Do You Italicize Movie Titles in MLA?

Italicizing titles is a matter of style for the most part. Whether you should italicize movie titles or put them in quotation marks depends on the style guide you are using for your paper.

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MLA Formatting for Movie Titles

MLA style does not specifically address how to format titles of movies (or other works), but there are some general guidelines that you can follow. Generally, you should italicize the titles of long works such as movies, TV shows, books, and journals. Short works such as episodes, songs, and poems should be in quotation marks.

Here are some examples:

Long work: The Lord of the Rings
Short work: “The Fellowship of the Ring” (episode)
Long work: Wicked
Short work: “Defying Gravity” (song)

How to Italicize Movie Titles in MLA

Italicizing movie titles in MLA is easy! Simply refer to the movie by its title in your paper, and be sure to include the title in your Works Cited list. For more complicated titles, such as those that include a subtitle, you can use quotation marks.

When to Italicize Movie Titles in MLA

Italics are used for larger works, names of vehicles, and works of art. Quotation marks are reserved for sections of works, like the titles of chapters, magazine articles, poems, and episodes of television shows. Here are some examples of how to MLA format movie titles in your paper:

The Titanic sank in 1912 after hitting an iceberg; Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet starred in the 1997 movie about the ship.
“Titanic” was nominated for fourteen Academy Awards and won eleven, including Best Picture.

Why Movie Titles Should be Italicized in MLA

There is no reason why movie titles should not be italicized in MLA. In fact,italicizing them is actually recommended. This is because movie titles tend to be long and can be easily confused with other types of titles, such as book titles. By italicizing them, you can help to ensure that your readers know that they are reading a movie title and not something else.

The Importance of Italicizing Movie Titles in MLA

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the issue of italicizing movie titles. The MLA Style Guide, however, provides clear and concise guidelines on how to properly italicize movie titles in MLA format.

Here are the basic rules for MLA movie title formatting:

Titles of movies should be italicized.
If a movie is part of a larger work (e.g., a play or book), the title of that larger work should be italicized.
When referring to a movie in the body of your paper, simply use the title of the movie. You do not need to put the title in quotation marks or italics.

Here are some examples of how to properly format movie titles in MLA style:

The Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorite movies.
I saw The Phantom Menace on opening night.
I read The Catcher in the Rye in high school.

How to Properly Format Movie Titles in MLA

In general, movie titles are not italicized. The reason for this is that movie titles are considered part of the larger category of “works of art,” which also includes things like paintings, sculpture, and musical compositions. So, just as you would italicize the title of a painting or song, you would also italicize the title of a movie.

The Benefits of Italicizing Movie Titles in MLA

Italicizing movie titles in MLA provides a clear way to indicate to readers that the movie is an independent film. By italicizing the title, you can show that the film is not part of a series of films, and you can also provide additional information about the film, such as the director or producer.

The Consequences of Not Italicizing Movie Titles in MLA

If you don’t italicize the title of a movie in your MLA formatted essay, then you’re asking for trouble. Not only will you likely fail the assignment, but you’ll also be setting yourself up for poor grades in the future. Here’s why movie titles in MLA should be italicized:

Italicizing titles of works (or underlining them — it means the same thing) is necessary because otherwise it would be difficult to know when a title is part of a work and when it is not. For example, if I didn’t italicize Titanic, you might mistake it for referring to the Titanic disaster instead of the movie.

Not italicizing titles in MLA also gets confusing because sometimes we do want to include titles of smaller works within larger ones. For Titles: Underline, Italics, or Quotation Marks? We use quotation marks for titles of things that appear inside larger works--like essays, chapters in books, articles in journals, episodes of television shows, and songs on CDs: “The ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ movies are all interconnected.”

How to Avoid Mistakes When Italicizing Movie Titles in MLA

Italicizing titles in MLA style can be tricky. While major works such as novels and journals often are italicized, smaller works such as episodes and songs should be put in quotation marks. The rule applies to movie titles that appear in quotes, as well as other punctuation marks. It’s important to be consistent throughout your paper, so if you decide to italicize a movie title in one instance, make sure you do so in every instance.

Tips for Italicizing Movie Titles in MLA

Whenever you’re writing something that is supposed to be formatted in MLA style, it’s important to remember the basic rules for MLA title format. One of the most common questions we get is whether or not you should italicize movie titles in MLA style.

The answer is simple: You should italicize movie titles in MLA style. The reason for this is because movies are considered long-form works, just like books and plays. Long-form works are usually italicized, while shorter works (like poems and articles) are typically put in quotation marks.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. If you’re not sure whether or not you should italicize a particular movie title, it’s always best to ask your professor or a Writing Center tutor for help. But in general, if you’re writing something in MLA style, remember to italicize movie titles!

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