Chances are, if you’ve shelled out money to go to the movies in the last year, you’ve done so because of a positive word-of-mouth for the movie you’re about to see, or that it’s simply deemed “critically acclaimed”. Movie critics are that “critic” that often shapes the public discourse, sometimes propelling a relatively unknown indie into a buzzworthy future Oscar winner. But what does a movie critic in this modern era actually do? In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at these professional film reviewer’s day-to-day.


First, let’s define movie critic

A film critic’s job isn’t just to watch non-stop movies. Movie reviewers must approach each review from an objective, journalistic standpoint that isn’t shaped by bias. Here's a quick definition of the job.


What is a movie critic?

A movie critic is a writer who publishes their opinions on newly released movies (and occasionally, due to the new streaming model) straight-to-streaming films and special event programming. It’s important to note that many movie critics also review TV shows and other media. Movie critics typically review new releases with the angle of whether or not the film is worthy to see based on the genre, story, directing, acting, and more.  

Movie critic jobs in the modern age:

  • Writing for a print or online publication
  • Hosting or writing a movie-themed podcast
  • Self-publishing reviews to a blog or personal website


Film reviewing vs. film criticism

You may be interested in becoming a movie critic and eyeing a “Film Studies” program at a local university. Though many professionals come from these programs, it’s important to note the style of writing required for a film critic job hinges on the review

A guide to a film critic job

A movie reviewer’s job is to deem whether or not the film is entertaining enough to be seen by a widespread audience, not whether or not the film itself was “artful.” 

Film analysis is different than what’s typically required of movie critic jobs

By contrast, film criticism is a style of writing that’s more academic. In these works, the author analyzes the film within the greater context of film history, often highlighting elements like plot subtext, visual themes, and more.


What’s a typical day for a movie critic?

Similar to many other writing-centric jobs, no two days often look the same. Movie critics are often invited to “Sneak Preview Screenings” where they’re able to watch a movie well before it premieres, or are sent an online link to stream the movie at home. 

Sometimes, they attend film festivals like Sundance and Cannes, where they’re able to review both future blockbusters and independent films. Sometimes, they can be called on as a go-to film critic “guest” on popular radio stations like NPR and KCRW.

In the modern tech age, a lot of movie critics supplement their work for major publishers with their own personal movie-centric podcasts or blogs. Amy Nicholson is a full-time critic but she also co-hosts a movie podcast with comedian Paul Scheer called Unspooled where they reexamine older films.

Paul Scheer and Amy Nicholson co-host a film-themed podcast called “Unspooled”


How do movie critics get paid?

Figuring out the typical income of a professional movie critic is reliant on a number of factors: level of experience, the publication that they work for, and their geographical location. 

For example, a movie critic living in New York City or Los Angeles where attending press events in person may be pertinent to their job success may net a higher income than a movie critic living in Columbus, OH.



According to ZipRecruiter, the average hourly rate for a movie critic is $26/hour, with the lowest being $7.93/hour and the highest being $47.60. 

Top earners might expect $75,000/year while the average is around $53,000/year.


How to become a movie critic

Becoming a movie critic does not focus on one specific path. As mentioned earlier, some movie critics start their career path by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Film Studies, Journalism, Communications, or a related field.

Regardless of where you start, learning about the history of cinema and studying the nuances between film reviewing and film analysis will strengthen your chances of being successful.

What does a movie critic do and how do they write a review?

Often, recruiters for this type of job consider an applicant’s portfolio of previously written work. Gain experience and establish your voice as a movie critic by writing film reviews for publications such as school newspapers, personal blogs, or recording your own podcast. 

If eligible, seek out internships at places like media outlets or film festivals to not only get a sense of the next wave of filmmaking, but to sharpen your skills in how you discuss these works.

Up Next

The History of Film, Explained

From photographic techniques to the Pre-Code era to Film Noir. What does a movie critic do? Become an encyclopedia for film history, styles, and more. Brush up on our comprehensive history of film eras below.

Up Next: Film History 101 →
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  • Julia Mayfield is a writer/comedian from North Hollywood with a Bachelor's Degree in Film Studies from Chapman University. She's written for shows airing on Disney, Netflix, Nickelodeon, Amazon, and more.

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