film.  Search in Summon or subject databases listed below for the film's title and the ideas you brainstormed to look for sources.

Symbolic Analysis

Symbolic (or semiotic) analysis is the interpretation of signs and symbols, usually involving metaphors and analogies to both inanimate objects and characters in a film. Because symbols can have multiple meanings, you will need to determine what a particular symbol means both in the film and in a broader context, whether in other films, or in other disciplines, like literature. 

Be sure to bring the analysis back to your thesis, or why this symbolism matters.

Some questions you could ask when writing a symbolic analysis essay:

  • What images or objects are repeated in the film?
  • What colors, clothing, or food is associated with a character?
  • How does a symbol or object relate to other symbols and objects?

Narrative Analysis

Narrative analysis is an examination of the narrative structure, character, and plot of a film (i.e., the story elements). This analysis considers the story the film seeks to tell. 

Questions to consider when writing a narrative analysis:

  • How does the film fit into the Three Act structure?
  • How does the plot differ from the narrative of film? Or, how is the story told? (i.e., Are events presented out of order or chronologically?)
  • Does the plot revolve around one character or multiple? How do these characters develop across the film?

Cultural or Historical Analysis

In this type of analytical essay, you examine a film's relationship to its broader cultural, historical, theoretical contexts. Sometimes films intentionally comment on these contexts, but even if they don't, they are still a product of the culture or time in which they were created. This type of analysis asks how the film models, challenges, or subverts these relationships.

Questions to ask for a cultural or historical analysis:

  • How does the film comment on, reinforce, or critique social and/or political issues at the time it was released, including questions of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality?
  • How might a biographical understanding of the film's creators and/or screenwriters and their historical moment affect the way the film is viewed?
  • How might a specific theory, such as Queer Theory, Structuralist or Marxist Film Theory, provide a way of analyzing or viewing the film?

Mise-en-scene Analysis

A mise-en-scene (French for "putting on stage") analysis looks at the compositional elements of a specific scene or even a single shot, as well as the how those elements come together to produce meaning. You can focus on anything in the scene, including blocking, lighting, design, color, costume, and how these work in conjunction with other elements, like sound, cinematography and editing.

Questions to ask when analyzing a scene:

  • What effects are created in a scene and what is their purpose?
  • How does this scene represent the theme of the movie?
  • How does a scene work to express a broader point to the film's point?

More Links of Interest

  • BGSU Department of Popular Culture
  • BGSU Department of Theatre and Film
  • BGSU American Culture Studies Program
  • Film Resources in the BPCL

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This guide was adapted from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Writing Center's Film Analysis and Watching Film Analytically .

  • Next: Types of Film Analysis >>
  • Last Updated: Nov 20, 2023 9:08 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.bgsu.edu/film

Step By Step Guide to Writing an Essay on Film Image

Step By Step Guide to Writing an Essay on Film

By Film Threat Staff | December 29, 2021

Writing an essay about a film sounds like a fun assignment to do. As part of the assignment, you get to watch the movie and write an analytical essay about your impressions. However, you will soon find that you’re staring at an empty sheet of paper or computer screen with no idea what to write, how to start writing your essay, or the essential points that need to be covered and analyzed. As an  essay writing service proves, watching the movie countless times isn’t all there is to write a film analysis essay. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you with an essay service :

how to structure a film studies essay

1. Watch the Movie

This is the obvious starting point, but surprisingly many students skip this step. It doesn’t matter if you’ve watched the movie twice before. If you’re asked to write an essay about it, you need to watch it again. Watching the film again allows you to pay more attention to specific elements to help you write an in-depth analysis about it.  

Watching the movie is crucial because it helps you not specific parts of the movie that can be used as illustrations and examples in your essay. You’re also going to explore and analyze the movie theme within your structured plan. Some of the critical elements that you have to look out for while watching the movie that may be crucial for your essay are:

  • Key plot moments
  • Editing style
  • Stylistic elements
  • Scenario execution
  • Musical elements

2. Introduction

Your introduction will contain essential information about the film, such as the title, release date, director’s name, etc. This familiarizes the reader with the movie’s primary background information. In addition, researching the filmmaker may be crucial for your essay because it may help you discover valuable insights for your film analysis.

The introduction should also mention the movie’s central theme and explain why you think it was made that way.

Do not forget to include your thesis statement, which explains your focus on the movie.

3. Write a Summary

According to an  essay writing service  providing students   help with essays , a movie summary comes after the introduction. It includes the film’s basic premise, but it doesn’t have to reveal too many details about the film. It’s a summary, after all. Write the summary like your readers have not heard about the movie before, so you can mention the most basic plots but assume you have minimal time so you won’t be going into great details.

how to structure a film studies essay

4. Write Your Analysis

This is the central part of the essay in which you analyze the movie critically and state your impressions about the film. Ensure to support your claims with relevant materials from the movie.

There are also several creative elements in a movie that are connected to make the film a whole. You must pay attention to these elements while watching the movie and analyze them in this part of the essay.

In this, you are looking out for the dialogs, character development, completion of scenes, and logical event sequences in the film to analyze.

Ensure you try to understand the logic behind events in the film and the actor’s motives to explain the scenario better.

The responsibility of different parts of the movie, such as plan selection and scenario execution, falls on the director. So, your analysis here focuses on how the director realized the script compared to his other movies. Understanding the director’s style of directing may be crucial to coming up with a conclusion relevant to your analysis and thesis.

The casting of a film is a significant element to consider in your essay. Without a great actor, the scriptwriter and director can’t bring their ideas to life. So, watch the actor’s acting and determine if they portrayed the character effectively and if their acting aligns with the film’s main idea.

  • Musical element

A movie’s musical element enhances some of the sceneries or actions in the film and sets the mood. It has a massive impact on the movie, so it’s an essential element to analyze in your essay.

  • Visual elements

This includes special effects, make-up, costumes, etc., which significantly impact the film. These elements must reflect the film’s atmosphere. It is even more crucial for historical movies since it has to be specific about an era.

Ensure to analyze elements relevant to your thesis statement, so you don’t drift from your main point.

5. Conclusion

In concluding your essay, you have to summarize the primary concepts more convincingly to support your analysis. Finally, you may include a CTA for readers to watch or avoid the movie.

These are the crucial steps to take when writing an essay about a film . Knowing this beforehand prevents you from struggling to start writing after watching the movie.

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how to structure a film studies essay

It’s really amazing instructions! I have got the great knowledge.

[…] now and then. Unfortunately, not all of us can afford to get cinema tickets to do so.  Some…Writing an essay about a film sounds like a fun assignment to do. As part of the assignment, you get…Since a few decades the film and entertainment sector have undergone some drastic transformation. […]

how to structure a film studies essay

I can’t list the number of essays that don’t follow this format in the least. But then I find most reviews of movies terrible and most people who purport themselves to be writers as people who need to spend more time drafting and editing before publishing.

how to structure a film studies essay

Thanks for this

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FOR STUDENTS : ALL THE INGREDIENTS OF A GOOD ESSAY

How to write a film studies essay

Films are designed to be heard and seen, to appeal to our aural and visual senses. Just like any art form, films are also designed to be understood and felt, to appeal to our minds and emotions.

The best measure of a film’s credibility is determined through assessing the elements that comprise the whole process. This is achieved through a film study.

Learning  how to write a film studies essay  requires more work than just movie reviews. This is because they entail that you engage on a level further than storytelling. The essays offer a critical analysis of a complete film. Analyzing a film gives rise to a variety of topics, including the role of propaganda with respect to political and social issues, the influence of cinema on your culture, as well as the emergence of auteur paradigm. The topics are fascinating and they enhance the insight and inspiration of film students. This is a crucial ingredient in the course of  writing film studies essays .

The initial step when learning how to write a film studies essay involves narrowing the scope of interest to a specific area. This stage calls for extensive investigation from a wide variety of sources to enhance insight into the area of study. An individual should provide key details and thematic issues under the scope of the study. This enables you to maintain the focus of the film analysis of a scene or sequence that may have escaped the audience’s attention during past viewings. This section also focuses on presenting crucial details on the formalism, genre, historical implications, national background, auteur, and the ideology behind the film. In the course of writing the film analysis, you should pay attention to length, source, and style requirements.

When writing about a specific film, it is always assumed that the targeted audience is familiar with the film under analysis. Such an analysis is always introduced by presenting the major topics of interest while avoiding getting into lengthy details. Special focus should feature while investigating the style and structure of a particular film. This section focuses on the screen events and ignores other outside factors like the historical context, the life history of the director and others. A good film essay should provide the most fascinating and crucial features of the style and structure of the film. Details like sound, lighting, and cinematography contributing to the meaning of the film should also feature.

A good film study essay should also consider the common sequences of form and content. This includes editing, lighting, cinematography, narrative, characterization, thematic concerns and others. This enables the target audience to ascertain how a film diverges or conforms from a genre category. A film study essay writer should consider a film’s historical moment as genre varies with time. At this point, it is important to emphasize the common structures, techniques, and themes associated with the genre of the film. If the genre conforms to expectations, it is necessary to make that acknowledgement.

Analyzing the historical features of a film is an important requirement in writing a film study essay. This approach investigates and positions the unique historical flash of the film’s content, as well as its production or release. You should inquire whether the historical moments /events are depicted in a particular film. Having a historical background enhances the understanding of the narrative or techniques employed in the film. An objective argument should be provided as it will help clarify the film’s place in history. The argument should show how the film relates to the evolutions resulted by technological advancements in the film industry. A film study essay writer should compare the subject matter of specific films to their unique historical moments. A documentation of the reception of a film by a certain audience will come in handy.

Some film studies have theoretical content in their analysis. This form in general requires the writer to have a good comprehension of film history, film technicalities, or film theory. Generally, the essay presents some of the complex and larger structures of the cinema, as well as how the audience understands them. The analysis should center on the national arena,auteur, and the ideology of the film.

An analysis of the national cinema assesses a film through considering each country’s unique mode of studying the cultural implications resulted by these effects. This also helps the audience create the distinction between local and foreign films. It is crucial to determine whether the meaning of the film is changed when a film is observed outside of its culture. After identifying the dominating culture in the film, a cultural research should be carried out to enable a deeper understanding of the themes.

A film’s auteur reflects a director’s individual creative vision and it makes him appear as the film’s author. This is always achieved by a filmmaker who exercises creative management over his works and possesses a strong personal style. Auteur theory is one of the most persistent theoretical forms. This analysis focuses on how directors and other dominant figures like actors and producers employ pervasive themes and styles in their volume of work. Though a director rarely has total control over a film, it is important to establish the degree of influence. This will help to ascertain how the historical circumstances of a film’s production promote or discourage the unity of the director’s work. This section should also show the most distinguishing indicators of the director’s control over the film.

The political and social implications of a film are captured in its ideological analysis. Every film has an objective to pass a particular message to the society. An ample film study essay should have a clear underlying message that the film is trying to pass to the society. An analysis of culture, gender, characterization and other tenets help reveal the main message(s) in the film. Ideology can also be broken down into Hollywood Hegemony (observes how classical film designs distort and dominate people’s perception), class analysis( investigates how economic and social arrangements are represented in and surrounding a film influence and reflect the distribution of social command), feminist analysis ( investigates the level of women representation in front and behind the camera both positively and negatively), race studies( determines how various races have been positively or negatively embodied behind and in front of the camera, post colonial analysis ( from an international perception, how the subjugation and subsequent reemergence of native culture is revealed and represented in a particular film.

Before writing a  film study essay , one should offer a brief overview of the narration. However, care should be taken to avoid coming up with a synopsis of the film’s story as it is more of an analysis. The author should reveal plot complications or the film’s ending only if they relay directly to the analysis. If possible, a writer should write the film analysis with the movie at hand. A sufficient understanding of the films sould be reflected by the writer before embarking on writing the analysis. If the analysis is about a part of the movie shot from the point of view of one of the actors, one should write about the subjective camera task. A proper utilization of a film making terms will strengthen the command of the film study essay.

We hope this guide on ‘how to write a film studies essay’ has been helpful.

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IB Film Studies

2018 – 20, planning & structuring the comparative study.

how to structure a film studies essay

So, recap what you have learnt so far:

What have you learnt from your research into:.

  • Genre & Style
  • Your Film Movement
  • Your Film Theory

How does this learning apply to your 2 films (macro):

  • Representation of character, places and events
  • Use or challenge to generic conventions
  • Use of motif
  • Narrative & themes
  • Significance in terms of a ‘new’ style of film making

What have you learnt about your films’ contexts

  • Institutional
  • Historical…

How you link these big ideas (context and research) in the films’ micro:

  • Screenplay (lines of dialogue and structure)
  • Directing (blocking, characterisation, intention and style)
  • Cinematography (lighting, framing, movement & composition)
  • Editing (rhythm, style, pace, positioning…)
  • Sound (diegetic and non diegetic)

Planning Part 1

Take a copy and complete this structure document.

The more specific you can be the better. So include quotes, key scenes, characters, themes, micro examples

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The Uni Tutor - Essay Writing Services

How to Write a Film Studies Essay

When you learn how to write a film studies essay , it must not be troublesome. The truth is that a film study writing assignment gives the chance for various ideas and themes. Pupils who are taking film studies should expect to learn more about films, technical aspects & theories as well.  Hence, if you will expect to take some detailed notes to understand the uniqueness of the styles of the shooting along with videography.  To be sure that you will be knowledgeable about how to write a film studies essay, you will be given an instruction to come up with a good paper an how to fulfill the reviewers assigned to you. In terms of this kind of paper, you are required to give a lot of attention to it even to the smallest details along with the viewpoint of the objective.

Preparing the essay

  Before you start in composing a powerful film review, you need to go through a research first of the film before you do the viewing. To do this, you need to set your mind, while also developing full information about what you would expect. Research is very important and there must be a list of the main characters like the actors, directors, products, and their current projects. This can help you in gaining appropriate potential of the film, after that you will be ready to watch the film. Make sure you note down to keep you reminded of the elements that must be dealt within the essay, while learning how to write a film studies essay. You can just take note of the things that are visible and what you remembered, like some odd scenes or screen verses with issues.

When you look for ways of how to write a film studies essay, The Uni Tutor can help you and will guide you on various subjects about your research paper. Since we will give you an expert advice about how to compose this type of paper, so you will get higher grades. Pupils have the choice to come up with a critical analysis essay that focused on analyzing a movie, then assimilate the strengths & the weaknesses of the film. You may choose to compose a film studies essay that focuses on how a specific movie, especially those that are controversial have affected the culture. However, you can take the whole film business to deal with the everyday lives and how they are affected. This kind of film studies essay is known as the cultural impact.

The propaganda movie essay emphasizes the blasness  of a movie that is about to make a change of the opinion of the public about some political figures or personalities. In some instances, the pupils also tackle the means of where the film attacks the opponents & if they do not agree with their techniques. Last but not the least, to fully comprehend the ways to work on your essay, you also need to designate a type of movie genre, or a particular move that you will be expected to criticize the background. A film history essay mandates you to go over the history of how it was changed through the years, while you also consider the way it has revolved or declined.

After you have narrowed down your topic to a specific area of your interest, you will need to do an in depth research about some articles, texts, blogs, books and some sites too for more idea. When it comes to getting direction in source, longevity of the requirements, style and close attention to the instructions of the lecturer.  An outline will help you about the topic sentence with the primary points. Usually, you will use the MLA format to construct the essay.

Writing the paper

To be able to keep your focus about the theme of the film review paper, while you learn how to compose the essay, it is highly recommended to check your outline. We have a team of experts to help you start your essay with a powerful and persuasive introduction. The introduction must contain the standard format and it must have the topic sentence. Every succeeding paragraph in the main body will deal bout the key elements, primary points and sustaining proofs as well. You might want to describe the plot of the movie and list all the important characters. The main body must have a cinematography or special effects that you will always remember after seeing the movie. As you learn how to compose the film studies essay, you will also learn how to come up with a final assessment for your conclusion.  The review of the primary point along with the conclusion must be under the rating system and this must be based on numerals, to help you with your paper and to make it stand out among the rest.

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how to structure a film studies essay

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In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Essay Film

Introduction, anthologies.

  • Bibliographies
  • Spectator Engagement
  • Personal Documentary
  • 1940s Watershed Years
  • Chris Marker
  • Alain Resnais
  • Jean-Luc Godard
  • Harun Farocki
  • Latin American Cinema
  • Installation and Exhibition

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Essay Film by Yelizaveta Moss LAST REVIEWED: 12 April 2023 LAST MODIFIED: 24 March 2021 DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0216

The term “essay film” has become increasingly used in film criticism to describe a self-reflective and self-referential documentary cinema that blurs the lines between fiction and nonfiction. Scholars unanimously agree that the first published use of the term was by Richter in 1940. Also uncontested is that Andre Bazin, in 1958, was the first to analyze a film, which was Marker’s Letter from Siberia (1958), according to the essay form. The French New Wave created a popularization of short essay films, and German New Cinema saw a resurgence in essay films due to a broad interest in examining German history. But beyond these origins of the term, scholars deviate on what exactly constitutes an essay film and how to categorize essay films. Generally, scholars fall into two camps: those who find a literary genealogy to the essay film and those who find a documentary genealogy to the essay film. The most commonly cited essay filmmakers are French and German: Marker, Resnais, Godard, and Farocki. These filmmakers are singled out for their breadth of essay film projects, as opposed to filmmakers who have made an essay film but who specialize in other genres. Though essay films have been and are being produced outside of the West, scholarship specifically addressing essay films focuses largely on France and Germany, although Solanas and Getino’s theory of “Third Cinema” and approval of certain French essay films has produced some essay film scholarship on Latin America. But the gap in scholarship on global essay film remains, with hope of being bridged by some forthcoming work. Since the term “essay film” is used so sparingly for specific films and filmmakers, the scholarship on essay film tends to take the form of single articles or chapters in either film theory or documentary anthologies and journals. Some recent scholarship has pointed out the evolutionary quality of essay films, emphasizing their ability to change form and style as a response to conventional filmmaking practices. The most recent scholarship and conference papers on essay film have shifted from an emphasis on literary essay to an emphasis on technology, arguing that essay film has the potential in the 21st century to present technology as self-conscious and self-reflexive of its role in art.

Both anthologies dedicated entirely to essay film have been published in order to fill gaps in essay film scholarship. Biemann 2003 brings the discussion of essay film into the digital age by explicitly resisting traditional German and French film and literary theory. Papazian and Eades 2016 also resists European theory by explicitly showcasing work on postcolonial and transnational essay film.

Biemann, Ursula, ed. Stuff It: The Video Essay in the Digital Age . New York: Springer, 2003.

This anthology positions Marker’s Sans Soleil (1983) as the originator of the post-structuralist essay film. In opposition to German and French film and literary theory, Biemann discusses video essays with respect to non-linear and non-logical movement of thought and a range of new media in Internet, digital imaging, and art installation. In its resistance to the French/German theory influence on essay film, this anthology makes a concerted effort to include other theoretical influences, such as transnationalism, postcolonialism, and globalization.

Papazian, Elizabeth, and Caroline Eades, eds. The Essay Film: Dialogue, Politics, Utopia . London: Wallflower, 2016.

This forthcoming anthology bridges several gaps in 21st-century essay film scholarship: non-Western cinemas, popular cinema, and digital media.

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  1. How to Write a Film Analysis Essay: Examples, Outline, & Tips

    In addition, use the title case: that is, capitalize all major words. Proper use of the characters' names. When you mention a film character for the first time, name the actor portraying them. After that, it is enough to write only the character's name. In-text citations.

  2. PDF Academic Writing Guide: How to Write a Film Analysis

    Academic Writing Guide: How to Write a Film Analysis. • Watch a film with your full attention for the first time. • We are all able to recount plot after watching a movie once; it is more difficult to explain how images and sounds presented make up such a narrative. • So, watch the film again (and again and again)!

  3. Film Analysis

    Writing a film analysis requires you to consider the composition of the film—the individual parts and choices made that come together to create the finished piece. Film analysis goes beyond the analysis of the film as literature to include camera angles, lighting, set design, sound elements, costume choices, editing, etc. in making an argument.

  4. How to write a Film Analysis Essay & Cinematic Techniques

    How to Write a Film Analysis Essay. By Timothy Sexton. Strengthen the authority of your essay through familiarity with movie-making jargon. Writing a film analysis essay is an assignment that is less likely to terrorize those who fear the idea of writing an essay, because it allows them to write about something most people enjoy. Film analysis is not the same thing as writing a movie review ...

  5. Film Analysis

    Writing film analysis is similar to writing literary analysis or any argumentative essay in other disciplines: Consider the assignment and prompts, formulate a thesis (see the Brainstorming Handout and Thesis Statement Handout for help crafting a nuanced argument), compile evidence to prove your thesis, and lay out your argument in the essay.

  6. How to Write a Film Analysis Essay

    Step 6. Write the body of the essay. The body of a film analysis essay consists of sections, and each section consists of one or more paragraphs. So, your main building block in the body of the essay is the body paragraph. Here is how a body paragraph is structured: The first sentence is the so-called lead sentence.

  7. Film Analysis: Example, Format, and Outline + Topics & Prompts

    The Godfather film analysis essay. An epic crime film, The Godfather, allows you to analyze the themes of power and corruption, the portrayal of family dynamics, and the influence of Italian neorealism on the film's aesthetic. You can also examine the movie's historical context and impact on future crime dramas.

  8. Mastering Film Studies Essays: Top 6 Tips for Success

    5. Write Clear and Concise Paragraphs. When writing your essay, make sure that your paragraphs are clear and concise. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence that introduces the main idea. Use evidence to support your arguments, and make sure that each paragraph flows logically to the next. 6.

  9. How to Write a Film Analysis Essay: Format & Examples

    Ensure that the title, character names, and people involved in the making of the film are written correctly. Also, make notes of important plot points, symbols, and devices. 🎯 Identify the things you must write about. After you watch the work several times, pick elements that should be covered in the paper.

  10. Film Essays: The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Film Essay

    Body: Main point 1: The cinematography and mise-en-scène of 'Mulholland Drive'. Main point 2: The themes and messages of 'Mulholland Drive'. Main point 3: The cultural and historical context of 'Mulholland Drive'. Conclusion: Recap of main points and analysis of the lasting impact of the film.

  11. Film Writing: Sample Analysis

    The film's first establishing shots set the action in a busy modern office. A woman sits at a computer, absorbed in her screen. The camera looks at her through a glass wall, one of many in the shot. The reflections of passersby reflected in the glass and the workspace's dim blue light make it difficult to determine how many rooms are depicted.

  12. How to Write a Film Analysis Essay: Examples, Outline, & Tips

    Step 3: The Writing Process of Starting a First Draft. The third step of writing a film analysis essay is to write a paper focusing on producing an initial draft. The text activity should combine all ideas to create a document with a logical order of ideas and content.

  13. Resources

    While film reviews and theoretical essays are part of Film Studies, the most common paper that students will face is: "the critical essay". Fear not. Though its title combines a serious undertone that implies it is both a large chuck of your grade and also really hard and vague, this post will guide you on your way.

  14. How to Write a Film Studies Essay

    Before writing a film studies essay, one should offer a brief overview of the narration. However, care should be taken to avoid coming up with a synopsis of the film's story as it is more of an analysis. The author should reveal plot complications or the film's ending only if they relay directly to the analysis.

  15. How to Write a Film Studies Essay

    Writing Your Paper. In order to stay focused on the topic of your film review assignment, while learning how to write a film studies essay, it is recommended that you consistently revisit your outline. Our experts will help you begin your piece with a compelling introductory paragraph. The Introduction is composed in the standard format and ...

  16. LibGuides: Film & Media Studies Resources: Researching a Film

    Start with the assignment. Review the assignment prompt and identify the tasks your instructor has asked you to perform and the questions you've been asked to address. Write them out at the top of your notes before watching the film. 2. Review film terms. Review the terms you've learned in class and practice applying them while watching your film.

  17. Step By Step Guide to Writing an Essay on Film

    Here's a step-by-step guide to help you with an essay service: 1. Watch the Movie. This is the obvious starting point, but surprisingly many students skip this step. It doesn't matter if you've watched the movie twice before. If you're asked to write an essay about it, you need to watch it again.

  18. How to write a film studies essay

    Before writing a film study essay, one should offer a brief overview of the narration. However, care should be taken to avoid coming up with a synopsis of the film's story as it is more of an analysis. The author should reveal plot complications or the film's ending only if they relay directly to the analysis.

  19. Planning & Structuring The Comparative Study

    Planning & Structuring The Comparative Study. Written by Mr G on November 19th, 2019. Leave a comment. Before we start scripting the essay we need to develop a structure that allows you to illustrate your research, understanding of the whole films, their context and how these big ideas and revealed in the cinematic style (micro).

  20. How to Write a Film Studies Essay

    The introduction must contain the standard format and it must have the topic sentence. Every succeeding paragraph in the main body will deal bout the key elements, primary points and sustaining proofs as well. You might want to describe the plot of the movie and list all the important characters. The main body must have a cinematography or ...

  21. Essay Film

    The term "essay film" has become increasingly used in film criticism to describe a self-reflective and self-referential documentary cinema that blurs the lines between fiction and nonfiction. Scholars unanimously agree that the first published use of the term was by Richter in 1940. Also uncontested is that Andre Bazin, in 1958, was the ...

  22. A Level Film Studies Example Essays

    When I was studying film studies I got so much stress from there not being a lot of example answers for the essays on the internet, and my teacher wouldn't give us any. So for anyone in a similar position, I am going to start posting my essays. Hope they help. Paper 2: Global Filmmaking Perspectives: Section D (experimental film) Pulp Fiction ...