Binge-read the 10 most popular Reel Librarians posts of all time

And by “all time,” I mean since 2011 when this site began!

As we are all probably feeling anxious and stressed during this global coronavirus pandemic, how about taking a break from binge-watching movies and TV series in order to binge-read about reel librarians? I looked through my site stats to find out the top 10 most-read and popular posts of all time. Below, I have listed them in reverse order, from #10 to #1, along with the first paragraph of each post, to whet your appetite.

Enjoy! 🙂

#10. ‘You, Me and Dupree’ — and the Naughty Librarian (Aug. 2015)

“You fixed Dupree up with a Mormon librarian?”

The 2006 film You, Me, and Dupree (2006) is an odd one. It stars Owen Wilson, Kate Hudson, and Matt Dillon, and it’s directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, who also executive-produced the TV comedy, Community. You’d think those are ingredients for a potentially amusing film. But overall, those ingredients never really come together, and the half-baked film ends up feeling much longer than its 108 minutes. …

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)
Do the Dewey! bumper sticker on the reel librarian’s car

… continue reading ‘You, Me and Dupree’ — and the Naughty Librarian

#9. Harry Potter and Madam Pince (Dec. 2012)

How the Hogwarts librarian is depicted in the Harry Potter books

I recently reread the Harry Potter series, and this time around, took note of how the librarian, Madam Pince, is depicted. This librarian is never mentioned by name in the films as such, but she does make a physical appearance in the film version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). As portrayed by Sally Mortemore, the reel Madam Pince — her first name, Irma, is also revealed in that film’s credits — is physically more attractive than her counterpart in print. …

… continue reading Harry Potter and Madam Pince

#8. Books and book-burning in ‘Fahrenheit 451’ (May 2017)

“Is there not freedom in the very choice of which book you want to be?”

I recently rewatched the 1966 film version of Fahrenheit 451, directed by French New Wave director Francois Truffaut and starring Julie Christie in a dual role and Oscar Werner as Montag, the fireman who falls in love with books, the very thing he’s charged with burning. …

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Fahrenheit 451' (1966)
Oscar Werner as Montag

… continue reading Books and book-burning in ‘Fahrenheit 451’

#7. First impressions: Monsters University (July 2013)

“What are you afraid of? You just angered a 40-foot librarian!”

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned how two members of my family had tipped me off to a reel librarian featured in the recent release, Monsters University (2013). Since that post went live, I have had five additional friends recommend I watch the movie, which I did over the Independence Day long weekend. …

… continue reading First impressions: ‘Monsters University’

#6. The Jedi librarian (March 2013)

“If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist.”

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I watched the fan edit of the Star War prequel trilogy, entitled Star Wars:  Rise of the Empire, which was compiled back in 2007. Out of the 7+ hours of the original prequels (Episode I: The Phantom Menace, 1999; Episode II: Attack of the Clones, 2002Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, 2005), this techie fan managed to whittle the story down to a still-healthy-yet-manageable 4 hours. It seemed like a majority of the second prequel, Attack of the Clones, stayed on the cutting-room floor (no more painful love scenes out on the lake by Naboo, thank goodness!), but guess which scene made the cut in its entirety? …

Jedi librarian glare in Star Wars Episode II
Jedi librarian glare in Star Wars Episode II

… continue reading The Jedi librarian

#5. First impressions: ‘Hidden Figures’ and its library scene (Feb. 2017)

The reel librarian character echoes the barriers that were starting to crack, brick by brick and book by book.

I recently watched the Best Picture-nominated film Hidden Figures, which is a biographical film featuring three African-American female mathematicians — or “computers” — at NASA during the early 1960s. The film sheds lights on their individual and collective struggles to earn personal and professional respect, both as women and as African-Americans in a field dominated with white males. The three female leads all deliver top-notch performances: Taraji P. Henson as brilliant mathematician Katherine G. Johnson; Octavia Spencer in an Oscar-nominated performance as mathematician and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan; and Janelle Monáe as firecracker engineer Mary Jackson. …

… continue reading First impressions: ‘Hidden Figures’ and its library scene

#4. Librarian t-shirt collection (Sept. 2014)

“I have secret powers… I’m a librarian!”

I was going through some of the archived posts here on this Reel Librarians blog, and I came across this early post about my “Marian the Librarian” coffee mug. And then two things clicked: …

Reel Librarians | Librarian t-shirt collection
Librarian-themed t-shirts from my personal collection

… continue reading Librarian t-shirt collection

#3. Marian or Marion? (May 2012)

Researching the reel librarian in ‘The Music Man’

I am a stickler for spelling and punctuation (see my post last week on that anal-retentive trait), so it still bugs me that I can’t ever seem to remember if the librarian in The Music Man is spelled “Marian” or “Marion.” I spelled it BOTH ways in my undergraduate thesis, which still makes me cringe. And that’s probably what inspired this blog post — maybe after writing this, I won’t have to look it up again. 😉 …

… continue reading Marian or Marion?

#2. Naughty Librarians (ladies, take it away) (March 2012)

Exploring the female Naughty Librarian character type

A rose by any other name… the Naughty Librarian. We’re down to the final category of exploring reel librarian character types (see previous posts hereherehereherehereherehere and here). And I know I’m going to get a lot of hits out of this post, as “naughty librarian” — and similar phrases like “sexy librarian” or “tomcats librarian” —  are the MOST POPULAR search terms that lead to my blog. It’s a classy joint I’m running here, this Reel Librarians blog. …

… continue reading Naughty Librarians (ladies, take it away)

#1. ‘The Killing Kind’ vs. ‘The Attic’ (Oct. 2013)

The Attic (1980) serves as a kind of cinematic continuation of two characters featured in The Killing Kind (1973)

As I mentioned in last week’s postThe Attic (1980) serves as a kind of cinematic continuation of two characters featured in The Killing Kind (1973). I have a copy of both films, so I set about watching The Killing Kind this past weekend and comparing the two. There are some eery similarities in both films, but some interesting differences, as well. Enjoy! …

Reel Librarians | 'The Attic' screenshot
Librarian hallucinations in The Attic

… continue reading ‘The Killing Kind’ vs. ‘The Attic’

Any personal faves?

Any personal favorites among these Top 10? Please leave a comment and share! And please continue washing your hands and practicing social distancing. Be well, everyone!

Reel librarians and archivists in 16 sci-fi films

With the growing spread of the COVID-19 virus — please keep up-to-date via the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention page — it feels like we are living in a sci-fi, dystopian alternate reality right now, doesn’t it? (Stay safe out there, y’all, and let’s all keep washing our hands!) So it felt fitting to explore the role of reel librarians and archivists in 16 different science fiction films. Shall we?

Images, clockwise from top left: Jocasta Nu in Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002); Wong in Doctor Strange (2016), The Books in Soylent Green (1973); Vox in The Time Machine (2002)

I put this list together after reviewing my Master List as well as the Reel Substance lists on this site. I then noted three major trends of the reel librarian roles in these sci-fi films; generally, they serve as Heroes, Helpers, or Hindrances. Within each of these sub-categories below, the films are arranged in descending chronological order (oldest to newest).

Heroes || Helpers || Hindrances

Let’s explore!


Heroes


Reel librarians in this sci-fi sub-category are lead roles. They serve as characters who lead the way for resistance, problem-solving, and saving the world.

The War of the Worlds (1953):

In this sci-fi classic and Class II film, Martians invade Earth! Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson), who teaches library science courses, teams up with the hero-scientist (Gene Barry) in order to defeat the aliens.

Related posts: War films and reel librarians

The Handmaid’s Tale (1990):

In this dystopian tale and Class II film, fertility becomes rare, and fertile young women, trained as Handmaids, are treated as slaves in the households they are assigned to. Natasha Richardson plays a Handmaid, and we learn in one scene that she used to be a librarian. She never stops using her intelligence, and she becomes involved with the growing resistance movement.

Related posts: The reel librarian in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Idiocracy (2006):

This science fiction comedy film stars Luke Wilson as Joe Bauers, a U.S. Army librarian, who takes part in a classified military human hibernation experiment and awakens 500 years later in a dystopian society. He ends up as the most intelligent person alive.

The Age of Stupid (2009):

This drama-documentary film stars Pete Postlethwaite as an archivist living alone in the devastated world of 2055. He watches archival videos to understand why we didn’t stop climate change when we had the chance.


Helpers


Reel librarians in this sci-fi sub-category serve in supporting roles. They help the lead characters and provide vital assistance, knowledge or help inspire solutions.

The Monster that Challenged the World (1957):

In this Class III film, an earthquake in the Salton Sea, California, unleashes radioactive mollusk monsters. Nearby Naval base officers work to stop the horde of monsters, and a museum archivist (Milton Parsons) helps find a vital map of underground rivers.

Related posts: Of ‘monsters’ and missing maps

Quatermass and the Pit, aka Five Million Years to Earth (1967)

The third film in the Quatermass series and Class III film starts off with a discovery of ape-like human skeletons at a subway excavation site. The armed forces are called in when scientists further dig up a missile-like metal shape. Professor Bernard Quatermass (Andrew Keir) and an assistant scientist, Barbara (Barbara Shelley) do some digging of their own — in the research archives. This leads them to the Westminster Abbey archives and a short scene with the Abbey Librarian (Noel Howlett).

Related posts: ‘Quatermass’ and the librarian

Soylent Green (1973):

In this sci-fi classic and Class I film, food is scarce, and the world’s population relies on a food product called “soylent green.” A detective (Charlton Heston) investigates a murder of a Soylent official, and his “Police Book” personal researcher (Edward G. Robinson, in his final film role), visits a former public library, now known as the “Supreme Exchange.” The librarians in this dystopian future are known as “Books.”

Related posts: Reader poll of runner-ups, Fall 2016: ‘Soylent Green’ and the Books

The Avengers (1998):

In this silly sci-fi adaptation of the British TV series and Class IV film, British agents John Steed (Joseph Fiennes) and Emma Peel (Uma Thurman) unite against Sir August De Wynter (Sean Connery), who attempts to control the world by a weather machine. Steed visits the Ministry Archives to get help from the archivist (Patrick Macnee).

The Time Machine (2002):

In this Class III remake of the 1960 sci-fi classic, disillusioned inventor (Guy Pearce) builds a time machine and travels 800,000 years into the future. He encounters Vox (Orlando Jones), a holographic librarian, who supplies him with information about time travel and the history and evolution of the planet and its population.

Related posts: Stylish male reel librarians

Doctor Strange (2016) ; Avengers: Infinity War (2018); and Avengers: Endgame (2019):

Benedict Wong plays Wong, a monastery librarian and Master of the Mystic Arts, in the Marvel’s Avengers movie series. In Doctor Strange (2016), Wong teaches Strange several important lessons throughout. In Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Wong defeats Cull Obsidian in battle and displays his librarian research skills to help set up the stakes — and the plot of the entire movie — to members of the Avengers. In Avengers: Endgame (2019), Wong survived the snap and plays a crucial role in the final battle scene.

Related posts: Sorcerer librarians of ‘Doctor Strange’ ; First impressions: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ ; First impressions: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ (2019) ; 3 reel librarians who have died in the line of duty

Blade Runner 2049 (2017):

In this sequel to 1982’s sci-fi classic Blade Runner and Class III film, Ryan Gosling stars as K, a police officer assigned to track down a rogue replicant. He begins by going to the Wallace Corporation’s Earth Headquarter archives to track down a suspect’s DNA and records; an archives clerk (Tómas Lemarquis) leads him to the files.

Related posts: Reel archivist in ‘Blade Runner 2049’


Hindrances


Reel librarians in this sub-category of sci-fi films serve as road blocks to the protagonists.

Rollerball (1975):

This sci-fi classic and Class III film is set in a future controlled by corporations, and Jonathan E. (James Caan) is the star of the ultra-violent sport Rollerball. The corporate executives want him to quit, but Jonathan defies them. In the first library scene (in this future, they are called “computer centers”), he goes to the local branch, where the Circulation clerk (Nancy Bleier) tells him his books are classified. Later, Jonathan travels to the central computer bank in Geneva, but the older librarian there (Ralph Richardson) is unable to get the information out from the main computer.

Related posts: Reel librarians in ‘Rollerball’ | Analyzing the 1975 original film and 2002 remake

Brainstorm (1983):

In this sci-fi thriller and Class IV film, researcher Michael Brace (Christopher Walken) has developed a system of recording and replaying actual experiences of people, complete with the “higher brain functions” of thoughts, emotions, senses of smell, etc. This technology gets corrupted by the military in order to torture and brainwash suspects. The finale of the film features the Tape Library and its technicians (Jimmy Casino, May Raymond Boss, and Clay Boss) who keep the tapes locked up.

Related posts: ‘Brainstorm’-ing

Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002):

In this second prequel in the Star Wars saga and Class III film, Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) cannot find any information about a mysterious planet at the Jedi Archives. The Jedi librarian (Alethea McGrath as Jocasta Nu) insists that “if an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist.

Related posts: The Jedi librarian ; May the archives be with you | Shining the spotlight on the Jedi librarian ; A funny thing happened on the way to the Jedi library…

Sources used

  • The Age of Stupid” via Wikipedia is licensed under a CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • The Avengers. Dir. Jeremiah S. Chechik. Perf. Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Sean Connery, Jim Broadbent, Fiona Shaw. Warner Bros., 1998.
  • Avengers: Endgame. Dir. Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. Perf. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Josh Brolin. Marvel Studios, 2019.
  • Avengers: Infinity War. Dir. Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. Perf. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Brolin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong. Marvel Studios, 2018.
  • Blade Runner 2049. Dir. Denis Villeneuve. Perf. Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto. Warner Bros., 2017.
  • Brainstorm. Dir. Douglas Trumbull. Perf. Natalie Wood, Christopher Walken, Louise Fletcher, Cliff Robertson. MGM/UA, 1983.
  • Brainstorm (1983 film)” via Wikipedia is licensed under a CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • Doctor Strange. Dir. Scott Derrickson. Perf. Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong. Marvel Studios, 2016.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale. Dir. Volker Schlindorff. Perf. Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, Aidan Quinn, Elizabeth McGovern. Cinecom, 1990.
  • Idiocracy” via Wikipedia is licensed under a CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • The Monster that Challenged the World. Dir. Arnold Laven. Perf. Tim Holt, Audrey Dalton, Hans Conried. MGM, 1957.
  • Quatermass and the Pit. Dir. Roy Ward Baker. Perf. Andrew Keir, Barbara Shelley, James Donald, Julian Glover. Hammer Film Productions, 1967.
  • Rollerball. Dir. Norman Jewison. Perf. James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams, John Beck. MGM/UA Entertainment, 1975. 
  • Soylent Green. Dir. Richard Fleischer. Perf. Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young, Edward G. Robinson, Brock Peters, Joseph Cotten. MGM, 1973.
  • Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Dir. George Lucas. Perf. Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson. 20th Century Fox, 2002.
  • The Time Machine. Dir. Simon Wells. Perf. Guy Pearce, Samantha Mumba, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Guillory, Orlando Jones. Warner Bros., 2002.
  • The War of the Worlds. Dir. Bryon Haskin. Perf. Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne, Robert Cornthwaite. Paramount, 1953. 

Updating my Best & Worst Lists

I (finally!) updated the lists on the “Best & Worst” section of this website. I first put those lists together when I started this blog, over 8 years ago, and I had not yet updated them even though I have watched and analyzed many more films since. But better late than never, right? 😉

The Best & Worst lists I’ve updated include:

I went back through my Master List, and below are the new reel librarian characters and movie titles I’ve added to each Best & Worst list:

New additions to the Hall of Fame list:

  • Wong in Doctor Strange (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019)
  • Hannah in Follow the Stars Home (2001, TV movie)
  • Mike Hanlon in It (1990 TV miniseries) and It: Chapter Two (2019)
  • Dr. Abigail Chase in National Treasure (2004) and National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (2007)
  • Cheri Jameson in The Twelve Trees of Christmas (2013, TV movie)

New additions to the Hall of Shame list:

  • Sally in Chainsaw Sally (2004)
  • Louise in The Killing Kind (1973) and The Attic (1980)
  • Miss Ophelia in Maxie (1985)
  • The school librarian in The New Guy (2002)
  • Jocasta Nu in Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  • Conan the Librarian in UHF (1989)

New additions to the Honorable Mention list:

  • Kala in The Golden Child (1986)
  • Microfilm Clerk in The Changeling (1980)
  • The librarian in Curse of the Demon (1957)
  • The Records Keeper in RED (2010)

New additions to the Dishonorable Mention list:

  • Denver Librarian in Ask the Dust (2006)
  • Lindgren in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
  • White Librarian in Hidden Figures (2016)
  • Miss Gottschalk in The Seventh Victim (1943)

Love ’em or loathe ’em? Lemme know!

Any notable reel librarian characters you recognize, love, or loathe? Please leave a comment and share! 🙂

Silence and the school library in ‘Children of a Lesser God’ (1986)

This film flips the script on libraries as quiet spaces.

It is almost Valentine’s Day, so I went back over my updated post of Best Picture nominees featuring reel librarians — in particular the section for Best Picture nominees (with potential reel librarians) to watch/rewatch — and looked for any romances in the mix. And bingo, my eyes lit up when I reread my description of 1986’s Children of a Lesser God:

This Best Picture-nominated film boasts the Oscar-winning performance of lead actress Marlee Matlin, who works at a school for the deaf. I have not yet seen this film, which is on my Master List, so I need to watch it for any signs of a school library, or librarian, at this school.

I am not sure why I had never gotten around to watching this Oscar-winning film, but never late than never, right? I was blown away by Marlee Matlin’s emotional performance, especially considering this was her feature film debut! She totally held her own as Sarah — and then some! — against William Hurt, who plays James, a new speech teacher.

The film was also nominated for Oscars in the categories of Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Notably, the film was not nominated for Best Director; the film was directed by Randa Haines, and she was nominated for a Director’s Guild of America Award that year for this film.

A few contemporary reviews pointed out that the film was told from a hearing perspective and for a hearing audience; for example, they did not provide captions for any sign language, and James translated most of Sarah’s signing through his own voice.

Here’s a trailer for the film, if you are either not familiar with it or it’s been awhile since you’ve seen it:

“Children of a Lesser God (1986) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers” by Movieclips Classic Trailers, Standard YouTube License

*Mild Spoilers Ahead*

School library scene without a school librarian

A little over 40 minutes into the 2-hour film, James is trying to connect with Sarah, and she becomes angry when she learns that he has visited her mother (played by Piper Laurie). Sarah goes into the school library, where James follows her. There’s a “Library” sign on the wall beside the door, and a “Drop Box” below the sign.

Sarah enters the school library in Children of a Lesser God (1986)
Notice the library sign, the book drop, and the bulletin board of “Deaf Resources” — all tell-tale signs of a school library!

It’s clearly a very small library — just one small room — but as the two circle each other around the room, we can spot a section for print magazines and newspapers, a “Book Nook” corner of bookcases, and a counter with a bell. (The bell prop on the counter gives us a clue that the school librarian is not deaf, because they would need to be able to hear the bell for it to successfully get their attention. FYI, the large amber light on the wall is one used to signal class periods for students.) We also see signs by the counter for “How to Find Books,” and these posters feature the Dewey Decimal call number classification system, which is the most common call number system for school library collections.

School library counter with a bell and multiple "How to Find a Book" signs with Dewey Decimal call number info. Library scene in Children of a Lesser God (1986).
Notice the bell and the multiple (!) “How to Find a Book” signs with Dewey Decimal call number info?
Periodicals corner of the school library, with print magazines and newspapers, in the school library scene from Children of a Lesser God (1986)
The periodicals corner of the school library includes print magazines and newspapers

We can also spot hand-lettered signs for different collections crammed together on the bookcases, including sections for Fiction, Reference and Encyclopedias, History, and Children’s Books.

Hand-lettered signs for different collections in the school library, including Fiction, Reference and Encyclopedias, Children's Books, History, etc. From the school library scene in Children of a Lesser God (1986).
I kind of love the randomness of these hand-lettered signs — including two different signs for Fiction!
"Book Nook" sign along the back wall of the school library in Children of a Lesser God (1986)
Do you notice the “Book Nook” sign along the back?

Behind Sarah, you can also spot call numbers on books. However, there do not seem to be call numbers on every book — including books with wide spines that should theoretically have room for call number labels — so I’m a little suspicious that the propmaster just crammed a bunch of random books — some from libraries and some not — into the room and called it a day.

Closeup of call numbers on library books in this school library scene from Children of a Lesser God (1986)
School library books — some with call numbers, some without — behind Sarah in this school library scene

Side note: The movie was filmed at the Rothesay Netherwood School in New Brunswick, Canada, and here is a look at their well-stocked library in real life. This is not AT ALL the kind of school library depicted in the film, so I think my suspicions about the movie library and book props are true. I cannot be 100% certain, of course, as this school might well have built a better library in the 30+ years since this movie was filmed there.

We also are never gifted with the presence of a school librarian, so this film remains in the Class V category, films that include library scenes but no reel librarian characters. This also means that I get to update my Best Picture nominees that feature reel librarians, 2020 update post, and move Children of a Lesser God into the “Best Picture nominees with library scenes (but no reel librarians)” section.

The role of silence

The role of silence is, understandably, a major theme in this film. Libraries are known for being quiet places — or at least, that’s a common misconception, and “shushing librarians” are a common stereotype. (Libraries DO usually have “silent study” spaces for those who really need quiet, but there’s usually a medium-level of expected noise and conversation in most modern libraries nowadays. Libraries are community spaces, and people often need to be able to make a little noise!)

Therefore, Sarah tries to escape into the library to get away from James — a safe space where she may expect others to be as silent as she normally is. But the library instead becomes a private place to have an argument, where Sarah exposes a major secret of her past to James. The library is no longer safe for Sarah; she cannot escape, even from herself or her own painful memories. The library is also no longer a silent space for Sarah, as James breaks the silence with his translation of Sarah’s signing, even shouting in frustration multiple times across the room at her.

I found it very interesting that this film flips the script, so to speak, on libraries as quiet spaces. This library scene, in effect, breaks the silence between Sarah and James. After this scene, they become lovers, which lays the foundation for the rest of the film’s plot and romantic drama.

Continuing the conversation

Have you seen this Oscar-winning film? Were you blown away by Marlee Matlin’s feature film debut? Did you remember this scene in the school library? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used

Best Picture nominees that feature reel librarians, 2020 update

Updating Best Picture-nominated films that feature librarians, in roles large and small

If you’re a regular Reel Librarians reader (thank you!), then you will know that I am a lifelong watcher of the Academy Awards. The 2020 Oscars telecast is scheduled earlier this year, on Sunday, February 9, 2020, and you can view this year’s nominees here. (On a personal note, I, too, hope the Academy continues and broadens its efforts to diversify its membership so that Oscar nominations better reflect the amazing talents and skills that women and people of color contribute to the world of cinema.)

146033_0116” photo uploaded by Walt Disney Television via Flickr is licensed under a CC BY ND 2.0 license

I am updating a post I first put together in 2013 and then updated in 2017, rounding up Best Picture-nominated films that feature librarians, in roles large and small. I have updated the post and have added quite a few new titles to the list. (Note: I am not as familiar with this year’s nominated films, so if there is a Best Picture nominee that I need to add to this list, please leave a comment and let me know, thanks!)

I’ve listed the nominated films below in chronological order, oldest to newest, and you can also skip to a specific time period using the shortcut links below.

Enjoy! 🙂

1940s || 1960s || 1970s || 1980s || 1990s || 2000s || 2010s
Best Picture nominees with library scenes (but no reel librarians)
Best Picture nominees (with potential reel librarians) to watch/rewatch


1940s


The Philadelphia Story (1940)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class III film) features one scene at the public library and a Quaker librarian (Hilda Plowright). A reporter (Jimmy Stewart) pokes fun by mocking her thee’s and thou’s. She also gets her shush on later in this short, but memorable, library scene.

Related posts: ‘What does thee wish?’ To analyze the librarian in ‘The Philadelphia Story’ ; Comparing the Philadelphia stories ; Reel Substance: A look at Classes III and IV ; Romance and the reel librarian ; The shushing librarian: Celebration or scorn? ; Revisiting favorites | ‘The shushing librarian,’ Feb. 5, 2013 ; It all started with a big list ; Comic Relief librarians ; Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list? ; The Quotable Librarian 1 ; Earliest reel librarians in different character type categories, reader question follow-up ; Reel librarian firsts

Citizen Kane (1941)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class III film) is a classic saga about the rise and fall of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles). There is quite a memorable scene in which a reporter visits the Thatcher Memorial Library of Philadelphia to research Kane and runs into the steely, no-nonsense presence of the librarian, Miss Anderson (Georgia Backus).

Related posts: The Spinster Librarian ; Hall of Shame ; Between perfect order and perfect chaos ; Out of the habit ; Reel Substance: A look at Classes III and IV ; Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list? ; Battle of the sexes ; It all started with a big list

The Human Comedy (1943)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class III film), set in the U.S. homefront during WWII, features one touching scene at the local public library. Two young boys go to the public library to look at books even though they can’t read yet, and encounter a friendly female librarian (Adeline De Walt Reynolds).

Related posts: Honorable Mention ; Reel librarians on library ladders ; The Quotable Librarian 3 ; Battle of the sexes

Spellbound (1945)

This Hitchcock film and Best Picture nominee, doesn’t technically feature a librarian — nor does it include a library scene — thus landing itself in the Class V category. So why is it here on this list?! Toward the end of the film, a hotel security guard mistakes a psychiatrist (Ingrid Bergman) for a Spinster Librarian. To her credit, she takes it in good humor.

Related posts: Mistaken identity in ‘Spellbound’ ; Heard but not seen ; Reel Substance: A look at Class V… and a Class VI? ; Librarians in horror films ; It all started with a big list

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class I film) has probably the most memorable — and memorably notorious! — scene featuring the ultimate Spinster Librarian. In the alternate reality/nightmare of the film’s second half, George Bailey’s (Jimmy Stewart) wife, Mary (Donna Reed), becomes an old maid librarian. The short scene in which George sees Mary as a librarian serves as the catalyst for wanting to return to his life.

Related posts: ‘It’s a wonderful’… stereotype? ; Revisiting ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ ; All hail Mary? ; Hall of Shame ; The Spinster Librarian ; Best librarian films by decade, Part I: 1910s – 1950s ; Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list? ; Three cheers for librarians! ; Librarian as nightmare ; ‘The danger of a single story’ for reel librarians ; Reel Substance: A look at Classes I and II ; War films and reel librarians ; The Quotable Librarian 5 ; It all started with a big list

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1960s


The Music Man (1962)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class I film) also features a memorable reel librarian in a leading role. In this classic musical, con man Harold Hill (Robert Preston) tries to scam a community into buying band uniforms—and ends up falling for “Marian the Librarian” (Shirley Jones). This reel librarian has been immortalized in popular culture, in part due to the namesake song.

Related posts: Marian or Marion? ; Revisiting favorites | ‘Marian or Marion?,’ May 28, 2012 ; Marian and Ms. Jones ; Musical numbers for the library-minded ; A love song for a librarian ; The Liberated Librarian (ladies, you’re up) ; Reel librarian love for Valentine’s Day: Movies for different romantic moods ; Romance and the reel librarian ; Librarians save the day! ; Comparing ‘best of’ reel librarians lists ; The Quotable Librarian 6 ; Reel librarian trivia challenge ; Advertising the reel librarian ; It all started with a big list ; Joy in a cup ; Best librarian films by decade, Part II: 1960s-2000s ; What’s in a name? ; Honorable Mention

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1970s


Love Story (1970)

In this Best Picture nominee (and Class II film), a Harvard law student and jock, Oliver (Ryan O’Neal), falls in love with a Radcliffe music major, Jenny (Ali MacGraw). They first meet at the Radcliffe library, where MacGraw works as a library assistant. MacGraw was also nominated for Best Actress, the only woman (thus far) to have been nominated for an acting Oscar for a reel librarian role.

Related posts: Oscar-nominated reel librarians ; The Spirited Young Girl ; Reel librarian love for Valentine’s Day: Movies for different romantic moods ; Romance and the reel librarian ; Notable additional occupations for reel librarians ; Stylish female reel librarians ; Reel Substance: A look at Classes I and II ; The Quotable Librarian 1 ; The Quotable Librarian 8 ; Is reading a spectator sport? Librarians in sports movies ; Best librarian films by decade, Part II: 1960s-2000s

Chinatown (1974)

This Best Picture nominee stars Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway in a twisty, neo-noir storyline set in the 1930s. Nicholson plays a private detective, and in one scene he uses the county archives, encountering a sullen archives clerk. This film is on my Master List, and I need to rewatch this film!

Related posts: Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list?

All the President’s Men (1976)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class III film) features not one, but five reel librarians, albeit in small — but critical! — roles. This film follows the Watergate scandal uncovered by reporters Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford). After several attempts by the reporters to locate information, a library clerk at the Library of Congress helps by providing them with info and records they need.

Related posts: All the president’s librarians in ‘All the President’s Men’ ; Favorite reel librarian posts, 2017 ; Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list? ; Librarians of Congress ; Reel librarians in political-themed films ; Heard but not seen ; Information Provider librarians ; It all started with a big list

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1980s


Fatal Attraction (1987)

In this Best Picture nominee (and Class IV film), a lawyer (Michael Douglas) has an affair with a woman (Glenn Close), who then starts to stalk him and his family. In a short scene, Douglas confesses his troubles to a colleague in their firm’s private law library while a law librarian shelves books from a cart in the background.

Related posts: Law librarian sighting in ‘Fatal Attraction’

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1990s


Awakenings (1990)

In this Best Picture-nominated film that is based on a true story, Dr. Sayer (Robin Williams) finds a new treatment for a ward of comatose patients. And if you blinked during the short library scene for this Class IV film, you’d miss the second or two of Adam Bryant as a librarian.

Related posts: Reel Substance: A look at Classes III and IV

Scent of a Woman (1992)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class II film) is a coming-of-age story about a young man (Chris O’Donnell), a student library assistant at a private prep school, who spends Thanksgiving weekend looking after an alcoholic blind man (Al Pacino). Pacino won the Best Actor Oscar for this film.

Related posts: ‘Scent of a’ student library worker ; Reel librarians take a trip ; Travelin’ librarians ; Reel school librarians

In the Name of the Father (1993)

In this Best Picture nominee (and Class III film), Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis) is coerced into confessing to an IRA bombing and spends 14 years in prison trying to prove his innocence. His lawyer (Emma Thompson) tries to locate police records, but the chief archivist is not cooperative. She does get records when another archivist is on duty — and the information she gathers eventually leads to Conlon’s release.

Related posts: Reel librarians vs. reel archivists ; Information Provider librarians ; Out of the habit ; It all started with a big list

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class II film) features two memorable reel librarian roles, including star Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne, a banker wrongly convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife. Andy works as an assistant in the prison library — building it up to one of the best prison libraries in the state! — and becomes friends with the old prison librarian, Brooks (James Whitmore).

Related posts: Librarian as Failure ; Best librarian films by decade, Part II: 1960s-2000s ; A list of banned reel librarian movies ; Notable additional occupations for reel librarians ; Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list? ; Comparing ‘best of’ reel librarians lists

Quiz Show (1994)

It is on my Master List to rewatch this Best Picture nominee, which is based on the controversial true story behind the Twenty One quiz game show scandals of the 1950s and contestant Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes). Research is a major theme throughout the film, and the credits list Anthony Fusco as a librarian.

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2000s


The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class IV film), and the first in the well-known saga of Middle Earth, involving a hobbit’s quest to destroy a powerful ring. There is a short scene early in the film in which the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) needs some info about the ring, so he visits the archives in Gondor. There is a quick flash of the Gondorian Archivist (Michael Elsworth) leading Gandalf down a winding staircase to the archives.

Related posts: My precious, my archives in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ ; Reel librarians vs. reel archivists ; Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list? ; Heard but not seen ; Reel Substance: A look at Classes III and IV ; Guest post: Cinfolit

The Reader (2008)

I still need to watch this Best Picture nominee, which features Kate Winslet in a Best Actress-winning turn as Hanna Schmitz, a woman convicted for WWII war crimes. Hanna teaches herself to read while in prison, and there are a few scenes highlighting the prison library.

Related posts: A list of banned reel librarian movies

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2010s


Spotlight (2015)

Spotlight (a Class III film) won the Best Picture Academy Award for 2015. The film focuses on the Spotlight team of reporters at the Boston Globe who published a series of stories in 2002 about Catholic priests who had been sexually abusing children in their parishes for decades. A few scenes and montages feature the Boston Globe librarians and research methods of using church directories to track down priests.

Related posts: ‘Spotlight’-ing a news library ; Revisiting favorites | ‘Spotlight’ on a news library, May 4, 2016 ; Best of 2015 ; The good, the bad, and the misshelved | Library call numbers in the movies ; Librarians save the day! ; Private libraries + librarians onscreen, reader question follow-up ; A list of banned reel librarian movies

Hidden Figures (2016)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class IV film) is a biographical film highlighting the personal and professional struggles and contributions of three African-American female mathematicians — or “computers” — at NASA during the early 1960s. Taraji P. Henson plays brilliant mathematician Katherine G. Johnson; Octavia Spencer, in an Oscar-nominated performance, plays mathematician and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan; and Janelle Monáe plays firecracker engineer Mary Jackson. There is a brief, but pivotal, library scene in which Vaughan enters the “whites” section of the library because the “colored” section doesn’t have what she needs.

Related posts: First impressions: ‘Hidden Figures’ and its library scene ; Reel librarians in review, 2017

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class II film) was also nominated in four other categories, including Spike Lee for Best Director, and won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

In the early 1970s, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is hired as the first black officer in the Colorado Springs police department. Initially assigned to work in the records room as a “Records Librarian” (nameplate and all!), he gets reassigned to the intelligence division. While reading the newspaper, he finds an advertisement to join the Ku Klux Klan. He calls and pretends to be a white man, and eventually becomes a member of the Colorado Springs chapter. Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver, in an Oscar-nominated performance) substitutes for Stallworth in order to meet the KKK members in person. There are a couple of scenes in the Records Room, as well as a brief research scene in an academic library.

Related posts: First impressions: ‘BlacKkKlansman’ (2018)

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Best Picture nominees with library scenes (but no reel librarians)


Libeled Lady (1936)

This Best Picture-nominated screwball comedy involves a newspaper editor (Spencer Tracy), his long-suffering fiancée (Jean Harlow), and his lawyer (William Powell), who aims to compromise a high-society lady (Myrna Loy) before she can sue the paper for libel. In an attempt to cozy up to her, Powell does a little research on her personal interests, first reading newspaper articles about her father and his love of fishing, and then ringing the ship’s steward for books on angling from the ship’s library. Alas, we never see a reel librarian, so this film ended up in the Class V category.

Related posts: A ‘Libeled Lady’ and a library

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

This Best Picture-nominated film is based on a real-life 1952 case in which the novel’s author, John D. Voelker, was the defense attorney. Lawyer Paul Biegler (James Stewart) defends Lt. Manion (Ben Gazzara), who is charged with murder of a local man. Biegler argues temporary insanity and pulls an all-nighter in a law library to find a case to use as precedent.

Related posts: ‘Anatomy of a’ law library ; Reel Substance: A look at Class V… and a Class VI? ; Reel librarians on library ladders ; Law libraries (and librarians) in pop culture

Children of a Lesser God (1986)

This Best Picture-nominated film boasts the Oscar-winning performance of lead actress Marlee Matlin, who works at a school for the deaf. I was able to watch this movie recently, and there is a pivotal scene in the school’s library — but no school librarian to be seen.

Related posts: Silence and the school library in ‘Children of a Lesser God’ (1986)

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

The first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture, this fairy tale film features a bookshop and a memorable private library.

Related posts: Reel librarians on library ladders

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Best Picture nominees (with potential reel librarians) to watch/rewatch


Imitation of Life (1934)

This Best Picture-nominated drama stars Claudette Colbert as Bea, a white widow and single mother, who becomes close to black housekeeper Delilah (Louise Beavers) and her mixed-race daughter Peola (Fredi Washington). Peola, who “passes” for white, tells everyone she works at the library to cover up the fact that she’s actually working as a dancer in a club. I have not yet seen this film, but it’s on my Master List, as is the 1959 remake.

All the King’s Men (1949)

This Best Picture winner stars Broderick Crawford in the role of the ruthless politician, Willie Stark, and is based on the novel by Robert Penn Warren. It’s on my Master List — but I can’t honestly remember why — so I need to watch it to see if there are any library or librarian scenes!

Cleopatra (1963)

This Best Picture nominee stars Elizabeth Taylor in the title role. It’s on my Master List to (re)watch, as I remember Cleopatra being very upset that the Library of Alexandria was destroyed. I can’t remember if there are any actual scenes set in the Library of Alexandria, so please leave a comment if you do remember!

Related posts: A look at ‘The Hollywood Librarian’

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

I still need to rewatch this Best Picture nominee — it’s on my Master List! — to refresh my memory on this classic epic. Yuri (Omar Sharif) and Lara (Julie Christie) meet in the local library. I believe Lara works as a librarian in this film… I will have to investigate further. Please leave a comment if you have more to share about this film and its reel librarian(s)!

The Graduate (1967)

In this Best Picture nominee, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is a disaffected college graduate, and he rushes to a college library to see Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross). I need to rewatch this film, which is on my Master List, to see if there are any librarians visible in the background of this library scene.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

This Best Picture nominee is on my Master List, and I still need to rewatch this film! Alex (Malcolm McDowell) works in the prison library, and talks with a priest while in the library. I need to rewatch this movie to see if there are any librarians (perhaps other than Alex, if he works in the prison library?) in this scene.

Related posts: A list of banned reel librarian movies ; Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list?

Field of Dreams (1989)

In this Best Picture-nominated film and classic baseball flick, Kevin Costner stars as Ray Kinsella, who is inspired to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his corn field. I do not recall a library scene, but I do seem to remember a scene about censorship set at the local school… bottom line, I need to rewatch this film, which is on my Master List.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

This Best Picture winner won the “big 5” Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best (Adapted) Screenplay. This film is on my Master List, as there is a scene in which Clarice is researching stories on microfilm about Hannibal Lecter. I need to rewatch this classic film to see if there are any reel librarians in the background of this library research scene.

Related posts: A list of banned reel librarian movies ; Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list?

Erin Brockovich (2000)

This Best Picture nominee is on my Master List. Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts, in an Oscar-winning performance) visits several records offices and archives in her research to find evidence against a gas and electric company; therefore, I need to rewatch this film for clues of archivists or librarians.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

This Best Picture winner (!) is on my Master List, but I have not yet seen it. John Nash (Russell Crowe, in an Oscar-nominated performance) is allowed to return to Princeton to audit classes and work out of the library. I need to watch this film to see if there are any discernible librarians in the background of any library scenes.

Juno (2007)

In this Best Picture nominee, Ellen Page stars as Juno, a high-schooler who gets (unexpectedly) pregnant. There is a scene in which Juno mentions librarians (or rather, wannabe librarians), and I seem to remember a scene or two set in the school library (?)… so I need to rewatch this film, which is on my Master List.

Related posts: The Quotable Librarian 7

Hugo (2011)

I still have not seen this Best Picture nominee (although I loved the book!). This film is on my Master List to watch, however, because Hugo and Isabelle go to the Film Academy Library in one scene to research legendary film director Georges Méliès, and I need to watch this scene to see if there’s a reel librarian somewhere in the background of this special library. If you have watched this movie and remember a reel librarian, please let me know in the comments!

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Sources used

  • Academy Award for Best Picture” via Wikipedia, CC BY SA 3.0
  • All the President’s Men. Dir. Alan J. Pakula. Perf. Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jason Robards, Jane Alexander. Warner Bros., 1976.
  • Anatomy of a Murder. Dir. Otto Preminger. Perf. James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O’Connell, Eve Arden, George C. Scott. Columbia Pictures, 1959. Based on the novel by John D. Voelker, under the pen name of Robert Traver.
  • Awakenings. Dir. Penny Marshall. Perf. Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, Julie Kavner, Penelope Ann Miller. Columbia, 1990.
  • BlacKkKlansman. Dir. Spike Lee. Perf. John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier. Focus Features, 2018. Based on the 2014 memoir Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth.
  • Citizen Kane. Dir. Orson Welles. Perf. Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Ruth Warrick, Alan Ladd. RKO, 1941.
  • Fatal Attraction. Dir. Adrian Lyne. Perf. Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer. Paramount, 1987.
  • Hidden Figures. Dir. Theodore Melfi. Perf. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Mahershala Ali. Fox 2000 Pictures, 2016.
  • The Human Comedy. Dir. Clarence Brown. Perf. Mickey Rooney, Frank Morgan, Fay Bainter, Van Johnson, Donna Reed. Universal, 1943.
  • In the Name of the Father. Dir. Jim Sheridan. Perf. Daniel Day-Lewis, Emma Thompson, Pete Postelthwaite. Universal, 1993.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life. Dir. Frank Capra. Perf. James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers. RKO, 1946.
  • Libeled Lady. Dir. Jack Conway. Perf. Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy. MGM, 1936. Based on the story by Wallace Sullivan.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Dir. Peter Jackson. Perf. Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett. New Line Cinema, 2001.
  • Love Story. Dir. Arthur Hiller. Perf. Ali MacGraw, Ryan O’Neal, John Marley, Ray Milland. Paramount, 1970.
  • The Music Man. Dir. Morton DaCosta. Perf. Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Hermione Gingold, Ron Howard. Warner Bros., 1962.
  • The Philadelphia Story. Dir. George Cukor. Perf. Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young. MGM, 1940.
  • Scent of a Woman. Dir. Martin Brest. Perf. Al Pacino, Chris O’Donnell, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gabrielle Anwar. Universal, 1992.
  • The Shawshank Redemption. Dir. Frank Darabont. Perf. Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton. Castle Rock-Columbia, 1994.
  • Spellbound. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Leo G. Carroll, Michael Chekhov. Selznick International, 1945.
  • Spotlight. Dir. Tom McCarthy. Perf. Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber. First Look, 2015.