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How to Write a Killer Movie or Music Review

Updated on June 28, 2017
shay-marie profile image

Shay's hobbies include recommitting Alanis Morissette lyrics to memory, pretending like she understands Mr. Robot, and Jeff Goldblum.

Writing a movie, music, or book review is a fairly simple process, but writing an engaging review can be a hair trickier. There are a few simple steps writers can take to make their reviews more interesting for their readers.

What we need to keep in mind as writers is that movie/book/music reviews are a dime a dozen online. You can find them in ample abundance on Amazon, on people's blogs, from film critics, and on well known pop culture websites. What makes your review special is YOU. I'll walk you through some tips for making your reviews as unique as possible so that they have a better chance of standing out in a crowd.

While this "How-To" is geared toward pop culture centric reviews (ie TV & Film, Music, and Books), it also can also be applied to just about any review you write on Hubpages and beyond.

Special Note: I use the term "review" for a wide range of article types, from impressions to fan guides to round-ups. For the purposes of this article the term "review" refers to commentary on a film, television show, album, event, or product. It's okay if doesn't fall under the traditional "professional critic review" umbrella so long as you're creating something unique.

What to Review?
What to Review?

1. What to Review?

If it's a product review, it's best to choose something you own to review. It's fine to review films/tv shows/books you've only seen/read, but don't own, just make sure you're very familiar with the subject matter. You can also review a group of similarly themed movies/tv shows/albums in the same article.

Tip: If you're doing a review on your blog or on Hubpages with an affiliate link, it's best to choose something that isn't likely to go out of stock. As such, reviews on movies, TV shows, books, and albums are often the safest choice.

Positive or Negative?
Positive or Negative?

2. Does it Have to Be a Positive Review?

Take a cue from film critics: Not all reviews have to be glowing. It's usually smart to include a mix of the things you love along with criticisms, ie things that didn't work for you. Don't be afraid to write a review on a movie that was awful either, because sometimes movies are epically bad, but still thoroughly entertaining. Sometimes it's fun to just tear into a movie or album that makes you furious.

Tip: One of the keys to writing in an engaging way is to write like a human being. If your review is 100% positive, happy-happy, this is the best thing EVER and will solve ALL YOUR PROBLEMS, you will be more likely to lose credibility. While reviews like this might slide for a favorite film, album or book, if it's a product review you will be more likely to come off as an Internet salesman robot.

Example: 10 Favorite Super Crappy Movies

Use Your Memories
Use Your Memories

3. Remember Remember Remember

One of the biggest tools you have in your writer's arsenal is your memory. While a first person narrative is not the professional standard for film, television, music, or literary reviews, your personal stories and anecdotes can definitely help you bring an engaging article together.

Even if you don't have a specific memory to share, you can still expound on when someone might enjoy watching the movie or listening to the album you're reviewing. You can base this off your own experiences and impressions. Is it a "lay in bed sick" kind of movie, or "Friday night, gripping the edge of your seat, popcorn falling out of your mouth" kind of movie?

Example: 10 Things I Learned from The Craft

Get Specific
Get Specific

4. Get Specific

This is an age old writing tenant: Good writing is specific. Give readers specific visuals and ideas to latch onto and they'll be more likely to actually finish reading (and maybe even share) your review.

Tip: "The Goonies is the funniest movie ever" tells your reader nothing. "The scene when Chunk confesses that he made an entire movie theater throw up on each other is one of the funniest moments in The Goonies" is better. You can also draw specific comparisons to other films/tv shows/albums/books, discuss how a it stacks up within its genre, clarify why certain plot points work (or not), or tell us why a lead character is so darn charming. If you're ever at a loss for specifics, as yourself "why" then explain it to your readers.

Avoid Summaries
Avoid Summaries

5. Avoid Lengthy Summaries

A lengthy summary of a story, the complete specs for a product, or the track list of an album are available in the product listing. Reiterating it in your review, even if it's in your own words, is redundant and won't add value. You have to figure, why would someone want to read your movie review as opposed to just reading a movie summary elsewhere?

Tip: Does this means all summaries are out? Certainly not! Just don't make it the man focus of the review. Write about the main themes of the book, a key scene in a movie, your favorite actors in the TV show, or the best tracks on the album (for example), but don't go into crazy detail and certainly don't add any spoilers.* If it's a movie, consider adding the trailer or your favorite clips via the Youtube; if it's an album, you can add a music video.

*Technically, you can add spoilers. You're your own person. You can live your own life.

Here's what I do: In general, if it's a brand new, still in theaters movie, I definitely avoid all spoilers. If it's a movie that's been out for years, I might get lax with my rule. If you can't contain yourself, it's a good practice to warn your readers so they don't trip over your hidden spoiler then cry because you ruined a movie they hadn't seen yet.

Use Unique Images
Use Unique Images

6. Use Unique Photos Whenever Possible

While using unique photos is always preferred online, but when writing a review, it is even MORE important to include them. The reason for this is if you only have a standard product image on the review, when someone shares on social media, the image attached to it will be generic (and found dozens of places online). If you add your own image, you'll instantly make your review more unique.

Tip: Choose a personal, creative commons, or public domain photo that plays off of some aspect of your review, just be sure to use proper attribution. Some ideas: a photo from the time period that show was on TV, a photo of the DVD on your shelf, a photo of the car you used to blast the album in, etc.

Break the Mold
Break the Mold

7. Don't Be Afraid To Break the Mold

Your article does not need to be in the traditional format of "expounding on the virtues and failings" of something; I believe the funnest articles are those that break the mold. If you have a great story revolving around a certain album, share it. If you have a game you like to play while watching a specific movie, tell us how to do it. If you have your own tips for using a great product or some unique information about it, let us know.

Make the special, unique part of your experience the focal point of the review and it will instantly be more useful and entertaining to readers.

Tip: It doesn't matter if your finished piece no longer resembles a traditional review - if it is unique and/or entertaining, more people will want to read it.

Example: GoToob Travel Bottles: Why You'll NEVER Need to Buy Another

Have Fun with Themes
Have Fun with Themes

8. Give it a Theme

Are you writing a comedy movie review? Make it a funny one. Are you writing a horror movie review? Make it spooky. Are you writing a review on Groundhog's Day? Make it Bill Murray-rific. If you're having fun while writing it, hopefully people will have fun reading it as well.

Example: Bossypants Book Review

Share It!
Share It!

9. Don't Be Afraid to Share It!

While search engine traffic is lovely, you can't always rely on it. If you want your review to be read, you'll need to share it on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, or whatever site(s) you use most.

Tip: I find that if an article or review performs well on social media, Google will "pick up on it" down the road. Be patient!

© 2014 Shay Marie

Comments - Do you have any tips for your fellow writers?

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    • profile image

      Nada Said 2 months ago

      Thanks for the tips ...so useful

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      I'm glad to see this again. I needed to re read it. Thanks again for the good tips.

    • asereht1970 profile image

      asereht1970 3 years ago

      Thanks for the tips. I'm sure this will be a great help for all of us...

    • shay-marie profile image
      Author

      Shay Marie 3 years ago from Southern California

      @Lionrhod: Oh I hardly ever remember the details years later. It's only after multiple viewings does a film "imprint" on my brain :).

    • profile image

      HappyCircle 3 years ago

      Awesome advice, Shay_Marie. Thanks for sharing and paying it forward.

    • Lionrhod profile image

      Lionrhod 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      @Gwondo: Great tip! Now you've got my creative juices flowing! I definitely have a niche to go after.

    • Lionrhod profile image

      Lionrhod 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Sadly, I'm one of those people who if they watch a movie, don't remember most of the particulars years later. Unless it's a movie that impacts me in a strong way. But hmmm...there are a few I remember. Eventually I'll have to re-up with netflix.

    • Gwondo profile image

      Gwondo 3 years ago

      When I owned my Video Store people would always ask for recommendations. It was always great when I gave them that little known movie and they came back raving about it. Don't always go for the mainstream and you might build your own little following. Great guide shay-marie.

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 3 years ago from La Verne, CA

      The best tip for me is do not expect the search engine to find your review. Duh, that is what I have been waiting for. All my book and movie reviews sink. Thanks for that. I just have to not be shy about it.

    • yoursfoolie profile image

      yoursfoolie 3 years ago

      "Don't be afraid to write a review on a movie that was awful, for example, because sometimes movies are epically bad, but still thoroughly entertaining.'... Boy, did that sentence bring back some funny, funky memories!...

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 3 years ago from Lakewood New York

      Congratulations on LOTD!!! And thanks for the great advise :)

    • Lionrhod profile image

      Lionrhod 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Excellent advice! I'm saving the link for when I'm ready to write a review.

    • Zola Mars profile image

      Lydia Workman 3 years ago from Canada

      Thank you very much! I have already gotten some great ideas. I could write music lens about classical music. I used to work in a classical record store, but it is only a minor interest these days. I still listen to classical music. I regularly get CDs from the library. Occasionally I go out to concerts. It would help me learn more if I started writing some reviews.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Great job. This is bookmarked for future reference because it is such valuable information. Thanks.

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 3 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      This all goes to show that helping others can lead to an LOTD award. Well done indeed.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Excellent guide to review writing. Congratulations on getting LotD!

    • shay-marie profile image
      Author

      Shay Marie 3 years ago from Southern California

      @Diana Wenzel: Yeah, Chunk ruins everything.

    • shay-marie profile image
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      Shay Marie 3 years ago from Southern California

      @tonyleather: Definitely, I'll have to go check your review out.

    • shay-marie profile image
      Author

      Shay Marie 3 years ago from Southern California

      @Merrci: Aw, shucks.

    • shay-marie profile image
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      Shay Marie 3 years ago from Southern California

      @GrammieOlivia: Thank you - It's sound advice for any writer!

    • profile image

      GrammieOlivia 3 years ago

      Oh I think you have covered a number of bases. The ony thing I would add, is check for typos again and again, and grammar. Great lens!

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 3 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD! Great advice!

    • profile image

      Donna Cook 3 years ago

      Fabulous lens! As a newbie, I really appreciate the list of how to make a review unique.

    • profile image

      sybil watson 3 years ago

      How clever, Shay! I really enjoyed your tips. Congratulations on getting LOTD!

    • tobydavis profile image

      tobydavis 3 years ago

      Interesting tips - lots to think about.

    • profile image

      glowchick 3 years ago

      Thanks for sharing all these tips :)

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      I'm so glad this lens got LotD! Congrats! You have all this knowledge that I am so grateful you share with us! Thanks!

    • profile image

      tonyleather 3 years ago

      Truly interesting. My recent review of the song Hotel California by the Eagles got awarded review of the day, so I must be doing something right?

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

      Congrats on LotD! A killer accomplishment. One that deserves the big tub of popcorn with extra butter on top. Hopefully no Chunk among us.

    • Richard-H profile image

      Richard 3 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

      Nicely done. Thank you!

    • Sir Daniel UK profile image

      Danny Gibson 3 years ago from Northampton

      Interesting.

      I did make my review of 'Watership Down' as personal as it gets, though my review of 'Batman & Robin' wasn't as glowing.

      But I'm learning.

      And enjoying.

    • profile image

      Karen1960 3 years ago

      Thanks, some great ideas here.

    • profile image

      luismmolina 3 years ago

      Amazing!, thanks for the info. I really enjoyed it. My plan is to write some nice products reviews tomorrow!

    • crystalwriter profile image

      Crystal A Murray 3 years ago from Corydon, Indiana, USA

      What great tips you've share here! Ooh, and I love your use of text overlay to create unique images as titles for your topic sections. Nicely done, and congratulations on your LOTD.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Nice one...........

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 3 years ago from USA

      Love this!

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 3 years ago

      I really like this. Thank you for publishing these excellent tips.