How to Properly Reference Movies in Citations

citing a film in text

Glad you dropped by. So, you’re diving into the riveting world of citations, specifically how to ace citing movies. Trust me, it’s not just about naming the film and its director. It’s a kind of finesse.

Understanding how to cite a scene from a movie is crucial for authenticity. Whether you’re penning an academic piece or jazzing up a blog post. In this quick guide, I’m unpacking the nuts and bolts of movie citation across different styles.

Citation Styles

Each style is a unique language with its own set of rules and nuances. But why juggle multiple styles? Context is king here. Different academic fields favor different styles, each catering to specific needs in thesis statement development and research presentation.

The APA Approach

Born in the world of psychology, APA style prioritizes clarity and brevity. It’s a staple in social sciences, where the recency of research, crucial for thesis statement development, is emphasized through date-centric citations.

The MLA Method

A darling of the humanities, MLA focuses on author recognition. This style is less concerned with dates and more with page numbers, an ideal fit for literary analysis and in-depth explorations of texts.

The Chicago Style

Versatile and adaptable, the Chicago style can switch between author-date and notes-bibliography systems. It’s favored in history and some arts disciplines, where a comprehensive depth of sources is vital.

Understanding these styles transcends mere rule-following; it’s about articulating your research in a dialect that resonates with your specific audience. Each style brings a distinctive perspective to your sources, and selecting the right one can significantly enhance the impact of your work.

How to Cite a Movie in APA Format

Here’s your go-to guide:

Basic Rules:

  • Director’s Name: Start with the director’s last name, followed by their initials. End with “(Director)” in parentheses.
  • Release Year: Place the year of the movie’s release in parentheses, right after the director’s name.
  • Movie Title: The title should be in italics. Follow it with “[Film]” in brackets.
  • Production Company: Conclude with the name of the production company.

An Example to Illustrate:

Suppose you’re citing the 2020 movie “The Great Adventure,” directed by Sam Taylor and produced by Dream Films. Your citation would look like this:

Taylor, S. (Director). (2020). The Great Adventure [Film]. Dream Films.

Citing Online Sources:

  • If you streamed the movie, include the platform’s name in place of the production company.
  • For direct URLs, add the retrieval link after the production company or platform name.

Specific Scenes:

In-text, cite a specific scene by including a timestamp: (Taylor, 2020, 1:15:30) refers to a scene 1 hour, 15 minutes, and 30 seconds into the film.

Leveraging Technology:

To streamline your citation process, use an APA website citation generator. These tools can format your citations accurately and quickly.

APA is all about clarity and precision. Stick to these guidelines, and you’ll be an APA pro in no time.

How to Cite a Movie in MLA Format

Switching gears to MLA, a style beloved in the humanities. Here’s your roadmap for citing movies in MLA:

Fundamental Structure:

  • Start with the Title: In MLA, lead with the movie title in italics.
  • Director: Next, list the director, preceded by the word “Directed by.”
  • Contributors: If relevant, include key contributors after the director, mentioning their roles.
  • Production Company: Follow with the production company and the release year.

Example for Clarity:

Let’s say you’re citing “The Great Adventure,” directed by Sam Taylor, 2020. The citation would be:

The Great Adventure. Directed by Sam Taylor, Dream Films, 2020.

Online Movies:

  • If you accessed the movie online, include the platform name and the URL at the end.
  • For streamed movies, the format is: Movie Title. Directed by Director’s Name, performance by Lead Actor, Production Company, Year, Platform, URL.

Citing Specific Scenes:

In MLA, for in-text citations of a specific scene, use the director’s last name and the film’s title: (Taylor, The Great Adventure).

Key Notes:

Unlike APA, MLA does not require a list of performers or the film’s medium (e.g., [Film]).

MLA emphasizes more on the contextual contribution of the movie to your work rather than the production details.

MLA’s approach to movie citation is distinct in its emphasis on the narrative and artistic elements. This format offers flexibility and simplicity, making it a popular choice in literature and arts disciplines.

How to Cite a Movie in Chicago Style

Now, let’s tackle movie citations in Chicago style, a versatile format widely used in history and some arts disciplines. Here’s how to do it:

General Format:

  • Chicago style offers two main citation methods: Notes-Bibliography (NB) and Author-Date. The choice depends on your field and the nature of your work.
  • For NB: Start with the director’s name, followed by the movie title in italics, then production details.
  • For Author-Date: Similar to APA, begin with the director’s name, followed by the year, and then 
  • the title.

NB System Example:

Citing “The Great Adventure” directed by Sam Taylor in 2020, produced by Dream Films:

  • In the bibliography: Taylor, Sam, dir. 2020. The Great Adventure. Dream Films.
  • In the notes: Sam Taylor, The Great Adventure (Dream Films, 2020).

Author-Date System Example:

  • In the reference list: Taylor, Sam. 2020. The Great Adventure. Dream Films.
  • In-text citation: (Taylor 2020).

Online Sources:

For both systems, if the movie was accessed online, include the platform and URL at the end.

Example for NB: Sam Taylor, The Great Adventure (Dream Films, 2020), accessed [date], [URL].

Citing Specific Parts:

  • In the NB system, you can add details like timestamps in the notes for specific scenes.
  • In the Author-Date system, include such details in the in-text citation.

Key Considerations:

  • Chicago style is known for its flexibility, allowing for more detailed descriptions in your bibliography or reference list.
  • It’s important to stay consistent with the chosen system throughout your document.

Chicago style’s adaptability makes it ideal for in-depth academic work, particularly where a detailed source analysis is required. With these guidelines, you’re well-equipped to handle movie citations in Chicago style.

How to Cite a Movie in an Essay

Incorporating movie citations into your essay requires a blend of accuracy and finesse. Here’s how to do it effectively:

Integrating Citations into Text:

  • When mentioning a movie in your essay, use the correct format for the citation style you are following.
  • To cite a movie title in an essay, typically, you place the title in italics, reflecting on its significance in your analysis or discussion.

In-Text Citations:

  • Use in-text citations immediately after referencing a movie. This might be a parenthetical citation 
  • or a footnote, depending on your chosen style.
  • These citations should correspond to a full citation in your bibliography or works cited page.

Developing Your Essay Plan:

  • As you draft your essay plan, consider where and how movie references will enhance your argument or analysis.
  • Plan to integrate citations in a way that supports your thesis and adds credibility to your discussion.

Examples for Better Understanding:

  • In APA: “As demonstrated in The Great Adventure (Taylor, 2020)…”
  • In MLA: “The narrative structure in The Great Adventure (Taylor)…”
  • In Chicago (NB): “In The Great Adventure, the director…” followed by a footnote.

Referencing Complete Works and Specific Scenes:

When citing the entire movie, use the general format. For specific scenes, include additional information like timestamps or scene numbers, if applicable.

Balancing Citations and Narrative:

While citations are crucial for academic integrity, ensure they don’t disrupt the flow of your essay. They should seamlessly integrate into your text, adding value without detracting from your narrative.

Common Challenges in Movie Citation

Citing movies isn’t always straightforward. Here are some common challenges and how to navigate them:

Multiple Versions of a Film:

Films often have different versions (director’s cut, extended edition, etc.). Always specify the version you’re citing in your bibliography or reference list.


Blade Runner: The Final Cut. Directed by Ridley Scott, 2007.

Citing Unreleased or Archived Films:

  • For unreleased films, include as much information as available: director’s name, year of production, and the phrase “Unreleased film.”
  • For archived films or those in a collection, mention the archive or collection name along with the usual citation information.

Directors with Multiple Films in a Year:

If a director has released multiple films in the same year, distinguish them by adding a lowercase letter after the year.


Nolan, C. (2017a). Dunkirk. Warner Bros.

Foreign Language Films:

Title: Use the English title if it’s commonly used, otherwise, use the original title and provide a translation in brackets.


Kurosawa, A. (1954). Shichinin no samurai [Seven Samurai].

Movies Accessed Online:

  • Online platforms can be tricky. Include the URL and the date you accessed the film.
  • For subscription services, some styles recommend citing the service as the publisher.

In-Text Citations for Specific Scenes:

Referencing specific scenes requires precise timestamps. Ensure these are accurate to help readers locate the cited scene.

Citing Interviews or Commentary in Films:

If citing a director’s commentary or an interview from a DVD/Blu-ray, treat it as a separate section, like a chapter in a book.

Films with Multiple Directors or Producers:

For multiple directors, list them as they appear in the film credits. If there are many, you may use “et al.” after the first name.

By tackling these challenges, your movie citations will be spot-on, enhancing the credibility and depth of your work. Stay tuned!