Demonstrate your ability to:

  • Watch films critically;
  • Explore ideas and themes from a filmmakers point-of-view
  • Write a detailed analysis of the technical aspects of filmmaking


Click here for a printable version of this page in PDF!

One of our main goals this year is to examine attitudes and assumptions about film and its impact on our lives.  Since film is so familiar to us, a common misconception is that film, in its many forms, is largely “entertainment for the masses.”  We often assume that film is far easier to understand than literature; which is often regarded as “serious” or as “art”.  In fact, although film really is entertaining, it is also very complex. It employs two channels–image and sound–but, more importantly, is culturally ambiguous, blurring distinctions between art, entertainment, and mass communication.  It poses major problems for–but offers new possibilities to–traditional categories of cultural criticism.

Today, movies are watched by millions of people on a daily basis, but most people lack a conceptual understanding of cinema.  In other words, their awareness of films far exceeds their vocabulary for describing them.  As a result, this assignment is designed to:

  1. Be an opportunity to experience a broader range of movies than you are, perhaps, used to seeing;
  2. Be an occasion to learn and practice a more analytical–precise and elaborated–language for thinking about, talking about, and writing about film.


Every quarter, you will have a film critique due. This is not a half paragraph response.  This is an MLA formatted, typed essay with a minimum of four paragraphs submitted to TurnItIn.com.  Each review should contain a minimum of 750 words.  No handwritten, late or emailed assignments will be accepted.

It is my hope that you choose films that you wouldn’t normally see.  To help you, I have narrowed your choices down to AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies list!  This is a Top 100 list compiled by filmmakers, critics and historians, so you know they’re good!  This will allow you to explore other genres of cinema and will open your mind to endless possibilities.  The films you choose can be rented, picked up at the library (local and school), sometimes watched at the movie theatre, online (iTunes, Amazon, Netflix), or seen on a cable movie channel (TCM, AMC, HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Etc.). You can also watch them as a group but each person will have their own opinion.

Before watching your movie, go to rottentomatoes.com and read a professional review of the film you chose – read the entire review as it will allow you to better understand your film.


PARAGRAPH 1: A brief synopsis of the movie. No more than 1 or 2, at most, paragraphs. I want to know a basic plot, the protagonist, antagonist and the conflict of the story. Do not reveal the ending. (10%)

Your opinion of the movie.  What did you like?  What didn’t you like?  Write about more than just your enjoyment or displeasure with the movie.  Write about the acting, the story, the music, shot composition, lighting, pacing, etc.  A good film critique provides the author’s critical assessment of the success/failure and effectiveness/ineffectiveness of the various elements of film. (40%)

PARAGRAPH 3: Write an overall reaction to a rottentomatoes.com review.  Do not summarize the review, point out elements from the review that you agree with, you disagree with, and justify your responses.  Use film critics, not bloggers, and cite your review. (40%)

PARAGRAPH 4: Would you recommend this film?  Explain your answer.  Be sure to justify your response by using academic language we’ve been learning in class.  (10%)

AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies!

Remember, when selecting a movie, you can only use movies list on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies list.  This is considered a compilation of the 100 greatest movies of all time.  A jury of 1,500 film artists, critics and historians came together to decide on this list.  This is the 10th Anniversary Edition that update the original 1998 version of the list.

Are you ready for the list?  See the back of this handout for the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time!  On to the list!

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