How to Summarize a Movie

I'm fond of movies (you can call me a cinephile!), and I know the impulse to watch all the movies — as soon as they are released. If, like me, you love movies but are always short on time, I have the solution for you: an AI movie summarizer website

AI movie summarizing is much more of an art than science, but I've created this starting point for you. Since summarizing movies is a new thing for many, I was looking for easy methods that beginners could use. 

I'll start with how to summarize a movie in an essay, and then I'll give you some guidelines and tips to create a short, meaningful movie synopsis. 

What is a Movie Summary? 

A movie summary, also called a movie synopsis, is a one-page document that condenses a 3-hour long film into a few paragraphs. It typically includes a movie title, genre, logline (or a single sentence summary), major plot points, a five-paragraph explanation of the storyline, and key characters. However, writing all these things isn’t mandatory. You can add or cut the points, depending on the movie you’re summarizing. 

What is a movie summary

How to Summarize a Movie (with Guidelines) 

Writing a movie summary is a lot of fun, and it's getting easier — and more popular — at each turn. It can take a few tries to get the movie summary right — but as long as you have an experimentation mindset, you'll be able to reach better and better results. Here, I'll include the simple steps to summarize movies playing online now — manually. 

Carefully Watch the Movie 

Start by carefully watching the movie and taking notes of the plots, characters, and themes. The more notes you write, the better your chances of writing a great movie summary

But it can be really time-consuming to take notes from a video — and that's where AI note-taking apps can help. My favorite AI note-taker is Notta — it's a powerful tool that can generate transcripts by converting speech to text. This helps you reduce the time spent manually taking notes from a long movie. 

Carefully watch the movie and prepare the notes

Identify Main Characters, Plot, and Themes

Next up is identifying the main characters, plot, and themes of the movie. Try to answer the questions like: Who are the main characters in the story? What's the main goal (or conflict) of the movie? What is the movie trying to convey? More importantly, why should people watch the movie? Once you've got the answer to these questions, you are already halfway through the movie synopsis. 

Write the Summary 

When writing your first movie summary, it's challenging to visualize the exact results you are looking for. More than that, it may take multiple tries until you cover all the important information in the summary and get something usable. 

The good news: you can use the notes to write the summary — but make sure it's short, concise, and reflects your own voice. 

Edit and Revise 

Whenever I finish an article, I read it aloud to make sure it has a proper flow and there are no mistakes. The same applies when writing the movie summary: once you've finished writing the movie synopsis, read it aloud to catch spelling and grammar mistakes. 

Edit and revise the movie summary

Now that I've explained how to summarize a movie, here are a few guidelines to help you create a meaningful synopsis. 

  • Length: The summary should have all the important information from the movie — but it doesn't mean you can write four pages. A good movie summary should cover the core idea, theme, and characters in one page (only). 

  • Style: Next, you'll need to follow a simple summary style: a beginning, a middle, and then an ending part. Here, your purpose should be to tell the story and not explain it. 

  • Characters: If you ask me how I decide to watch any movie, it's because of the main characters. Your summary should properly define the characters and what kind of role viewers can expect from them. 

  • Dialogue: This step might look odd to many — but introducing a one-liner dialogue can make all the difference. Some dialogues in the summary can add a personality and life to your film synopsis

  • Action: Everybody loves a good action sequence — at least, I do. While introducing the action elements, make sure you strike the right balance between not too much and not too little action. 

  • Subtext: Finally, a good movie summary should describe and employ subtext that's usually verboten in screenplays. 

Example of a Movie Summary 

Here, I'll show you one movie summary example — that'll serve as an inspiration for you. 

Title: Ransom (1996)

Genre: Action/Thriller 

Summary: The multi-millionaire Tom Mullen's son is kidnapped at a science fair. After agreeing to pay the ransom, Mullen decides to use the ransom money as a bounty. 

Main Characters: Tom Mullen (who is a wealthy airline owner), Kate Mullen (wife of Tom Mullen), and Sean Mullen (Brawley Nolte). 

Three-Act Structure: 

Act 1: The world of Tom Mullen comes to an end when his son gets kidnapped. The kidnappers ask for a hefty amount, but Tom Mullen decides to use ransom as a bounty. 

Act 2: The kidnappers are seen fighting to stay ahead — meanwhile, Mullen's mortality is questioned and leads to internal conflicts. 

Act 3: There's a surprising twist at the end when kidnappers reveal a hidden agenda. 

Tips for Summarizing a Movie 

AI is having a moment — and it seems like every app is introducing its own artificial intelligence features. I decided to run a little experiment and see if any tool could help me write movie summaries — and I have to say, I was impressed by Notta's abilities. 

Notta, like many other AI note-taking apps, has a summarizing feature that pulls key ideas from the transcript. This feature can be very useful if you don't have time to watch full movies, take notes, and then generate a movie summary.

Using the Notta Web App is easy; just upload the movie recording to the AI tool, and Notta will convert speech to text. This powerful tool summarizes the transcript for you, which includes an overview, key chapters, and action items.  

If you’re planning to write a more detailed movie summary that would make a difference among your readers, do check out some more tips that I have researched for you. 

  • Start With a Hook: In my personal experience, everyone who is enjoying a movie loves to have a hook or an opening statement that would make them read the rest of the summary — and, more importantly, watch the movie in itself. 

  • Add Some Spoilers: There are two types of movie watchers: one who likes to know all the spoilers in advance and one who wishes to explore the movie as it goes ahead. For your readers who fall in the former category, try including a warning sign and add some definitive spoilers that would ensure your audience takes more interest in the movie. 

  • Keep it Concise: Do not try to write extensive summaries of your movie. Remember, you only have a few seconds to grab your reader’s attention. So, make sure your summary does not include any kind of fluff and only includes the material that’ll entertain your readers. 

Important Note: Remember, showcasing movies online without the permission of the studio and the publisher or even downloading any kind of copyrighted material is illegal. As per different governing laws, only those who own copyright can display their content online — be it movies or films.  

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What Should Be Included in a Movie Summary? 

A good movie summary includes only the informative part and not any kind of fluff. It usually contains all the information that interests the reader and gives them a glimpse of what it includes. 

While one can include anything they feel their audience will like about the movie, I'd personally suggest starting with the important details — like a title, director's profile, email, and contact information (if required). 

Another important thing that you should include in your movie summary is a logline or a one-line description that would describe the entire concept of the movie. This would be the apt position to introduce the lead (or main) characters and subplots with a three-act structure. 

What is a One-sentence Summary or Description of a Movie? 

A log line (or logline) is a one-sentence summary or a description of the movie that includes all the important elements of the screenplay —  central conflict, main character, setup, and a hook — in a clear, concise manner. Here, you can write what makes the movie different — but only in a single sentence. 

Key Takeaways

It has been noted that humans have a shorter attention span, — so when you're writing a movie summary, ensure it is short but contains all the important parts. If you’re struggling with how to summarize a movie and want to save an ample amount of time, I'd suggest using an AI movie summarizer like Notta.

With the Notta Web App, you can transcribe any audio/video file — which can later be summarized into key chapters and action items. Another impressive feature of Notta is its user-friendly interface, which is ideal for beginners with no technical knowledge.

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