How to Cite a Movie in a Research Paper

Written by nilsia cadena
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How to Cite a Movie in a Research Paper
Movie citations add depth and cultural relevance to your research paper. (movie scene image by Nicemonkey from

Proper citation can make the difference between a clever use of external material and plagiarism. If you quote, paraphrase or summarise a movie in a paper, learn how to protect yourself and your content. Harvard, APA and MLA are the most common systems. All have their own unique methods, but they all put titles in italics, which are represented in this article by surrounding the title with underscores.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Put the title of the film and the year it was released in parentheses, directly after the quote. This is the author-date system used by Harvard, APA and MLA. For example: Mozart's creative process superseded the need for drafts. "He'd simply put down music already finished in his head. Page after page of it, as if he were just taking dictation." (Amadeus, 1984)

  2. 2

    State the film you're quoting in the sentence. This is an alternate option of the author-date style, where you underline or italicise the movie's title, but only the year is in parentheses. For example: The first character in the movie Star Wars to say "May the force be with you" was General Dodonna (1977).

  3. 3

    Include your citations in a reference list or a bibliography. A reference list is for materials cited in your paper and a bibliography follows the same format but is for materials used to prepare to write your paper. The list goes in alphabetical order. For these documents, Harvard and MLA use a different format from APA.

    Harvard and MLA start with the title of the movie, in italics or underlined. Then state the year of distribution in parentheses, the format, the director's full name, and use brackets for the material type. The country of origin is followed by a colon and the distribution company's name. Each piece of information is followed by a period or a comma. For example,

    Pulp Fiction, (1994), Film, Directed by Quentin Tarrantino, [DVD], USA: Miramax

    APA starts with the producer, the goes to the director. They're both listed by last name, then first initial, and their title goes in parentheses. The year goes in parentheses, the title in italics, and the material type in brackets. Next put the country of distribution, a colon, and the distribution company. For example:

    De La Noy, K. (Producer), Nolan, C. (Director), (2008), The Dark Knight, [Motion Picture], US: Warner Brothers.

  4. 4

    Cite a script found online. The name of the website is first, then the year the script was written. If there is no year stated, put n.d. for no date. The title of the script goes in italics or underlined, the date the script was viewed and the web address. For example:

    Drew's Script-O-Rama, A Clockwork Orange n.d., viewed Jan 1, 2011,>

    How to Cite a Movie in a Research Paper
    Many movie scripts are available online. (http, www, icon, web, website image by creative from

Tips and warnings

  • The most important thing when citing is consistency of style throughout your paper.
  • Check with your academic institution to see which style they expect you to use.

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