There are many good critical sources to be found online. There is also a lot of junk. It’s important that you learn to distinguish between good critical sources and amateurish “film-fan” sources posted or published online. Some of what you read on this page should help you do this.
You should feel free to use general film sites like Wikipedia and IMDb to give you research leads, but by no means should you cite them as critical sources in papers. That’s because neither of these sites is vigorously peer-reviewed (though Wikipedia comes close), written by professional film reviewers or academics, or is in a permanent state. However, you might find some good critical sources cited, and web links posted, within Wikipedia and IMDb articles. Feel free to follow them and see where they lead.
Most of what you will find doing an online search – using Google for instance – will be film reviews.
Not all film reviews are created equal. Most general reviews are purely evaluative: they determine the quality of the acting, directing, etc. in a given film (two thumbs up or down). Other reviewers manage to get at some of the underlying critical issues examined by the film. (I have cited many such reviews in my film essays, posted on the course blog). It’s critical reviews that you want look for, and cite, in your papers.
The University of Maryland Libraries has quite a few resources available to help you find critical articles in film. In terms of finding critical academic books and articles, I suggest you first take a look at the university libraries film research guide.
Not everything you find in searching university databases is an acceptable critical source. You will find some articles that are considered popular rather than critical, such as many film reviews. In regards to film reviews, let my comments above guide you.
What makes something a credible, critical source is peer-review and an extended publication history. That is, articles are vetted and approved by peers in the field, then published in publications that have been around for a while. That is true of all the sources listed below.
Online Film Journals
The following online publications are acceptable as critical sources. That said, some of them are no longer current and a few have primitive search capability. They still retain value, however, as an archive of critical writing on film.
Sight and Sound is the website of the journal published by the British Film Institute (BFI). Like many such film journal websites, not all the articles in the print journal are available on the website. What is available, however, is quite good, if you can find it (and there are articles on the BFI page that are not published in Sight and Sound).
Vertigo, a British film journal devoted to international independent film, has a pretty good website that re-publishes many of the articles from the print journal. Decent search engine.
Senses of Cinema does features on directors and has good reviews. It also has a current journal, a good archive, Google search, and a decent links page:
Bright Lights Film Journal has a current journal, an extensive archive, functional Google search, and a decent links page.
Reverse Shot is an online film journal with lots of stuff on independent, and foreign film.
Off-Screen is a Canadian website devoted to Canadian, international, independent, and political film, with an extensive archive.
Filmmaker Magazine has a website devoted to independent film that re-publishes many of the articles from the print journal. It also features director interviews and web exclusives.
Filmcomment is the magazine of the Film Society of the Lincoln Center and has good, in-depth articles on film. Most if not all of the articles from the magazine get re-posted on the web site. You can surf the archive for articles published in past editions.
Cineaste is an American film magazine that covers the art and politics of cinema. The website re-publishes many, but not all, of the print articles.
Cinema Scope is the blog version of the print journal of the same name, which focuses on international cinema. Many of the print articles are re-published on the blog.
Jump Cut deals with contemporary media, including film.
Filmsite, written and edited by Tim Dirks, is the online presence of the AMC (American Movie Classics) cable channel. There are many good overview articles and a good search engine.
Film Philosophy is an academic journal and website which examines film in philosophical context. It might be beyond your needs in this class.
Images Journal has a decent amount of articles, some good overview of genres, no links page, and an outmoded, though functional, search engine. However, the site has not been updated in some time.
The Film Journal has some good critical articles in its archive, though the journal stopped publishing in 2006. There are good links on the links page, but no search engine.