Are Film Critics Biased? What You Need To Know

Film connoisseurs can get pretty heated talking about their favorite films or what classifies a movie as memorable and iconic. Film critics are no exception, but they must put their feelings aside to write a professional critique. 

Film critics are not biased, as their evaluations are based on their understanding of the film as a whole, not their own opinion about the film. This critique is, in summary, an honest and unbiased evaluation based on the critic’s knowledge and interpretation of the art form. 

Read through this article to deepen your understanding of the critiquing process and how you, as a critic, can present impartial assessments of any and every film. 

Why Film Critics Are Unbiased

Everyone has preferences and takes a stance on just about everything, but film critics are tasked with taking an objective approach to their favorite or least favorite films.

A film critic’s evaluation isn’t about their personal feelings but a judgment of the film and how well it executed certain aspects. The chemistry between characters, dialogue, cinematography, and sound design are a few aspects that a film critic can comment on. 

It’s simple to assess concrete elements and technical qualities based purely on fact. Either a set design was effective, or it wasn’t, and you can point out why exactly you believe this. 

Aspects like emotional impact are more complex and are different for each individual. Reviews ultimately exist to let people know whether they’d enjoy a piece of media or not, and your final recommendation of whether it’s a well-made film should be evident by the end. 

Separating the Subjective From the Objective

The subjective is based on an individual’s personal experiences and understanding of the world around them. This is developed internally and isn’t necessarily reflected in the external world.

On the other hand, the objective is that which we collectively know to be accurate based on external factors, regardless of personal preferences or experiences. This is directly observable, and you can easily compare it to other factors.

For example, it’s subjective whether you like Elton John’s music, but he has won 18 awards and is objectively a very talented musician. 

This isn’t a superficial distinction, and to write an excellent film assessment, you must tell the difference between subjective and objective factors and the language you must use to discuss each of them.

Art is so difficult to judge at an objective level, but it becomes more clear-cut if you remember and follow this important distinction. You don’t need to decide for everyone whether something is enjoyable or not, just if it’s effective. 

Read more about the effects of preference and bias in the film review sphere in this brilliant Film School Rejects article. The article presents some really fascinating concepts like organizational bias and hypocrisy. 

Why Film Reviews Are Valuable

Separating subjective and objective is a struggle that not everyone can overcome, not even film critics. The reviewing world is filled with people with vastly different, sometimes very opposing, opinions.

Voicing these opinions can cause conflict or divide us if we let these disagreements get personal, but on an objective level, being at odds with others is extremely valuable.

Displaying a range of opinions and evaluations shows the nuances of the film. It can reflect things like: 

  • Different cultural beliefs.
  • Religious views.
  • Changes in film culture over time.
  • Literary norms.
  • Trends in what the general public wants to see when they watch a movie. 

Understanding Media and Culture has a section dedicated to film’s cultural and historical significance. In the same way that film is a culture documentation, film reviews document a first-hand look at the values held within a specific period. 

Criticism, though not always easy to hear, is vital for improvement. A film can’t improve if critics don’t point out its flaws or weaknesses. Another major reason why film reviews are objective is that they’re opportunities to learn and grow, not mindless slander or praise. 

The News has an excellent article about film critics, how they thrive or flounder in different contexts, and the value of critics, even when review trends are unpredictable.

Film reviews are also extremely valuable because they communicate with audiences. A film review can teach a reader something about a film that gives them a new perspective or convince someone to watch a film they were uncertain of before.

Reviews pass judgment on films, but only to the degree that they pass along information and a final recommendation, allowing readers to decide for themselves if they want to watch a film. It doesn’t actively sway them, but rather, it tells them what they can expect if they choose to watch it. 

How To Write an Unbiased Film Review

There are many ways to write an objective film review, from the broadest commentary to the most minute detail. 

The most basic ways to remain objective are:

  • Base your statements on facts and research. 
  • Avoid using emotive language like “I think” or “it feels like.”
  • Focus on the primary aspects of the film, like the acting and technical elements.
  • Find out what the writers, directors, and producers were hoping to achieve, and assess the film on how well it measures up to their expectations.

Check Your Language Use

More subtle ways to remain objective in a film review have a lot to do with the kind of language you use, which include:

  • Writing film reviews in the third person removes you from the equation.
  • Take an authoritative and firm tone in your review. 
  • Describe the film and its elements using words like “masterful” and “seamless” while commenting on objectively true things. Avoid saying things like “the film was hilarious,” as this is subjective. 

You can write a much better film review if you plan well in advance, which means less editing. Jot down notes while watching a film, and write a rough draft review before moving on to your final piece.

Do Your Research

Do background research on the film and the major players within the film, such as the lead actors and directors, beforehand. Read the book that the film is based on, if there is one, so that you can get as in-depth an understanding as possible of why they made certain decisions in the movie. 

Mentioning these in the review makes what you say sound more believable because you’re letting readers judge patterns instead of isolated incidents. 

For example, if you know a particular actor typically plays very brooding characters, you can comment on how it made sense to cast them as this film’s main villain or antagonist. This allows you to seamlessly include your understanding of film into the mix because you’ve provided context and truth to back them up. 

Final Thoughts

In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with everyone’s opinions, sometimes we have to withhold our own to write a really informative and unprejudiced review. This doesn’t mean you need to hold absolutely no personal biases and opinions. However, it does mean you must be selective about when to use them.