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HUMS 210: Cinema and Society (Dr. Grant): Sources

Scholarly Criticism

How scholarly works of film criticism differ from film reviews

Peer-reviewed articles of film criticism found in scholarly journals are very different from the shorter, usually more superficial kinds of "movie reviews." Scholarly articles published in film journals differ slightly from the kind of peer-reviewed articles found in scientific or technical journals, but they have more in common with these than with articles found in popular newspapers, magazines, and blogs.

Like peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, scholarly film criticism often:

  • makes frequent reference to other works (including other films and other scholarly sources);
  • includes a long list of citations at the end of the article, usually identified either as Notes, References, or Works Cited;
  • identifies the author's academic credentials, university affiliation, and/or contact information;
  • uses bold subheadings to distinguish various parts of a complex argument;
  • employs sophisticated language and specialized jargon intended for an educated audience;
  • features images--often still photographs from the film--used to illustrate a point or support an argument the author is making;
  • provides in-depth analysis accompanied by substantial supporting evidence and theoretical or historical context;
  • runs multiple full-text pages in length--much longer than reviews, which can be only a few paragraphs long;
  • is published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals that also include reviews and articles that aren't peer-reviewed.

Examples of scholarly film journals accessible through the library's search engine:

  • Camera Obscura
  • Cinema Journal
  • Cinephile
  • Film Criticism
  • Film Quarterly
  • Kinema
  • Literature-Film Quarterly
  • Studies in French Cinema

Film Reviews

Film reviews are often more descriptive and evaluative than the analytical essays written by film scholars. Reviews are frequently intended to offer guidance to filmgoers uncertain about whether to buy a ticket for a particular film; as such, they often summarize the plot, describe the characters, and share the reviewer's subjective emotional response to the film as a whole.

Ways film reviews typically differ from scholarly film criticism:

  • Reviews are typically much shorter--often less than a single full page;
  • Reviews are published in popular media (e.g. newspapers, magazines, blogs)--unlike criticism, which is published in scholarly journals;
  • Reviews almost never include a list of references, though some may refer to other films;
  • Authors of reviews may have no formal training or expertise in film studies--unlike scholarly critics who typically have advanced degrees;
  • Reviews are written for general audiences, so they usually avoid sophisticated jargon, theoretical concepts, and social/historical context.

Reliable sources of high-quality film reviews:


  • Atlantic Monthly
  • Cineaste
  • Film Comment
  • New York Magazine
  • The New Yorker
  • Sight & Sound
  • Time
  • Variety


  • Boston Globe
  • Chicago Tribune
  • Chicago Sun-Times
  • Christian Science Monitor
  • The Guardian
  • The Hollywood Reporter
  • Los Angeles Times
  • New York Times
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Washington Post