How to cite a movie in MLA

To cite a film in MLA (8th edition), you need to know the title, the director, any other relevant contributors, the production 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), you don’t have to add any extra information. 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 18:25–18:40)

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. 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 the 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. If more than one production company was 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, there is generally no need to include this in the citation.

However, 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), 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&t=1s.

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 01:01:23–01:05:31)

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 (2:18–2:25).

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)

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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.

2 comments

beth
October 10, 2019 at 3:58 AM

I'm currently writing a paper on the differences and similarities between the Murder on the orient express films (1974 & 2017). For in text citations, how should I cite the films? I'm pretty sure I would have to include the directors name but I'm not sure where it should go and if any additional info should be added like the year of release...

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Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
October 10, 2019 at 12:46 PM

Hi Beth! Since the two films have the same title, you're right that the best choice is to cite the director's last name. You can place it in parentheses at the end of the relevant sentence, or simply mention the name in the sentence itself. MLA style is flexible on this – you just need to make it completely clear which film you are referring to, and make sure the reader can easily locate the entry in the Works Cited list. In this case, the Works Cited entry should start with the director's name before the title.

You don't need to add the year in the in-text citation, but if you quote or analyze a specific part of the movie, it's a good idea to include the time range in parentheses (just as you would include page numbers for textual sources).

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