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Film Studies Research Guide: Biographies, Credits & Plots

A guide to conducting research in Film Studies at Yale University, including key resources and crucial search strategies.

Biographies, Movie Credits & Plot Summaries

What's Here

Biographies of film people and lists of their credits are obviously related. But frequently biographies and lists of film credits also contain movie plot summaries, and in some resources the plot synopsis is the main content. Consequently there's considerable overlap among these resources.

  • Biographies give an interpretation of a person's work and its background. They range from popular "life stories" to sophisticated critical analyses. Autobiographies naturally present a person's own views, with the resulting benefits and biases.
    • The short entries in biographical dictionaries and encyclopedias can only hit the highlights, so if you want fuller information and analysis, search for the person as a subject in Orbis. Directors, actors, producers, screenwriters, even cinematographers may have biographies or autobiographies.
  • Movie credits usually strive to be exhaustive, but don't offer background.  They are useful for tracing the outline of a person's work. For production crew (from assistant directors to gaffers), credits may be the only information available. Some of the resources below give credits back to 1895.
  • Plot summaries may stick strictly to the facts of the storyline, or incorporate discussions of the theme, tone or other aspects of the film.

See also the resources listed under:

Examples of Subject Headings for Searching Orbis

Subject Headings for Biographies

Subject Headings for Movie Credits

Subject Headings for Plot Synopses

See also Themes, Subjects & Characters

Main Resources for Short Biographies, Movie Credits, and Plot Summaries


The Complete Index to World Film Since 1895.  

Film Indexes Online.

The International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers

IMDB (Internet Movie Database).

Additional Resources for Biographies, Movie Credits and Plot Summaries


All-Movie Guide

British film actors' credits, 1895-1987. 

Dictionary of African filmmakers. 

Directors and their films: a comprehensive reference, 1895-1990. 

An encyclopedic dictionary of women in early American films, 1895-1930. 

Film actors. 

Halliwell's Who's Who in the Movies

Historical dictionary of African American cinema. guide to film directors: baseline Hollywood film director directory. 

Magill's Surveys

Motion picture players' credits: worldwide performers of 1967 through 1980 with filmographies of their entire careers, 1905-1983.  

New biographical dictionary of film. 

Screen world presents the encyclopedia of Hollywood film actors.

 ‚ÄčSt. James women filmmakers encyclopedia: women on the other side of the camera. 

Director, Film Study Center