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How to Write a Critique

Suketu Mehta
Learn how to write a critique on a movie, play, and a novel following certain simple instructions discussed in this story.
A critique is written to evaluate a play, novel, or a movie. Contrary to what the name suggests, it is not meant to criticize the subject, but rather to analyze it and give an honest evaluation of the same. Although the basics are same, certain points pertaining to the subject need to be kept in mind while writing a critique. It is not necessary that only professional critics can evaluate and give reviews. You can do it as well.

How to Critique a Novel

A critique written for a novel can be easily summed up in five paragraphs. Start the critique by stating the name of the author and also mention any of his previous, notable works. Write a short note on the author, and give the basic idea of the novel.
The second paragraph should contain a short synopsis of the story. Try keeping it as short and concise as possible, and hold back all major twists and the climax.
Comment on the plot. Novels are a little more complex and also contain numerous subplots. You should be able to understand the importance of these subplots and find out how they have contributed to the principal plot. Write whether the book managed to keep you hooked throughout. Also write about any particular part of the story you really liked.
Next, start analyzing various characters. The principal character is the one who undertakes a particular journey. Not necessary a physical journey, it could also be an emotional or spiritual journey. Try and form a character graph by looking at various incidents and events which he/she faces throughout the book.
Also try and understand specific roles of every supporting character, and in what way they have contributed to the entire storyline.
Finally, state your opinion of the novel. You should mention what you liked about the novel, what could have been better, any message from the book, and finally whether you would recommend it to the readers or not.

How to Critique a Play

While writing a critique of a play, you should be able to observe, analyze, and comment on various aspects of the play. These aspects include the plot, direction, acting, set design along with a concluding paragraph giving your final opinion and summary of the whole play. All aspects, along with points you need to cover are listed below:
  • Name of the play.
  • Cast and crew.
  • Date, time, and venue of staging.
  • The basic plot of the play.
  • The dramatic moments and the main conflict, the principal character goes through.
  • The tone and theme of the play.
  • Casting of actors for various roles.
  • Effectiveness of the actor in portraying the character.
  • Any notable performance which stood out.
  • Dialog delivery and speech quality of all the actors.
  • Coordination among actors and other production aspects like sets, light, and sound.
  • How a particular message or the overall idea of the play was approached and portrayed.
  • Look out for any inconsequential or unnecessary elements included in the play and point them out.
Production Design
  • The sets used, and how it added value to the whole play.
  • The way actors were dressed, and whether requirements for certain special costumes were met or not.
  • To what extent did the use of makeup and costumes enhance the whole play.
  • Execution of sound and light effects, and it's contribution to the whole play.
  • Your feelings about the performance, on the whole.
  • The entire experience of sitting through the play.
  • Final comment on the play.

How to Critique a Movie

Writing a movie critique is somewhat similar to writing one on a play. It also involves observing, analyzing, and commenting on various aspects involved in making the movie. The difference lies in the fact that there are a lot of other influential aspects which go into making a film, which are not present in a play.
Camera angles, cinematography, special effects, editing, and sound design are few of these aspects. It requires a little more observation and awareness than normal to judge this.


While writing a critique for a movie, start by giving a short synopsis of the whole story. Be careful as not to reveal any important or dramatic moments in the film, and hold back the climax. You can review them, but don't give away the main plot and climax.


After the synopsis, move on to analyzing the story and screenplay. You should be able to point out the principal character in the movie, the major conflict he goes through and finally its resolution. Along with this, there will be a host of other supporting characters and subplots which help the protagonist to resolve his conflict.
Identify these, and try to figure out in what way they helped the story move forward. Every character should be justifiable, and in some way or the other contributing to the story. Look out for all these points, and also try to figure out whether all subplots are concluded properly during the course of the film.
You, as a viewer, should not be left with doubts after the curtains have been drawn.


Next, try and analyze the direction. You should imagine a director to be like the captain of the ship. He is responsible for the movie turning out the way it is. Look for underlying themes, pattern of storytelling, the ability to keep the viewer hooked right from the beginning to the end, and also the way different scenes were executed.


Editing needs to crisp, and viewers should not feel scenes and subplots are being dragged on. With innovative storytelling methods being adopted by directors, an editor's job also becomes tougher as he needs to intercut, match cut, and ensure the story is woven well. Look of these points while watching the film.


Cinematography is how the director of photography captures each frame on camera. Relevance of camera placements and angles, the scenic locales, lighting in every scene, and doing justice to the script in terms of portraying it on screen are the things you should look out for while commenting on cinematography.

Acting Performances

A good acting performance is the one which is the most convincing. Observe performances of actors portraying major roles in the movie and try and understand whether they did justice to the character. The body language, dialog delivery, and also any extra efforts undertaken to portray a certain complex character should be noted and appreciated.

Other Production Aspects

Various other production aspects like set design, costumes and makeup, background score, special effects, and sound recording should also be mentioned in the movie review.

Conclusion / Personal Opinion

Conclude by giving your impression of the whole movie. What you liked, disliked, certain aspects which were phenomenal, some which could have been better, the experience of sitting through the film, audience reactions (if you noticed), should all be included along with your final comment on the film.
You can use these instructions and start writing reviews of your own on movies you saw or the books you have read. While writing, be careful that the critique does not end up being biased. It should not be all 'goody-goody' and neither should it be extremely harsh or critical. Try to strike a balance and give an honest opinion on the subject.