How to Write an Analytical Essay in Film and Theatre Studies And Really Enjoy the Process

Writing guide
Posted on September 18, 2020

To begin with, an analytical essay is a piece of paper where you analyze, examine or interpret such works as a book, a play, a poem and so on. To display the difference of the analytical essay from other kinds of essays it is worth noting that you are not recalling the events, proving your feedback, but giving the reader your reflection on not what is happening in the movie, for example, but why it is happening and how it is going on. Another specific of the analytical essay is the mandatory use of credible sources to strengthen your arguments and reinforce the theme.

How to Write an Analytical Essay in Film and Theatre Studies and How to Choose a Topic?

It is not worth saying that choosing only one topic in Film and theatre studies out of hundreds of others is tough as there is so much space for research and analysis. But that is even better as no matter what topic you choose, the writing process will be more fascinating as you got to work with media.

Choosing a ‘tight’ topic with no room to turn around is where you can trap yourself. Thus, if you are given the right to choose a topic on your own then think of films and plays that raise important issues, not commercial movies about superheroes. Here is a selection of some topics for your analytical essay:

  1. How do music and color schemes influence the general atmosphere of the film?
  2. The utopian world of ‘The Truman Show’.
  3. The emotional lesson of the movie ‘Inside out’.
  4. Are all cartoons created for children?
  5. How do sci-fi movies form our idea of our future?
  6. How does the plot composition of the play influence the way the viewer perceives it?

Movie Database IMDB and a collection of movie reviews will help come up with the best ideas.

The Preparation for the Work

Obviously, before writing an analysis of the movie or play, one must watch it with precise attention. Try to dig into the essence of the piece on your own. Think of whether the work recognizes a common problem of human being’s entity, society stereotypes, and misconceptions or global problems. If you have run out of ideas then you can wander through the Internet and read other people’s opinions on it. Be honest with yourself and do not mindlessly copy someone else’s viewpoint. What is more, making inferences by yourself is a lot more rewarding and if done regularly can help you get more of that grey bark on your brain.

Keep in mind, however, that as far as it is an analytical essay in film and theatre studies, you ought to watch the film or read the play a couple of times in order to be able to view it from different perspectives and notice different details every single time you review it. It is also worth noting that the movie analysis essay requires the author to focus on the technical aspects of the picture as well. These are colors, actors, directors, plot composition, the language, quality of filming, light, CGI elements, audience orientation, and others.

Get the keywords of the question. For example, in the essay topic ‘How racial inequality and discrimination are portrayed in the movie ‘The Long walk home?’ the keywords are racial inequality, discrimination, ‘The Long walk home’. It some like a primitive thing to do, but, in actual fact, a common students’ mistake in writing analytical essays is derogating from the topic and keywords.
The next step of filling a film ‘profile’ is supposed to include the following information: genre, main characters, topic, key plot characters. The next step is expected to bring the most joy. It is time to figure out what the director wanted to achieve with making specific decisions. Analyze:

  • the editing style, how it changes as the movie goes;
  • music;
  • camera work;
  • use of color;
  • body language of the actors (for instance, in some films outstretched hands of the characters may show a connection to religion);
  • clothes;
  • decorations;
  • background;
  • weather and seasons(sometimes the changes in main characters’ lives are also portrayed with the change of seasons);
  • lightning;
  • set and others.

Examine the film as a whole and see how it relates to the question. This step is necessary to sift all of the trifles and focus uniquely on the question and the essence of the film which answers it. Here, you need to choose certain sequences in the work that disclose the essay question.

Look for evidence. The fact that you already work with one piece does not indicate that you do not need to conduct research and search for sources, opinions, and examples for your arguments. Google Scholar is a free ultimate library for your investigation.

The most important tip for you is to create an outline before rushing into writing an analytical essay. Without a plan, your paper can turn out to be an unstructured mess.

What Is the Outline of the Analytical Essay In Film And Theatre Studies?

The outline of the analytical essay in Film and Theatre studies is classical and consists of three parts: introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion.


The introduction is the start of your ‘conversation’ with the reader. It is there to introduce him or her to what you are going to tell about. You need to present the title and the author, tell what your body paragraphs will talk about and include the thesis statement. These are the three must-haves of any introduction. To ‘dress it up’ you can use some extra bits, which can be discussed within that paragraph.

  • The hook sentence, which catches the eye of the reader and serves some kind of advertisement of the entire text.
  • A literary reference. This helps the reader make a connection as he already has something to lean on.
  • A statement that connects that reference to the theme.
  • A quote from a famous person or a piece of literature to contextualize what you will be talking about.

Finding a balance in the introduction is crucial because without its “clothes” it is choppy and staccato, but when it is ‘overdressed’ it feels chaotic and unorganized.
Here is an example of an introduction of the analytical essay on the topic “The Emotional lesson of the movie ‘Inside out’:

Pixar has a large repertoire of movies with bright characters that actually pass a message relating to issues in day-to-day life. ‘Inside Out’ is a movie about a girl named Riley, who struggles to manage her emotions, which got out of order because of sudden changes in her life. The same emotions – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust – live in everybody and everybody has to learn to help them find a compromise between each other and coexist peacefully. A cartoon gives us an important life lesson – happiness is not the only emotion to form our memories and experiences. It is impossible to be happy all the time.

Body Paragraphs

The main body is the meat of the burger. Although you have to create a juicy introduction, it does not mean that the main body paragraphs can be arid. Every paragraph must represent one idea.

Formulating this idea, you need to move in a logical order. The first sentence is an introduction to the idea. The second is your subthesis. The third is proof of your thesis. Fourth is your interpretation. And the fifth is a short completion of the paragraph and a logical transition to the next one.

Continuing our example of ‘The Inside Out’, let us write one of the paragraphs.
Characters in ‘The Inside Out’, in a narrative, have an impact on the entire story, down to the meaning and connection with the audience. The first third part of the film shows us Joy as the leader and commander of the headquarters. However, by the end of the film Joy, herself realizes that she does not equal to Happiness. Happiness is much more complex. In fact, a new paper in the ‘Journal of Experimental Psychology: General’ proves that experiencing multiple emotions has an inevitably positive impact on mental and physical health. The results of this study suggest that ‘emodiversity’ can help a person have a more objective view on the situation, and as a result make better behavioral choices, which can eventually lead to happiness. The fact that the main headquarter is named Joy and not Happiness shows how the creators, including director Pete Docter, wanted to give us that life lesson.


A conclusion’s job is to summarise and structure all of your findings and help the reader fill in all the gaps and misunderstandings that he had after reading the body. It is not a book or a movie that leaves you a question and some room for thoughts. It is unacceptable to leave an essay with an unproven thought. Of course, it is excellent that your analysis encourages others to ask themselves questions and find answers, but you must finish and prove your ideas until the end.

You can also use a Socratic method and ask a question. Such a strategy will stimulate readers to conduct further research and reach certain conclusions by themselves. It is wrong to include more ideas, just synthesized points. Follow the same style as all previous paragraphs. Show how your arguments are important beyond that topic.

Example (the continuation):
‘The Inside Out’ is not the first try to teach humans about the nature of their emotions, but this particular piece managed to shift people’s understanding of themselves and their emotions, which will foster stronger connections to themselves and their occupation. With a clever use of color, absence of the villain, characters, plot specifics the creators taught us some serious lessons: happiness has a deeper sense and can even be mixed with fear and sadness; happiness cannot be forced or planned; although anger, sadness, fear, and disgust are less pleasant emotions to experience than joy, they are vital to our well-being and should be embraced. It is a children’s cartoon at first sight, but actually, it is a real guide of treating one’s emotions.

Tips For Writing the Best Analytical Essays

  1. Introduce your own thoughts and ideas. Do not try to be Hemmingway, Shakespeare or any essay writer on the Internet. The main purpose of the analytical paper is to improve your skills of analysis. It is better to ask close people’s opinions rather than copying some else’s words. When watching the movie or reading a play have a notebook and a pen nearby to write down your thoughts and observations.
  2. Introduce the creators. It is not about including a whole list of people who worked on the film in the essay, but depending on which aspect of the movie you are asked to analyze, it is relevant to include the names of actors, the director or technicians. To illustrate, if a huge part of getting the mood and atmosphere in the film is played by shadows then you need to mention a cinematographer. If you need to analyze the impact of music on the emotional tone of the movie, then write about the composer.
  3. Get feedback. Ask someone to read your paper and give comments. You are more likely to notice some mistakes on your own, but close friends or relatives can highlight them for you.
  4. Be concise. ‘Do not waste your reader’s time’ – Kurt Vonnegut said. Make it brief but comprehensive. It is basically like fishing: you came for a good catch but got water and garbage instead.
  5. Quote sources with proper citations correctly. Not mentioning an author, the title of the research paper or article you are using is literally stealing. As far as analytical essay demands backing up arguments with evidence, it is important to attribute all ideas to their originators.
  6. Use technical jargon of filmmaking. This step will help you show your position and knowledge and make your work seem more mature.
  7. Check the text. Having issues with grammar or punctuation, it is better to look up the rule in the manual and never repeat the same mistake. Along with that, you need to ensure that the text is written in an appropriate style, there is no slang and shortenings.


Writing an analytical essay in Film and theatre studies is a great way to show off your skills to analyze, criticize and support opinion. Whatever hardships you have with writing it, resort to this guide and its examples to have everything clarified.

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