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How To Write a Film Analysis Essay With Examples

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Writing a film analysis essay is a common type of academic assignment for students who are learning to write essays and research papers. Film analysis essay writing is based on a number of different factors: the position of the writer, how well they know the film they are analyzing, and what kind of audience they will be presenting their analysis to.

When writing an analysis essay it’s important to remember that you might need time for research before you start writing your movie analysis essay. This means that setting aside time each day to watch several scenes from the film only when needed throughout the research process can help save time for after all your research work has been completed. When doing this type of assignment, listed below are some helpful hints that may be used as a guide:

  • Watching and rewatching specific scenes is sometimes the best way to start.
  • Take notes while you are watching the movie, but don’t be too thorough with it.
  • You can also watch the film once more after you’re done writing your analysis essay just to ensure that everything is accurate and in line with your analysis.
  • Before starting to write your essay, think about what you already know about the film or how much you have seen of it.
  • During the research process consider how past critics have analyzed the film and if their points of view coincide with yours

Writing a film analysis essay is also an excellent opportunity for students to learn more about their own knowledge on different subjects or on debatable topics that have sparked much interest among various audiences since the beginning of time.

Answering questions like:

  • What kind of movie do I want to watch?
  • Do I enjoy this film’s portrayal of history, war, nature etc.?
  • Is there something challenging about this movie and why?

These and many other helpful questions should be asked before starting to actually write your analysis essay. Each question may lead into several others that will help you shape your analysis essay without losing control of it.

What is a film analysis essay?

A film analysis essay (also referred to as movie analysis essay) is an essay that focuses on the analysis of a film. It can be about almost any film, but it is most common to write this type of essay about films that are considered valuable for their social, political, artistic or intellectual importance.

Film analysis essays often talk about various aspects of a movie such as its cinematography/staging, acting, screenplay writing etc. While some articles focus more on certain elements of the movie (lighting only in the case of “Schindler’s List”), you should try to include all parts in your thesis so it doesn’t sound one-dimensional. Keep your review balanced while providing detailed descriptions and proper references. You can also analyze how some moments in the film relate to other works by the same director or actor.

It is very common for such essays to include references to other works as well, such as quotes from other directors or actors, but you should avoid repeating too much of what has already been said in any given article. Always provide your own interpretation and give a conclusion at the end of your review after discussing the pros and cons of a film.

The structure of a movie analysis essay can vary according to several factors: whether it’s written about a classic movie, the name/genre/age group of the targeted audience etc. You can use various organizational patterns depending on the purpose of your assignment and which elements you want to present first & last in order emphasize them as main points. Here are some examples:

  1. Inverted pyramid
  2. Chronological pattern
  3. Spatial arrangement/patterns in space
  4. Pattern of cause and effect
  5. Comment pattern (listing the different aspects of a movie for discussion)
  6. Pattern of comparison & contrast

Since there are so many possible patterns to choose from, you should know how to properly draft one before writing your thesis. Don’t forget that the thesis is very important because it states your viewpoint on a film and summarizes everything else that follows. You should either use an inductive or deductive pattern for this assignment – either starting with minor details and building up to clarify main points by explaining each part thoroughly or vice versa – starting with major points and including examples & explanations related to them according to the audience’s knowledge of the theme. The thesis should include references to camera work, actors’ performances, screenplay writing etc.

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Steps in writing a film analysis essay

Film Analysis essays are often assigned in high school, college, and university. They ask you to watch a film carefully in order to analyze it by answering specific questions about the narrative or style. These types of essays are best written after careful observation is done when watching the movie itself. So before writing your analysis essay, have a look at our advice on how to write an academic paper on any subject with the help of our professional writers.

Step One: Look closely at the film’s opening sequence

When analyzing a film it is necessary to pay attention to several elements including story, dialogue, cinematography/camera work, editing, mise-en-scene etc. The point of view through which one can most accurately observe all of these elements is a film’s opening sequence. Here it would be useful to not only watch the opening moments carefully, but also have a pen and paper ready to jot down any notable observations.

For example, take a look at this clip from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” as it opens:

In your notes, include bits of dialogue or narration that might reveal something about the characters or their circumstances. Also include information about how the story is being narrated which you can later use in your analysis essay. Some examples you might note are: Dorothy Gale speaks in first person voice over throughout the whole film up until she lands on yellow brick road when her voice changes; animation begins; Dorothy meets Glinda who promises help; Dorothy meets the Scarecrow first on her journey.

Step Two: Identify the Setting and Main Characters

Once you have thoroughly analyzed the opening sequence, go ahead and watch the film again, this time paying attention to more specific details. When it is done, write down your observations about where in space or time you think the story takes place as well as who are its main characters .

In “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, note that at first Dorothy lives on a farm somewhere in Kansas; then she arrives in Munchkinland which is clearly not part of Kansas anymore; then there’s Cowardly Lion whom she meets only after leaving Munchkin Country for Emerald City; lastly she meets Tin Woodsman after landing on yellow brick road. All of these characters are main characters.

Step Three: Decipher the film’s climax and resolution

After you have analyzed a film’s setting and characters, try to identify its climax and resolution. The climax is the point in a story when there is a turning point from which nothing can be the same again. Usually it follows a scene of high emotional tension, either good or bad, depending on the type of story you’re watching/reading. When it comes to identifying an ending, pay attention to how all hanging plot points are resolved, including life-or-death situations such as wars or fights with evil villains or murderers; conflicts about lovers’ relationships; problems concerning children such as leaving them alone for too long without supervision; journeys that go on for too long and how they end eventually.

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” climax is when Dorothy melts Wicked Witch of the West with a bucket of water which brings an end to her terrorizing Munchkin Country; resolution involves return home to Kansas, flying monkeys sent by Wicked Witch perishing during their act of revenge against Glinda’s magic, Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman and Cowardly Lion joining Dorothy back home where they are finally accepted as friends.

Step Four: Make sure you mention everything important about the film’s style

After having analyzed what happens in the film, take some time to think about its style i.e. visual elements like mise-en-scene (what the film is shot through), cinematography/camera work and editing. In your analysis essay, it would be a good idea to mention some visual components that you think were particularly important in conveying one or all kinds of messages a film might have included.

In “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, note the backdrop, which is a sepia-toned Kansas farm with flowers and trees from Dorothy’s bedroom window just before she wakes up; mise-en-scene – colors on leaves in Munchkin Country or on yellow brick road create an atmospheric vibe; camera work – setting itself around Dorothy is interesting because we see things from her perspective; coloring – at times there are certain scenes filled with vibrant reds and blues (e.g. when Dorothy lands in Munchkin Country); special effects – e.g. when a character is transformed from one thing into another, there is usually some kind of animation that occurs to indicate the change.

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” uses a variety of visual components in order to convey its different messages: there are sepia-toned Kansas farm scenes interspersed with bright primary colors on flowers and trees from Dorothy’s bedroom window just before she wakes up; the backdrop changes from dull sepia tones in Kansas to vibrant colors on leaves or on yellow brick road creating an atmospheric vibe; settings themselves are interesting because we see things from Dorothy’s perspective most times- for example, when she lands in Munchkin Country; coloring is used at times to indicate a change – there are certain scenes filled with vibrant reds and blues (e.g. when Dorothy lands in Munchkin Country); special effects have been used to create animation of a character being transformed from one thing into another i.e. a witch turning an apple into an explosive ball that splatters people on the street below, a lion transforming into a scarecrow, or something like that; editing has also been used for suspenseful purposes because the moment we see the tornado barreling down toward Dorothy’s house it cuts to shot of her running out of her room, grabbing hold of Toto and then making her way outside- the scene is finished off by cut back to Kansas farm where everything has been flattened into a pancake shape by the tornado’s power.

How to write a movie analysis essay

Movie analysis essays are fun to write. They’re also very difficult. To begin with, it is important to choose carefully the film you’re going to be writing about. You should never choose a film that does not interest you or invite your curiosity and imagination. If the film doesn’t interest you now, it definitely won’t interest you when you have to actually sit down and meet its challenges as an academic assignment .

Once the selection process has been done successfully and a particular film has been chosen for this purpose, we can proceed to prepare ourselves for watching it very thoroughly. The next day we should come up with an outline of all major ideas and issues brought up by script followed by thorough character sketches and critical analysis.

Once this step is done and we actually sit down to write the movie analysis essay, we should remember that it does not have to be an obvious and straightforward review. We don’t need to mention all aspects of film making such as acting, directing, music, etc., unless these elements are clearly relevant for our main argument. Our primary goal in writing a movie analysis essay is to present thoroughgoing analyses of major issues brought up by script and point out their importance or relevance in today’s society. The overall form taken by a movie analysis essay can vary from very short (500 words essay) analytical essays focusing on one general idea only, to long research papers (3000-4000 words), covering more than one issue and including detailed character analysis.

What are the major factors that influence public opinion? How do different media influences perception of certain social groups?

These are two fundamental questions every movie analysis essay should try to answer. A good way to approach them is by spending some time giving background information about the historical period during which the film was made and themes it addresses directly or indirectly. Next, one must describe how these issues are developed by script in relation to specific characters and what perspectives on these issues are offered through their actions, conversations, appearance, etc.

Finally, the wider implications of the ideas raised should be discussed in order for us to figure out what kind of changes can potentially follow from addressing certain problems in today’s society through artistic means. Once you have an idea or two about the intentions behind the film, it is much easier to see its relevance for today’s audience.

Results are important in any academic work, therefore remember to express your opinion on how successful script was in portraying certain issues and bringing attention to them. A movie analysis essay can be more successful if it includes sound arguments backed up by evidence from film itself (e.g., specific scenes or images). As always, make sure you proofread your paper multiple times before submitting it!

What is a cinematography analysis essay?

A cinematography analysis essay is a scholarly essay on the film’s camera movements and techniques. This type of essay is usually written in MLA (Modern Language Association) format, for an example see the following link:

This type of analysis requires scholarly research and support. As with other types of papers, you can use other sources to find information about the film’s cinematography; however, you must include a proper citation to give credit where credit is due. See the following link for more information on MLA citations:

When writing a cinematography analysis essay, try to avoid being too subjective. Instead, focus on how the director or cinematographer used their camera techniques to achieve specific effects that are important to them or that furthers plot development. Some films require you take chronological notes so you may break down each scene one-by-one; other films are best described scene by scene; some films do not require either. Regardless of the film’s structure, your cinematography analysis should be well organized and follow a logical order.

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Cinematography Analysis Essay Example

The following is an example cinematography analysis essay on Stanley Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” (1975).

Sample Cinematography Analysis Essay

Stanley Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” (1975) is a unique film that uses many different cinematographic techniques to tell his story. Throughout the entire length of this three-hour period piece, Kubrick never once used a hand held camera or jump cut. Instead, he focused on using the camera as a device with which to capture all of his characters actions and movements in an appropriate way.

The first scene starts out relatively simple, but it sets the tone for what will follow as Barry Lyndon embarks upon his journey. In this opening scene, we see Redcoat soldiers marching through their encampment immediately into battle against an opposing regiment. The narration tells us that they have been fighting for hours already and they are clearly losing the battle.

The first shot is a long shot, showing the entire encampment of soldiers waiting for the order to advance. The next shot is a mid-long shot, showing some of the soldiers marching out before returning to an extreme long shot showing the battlefield and all of its carnage. This scene will play heavily into cinematography analysis because it’s one of many scenes demonstrating Kubrick’s techniques that create parallels between Barry Lyndon and his son Redmond Barry; we will see this play out throughout their respective storylines. After this horrific battle scene, we cut away to a tableau style portrait depicting several officers standing in front of their regiment as they stood before battle as well as several horses with flags behind them.

Kubrick does not use any jump cuts. Instead, he uses stationary shots that are rather simple in nature to convey what is happening before cutting away to a portrait similar to the one just mentioned. Kubrick only uses the camera pan at this point to convey motion while allowing the viewer to see his characters up close and personal.

Kubrick also holds onto each shot long enough for us to soak in all of the subtle nuances within each character’s expression, making them seem more real than they would if Kubrick had cut quickly between different medium range or wide angle shots.

Cinematography Analysis – Camera Movement & Editing

As Redmond Barry sits in front of his regiment awaiting death, he notices Captain Grogan sitting behind him watching him rise; Kubrick freeze frames on Redmond’s third eye as he realizes what is about to happen. Redmond quickly looks up and we cut away to a medium shot of Grogan standing behind him. Kubrick does not use any fast cuts here, but instead holds the close-up of Redmond’s face for a few moments as his pupils dilate and contract repeatedly before cutting away to a wide angle shot of the entire regiment standing in formation. Kubrick then cuts from Redmond’s expression into a slow motion, high angled panning shot that shows all of the soldiers looking at Redmond being brought back to stand in front of them.

This scene will play heavily into cinematography analysis because it’s one of many scenes demonstrating Kubrick’s techniques that create parallels between Barry Lyndon and his son Redmond Barry; we will see this play out throughout their respective storylines. After this horrific battle scene, we cut away to a tableau style portrait depicting several officers standing in front of their regiment as they stood before battle as well as several horses with flags behind them.

Kubrick does not use any jump cuts. Instead, he uses stationary shots that are rather simple in nature to convey what is happening before cutting away to a portrait similar to the one just mentioned. Kubrick only uses the camera pan at this point to convey motion while allowing the viewer to see his characters up close and personal.

Film analysis essay outline – Structure

A good film analysis structure will contain 4 main elements which are:

  1. Introduction
  2. Summary
  3. Analysis (scenario, directing,acting, musical elements, visual elements),
  4. Conclusion


Starts by introducing the film’s title, followed by the director’s name. The introduction also includes a short description of the film or some context that has lead to making or releasing it.


This section provides an overview of what is going on in the scene filmed. It can be outlined as follows:

  • The time period it takes place (usually focused on one day)
  • Where it takes place (a street, a house…)
  • Who are the main characters
  • What are they doing at first
  • What are they doing at second

…etc. Then you will have elements such as camera movement, sound effects etc… This part must focus on another scene rather than describing all scenes because it would be too long, tedious and boring to read for the reader.


In this part you will find a description of at least two scenes that have been studied in the previous section. This section must be more detailed than the previous one because the main idea is to prove what you have previously stated as analysis. It should include things such as camera movement, focal lengths, set design, sound effects etc… In this part you also need to state your opinion as an interpretation of what you have just seen on screen rather than how it was filmed because there are no limits or rules about filmmaking techniques which means it would be impossible for everyone to agree on a single interpretation.


This final element includes a recapitulation of what has been stated in the film analysis essay. The audience will be reminded of the time period, place, characters and actions that were taking place while you also need to include your own interpretation of the scene studied.

Movie Analysis Essay Example


Film title :

Director’s name:

“I’m going to talk about a singular scene from the film adaptation of Frankenstein directed by Kenneth Branagh.”


The first part of my summary will talk about what is happening on screen before jumping into what I think is important in this particular scene. This is because identifying some elements such as camera movement, set design or sound effects are more interesting than just listing everything that happens on screen which would be extremely long and boring for your reader. Moreover, it is almost impossible for everyone to agree on a single interpretation so being as clear as possible will be beneficial for your reader.

The first scene takes place in a dark room, where Henry Frankenstein and his assistant Paul Krempe are surrounded by pieces of dead bodies.

As a matter of fact, they have just killed those people and now they must reanimate the corpses using an electrical machine that begins to produce sounds similar to water drops hitting the ground which amplify the feeling of suspense.

These sounds then lead into more dramatic music that gets faster and faster as if it was trying to increase the tension even further before suddenly stopping without warning right after we hear Mary Shelley saying: “It’s alive.”

This sequence really makes us feel like what Frankenstein would have experienced at that very moment.

We get more of an idea about this sense of achievement that Henry Frankenstein must be feeling than if we were just told he is confident in achieving the task at hand. The use of sound effects and music is therefore more efficient than words for creating suspense or drama.


This scene of the film adaptation of Frankenstein begins with some talking between the characters on screen which conveys important information to the viewer so I think it’s important to begin my analysis by stating who they are and what they are doing before diving into how it was filmed.

Henry Frankenstein, played by Kenneth Branagh , is married to Elizabeth Lavenza (portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter) and he has just created a monster that will soon be brought to life. She seems extremely reluctant at times, but she doesn’t have much choice because according to Frankenstein the law forbids them from killing their own children.

Paul Krempe (portrayed by Robert De Niro) is Frankenstein’s closest friend and assistant in this project who is then replaced by Henry Clerval (played by Aidan Quinn) when he decides to leave for Geneva.

The first part of my analysis therefore focuses on introducing the characters in order to briefly remind your reader who they are before having them interact with each other.

There are several pieces of dead bodies scattered around the room which represents modern medicine working in opposition with traditional magic or religion since the researchers are in the process of conquering death.

At this point, Henry Frankenstein believes he can overcome death and bring something back to life by using electricity which is one of the main themes of Mary Shelley’s novel. It represents the new scientific discoveries that were published at that time such as Volta’s battery or Galvani’s experiments on frog legs.

The use of sound effects has been important here since it was used to create suspense just before we hear Mary Shelley saying: “It’s alive.”

The film adaptation does not include any dialogue yet this scene would have felt incomplete without having some kind of music playing in the background so this choice fits perfectly with what is happening on screen. nothing is stated about their relationship, but the fact that they are on stage together implies that there’s some kind of bond between them.

From what I know about Frankenstein, it seems like Henry Frankenstein is playing the role of the protagonist since he is in charge of most of the action here while Krempe would rather have nothing to do with his experiment which explains why he left.

The roles could also be reversed if we consider how Elizabeth Lavenza usually takes care of their children so she might be playing a more important role than her husband in reality. I think it was smart to start this sequence with some dialogue because it clarifies who they are before having them interact with each other which helps your reader better understand what happens next. For instance, when Frankenstein asks for some lightning, it’s easier to understand what is going on if we remember that he used electricity in the process of creating life.

The use of images also makes us really feel like we are witnessing Frankenstein bringing his creation to life as it happens on screen even though there is no dialogue or music playing. Sometimes silence can be just as powerful as sound effects and background music so having a sequence where nothing is happening could have been equally as effective since it would have made your reader reflect more on what they were seeing instead of being overwhelmed by information.

In this scene from Victor Frankenstein, Kenneth Branagh ‘s character does not need words to convey how he feels about the experiment because the mood is automatically set by the way he looks at his monster and the way the monster looks back at him.

This is a great example of how much dialogue and sound effects usually contribute to the overall mood in the film adaptation of Frankenstein. While it could be argued that having two characters simply standing still without saying anything would have been more effective, adding music and dialogue allowed your reader to better understand what was occurring on screen.


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