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9 Tips to Write a Killer Movie or Music Review

Shay is a writer and former digital marketer with a knack for falling down Internet research holes.

Check out these tips!

Check out these tips!

Stand Out

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 abundance on Amazon, on people's blogs, 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 it doesn't fall under the traditional "professional critic review" umbrella so long as you create 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 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, i.e., things that didn't work for you. Don't be afraid to write a review on an awful movie 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 engagingly is to write like a human being. If your review is 100% positive and 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, you will be more likely to come off as an Internet salesman robot if it's a product review.

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 help you bring together an engaging article.

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 on 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 tenet: 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 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, ask 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 an album's tracklist 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 out why someone would want to read your movie review instead of just reading a movie summary elsewhere.

Tip: Does this means all summaries are out? Certainly not! Just don't make it the main focus of the review. Write about the book's main themes, 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 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. I might get lax with my rule if it's a movie that's been out for years. If you can't contain yourself, it's a good practice to warn your readers so they don't trip over your hidden spoiler and 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, it is more important to include them when writing a review. 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 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?

Chocoviv on July 08, 2019:

Great tips!

Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on May 30, 2018:

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.

Dina AH from United States on May 29, 2018:

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.

goku on December 18, 2017:

ok but how do i write

Nada Said on July 30, 2017:

Thanks for the tips useful

Merry Citarella from Oregon's Southern Coast on August 07, 2014:

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

asereht1970 from Philippines on April 23, 2014:

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

Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on March 17, 2014:

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

HappyCircle on March 10, 2014:

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

Lionrhod from Orlando, FL on March 10, 2014:

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

Lionrhod from Orlando, FL on March 10, 2014:

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 on March 09, 2014:

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.

Sherry Venegas from La Verne, CA on March 09, 2014:

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 on March 09, 2014:

"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!...

Eugene Samuel Monaco from Lakewood New York on March 09, 2014:

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

Lionrhod from Orlando, FL on March 09, 2014:

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

Lydia Workman from Canada on March 09, 2014:

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.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on March 08, 2014:

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

Stephen J Parkin from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada on March 08, 2014:

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

anonymous on March 08, 2014:

Excellent guide to review writing. Congratulations on getting LotD!

Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on March 08, 2014:

@Diana Wenzel: Yeah, Chunk ruins everything.

Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on March 08, 2014:

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

Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on March 08, 2014:

@Merrci: Aw, shucks.

Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on March 08, 2014:

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

GrammieOlivia on March 08, 2014:

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 on March 08, 2014:

Congrats on LOTD! Great advice!

Donna Cook on March 08, 2014:

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

sybil watson on March 08, 2014:

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

tobydavis on March 08, 2014:

Interesting tips - lots to think about.

glowchick on March 08, 2014:

Thanks for sharing all these tips :)

Merry Citarella from Oregon's Southern Coast on March 08, 2014:

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

tonyleather on March 08, 2014:

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?

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on March 08, 2014:

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 from Surrey, United Kingdom on March 08, 2014:

Nicely done. Thank you!

Danny Gibson from Northampton on March 08, 2014:


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.

Karen1960 on March 08, 2014:

Thanks, some great ideas here.

luismmolina on March 07, 2014:

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

Crystal A Murray from Corydon, Indiana, USA on March 07, 2014:

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.

anonymous on March 07, 2014:

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

Robin S from USA on March 07, 2014:

Love this!

SteveKaye on March 07, 2014:

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