How To Write A Movie Title In An Essay

Are you planning on referencing a movie in an essay you are writing? You'll have to find out how to write the movie title down correctly, or you may lose points. It might seem like a no-brainer at first glance, but you'd be surprised about the variety of approaches different style guides take to writing movie titles.

With this guide, you'll be able to get writing a movie title in an essay right.

How To Write a Movie Title In An Essay

How should you write a movie title in an essay — whether that essay is a movie analysis, or one not related to cinematography or creative writing at all, like one about history, psychology, or sociology? That depends, in short, on the context in which you're writing your essay.

If you are hoping to reference a movie title in a high school essay, you may not have to use a particular style guide — a manual that instructs you on the correct way to incorporate particular elements into your essay. In this case, your best bet is to use title case and to italicize the movie title.

Title case capitalizes all major words in a title or headline, including nouns, pronouns, verbs, and adverbs. Minor words such as short prepositions and articles (the, a, an) remain in lower case. The first and last words of the title should always be capitalized, regardless of what they are. To make it easier for you, we'll recommend that you also capitalize prepositions with more than four letters, such as "about" and "underneath", though some style guides do not do this. Since you are using italics, there is absolutely no need to use quotation marks as well.

Have you got no clue what we're talking about? Let's see this in action. (Warning: Some of the links definitely contain spoilers if you haven't watched any of these movies yet!)

  • The BBC refers to "Spider-Man: Far From Home", without any italics.
  • Wikipedia follows the structure recommended above, as in, for instance, "War of the Worlds".
  • Popular movie review platform Screen Rant follows the structure described above as well, in the body of their texts. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is one example. To allow you to see as many example as possible, we're linking to a post of theirs about the 15 movies with the longest titles.

If you are required to use a style guide, such as AP, APA, or MLA — common if you are writing a college essay — you will have less freedom. On the other hand, each writing style will also tell you exactly what to do, so you won't be in the dark.

Do you not have the entire style manual lying around on your desk? No problem. We'll make it easy for you.

Rules on Writing a Movie Title On An Essay

Whether you have been asked to use a particular style manual while citing and referencing movie titles in an essay, or you are committed to maintaining a consistent style yourself, style guides can be a little confusing. Here is a closer look at some of the most popular writing styles and their rules for writing movie titles.

Writing Style / Format General Rules of Writing a Movie Title
MLA In MLA style, you will italicize movie titles. You'll capitalize nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and subordinating conjunctions — but not articles, prepositions, coordinating conjunctions, or "to" in infinitives, unless they appear as the first or final word of the title. Examples include A Wrinkle in Time and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (in which the "the" that appears after the colon is capitalized for that very reason).
APA APA follows the very nearly same rules — use title case and italics to write a movie title. However, all words longer than four letters, including those that have exactly four letters, must also be capitalized. For example, Pirates of the Caribbean and Gone With the Wind.
AP AP style uses title case as well. Instead of italicizing your movie title you will, however, place it in quotation marks. For example, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" or "Spider-Man". Every word of four letters or longer will be capitalized, as well as the first and final words.
Chicago Chicago style follows the same rules as MLA to reference and cite movie titles in essays.
Harvard Harvard style is again identical; use title case and italics. Example: Avengers 2: Age of Ultron,


You won't just be writing the movie title in the body of your essay, of course, but also cite it in the references. Each style guide has specific guidelines on how to do this, as well.

In APA, you do this by:

  • Citing he director of the movie — last name, first initial.
  • Place the release year in brackets.
  • Follow this with the title.
  • Reference the medium used to watch it, for instance DVD.
  • Specify the location of the distributor, and the name of the distributor (for instance, California: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures).

In MLA, you:

  • List the director like this: Last name, First name.
  • Write the movie title.
  • Specify the name of the distributor.
  • Mention the release year.

In Harvard style, you would:

  • List the director by last name and first initial.
  • Place the release year in brackets.
  • Write the movie title.
  • Follow with the location and name of the distributor.

Why Is Proper Formatting Important?

Style guides are conventions established to ensure consistency, which adds clarity to your essay. In practical terms, however, taking care to format the movie titles you may reference in any essays is important because not doing so will cause you to lose points, which will result in a lower grade.

You only have to familiarize yourself with the rules set out by a particular style manual once, and after that you will likely remember what they are. There is no good reason not to make sure that you get this right, and every reason to make the effort.


Is a movie title underlined in an essay?

That is actually a very interesting question. Nowadays, nearly everyone writing an essay will do so on a PC or laptop computer, using word-processing software. This trend has led the practice of underlining movie titles to go all but extinct, since it's just as easy to italicize a movie title as to underline it.

Underlining the things we now italicize used to be more common, because people wrote things by hand or used typewriters. Especially when handwriting something in cursive, italics simply aren't possible. That's why underlining movie titles, book titles, and even scientific names used to be more common. Underlining movie titles remains the correct alternative to italicizing them if you are writing an essay by hand.

Do you also include the year of release with the movie title?

Yes, you should mention the release year as you cite a movie in your references. There is no need to do so in the body of your text, unless multiple movies exist by the same title. With remakes, this has become more common in recent times.

Do you quote a movie title in an essay?

Place quotation marks around a movie title in an essay only if you are using AP style.


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