How to Title a Movie or Film in an Essay or Paper

Last Updated: 02 April 2023

College professors carefully look at proper nouns when grading student essays. They do this to ensure they are written correctly. When they find proper nouns, such as movie titles, are not written correctly, they do not give maximum points for formatting.

In this post, we will reveal how to write movie titles correctly in MLA, APA, Chicago, Harvard, and AP-style papers. What you will learn in the next few minutes will help you not lose formatting points during grading.

Let’s begin.

Formatting a Movie Title in an Essay or Paper

Notice that formatting and capitalizing movie titles in an essay or academic writing piece largely depends on the style guide that you are using. If you are writing in MLA, Chicago/Turabian, or APA, you must write the movie titles in italics. In AP style, you have to use quotes for the movie titles.

When referring to the movie within the body of your paper, all the major style guides prefer using a title case where all the major words in the movie title are capitalized.

Let us delve further into how best to write a movie title in a paper, depending on the writing style.

1. How To Write A Movie Title In-Text On An MLA-Style Paper

MLA stands for Modern Language Association. US college professors founded the association in the nineteenth century. It published the MLA format in 1951. The MLA format is the recommended format in humanities disciplines.

The correct way to write a movie title on an MLA-style paper is to capitalize the first letter of the first word and all the principal words in the title, including the hyphenated words. These words include proper nouns, common nouns, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, subordinating conjunctions, and verbs. 

The only words you should not capitalize when you write a movie title in an MLA-style paper are the articles (e.g., a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (e.g., but, or, for, and), and prepositions (e.g., on, of, between, against) after the first word.

In addition to following the above rule on capitalizing the first letter of the first word and every principal word, you should italicize your movie title. You must italicize your movie title in virtually all major writing styles.

Examples of correctly written movie titles in MLA style

2. How to Write a Movie Title In-Text on an APA-Style Paper

APA is an acronym for American Psychological Association. Just like the MLA, the APA was founded in the nineteenth century. The APA stylebook was published in 1929 and is one of the world's most popularly used formatting styles.

The right way to write a movie title in APA style is to capitalize the first letter of the first word and every major word (nouns, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, and verbs) in the sentence.

The only words that should not have their first letter capitalized are minor (articles plus prepositions and conjunctions under four letters long). In short, every word over three letters in length should have its first letter capitalized in an APA paper.

The above statement shows that writing a movie title in an APA-style paper is quite similar to doing the same in an MLA-style paper. The biggest difference is that all words with over three letters have their first letter capitalized. No MLA-style exceptions for long prepositions like between and against.

In addition to capitalizing the first letter, you must italicize the entire movie title in APA, just like in MLA.

Examples of correctly written movie titles in APA style

3. Writing A Movie Title In-Text On A Chicago-Style Paper

Writing a movie title on a Chicago-style paper is the same as writing a movie title on an MLA-style paper. You capitalize the first letter of the first word and every principal word in the sentence.

The only words you don’t capitalize are the articles (e.g., a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (e.g., but, or, for, and), and prepositions (e.g., on, of, between, against) after the first word. Again, the case here is just like in MLA style format.

You also have to italicize your entire movie title in Chicago-style formatting.

Examples of correctly written movie titles in Chicago style

It is crucial to note that writing a movie title Chicago style is very similar to writing a movie title Harvard style. Therefore, if you want to know how to write a film title Harvard style, follow the rules and the examples above.

4. How to Write a Movie Title In-Text on an AP-Style Paper

The AP is an acronym for the Associated Press. This is a global news organization that was founded in the mid-nineteenth century. It is one of the most reliable news organizations in the world. The organization published the AP format for journalists to use in 1953.

The correct way to write a movie title on an AP-style paper is to capitalize the first letter of the first word and all the main words. Conjunctions and prepositions more than three letters long also need their first letter capitalized. The first letter of the last word also needs to be capitalized regardless of how long or short it is.

In addition to the above, the movie title must be put in quotations. It must not be italicized.

Examples of correctly written movie titles in AP style

Seven Steps to Writing a Movie Title

Follow the steps below to write movie titles in your college papers correctly.

1. Ensure the Movie You Are Referencing Is the Correct Movie

It is relatively easy to confuse movies because sometimes films have the same name, and other times they have names that can easily be confused. Therefore, before writing any movie title in your essay, ensure the movie you want to note is correct.

Noting down a movie by name in your article and then it ends up being the wrong one could have consequences for you. It could make your essay confusing, disorganized, or poor. You do not want your professor to think your essay is any of these things if you want an excellent grade.

So do a bit of research to ensure you have the right movie.

2. Ensure You Have the Wording Right

Students often forget a part of a movie title when talking about a movie in their essays. This is unacceptable. It is unacceptable because it doesn’t give the reader the complete information they need to research should they feel it necessary.

Therefore, to ensure your work is perfect, make sure the movie title you want to note down has the right wording. Do not forget or ignore any articles, conjunctions, or prepositions.

3. Do Not Leave Out Articles

Many famous movies have an article before them, e.g., “the” or “a.” You must not ignore the article before a movie, even if you feel like your reader will still know what you are talking about. For example, even if you feel your reader will know Shawshank Redemption, writing down the movie title like this is wrong. Write the full title, e.g., The Shawshank Redemption.

Sometimes, an article is the only thing distinguishing one movie from another. Therefore, leaving it out could mislead the reader into thinking you are discussing something different from what you are talking about.

4. Capitalize the First Word and the Main Words

Most writing formats require you to capitalize the first and main words in a movie title when you write it in-text in an essay. This doesn’t mean you write everything in capital letters. It simply means you make the first letter in the first word a capital letter plus the first letter in every other keyword (noun, pronoun, adjectives, and so on).

The example below shows how to capitalize a movie title in an essay. Even if a movie title is written in all caps, you are still supposed to capture it in the manner detailed in the example.

Example: In The Hunger Games, themes such as power, violence . . .

The only words you are not supposed to capitalize when writing a movie title are the prepositions, conjunctions, and articles within the movie title. Check the example below.

Example: Everyone who has watched The Pirates of the Caribbean loves . . .

5. Italicize the Title

As you may have noticed so far in this article, movie titles are italicized in all the major writing formats. This is done to make it clear to the reader quickly what words are part of the title and the ones that are not.

Therefore, immediately after capitalizing a movie title in your essay, you should go ahead and italicize it. Instead of italicizing it, you can add quotation marks when a movie title is short. This is, however, not always tolerated by professors. In most cases, they expect movie titles in italics.

Only when writing an AP-style paper are you expected to add quotation marks to a movie title instead of italicizing it.

6. State the Year of Release

The first time you refer to a movie in your paper or essay, you should state the year it was publicly released in parentheses. This will help the reader to understand the movie better because they will have the time context.

Sometimes movies/films share names. Adding a year in parentheses helps the reader precisely tell which movie you are discussing. While stating the year of release is encouraged, it is not always necessary. In addition, in most cases, professors do not care if the year of release is stated.

If you choose to give the year of release, you should only do it the first time you mention the movie.

7. Consider Using an Assignment Help Service

If you doubt your formatting skills and are unsure how to write movie titles, consider using an assignment help service like Experienced masters and Ph.D. graduates who know everything there is to know about formatting papers typically offer our movie review writing services. They can help you format and edit your paper to ensure it is standard.

Moreover, we also have experts who can help you write your paper from scratch. All you need to do is to order a paper on your topic of choice, and a writer will be assigned to it to deliver outstanding results. Unlike other assignment help services, our service goes above and beyond to ensure the papers our clients receive are error-free, plagiarism-free, and have zero CHAT-GPT input.

As we come to the End…

As you may have noticed in this article, there are so many rules to remember when you want to write a movie title in an essay. While the rules are similar across different writing styles/formats, they are also slightly different. You must check the rules for writing movie titles to ensure you are on the right track according to your college’s recommended writing style.

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If you need assistance writing movie titles or formatting your paper, send it to us. We have expert writers with the knowledge and expertise to deliver top-quality papers. They also have the discipline and the professionalism not to use any shortcuts that could get our clients in trouble (e.g., AI and low-quality sources). Trust us today with your work, and we will deliver.


Is it necessary to include the year of release when writing a movie title in a college essay?

It is not necessary. When writing a movie title in a college essay, you must write it correctly and add a credible source on the ‘Works Cited page. You can include the year of release the first time you mention the movie in your essay. You can do this by putting the year in parentheses next to the movie title. But it is not a must.

Should I put quotation marks on a movie title?

No, you should not. You should capitalize and italicize it. Quotation marks are not required or recommended when writing a movie title following the APA, MLA, Harvard, or Chicago formats. They are only required when writing a movie title following the AP style. And when they are used in AP style, the title shouldn’t be italicized.

Should movie titles be written in title cases in an essay?

Yes, they should. All writing styles require you to write your movie title in title case (AP, APA, Chicago, MLA, and Harvard). The major words or principal words of the movie title should all be written in the title case.

Why do some news organizations put movie titles in quotations?

They do this because most news organizations require their journalists to follow the AP (Associated Press) style when writing news items. And since the AP format requires movies to be written in quotations rather than italics, you have the current situation where news articles have movie names in quotes.

Do you underline movie titles in essays?

No, you do not. You don’t underline movie titles in essays. This is because almost all writing and formatting styles require you to write the movie name in the title case and italicize it. Nothing more. You only underline movie titles in essays if you are handwriting your essay because italics aren’t possible when handwriting.

Is there a problem if I do not format my movie title correctly?

Yes, there is a problem. A big problem. You should format your move title correctly to get the total points for proper formatting during grade. If you don’t, you won’t get all the points your professor allocates for formatting the essay. This will result in a poor or average grade.