Prior to being a film critic for The New York Times, Dargis was a chief film critic for the Los Angeles Times, the film editor at the LA Weekly, and a film critic at The Village Voice, where she had two columns on avant-garde cinema (CounterCurrents and Shock Corridor). She has written for a variety of publications, including: ArtForum, Film Comment, Harper's Bazaar (where she was the film critic from 1999 to 2002), Interview Magazine, The Nation, Sight and Sound, Spin, and Vibe. Her work has been included in a number of books, including: Action/Spectacle Cinema: A Sight and Sound Reader; American Independent Cinema: A Sight and Sound Reader; Imagining Reality: The Faber Book of Documentary; Media Impact: An Introduction to Mass Media; Quentin Tarantino Interviews; Women and Film: A Sight and Sound Reader; and Writing in the Works.
She wrote the monograph on Curtis Hanson's film L.A. Confidential for the British Film Institute and is featured in American Movie Critics: An Anthology From the Silents Until Now, edited by Phillip Lopate and published by the Library of America. She served as the president and vice-president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association; was on the nominating board for the Spirit Awards (awarded by Film Independent); and also served on the nominating committee for the Someone To Watch award (also given out by Film Independent). She received an Award of Excellence in Entertainment Reviews from the Greater Los Angeles Press Club in 1996; she received the First Place prize in Entertainment Reviews from the Press Club in 1998. In 2012, she received a Nelson A. Rockefeller Award from Purchase College; the award is, according to the college, “presented to individuals who have distinguished themselves through their contributions to the arts.” She was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2013 and 2015.