What is a Movie Critic?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

On the surface, become a professional movie critic may sound like a dream job. It is true that he or she does get paid to watch movies every week, but that's only part of the actual job. A movie critic views movies in the way a restaurant critic views a new restaurant or a travel critic views a new hotel. The product may look promising on the surface, but a critic's role is to provide a brutally honest assessment before the movie is released to a general audience. His or her evaluation of a film is based on a number of elements, including the previous work of the director, the level of acting, the overall casting, the faithfulness to source materials, the editing and the quality of the screenwriting.

Movie critics evaluate films before they are released to the public.
Movie critics evaluate films before they are released to the public.

A professional movie critic is not obligated to be completely impartial when it comes to criticism of a new film, but he or she should be fair. He or she may not care for horror films, for example, but he or she should be able to tell the difference between a good or bad slasher film about to be released by a studio. Most critics understand that their personal opinions carry a lot of weight with potential ticket buyers, so they make an effort to offer both the pros and cons of the films they review.

A movie critic may not care for horror films, but he or she should be able to tell the difference between a good or bad slasher film.
A movie critic may not care for horror films, but he or she should be able to tell the difference between a good or bad slasher film.

Criticizing a movie professionally is not simply a matter of voting yes or no on a new movie release. Sometimes a professional movie critic may have to do a significant amount of research in order to put the movie in a proper context. A very complex movie may need to be critiqued on psychological, dramatic and sociological levels, which means a critic also has to possess very strong analytical and literary skills.

Movie critics might write a column for print.
Movie critics might write a column for print.

The working conditions for a professional movie critic can be challenging. Movies are often screened in cramped rooms filled with other critics and studio executives. Viewing several films in a single day can also be physically and mentally draining, especially when the critic also has other obligations such as television and radio interviews, newspaper deadlines and personal appearances at film festivals.

Some people will read comments from movie critics before seeing a film.
Some people will read comments from movie critics before seeing a film.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments

anon192247

Many professional movie critics are employed by newspapers, so they would probably earn roughly the same salary as a reporter or entry-level editor. Since having a well-known movie critic on staff often sells more newspapers, a critic like Roger Ebert would probably get paid even more to keep him from looking for work elsewhere. They can also earn more money through television appearances and book sales.

A local movie critic, however, may only make his or her regular salary as a reporter, or get nothing more than free movie passes or memorabilia for his or her reviews. Movie criticism is like a lot of other creative journalism fields: a handful of people become famous and wealthy strictly because of their well-written reviews, while the majority of critics work in other fields and write movie reviews on the side.

anon87125

I don't know, but i'd like to know, too.

anon12779

how much money do they make and what is the average earnings per year?

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