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Whether you're curious to explore others' perspectives on your favorite movies, or you've been assigned to find contemporary reviews on historical films for a class assignment, there are a variety of online and print resources that can help.
The first question to ask is, "When was this film released?" New films or those that have been released in the last decade or two will likely be easy to find via critics' webpages and film review metasites (see the box below and to the left for suggestions).
Contemporary reviews -- those which were written when the movie was first released -- of historical films can be trickier to find, for several reasons.
- First, the advent of blogging and digital publishing led to a dramatic increase in the number of reviews written. This trend began in the late 1990s, and continues to this day -- there are simply many more reviews published today than there were in decades past.
- Second, historical reviews which originated in print do not always make the jump to digital publication. There are a few exceptions to this, but you will likely need to track down physical (or microfilm) copies of publications to perform a thorough study of historical film reviews.
Regardless of the age of your film, two resources that are likely to produce contemporary reviews are:
See the boxes below for resources that will help you dive deeper into finding reviews.
Reviewers and Review Metasites
Film scholar Emanuel Levy hosts this site, which includes reviews of feature films and dvd releases, information about his publications, Film Comment articles, and festival information.
Metacritic is a website that aggregates reviews of music albums, games, movies, and TV shows. For each product, a numerical score from each review is obtained and the total is averaged.
MRQE – the Movie Review Query Engine
This no-frills database returns reviews of over 44,000 titles. It also offers the option of browsing recent releases and most popular titles as well as articles on various award ceremonies and film festivals.
New York Times Movie Reviews
Browse or search New York Times movie reviews. Included are all films reviewed from the 1920s on, including reviews of all Best Picture Academy Award winners, as well as The New York Times guide to Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made.
rogerebert.com :: Movie reviews, essays and the Movie Answer Man from film critic Roger Ebert
Well-known critic and reviewer Roger Ebert's essays, articles, and film reviews are linked from his site. Additional reviewers are highlighted at this site since Mr. Ebert's passing in 2013.
This metasite culls reviews from a variety of newspapers, magazines, and web publications and presents brief snippets of them to provide a snapshot of a film's critical reception. Each film is assigned a cumulative rating based on the percentage of positive reviews it receives.
Variety Film Reviews
Browse or search Variety movie reviews from the 1920s on.
Historic Reviews in Databases
FIAF International Index to Film Periodicals
Offers in-depth coverage of the world’s foremost academic and popular film journals. It contains over 330,000 article reference from more than 300 periodicals. The index contains comprehensive television periodical indexing until 2000 and TV-related articles from film periodicals continue to be indexed. Searches can be limited to Film-related or TV-related articles only.
Film Literature Index
Contains approximately 700,000 citations to film, television and video articles, reviews and book reviews. You can search the citations or browse by subject headings, browse by person names, browse by production titles, or browse by corporate names. The FLI Online contains citations from 1976 to 2001.
ProQuest Historical Newspapers
Tip: After you select a newspaper, you may click on the "News & Newspapers databases" link at the top of the screen to search multiple papers at once. Use your search fields to input relevant information, using quotes for phrases (e.g. "Gold Rush" and "Charlie Chaplin"). After running your search, you may narrow your results by selecting 'Reviews' under 'Document type' along the lefthand side of the screen. Narrowing the publication date range can also help to focus your search.
Readers Guide Index / Readers Guide Retrospective
Indexes popular magazines from 1890-1982, including Newsweek, Time, Life, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and The Nation. Type [name of film] Motion Picture Reviews to find reviews about particular films. For example, you can do a keyword search for Godfather Motion Picture Reviews. Do NOT select 'Review' in the Publication Type field. It can be helpful to input the year of the film's release in the Published Date field. For instance, adding 1972 to this field refines the search to include the original Godfather film, and not its sequels.
Historic Reviews in Print
Film Review Annual
Call Number: PN1995 .F4633
Full text reviews published between 1991 and 2002. Located on the first floor of Morris Library in the Reference Collection.
Magill's Cinema Annual
Call Number: PN1993.3 .M34
Each issue covers films released the previous year as well as some films of the past. Issues from 1982 to the current year are located on the first floor of Morris Library in the Reference Collection.