Film Critique

For the first stage (1500 to 1800 words), you will analyze an entire movie. In the second stage (300 to 600 words), you will reflect on how you analyzed the movie as well as how your ability to analyze film in general has evolved.

Stage 1: Analysis

The analysis portion of your paper should be 1500 to 1800 words in length. You should analyze the film through the lens of one of the broad theories you have learned about in class (auteur theory, genre theory, formalist theory). Your analysis must address four main areas (contextual information, story/plot, aesthetic choices, and social/personal impact) and how these areas work together to develop the theme of the movie. As you construct your analysis, assume that your reader is not familiar with this film. Use your analysis to explain to your reader why they should watch this film.

In addition to the film you are analyzing, you must use three scholarly sources to support your arguments. Cite your sources (including the feature-length film) within the text of your paper and on the reference page. Cite your sources according to APA style.

Your analysis must address the following components (noted in bold below):

  • Contextual Information – In this area, you will provide some of the basic identifying information of the film. This includes:
    • Title
    • Director, cinematographer, major actors/actresses. Be sure to describe their roles in the overall design process.
    • Year of release
    • Type of film (blockbuster, indie, documentary, etc.)
    • Genre
  • Story/Plot – In this area, you should offer a brief summary of the film, and then show how it was deployed in the narrative structure of the film. Explain the difference between the film’s story and its plot. This area can be addressed as a separate paragraph, or can be threaded throughout your analysis of the film.
  • Aesthetic Choices – In this area, you will assess the efficacy of specific techniques and design elements employed in the film as they apply to the overarching narrative and theme of the film. These elements include:
    • Mise en scène (e.g., lighting, sound, composition of frame, costuming, etc.)
    • Editing (e.g., cuts and transitions, shots used, angles, etc.)
    • Technology (i.e., analyze the impact of any notable technological effects: film stock, targeted release venue, special effects, etc.)
  • Social/Personal Impact – In this area, you will critically address the following questions:
    • What impact did this film have on society (i.e., politically or culturally, positive or negative)? The impact can be as major as inspiring political or social changes or as minor as inspiring the production of toys or lunchboxes.
    • How did society affect this film (i.e., what currents in society led to the creation of the film)?
    • If you are unable to find any information about the social impact of the film, explain the personal impact it has had on you.

Note: Not every bullet point under the four listed components will necessarily apply to your movie. However, you will still need to discuss each of the four main components thoroughly, which means that you may need to explain a concept even if it can’t be directly applied to your movie.

Your paper should be organized around a thesis statement that clarifies what you will attempt to accomplish in your paper, and how you will proceed. Additionally, you must conclude with a restatement of the thesis and a conclusion paragraph. Review the Final Film Critique sample, which provides an example of a well-developed analysis as well as insight on composition.

Stage 2: Reflection

After completing your movie analysis, you will reflect on the analysis process and how you have learned to more thoroughly analyze film as well as how rigorous study of film enhances your development as a student and thinker. In this 300- to 600-word reflection, review your initial post from the “Post Your Introduction” discussion in Week One, and consider how your ability to analyze movies has changed or grown. Append your reflection to the analysis portion of your paper and submit as one document. Your reflection should be personal and exploratory in nature.

Address the following questions in your reflection:

  • What can be gained through analyzing film?
  • How has this changed the way you view movies?
  • How are you able to use film theory and criticism to find and interpret meaning in movies?
  • In what ways has this course changed your understanding of how movies are related to society?
  • What skills have you developed during this course, and how might those skills be applied to your major, profession, and/or life?

The Final Film Critique

  • Must be one document that is 1800 to 2400 words in length, comprised of a 1500- to 1800-word film analysis and a 300- to 600-word reflection.
  • Must include a separate title and reference page, and be formatted according to APA style as outlined in Ashford Writing Center (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..
  • Must include a title page with the following:
    • Title of paper
    • Student’s name
    • Course name and number
    • Instructor’s name
    • Date submitted
  • Must begin with an introductory paragraph that has a succinct thesis statement.
  • Must address the topic of the paper with critical thought.
  • Must end with a conclusion that reaffirms your thesis.
  • Must use at least three scholarly sources (reviews, articles, or book chapters) other than the textbook to support your points. Refer to the ENG225 Research Guide for guidance.
  • Must document all sources in APA style, as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center.
  • Must include a separate reference page that is formatted according to APA style as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center.


This paper MUST be written with full complete sentences and double checked for grammar.  Attached is the first paper I turned in on the movie for reference. 

Back to the Future




Back to the Future

Back to the Future is a film about a young man who travels thirty years in the past and must ensure that his high school-age parents unite to save his life. Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale wrote the film. Notably, the motivation for writing the film story was that Bob Gale visited his parents in the summer of 1980 and he found his father’s high school yearbook. He thumbed through it and found that his father was the president of the graduating class. He was very unaware of that fact. Moreover, the picture of his dad, 18-years old, stirs some questions in his mind. For instance, he asks himself, “what if I had gone to school with my father, would I have been friends with him?” The first part, ‘what if I had gone to school with my father’, becomes the plot of the story; the narrative that places father and son at the same age. On the other hand, the second part of the question creates the meaning of the story and probably creates the core theme of the film. This sets us the main theme of the film as discussed below.

Theme of Family

At the beginning of the film, Marty, who is the main character, has considerable antipathy in answering questions such as Would I have been friends with him, would I have liked him, would I have understood him. In fact, he appears to be very different from his family, especially his father George. He, therefore, starts the story with a set of beliefs and perceptions about his father, seeing him as an adolescent.

Imagine the entire things one can do and the places one can visit if he or she had the ability and capacity of time travel. People could easily revisit Italy during the Renaissance. Babylon during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign or even take a walk amongst the dinosaurs. Nonetheless, it is very unusual for a film rotating around such premises to portray home set up. This tells us that the film, Back to the Future, is a family that centralizes its story about family. It centers on questions such as why we love them, why we cannot stand family members and what we could do without them or do to change them. In addition, Marty always loved his family. At the end of the film, he seems to love them the more.

Techniques used in Film

Lighting Techniques

Back to the Future has used a variety of lighting techniques throughout the movie. In my opinion, lighting techniques in films are likened to someone’s tone when they speak to you. A high and delightful tone indicates happiness while a low and deep tone indicates anger or upset. Similarly, lighting in the movie or rather films create the intended mood of the film. The Back to the Future film has used different lighting techniques in different scenes. It has been filmed with the three-point lighting techniques and the low key-design that stirs mysterious feeling, which is common in the science fiction genre. For instance, one of the scenes occurs at night in a shopping mall parking area. At this point, the cinematographer uses low-key lighting style to create dramatic and cryptic feeling in the scene. In fact, according to Goodykoontz and Jacobs (2011), dramatic scenes in movies will vary the intensity and positions of the fill and backlights to suit the mood and stir the sources of light visible in the scene. Notably, the key lighting provides light in the dark parking area and the fill light softens the shadows. On the other hand, streetlights and backlighting make the three-point style complete.

Cinematography and Sound

The ticking of the clock relates to the main theme of the film. Moreover, the setting of the radio and the television makes the audience understand the setting of a family. It brings the audience into a family mood. Notably, as the camera introduces the audience to Marty, it begins with feet before showing us the whole body. As he plays the guitar the camera slowly follows him even as he flies in the air and crashes into a shelf. One way the film in which the film catches the attention of the audience is through the soundtrack, which seems irrelevant with what happens on the screen. This makes them wonder what happens next, and it is common in science fiction films.

Acting Style

The film has utilized Stella Adler’s acting style whereby the actor utilizes their interpretations of imaginations of character. This is evident from the comments of Bob Gale above. That he was motivated by his father’s high school yearbook. Through that, he imagined himself as his father’s classmate in high school. These imaginations led them to produce a film that travels back to the teenage days of Marty’s parents in high school. These elements are relevant to setting the theme of the film which is major family. The lighting, cinematography and acting styles techniques rotate about family and family life.


Back to the Future. (2011, Apr 2). Back To The Future [1985] – The DeLorean  [Video file]. Retrieved from

Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2011). Film: From watching to seeing. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. This text is a Constellation™ course digital materials (CDM) title.

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