Skip Menu

Return to Skip Menu

Main Content

Movie reviews and criticisms

A movie review is an article that is published in a newspaper, magazine, or scholarly work that describes and evaluates a movie. Reviews are typically written by journalists giving their opinion of the movie. Some reviews include score (4 out of 5 stars) or recommendations (thumbs up). Since reviews are printed in many different kinds of publications, you may need to search several sources.

A movie criticism is written by a scholar or expert in film studies to discuss the movie within a historical, social, political, or theoretical context. It differs from the opinion or recommendation that a movie review provides in terms of length, content and focus. Criticisms can be found in cinema studies journals as well as discipline-specific sources, depending on the plot or themes of the movie.

Reviews and criticisms are produced after the release of a movie, whether that is its initial release to theatres, or a release in a home video format. Knowing the initial release date(s) will help refine your search. Also note that nationwide release of movies only started in the 1980s; earlier films were released on different dates in different parts of the country. So a movie reviewed in New York City of Los Angeles may not have been reviewed for months or years later in smaller cities. The Internet Movie Database is an excellent source for release dates. Finally, movies can be remade, so you will want to be sure you are finding reviews or criticisms for the correct film; knowing the director or major stars will help refine your search results.

Many sources (online or in print) will only give a citation for the review or criticism. Use that citation to track down the complete text of the article.

Finding movie reviews and criticisms through Addison 

General sources of movie reviews and criticisms can be found by search Addison by Subject for Motion pictures--reviews. Criticisms can be found through the subject Film criticism. For reviews and criticisms on specific movies, subject search the movie's title, genre (i.e. science fiction films), or a director's name.

Movie review and critique databases 

The library has subscriptions to three databases that index movie reviews and critiques specifically:

Film & Television Literature Index from EBSCOhost
A comprehensive bibliographic database (title list) covering the entire spectrum of television and film. Most journals are indexed from the 1980s-present, though select journals are indexed to the early 1900s.
Book, Movie, Music, Play, and Video Reviews from LexisNexis
Reviews published in newspapers, magazines, trade publications, news program transcripts and major websites from around the world. 1980-present. For best search results, include the movie title in quotes.
Communication & Mass Media Complete from EBSCOhost
Much overlap with Film & Television Literature Index (search both simultaneously by using EBSCOhost's Choose Databases feature). Includes many sources for film criticism. 1980s-present.

General Interest databases 

Reviews and criticisms can be found in general interest databases. Note the date range covered by each database and select ones that cover the time after the release of your movie. Search the title of the movie (as a phrase when possible) and include the director's last name if more than one film by that title exists.

Academic Search Complete from EBSCOhost
Academic Search Complete is a comprehensive scholarly, multi-disciplinary full-text database, with more than 5,500 full-text periodicals, including more than 4,600 peer-reviewed journals. In addition, this database offers indexing and abstracts for more than 9,500 journals and a total of more than 10,000 publications including books, reports, conference proceedings, etc. Allows limiting by document type to entertainment reviews. Most sources are indexed from 1980-present, but some journals are covered to the 1800s.
MLA International Bibliography from ProQuest
A primary source for film criticism outside of cinema studies specific sources. Search your movie titles as a Literary Work but be aware of your results when your movie is based on a book or short story of the same name.
Newspaper Source Plus from EBSCOhost
Provides full text for 131 national and international newspapers, including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Times (London), and others. Also contains selective full text for more than 335 US newspapers, including The Chicago Tribune, The Detroit Free Press, The Miami Herald, etc. In addition, full-text news transcripts are provided from ABC News, CBS News, CNN, FOX News, National Public Radio, etc. Can limit by Document Type to entertainment reviews.
ProQuest Recent Periodicals
Searchable, full-text databases of scholarly, trade, popular, and specialized periodical publications including ABI/Inform (business and management), EthnicNewsWatch (the ethnic press worldwide), and GenderWatch (gender issues). Coverage in some cases dates back to the 1970s. These databases may be searched in combinations with one another, but not with the ProQuest historical databases. Cam limit by Document type to movie or video reviews and also limit to favorable or unfavorable reviews.
Reader's Guide Retrospective: 1890-1982 from EBSCOhost
Search more than 3 million articles from nearly 400 magazines using keyword, subject heading, publication, dates, journal, author, article title, ISSN, or article type. Subjects include: Aeronautics, Aging, Archeology, Astronomy, Biographies, Business, Education, Fashion, Film, Fine Arts, Foreign Affairs, Gardening, History, Hobbies, Home, Journalism, Literature, Medicine, Music, Nutrition, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Radio, Religion, Science, Sports, Television, Travel. 1890-1982. No ability to limit to movie reviews.

Print indexes 

Since most databases cover only more recent years, finding reviews for older movies may require using a print index. Check the Addison record for each index to see if it covers the dates required. Use the volume corresponding to the year of publication for your book and the year or two after.

The motion picture guide
1910-1984. Newman reference, 2nd floor.
Variety Film Reviews
1907-1990. Newman reference, 2nd floor.
Magill's Survey of Cinema
Several series of reference books providing summaries and reviews of movies.
Selected film criticism
Provides a cross-section of contemporary American film criticism from 1896-1960. The volumes reprint reviews in their entirety from periodicals such as Photoplay, Film Reports, The Moving Picture World, Variety, and The New York Times. Of immense value for gauging contemporary reaction--both popular and serious--to the best-known films of the past.

Freely available movie review websites 

A large number of websites provide access to movie reviews, either the full text of the review, or at least a citation you can use to track down the full text.

Internet Movie Database
The premiere site for information on all aspects of movies. Look for the external reviews under the Awards & Reviews category. Reviews include articles from prominent sources like Variety as well as blogs and commercial websites, so evaluate the information presented accordingly.
Movie Review Query Engine
Includes a searchable database of reviews from over 75,000 movies. Includes reviews from print sources like Variety and The New York Times, popular entertainment magazines, blogs and commercial websites.
Film Literature Index Online from IU
1976-2001. Online version of the print index. Contains approximately 700,000 citations to articles, film reviews and book reviews. Nearly 150 film and television periodicals from 30 countries cover-to-cover and 200 other periodicals are selectively indexed annually for articles on film and television. Approximately 800 periodicals (see complete list of periodicals) have been indexed in this online cumulation of 25 years.
CineFiles from Berkeley's PFA Library
a database of reviews, press kits, festival and showcase program notes, newspaper articles, and other documents from the PFA Library's collection. The collection contains documents from a broad range of sources covering world cinema, past and present. CineFiles currently includes materials on the films of over 175 directors whose works have been featured in PFA's exhibition program. Materials on additional directors' works are added regularly. The database also contains retrospective indexing of film titles beginning with "A" and of files describing Soviet silent films from PFA's collection. Brief authority records, including title, director, country, and year, are also currently available for over 25,000 films. When retrospective indexing is complete, the CineFiles database will hold over 200,000 documents. New titles and document images are added daily. Documents are indexed and retrievable from numerous access points. Full citations are available for all documents, and page images are available for documents with copyright clearance.
Roger Ebert's movie reviews
Roger Ebert's reviews, as published in the Chicago Sun Times. 1967-present, plus classic "Great Movies."
Variety movie review archives
Reviews from 1914-present. Earlier reviews are only excepts; for the full review, use the microfilm copies of Variety.

Newman Library exam hours

Sun, Dec 14: open 7:30am*
Mon-Wed, Dec 15-17: open 24 hours*
Thu, Dec 18: close 8:00pm
Fri, Dec 19: 7:30am - 8:00pm
Sat-Sun, Dec 20-21: 9:00am - 6:00pm

* During 24 hour operation, a valid Hokie Passport is required to access or remain in the library between 12 midnight and 7:30am.

Current semester hours