Librarians and libraries in films
Below is a list of depictions of libraries and librarians in animated and live-action films. It is one of many pages about librarians and libraries in animated series, anime series, comics, and accompanied by the list of fictional librarians. I created this page first on January 3, 2022. This list is arranged alphabetically by series title, including only librarians and libraries. I also mainly focus on English-language animated films, but there is some foreign-language animation and anime films, along with some live-action films. All of these episodes I have listed here, I have watched at least once, and sometimes more than once! I have linked to posts relating to the animated series shown in the below list. Articles like “the” are generally disregarded when alphabetizing for this list. There are some series, like My Brilliant Friend and The Queens Gambit which have library scenes, but neither are films, but rather TV series.
The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
- The Adjustment Bureau HQ is “recognizably the New York Public Library, and not only the reading rooms.”
All the President’s Men (1976)
- In this film, a library clerk at the Library of Congress helps Bob Woodward and Carl Burnstein by “giving them library checkout slips.” There are various other librarians in this film.
- The two protagonists meet in the library and are in love with one another in this film.
- Apart from scenes in a records room, there is a brief research scene within an academic library.
The Book Thief (2013)
- Reported libraries / library themes in this film, as evidenced by the Wikipedia page: “…Instead, Ilsa takes her into their library and tells Liesel she can come by anytime and read as much as she’d like. One day Liesel is found reading by the mayor, who not only puts a stop to her visits but dismisses Rosa as their laundress…Liesel helps him recover by reading to him at every spare moment books “borrowed” from the mayor’s library.”
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
- There is a reel archivist in this film and a librarian in a minor role, with the archivist having more of a role than the librarian.
- In this film, Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) works in, as noted by Jennifer Snoek-Brown, “the Information Storage department and fantasizes of rescuing a damsel in distress. Sam gets promoted to Information Retrieval (equivalent to Librarian in this Orwellian future?), meets the girl of his dreams, and puts his life in danger after discovering a bureaucratic paperwork error.”
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
- “In the film, the unnamed librarian/ archivist, follows a number of core values outlined by the SAA, providing access to original materials, consistent with access restrictions, promoting open use and access. This archivist also helps preserve the original letters as primary sources and acts professional to Lee, despite her bad attitude, at least at first.”- My Wading Through the Cultural Stacks blog in Aug. 2020.
Citizen Kane (1941)
- A haunting library scene is in this film with a strict spinster librarian at the Thatcher Memorial Library who doesn’t want to give information to a reporter.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
- One of the characters “talks with a priest in the prison library.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
- This film features the protagonist going into a library and looking through the stacks for a book.
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
- In this film, Langdon says he doesn’t have time to a library, so “they borrow a young man’s cell phone instead to research a clue.” Although this film is generally awful in other ways, it is positive in this respect and noting the value of library databases.
The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
- The protagonist sets out to save his son trapped in the New York Public Library and a librarian is horrified when some want to burn books so they can stay warm.
Doctor Strange (2016)
- Wong is an Asian librarian of a monastery who helps the protagonist, Dr. Strange, and he has books which are sacred with literal chains; he teaches Strange many important lessons.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
- Erin Brockovich (played by Julia Roberts) visits “several records offices and archives in her research to find evidence against a gas and electric company” as Snoek-Brown notes.
Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
- In this story, firemen burn books rather than put out fires, there is a hidden library discovered by the firemen, but no actual librarians in the film.
- Lulu Smith, in this film, quits her job as a librarian, then sets sail for Havana, “en route for romantic adventure.” She also endures taunting by young boys, with her boss and another patron even joking “about her marital status.” It can be watched here.
- Begins with a classic scene in which a librarian ghost scares the ghostbusters and they run out of the New York Public Library in complete terror. The actual spinster librarian is later questioned by them and she has an uncaring boss, sadly.
- Begins in a private library in a house museum called the Aldridge Mansion, but the ghost isn’t a reel librarian.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
- Lindgren is unwilling to help Lisbeth Salander, and even calls her supervisor to complain about the patron’s attitude.
Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008)
- Kumar has a flashback to how he met his ex-girlfriend, Vanessa, curiously in a library. He tries to study, they smoke pot together, and they make out while his friend, Harold, watches them.
Hidden Figures (2016)
- One of the so-called “hidden figures,” Dorothy Vaughan, visits a segregated library but later steals a book from the “White section” so she can use it to help her with her work at NASA; in this film, the white librarian refuses her service, causing Vaughan to take the book out of the library.
Hilda and the Mountain King (2021)
- Kaisa helps Frida and avid, getting them a book on body swapping. She tells them that body swapping won’t work because trolls use a different kind of magic, you can’t counter a troll spell with witch magic. She also says that witches don’t like to “get involved” in troll affairs, as its a protocol thing. Kaisa says she has trust in Hilda that she will find her way out of this. Kaisa walks away, discouraged, and Frida steals the book on body swapping.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
- Indiana Jones and another guy dries a motorcycle through the university library, and undermines the library’s importance that he had asserted in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
- Indiana Jones highlights role of research and library, visits a local library in Venice — converted from a church — which includes “a funny scene with an uncredited reel librarian.” The librarian stamps books while Indie bangs on floor, finding a hidden chamber under the library, then escapes through Venice from those chasing him, who end up being defenders of the Holy Grail’s secrets.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
- Mary Bailey, in the bizarre Pottersville, is a spinster librarian who is chased by George Bailey, frightening her out of her wits, leading her to call the police on George, who everyone sees as a pervert; the message, as Jennifer Snoek-Brown points out is “get married soon, or you will end up an old-maid librarian.”
I Lost My Body (2019)
- In this animated film, Gabrielle is a librarian at a local library, who the protagonist, Naoufel, tries to get closer to, where she is shown helping patrons and shelving books, and even gives him one of her favorite books (The World According to Garp). There is another librarian, a French woman, who is older and stricter, who is Gabrielle’s presumed boss, and is more clearly fitting the librarian stereotype, unlike Gabrielle.
- As noted by Snoek-Brown, Elliot 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 (?)”
- This classic Ken Loach film has a conversation about wanting to check out a book on falconry and having to be a member of the public library in order to do so.
Life of Pi (2012)
- This film reportedly has libraries or library themes in it.
Malcolm X (1992)
- In one scene, Baines (played by Albert Hall) brings Malcolm (played by Denzel Washington) to the prison library and shows him a dictionary, opening it and reading what “black” is defined as. He compares it to what White means. He indicates to him the symbolism of language, shifting the dictionary over to him, with Baine says you have to take everything the White man says and “use it against him”. After Malcolm reads the entry for “aardvark”, he then tells Malcolm to take one step toward Allah and he will take two steps toward you.
The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
- Major Ben Marco investigates a company, taking him to the New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL) branch, and in the process, as noted by Snoek-Brown, a “library clerk issues him a library visitor pass.”
- In this film, Marshall pulls out a stack of law books from “his case so Friedman can get prepared for the case” according to Jennifer Snoek-Brown in one of her posts.
The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear (1991)
- Reportedly in this film, “Suzy Lafer plays a librarian.”
National Treasure (2004)
- The protagonists do research in the Library of Congress (LOC) in hopes of learning more to break into the National Archives.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)
- In the film, Nicholas Cage and others go to LOC; LOC’s Director of Communications Matt Raymond even declared that the film had “the potential to redefine the Library of Congress in the eye of movie-goers, much the same as the iconic shot from the dome of the Main Reading Room” like All the President’s Men.
I have not watched any films that begin with the letter O, which have a librarian or library as of yet
- In this film, the library becomes a place of refuge.
The Professor and the Madman (2019)
- William Chester Minor (portrayed by Sean Penn), a retired United States Army surgeon, is sent to Broadmoor Hospital in the United Kingdom. He forms a library of rare books which he uses to compile what becomes the Oxford English Dictionary. So, he isn’t a librarian per say, but he has a library within his prison cell.
I have not watched any films that begin with the letter Q, which have a librarian or library as of yet.
I have not watched any films that begin with the letter R, which have a librarian or library as of yet
Silence of the Lambs (1991)
- In this film, as noted by Snoek-Brown, “there is a scene in which Clarice is researching stories on microfilm about Hannibal Lecter.”
- This film focuses on the library of the mind within the intergalactic space station, with one character quoting from the novel Don Quixote, and a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, “Hunters in the Snow”, is hanging in the library. The library also contains a bust of Plato, library itself becomes a museum, and different from the rest of the space station like an ordinary room and human-friendly.
Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
- A town librarian challenges the villain of the film.
Somewhere in Time (1980)
- In this time-travel romance, a playwright travels back in time, meeting the love of his life, and he even convinces a librarian to bring out some old magazines to research that person.
Sophie’s Choice (1982)
- Sophie asks a question and a rude, intimidating male librarian causes her to faint in desperation.
- Joe takes 22 to the Hall of Everything and its library in an attempt to “try and inspire a librarian spark within 22.”
Soylent Green (1973)
- In this film, there is a scene when Sol goes to the “Exchange,” which is an old library. There are other library-like scenes in this film as well, including characters called “books.”
- A few scenes show news librarians and methods of using church directories to “track down priests.”
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
- Kirk asks “a Star Fleet librarian to get him the code that will stop V’ger” and the librarian saves humanity.
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
- Jedi Archivist Madame Jocasta Nu in this film is incorrectly considered to be a librarian, but is actually the lone arranger of the Jedi Archives, asserts the immutable part of the archives, and that they encompass everything. Anyone who knows anything about archives know that this is a false belief. This is not made any better in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animation and the series confuses the terms “library” and “archives.”
The Mackintosh Man (1973)
- The protagonist, Joseph Reardon, played by Paul Newman, meets a sleazy man in a British prison, HM Prison Chelmsford, and talks to him, at one point, in the prison library while he is reading a book by Charles Dickens. The library is bustling with prison patrons, although no librarians are shown.
The Public (2020)
- An independent film and effective drama which is “perhaps one of the best portrayals of public libraries (and libraries) in general on the silver screen in years.” Librarians include Stuart Goodson, Mr. Anderson, and Myra.
The Time Machine (2002)
- Vox is the center of the movie, and knowledge, as he calls himself the “compendium of all human knowledge.” He is voiced by Orlando Jones. Sadly, he is only a hologram, an A.I.
The Time Machine (1960)
- There is a line in the film saying “Right there. That was my library.”
The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)
- One of the protagonists, Henry, is a reference librarian. He is also a time traveler who falls in love with a female patron, Clare.
The Truman Show (1998)
- Truman and the woman he loves, Sylvia, meet in a library; they escape it and are able to have a romantic time together.
The Watermelon Woman (1996)
- “Cheryl continues her dogged search by talking to a person with a collection of old Black films and then traveling to the local public library, likely the Free Library of Philadelphia. After perusing the stacks, she checks out as many books as she can and talks to the reference librarian, a White man who is played by David Rakoff. Wanting information about the Watermelon Woman, she encounters her first archival limit”- my Wading Through the Cultural Stacks blog in July 2022.
Tinker Tailor Solider Spy (2011)
- An agent is sent into the library archives to retrieve some vital records, while two reel librarians are at the check-in counter, but “Guillam gets to roam the library archives on his own.”
Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans (2021)
- The film begins with a short scene in Blinky’s library, where Blinky is the librarian, and it never shows up again in the film whatsoever.
I have not watched any films that begin with the letter U, which have a librarian or library as of yet
I have not watched any films that begin with the letter V, which have a librarian or library as of yet
The War of the Worlds (1953)
- Sylvia Van Buren who teaches library science courses, teams up with the hero-scientist to “defeat the aliens.”
I have not watched any films that begin with the letter O, which have a librarian or library as of yet
I have not watched any films that begin with the letter Y, which have a librarian or library as of yet
I have not watched any films that begin with the letter Z, which have a librarian or library as of yet