How to Cite a Movie

If you intend to write a paper, an article, or a book, you may want to refer to some of the research you’ve done. Many writers quote from other works or paraphrase them. Your source materials might include books, films, journal articles, interviews, and more. In order to cite a movie, you’ll need to assemble a few important pieces of information. These details will come in handy, no matter which style guide you use:

  • Film title
  • Name of the director
  • Year of release (for the copy of the movie you’re using)
  • Production company or distribution company

 

In some cases you may also need to include:

  • Location of the studio
  • Actors’ names
  • URL
  • Original release date

 

Next, you’ll need to decide which citation style you’ll use. In this article, we’ve provided the instructions for referencing a motion picture using four popular style guides: Modern Language Association (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA), Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), and Associated Press (AP).

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MLA Style (8th Edition)

If you plan to write your paper with MLA format citations, you’ll need to include both an in-text citation and an entry in a Works Cited list for each source. You should format your in-text citation as follows:

(Title Optional time range)

You may abbreviate the title to only include the first word, assuming that information will lead the reader to the correct citation within the Works Cited. So, if you reference the movie Gone with the Wind, you might include a parenthetical in-text citation (Gone), unless you have cited another source that also starts with the word “gone”. When you want to refer to a particular scene in the film, you can also include the time range: (Gone 00:20:00-00:20:05). 

The entry at the end of your paper should include more information than the in-text citation. A reader should be able to find a copy of the film based on the information you provide. 

Title. Directed by Director’s Name, performances by Actor #1, Actor #2, and Actor #3, Production Company, Release date. 

Here’s what the Works Cited entry would look like for Gone with the Wind: 

Gone with the Wind. Directed by Victor Fleming, performances by Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, Warner Home Video, 2002. 

If you wanted to refer to a version of the movie posted to YouTube, you would include extra information about the video sharing site at the end of the citation.

Gone with the Wind. Directed by Victor Fleming, performances by Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, YouTube, uploaded by “GoneFan2,” August 3, 2011, www.YouTube.com/exampleurl.

Chicago Style (17th Edition)

The Chicago Manual of Style has two subcategories for referencing source materials. You could choose to use the notes-bibliography system or the author-date system. 

Notes-Bibliography

Typically, publications in the fields of literature, history, and the arts prioritize the notes-bibliography system. Within this framework, you include an endnote or footnote, and then you also list a more thorough bibliography entry. The note may reference a particular scene or the entire movie. The scene name would be included in quotations. 

Title of Work, directed/performed by Firstname Lastname (Original release year; City: Studio/Distributor, video release year).

1. Gone with the Wind, directed by Victor Fleming (1939; Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 2002).

2. “Scarlett meets Rhett”,  Gone with the Wind, YouTube Video, 00:02:42, posted by “GoneFan2,” August 3, 2011, www.YouTube.com/exampleurl.

In the second note, you can see that an uploaded video would have information about how to track down the particular clip, such as the URL, upload account, and date uploaded. 

In the bibliography section, include the same basic information with different formatting for a DVD. Online multimedia sources, such as YouTube videos, do not need to be listed in the bibliography. 

Title of Work. Directed/performed by Firstname Lastname. City: Studio/Distributor, video release year. Medium.

Gone with the Wind. Directed by Victor Fleming. Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 2002. DVD.

Author-Date

The author-date system uses parenthetical in-text citations, rather than footnotes or endnotes. This is what the in-text citations might look like for a DVD and a YouTube video:

(Gone with the Wind 1939)

(“Scarlett meets Rhett” 1939)

In the list of references, you would include long-form citations in the format below. 

Gone with the Wind. 1939. Directed by Victor Fleming. Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 2002. DVD.

“Scarlett meets Rhett.” 1939. Gone with the Wind. YouTube Video, 00:02:42. Posted by “GoneFan2,” August 3, 2011, www.YouTube.com/exampleurl.

In Chicago Style, you can emphasize the director by leading the endnotes, footnotes, and bibliography entries with the director’s name, rather than the title of the film. In author-date style, the in-text citation should include the director’s last name instead of the title whenever the director’s name appears first in the reference list. 

(Fleming 1939)

Fleming, Victor, dir. 1939. Gone with the Wind. Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 2002. DVD.

APA Style (7th Edition)

For APA citations, you’ll need to include both in-text citations and a reference listing. The in-text citation would simply contain the director’s last name and the year. If you’re posting an online video clip from YouTube, you would include the posting account name and year.

(Fleming, 1939)

(GoneFan2 2011)

 For the reference section, use the following formatting for a film:

Director Last Name, First Initial. Second Initial. (Director). (Year). Title of movie [Format e.g. Film or DVD with commentary]. Name of Studio.

Fleming, V. (Director). (2002). Gone with the Wind [DVD]. Warner Home Video.

For a video clip, you would emphasize the account details:

Account name. (Year, Month Day {of video post}). Title of video [Video]. Title of website. URL of specific video

GoneFan2. (2011, August 3). Rhett meets Scarlett [Video]. YouTube. www.YouTube.com/exampleurl

AP Style (55th Edition)

Because the Associated Press Stylebook recommends formatting for journalism writing, that guide only suggests in-text citations. With AP style, the author does not need to include a Works Cited section, bibliography, or reference list. The name of the film should be written in italics. Any information that the author wants to emphasize, such as the director’s name or performers’ names, should be included in the prose. When two films with the same title exist, the author should specify the version by including additional information.

  • In Gone with the Wind, Scarlet tries to….
  • Victor Fleming’s film Gone with the Wind has…

Additional Resources

Now that you know how to cite a movie in MLA, CMS, APA, and AP format, you may be wondering how to cite an episode from a TV series, a theater performance, or a web commercial on Hulu. Whenever you have a question, you can look to the citation guides’ webpages for more detailed information. 

You can also use a free citation generator like CitationMachine.net or MyBib.com to help you format your citations. 

Sources:

  1. https://style.mla.org/
  2. https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/home.html
  3. https://apastyle.apa.org/
  4. https://www.apstylebook.com/
  5. https://www.nmu.edu/writingcenter/ap-style
  6. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_works_cited_other_common_sources.html
  7. https://www.bibliography.com/apa/apa-movie-citation-examples/
  8. https://www.bibguru.com/g/apa-netflix-show-citation/
  9. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/chicago_manual_17th_edition/cmos_formatting_and_style_guide/audiovisual_recordings_and_other_multimedia.html