How to Write a Killer Movie or Music Review

Updated on February 1, 2018
shay-marie profile image

My name is Shay and I'm a millennial. I've hand-picked 19 Christmas gifts that are sure to please the gals of my generation.

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.

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!

Questions & Answers

    © 2014 Shay Marie

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

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      • profile image


        11 months ago

        Great tips!

      • shay-marie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shay Marie 

        2 years ago from Southern California

        Choosing images can by tricky, but I try to not to overthink it. In general, I choose images that I can make work with a text overlay. I do a lot of skincare reviews these days, so I take pictures specifically for the article in question. As for fonts, choosing a few favorites can make the process much simpler of course, but also can "brand" your writing by giving your graphics a similar look. If I do want to incorporate something outside of my regular font choices, I just drop fonts in until I find something that clicks. The most important thing is to make sure the font is legible -- simple is always a good choice.

      • thedinasoaur profile image

        Dina AH 

        2 years ago from United States

        This was such a helpful hub, Shay. I have done more "analysis-y" type of things, but I like what you were saying in terms of personalizing the hub/review. I tend to shy away from that for some reason. I'll have to make an effort to include more detailed links to my own personal experience of the book/movie/show.

        Quick question, though: can you write about how you use your own images? I like how they're personalized/tailored to your hub. I think it's a cool little touch that makes your hub unique. How do you go about choosing the images? And, like, what about font choices? Do you keep the same font for all your hubs?

        I'm off to follow your awesome page because I am really impressed by your approach to writing. Nice meeting you.

      • profile image


        2 years ago

        ok but how do i write

      • profile image

        Nada Said 

        2 years ago

        Thanks for the tips useful

      • Merrci profile image

        Merry Citarella 

        5 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


        6 years ago from Philippines

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

      • shay-marie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shay Marie 

        6 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


        6 years ago

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

      • Lionrhod profile image


        6 years ago from Orlando, FL

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

      • paperfacets profile image

        Sherry Venegas 

        6 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.

      • Lionrhod profile image


        6 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


        6 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.

      • yoursfoolie profile image


        6 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 

        6 years ago from Lakewood New York

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

      • Lionrhod profile image


        6 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 

        6 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 

        6 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 

        6 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


        6 years ago

        Excellent guide to review writing. Congratulations on getting LotD!

      • shay-marie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shay Marie 

        6 years ago from Southern California

        @Diana Wenzel: Yeah, Chunk ruins everything.

      • shay-marie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shay Marie 

        6 years ago from Southern California

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

      • Diana Wenzel profile image

        Renaissance Woman 

        6 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.

      • shay-marie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shay Marie 

        6 years ago from Southern California

        @Merrci: Aw, shucks.

      • shay-marie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shay Marie 

        6 years ago from Southern California

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

      • profile image


        6 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


        6 years ago

        Congrats on LOTD! Great advice!

      • profile image

        Donna Cook 

        6 years ago

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

      • profile image

        sybil watson 

        6 years ago

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

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        Interesting tips - lots to think about.

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        Thanks for sharing all these tips :)

      • Merrci profile image

        Merry Citarella 

        6 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


        6 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?

      • Richard-H profile image


        6 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

        Nicely done. Thank you!

      • Sir Daniel UK profile image

        Danny Gibson 

        6 years ago from Northampton


        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


        6 years ago

        Thanks, some great ideas here.

      • profile image


        6 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 

        6 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


        6 years ago

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

      • aka-rms profile image

        Robin S 

        6 years ago from USA

        Love this!

      • profile image


        6 years ago

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


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