How to Cite a Documentary Found Online

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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.

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 8, 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

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 8:

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 (without http:// or https://).

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

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

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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About the Author

Ella Chochrek

Ella is a student at Washington University in St. Louis studying political science and psychology. Originally from Westchester, New York, Ella loves to write and edit. She is editor-in-chief of Wash. U.’s student newspaper, Student Life, and tutors students on Chegg.com, primarily helping with paper editing.