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How To Find Film Reviews and Criticism

Things To Consider   Film Reviews   Film Criticism   Background on Films  

Things To Consider

Authorship: Film criticism is written by academics for a scholarly audience. Film reviews are often written by journalists or other non-academics.

Time Frame: Reviews are usually published around the time a movie was released, while film criticism may be published years or decades later.

Publication Type: Film criticism will usually appear in scholarly journals, while reviews will more often appear in the popular press. However, some popular publications, such as the New Yorker and the Village Voice, publish reviews that are also strong critical pieces.

Alternate Titles: Some films (usually foreign) have more than one title, i.e. Breathless and A Bout de Souffle, so search for both. Multiple films may share at title, i.e. Ben-Hur (1925) and Ben-Hur (1959), so use date and director to narrow your search.

Film Reviews

Film Review Index Example Entry Film Review Index
Sawyer REF PN 1995.F513 1986
For films that came out between 1882 and 1985, this resource is the best place to start. It lists articles, chapters, and books which review a particular film, as shown in the example at right.

Once you have the citation to an item, you can search FRANCIS for the publication or request it from another library using Williams InterLibrary Loan.

International Index to the Performing Arts (Full Text) (1998-Present; some coverage 1864-1998)
This database has more scholarly reviews. You can limit your search to film reviews, but you may want to leave the search broader if you're having trouble finding results.

ProQuest Historical Newspapers (US) , ProQuest National Newspapers (Current News),
These newspaper databases are good for finding reviews, especially of films that might not be found in more scholarly sources. When searching, limit your Document Type to "Review" for better results.

Readers' Guide Retrospective (1890-1982), Readers' Guide Abstracts (1983-Present)
Covering popular literature, this database will have reviews meant largely for the general public. In Readers' Guide Abstracts you can limit your Publication Type to "Film Review".

Film Criticism

MLA International Bibliography (1926-Present)
This resource will give you film criticism from scholarly sources.

Use to find book-length criticism or collections of essays.  Search by Subject for the title of the film or the name of the director.  For directors, look for the sub-heading "Criticism and Interpretation". For film titles, look for "Motion Picture) as part of the heading. 


Hitchcock, Alfred, 1899-1980 -- Criticism and Interpretation

Aliens (Motion Picture)

Be sure to consult the Article Databases by Subject under any subject that could deal with the film in question.


Search Women's Studies International to find articles related to Thelma & Louise or other films with feminist themes.

Use  Bibliography of Asian Studies to find articles such as "Kung fu masters: stardom, performances and 'authenticity' in Hong Kong martial arts films"

Try America: History and Life to find articles such as "Raising minstrelsy: humor, satire and the stereotype in The Birth of a Nation and Bamboozled".

In many of these databases, putting the movie title in quotes when you search is enough to bring up several scholarly articles.

Background on Films

International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers - not really a dictionary at all, it provides good synopses of films and extensive bibliographies of writings about the film.

Film Index International (1900-Present) - A filmography of over 125,000 feature and documentary films and biographical information for more than 800,000 personalities. Coverage is international, and includes plot summaries, full cast and crew lists, film awards, and lists of relevant articles.

Internet Movie Database - while not scholarly, this website can be useful for a quick overview of a movie (release date, director, cast, etc.). A related site Box Office Mojo contains information about box office receipts and rankings.  As with any questionable source, you should verify information found on this site through more authoritative sources.