Film criticism in the twenty-first century: six schools

Andrew McWhirter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Beginning with a research question that sought to discover what film criticism actually is, the article uncovers important distinctions between scholarly and practice-orientated conceptions of contemporary film criticism. Through a qualitative mixed-method approach, the article first explores the relevant scholarly literature and a sample of content carriers of film criticism before moving into fieldwork to test findings. Through the process of triangulating these data-sets emerges the motivation to create a schools approach for post-millennia film criticism. The empirical data cover North America and the United Kingdom but the findings may have explanatory potential beyond these territories. Beginning by looking at research on criticism from such prominent scholars as Noël Carrol and Terry Eagleton, a dialectic is uncovered between aesthetic evaluations and socio-political comment. These ideas are then tested in fieldwork by undertaking semi-structured, in-depth qualitative interviews with 30 film critics at two major international film festivals. There is a clear disconnect between scholarly ideas about criticism and two-thirds of the film critics’ conceptions of criticism in their daily routines. From this particular difference of opinion, an Academic School in comparison to Trade and Populist Schools emerges. In turn, this prompts a reappraisal of content carrier data approximated against the fieldwork data and leads to the conceptualising of additional schools: Sophisticated, Fandom and Consumer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)890-906
Number of pages17
JournalJournalism Practice
Issue number6
Early online date24 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


  • critics
  • cultural journalism
  • film criticism


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