LIBRARIANS IN THE MOVIES
An Annotated Filmography

THE C GROUP

No librarian or library is shown, only mentioned or referred to in passing.

ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE (1994). Jim Carrey says, "Fiction can be fun, but I find the reference section much more enlightening."

ASPEN EXTREME (1993). T.J. Burke is a former Detroit assembly line worker who moves to Aspen to be a ski instructor. He also wants to be a writer, and a rich woman tries to help him. One of the first things she does is to get him a library card and go to the library with him to take out books by great writers. The library scene consists only of the two of them walking away from the library with T. J. clutching a great stack of books in his hands.

BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985). Note the copy of RQ on Michael J. Fox's bedroom book shelves.

BACK TO THE FUTURE II (1989). Doc Brown shows Marty some newspapers that he "borrowed" from the local library, which (in 2015) has been abandoned and boarded up.

BEAUTY FOR SALE (1933).  A young woman tells her friends that she is flat broke.  "What about that librarian's course you too up?" she is asked.  "That was a fairy tale to let Mother down easy.  I took a beauty course instead." 

CHEERS FOR MISS BISHOP (1941). A schoolteacher suggests that a student with a photographic memory should become a librarian.

A CHILD'S CRY FOR HELP (1994, made-for-TV).  A young woman tells her mother that she took a job at the local hospital because it was either be a candystriper or "shelves books in the library."

CIMARRON (1931).  One of the supporting characters in this epic western is a former prostitute (Estelle Taylor) who moves to Oklahoma to escape her past.  But she is arrested for prostitution and put on trial.  Part of her defense is to recount her life of woe, including having worked for a while in a library. 

A CIVIL ACTION (1998).  A woman meets a high-powered defense attorney in his office, but the scene was actually filmed in the Boston Athenaeum. 

CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER (1994). Harrison Ford is a CIA agent who helps declare war on the Latin American drug trade. He takes several reference books -- Jane's Publications, such as "International Defense Directory" -- from the library to his desk, to get information on things such as air-launched weapons.

CLEOPATRA (1963). Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor) is learning about epilepsy from her tutor when they are informed that the Library of Alexandria is on fire. She fights her way into Caesar's chambers where she delivers the wonderfully sarcastic line, "Do you smell smoke?" He (Rex Harrison) politely apologizes for burning the library and explains that it was the unfortunate result of burning the Egyptian fleet, to which she responds, "When last seen the ships were in the harbor. Did you find it necessary to burn them in the streets?" Accusations then fly about who is the real barbarian, and soon enough Caesar has his way with Cleo. How quickly she forgot about the library!

DA VINCI CODE (2006).  Near the beginning of the film, after being shown the dead body, Robert Langdon says, "I've got to get to a library . . . fast!"

DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE (1995). The police are searching the city for a terrorist and want every public employee to help, "even the damned librarians."

DOWN WITH LOVE (2003).  This sex comedy pits a librarian from Maine who has written a book about love against a New York playboy journalist.  He calls her "a man-hating spinster, a New England librarian," but at the end of the movie (spoiler ahead...) it turns out that she is not a librarian at all. 

EASTER PARADE (1948). Bartender Fred Astaire points to his very large glass of Scotch and says, "There's more sense in one of these than in a whole library!"

THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN (1979). Robert Redford doesn't like the interview that Jane Fonda is trying to get, so he walks away and tells her "If you want information, go to the library!"

END OF DAYS (1999). Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the car with a library book. His partner says, "I didn't know you even knew how to read, much less have a library card."

ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE (1970). A brother and sister rent a room in their home to a young man, Sloane, believing him to be a librarian. As they are getting acquainted Sloane says he hasn't got a girlfriend, whereupon the other man replies, "No, you're a librarian."

ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981). Snake Plissken is sent into New York City (the entire city having been enclosed to create a giant federal penitentiary) to rescue the President of the U.S., whose airplane has crashed there. He meets with the head inmate in the New York Public Library, or what is left of it.

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004).  Jim Carrey's character complains that Kate Winslet's character pronounces "library" as "libary."

FAHRENHEIT 451 (1966). Not really about libraries, but rather their absence. The future society burns books (hence the title, the temperature at which paper burns) because, as expressions of individual ideas in an emotionless world, they cause only unhappiness. A dramatic scene shows the fire brigade torching a private library rather than putting out the flames. Oskar Werner begins as a book burner, but eventually he and Julie Christie flee to an outlaw group to spend their time memorizing books.

FILE IT UNDER FEAR (1973, made-for-TV). A British whodunit about a rural community rocked by a series of library murders.

FLAXY MARTIN (1949). Dorothy Malone tells Zachary Scott (who is on the run because he's been accused of a crime he didn't commit) that she "works at the public library" (that we never actually see). Apparently the job requirements weren't very high in the small town (upstate New York?) where she lived as she also tells him she worked as "an elevator operator" the previous year and that "next week I might be washing dishes in Chicago." She putters in her garden and chats with Scott in the morning, telling him that she has to be at work by noon and that she'll be home by 8:30, whereupon she makes a tasty meat-and-potatoes dinner. She is naturally sympathetic and helps prove his innocence -- like any good library employee. At the end of the film he ditches the floozy Flaxy for Dorothy. No bun or eyeglasses on a chain for her!

FOOTLOOSE (1984). The small town preacher is told by his secretary that "They're burning books at the library!" He runs over to check it out and berates the crowd for their behavior.

GETTING STRAIGHT (1970).  Elliott Gould's character says, "If you didn't want them to think, you shouldn't have given them library cards."

THE GODFATHER (1972). Sonny Corleone (James Caan) is leaving his mistress' apartment. As he descends the staircase he sees one of his bodyguards sitting on a lower step reading a book. He says, "Save it fer da libarry."

THE GOLDEN CHILD (1986). "Dragon Lady" is known as intelligent because she was a librarian.

GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM (1987).  In one of the first scenes Dan "The Man" Levitan, the ultra-dull radio announcer, tells his listeners that the Army has branch libraries in six cities.  Any soldier who cannot come to a library in person may request a book by author, title and subject, and it will be sent to him. 

GOOD WILL HUNTING (1997). Will Hunting is brilliant with math and physics, but spends his life working as a janitor and hanging out with his friends rather than pursuing a college education. At one point, while talking with a professor, he says "You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for $1.50 in library late fees."

GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER (1967).  Spencer Tracy tells his secretary to "call the library and see if they've got any dope" on his daughter's fianc.  

THE HANDMAID'S TALE (1990). In her pre-handmaid life Natasha Richardson was a librarian. This comes to light when her general asks her to play Scrabble and she beats him. He says, "I knew that you would be good at this. You used to be a librarian."

HOODLUM (1997). A 1930s gangster pulls up in front of the NYPL and announces that he is going to get a library book.

THE HOURS (2002).  This film simultaneously tells the stories of three women, all linked to the novel Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.  One is a depressed 1950s suburban housewife who abandons her family to find personal fulfillment elsewhere.  The film focuses on the day leading up to her decision to leave her family.  She is reintroduced at the end of the movie and that is when the audience learns she became a librarian.  The film does not show the library.   

I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (1997). Julie logs into the local library from her home. A bunch of articles pop up on her laptop.

I, ROBOT (2004).  In this film, set in 2035, the head of the Robot Industry says, "And you probably blame the Internet for closing all the libraries." 

IMITATION OF LIFE (1934). Fredi Washington's mother asks why she is working as a dancer in a club when she had told Mom that she had "a respectable job at the library."
    In the 1959 version Susan Kohner tells her mother that she has a job cataloging books at night in the public library. Her mother calls the library, apparently fully staffed at midnight, to talk to her daughter. She subsequently learns that she has really been singing and dancing in a strip joint, and is deeply dismayed by the situation.

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008).  As Mutt drives them out of the building on his motorcycle, Dr. Jones says, "You want to be a good archaeologist  . . . you've got to get out of the library!"  

INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989). The world renowned archaeologist Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr. (Harrison Ford) tells his university students that "70% of all archaeological research is done in the library." Throughout the film the library is positively portrayed as an important part of the research process.

K-PAX (2001). A strange inmate in the psychiatric hospital claims to have cured another patient to the extent that he is able to get "that job at the public library." The doctor wants to track down information about the inmate and asks his nurse/secretary to see what she can find on the Internet. In about 30 seconds, and with the barest of data, she finds a five-year-old, full-text article from a small-town newspaper.

KALIFORNIA (1993).  A man doing research for a book on serial killers says, in a voice-over scene, "What little I knew about serial killers I'd learned in a university library.  And the only thing I knew for certain was that people didn't kill each other in libraries."

KATE AND LEOPOLD (2001).  A man reveals to a woman that he once courted a librarian.  She replies, "Oh . . . good for you."

THE LADYKILLERS (2004).  Tom Hanks' character refers to his father as being a patient and the librarian at the state asylum in Mississippi. 

THE LIBRARIANS (2003).  This film has nothing to do with librarians.  Rather, it is about a team of vigilantes ("Three Men and One Woman on the Wrong Side of the Law, Doing the Right Thing") who are called The Librarians "because they collect overdue people, just like a librarian collects overdue books" (according to the film's official website).  For more information see http://globalpictures.info/librarians.htm .

MOVIE MOVIE (1978). This consists of spoofs of two 1930-era films. In one a young boy takes to boxing to pay for an eye operation for his sister. His girlfriend, whom he meets on the roof, works in the public library and tries to persuade him not to give up his studies. Eventually he exclaims, "Fightin's for suckers. I'm goin' to night school to be a lawyer. These hands are for readin' books."

NINOTCHKA (1939).  Greta Garbo plays a Soviet official sent to Paris to repair a business deal that her predecessors botched.  Upon arrival, she tells one of them to "go to the public library and get me the section of the civil code on property." 

THE OFFSPRING (1986).  Vincent Price is the librarian and historian for Oldfield, a Tennessee town with a long history of violence.  He narrates four stories but none involve a library or librarian. 

PHENOMENON (1996). John Travolta is an ordinary man who suddenly develops super mental abilities. He attends an outdoor public library book fair to show off his new talents.

PLAZA SUITE (1971). Walter Matthau is upset because his daughter has locked herself in the bathroom of the hotel suite and will not come out for her wedding, while guests are waiting and his money is being wasted. In frustration he declares that she could do several things: she could go into a convent, become the first spinster on the moon, or "Let her be a librarian, with thick glasses and a pencil in her hair."

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1940). Mr. Collins, who in Austen's book is a clergyman, introduces himself to the Bennetts as a librarian.

THE PRODUCERS (1968).  A crooked accountant, contemplating his future as a criminal, tells his partner that if their scheme goes under, he'll cope by getting a job in the prison library. 

THE QUEEN OF THE DAMNED (2002). Lestat, the star vampire, is astonished by the intellect of a researcher at a London institute for vampire study. As she leaves the room, he mutters (with some measure of respect) "Well, that makes you a very clever librarian!"

THE RELIC (1997).  Two boys are talking about having skipped school.  One boy asks why anyone would go to a museum whey he could go a library instead. 

RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE (1961). Robert Stirling, the school principal, is fired when he refuses to remove Carol Lynley's revealing novel from the school library.

THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (2001). The opening scene shows someone opening a library copy of the book, The Royal Tenenbaums, to the inside back cover, removing a library card, and stamping a due date in it of November 2001.

S.W.A.T. (2003).  One man asks another if he has a driver's license.  He replies, "I got a library card."  "Close enough," the other fellow says. 

SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (1993). Meg Ryan, a newspaper reporter, uses what appears to be the Lexis-Nexis database to find information about a man she heard on a radio program.

SPELLBOUND (1945). A very nervous psychiatrist (Ingrid Bergman), waits for Gregory Peck in the lobby of a hotel. The hotel detective sees her, comments on her anxiety, and volunteers his guess that the big city has unnerved her because she is probably a librarian or a school teacher.

STAR TREK, THE MOTION PICTURE (1979). Earth is threatened by a mysterious entity called "V'ger." Kirk figures out that the core of the entity is the Voyager probe, and asks a Star Fleet librarian to get him the code that will stop V'ger. (We never see this person, and she's not even called a "librarian," but she searches the computer to get the information to Kirk.) The code word is supplied, and, once again, a librarian saves humanity.

STEPFORD WIVES (1975). Two women use the public library to do research about the history of the town. We do not see them there but learn of their activity when they tell another of the wives about it.

STRIPTEASE (1996). When a woman loses her daughter in a divorce she becomes a stripper to earn money to appeal her daughter's custody. After a customer is killed a detective questions her. But they get off to a bad start when he assumes that she is a hooker. "This isn't exactly a library you're working in," he says.

TALK OF THE TOWN (1942).  A law professor goes to a baseball game where he bumps into a judge.  The judge says, "How I envy you.  You work in the quiet of your library and the world does not interrupt.  I labor in the vineyard." 

THE SURE THING (1985). John Cusack asks Daphne Zuniga to help him rewrite an essay for their creative writing class. They go to the library to discuss the essay. When he loses interest in work he takes her to the roof of the library to look at the stars and to try to strike up a romantic relationship with her. She refuses his advances at that point, but by the end of the movie they are in love and return to the library roof.

THAT TOUCH OF MINK (1962). Cary Grant is rich and unscrupulous, a "ladies' man." Doris Day is poor and Doris. She tries to make him jealous by going to a motel with another man. He follows them but breaks into the wrong room where a mousey, middle-aged man (Mr. Smith) is about to consummate his marriage. Grant leads him to believe that he has had an affair with Mrs. Smith, whereupon Mr. Smith says to her "You librarians live it up pretty good!" Much confusion and hilarity.

THE THIN MAN (1934).  When the Wynant family learns that their father is missing and his mistress is dead, prissy son Gilbert defends himself: "I've got an alibi.  I was at the public library." 

TILLSAMMANS [Together] (2000).  In this Swedish film about life in Stockholm in the 1970s, one of the characters says that another men wanted to be a librarian.  

TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH (1948). Agents from the US Treasury Department track a narcotics smuggling ring to Shanghai. One of the suspects is described as being a librarian.

TRUST (1990). A man suggests that a teenage girl wear her glasses. She replies, "I hate wearing them. They make me look brainy, like a librarian."  The man replies, "I like librarians."

VERTIGO (1958). Jimmy Stewart asks his friend where he can find out about "History, real history, not the kind you find in libraries." She takes him to speak to an antiquarian bookseller.

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1951). Convinced that the earth will soon be destroyed, scientists build a rocket so some people can escape. All of the essentials of civilized life are packed to go, including a small library of books on microfilm. Titles include the Bible, an encyclopedia, Anatomy of the Human Body, Practical Mathematics, The Story of Mankind, and Shakespeare.


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