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Film History Research Guide: Film Reviews


This guide explains how to find film reviews and the original reception of films on their theatrical release.

Information to Know

Before you begin searching, make sure you have the following information readily available:

  • Title of the film
  • Director
  • Starring actresses/actors
  • Date and year of theatrical release

Figuring Out Where to Look

Several of our databases have film reviews within them; however, not all databases have the same publications or cover the same time periods. Therefore, it's important to have an idea of which databases might be your best best.

For films from the last few decades, you might try searching the following databases:

For older films, you may try looking in our newspaper collections if you are not finding anything in the above databases:

Tips for Searching for Film Reviews

Once you've identified a database to search:

1. Search for the film title in quotes. Make sure you are putting quotation marks around the title to ensure the database is search for the words together as one unit.

screenshot of search bar

Other keywords you might try include the last names of the leading roles or the director.


2. Make sure you are paying attention to the date on reviews.

Search result with results from 2014 and 1956.

Sometimes older movies will have more contemporary reviews as they get re-released into newer formats. You can often find the date under the title of the search result.


3. Explore either the advanced search options or the filters to the left of your search results for ways to manipulate the publication date of your search.

screenshot of how to change date in search

Changing the date range of the results to be the year or two years surrounding when the film was released will help ensure that the results are relevant. If you change the dates to the date matching your film's theatrical release and no results come up, then the database you are searching might not have a review for your film and you'll want to check a different database.

Film Review vs Film Criticism

Some databases will have both film reviews and film criticisms. Here are some tips on how to differentiate them:

1. Date: Film reviews often come out close to when the film was released. Film criticisms usually come out years to decades after the film was originally released and usually involves other sources being cited and referred to. Be careful that you are not looking at a review for a re-release.

2. Publication: Film reviews are often published in popular sources such as magazines, newspapers, and websites, although they can sometimes be found in journals. Film criticisms are often found in scholarly and peer-reviewed journals. 

3. Length: Film reviews are shorter in nature, maybe just a few paragraphs. Film criticisms are often multiple pages in length.

4. References: Film reviews will not have references as it's usually just one reviewer giving their opinion. Film criticism often draw on other scholarship in making their conclusions and will have references listed at the end.


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Breanne Crumpton