How to cite a movie in MLA

To cite a film in MLA, include the title, the director, any other relevant contributors, the production or distribution company, and the year of release. If there are multiple versions of a film, you also need to identify the version.

Brazil. Directed by Terry Gilliam, performances by Jonathan Pryce and Katherine Helmond, director’s cut, Embassy International Pictures, 1985.

To cite a movie from Netflix (and similar online streaming services), add the name of the website or app (e.g. “Netflix app”). If you watched the movie on an unofficial website or video-sharing platform like YouTube, add the website name, the uploader, the date of upload, and the URL.

Night of the Living Dead. Directed by George A. Romero, Image Ten, 1968. YouTube, uploaded by American Film Institute, 26 Aug. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZy6P72Uu3Y.

In the in-text citation, include the title (or a shortened version of it) and the time range.

(Brazil 29:45–32:37)
(Night 18:25–40)

MLA movie citation format

You build an MLA Works Cited entry by filling in the relevant elements. An MLA citation usually starts with the author’s name, but because films are created by many different people, you start the citation with the film’s title instead. The director appears after the title as a contributor.

TitleContributors, version, publisher, year.

Other contributors

If relevant, you can also add other contributors, as with TV shows. For example, if your paper mentions specific performances, you can include the actors in your citation; if you discuss the film’s visuals, you can include the cinematographer.

Identify the role of each contributor and separate them with commas.

Under the Skin. Directed by Jonathan Glazer, performance by Scarlett Johansson, music by Mica Levi, BFI / Film4, 2013.

If your discussion of the movie focuses mainly on one contributor (e.g. the director or a performer), you can choose to include that name at the start of the citation instead, where the author would normally go.

Johansson, Scarlett, performer. Under the Skin. Directed by Jonathan Glazer, BFI / Film4, 2013.

In this case, make sure to use the same name in your in-text citation.

Versions

If there are different versions of a film, you need to state which one you used so the reader can find the correct source (e.g. extended version, director’s cut).

If this version was released later than the original, you can also add the year of the original release after the title. This is optional, but it is often helpful to give the historical context of the source.

Blade Runner. 1982. Directed by Ridley Scott, final cut, Warner Bros., 2007.

Publishers

Films are often produced and distributed by several different companies, which can make it difficult to determine the publisher.

Try to identify the organization that had primary responsibility for the movie’s production or distribution. If multiple production companies and/or distributors were equally involved, you can separate them with a forward slash.

Moonlight. Directed by Barry Jenkins, A24 / Plan B Entertainment, 2016.

Citing online movies

If you stream a film on an official distribution platform like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video, you can choose to add this information to the Works Cited entry if you think it’s relevant.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Directed by Steven Spielberg, Universal Studios, 1982. Netflix app.

If the film was republished on a website unconnected to the producers or official distributors (such as YouTube, where anyone can upload a copy of a movie), you should generally include this information in the citation.

After giving full details of the movie, add the name of the website, the uploader, the date it was published, and the URL.

Nosferatu. Directed by F. W. Murnau, performance by Max Schreck, Prana Film, 1922. YouTube, uploaded by Timeless Classic Movies, 9 July 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=FC6jFoYm3xs.

Note that this format only applies to full movies uploaded to YouTube. If you are citing a clip or other material on YouTube, follow the format for citing a YouTube video instead.

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MLA in-text citations for movies

The in-text citation must always correspond with the first word of the Works Cited entry. For movie citations, this is usually the title in italics. If the title is longer than a few words, shorten it to the first word or phrase.

Instead of a page number, add the time range of the part you are quoting or referring to.

(Moonlight 01:01:23–05:31)

If you have already mentioned the title in the sentence, the parenthetical citation only needs to include the time range.

The opening shot of Nosferatu introduces the town of Wisborg with a church in the foreground (2:18–25).

If you are referring to the movie as a whole, it is acceptable to mention only the title with no time range.

Johansson’s performance in Under the Skin creates an eerie sense of dislocation.

If you start the Works Cited entry with the name of a contributor, make sure to use this name in the in-text citation so that the reader can easily locate it in the alphabetized list.

(Johansson 25:53–27:13)

MLA citation generator

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Shona McCombes

Shona has a bachelor's and two master's degrees, so she's an expert at writing a great thesis. She has also worked as an editor and teacher, working with students at all different levels to improve their academic writing.

14 comments

Hümeyra
May 16, 2021 at 7:34 PM

Hi! I'm writing a paper about the movie The Babadook. I'm referencing a lot of scenes from the movie. Should I write the movie title in parantheses every time I'm citing the time intervals or only write the time stamps after the first reference? Thank you in advance!

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
May 17, 2021 at 10:19 PM

Hi Hümeyra,

It's best to keep your citations as concise as possible by omitting the movie title in subsequent references. However, make sure it's clear what you're referencing when you do so; if you cite anything else in between, or if you've gone several paragraphs without citing the movie, you should repeat the title to avoid confusion.

Reply

Elena
June 7, 2021 at 7:46 AM

Hi! I'm doing my mini-research paper based on two movies. Is it necessary to have the movie scripts with me, or is it alright to just cite the movies with the necessary description in the Works Cited page?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
June 7, 2021 at 5:10 PM

Hi Elena,

You should always cite the version of a source that you're using. So if you referred to the scripts, you would cite those, in whatever context you found them. If you just refer directly to the movies, then you should just cite the movies themselves in whatever context you viewed them.

Reply

Uzochi Anaele
April 25, 2021 at 11:29 PM

In my essay, I want to reference two points of the same movie. Could I do that in the same in-text citation or is that wrong?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
April 27, 2021 at 3:19 PM

Hi Uzochi,

MLA does allow you to do this if both different parts are discussed in the same paragraph and there are no other sources mentioned in the same paragraph that could make this approach confusing. In those cases, you can just include one citation at the end of the paragraph that includes both relevant timestamps, e.g. (Smith 11:15, 29:35).

If the two moments are discussed more separately, it's best to just include a separate citation for each one.

Reply

Maurice Knowles
March 14, 2021 at 8:38 AM

What if the movie is considred a secondary source (documentary about the essay's topic) and not a primary source (i.e. referring too the cinematography)

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
March 15, 2021 at 2:12 PM

Hi Maurice,

Whether a source is treated as primary or secondary doesn't make a difference in terms of how you format the citation in MLA style. You can cite a documentary in the same way as any other movie.

Reply

Mel
February 12, 2021 at 8:59 PM

Hello,
I'm writing an essay on The Talented Mr. Ripley. For the in-text citation, would I put (The Talented)?

In the paper, I go on to talk about the cinematography, score, set, and costuming. When talking about a specific shot, would I say, for example, "The first mirror shot occurs when Tom Ripley first impersonates the couple (cinematographer's last name, duration of shot)"? And when I mention the wardrobe, would I say, "The clothes worn by the characters in the second half of the film are dark, contrasting the clothing in the first half of the film (last names of costume designers)"? Then once I go back to referring to the film as a whole, would I once again state (The Talented)?

I was also considering citing the score separately in the "works cited" list, since I'll be devoting an entire paragraph to it. Does this sound reasonable, or should the score be part of the film citation? And if so, would it go something like, "The theme is heard in the moments leading up to Dickie's murder (Rabinowitz, duration of the theme)"? It feels especially complicated since the actual album on Spotify has "various artists" listed as the artist, instead of the composer for the one theme I'll be referring to.

Hope this all helps, and thanks for the great article!

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
February 17, 2021 at 4:03 PM

Hi Mel,

Good questions! MLA's advice for abbreviating titles is to shorten them to the main noun phrase, and omit articles like "a" or "the." Since The Talented Mr. Ripley consists entirely of a noun phrase, you'd just omit "The"; your abbreviation would be (Talented Mr. Ripley).

In general, you only want to refer to each source with one form of in-text citation, based on the first element listed in your Works Cited. So in your case, since you refer to various different contributors, I'd say it's best to make your Works Cited entry start with the title of the film, listing the relevant contributors afterwards, and just keep your in-text citations using the shortened title. You can of course mention the names of the cinematographer, costume designers, etc. in the text if you want to highlight them.

With the score, I think it is reasonable to list it separately if you discuss it specifically. If you just refer to that particular piece from the score, you can always just list that in your Works Cited rather than the full score (to avoid the "various artists" confusion). See the guidance here on how to do this.

Reply

D
November 30, 2020 at 5:42 AM

I am writing a paper on Frozen as it is animated i am referring to the animated characters how do i cite in the paper.

when i refer to the character ie: Anna ( Kristen Bell) do i continue to add her name in parentheses every time i writer he name in my paper?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
December 10, 2020 at 7:28 PM

Hi,

No, it's not necessary to specify the actor or cite the source every time you use a character's name, as long as it's completely clear which source you are referring to. You should include an in-text citation when quoting directly from the movie – see this MLA blog for more information. Hope that helps!

Reply

Janina
August 12, 2020 at 12:22 PM

Hello,

I am writing my Thesis and analyzing two film adaptations of a Shakespeare play. If I quote from that, should I rather use the film or the original text as source?

Thank you very much,

Best, Janina

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
September 16, 2020 at 4:10 PM

Hi Janina,

If you're analyzing the film, cite the film as your source. If you refer to the text of the play directly at any point (for example, to compare differences between the original text and the film script), cite the play as your source. As a rule, you should always cite the version of the source that you're directly using and analyzing.

Hope that helps!

Reply

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