How to Cite Documentaries in MLA

MLA style was created by the Modern Language Association to standardize all writings in the humanities. Even though the style is utilized most often when writing about language and literature, you might need to reference a documentary at some point.

Important Information

To craft a citation for a documentary, you must first determine the name of the director and the name of the film studio or distributor as well as the year the work was released.

Recorded Films

If you're referencing a documentary you watched in a personal setting, such as on video or DVD, start your citation with the title of the film in italics followed by a period. Then list the director's name -- set the name off with the title "Dir." -- and a period. Next, list the studio behind the documentary, and follow that with a comma, the year of release and a period. Finally, include the medium in which you experienced the film. Examples would include "DVD" or "VHS." A citation for a documentary you watched on DVD would read, "A Typical Documentary (Italicized). Dir. Mike Wilson. Hollywood Budget Films, 2010. DVD."

Theatrical Releases

If you are referencing a documentary that was seen in theaters or has not yet been released for home viewing, your citation will be slightly different. When listing the medium of publication at the conclusion of the citation, simply write "Film."

Parenthetical Citations

When making use of your research in the main body of an MLA document, you will use a parenthetical citation. This alerts your reader to the fact you are citing another individual's work and directs them to the more detailed references on your works cited page. When referring to a documentary, simply list the title of the work in parentheses at the conclusion of the sentence in which the documentary is mentioned. Place the parenthetical citation inside the period of the sentence in question.