Film Reviews and Film Criticism:
A Selective Guide to Sources in the
UC Berkeley Libraries



Strategies for Finding Film Reviews and Critical Analysis

Online Indexes

  • Indexes to Film Literature
  • Indexes to General Interest Periodicals
  • Indexes to Newspapers
  • Indexes to Humanities/Arts/Social Sciences Journals

    Print Indexes

  • Indexes to Film Literature
  • Indexes to General/news Magazine
  • Indexes to Newspapers

    Review and Criticism Compilations

    Web Resources


    Critical writing about film and video generally falls into several broad categories, including film reviews, in-depth or focused criticism and analysis, and fan writing.

    Film Reviews:

    Film reviews are assessments of the aesthetic, entertainment, social and cultural merits of a current film or video. Reviews tend to be short to medium length articles, often written by a single staff writer for a particular publication. Although reviews are usually fairly "quick takes" on a movie, they can, in some instances, be lengthy, substantive, and very insightful. The writing of notable critics such as Pauline Kael (The New Yorker), James Agee (The Nation), Andrew Sarris (The Village Voice), blur the line between popular reviews and the more lengthy type of analysis described below.

    As might be expected, reviews of current movie releases appear regularly in most film-related journals (Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Films In Review, et al.). Film reviews can also be regularly found in many general interest periodicals (Newsweek, Time, The Nation, et al.) and in most daily newspapers. Occassionally, reviews or topically-relevant movies or videos are also included in more specialized subject journals.

    Criticism and Analysis:

    Scholarly or focused critical writing about particular films--both current and historical--can be found in an amazingly wide variety of sources, including film journals, and publications devoted to theater, history, literature, women's studies, ethnic studies, and other disciplines. Critical/analytic film articles tend to be more academic and substantive than reviews. These articles often discuss particular films in broad social, political, and historical context.

    A Note on Reviews and Analysis of Movies vs Documentaries:

    Reviews for current movies are everywhere--general interest magazines and newspapers, scholarly journals, fanzines, the web. In sharp contrast, there are comparatively few reviews or articles that discuss current or historical documentaries (why? feature films are an enormously popular big business; in most cases, documentaries aren't).

    While some of the sources below index reviews/criticism of documentary films as well as movies, the coverage tends to be extremely selective. The Media Review Digest (discussed below) is the only index currently devoted in large part to reviews of non-feature films (educational films, documentaries, etc.). For reviews of documentary and educational works on video, see also Video Librarian.

    Listings for some of the documentary videos in the Media Resources Center collection include citations to reviews and articles. See individual subject videographies in the MRC web site.

    Strategies for Finding Reviews and Critical Analyses

    The number of sources, both online and in print, for finding film/TV reviews and critical analysis is large and often bewildering. How to navigate this sea of information?

    Film Reviews

    As a rule, the best places to start for reviews of current (within the last 10 years) feature films or television programs are the Magazine Index and Newspaper Index of the CDL (MELVYL) catalog. The Magazine Index includes coverage of such popular and general interest publications as Newsweek, Time, The Nation, New Republic, and The New Yorker--all of which have regular movie review features. In addition, the Magazine Index can help you find more in-depth or analytical articles in film-related journals such as Cineaste, Film Comment, Film Quarterly, and Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. The Newspaper Index can help you locate current reviews and movie industry information appearing in national newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Christian Science Monitor.

    The web offers an amazing abundance of film review sources, but in entering this cyber-territory, the searcher must beware. In surfing for reviews, it's particularly important to consider the source of the review. A large portion of web reviews are basically film industry promotional pieces, the opinions of fans, or too short to be of any real academic use. The best all-around engine for locating full-text reviews on the web is The Movie Review Query Engine. The MRQ is more useful in finding reviews for more recent films than for older ones, but with 16,000+ reviews on board, it's always worth a try. The engine turns up reviews in national and regional newspapers and magazines, newsletters and e-zines, use groups, and sundry other weird venues (Mutant Reviewers From Hell...really!)

    Reviews of older films, are not quite as easy to find, simply because the indexes for locating these reviews are frequently in print form, rather than online. For reviews of films older than 10 years, it's best to start with The Readers Guide to Periodical Literature. The Readers Guide goes back to the turn of the Century and covers many of the same journals as are indexed in the Magazine Index. For reviews of films older than 10 years in newspapers, it's best to start with the New York Times Index (located in the Newspaper Room in the Main Library). Online indexing for older issues of the NY Times Index is expected sometime early in the year 2000 (Historical Newspapers Online). It may also be worthwhile using the online Lexis-Nexis index in searching for film reviews in newspapers: the index includes both regional and national newspaper coverage (as well as reviews in selected trade and popular journals).

    Film Review Index, a print source, is a good bet for locating reviews of older films (1882-1985). It indexes publications ranging from popular periodicals, to the New York Times and The Village Voice, to relevant chapters in selected film books.

    Focused/In-depth Critical Analysis

    As discussed above, the Magazine Index indexes a solid core of serious film journals and publications related to the study of popular culture--not a bad place to start a search for more scholarly or focused film literature.

    The Modern Language Association (MLA) Bibliography would be a good second place to look. The MLA Bibliography indexes an exceptionally wide range of journals which are broadly concerned with literature, folklore, theatre, and other performing arts--including film. This source also has the benefit of indexing relevant chapters in books, doctoral dissertations, conference proceedings, and other resources useful to the study of film. The Periodicals Content Index is another excellent source for film analysis appearing in literature and other humanities and arts-related journals; this index has the benefit of indexing journals from their first issue on.

    An excellent resource to consult for articles related to film and American culture and history is the online index America History and Life. AHL indexes both important film journals (most of which are indexed in other sources discussed above and below) and a broad range of international journals devoted to American history, politics, and culture.

    One of the best sources for tracking down criticism and analysis in international film journals is the Film Literature Index, a print resource which covers 153 film and TV-related publications from 1973 to present (the index is located in the Media Resources Center and the Main Library Information Center). One caution in using this index is the fact that UCB Library does not own a fair number of the smaller journals indexed.

    The publications discussed above represent only a portion of the print and online resources available to assist the researcher in tracking down film literature. A more comprehensive listing of resources in the UCB Library is provided below, and in table form at the Media Resources Center web site.

    Online Resources: Indexes to Film Literature

    Film Index International

    An index of over 99,000 international feature films and shorts made between approximately 1930 and the present; a wide selection of Hollywood entertainment shorts, documentaries and TV movies from all over the world is also provided. The database includes 300,000 references to critical and industry articles on films and 120,000 to articles on personalities from approximately 260 international film/TV journals.

    Access: is available via the UCB Library's CD-ROM network (Main and Moffitt Libraries only)

    International Filmarchive CD-ROM (FIAF). 1997-- (London: La Federation Internationale des Archives du Film)

    Includes International Index to Film/TV Periodicals, 1982- which indexes the periodicals and other documents covering cinema and television in the 58 countries comprising the International Federation of Film Archives.

    Access: Media Center COMPU/D 332

    Online Resources: General/News Periodicals

    Magazine Index

    Articles from 1,500 popular magazines, general interest journals, and scholarly journals in the humanities, social sciences, and general sciences. As of 10/20/1999, the database contains 3,123,209 citations for articles published from January 1, 1988 to the present. For an index to reviews in general interest/news journals before 1988, see The Readers Guide To Periodical Literature

    Film journals indexed include Cineaste, American Film, Film Comment, Film Criticism, Film Quarterly, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Journal of Film and Video, Journal of Popular Film and Television, Literature/Film Quarterly, Sight and Sound, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Variety. Film reviews can also be found in general and news magazines (Time, Newsweek, The Nation, New Republic, Rolling Stone, and others).

    The complete text of articles is available for about 500 of the over 1,500 journals covered in the database. Full-text available for some Cineaste articles. Abstracts for some articles in some journals (e.g., Film Comment, Film Criticism, Film Quarterly, Literature-Film Quarterly, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television)

    To locate film reviews in the MAGS index, search key words from the film's title and the term "movie reviews" or "reviews." For example:

    f tw big night out movie review

    f tw Frank Lloyd Wright television review

    Once you have located a review by using one or more of the sources listed above, write down the complete citation. Find which library on campus owns the journal or newspaper by consulting Pathfinder or MELVYL.

    Access: available to UCB users via the California Digital Library (Melvyl)


    Includes abstracts and indexing to more than 1,100 periodical titles, plus current coverage of New York Times articles, 1986 to present It includes some abstracts and full-text. Includes indexing for a number of periodicals and newspapers not indexed elsewhere (e.g. Premiere, The Village Voice, Video Magazine. )

    Access: available to UCB users via the Library's Web site

    Lexis-Nexis (Academic Universe)

    Indexing and full-text articles from thousands of national and regional publications, including general interest periodicals, newspapers and newsletters, trade journals, and other industry publications. Covers the past 10-20 years to present. Search under the categories NEWS/ARTS & SPORTS/BOOK, MOVIE, MUSIC & PLAY REVIEWS

    Access: available to UCB users via the Library's Web site

    Online Resources: Newspapers

    Newspaper Index

    Indexing of the following newspapers:

  • Christian Science Monitor (National edition)
  • New York Times Magazine
  • Los Angeles Times (Home edition)
  • Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition)
  • New York Times (Late and National editions and Western editions)
  • New York Times Book Review
  • Washington Post (Final edition)
  • As of 10/20/1999, the database contains 2,879,557 citations for articles publis January 1, 1982 to the present. New citations are loaded weekly.

    To locate film reviews in the NEWS index, search key words from the film's title and the term "movie reviews" or "reviews." For example:

    f tw big night out movie review

    f tw Frank Lloyd Wright television review

    Once you have located a review by using one or more of the sources listed above, write down the complete citation. Find which library on campus owns the journal or newspaper by consulting Pathfinder or MELVYL. Access: available to UCB users via the California Digital Library (Melvyl)

    Historical Newspapers Online

    Historical Newspapers Online includes:
  • Palmer's Index to the (London) Times which covers the period from 1790 to 1905 in The Times
  • The Official Index to the (London) Times which takes the coverage forward from 1906 to 1980
  • The Historical Index to the New York Times which covers The New York Times from 1851-1923 (The current release of the The Historical Index to The New York Times contains data from the years 1863 to 1905. The 3rd release, including 1913-1923, will be published in November 1999; 4th release, including 1851-1862 and 1906-1912, should be completed in April 2000)
  • Access: available to UCB users via the Library's Web site

    Lexis-Nexis (Academic Universe)

    See Online Resources: General/News Periodicals

    Online Resources: Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences Indexes

    MLA (Modern Language Association) Bibliography

    The database contains over 1 million citations from over 4,000 journals, series, books, essay collections, working papers, proceedings, dissertations, and bibliographies of literature, languages, linguistics, and folklore from 1963 to the present. Includes indexing of key film studies journals, such as Film/Literature Quarterly, Cineaste, Griffithiana, Film Quarterly, Film Criticism, Journal of Popular Film and Television, PostScript, Quarterly Review of Film and Television. Extremely useful content analysis of monographic materials, published symposia and conferences, doctoral dissertations in film studies.

    Access: available to UCB users via the California Digital Library (Melvyl)

    Periodical Content Index (PCI)

    Includes first issue to present indexing of thousands of periodicals in the humanities and social sciences, from their first issues to 1990/1991. Every article is indexed. The scope is international, including journals in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and other Western languages. PCI Web currently indexes over six million articles in 1,595 journals. Every year, it adds records for more than two million more articles. Journals include various film/arts titles such as Sight & Sound, The Listener, Films in Review, Cineaste, Cinema Journal, Film Quarterly, Journal of Popular Film and Television.

    Access: available to UCB users via the Library's Web site

    Arts & Humanities Citation Index (Web of Science)

    An international interdisciplinary index to the literature of the arts and humanities, indexing the contents of about 6,100 journals, covering about 1,000 fully and about 5,100 selectively, 1978 to present. Those selectively covered are titles in the sciences and social sciences indexed by Science Citation Index and Social Sciences Citation Index, from which articles of possible interest in the arts and humanities are drawn. Includes film and popular culture journals such as Cineaste, Sight and Sound, Postif, Wide Angle, Film Criticism, Film Comment, Camera Obscura, Film Quarterly, Journal of Popular Film and Television, Literature/Film Quarterly, Historical Journal of Film, Television and Radio, Cinema, American Film.

    Access: available to UCB users via the Library's Web site

    America: History and Life

    Indexes and abstracts literature on the history and culture of the United States and Canada from prehistoric times to the present. Articles are abstracted from more than 2,400 journals published in approximately 40 languages. Of these journals, about 900 are published in the United States and Canada. The editors survey foreign periodicals to include all articles on American history and life. Article publication dates from 1964-present. This database is updated annually. A particularly good source for finding articles on the historical and social role of film in American Life. (see AHL website for a fuller description of the database). Film journals indexed include Film & History (1972); Film Heritage (1967-74); Film History: An International Journal (1987-); Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television (1981-); Journal of Popular Film and Television (1973-);

    Access: available to UCB users via the Library's Web site

    ArtAbstracts Index

    Indexes 250 journals covering the fields of archaeology, architecture, art history, city planning, computer applications and graphics, crafts, film, folk art, graphic arts, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, museology, painting, photography, sculpture, television, textiles, and video. Updated monthly. Contains citations indexed from 1984 to the present in English and other European languages. Indexing from September 1984 to the present. Titles with interest to film and TV studies include: American Film, American Cinematographer, Journal of Popular Film and Television, Film Quarterly, Film Comment, Film Criticism, Sight and Sound, Cahiers du Cinema, Cineaste, Cinema Journal. Abstracts for some articles in some journals (e.g., Film Comment, Film Quarterly, Cineaste) from Spring 1994 to present

    Access: available to UCB users via the Library's Web site

    Print Indexes

    Print Resources: Film Literature Indexes

    Film Literature Index

    Covers 150 film and television periodicals from 30 countries indexed from cover to cover. 200 other periodicals selectively indexed for articles on film and television. Periodicals range from scholarly, critical, technical to popular , including film/TV journals, and other titles in the fields of literature, rhetoric, popular culture, cultural theory. Does not include journals devoted to fan interests, totally technical data, or short press release information. Quarterly; 1973 to present, with annual cumulations.

    Over 2,000 subject headings provide detailed subject analysis of articles. Continuous updating of subject headings reflects current trends and issues (e.g. Women Filmmakers, Video Art, Teletext, Pirating.) Extensive cross-references by film titles, directors and subject headings. Film reviews are listed under the subheading "reviews" under film title. Cross-reference is provided from name of reviewer to titles of films reviewed. Book reviews are listed under subject, name of reviewer, and author of work reviewed. Entries indicate the presence of filmography, credits, biography, and interviews

    Access: Media Center PN1993.99.F53 Library has: 1973(1)-1996(24); Info Center PN1993.99.F53 Library has: BOUND 1973(1)-1996(24), later issues UNBOUND

    Film Review Annual. 1982-

    Reviews of selected films from 1982 to the present taken from a broad range of periodicals.

    Access: Hum/Area PN1995.F55 Reference Stack Library has: BOUND 1981-1997-

    Film Review Index

    Edited by Patricia K. Hanson, Hanson and Stephen L. Hanson. 1986-1987. 2 vols. Cites reviews to over 7000 feature films between 1914 and 1986 in both popular and trade journals. Cites reviews to over 7000 feature films between 1914 and 1986.

    Access: Media Center PN1995.F54 1986 Library has: v. 1-2; Hum/Area PN1995.F54 1986 Reference Stack Library has: v. 1-2 (1986-1987)

    A Guide to Critical Reviews: Part IV: The Screenplay from Jazz Singer to Dr. Strangelove, v.1 and 2. James M. Salem. 1971. Supplement One: 1963-1980. 1982.

    Index to film reviews in selected periodicals and newspapers from 1927 to 1980.

    Access: Info Center PN1654.A12.S23 v.4 suppl.1

    Index to Critical Film Reviews in British and American Periodicals.., vols. 1-3. Stephen E. Bowles. 1974,1975 1963-1980. 1982.

    Entries for film reviews in selected periodicals from 1950s to 1973.

    Access: Media Center PN1995.B68 Library has: v. 1-3
    Hum/Area PN1995.A12.B64 Inquire at the Information Center reference desk about access. Library has: v.1-3 ([1974-1975])

    Retrospective Index to Film Periodicals, 1930-1971

    Access: Media Center PN1994.A12.B38;
    Info Center PN1994.A12.B38

    Film Criticism: An Index to Critics' Anthologies

    Access: Main Stack PN1995.H4

    The Kael Index: A Guide to a Movie Critic's Work, 1954-1991

    Access: Main Stack PN1998.3.K34.S63 1993

    Variety Film Reviews, 1907-1984. 18 vols. Cumulative Index

    Comprehensive and complete reproductions of original reviews printed in Variety. Indexes to titles, 1907-1980 (v. 16) and 1981-84 (v. 18).

    Access: Hum/Area PN1993.V36 Reference Stack Library has: BOUND 1907/20(1)-1995/96(24)- Library has: CUMULATIVE INDEXES: 1907/20(1)-1983/84(18)

    Video Librarian. 1986-- Annual indexes.

    Monthly newsletter which reviews current theatrical and non-theatrical videos.

    Access: Media Center Periodical

    Media Review Digest. 1985--

    Indexes over 140 international journals, including media-related titles, subject-specialized journals, and general periodical literature. MRD contains citations and cross-references to reviews and descriptions of films, videocassettes, videodiscs, and filmstrips; educational and spoken-word records and tapes; slides, Transparencies, illustrations, globes, charts, media kits, games, and other miscellaneous media forms. Reviews of both theatrical and educational film and video.

    Access: Media Resources Center periodical

    Print Resources: General/News Periodicals and Newspapers

    Readers Guide To Periodical Literature

    Lists articles on specific films and film subjects in monthly supplements that are cumulated quarterly and annually. Coverage is 1900 to present. Look for reviews under the heading "Motion Picture Reviews;" see the subheading "Single works," with a "see" reference from the title of the film. Reviews are also indexed under the name of the director.

    Access: Hum/Area AJ3.R4 Reference Stack Library has: BOUND 1(1900)-57(1997); later issues unbound

    New York Times Index

  • Hum/Area AJ21.N41 Reference Stack BOUND 1930(18)-1997(85); later issues unbound
  • Main Stack AJ21.N44 Index BOUND Sept 1851-June 1905, 1907-1910, 1912, 1930-1934, 1936-1938, 1941-1947, 1950-1966, 1968-1995 (1966 MISSING; 1974 v.2 MISSING)

    The New York Times Film Reviews: 1913-1968, v.6: Appendix, Index. 1970.

    Index to film reviews found in the New York Times from 1913 to 1968.

    Access: Media Center PN1995.N4 Library has: v. 6 (1913/1968) Index
    Hum/Area PN1995.N4 Reference Stack Library has: BOUND 1913/1968-1995/96

    Review and Criticism Compilations

    Magills' Cinema Annual

    Reviews of selected films from 1981 to the present.

  • Hum/Area PN1993.45.M33 Reference Stack Library has: BOUND 1982-1998- ; INDEXES 1982-1986
  • Main Stack PN1995.M35
  • Info Center PN1995.M35 Library has: BOUND 1982-1997, 1999-

    Magills' Survey of Cinema, 1980-85.

    Provides essay-length reviews of roughly 3,000 films. "Consists of several distinct parts: English language films are covered in two A-Z series, the first of four volumes published in 1980 and the second in six volumes published in 1981; silent films comprise three volumes (1982), foreign language films eight volumes (1985), and current films are covered in Magill's Cinema Annual, which began in 1982 and serves as a continuing update to the set. Articles on each film include a plot summary, critical notes on directing, acting, screen writing, cinematography, and the film's place in the history of its genre." - Kenneth Kister (Kister's Best Encyclopedias : A Comparative Guide to General and Specialized Encyclopedias, p.357)

  • English Language Film: Hum/Area PN1995.M3 V.1-4 (C1980); second series Hum/Area PN1995.M32 V.1-6 (1981)
  • Foreign Language Film: Hum/Area PN1993.45.M34 1985 Library has: v. 1-8 (c1985)
  • Silent Film: Hum/Area PN1997.8.M3 Library has: V.1-3 (1982)

    Web Resources

    Next to pornography, sites related to movies, TV, and video probably occupy the greatest proportion of space on the web. In cyberspace, anyone/everyone can be a critic. The web is jammed with fans offering their opinions about their favorite flics, scholars pontificating about film, commercial sites--from studios to film and video vendors--flacking their wares. There are also an increasing number of electronic film journals and full-text newspaper and magazine reviews making their way onto the web.

    Needless to say, entering this chaotic and bewildering world in search of reviews and criticism requires a fair amount of good judgment and discretion. When trolling for film reviews/criticism on the web, consider the source and the reviewer, consider the length and substance of the article.

    Internet Movie Database

    The IMDB provides access to full-text reviews of domestic and foreign films from newspapers, magazines and online journals, including the New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Entertainment Weekly, Girls on Film and Salon (listed for selected films under an "External Reviews" link).

    The IMDB database currently covers over 210,000 titles, from the earliest cinema to the present. You can search by movie title, cast/crew name, character name, quotes, genre, and other categories. The IMDB also contains over 3,000,000 filmographies for all professions in the industry; plot summaries; character names; movie ratings; running times; color information; sequel/remake information; release dates; links to official studio pages, fan pages, image and multimedia archives; information on film festivals and more. While the IMDB provides information about films from 1890 to the present, full-text reviews are not always available for earlier films.

    Media Resource Center Bibliographies/Videographies

    The MRC web site includes a rapidly growing body of bibliographies on international filmmakers and international films. Much of the information has been compiled from the various indexes and compilations described above. Individual videographies of MRC holdings also contain citations and links to articles and reviews about specific films in the collection--both documentaries and feature films.

  • Bibliographies
  • Videographies
  • Movie Review Query Engine

    Perhaps the best single search engine for locating full-text reviews online, including reviews in journals and newspapers, use groups, and other miscellanea. Depth of chronological coverage varies.

    Infoseek Movie Review Page

    Yahoo Movie Review Page

    QuickCheck (links to movie reviews in newspapers) Review Search Engine

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    Last update 11/3/99.

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