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CMTH 220: Introduction to Film: Homework Help

This guide will help you find film criticism, biographies of directors, definitions of film genres, and information about the Library's DVD collection.

Movie Reviews vs. Film Criticism

What’s the difference between a movie review and film criticism? Good question!


Although both contain information about a film’s plot, characters, and production quality, a movie review is a much less formal document than an article containing academic film criticism. When reading an article, web site, or blog entry about a film, here are some things to look for to help distinguish between a movie review and scholarly criticism.



  • Provide a general summary of the plot, and may include a brief comparison to other, similar films;
  • May rate or rank the quality of a film (example: "two thumbs up")
  • Are not very long or detailed -- usually include just enough information to help you decide whether or not to see the movie;
  • Depending upon the source you're reading, the review could be written by a journalist, professional film critic, or amateur fan contributing to a wiki or blog;
  • The writer's tone may be humorous, snarky, dramatic, tongue-in-cheek, or "over the top" -- the reviewer's goal is to entertain the reader.

Film Criticism:

  • In addition to a summary of the plot, may analyze a particular theme or production aspect of the film;
  • Discusses the film within a historical, social, political, or theoretical context;
  • May compare or contrast the film to others in the same genre, and/or to works of literature covering the same themes;
  • Are of substantial length and detail, and may contain footnotes or bibliographical references;
  • Are written by scholars and experts in the field of film studies, or in an academic discipline related to communication or the performing arts;
  • The writer's tone will typically be serious -- the goal is to analyze the film in great depth and educate the reader.

Many thanks to the library at California State University, Monterey Bay, for portions of the information adapted for this page.


Need help with finding sources, searching databases, formatting citations, or deciding on a paper topic? The NCC Librarians are here for you.

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