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How to Analyze a Scene in a Film

Last Updated: October 6, 2023 Approved

This article was co-authored by Gavin Anstey and by wikiHow staff writer, Hunter Rising . Gavin Anstey is the COO at Cinebody. Cinebody is User-Directed Content software that empowers brands to create instant, authentic, and engaging video content with anyone on earth. Gavin studied Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder, before launching a career in video production and software. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 11 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 333,220 times.

While you can analyze an entire film , you can also choose a scene from the movie and break it down even further. Before you choose a scene you want to analyze, watch the entire film first so you can understand what’s happening. Go over the scene you want to analyze multiple times so you can pick out the details and take notes on it. Once you have your notes, you can write a formal analysis essay about the scene.

Choosing and Watching the Scene

Step 1 Watch the entire film without any distractions to understand the theme.

  • For example, if you choose to watch the movie To Kill a Mockingbird , you may say the overlying theme is the balance of good and evil or how prejudice can affect a town.

Tip: The film may have multiple themes, so choose one that interests you to focus on and use it to apply to the scene you choose later.

Step 2 Go through the film again to find a scene you want to analyze.

  • For example, if you want to analyze Jaws , you may choose the opening scene to see how music and cinematography affect the mood.
  • Analyzing scenes that are just conversations between characters can be just as fun as focusing on a big action scene. With quieter scenes, you can discuss how the camera angles and dialog affect how someone interprets the conversations.

Step 3 Replay the scene multiple times to focus on what’s happening on screen.

  • Avoid taking any notes the first couple times you watch the scene so you can absorb as much of it as you can. After 2-3 viewings, you can start pausing the scene or writing down things you notice.

Analyzing Elements within the Scene

Step 1 Summarize the main actions occurring in the scene.

  • For example, the events of the opening scene in Jaws are teenagers partying on a beach, two of the people leaving the group, one of them swimming in the water, and then getting grabbed by the shark.

Gavin Anstey

Gavin Anstey

What are the main elements of a scene? Gavin Anstey, a video producer, tells us: "Lighting is always an important element. Is it natural lighting, or artificial? Lighting sets the mood of the scene. Next is the talent if they are in the scene. How good is the talent? The majority of communication isn't verbal language, it's body language . How does the talent evoke a feeling or emotion without saying anything? Finally, does the talent sound real and authentic ? Or do they sound cheesy ?"

Step 2 Determine how the scene fits in with the story of the film.

  • For example, the opening scene in Jaws introduces the shark to the viewer and shows that it’s a threat to humans in the water. Throughout the film, this sets up conflict since it takes place in a beach town.

Step 3 Watch the characters...

  • For example, in the shark attack scene from Jaws , you may notice the kids in the water having fun, but Chief Brody is tense and worried about everyone’s safety.

Tip: Pay attention to the characters’ costumes since they could give hints about the character’s intentions. For example, if the character is wearing dark clothes, they may be evil or they could be planning something sinister.

Step 4 See if there’s any symbolism in the scene.

  • For example, in the final scene of Inception , the spinning top is a symbol of uncertainty since the viewer isn’t sure whether the ending is real or a dream.
  • Another example is the letter “X” or an X-shape in a scene of the film The Departed , which represents death.
  • Even characters can be symbols. For example, the Joker in The Dark Knight can be a symbol of chaos or uncertainty.
  • Not every scene will have specific symbols that relate to the rest of the film, so don’t worry about if you can’t find any.

Step 5 Look at the framing of the scene to how it’s composed.

  • For example, if a character is standing and looking down at another character that’s sitting down, it could mean the standing character is more important or powerful than the other.
  • If you’re watching the film on a computer, take screenshots from the scene so you can analyze the still frames.
  • Look at how the scene’s lit and how the highlights and shadows affect the mood. Shots that are framed dark can make the scene mysterious but well let scenes may seem like a comfortable or exposed location. [7] X Research source

Step 6 Watch the camera angle and movement to see how they change the feeling of the scene.

  • For example, action scenes usually have a lot of movement and have multiple angles to keep the viewer excited. Conversely, horror scenes may have no camera movement and close-up shots to make a viewer feel tense while they’re watching it.
  • Make note of when shots shift focus from an object or character to another.

Step 7 Notice how the editing from shot to shot conveys a mood.

  • For example, if you have a shot of a desert followed by a shot of a glass of water, it may make you think about being thirsty.
  • In another example, the editing in the opening scene of Jaws makes the viewer tense since they know the shark is getting closer but the woman in water doesn’t know about the danger.

Step 8 Listen to how the sound effects or music affect the mood of the scene.

  • For example, the music at the beginning of Jaws helps to build tension since it keeps getting faster until the shark attacks.
  • Wear headphones and play the scene if you’re able so you’re able to catch all of the discrete noises you may not have been able to hear otherwise.
  • Make note of silences in the scene as well since they can be just as important as loud sounds.

Writing a Scene Analysis

Step 1 Brainstorm a thesis that will be the main point of your analysis.

  • For example, a thesis for the opening scene in Jaws may be, “The opening shark attack from Jaws uses accelerating music, quick editing, and point of view shots to create tension.”

Step 2 State the film, director, and thesis you’re writing about in your introduction.

  • Keep your introduction about 3-4 sentences long.

Step 3 Summarize the scene and how it relates to the rest of the film.

  • Keep the summary paragraph about 4-5 sentences long before moving on.

Step 4 Include at least 2-3 paragraphs about what you analyzed for the body of your paper.

  • For example, if you’re talking about the opening scene in Jaws , your body paragraphs may discuss the music, the editing, and the point of view of the camera angles.
  • Don’t use all of your notes you took from the scene since they won’t all fit with the thesis for your paper.

Step 5 Conclude your paper by restating your thesis and main points of your essay.

  • For example, you may end an analysis on the opening scene of Jaws by discussing how the opening scene of the film influenced the horror genre.

Community Q&A

Community Answer

  • Research what was happening in the world when the film was released to see if you can apply the events to the scene or theme of the movie. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
  • Once you analyze the scene you picked, look up the scene or film online to see what others were able to discuss about it. You may be able to notice things that you hadn’t considered before. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

how to write an essay on a scene analysis

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Analyze a Movie

  • ↑ https://penandthepad.com/write-scene-analysis-8560037.html
  • ↑ https://youtu.be/zogJ6isyK1k?t=189
  • ↑ https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED096715.pdf
  • ↑ http://filmanalysis.yale.edu/cinematography/#framing
  • ↑ http://filmanalysis.yale.edu/mise-en-scene/#lighting
  • ↑ http://filmanalysis.yale.edu/cinematography/#quality
  • ↑ http://filmanalysis.yale.edu/editing/#devices
  • ↑ http://filmanalysis.yale.edu/sound/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/film-analysis/
  • ↑ https://www.raindance.org/tell-me-everything-about-it-how-to-write-a-film-analysis-essay-correctly/

About This Article

Gavin Anstey

To analyze a scene in a film, begin by watching the scene several times while taking notes on the director’s choices, from camera angles to character casting. Next, form a hypothesis about the scene based on your notes, like how the director’s choice of camera angles affects the point of view. Once you have a strong argument formulated, incorporate it into an introductory paragraph that includes the movie title, director, and the date it was released. Follow it with at least 3 paragraphs supporting your hypothesis, then tie it all together in your conclusion paragraph. For more examples of scene elements to include in your analysis, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Film Analysis: Example, Format, and Outline + Topics & Prompts

Films are never just films. Instead, they are influential works of art that can evoke a wide range of emotions, spark meaningful conversations, and provide insightful commentary on society and culture. As a student, you may be tasked with writing a film analysis essay, which requires you to delve deeper into the characters and themes. But where do you start?

In this article, our expert team has explored strategies for writing a successful film analysis essay. From prompts for this assignment to an excellent movie analysis example, we’ll provide you with everything you need to craft an insightful film analysis paper.

  • 📽️ Film Analysis Definition

📚 Types of Film Analysis

  • ✍️ How to Write Film Analysis
  • 🎞️ Movie Analysis Prompts
  • 🎬 Top 15 Topics

📝 Film Analysis Example

  • 🍿 More Examples

🔗 References

📽️ what is a film analysis essay.

A film analysis essay is a type of academic writing that critically examines a film, its themes, characters, and techniques used by the filmmaker. This essay aims to analyze the film’s meaning, message, and artistic elements and explain its cultural, social, and historical significance. It typically requires a writer to pay closer attention to aspects such as cinematography, editing, sound, and narrative structure.

Film Analysis vs Film Review

It’s common to confuse a film analysis with a film review, though these are two different types of writing. A film analysis paper focuses on the film’s narrative, sound, editing, and other elements. This essay aims to explore the film’s themes, symbolism , and underlying messages and to provide an in-depth interpretation of the film.

On the other hand, a film review is a brief evaluation of a film that provides the writer’s overall opinion of the movie. It includes the story’s short summary, a description of the acting, direction, and technical aspects, and a recommendation on whether or not the movie is worth watching.

This image shows the difference between film analysis and film review.

Wondering what you should focus on when writing a movie analysis essay? Here are four main types of film analysis. Check them out!

📋 Film Analysis Format

The movie analysis format follows a typical essay structure, including a title, introduction, thesis statement, body, conclusion, and references.

The most common citation styles used for a film analysis are MLA and Chicago . However, we recommend you consult with your professor for specific guidelines. Remember to cite all dialogue and scene descriptions from the movie to support the analysis. The reference list should include the analyzed film and any external sources mentioned in the essay.

When referring to a specific movie in your paper, you should italicize the film’s name and use the title case. Don’t enclose the title of the movie in quotation marks.

📑 Film Analysis Essay Outline

A compelling film analysis outline is crucial as it helps make the writing process more focused and the content more insightful for the readers. Below, you’ll find the description of the main parts of the movie analysis essay.

This image shows the film analysis essay outline.

Film Analysis Introduction

Many students experience writer’s block because they don’t know how to write an introduction for a film analysis. The truth is that the opening paragraph for a film analysis paper is similar to any other academic essay:

  • Start with a hook to grab the reader’s attention . For example, it can be a fascinating fact or a thought-provoking question related to the film.
  • Provide background information about the movie . Introduce the film, including its title, director, and release date. Follow this with a brief summary of the film’s plot and main themes.
  • End the introduction with an analytical thesis statement . Present the central argument or interpretation that will be explored in the analysis.

Film Analysis Thesis

If you wonder how to write a thesis for a film analysis, we’ve got you! A thesis statement should clearly present your main idea related to the film and provide a roadmap for the rest of the essay. Your thesis should be specific, concise, and focused. In addition, it should be debatable so that others can present a contrasting point of view. Also, make sure it is supported with evidence from the film.

Let’s come up with a film analysis thesis example:

Through a feminist lens, Titanic is a story about Rose’s rebellion against traditional gender roles, showcasing her attempts to assert her autonomy and refusal to conform to societal expectations prevalent in the early 20th century.

Movie Analysis Main Body

Each body paragraph should focus on a specific aspect of the film that supports your main idea. These aspects include themes, characters, narrative devices , or cinematic techniques. You should also provide evidence from the film to support your analysis, such as quotes, scene descriptions, or specific visual or auditory elements.

Here are two things to avoid in body paragraphs:

  • Film review . Your analysis should focus on specific movie aspects rather than your opinion of the film.
  • Excessive plot summary . While it’s important to provide some context for the analysis, a lengthy plot summary can detract you from your main argument and analysis of the film.

Film Analysis Conclusion

In the conclusion of a movie analysis, restate the thesis statement to remind the reader of the main argument. Additionally, summarize the main points from the body to reinforce the key aspects of the film that were discussed. The conclusion should also provide a final thought or reflection on the film, tying together the analysis and presenting your perspective on its overall meaning.

✍️ How to Write a Film Analysis Essay

Writing a film analysis essay can be challenging since it requires a deep understanding of the film, its themes, and its characters. However, with the right approach, you can create a compelling analysis that offers insight into the film’s meaning and impact. To help you, we’ve prepared a small guide.

This image shows how to write a film analysis essay.

1. Understand the Prompt

When approaching a film analysis essay, it is crucial to understand the prompt provided by your professor. For example, suppose your professor asks you to analyze the film from the perspective of Marxist criticism or psychoanalytic film theory . In that case, it is essential to familiarize yourself with these approaches. This may involve studying these theories and identifying how they can be applied to the film.

If your professor did not provide specific guidelines, you will need to choose a film yourself and decide on the aspect you will explore. Whether it is the film’s themes, characters, cinematography, or social context, having a clear focus will help guide your analysis.

2. Watch the Film & Take Notes

Keep your assignment prompt in mind when watching the film for your analysis. For example, if you are analyzing the film from a feminist perspective, you should pay attention to the portrayal of female characters, power dynamics , and gender roles within the film.

As you watch the movie, take notes on key moments, dialogues, and scenes relevant to your analysis. Additionally, keeping track of the timecodes of important scenes can be beneficial, as it allows you to quickly revisit specific moments in the film for further analysis.

3. Develop a Thesis and an Outline

Next, develop a thesis statement for your movie analysis. Identify the central argument or perspective you want to convey about the film. For example, you can focus on the film’s themes, characters, plot, cinematography, or other outstanding aspects. Your thesis statement should clearly present your stance and provide a preview of the points you will discuss in your analysis.

Having created a thesis, you can move on to the outline for an analysis. Write down all the arguments that can support your thesis, logically organize them, and then look for the supporting evidence in the movie.

4. Write Your Movie Analysis

When writing a film analysis paper, try to offer fresh and original ideas on the film that go beyond surface-level observations. If you need some inspiration, have a look at these thought-provoking questions:

  • How does the movie evoke emotional responses from the audience through sound, editing, character development , and camera work?
  • Is the movie’s setting portrayed in a realistic or stylized manner? What atmosphere or mood does the setting convey to the audience?
  • How does the lighting in the movie highlight certain aspects? How does the lighting impact the audience’s perception of the movie’s characters, spaces, or overall mood?
  • What role does the music play in the movie? How does it create specific emotional effects for the audience?
  • What underlying values or messages does the movie convey? How are these values communicated to the audience?

5. Revise and Proofread

To revise and proofread a film analysis essay, review the content for grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors. Ensure the paper flows logically and each paragraph contributes to the overall analysis. Remember to double-check that you haven’t missed any in-text citations and have enough evidence and examples from the movie to support your arguments.

Consider seeking feedback from a peer or instructor to get an outside perspective on the essay. Another reader can provide valuable insights and suggestions for improvement.

🎞️ Movie Analysis: Sample Prompts

Now that we’ve covered the essential aspects of a film analysis template, it’s time to choose a topic. Here are some prompts to help you select a film for your analysis.

  • Metropolis film analysis essay . When analyzing this movie, you can explore the themes of technology and society or the portrayal of class struggle. You can also focus on symbolism, visual effects, and the influence of German expressionism on the film’s aesthetic.
  • The Godfather film analysis essay . An epic crime film, The Godfather , allows you to analyze the themes of power and corruption, the portrayal of family dynamics, and the influence of Italian neorealism on the film’s aesthetic. You can also examine the movie’s historical context and impact on future crime dramas.
  • Psycho film analysis essay . Consider exploring the themes of identity and duality, the use of suspense and tension in storytelling, or the portrayal of mental illness. You can also explore the impact of this movie on the horror genre.
  • Forrest Gump film analysis essay . If you decide to analyze the Forrest Gump movie, you can focus on the portrayal of historical events. You might also examine the use of nostalgia in storytelling, the character development of the protagonist, and the film’s impact on popular culture and American identity.
  • The Great Gatsby film analysis essay . The Great Gatsby is a historical drama film that allows you to analyze the themes of the American Dream, wealth, and class. You can also explore the portrayal of the 1920s Jazz Age and the symbolism of the green light.
  • Persepolis film analysis essay . In a Persepolis film analysis essay, you can uncover the themes of identity and self-discovery. You might also consider analyzing the portrayal of the Iranian Revolution and its aftermath, the use of animation as a storytelling device, and the film’s influence on the graphic novel genre.

🎬 Top 15 Film Analysis Essay Topics

  • The use of color symbolism in Vertigo and its impact on the narrative.
  • The moral ambiguity and human nature in No Country for Old Men .
  • The portrayal of ethnicity in Gran Torino and its commentary on cultural stereotypes.
  • The cinematography and visual effects in The Hunger Games and their contribution to the dystopian atmosphere.
  • The use of silence and sound design in A Quiet Place to immerse the audience.
  • The disillusionment and existential crisis in The Graduate and its reflection of the societal norms of the 1960s.
  • The themes of sacrifice and patriotism in Casablanca and their relevance to the historical context of World War II.
  • The psychological horror in The Shining and its impact on the audience’s experience of fear and tension.
  • The exploration of existentialism in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind .
  • Multiple perspectives and unreliable narrators in Rashomon .
  • The music and soundtrack in Titanic and its contribution to the film’s emotional resonance.
  • The portrayal of good versus evil in the Harry Potter film series and its impact on understanding morality.
  • The incorporation of vibrant colors in The Grand Budapest Hotel as a visual motif.
  • The use of editing techniques to tell a nonlinear narrative in Pulp Fiction .
  • The function of music and score in enhancing the emotional impact in Schindler’s List .

Check out the Get Out film analysis essay we’ve prepared for college and high school students. We hope this movie analysis essay example will inspire you and help you understand the structure of this assignment better.

Film Analysis Essay Introduction Example

Get Out, released in 2017 and directed by Jordan Peele, is a culturally significant horror film that explores themes of racism, identity, and social commentary. The film follows Chris, a young African-American man, visiting his white girlfriend’s family for the weekend. This essay will analyze how, through its masterful storytelling, clever use of symbolism, and thought-provoking narrative, Get Out reveals the insidious nature of racism in modern America.

Film Analysis Body Paragraphs Example

Throughout the movie, Chris’s character is subject to various types of microaggression and subtle forms of discrimination. These instances highlight the insidious nature of racism, showing how it can exist even in seemingly progressive environments. For example, during Chris’s visit to his white girlfriend’s family, the parents continuously make racially insensitive comments, expressing their admiration for black physical attributes and suggesting a fascination bordering on fetishization. This sheds light on some individuals’ objectification and exotification of black bodies.

Get Out also critiques the performative allyship of white liberals who claim to be accepting and supportive of the black community. It is evident in the character of Rose’s father, who proclaims: “I would have voted for Obama for a third term if I could” (Peele, 2017). However, the film exposes how this apparent acceptance can mask hidden prejudices and manipulation.

Film Analysis Conclusion Example

In conclusion, the film Get Out provides a searing critique of racial discrimination and white supremacy through its compelling narrative, brilliant performances, and skillful direction. By exploring the themes of the insidious nature of racism, fetishization, and performative allyship, Get Out not only entertains but also challenges viewers to reflect on their own biases.

🍿 More Film Analysis Examples

  • Social Psychology Theories in The Experiment
  • Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader: George Lukas’s Star Wars Review
  • Girl, Interrupted : Mental Illness Analysis
  • Mental Disorders in the Finding Nemo Film
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Film: Interpretive Psychological Analysis
  • Analysis of Spielberg’s Film Lincoln
  • Glory – The Drama Movie by Edward Zwick
  • Inventors in The Men Who Built America Series
  • Crash Movie: Racism as a Theme
  • Dances with Wolves Essay – Movie Analysis
  • Superbad by G. Mottola
  • Ordinary People Analysis and Maslow Hierarchy of Needs
  • A Review of the Movie An Inconvenient Truth by Guggenheim
  • Chaplin’s Modern Times and H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • Misé-En-Scene and Camera Shots in The King’s Speech
  • Children’s Sexuality in the Out in the Dark Film
  • Chinese and American Women in Joy Luck Club Novel and Film
  • The Film Silver Linings Playbook by Russell
  • The Role of Music in the Films The Hours and The Third Man
  • The Social Network : Film Analysis
  • My Neighbor Totoro : Film by Hayao Miyazaki
  • Marriage Story Film Directed by Noah Baumbach

❓ Film Analysis Essay: FAQ

Why is film analysis important.

Film analysis allows viewers to go beyond the surface level and delve into the deeper layers of a film’s narrative, themes, and technical aspects. It enables a critical examination that enhances appreciation and understanding of the film’s message, cultural significance, and artistic value. At the same time, writing a movie analysis essay can boost your critical thinking and ability to spot little details.

How to write a movie analysis?

  • Watch the film multiple times to grasp its key elements.
  • Take notes on the story, characters, and themes.
  • Pay attention to the film’s cinematography, editing, sound, message, symbolism, and social context.
  • Formulate a strong thesis statement that presents your main argument.
  • Support your claims with evidence from the film.

How to write a critical analysis of a movie?

A critical analysis of a movie involves evaluating its elements, such as plot, themes, characters, and cinematography, and providing an informed opinion on its strengths and weaknesses. To write it, watch the movie attentively, take notes, develop a clear thesis statement, support arguments with evidence, and balance the positive and negative.

How to write a psychological analysis of a movie?

A psychological analysis of a movie examines characters’ motivations, behaviors, and emotional experiences. To write it, analyze the characters’ psychological development, their relationships, and the impact of psychological themes conveyed in the film. Support your analysis with psychological theories and evidence from the movie.

  • Film Analysis | UNC Writing Center
  • Psychological Analysis of Films | Steemit
  • Critical Film Analysis | University of Hawaii
  • Questions to Ask of Any Film | All American High School Film Festival
  • Resources – How to Write a Film Analysis | Northwestern
  • Film Analysis | University of Toronto
  • Film Writing: Sample Analysis | Purdue Online Writing Lab
  • Film Analysis Web Site 2.0 | Yale University
  • Questions for Film Analysis | University of Washington
  • Film & Media Studies Resources: Types of Film Analysis | Bowling Green State University
  • Film & Media Studies Resources: Researching a Film | Bowling Green State University
  • Motion Picture Analysis Worksheet | University of Houston
  • Reviews vs Film Criticism | The University of Vermont Libraries
  • Television and Film Analysis Questions | University of Michigan
  • How to Write About Film: The Movie Review, the Theoretical Essay, and the Critical Essay | University of Colorado

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  1. How to Analyze a Scene in a Film (with Pictures)

    1. Brainstorm a thesis that will be the main point of your analysis. Look at the notes you took on the scene and compare them to the overall theme of the film. Pick a topic for your analysis that you can support with multiple elements from the scene so you can expand and defend your argument.

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    The Godfather film analysis essay. An epic crime film, The Godfather, allows you to analyze the themes of power and corruption, the portrayal of family dynamics, and the influence of Italian neorealism on the film’s aesthetic. You can also examine the movie’s historical context and impact on future crime dramas.

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    Academic Writing Guide: How to Write a Film Analysis. • Watch a film with your full attention for the first time. • We are all able to recount plot after watching a movie once; it is more difficult to explain how images and sounds presented make up such a narrative. • So, watch the film again (and again and again)!