How to Cite a Documentary in APA, MLA, or Chicago

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Published August 12, 2020. Updated October 4, 2021.

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While you might think of books and journal articles as the go-to sources when writing essays, documentaries can also be a great source of information—and they can also serve as a form of entertainment. Citing a documentary might seem more complicated than citing a textbook, but we’ve put together this handy guide on how to cite a documentary to make the process a bit easier for you.

Quickly cite a documentary by using our citation generator form for a film.

As an example, we’ve cited “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”—a great Netflix documentary by David Gelb about a legendary Tokyo sushi chef—in three different styles: MLA 9, APA, and Chicago.

To cite a documentary properly, you must take the following pieces of information into consideration:

  1. Documentary title
  2. Name of the documentary director
  3. Any performers in the documentary
  4. Documentary producers
  5. Title of the site, database, or streaming service that the documentary was found on (if applicable)
  6. Name of the production company
  7. Publication date
  8. City where the production company is based
  9. URL for the documentary (if applicable)

Depending on the medium used to access the documentary, you may need to do additional research to find all of the information listed below.

How to Cite a Documentary

Use the following structure to cite a documentary in MLA 9:

Documentary title. Directed by First name Last name, performance by First name Last name, Production Company, Year published. Title of Site, Database, or Service where movie was streamed from (if applicable), URL.

Here’s how the above example would be cited in MLA format:

Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Directed by David Gelb, performance by Jiro Ono and Yoshikazu Ono. Magnolia Home Entertainment, 2011. Netflix, www.netflix.com/search?q=jiro&jbv=70181716&jbp=0&jbr=0.

Here’s how the above example would be cited in an in-text citation:

(Shortened Documentary Title)

(Jiro Dreams)

Use the following structure to cite a documentary in APA:

Last name of Documentary Producer(s), F.M. (Producer[s]), & Last name of Documentary Director(s), F.M. (Director[s]). (Year). Documentary title [ Medium (DVD, Video file]. Retrieved from URL

Here’s how the above example would be cited in APA format:

Iwashina, K., & Yamamoto, M.(Producers), & Gelb, D. (Director). (2011). Jiro dreams of sushi [Video file].  Retrieved from https://www.netflix.com/search?q=jiro&jbv=70181716&jbp=0&jbr=0

Use the following structure to cite a documentary  in Chicago:

Documentary Title. Directed by Director’s Name. City of Publication: Studio, Year.

Here’s how the above example would be cited in Chicago:

Jiro Dreams of Sushi.  Directed by David Gelb. New York: Magnolia Home Entertainment, 2011.


 

 

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How do I cite a Netflix documentary?

To cite a documentary from a media streaming website, include the following details: the producer’s name and/or director’s name and their title (e.g., Producer, Director, etc.), year released, title of the documentary, description of the source in square brackets if needed, website name, and URL.

APA

Reference list  Director’s Surname, X. Y. (Director). (Year). Title of the documentary [Film]. Production Company(ies).
Example Hobkinson, S. (Director). (2021). Misha and the wolves [Film]. APT Film and Television.
In-text Citation – Parenthetical (Director’s Surname, Year)
(Hobkinson, 2021)
In-text Citation – Narrative Director’s Surname (Year)

Hobkinson (2021)

Note that in APA, it is not necessary to include the name of the streaming website/app in the citation.

MLA

Reference list Title of the Documentary. Directed by Director First Name Surname, Production Company, Year. Website.
Example Misha and the Wolves. Directed by Sam Hobkinson, APT Film and Television, 2021. Netflix app.
In-text Citation – Parenthetical (Documentary Title)

(Misha and the Wolves)

In-text Citation – In Prose Documentary Title

Misha and the Wolves

How do you in-text cite a documentary?

To cite a documentary in MLA or APA style, it is important to have basic information including the name of the director, name of the artists and/or producers, production company, publication date, and URL. Templates and examples for how to create in-text citations for documentaries in APA and MLA format are included below.  

APA in-text citations

Template:

(Director Surname, publication year)

Example:

(Dhanalakshmi, 2004)

MLA in-text citations

Template:

(Shortened Title of the Documentary)

Example:

(India)