What’s a Good Movie Review?

Laura Moore
Pender High School
Burgaw, North Carolina

Overview and Rationale:
Journalism students need to know there is more to writing movie reviews than watching a movie and saying if it is good or bad. This lesson gives students a plan for writing reviews, while showing them an example ofa libel issue.

Goals for Understanding:

  • Essential questions:
    • What information is included in fair and comprehensive movie reviews?
    • What do readers need and want to know about the movie?
    • What does NOT need to be included?
  • Critical Engagement Questions:
    • How does a reporter know when NOT to include certain information in their reports?


  • Notes on writing movie critiques, sample movie reviews, internet research engines, and the film, “Absence of Malice”

Overviews and Timeline:

Activity 1 (One 90 minute class)

  • Ask students what they are looking for when they read a movie review.
  • Ask students how reviews may differ depending on the type of movie that is reviewed.
  • Give notes on writing movie reviews.
  • Break class into pairs, and hand out sample movie reviews. Have students look for examples of how the writer introduces the movie to the audience. Have them look for the use of background information on the actors, directors, producers. Have them look for examples of how the writer’s opinion was presented. Does he/she give particular lines from the movie? Is the movie’s rating given?
  • Make sure students exchange movie reviews so they get information from a drama, a comedy, and documentary.

Activity 2 (One 90 minute class in computer lab)

  • Give students the name of the movie they will be watching and critiquing: “Absence of Malice.” Tell them they are writing a review of the movie as it is re-released on DVD.
  • Explain to the students the importance of researching the careers of the starring actors, as well as the directors and producers.
  • Have students research the film to find out who the actors are, and have them get enough background information to make a judgment as to whether these actors were appropriate for the film.

Activity 3 (Two 90-minute class periods)

  • Students will spend one and a half class periods watching the film and taking notes.
  • After they have finished watching the movie, students may have time to outline their reviews and begin writing them. Their first draft is due tomorrow; the final reviews are due the next day.

Activity 4 (one 90-minute class period)

  • Students should be broken up into editing circles where they can copy edit each others’ articles. Each student should have at least 2 edits of their reviews. Reviews due tomorrow.
  • Discuss film and libel issues within it, choices made and their implications.

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