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 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?

✍️ How to Write a Film Analysis

🔗 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.

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.

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:

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.

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 .

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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:

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.

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📄 Film Analysis Examples

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

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.

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.

Film Analysis Essay FAQ

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:

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.

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

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.

Custom Writing

It’s an interesting point of view. Thank you for your opinion, Sourav!


Thank you, Mike!

Hi Rebecca,

Glad you liked the post. Sure thing, feel free to share the link with your audience!

All the best.

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Tell Me Everything About It: How to Write a Film Analysis Essay Correctly

Film Analysis Essay

Writing a film analysis essay should be fun, right? You have a chance to watch a movie and then to write your impressions. Seems easy-peasy!

But, after watching a movie, you find yourself in front of a blank sheet of paper, without knowing where to start, how to organise your essay and what are the essential points you need to cover and analyse.

Knowing how to organise your film analysis essay is half the battle. Therefore, just follow this structure and you’ll be able to start writing without a hitch right away.


The introductory part of a film analysis essay contains some fundamental information about the movie, like the film title, release date, and director’s name. In other words, the reader should get familiar with some background information about the film. It would be good to research the filmmaker because it can reveal significant insights related to the movie which you can use in your analysis.

Also, you should point out the central theme or ideas in the movie, explaining the reason why it was made. Don’t hesitate to say what do you think; it’s quite desirable to express your point of view.

The last thing your introduction should include is your thesis statement and basically, explain what will be your focus.

After presenting the main facts about the film, it’s time to go deeper into analysis and summarise it.

The trick to making it more powerful is always to assume that your professor hasn’t seen the movie. In that way, you won’t leave out some important information. The best way to make sure you’ve covered everything in your summary is to answer great five Ws – who, what, when, where, why, and how, as well.

Likewise, you can discuss anything related to your opinion, structure or style. Just remember that you need to support anything you say with examples or quotes from the film itself. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a viable comment.

This is the core of your essay that involves your critical analysis of the film and impressions about it but supported by claims from the movie or any other relevant material.

Also, films are complex artwork that include many creative elements which are all connected and have their reason of existence. That’s why you should pay attention closely to these elements and analyze them too.

A good script has a logical sequence of events, completion of scenes, characters development, and dialogs. So, these are the elements you should analyze when it comes to the scenario.

After watching the film, try to reproduce the plot mentally and see if you understood the logic of events and the motives of the actors. If it’s difficult to explain or find reasons for some scene, then it isn’t such a great scenario.

The director is responsible for every aspect of the movie process, such as scenario execution, selection of the plans, and even tasks for actors.

In this part of the analysis, you can focus on the fact how the director realized the script or compare this film to his other films. It will help you understand better his way of directing and come up to some conclusions relevant to your thesis and analysis.

Casting is another significant element to take into consideration in your film analysis essay. Actors bring the script and director’s idea into reality.

Therefore, after watching the movie, think if the actors are realistic and if they portray the role of their character effectively? More importantly, consider how their acting corresponds to the main idea of the film and your thesis statement.

This represents an important element of every movie. It sets the mood and enhances some actions or sceneries of the film.

That’s why you should try to evaluate how music reflects the mood of the film or the impact it has on what is happening on the screen. Is it supportive or distracting?

Visual elements, like special effects, costumes, and make-up, also have a considerable role in the overall movie impact. They need to reflect the atmosphere of the film. It is especially important for historical movies because visual elements need to evoke a specific era.

Therefore, pay attention to costumes and special effects and analyse their impact on the film.

However, make sure you analyse only the elements that are related to your thesis statement, that can support it or help you make your point. Otherwise, you risk drifting away from the main argument.


In the end, re-state your thesis and offer a summary of the previously mentioned concepts in a new and more decisive way, making a case for your analysis.

Besides, you can recommend to your reader to watch this film or to avoid it completely.

Final words

Writing essays about films should be exciting and easy activity. Just follow these guidelines on how to structure it, details you need to pay attention to, and what should be the essence of your essay, so you’ll definitely look forward to writing your next film analysis essay and enjoy in the whole process.

Did You Know?

what is a film analysis outline

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what is a film analysis outline

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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. .

Oxford Royale Academy. n.d. “7 Ways to Watch Film.” Oxford Royale Academy. Accessed April 2021. .

University of Pennsylvania. “How to ‘Read’ a Film.” English Department. .

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How To Write a Film Analysis Essay With Examples

what is a film analysis outline

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:

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:

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:

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.

If you are not sure how to structure your movie analysis essay properly, feel free to use our professional online help service! We have a team of experienced writers who can assist with any phase of writing this type of assignment within no time. Follow this link to pay someone to write my essay .

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.

If you would like to hire a professional film analysis essay writer to write your film analysis essay assignment that requires you to write a cinematography analysis essay, click here to post your question or essay prompt.

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.

Film analysis essay outline – Structure

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


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:

…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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Film Analysis: Example, Topics, & Essay Writing Guide [2023]

Film Analysis: Example, Topics, & Essay Writing Guide [2023]

It’s hardly possible to find one who is not keen on watching films. It is one of the most common ways of spending free time. When it comes to writing a film analysis essay, you would probably be confused.

Don’t worry! We gathered everything you need to make it without a hitch. What’s more, you will find free essay samples as a bonus.

📽️ What Is a Film Analysis?

✍️ film analysis terms, 📜 film analysis types.

✨ How to Write a Film Analysis

🔗 References

F ilm analysis expresses the afterview synoptic. The result is a transparent and informative thesis and its arguments .

Don’t forget you should maintain an appropriate academic style. This article explains how to manage it well, using the proper terminology, structure, techniques, etc.

As an introduction to film analysis, explore a list of general film analysis terms. They come as an inseparable part of your film analysis essay.

Find them below.

Auteur definition.

Auteur: Definition

The auteur is the French equivalent of the English word author. The auteur’s definition is straightforward. As a rule, the film’s director is the author. Why so? Director is a core role that manages all processes: from organizing a filmmaking crew and cast to every aspect of the film.

Diegesis in films is all about the fictional world elements. Everything the director creates and transfers on the screen is diegesis. Time framework, setting, range of events, etc., are examples of those elements.

Flashback and Flashforward

Flashback and flashforward imply relating to a chronological flow of a narrative. Flashback is a scene that takes it back in time from the present point of the film.

A flashforward differs from the flashback only by the time-shifting direction: it takes the audience to the plot pieces later in the film.


The term looks confusing, but it is easy as pie. A pre-defined set of a film’s scene is a mise-en-scène . Everything in the camera’s focus: exposure, actors, and other elements form a mise-en-scène.

The Plot of a Story

The plot of a story is a sequence of events and their interactions that make up a story shown in a film.

Scene vs. Sequence

To put it simply, the scene and the sequence differ by the number of shots. The scene is short and consists of a few shots. The sequence is a more significant film part as it implies several scenes. As you may have guessed, the entire movie consists of several sequences.

The variety of possible film genres and their complexity assume more than one way to analyze them. There are several film analysis types, depending on the reviewing angle.

Narrative Analysis

This approach is similar to literary analysis. It means examining the film plot, narrative structure, motives, and characters. The research is built on answering the three simple questions: who, what, and where?

Mise-en-scène definion.

Сultural Analysis

Cultural analysis in the film is another word for contextual analysis. That typically means going beyond the inner world of the film. Apart from watching the movie and investigating the details, it implies a deep understanding of the cultural context and social and political agenda. It is both a challenging and compelling type.

Semiotic Analysis

Everything about understanding the hidden meaning of the symbols is a semiotic analysis of the film. Those symbols usually appear more than once in a movie. Also, particular directors tend to repeat specific symbols. This type of analysis requires very close attention to detail.

Mise-en-scène Analysis

We have already found what mise-en-scène is: a setting with the lighting, soundtrack, background, etc. When we focus on those audio and visual elements and their meaning, we talk about the mise-en-scène analysis. Audiovisual elements may seem insignificant at first glance, but they carry tremendous importance and power to support the plot.

📼 Film Genres List

Having grasped the basic film analysis terms and types, we move on to the starting point of film analysis. We talk about defining a film genre.

You do not have to be a cinema theorist or a crazy film fan to identify one from another. Anyways, let’s list the common film genres and describe them briefly. Please, check the table below:

There is also a deeper categorization. Each genre in the list has several, sometimes overlapping sub-genres.

We are closer to the central part: we’ve approached the writing guide.

Are you still struggling with how to write a film analysis essay? The solid solution is, to begin with conducting a step-by-step plan. Move on, and we will tell you how to do it!

Like every other paper, hence literary analysis, writing film analysis involves several ultimate steps. There is nothing groundbreaking here. All the steps are familiar. They are:

Let’s touch upon each step and note what is worth considering (after watching the movie itself).

Film Analysis Outline

The first and foremost step is writing a film analysis essay outline. You need to make a short draft with the core measures to analyze the film. Mind the instructions in case you have them. Organize the ideas in a list and proceed to the next step.

Film Analysis Thesis Statement

Pay special attention to writing a film analysis thesis statement. You first need to squeeze out the central narrative threads and ideas. The thesis statement should focus on what you will prove in your essay by transforming those ideas into new meanings.

Concentrate on the combination of film expectations, the auteur’s point of view, and your own critical opinion. In the end, formulate a concise thesis statement and move on to the introduction preparation.

Film Analysis Introduction

Your film analysis introduction should be informative and catchy. Give the general information about the film. It may contain the movie title, director, release year, and cast. 

After building an introduction background:

Remember that the introduction should validate and complement your thesis statement. 

Having the outline and the formulated thesis statement, you should, in a way, break down a film into its creative elements and analyze each of them. At once individually, and then as a whole picture.

What are those creative elements?

While analyzing, don’t forget to build logic between each element. Make a smooth and solid review.

We’ve approached the icing on the cake — your film analysis conclusion. Once again, make sure your analysis confirms the thesis statement and show it in your resolution.

Remember that movies are complex pieces of art. Don’t be too shallow in your essay. Try to see a bigger picture and put it in words.

Now that we’ve outlined the plan let’s figure out how it works on a real example.

🗒️ Film Analysis Template and Example

We prepared a short-outlined essay sample. Explore the table to understand what your analysis may look like. Here is the “Solaris” film analysis essay example.

You may take this or other essay samples from StudyCorgi as a template for your future writing. It will save your time and make the process transparent. Don’t hesitate to use them!

You’ve just found out the primary terms, tips, and a film analysis guide.

Now, as we have shed light on the film analysis techniques and showcased the real examples, the task seems not as tricky as at first sight. Save this article or share it with a friend to avoid losing!

What Is the Purpose of Film Analysis?

Film analysis aims to extract value from watching a movie, except for leisure. Films do not just tell a story. They bring a message, provoke feelings, and teach precious lessons. Directors sometimes encode priceless meanings applicable to many generations.

How to Analyze a Movie Effectively?

To analyze a movie effectively, you should acquire the appropriate terminology. Then, understand the existing types of film analysis and their difference. After that, outline your future film analysis paper and look through the extant examples.

What Is Formal Analysis in Film?

The formal analysis comprises the investigation of professional elements of film production like camera motion, lighting, color editing, special effects, and other inner working processes. The average viewer does not pay much attention to them, but we should not diminish their importance.

What Are the 4 Elements of Film Analysis?

One of the many interpretations of this question is the following: the first component is a film plot, the second one is the existing arguments about the film, the third one is a film background, and the fourth is their evaluation.

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Purdue Online Writing Lab College of Liberal Arts

what is a film analysis outline

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. ]

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44 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:

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:

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

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:

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:

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.

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:

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:

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

How to write a film analysis essay

How to Write a Film Analysis Essay

By Timothy Sexton

what is a film analysis outline

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.


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 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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