Our Movie Review Guide
Here at DuckBird we put a bit of time into thinking about how to do great reviews for movies. As part of our process, we did a good deal of research, and we found some great ideas posted by some very thoughtful people. Then we put a great of thought into our own tweaks and optional sub-genres.
Following, we share the guide we use here at DuckBird.
A fast-paced film in which the protagonist or protagonists end up in a series of challenges that typically include violence, extended fighting, physical feats, and frantic chases.
Action films tend to feature a resourceful hero struggling against incredible odds, which include life-threatening situations, a villain, or a pursuit which generally concludes in victory for the hero (though a small number of films in this genre have ended in victory for the villain instead).
AC-3100 | Adventure
Typically, these films take place in exotic locations and frequently involve the hero traveling to several locations around the world. There are a lot of films with this combined genre. Examples include the Indiana Jones and James Bond.
AC-0100 | Apocalyptic
End of the world films.
AC-0200 | Buddy Cop
A subgenre that became incredibly popular in the 80’s with films such as 48 Hours, Lethal Weapon, and Beverly Hills Cop. They typically involve two mismatched heroes, who are almost always police officers, whose relationship evolves as they advance the plot. This genre saw a minor resurgence in the 2000s with films like Rush Hour, Bad Boys, The Nice Guys, and On Probation.
AC-0300 | Chase
AC-3200 | Comedy
This subgenre became a popular trend in the 1980s, when actors who were known for their background in comedy, such as Eddie Murphy, began to take roles in action films. Comedy films such as Dumb & Dumber and Big Momma’s House, that contain action-laden sub-plots, are not considered part of this combined genre. Action scenes have a more integral role in action comedies.
AC-0400 | Disaster
Films which are made to show natural or mechanical disasters, that have befallen mankind. Having elements of thriller and sometimes science fiction films, the main conflict of this genre is some sort of natural or artificial disaster, such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, pandemics, etc. Examples include Independence Day, Daylight, Earthquake, The Day After Tomorrow, Dante’s Peak, Deep Impact, Volcano.
AC-0500 | Espionage
Spy films, such as James Bond.
AC-0600 | Family
AC-0800 | Heist – Caper
AC-1000 | Jungle, and Safari
AC-1300 | Man vs. Nature
AC-2300 | Martial Arts
A subgenre of the action film, martial arts films commonly feature numerous hand-to-hand combats between characters. They are usually the films’ primary appeal and entertainment value and are often the method of storytelling, character expression, and development. Martial arts films contain many characters who are martial artists.
AC-1600 | Prison
AC-1700 | Quest
AC-1800 | Romantic
AC-1900 | Sea / Underwater
AC-3500 | Searches/Expeditions
AC-3600 | Space
AC-3700 | Sports
AC-3801 | Spy
the hero is generally a government agent who must take violent action against agents of a rival government or (in recent years) terrorists. They often revolve around spies who are involved in investigating various events, often on a global scale. Showcases a combination of exciting escapism, heavy action, stylized fights, technological thrills, and exotic locales. Not all spy films fall in the action genre, only those showcasing heavy action such as frequent shootouts and car chases fall in action, spy films with lesser action would be in the thriller genre.
AC-3900 | Surfing
AC-4000 | Swashbuckler
AC-2000 | Trapped
AC-4100 | Treasure Hunts
AC-2100 | Undercover
Journeys to other lands.
AD-1900 | Super-hero
Usually having elements of science fiction and fantasy, they focus on the actions of one or more superheroes, who usually possess superhuman abilities and are dedicated to protecting the public.
These films are almost always action-oriented and the first film of a particular character often includes a focus on the origin of the special powers, including the first fight against the character’s most famous supervillain archenemy.
Examples include Batman, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Spider-Man, The Avengers, X-Men, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, Kick-Ass, Lucy, and Superman.
Cartoon or stop-motion.
AN-0100 | Adult
AN-0300 | Children
AN-2000 | Teens
Can also be sub-sorted for other top-level categories.
Comedy refers to any discourse or work generally intended to be humorous or amusing by inducing laughter, especially in theatre, television, film, stand-up comedy, or any other medium of entertainment.
The origins of the term are found in Ancient Greece. In the Athenian democracy, the public opinion of voters was influenced by the political satire performed by the comic poets at the theaters.
Satire and political satire use comedy to portray persons or social institutions as ridiculous or corrupt, thus alienating their audience from the object of their humor.
Parody subverts popular genres and forms, critiquing those forms without necessarily condemning them.
Scatological humor, sexual humor, and race humor create comedy by violating social conventions or taboos in comic ways.
A comedy of manners typically takes as its subject a particular part of society (usually upper-class society) and uses humor to parody or satirize the behavior and mannerisms of its members.
Romantic comedy is a popular genre that depicts burgeoning romance in humorous terms and focuses on the foibles of those who are falling in love.
Other forms of comedy include screwball comedy, which derives its humor largely from bizarre, surprising (and improbable) situations or characters, and black comedy, which is characterized by a form of humor that includes darker aspects of human behavior or human nature.
CO-0300 | P7 | British
CO-0400 | Dark Humor
When a serious subject has many comical undertones.
CO-0600 | Family
CO-1600 | Parenthood
CO-3300 | Parody
CO-3400 | Political
CO-1800 | Romantic / Sex
CO-1900 | Slapstick / Screwball
Vaudeville. Comedy teams. Physical Humor.
CO-3100 | Spoof
When a film makes fun of a certain film genre. Examples are Airplane, and films by Mel Brooks.
CO-3500 | Sports
CO-3200 | Stand-Up
When a stand-up comedian has his concert filmed and released in the theaters.
Plots are based on unlawful human actions.
CR-0200 | Biker
CR-0300 | Comedy
CR-3100 | Cops & Robbers
CR-0700 | Gangster
Handles gangsters and prohibition. Takes place in the 1920’s. This does not include films on the Mob or Mafia. You will find those elsewhere.
CR-0800 | Heist
CR-1200 | Lovers / Romantic
CR-1600 | Prison
A film that tells a report on an issue. Not a story or narrative drama.
DO-0500 | Expository
DO-1500 | Observational
DO-1600 | Participatory
DO-3100 | Performative
DO-3200 | Poetic
DO-1800 | Reflexive
DO-1900 | Speculation
These documentaries are films about mysteries of the world such as Bigfoot, UFO’s, etc.
Films that deal with strong human emotions. Drama is the specific mode of fiction. Also considered as a genre of poetry in general, the dramatic mode has been contrasted with the epic and the lyrical modes ever since Aristotle’s Poetics (c. 335 BC)—the earliest work of dramatic theory.
The two masks associated with drama represent the traditional generic division between comedy and tragedy. They are symbols of the ancient Greek Muses, Thalia, and Melpomene.
Drama is often combined with music and dance: the drama in opera is generally sung throughout; musicals generally include both spoken dialogue and songs; and some forms of drama have incidental music or musical accompaniment underscoring the dialogue.
DR-0100 | Adult Films
Really began in 1970, films which explain human social and sexual values on a scale that only people over the age of 17 can really understand. Look for the NC-17, X, XXX and some R ratings.
DR-0300 | Chick Flicks
DR-0800 | Historical
Explains something that happened in history.
DR-0900 | Inspirational
DR-1200 | Legal / Courtroom
DR-1600 | Political
Main plot-line is Politics.
DR-3100 | Religion
DR-1900 | Social
Deals with social issues of the world.
Films with subject matter suitable for all ages.
You should always make time to watch movies as a family. Family oriented movies, TV and short films provide a unique opportunity for young and old to bond over the best movie magic.
Its a great family time habit, apart from being a good bonding experience, there are several very good reasons why you should be watching movies with your family more often:
It’s a great way to share valuable life lessons to your kids.
A good movie is a great conversation starter for the rest of the evening together, helping to generate riveting conversation about the meanings, morals, plots, etc.
It a very inexpensive way to expose your children to different cultures. Tour the world with your family in the comfort of your home.
FA-0300 | Comedy
FA-0800 | Holiday
A story that surrounds a holiday. Made mostly for children.
FA-1100 | Kids
Fantasy films are fantastic themes, usually magic, supernatural events, mythology, folklore, or exotic fantasy worlds, they will often deal with fairy tale adventures or plots from the dark ages.
The genre is considered a form of speculative fiction alongside science fiction films, although the genres do often overlap. Fantasy films more often have an element of magic, myth, wonder, escapism, and the extraordinary.
FN-1300 | Magic
FN-1900 | Sword and Sorcerer
Films that take place during the Medieval times. Merlin the Magician and King Arthur.
Films that have song and dance as the primary factor.
MU-0200 | Broadway
MU-0300 | Comedy
MU-0300 | Concert
Sub-genre of Musical. When a musical group has a concert filmed and released to theaters.
MU-0400 | Dance
MU-0800 | Hip-Hop
MU-1800 | Romantic
MU-1900 | Show-Biz
Romance (love stories) are emotion-driven and cover a wide variety of subjects and often fall into other genre categories, but primarily focused on the relationship between the main characters of the story, and often have an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.
“A fictitious narrative in prose or verse; the interest of which turns upon marvelous and uncommon incidents” ~ Walter Scott”
RO-0300 | Comedy
Films that deal with outer space adventures and extra-terrestrial encounters.
SF-0100 | Aliens
Involves aliens coming to earth either for good or bad reasons.
SF-0200 | Atomic Age
This is a sub-genre of Science Fiction. It began almost as early as Science Fiction itself. It came about because of the Atomic bombs being used in the late 40’s and 50’s. I like to use the starting year as 1954, with the release of “Godzilla, King of the Monsters”. This basically describes that the chief concept of the film is the end result of the use of atomic weapons and that atomic weapons will be the end of us.
SF-3500 | Comedy
SF-0300 | Cyborg
This is a sub-genre dealing with any part human, part machine stories.
SF-0600 | Futuristic
Simply future-earth topics – does not include apocalypse, disaster (see: AC-0400 | Action-Disaster), or aliens.
SF-1200 | Lost Worlds
SF-3200 | Mad Scientist
SF-1300 | Multi-Verse / Parallel
Any basis that incorporates multiple realities, or multiple universes, parallel universes, etc.
SF-1600 | Prehistoric
Dinosaurs, and lands from millions of years ago during earth’s past.
SF-3300 | Pulp
SF-1800 | Robots
The story centers on robots and how they may work in society, in the future, past or present.
SF-1900 | Space
The story takes place in space, on the moon of another planet or involves space travel.
SF-3400 | Steampunk
SF-2000 | Time Travel
Deals with any variation of Time Travel, but not directly multi-verse topics.
SF-3100 | Teleportation
Films dealing with teleporting anything from one location to another local or not.
SF-2200 | Virtual Reality
Films that keep secrets from the audience. The outcome is always kept secret in the best way possible. The audience is gripped until the end. Hitchcock did a lot of these.
Featuring guns, cool explosions, and amazing set pieces, this movie type first developed in the 1970s in such films as Dirty Harry and The French Connection, and became the exemplar of the Hollywood mega-blockbuster in the 1980s in such works as Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.
These films often feature a race against the clock, lots of violence, and a clear—often flamboyantly evil—antagonist. Though they may involve elements of crime or mystery films, those aspects take a back seat to the action.
SU-0400 | Detective
Came out in the late 30’s. The films of Dick Tracy are the best example.
SU-1300 | Mystery
Murder mysteries. Charlie Chan, Sherlock Holmes, etc.
SU-1600 | Police
Films that deal solely with police activity.
A Thriller is commonly a mix of fear and excitement. It has traits from the suspense genre and often from the action, adventure or mystery genres, but an excited level of terror makes it borderline horror fiction at times. Often, it may have a dark or serious theme, which also makes it similar to drama.
TR-0300 | Crime thriller
A story that revolves around the life of detectives, mobs, or other groups associated with criminal events in the story.
TR-0400 | Disaster-thriller
A story about mass peril, where the protagonist’s job is to both survive, and to save many other people from a grim fate, often a natural disaster such as a storm or volcanic eruption, but may also be a terrorist attack or epidemic of some sort.
TR-1600 | Psychological thriller
Emphasizes the psychological condition of the hero that presents obstacles to his objective, rather than the action. Some psychological thrillers are also about complicated stories that try to deliberately confuse the audience, often by showing them only the same confusing or seemingly nonsensical information that the hero gains.
TR-2000 | Techno-thriller
A story whose theme is usually technology or the danger behind the technology people use, including the threat of cyberterrorism such as State of Fear.
Films based on wars that occurred in recorded human history.
WA-0300 | Civil War
WA-3100 | Combat
WA-3200 | Comedy
WA-0800 | Historical
WA-1900 | Submarine
Films based on the exploits of the American West during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
WE-3100 | Cattle Drive
WE-0300 | Comedy
WE-0600 | Frontier
This kind of western is treated as a drama. There is minimal gun shooting and the chief concepts explored are the stories of the frontiersmen moving west in 19th century United States.
WE-0700 | Gunslinger
WE-0800 | Historical
WE-0900 | Indian
WE-1300 | Musical
WE-1800 | Romantic
WE-1900 | Sheriff
**Horror: We have decidedly NOT included horror of any kind on this website and we have limited ‘Thrillers’ to those with less horrific materials. Frankly if you just need to get scared, go climb ‘El Capitan’, you can have the thrill and no one gets hurt, no minds are warped, and life is good.
AM | Animation Modern
An animated film that has a budget over 1 million dollars. Most of these films would be found after 1975, because of computers, but there are some that could be older in the case of Disney.
AL | Animation Low Budget
Animated films that had a budget of 1 million dollars maximum. Most of these films are pre 1975. They also almost entirely come from other countries or could be reconstructed from cheap television shows.
BB | Big Budget
Productions with a budget over $20m.
ID | Independent
Independent productions with a budget from $500 to $1m.
LB | Low Budget
Productions with a budget from $50k to $499k.
MS | Mainstream
Films that had a budget ranging from 1 to $19m.
P7 | Plan 7 Amazing
Independent productions with a budget below $50k.
Movie Review Checklist
What was the movie about? Was it believable? Interesting? Thought-provoking? How was the climax revealed? How did the setting affect the story?
What was the central goal of the movie? Was it made to entertain, educate, or bring awareness to an issue? Was there any strong impression the movie made on you? Did any symbolism come into play?
Did you like how the characters were portrayed? Did the acting support the characters, and help them come to life? Did the characters display complex personalities or were they stereotypes? Were there characters that embodied certain archetypes to enhance or diminish the film?
Did you like how the director chose to tell the story? Was the pacing and speed of the movie too fast or too slow? Was the direction comparable to other movies this director has created? Was the storytelling complex or straightforward? Was there a certain amount of suspense or tension that worked? Did the director create a captivating conflict?
Did the music support the mood of the movie? Was it too distracting or too subtle? Did it add to the production and work well with the script? Were the music queues timed well for the scenes they were supporting?
Were the shots used in a unique way to tell the story? Did the coloring and lighting affect the tone? Was the action coherently shot? How well did the camera move? Were actors or settings framed well?
Did the sets feel lived-in and believable to the story or characters? Were the costumes suitable for the characters or story? Did the created environments heighten the atmosphere on camera?
Were the special effects believable? Did they align with the era and tone of the movie? Were the effects overboard or too subtle? Did they integrate well to the purpose of the story?
Was the editing clean or choppy? Was the flow consistent? What unique effects were used? How were the transitions between scenes?
Did the movie flow well? Was it too fast or too slow? Was it clearly organized? Did certain scenes drag down the movie?
Were the conversations believable or necessary? Did the dialogue bring context to plot developments? Did the words match the tone of the movie and personality of the characters?
Credits + Sources
a Guide to Film Critique by Philip C. Congleton
Note that we closely followed the format given by Philip C. Congleton, shared on his website, which is excellent and helped us to develop our formula with several twists and more detail on each element. Many thanks to Mr. Congleton.
You can visit his website, for a more detailed discussion of movie reviews: click here
How to Analyze a Movie – Step-By-Step Guide
Wikipedia helps us a great deal to fill in the blanks and give more details for many things including the details for genre presented here.