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Listed by year of graduation

  • Dissertation: " Aluminum Lesbians: Recycling Lesbian Legacy in Classical Hollywood"
  • Chair: Mark Lynn Anderson (English)
  • Readers: Jules Gill-Peterson (English), Nancy Glazener (English), David Pettersen (French & Italian)
  • Dissertation: " Process over Product: Kinesthetic Cinema, Sporting Bodies, and Media Milieux"
  • Readers: Randall Halle (German), Adam Lowenstein (English), Neepa Majumdar (English)
  • Dissertation: White Design: Engineering the Visualization of Race and Racism in Social Media
  • Chair: Jinying Li (English) & Zachary Horton (English)
  • Readers: Mark Lynn Anderson (English), Brenton Malin (Communication), Elizabeth Reich (English)
  • Dissertation: From Women's Cinema to Women's Horror Cinema: Genre and Gender in the Twenty-First Century
  • Chair: Adam Lowenstein (English)
  • Readers: Lucy Fischer (English), Neepa Majumdar (English), David Pettersen (French & Italian)
  • Dissertation: Soviet Tableau: Cinema and History under Late Socialism (1953-1985)
  • Chair:  Nancy Condee  (Slavic)
  • Readers:   David Birnbaum  (Slavic),   Randall Halle  (German),  Neepa Majumdar  (English),  Marcia Landy  (English),  Vladimir Padunov  (Slavic),  Dan Morgan  (Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago)
  • Dissertation:  Cinema in Fragments: Transmediating Popular Hindi Cinema on Small Screens
  • Chair: Neepa Majumdar (English)
  • Readers: Nancy Condee (Slavic), Jinying Li (English), Aswin Punathambekar (Communication Studies, University of Michigan), Jennifer Waldron (English)
  • Dissertation:  The Interstate Logic: How Networks Change the Cinematic Representation of Time and Space
  • Chair:   Lucy Fischer  (English)
  • Readers:  Randall Halle  (German),  Mark Lynn Anderson  (English),  Neepa Majumdar  (English)
  • Dissertation:  "Quiet on Set!": Craft Discourse and Below-the-Line Labor in Hollywood, 1919-1985
  • Chair:  Mark Lynn Anderson  (English)
  • Readers:  Adam Lowenstein  (English),  Neepa Majumdar  (English),   Randall Halle  (German), Dana Polan (NYU),  Dan Morgan  (Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago)
  • Dissertation:  The Matter of Identity: Digital Media, Television, and Embodied Difference
  • Chair:  Jane Feuer  (English)
  • Readers:  Brenton J. Malin  (Communication), Jinying Li (English),  Jennifer Waldron  (English)
  • Dissertation:  The Rehearsal for Terror: Form, Trauma, and Modern Horror
  • Chair:  Marcia Landy  (English)
  • Readers:  Mark Lynn Anderson  (English),  Adam Lowenstein  (English),  Dan Morgan  (Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago)
  • Chair:  Adam Lowenstein  (English)
  • Readers:  Mark Lynn Anderson  (English),  Neepa Majumdar  (English),   Randall Halle  (German),   Dan Morgan  (Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago)
  • Dissertation:  The Cinematic Animal: Animal Life, Technology, and the Moving Image
  • Readers:  Neepa Majumdar  (English),   Adam Lowenstein  (English), Akira Lippit (Cinema & Media Studies, University of Southern California)
  • Dissertation:  Sustaining Life During the AIDS Crisis: New Queer Cinema and the Biopic
  • Readers:  Lucy Fischer  (English),   Randall Halle  (German),   Marcia Landy  (English)
  • Dissertation: Pataphysical Networking: Virtuality, Potentiality and the Experimental Works of the Collège de 'Pataphysique, the Oulipo, and the Mouvement Panique
  • Dissertation: "Everything new is born illegal." Historicisizing Rapid Migration through New Media Projects
  • Chair: Randall Halle (German)
  • Readers: Nancy Condee (Slavic), Sabine von Dirk (German), John B. Lyon (German)
  • Dissertation:  Impasse in Multilingual Spaces: Politics of Language and Identity in Contemporary Francophone Contact Zones
  • Chair:  David Pettersen  (French & Italian)
  • Readers:  Nancy Condee  (Slavic),  Neil Doshi  (French & Italian),  Giuseppina Mecchia  (French & Italian)
  • Dissertation:  Press Play: Video Games and the Ludic Quality of Aesthetic Experiences across Media
  • Readers:   Randall Halle  (German), Jinying Li (English),  Neepa Majumdar  (English),  Dan Morgan  (Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago)
  • Dissertation:  Shopping the Look: Hollywood Costume Production and American Fashion Consumption, 1960-1969
  • Chair:  Neepa Majumdar  (English)
  • Readers:  Mark Lynn Anderson  (English),  Jane Feuer  (English),  Brenton J. Malin  (Communication)
  • Dissertation:  Another Habitat for the Muses: The Poetic Investigations of Mexican Film Criticism, 1896-1968
  • Readers:  Neepa Majumdar  (English),  Adam Lowenstein  (English),  Joshua Lund  (University of Notre Dame)
  • Dissertation:  Frame and Finitude: The Aporetic Aesthetics of Alain Resnais's Cinematic Modernism
  • Co-Chairs:  Adam Lowenstein  (English),  Daniel Morgan  (Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago)
  • Readers:  Neepa Majumdar  (English),  Marcia Landy  (English)

Natalie Ryabchikova

  • Dissertation: The Flying Fish: Sergei Eisenstein Abroad, 1929-1932.
  • Chair: Mark Lynn Anderson (Film)
  • Readers: William Chase (History), Nancy Condee (Slavic), Randall Halle  (Film), Vladimir Padunov (Slavic)

Kelly Trimble

  • Dissertation:  The Celebrification of Soviet Culture: State Heroes after Stalin, 2017
  • Chair: Vladimir Padunov (Slavic)
  • Readers: David Birnbaum (Slavic), Nancy Condee (Slavic), Randall Halle (German)
  • Dissertation:  A Hidden Light: Judaism, Contemporary Israeli Film, and the Cinematic Experience
  • ​Chair:   Lucy Fischer  (English)
  • Readers:  Adam Lowenstein  (English),  Neepa Majumdar  (English), Adam Shear  (Religious Studies)
  • Dissertation:  Global Russian Cinema in the Digital Age: The Films of Timur Bekmambetov
  • ​Chair:   Nancy Condee  (Slavic)
  • Readers:  Vladimir Padunov  (Slavic),  Randall Halle  (German),  Daniel Morgan  (Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago)
  • Dissertation:  The Flying Fish: Sergei Eisenstein Abroad, 1929-1932
  • ​Chair:   Vladimir Padunov  (Slavic)
  • Readers:  Mark Lynn Anderson  (English),  William Chase  (History),  Nancy Condee  (Slavic),  Randall Halle  (German)

Anne Wesserling , Visiting Assistant Professor, University of North Georgia

  • Dissertation: Screening Violence: Meditations on Perception in Recent Argentine Literature and Film of the Post-Dictatorship
  • Chair: Daniel Balderston  (Hispanic Languages & Literature)
  • Readers: John Beverley  (Hispanic Languages & Literature), Gonzalo Lamana  (Hispanic Languages & Literature), Adam Lowenstein  (English)
  • Dissertation:  The British War Film, 1939-1980: Culture, History, and Genre
  • Readers:  Adam Lowenstein  (English),  Colin MacCabe  (English),  David Pettersen  (French & Italian)
  • Dissertation:  Unseen Femininity: Women in Japanese New Wave Cinema
  • Readers:  Nancy Condee  (Slavic),  Marcia Landy  (English),  Neepa Majumdar  (English)
  • Dissertation: Visualizing the Past: Perestroika Documentary Memory of Stalin-era
  • Readers: Nancy Condee (Slavic), David J. Birnbaum  (Slavic), Jeremy Hicks  (Languages, Linguistics, Film)

Gavin M. Hicks

  • Disseration: Soccer and Social Identity in Contemporary German Film and Media  
  • Readers: John B. Lyon  (German), Sabine von Dirke (German), Clark Muenzer  (German), Gayle Rogers (English)
  • Dissertation:  Film Dance, Female Stardom, and the Production of Gender in Popular Hindi Cinema
  • Readers:   Lucy Fischer  (English),  Marcia Landy  (English), Ranjani Mazumdar (Cinema Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
  • Dissertation:  Overlooking the Evidence: Gender, Genre and the Female Detective in Hollywood Film and Television
  • Readers:  Mark Lynn Anderson  (English),  Adam Lowenstein  (English),  Brenton J. Malin  (Communications)

Christopher Nielsen , Educator, Institute for Health and Socioeconomic Policy/National Nurses United

  • Dissertation: Narco Realism in Contemporary Mexican and Transnational Narrative, Film, and Online Media
  • Chair: Juan Duchesen-Winter (Hispanic Languages & Literature)
  • Readers: John Beverley (Hispanic Languages & Literature), Joshua Lund (Hispanic Languages & Literature), Giuseppina Mecchia  (French & Italian)
  • Dissertation:  New Korean Cinema: Mourning to Regeneration
  • Readers: Kyung Hyun Kim (East Asian Languages and Literatures, University of California, Irvine),  Adam Lowenstein  (English),  Colin MacCabe  (English)
  • Dissertation:  “Insubordinate” Looking: Consumerism, Power, Identity, and the Art of Popular (Music) Dance Movies
  • Readers:  Mark Lynn Anderson  (English),   Lucy Fischer  (English),  Randall Halle  (German)
  • Dissertation:  Sustaining Feminist Film Cultures: An Institutional History of Women Make Movies
  • Readers:   Mark Lynn Anderson  (English),  Neepa Majumdar  (English),  Randall Halle  (German Language),  David Pettersen  (French & Italian)

Yvonne Franke , Assistant Professor of German, Midwestern State University

  • Dissertation:  The Genres of Europeanization - Moving Towards the "New Heimatfilm"
  • Readers: Lucy Fischer (Film), John B. Lyon (German), Sabine von Dirke (German)

Olga Kilmova ,  Visiting Lecturer, University of Pittsburgh

  • Dissertation: Soviet Youth Films under Brezhnev: Watching Between the Lines
  • Chair: Nancy Condee (Slavic)
  • Readers: Vladimir Padunov  (Slavic), David J. Birnbaum  (Slavic), Lucy Fischer  (Communication), Alexander V. Prokhorov (Slavic)
  • Dissertation:  The Toy Like Nature: On the History and Theory of Animated Motion
  • Chair: Daniel Morgan
  • Readers:  Marcia Landy  (English), Mark Lynn Anderson  (English), Scott Bukatman (Film & Media Studies, Stanford University)
  • Dissertation:  Cinematic Occupation: Intelligibility, Queerness, and Palestine
  • Readers:  Mark Lynn Anderson  (English), Troy Boone  (English), Todd Reeser (French & Italian)

Yahya Laayouni , Assistant Professor of Arabic and French, Bloomsberg University of Pennsylvania

  • Dissertation: Redefining Beur Cinema: Constituting Subjectivity through Film
  • Co-Chairs: Giuseppina Mecchia  (French and Italian) & Randall Halle  (German)
  • Readers: Todd Reeser (French and Italian), Mohammed Bamyeh  (Sociology & Religious Studies), Neil Doshi  (French & Italian)
  • Dissertation:  Image to Infinity: Rethinking Description and Detail in the Cinema
  • Chair:   Marcia Landy  (English)
  • Readers: Troy Boone ,  Adam Lowenstein  (English),  Colin MacCabe  (English),  Randall Halle  (German)
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  • Dissertation:  Screen Combat: Recreating World War II in American Film and Media
  • Readers:   Lucy Fischer  (English),  Marcia Landy  (English),  Randall Halle  (German)
  • Dissertation:  Modern Kinesis: Motion Picture Technology, Embodiment, and Re-Playability in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twenty-First Centuries
  • Readers:   Lucy Fischer  (English),  Adam Lowenstein  (English),  Giuseppina Mecchia  (French & Italian)
  • Dissertation:  Research in the Form of a Spectacle: Godard and the Cinematic Essay
  • Readers:   Lucy Fischer  (English),  Marcia Landy  (English)
  • Dissertation:  Immaterial Materiality: Collecting in Live-Action Film, Animation, and Digital Games
  • Readers:  Marcia Landy  (English),  Adam Lowenstein  (English),  Randall Halle  (German)
  • Dissertation:  Nation, Nostalgia, and Masculinity: Clinton/Spielberg/Hanks
  • Readers:  Marcia Landy  (English),  Adam Lowenstein  (English),  Brent Malin  (Communications)
  • Dissertation:  Body Image: Fashioning the Postwar American
  • Readers:  Jane Feuer  (English), Marianne Novy (English), Carol Stabile (English, University of Oregon)

Natalia Maria Ramirez-Lopez , 

  • Chair: Hermann Herlinghaus  (Latin American Literature, University of Freiburg)
  • Readers: Aníbal Perez-Linán (Political Science), Bobby J. Chamberlain  (Hispanic Languages & Literature), Gerald Martin (Hispanic Languages & Literature)

Dawn Seckler , Associate Director of Development, Bridgeway Capital

  • Dissertation: Engendering Genre: The Contemporary Russian Buddy Film
  • Readers: David MacFadyen (University of California, Los Angeles), Lucy Fischer  (Film), Nancy Condee (Slavic)
  • Dissertation:  The Ethnic Turn: Studies in Political Cinema from Brazil and the United States, 1960-2002
  • Readers:  Adam Lowenstein  (English), Shalini Puri,  Neepa Majumdar  (English),  John Beverley  (Hispanic)
  • Dissertation:  Acting Social: The Cinema of Mike Nichols
  • Readers:  Mark Anderson  (English),  Marcia Landy  (English),  Colin MacCabe  (English), David Shumway (English, Carnegie Mellon University)
  • Dissertation:  Ruins and Riots: Transnational Currents in Mexican Cinema
  • Readers:   Lucy Fischer  (English),  Adam Lowenstein  (English),  John Beverly  (Hispanic)
  • Dissertation:  The Word Made Cinematic: The Representation of Jesus in Cinema
  • Readers: Troy Boone ,  Adam Lowenstein  (English), Vernell Lillie (Africana Studies)
  • Dissertation:  Fathers of a Still-Born Past: Hindu Empire, Globality, and the Rhetoric of the Trikaal
  • Readers: Paul Bové  (English), Ronald Judy  (English),  Nancy Condee  (Slavic)
  • Dissertation:  Excavating the Ghetto Action Cycle (1991-1996): A Case Study for a Cycle-Based Approach to Genre Theory
  • Readers:  Jane Feuer  (English),  Neepa Majumdar  (English), Paula Massood (Cinema and Media Studies, Brooklyn College, CUNY)
  • Dissertation:  "The World Goes One Way and We Go Another": Movement, Migration, and Myths of Irish Cinema
  • Readers:  Adam Lowenstein  (English),  Colin MacCabe  (English),  Nancy Condee  (Slavic Languages and Literatures)
  • Dissertation:  The Writing on the Screen: Images of Text in the German Cinema from 1920-1949
  • Readers: Paul Bové  (English),  Lucy Fischer  (English), Linda Shulte-Sasse (German, McAllister College)
  • Dissertation:  Mantras of the Metropole: Geo-Televisuality and Contemporary Indian Cinema
  • Readers: Paul Bové  (English); Eric Clarke (English);  Colin MacCabe  (English); M. Prasad (Film Theory, Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad)
  • Dissertation:  Hollywood Youth Narratives and the Family Values Campaign 1980-1992
  • Readers: Troy Boone  (English),  Marcia Landy  (English), Carol Stabile (Communications)
  • Dissertation:  Reading Scars: Circumcision as Textual Trope
  • Chair: Philip Smith  (English)
  • Readers:   Lucy Fischer  (English), Mariolina Salvatori, Greg Goekjian (Portland State University)
  • Dissertation:  Dreaming in Crisis: Angels and the Allegorical Imagination in Postwar America
  • Chair:  Colin MacCabe  (English)
  • Readers: Ronald Judy  (English), Jonathan Arac ,  Nancy Condee  (Slavic)
  • Dissertation:  Laying Down the Rules: The American Sports Film Genre From 1872 to 1960
  • Readers:  Jane Feuer  (English), Moya Luckett, Carol Stabile (Communications)

Elena Prokhorova

  • Dissertation: Fragmented Mythologies: Soviet TV Series of the 1970s
  • Readers: Carol Stabile (Communications), Jane Feuer (English and Film), Martin Votruba (Slavic), Nancy Condee (Slavic)
  • Dissertation:  Nickels and Dimes: The Movies in a Rampantly American City, 1914-1923
  • Readers: Moya Luckett,  Jane Feuer , Gregory Waller (University of Kentucky)
  • Dissertation:  As Far As Anyone Knows: Fetishism and the Anti-Televisual Paradoxes of Film Noir
  • Readers: Valerie Krips, James Knapp, Henry Krips (Communications)

Alexander Prokhorov , Associate Professor, College of William and Mary

  • Dissertation: Inherited Discourse: Stalinist Tropes in Thaw Culture
  • Chair: Helena Goscilo (Slavic)
  • Readers: Lucy Fischer (Film), Mark Altshuller (Slavic), Nancy Condee (Slavic), Vladimir Padunov (Slavic)
  • Dissertation:  “Dig If You Will The Picture”: The Cinematic, the Black Femme, and the Image of Common Sense
  • Chair:   Marcia Landy  (English)
  • Readers: Paul Bové  (English),  Colin MacCabe  (English), Amy Villarejo (Cornell), Wahneema Lubiano (Duke)
  • Dissertation:   French Film Criticism, Authorship, and National Culture in the Mirror of John Cassavetes’s Body, His Life, His Work
  • Readers:   Marcia Landy  (English), James Knapp
  • Dissertation:  In The Shadow of His Language: Language and Feminine Subjectivity in the Cinema
  • Chair:   Colin MacCabe  (English)
  • Readers:   Lucy Fischer  (English), Lynn Emanuel, Patrizia Lombardo (French and Italian)
  • Dissertation:  Being In Control: The Ending Of The Information Age
  • Chair: Paul Bové  (English)
  • Readers: Jonathan Arac ,  Marcia Landy , Carol Stabile (Communications)
  • Dissertation:  The Emergence of Date Rape: Feminism, Theory, Institutional Discourse, and Popular Culture
  • Readers: Nancy Glazener  (English),   Lucy Fischer  (English), Carol A. Stabile (Communications)
  • Dissertation:  Gender and the Politics and Practices of Representation in Contemporary British Cinema
  • Readers: James Knapp,  Marcia Landy  (English),  Colin MacCabe  (English), Sabine Hake (German)
  • Dissertation:  Telling the Story of AIDS in Popular Culture
  • Chair:   Jane Feuer  (English)
  • Readers: Eric Clarke (English),  Marcia Landy  (English), Danae Clark (Communications)
  • Dissertation:  Technology, the Natural and the Other: The Case of Childbirth Representations in Contemporary Popular Culture
  • Readers:  Marcia Landy  (English), Dana Polan, Iris M. Young (Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh)
  • Dissertation:  Lesbian Rule:  Cultural Criticism and the Value of Desire
  • Readers: Paul Bové  (English),  Colin MacCabe  (English), Gayatri Spivak (Columbia)
  • Dissertation:  Feminism, Postmodernism, and Science Fiction: Gender and Ways of Thinking Otherwise
  • Chair:  Philip Smith
  • Readers:  Marica Landy  (English),  Lucy Fischer  (English), Dana Polan, Tamara Horowitz (Philosophy)
  • Dissertation:  Camp and the Question of Value
  • Readers:   Lucy Fischer  (English),  Marcia Landy  (English), Eric Clarke (English), Janet Staiger (University of Texas–Austin)
  • Dissertation:  Culture in a State of Crisis:  A Historical Construction in Cinematic Ideology in India, 1919-75
  • Readers: Paul Bové  (English),  Colin MacCabe  (English), Keya Ganguly (Carnegie Mellon University)
  • Dissertation:  The Ethics of Transgression: Criticism and Cultural Marginality
  • Chair: Paul Bove  (English)
  • Readers:   Lucy Fischer  (English),  Marcia Landy  (English), Dana Pollan, Danae Clarke
  • Dissertation:  Sally Bowles: Fascism, Female Spectacle, and the Politics of Looking
  • Readers:  Marcia Landy  (English), Dana Polan, Sabine Hake (German)
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In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Historical Film

Introduction, general overviews.

  • Scholarly Approaches
  • National Identity
  • European Historical Films
  • Asian Historical Cinema
  • Latin American Historical Films
  • Historical Films as Pedagogy
  • Film as History
  • The Historical Film and Authorship

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  • AIDS in Film and Television
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  • Luchino Visconti
  • Memory and the Flashback in Cinema
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  • Trauma Theory

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Historical Film by John Trafton LAST REVIEWED: 01 May 2023 LAST MODIFIED: 30 October 2019 DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0239

From the advent of cinema to the present day, history has been brought to life on screen in many striking ways that have advanced motion picture technology and forged new relationships between viewers and the historical past. Historical films offer a privileged site for scholars of cinema, media, history, and many other disciplines to interrogate a nation’s relationship with the past. How cinema engages with the past, whether recent or distant, provides interesting case studies for how successive generations renegotiate cultural memory and understandings of how the past shapes the present. Historical films can bring into relief hidden or competing histories that either challenge or compliment prevailing narratives and authoritative accounts of the past, asking the viewer to consider the present as being shaped by multiple histories, rather than by one history. Historical films also suggest new ways of understanding the past, and, as a consequence, they also present new ways of understanding the present. Lastly, historical films can perform thought experiments about the past, deliberately departing from the historical print record in order to pose a different set of questions about a nation’s relationship with history. As such, historical films have garnered a tremendous level of scholarly interest, covering a broad range of research foci and subjects that are very useful in expanding discourses on national identity and historical memory. This article seeks to provide academics with ample resources and theoretical frameworks for conducting research on historical films or incorporating aspects of historical film studies into other disciplines. Starting with a general overview and scholarly approaches to historical films, the seminal works of Hayden White, Robert Rosenstone, and Vivian Sobchack are considered alongside newer approaches and scholarly journals, offering the scholar with an array of methodologies for bridging film studies to other fields. The article then examines in greater detail texts and studies concerned with a variety of questions and subissues pertaining to historical film studies—first with how film engages with memory (historical, cultural, personal, and national), then how historical films either interrogate or compound notions of national identity, and then how these ideas are explored in a variety of national and regional contexts. Next, the article turns toward the issues that stem from the scholarly approaches: how historical films can be used as a teaching tool, issues of genre and subgenre taxonomy, and how films themselves act as moments in history. Lastly, the article considers notions of authorship in historical cinema. Since many historical films are helmed by world-renowned filmmakers, the article ends with a section that explores repeated directorial engagements with history as a strong component of auteur cinema.

The symbiotic relationship between film history and other histories (technological, social, cultural, political, etc.) is a crucial component of film studies, but in the case of historical film scholarship, this relationship can explain a lot about the role that historical films play within a particular culture or nation at a given moment. As Robert Burgoyne notes in Rosenstone and Parvulescu 2013 , “[historical films] index generational change,” and it is vital for historical film scholars to understand this process. For this reason, Burgoyne 2008 features here as a useful starting point. As this section includes both early texts and current ones, the purpose of which is to provide the scholar with an understanding of how ideas about historical films have developed over the last two decades, Stubbs 2013 and Treacey 2016 are included here because they offer useful springboards to further the discussions that are currently taking place. Furthermore, issues surrounding the historical film as either a genre or a phenomenon that expands established genres must be addressed early on, and both Chapman 2013 and Grindon 1994 are considered for the purposes of mapping out the generic functions and conventions of historical films. Since a common problem that arises with historical films is their reliability, due to the inevitable liberties filmmakers take with the historical record, Toplin 2002 and Sanello 2003 critically engage with this issue, offering a compelling defense of historical cinema. Historical film scholars should also be aware of how the technical work behind a historical film’s production can shape how the past is brought to life. For that reason, included here is King 2005 , as it contains some useful chapters on the historical filmmaking process. Historical film studies can also be enhanced by studies of audience reception, fan culture, and star culture, and, as such, Cullen 2016 offers a good starting point to further explore these connections from a general overview perspective. Lastly, this section includes two important journals that consistently engage with historical cinema, keeping scholars abreast of relevant discussions and emerging trends. Film & History is not only a valuable tool for remaining critically engaged with the historical film scholarly community, but it also holds an annual conference that can provide good exposure for the scholar. The Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television is also an excellent journal for publishing articles on historical cinema and participating in the discourse surrounding this field.

Burgoyne, Robert. The Hollywood Historical Film . Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

Burgoyne provides an encouraging place for a scholar of historical films (of any national cinema) to begin. This book divides the historical film into its various subgenres (the epic, the biopic, the war film, the topical film, and the metahistorical film) and charts their development alongside the broader film history. Each chapter performs a textual analysis on iconic historical films from the 1990s and 2000s to show how each subgenre of the historical film forms a dialogue with the past.

Chapman, James. Film and History . Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

DOI: 10.1007/978-1-137-36732-7

Innovations in visual storytelling, according to Chapman, are essential to understanding cinema’s engagement with the historical past. As social change and new ideas have increased the capacity to examine and interpret the past, so has an expansion of film form provided a more advanced audio/visual language for representing history. Chapman’s book links innovative film movements and the rise of film theory to an understanding of how films can themselves serve as historical texts. This book provides a usual place for scholars of historical films to hone their methodologies.

Cullen, Jim. Sensing the Past: Hollywood Stars and Historical Visions . New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Cullen explores how star culture and fan culture interact with the broader discussion on the depiction of history on screen. Focusing on the films of John Wayne, Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood, Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, Tom Hanks, and Daniel Day Lewis, Cullen explores both the ways that recognizable film personalities have presented history through performances as well as the ways that certain actors can be read as a form of public historian.

Film & History . 1971–.

Edited by Loren P. Q. Baybrook, and published by Lawrence University, Wisconsin. This peer-reviewed journal acknowledges film both as a potential teaching tool for history and as central to history itself. It is published biannually, with each issue focusing on a particular theme; one of the most recent issues, for example, focused on representations of love in film and television. Film & History also holds an annual conference every November, an ideal place for scholars to present their work and engage in broader conversation about the historical film.

Grindon, Leger. Shadows of the Past: Studies in the Historical Fiction Film . Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994.

Grindon’s book examines the historical film as a stand-alone genre, complete with its own set of motivations and unique genre codes and tropes. Historical film scholars will find this work useful as an earlier attempt to flesh out what a historical film is and how it functions in relation to written history.

Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television . 1981–.

The journal of the International Association of Media and History, published online by Taylor and Francis, the Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television is a useful tool for the historical film scholar as it includes contributors and topics across a broad range of disciplines. The editorial board has largely focused on the role that historical films have played in shaping film history, thus making it a valuable resource that is consistently in tune with emerging trends and discourses.

King, Geoff, ed. Spectacle and the Real . Bristol, UK: Intellect, 2005.

Among the fine entries in this edited volume on special effects and realism, see especially Michele Pierson’s chapter “A Production Designer’s Cinema: Historical Authenticity in Popular Films Set in the Past.” Pierson’s chapter provides some interesting insights that may help the historical film scholar formulate research questions that bridge various aspects of historical film studies.

Rosenstone, Robert A., and Constantin Parvulescu, eds. A Companion to the Historical Film . Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.

DOI: 10.1002/9781118322673

This edited volume contains a strong overview of the historical film’s different subgenres, cultural implications, and revisions throughout film history. It contains contributions from notable scholars who also feature elsewhere in this bibliography.

Sanello, Frank. Reel v. Real: How Hollywood Turns Fact into Fiction . Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade, 2003.

Reel v. Real seeks to address the central concern of historians and history aficionados when it comes to historical film: historical accuracy and period fidelity. Sanello addresses this concern through a consideration of several popular historical films, working to drive the conversation toward what historical films can teach regardless of the accuracy of their depictions.

Stubbs, Jonathan. Historical Film: A Critical Introduction . London: Bloomsbury, 2013.

Stubbs draws upon the work of previous historical film scholars (Burgoyne, Toplin, and Grindon, for example) to offer new insights into the historical film genre. This book has the potential to serve as a model for a historical film scholar attempting to develop new theoretical frameworks for historical film studies.

Toplin, Robert Brent. Reel History: In Defense of Hollywood . Culture America. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2002.

Historical inaccuracies in historical films, in particular Hollywood historical films, and the potential problems that arise remain a critical issue for both historians and film scholars. Toplin addresses these concerns through an examination of various Hollywood historical films, casting the historical film as an alternative historical discourse and calling into questions the notions of it as a genre (an interesting contrast to the work of Phillip Rosen).

Treacey, Mia. Reframing the Past: History, Film, and Television . New York: Routledge, 2016.

DOI: 10.4324/9781315639161

From the perspective of a more developed field of historical film studies, Treacey provides an informative overview of the field and the writings of historians on film, from early cinema up to the present. In addition to this book, Treacey also has a website that features interviews with historians, such as Robert Rosenstone, and further explores the ideas from this book. See .

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film history thesis

Biography and History in Film

  • © 2019
  • Thomas S. Freeman 0 ,
  • David L. Smith 1

University of Essex, Colchester, UK

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University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

  • Examines the relationship of biographical films from the 1920s to the 2010s to historical knowledge
  • Demonstrates how films reflect changing understandings of historical figures and events
  • Considers how the categories of race, gender and sexuality are represented in biographical film

Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media (PSHM)

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Table of contents (13 chapters)

Front matter, ‘movies that exist merely to tell entertaining lies’: biography on film.

  • Thomas S. Freeman, David L. Smith

Filming a Legend: Anthony Mann’s El Cid (1961)

Thomas S. Freeman

Joan of Arc Through Medieval Eyes and Modern Lenses: Dreyer 1928 and Bresson 1962

  • Elisabeth van Houts

Blood, Lust, and the Virgin Queen: Helen Mirren’s Elizabeth I

  • William B. Robison

Shakespeare in Love and Anonymous : Two Films More or Less About Shakespeare

  • David Bevington

That Hamilton Woman (1941)

  • Samantha A. Cavell

Twelve Years a Slave and the ‘Unthinkability’ of Enslaved Autobiography

  • Sean M. Kelley

Lincoln Biography and National Reconciliation in the Films Birth of a Nation and Lincoln

The trials of oscar wilde (1960).

David L. Smith

Infectious Enthusiasm: The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936)

  • Bart K. Holland

Filming and Formatting the Explorer Hero: Captain Scott and Ealing Studios’ Scott of the Antarctic (1948)

  • Klaus Dodds

Inside JFK’s White House: The Myth of John F. Kennedy and Thirteen Days (2000)

  • Andrew Priest

Power and Its Loss in The Iron Lady

  • Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, Jon Lawrence

Back Matter

  • Popular culture
  • Twentieth-century
  • Media studies
  • Popular history

About this book

The essays in this volume seek to analyze biographical films as representations of historical individuals and the times in which they lived. To do this, contributors examine the context in which certain biographical films were made, including the state of knowledge about their subjects at that moment, and what these films reveal about the values and purposes of those who created them. This is an original approach to biographical (as opposed to historical) films and one that has so far played little part in the growing literature on historical films. The films discussed here date from the 1920s to the 2010s, and deal with males and females in periods ranging from the Middle Ages to the end of the twentieth century. In the process, the book discusses how biographical films reflect changing attitudes towards issues such as race, gender and sexuality, and examines the influence of these films on popular perceptions of the past. The introduction analyses the nature of biographical filmsas a genre: it compares and contrasts the nature of biography on film with written biographies, and considers their relationship with the discipline of history. As the first collection of essays on this popular but understudied genre, this book will be of interest to historians as well as those in film and cultural studies. 

Editors and Affiliations

About the editors.

Thomas S. Freeman is Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Essex, UK. He is the co-author of Religion and the Book in Early Modern England: the Making of Foxe’s ‘Book of Martyrs’ (2011).  He is also the co-editor of The Tudors and Stuarts on Film (2008), and four other volumes on early modern English history.

David L. Smith is Fellow, Director of Studies in History, and Graduate Tutor at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge, UK.  His books include Constitutional Royalism and the Search for Settlement, c. 1640-1649 (1994), A History of the Modern British Isles, 1603-1707 (1998), The Stuart Parliaments, 1603-1689 (1999), and (with Patrick Little)  Parliaments and Politics during the Cromwellian Protectorate (2007).     

Bibliographic Information

Book Title : Biography and History in Film

Editors : Thomas S. Freeman, David L. Smith

Series Title : Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media


Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan Cham

eBook Packages : History , History (R0)

Copyright Information : The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019

Hardcover ISBN : 978-3-319-89407-2 Published: 23 October 2019

eBook ISBN : 978-3-319-89408-9 Published: 14 October 2019

Series ISSN : 2634-6575

Series E-ISSN : 2634-6583

Edition Number : 1

Number of Pages : XI, 336

Number of Illustrations : 1 b/w illustrations, 1 illustrations in colour

Topics : Cultural History , Film History , Modern History , Media Studies , Social History

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The Relationship between Film and History in Early German Postwar Cinema

Bernhard gross, issue 1: the long path to audio-visual history (special issue), table of contents, returning to the past its own future, recent appropriations of documentary film material from the shoa era, archiveology, a state commemorates itself, marc ferro's die woche vor 50 jahren / histoire parallèle (1989-2001), sound space as a space of community, image migration and history, recording and modeling, the mediated eyewitness, experiencing history in film, kracauer's theory of history and film, historical turns, re-membering the past.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 License .

Suggested Citation: Gross, Bernhard: The Relationship between Film and History in Early German Postwar Cinema. In: Research in Film and History . The Long Path to Audio-visual History (2018), No. 1, pp. 1–11. DOI: .

film history thesis

ZWISCHEN GESTERN UND MORGEN, DVD Edition Filmmuseum © original copyright holders.


My deliberations begin with these questions: to what extent do films themselves create history, and, if indeed they do, then how? To what extent are films an arena in which one experiences the tension between historical events and individual historicity? I would like to first outline these issues in the context of the usual models of (film) history, and then explain what this type of approach means specifically in analyzing the early period of postwar German cinema. 1

There are three common models for describing the relationship between film and history as being representative of each other. First, there is a way of writing history through film that assumes that the objectivity of its analysis derives from the objectivity of its sources. Here, the writing of history becomes a chronicle that links events caused by the actions of empowered historical subjects, or that arise out of structural contexts. Hayden White 2 was the first to point out the narratological problems in this method of writing history, for it is able to recount what films themselves cannot – the process of reappraising the past is implicitly required in order to regard it as over and done with. The second position concerning the relationship between film and history is closely linked to the first; it regards films as representations of historical events and relies, in epistemological terms, on their indexicality. The more realistically films depict the past, the sooner they are categorized as these kinds of representations. This assumes that a film portrays a reality that precedes it. The third possible way of linking film and history not only sees film as a depiction of reality, but simultaneously treats it as a historical source, as Pierre Sorlin first formulated it. 3

Yet, what kind of relationship can exist between film and history if they do not mutually represent each other? 4 Media theory has answered this question by privileging the role of technological media in historical processes (Kittler’s apriority of media history). In the writings of Siegfried Kracauer and Walter Benjamin (also regarded as an important source for media theory) we find historical positions from the first half of the twentieth century that can be understood not only in terms of media theory, but also as aesthetic theories: optical media (photography and film) initially made it possible to 'experience' the historical processes of the twentieth century at all. Instead of reproducing a previous reality, photography and film were the first to structure access to this reality, which is deemed inaccessible, incomprehensible, and indecipherable – entirely as if it were expressing Kracauer’s paradigm of historical realism or Benjamin’s “optical subconscious.” 5 This historical viewpoint—understood as aesthetic theory—can epistemologically be flanked by Jacques Rancière’s position, which analyzes the systematic disposition of twentieth-century film among the arts. Rancière regards film as the leading medium precisely because it makes a specific experience of history possible. He does not believe that the historicity of film is an a-historical occurrence. Rather, he speaks of the “history of the historicity of the film,” which prefigures the “historicity of man” in specific ways, 6 because film manufactures a specific form of “thinking images”:

"Film is the art that realizes the identity of an eidetic mode of thought and the thinking mode of the visual material.” 7

From this perspective, it is possible to examine the cinema historically and systematically as a form of aesthetic experience—a cinematographic form that does not merely photograph and represent reality. Rather, it reflects the construction of reality itself and also provides the possibility to experience the reality of this construction. This outlines the epistemological, historical, and systematic problems that comprise the foundation for my investigation of the early postwar German cinema as a specific form of aesthetic experience of historicity, not as a representation of it.

All of the aspects of postwar German cinema whose theoretical premise is to photograph and represent a prior reality—whether for the purpose of documenting historical conditions or of delineating the intellectual climate and its ideological signature within a narrative—have been sufficiently researched. Therefore my reflections begin wherever these theoretical figurations appear as the results of what the films provide in terms of food for thought, when they make it possible to experience historicity as the tension between the course of history and the history of the individual. Connected to this is the thesis that still-virulent topics such as 'Stunde Null' (zero hour), 'Kollektivschuld' (collective guilt), 'Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit' (coming to terms with the past), 'Unfähigkeit zu trauern' (inability to mourn), etc., are terms that were shaped in the postwar German cinema immediately after the war, id est they were initially made visible and thus could be experienced, enabling their content to be unfolded in the period that followed. This thesis works under the assumption that cinema of the first half of the twentieth century was acknowledged as the leading aesthetic and cultural medium, and was then redefined after 1945 (Benjamin, Kracauer, André Bazin). This redefinition could best be described using terms taken from current research on emotion in the humanities, namely as a mutable form of the audience’s experience.

My question, therefore, is to what extent early postwar German films make it possible to have an original experience of history that is realized in the states of standstill and paralysis linked to the (in)famous notion of the “zero hour,” and in the heterogeneous types of images resulting from that. Because, according to my thesis, the original realism arises precisely out of the heterogeneous types of images found in early postwar cinema. This realism cannot be reduced to depictions of rubble, because it is realistic in the sense that it unfolds a specific mode of experience based squarely on the fact that the coherent form—whether it is the type, the genre, or the style—has been abandoned. Many postwar German films use a kind of eclecticism 8 to create just this kind of visual modulation, which is precipitated in the “zero hour” theme and opens up to the characters, as well as to the audience, a cornucopia, so to speak, of possible democratic choices.

This is why I think it is necessary to inquire into how postwar films address the audience, and what sort of audience they have in mind. Correlated to this is the idea of the renewal of cinema after 1945, a context that also includes the postwar German film. The idea behind Italian neorealism, especially as Bazin and Kracauer describe it, is also paradigmatically related to this. It is about a kind of cinema that is political, because, first of all, it puts the audience in a situation where they can perceive and thus experience a world and its rules that have become inextricably confusing and impossible to decode. Independently of one another, Kracauer and Bazin describe film’s key aesthetic operation as the ability to make it possible to experience the ambivalence of reality. 9 This idea is explicitly linked to postwar cinema and its new concept of a democratically oriented audience. In this, Bazin and Kracauer see a new way of thinking among audiences after 1945. Hence, one can talk about a “zero hour” in early postwar German cinema, in which paralysis is expressed in temporal ambivalence—something which could be called a 'no longer' and a 'not yet'.

Rubble or Ruins: the Theorem

I will examine this complex through a question that though obvious has been left more or less unanswered: What function does rubble have in postwar films? It is connected to the thesis that rubble structures the matrix of the postwar film’s experiential mode. It is not only the major component of the so-called Trümmerfilme (rubble films), but also of the entertainment and documentary films of the period.

One of its functions is as counterpart to the depictions and descriptions of concentration camp victims: the voluntary or involuntary 'dehumanization' of concentration camp victims in news reports, pictures, photographs, and films of them immediately after the war is simultaneously contrasted to the 'humanization' of the rubble. This change is realized in literature by a conceptual transposition of what was seen in the “atrocity pictures.” It is realized in rubble and genre films by an anthropomorphizing gaze upon the rubble. While the Allies showed it from a bird’s-eye perspective (in countless documentary films, as well as in American “rubble films” such as A FOREIGN AFFAIR (USA 1948)), in German films it is shown at eye-level from the perspective of the characters (as in ZWISCHEN GESTERN UND MORGEN / BETWEEN YESTERDAY AND TOMORROW (D 1947)).

film history thesis

A FOREIGN AFFAIR, DVD Universum Film © original copyright holders.

film history thesis

In turn, the documentary BERLIN IM AUFBAU / BERLIN UNDER CONSTRUCTION (D 1946) sets both perspectives together, making the victims look like perpetrators and the perpetrators look like victims, despite assertions to the contrary on the soundtrack.

Finally, it was deemed necessary after 1945 to show pictures of landscapes in ruin. They had existed since 1942, but had been previously censored, like the images of concentration camps. Neither of these types of pictures had been seen, and it was forbidden to show 10 them or speak about them, at least in public. 11 On the other hand, the majority of the population lived in rural areas, had no idea how extensive the damage was, and above all, had never seen images of it. Herein lay the perpetrators’ dilemma: namely, the irreconcilable contradiction that is bound up in the experience of being responsible for the horror, yet simultaneously being at its mercy and having experienced it on one’s own person. At any rate, as far as the important questions of blame, atonement, and how to deal with them are concerned, there is also an experiential dilemma acted out through the repeated usage of emotional rhetoric in the perpetrator-as-victim images found in the “perpetrators’ films” id est the postwar German cinema. Thus, these films initially create a place where this inconceivable and unbearable contradiction finds a reality in the aesthetic, meaning, a place that negotiates the politics of this cinema, if one regards the political as Hannah Arendt does, id est as the constantly renegotiated agreement over how people can and want to live (together).

In this sense, as I will demonstrate, the images of rubble structure early postwar cinema because they encompass all of the narrative and documentary films’ antagonistic, ambivalent, and heterogeneous experiential modes, especially in the ways that they present perception, community and individual, mediocre characters, that run through the register of all types, genres, and epochs.

In order to comprehend the notion of rubble as the matrix for the postwar cinema, it is necessary to draw another distinction that can be easily overlooked on the phenomenological level: the distinction between rubble and ruins. 12 Just as iconographies of victim and perpetrator oscillate in early postwar German cinema, there are different ways of interpreting rubble and ruins in the motif of the bombed-out city, and they can change even within the context of individual films. So, in examining the question of a matrix, one involuntarily encounters the rubble and ruins that constitute not only numerous films of any ilk, but also the way that cinema is discussed and labeled. This opposition of rubble and ruins is present in literature, essays, radio, and newspapers as well—without, at the same time, being present in its aesthetic and cultural/historical context as the matrix for postwar cinema. Here, my primary concern is not with an iconography of the ruin 13 or with a typology of rubble, which rests upon the apriority of media history, id est the nexus of war, technology, and consciousness, 14 nor am I interested in the ruin as a metaphor for remembrance and trauma. 15

Furniture versus Antiques

The distinction between rubble and ruins is based on the fact that many early postwar German films feature old furniture and antiques in rooms that are far too small for them. These are contrasted with other rooms that are makeshift and scantily furnished. While the latter are organized primarily according to function, the antiques in the rooms have no function at all, even if they are cupboards, tables, or lamps that have a “virtual utility value”—the rooms are so stuffed with furniture that there is not enough space to actually use it.

This theme can be found in many 'Trümmerfilms', as well as in entertainment and documentary films. DIE KUCKUCKS / THE CUCKOOS (D 1949) works with the theme in a significantly different way, however. This 'Trümmerfilm' is about orphans who are being raised by their eldest sister. The orphans are repeatedly forced to find a new place to live, because their landlords think they are too loud, too strange, or that there are too many of them. The first third of the film shows them moving constantly; at one point the children, like the female protagonist in LIEBE 47 / LOVE 47 (D 1949), are in a furnished room containing all of the furniture belonging to the landlady’s son, who is missing in Russia. Because the woman keeps the room like a mausoleum, the children are not allowed to use or touch anything, which leads to grotesque situations; this space is a stark contrast to the semi-destroyed, empty house that they finally occupy in the second half of the film. The people and biographies frozen in their furniture are set in opposition to the young, mobile characters in empty rooms.

film history thesis

DIE KUCKUCKS, DVD Icestorm Entertainment © original copyright holders.

film history thesis

This dichotomy also marks the melodrama DU BIST NICHT ALLEIN / YOU ARE NOT ALONE (D 1949). Of course in that film a single mother is indeed no longer alone; nevertheless, she has to live in her father-in-law’s house, which is full of Gründerzeit (late Victorian) furniture that cannot be moved or changed, and can only be used with the greatest of care. Like DIE KUCKUCKS, the focus is on the mausoleum-like room once occupied by the missing son/husband. DU BIST NICHT ALLEIN also contrasts the mobility of the young characters in “airy” places (like the mother’s sparsely furnished first apartment) with the ornamental, immobile magnificence of the old furnishing in the house owned by the father-in-law, who lives alone.

A variation on the theme is the stockpiling of antiques, which is portrayed in the crime film RAZZIA / POLICE RAID (D 1947), then in the comedy KEIN PLATZ FÜR LIEBE / NO PLACE FOR LOVE (D 1947), and finally in the 'Trümmerfilm' FILM OHNE TITEL / FILM WITHOUT A NAME (D 1948). In RAZZIA the conflict is not only between good and evil (that is, between the police and penicillin smugglers), but also between furnished and unfurnished spaces. Among the former are Goll (Harry Frank), the bar owner and smuggler whose office is full of antiques, as well as his opponent, Commissioner Naumann (Paul Bildt), whose home is equally full and therefore still. Contrasted with this are, for example, the care room occupied by Naumann’s son (Friedhelm von Petersson), also a smuggler, or that of the commissioner-in-waiting (Claus Holm), who becomes Naumann’s successor and son-in-law. Here, as well, the scant furniture is linked to the mobility of the characters. In FILM OHNE TITEL not only is the protagonist’s house full of antiques, but he also operates an antiques shop (similar to KEIN PLATZ FÜR LIEBE, which ends in an antiques shop). The antiques do not really represent the sheer antiquity of the characters associated with them, but, as in RAZZIA, they literally stop them from moving. Thus, the concept of space in the films functions, on one hand, to immobilize the characters in the scenes and sequences. In FILM OHNE TITEL the main character (Hans Söhnker) is the figure most noticeably bound to this connotation: not only is he named after his favorite relic, St. Martin, but he also has a stiff arm. 1-2-3 CORONA (D 1948) also employs the apparently hermetically sealed world of his main setting—a crowded camping trailer—in a world that is open to every direction, which is a counterpoint to the ornamental “setting” of the trailer.

The ornamental also leads to a function that springs more from the visual staging of the image space 16 than from the logical contexts of the plot. It produces overly abundant scenery, consisting of forms like arabesques that make spaces opaque rather than distinct. In this way they create an image of space that offers an immediate vividness able to define the postwar situation. They make it possible to see, to experience through the senses, what it means to be confronted with a world that has become indecipherable. This is heightened by the fact that the films also always present the reversal of this image of space: emptiness.

Rubble versus Ruins

What antiques are for interiors in postwar cinema, ruins are for exteriors. Whereas the 'Antiquitäten', like ruins, have no real function, yet refer to something that is left over from the past that is now useless, rubble functions as something that is not used: it is something that is not or not yet occupied, and has the potential for something new. Hence, rubble and ruins are the two ways that the structure of postwar cinema manifests itself: here, too, we find the dichotomy between the overflowing and the empty space created in these films; here, as well, we find the arabesque and the cuboid, the postwar image of space, equally opaque and clear. For the films usually show both, or else they present the way the two functions alternate, so that the same object can sometimes be a ruin, and at other times, a pile of rubble.

The temporality of this image of space corresponds to the sense of time that determines, on the level of the characters, the film’s dramaturgy in, for instance, LIEBE 47, as it alternates between “hero”/”heroine” and the “average Jane and Joe.” The rubble makes space for a time that is 'not yet', the ruins for a time that is 'no longer', and in the indeterminacy of both forms, in their flowing transition, the “in between” (between 'no longer' and 'not yet') unfolds. At first, this describes the sense of time in the narrative: there are countless scenes in documentaries and narrative films in which stones are dug out of the rubble in order to be used again, so that they move out of an “antiquated state into a historical one,” 17 the state in which—translated to the characters—it is assumed that one ceases to be a victim of fate and takes on individual responsibility instead, creating, from an aesthetic point of view, average characters and not heroes. Here, the eternity of the myth is replaced by endless reflection: for instance, the constant metamorphoses of the characters and their figurations.

There are also countless sequences in which rubble and ruins are linked to suffering and sorrow, to guilt and responsibility. One is reminded of the death of the adolescent boy (Hans Trinkhaus) in IRGENDWO IN BERLIN / SOMEWHERE IN BERLIN (D 1946). The victim of a higher purpose, he falls—among the rubble that is his playground—from a ruin to his death. The film begins in a world of rubble governed by its own rules, where the boy’s peer group plays. In a test of courage, he climbs a ruin and then finally jumps down from it. This leap from the ruins changes the whole film, because the boy’s heroic sacrifice makes renewal possible. In the first part of the film the emphasis is on the horizontal, as determined by the children’s play. The vertical first comes to the fore when the boy climbs up and then falls from the ruins; in the final image of the film, the vertical is prominently featured, indicating the rebuilding of the rubble. The film oscillates between the pathos of rebuilding born out of lamentation of a fallen soldier as his epitaph (emblematically staged by the boy’s fall from the ruin and the scene of his death) and a playful, almost whimsical use of the rubble in the children’s act of playing with which the film began.

On one hand, the typical image of ruin and rubble belongs to the established, stereotypical repertoire of formulaic suffering, but, on the other, it cannot be traced back to the pictures of the camps; the images of ruins complement the other images of suffering and destruction. In the atrocity pictures people who are literally in ruins appear in what had been to the very end the perfectly functioning machine of the camps (buildings and equipment, such as the ovens, were shown intact in the films), and people in the rubble pictures are properly dressed and coiffed, although they are living in a ruined community. 18 Furthermore, it is a strange, abstract depiction of destruction: often there is an emphasis on the stunning ornamentation of the ruins, for instance, through dramatic low-angle shots. There are countless scenes in which ruins are more or less effectively staged; they are as antiquated as the rooms full of unused furniture, often understood as a 'no longer', as reminiscent of Weimar expressionism and its connection to dark romanticism. DIE MÖRDER SIND UNTER UNS / THE MURDERERS ARE AMONG US (D 1946) is still famous for exactly this reason. 19

Materially speaking, ruins contain a collection of former buildings and their actual fragments. Rubble, on the other hand, consists of individual stones that can be used to create new and different houses or things. But they also contain all of the lives—the ones that have been extinguished, and the ones that have survived, the ones buried there or somewhere else, the broken or interrupted lifelines of both victims and perpetrators. Everything that is brought together or contrasted in the dramaturgical structure of various postwar films of all genres, from melodramas to gangster movies, documentation and entertainment, can be found in the mutable image of space between ruin and rubble, as a sort of “extinct form,” 20 a 'woven pattern' of all of prior histories.

So when rubble and ruins are shown at the same time, they are the manifestation of something that runs throughout the very early postwar cinema: the ambivalence of the phenomena and modalities vividly portrayed for the audience in the form of an image of space. Herein lies the key to what actually makes images of rubble and ruins the matrix for the postwar film.

The Postwar Image of Space

It was my aim to discuss the ambivalence of rubble and ruins not only in phenomenological terms, id est to stand back from the idea that the depiction of rubble and ruins merely illustrates a reality of some kind that existed beforehand. It was also my goal to define the ambivalence of rubble and ruins as an image of space for the postwar situation as a whole. Seen in this way, one can ask if the basic assumption that film after 1945 in general, and postwar German film in particular, creates new kinds of perception and consciousness, making it at last possible to contemplate the conditions of everyday perception. In his essay on the work of art, Walter Benjamin described the potential of film and photography 21 as an opportunity to take another look at the (bourgeois) concept of art, to understand the aporias involved in the way that it represents itself, and thus be able to substantiate the leading function of technological media. The “optical subconscious” 22 describes this ability of film and photography, which Kracauer called their “revelatory capacity,” meaning the ability to use optical media in order to be able at last to experience (“Erfahrungsfähigkeit,” according to Hannah Arendt) the modern world. Understood as aesthetic theory, Kracauer’s and Benjamin’s ideas therefore aim at the question of how film and photography allow for an incommensurable experience that cannot be had in any other way.

The context established here gives rise to another question: is there anything new to be experienced in the 'Trümmerfilm', especially in the rubble and ruins? I have attempted to give reasons why the ambivalence of rubble and ruins makes it immediately possible to comprehend temporal and spatial discontinuity as a pattern, how it can be formulated on a phenomenological level as 'no longer' and 'not yet', or through the opposition of “full” and “empty”—without these states ever being complete but seen as a process; their “condition” is change itself. So this is no longer about a temporal and spatial experience that is determined by the continuity of a past and a future, a sense of chronological time; this also corresponds to Deleuze’s description of the “crystal image” as the thing that makes it possible to see coinciding levels of time. 23 The relationship between rubble and ruin functions like the knots of the woven pattern of this experience—it calls attention to its continuity (necessary for everyday perception), while at the same time making it possible to experience something that is inconceivable in everyday life: the blending of past, present, and future, the visibility of the arcane. Thus, the relationship between ruins and rubble appears as the spatial and temporal manifestation of the postwar situation.

Translated by Allison Moseley

  • 1 I deal with these questions systematically, theoretically, and analytically in my book, Die Filme sind unter uns: Zur Geschichtlichkeit des frühen deutschen Nachkriegskinos: Trümmer-, Genre-, Dokumentarfilm (Berlin 2015). It contains comprehensive lists of literature and discussions on the themes treated here.
  • 2 Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore 1973).
  • 3 See Pierre Sorlin, The Film in History: Restaging the Past (Oxford 1980).
  • 4 Cf. Philip Rosen, Change Mummified: Cinema, Historicity, Theory (Minneapolis 2001), xix f.
  • 5 See Siegfried Kracauer, Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality (New York 1960) and Walter Benjamin, “A Short History of Photography” [1931], trans. Stanley Mitchell, Screen 13:1 (1972): 17–34. See also: Siegfried Kracauer, History: The Last Things before the Last (New York 1966); Hermann Kappelhoff, The Politics and Poetics of Cinematic Realism (New York 2015).
  • 6 Cf. Jacques Rancière, “Die Geschichtlichkeit des Films,” in Die Gegenwart der Vergangenheit, eds. Eva Hohenberger and Judith Keilbach (Berlin 2003), 230.
  • 7 “Der Film ist die Kunst, die die Identität eines anschaulichen Modus des Denkens und eines denkenden Modus der anschaulichen Materie realisiert.“ (Transl. A.M.) Ibidem, 241.
  • 8 Judged as “eclectic,” the postwar German film was discredited from the start. For more on this, see Gunter Groll, “LIEBE 47,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, May 28, 1949. Even the most recent essay on LIEBE 47 takes the same line. See Robert G. Moeller, “When Liebe was just a Five-Letter-Word: Liebeneiner's LOVE 47,” in German Postwar Films: Life and Love in the Ruins, eds. Wilfried Wilms and William Rasch (New York 2008), 141–156.
  • 9 This context is emphasized by Johannes von Moltke and Gerd Gemünden in “Introduction: Kracauer’s Legacies,” in Culture in the Anteroom: The Legacies of Siegfried Kracauer, eds. Johannes von Moltke and Gerd Gemünden (Ann Arbor 2012), 4f.
  • 10 One thinks, for instance, of the efforts that were made (and had to be made) in UNTER DEN BRÜCKEN / UNDER THE BRIDGES (D 1950) filmed in 1944, not to show any of the buildings that had been destroyed in Berlin, despite the fact that most of it was filmed in original scenes of the city. Cf. Holger Theuerkauf, Goebbels' Filmerbe: Das Geschäft mit unveröffentlichten Ufa-Filmen (Berlin 1998), 59f.
  • 11 Cf. Peter Pleyer, Deutscher Nachkriegsfilm 1946–1948 (Münster 1965), 21, 25.
  • 12 Martina Möller has investigated the Trümmerfilm and romantic painting as a comparative iconography (alluding to the visual style described by Bordwell and Thompson); see Martina Möller, Rubble, Ruins and Romanticism: Visual Style, Narration and Identity in German Post-War Cinema (Bielefeld 2013).
  • 13 See Silke Arnold-de Simine, “Die Konstanz der Ruine: Zur Rezeption traditioneller ästhetischer Funktionen der Ruine in städtischer Baugeschichte und im Trümmerfilm nach 1945,” in Die zerstörte Stadt: Mediale Repräsentationen urbaner Räume von Troja bis SimCity, eds. Alexander Böhn and Christine Mielke (Bielefeld 2007), 251–272.
  • 14 See Kay Kirchmann, “Blicke auf Trümmer: Anmerkungen zur filmischen Wahrnehmungsorganisation der Ruinenlandschaften nach 1945,” in Böhn et al., eds., Die zerstörte Stadt, 273–288.
  • 15 See Götz Grossklaus, “Das zerstörte Gesicht der Städte: Konkurrierende Gedächtnisse im Nachkriegsdeutschland (West) 1945–1960,” in Böhn et al., eds., Die zerstörte Stadt, 101–124.
  • 16 I understand film image-spaces as distinct from film plot-spaces. While in the understanding of film plot-spaces all cinematographic operations serve as effects of narration, the concept of film image-spaces views narration only as one effect of the filmic operations amongst others. The concept of film image-spaces includes complex audiovisual processes, which are realized in the spectator and unfold to him as an experience of aesthetic projections of worlds. Kappelhoff uses the term and refers with it to Walter Benjamin. The published translation of this term in Benjamin’s work is “image space” which I employ here. See Kappelhoff, Cinematic Realism.
  • 17 For more on this, see Arnold Esch, Die Wiederverwendung von Antike im Mittelalter: Die Sicht des Archäologen und die Sicht des Historikers (Berlin 2005).
  • 18 See James Stern, The Hidden Damage (New York 1947); see also Lee Miller, “Germany: The War is Won,” Vogue, June 1945.
  • 19 See Möller, Rubble, Ruins and Romanticism, 119ff.
  • 20 Cf. Hermann Kappelhoff, “Der Lesende im Kino: Allegorie, Fotografie und Film bei Walter Benjamin,” in Die Spur durch den Spiegel: Der Film in der Kultur der Moderne, ed. Malte Hagener, Johann N. Schmidt, and Michael Wedel (Berlin 2004), 335.
  • 21 See Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” [1936], in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York 1969).
  • 22 Benjamin, Short History of Photography,.
  • 23 See Gilles Deleuze, The Time Image: Cinema 2 [1985], trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (Minneapolis 1989), 68–97.

Arnold-de Simine, Silke. “Die Konstanz der Ruine: Zur Rezeption traditioneller ästhetischer Funktionen der Ruine in städtischer Baugeschichte und im Trümmerfilm nach 1945.” In Die zerstörte Stadt: Mediale Repräsentationen urbaner Räume von Troja bis SimCity , edited by Alexander Böhn and Christine Mielke. Bielefeld 2007.

Benjamin, Walter. A Short History of Photography [1931]. Translated by Stanley Mitchell, Screen 13:1. 1972.

Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” [1936]. In Illuminations: Essays and Reflections , edited by Hannah Arendt, translated by Harry Zohn. New York 1969.

Deleuze, Gilles. The Time Image: Cinema 2 [1985]. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. Minneapolis 1989.

Esch, Arnold. Die Wiederverwendung von Antike im Mittelalter: Die Sicht des Archäologen und die Sicht des Historikers. Berlin 2005.

Groll, Gunter. “LIEBE 47.” Süddeutsche Zeitung , May 28, 1949.

Groß, Bernhard. Die Filme sind unter uns: Zur Geschichtlichkeit des frühen deutschen Nachkriegskinos: Trümmer-, Genre-, Dokumentarfilm . Berlin 2015.

Grossklaus, Götz. “Das zerstörte Gesicht der Städte: Konkurrierende Gedächtnisse im Nachkriegsdeutschland (West) 1945–1960.” In Die zerstörte Stadt. Mediale Repräsentation urbaner Räume von Troja bis SimCity, edited by Alexander Böhn and Christine Mielke. Bielefeld 2007.

Kappelhoff, Hermann. “Der Lesende im Kino: Allegorie, Fotografie und Film bei Walter Benjamin.” In Die Spur durch den Spiegel: Der Film in der Kultur der Moderne , edited by Malte Hagener, Johann N. Schmidt, and Michael Wedel. Berlin 2004.

Kappelhoff, Hermann. The Politics and Poetics of Cinematic Realism. New York 2015.

Kirchmann, Kay. “Blicke auf Trümmer: Anmerkungen zur filmischen Wahrnehmungsorganisation der Ruinenlandschaften nach 1945.” In Die zerstörte Stadt. Mediale Repräsentation urbaner Räume von Troja bis SimCity, edited by Alexander Böhn and Christine Mielke. Bielefeld 2007.

Kracauer, Siegfried. History: The Last Things before the Last. New York 1966.

Kracauer, Siegfired. Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality. New York 1960.

Miller, Lee. “Germany: The War is Won,” Vogue , June 1945.

Möller, Martina. Rubble, Ruins and Romanticism: Visual Style, Narration and Identity in German Post-War Cinema. Bielefeld 2013.

Moeller, Robert G. “When Liebe was just a Five-Letter-Word: Liebeneiner's LOVE 47.” In German Postwar Films: Life and Love in the Ruins , edited by Wilfried Wilms and William Rasch. New York 2008.

Pleyer, Peter. Deutscher Nachkriegsfilm 1946–1948. Münster 1965.

Rancière, Jacques. “Die Geschichtlichkeit des Films.” In Die Gegenwart der Vergangenheit , edited by Eva Hohenberger and Judith Keilbach. Berlin 2003.

Rosen, Philip. Change Mummified: Cinema, Historicity, Theory. Minneapolis 2001.

Sorlin, Pierre. The Film in History: Restaging the Past. Oxford 1980.

Stern, James. The Hidden Damage. New York 1947.

Theuerkauf, Holger. Goebbels' Filmerbe: Das Geschäft mit unveröffentlichten Ufa-Filmen. Berlin 1998.

Von Moltke, Johannes and Gerd Gemünden “Introduction: Kracauer’s Legacies.” In Culture in the Anteroom: The Legacies of Siegfried Kracauer , edited by Johannes von Moltke and Gerd Gemünden. Ann Arbor 2012.

White, Hayden. Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Baltimore 1973.

1-2-3 CORONA, Hans Müller, D 1948

Berlin im aufbau, kurt maetzig, d 1946, die kuckcucks, hans deppe, d 1949, die mörder sind unter uns, wolfgang staudte, de 1946, du bist nicht allein, paul verhoeven, d 1949, film ohne titel, rudolf jugert, d 1948, foreign affair, a, billy wilder, usa 1948, irgendwo in berlin, gerhard lamprecht, d 1946, kein platz für liebe, hans deppe, d 1947, liebe 47, wolfgang liebeneiner, d 1949, razzia, werner klingler, d 1947.

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Home > Dissertations and Theses > Film and Media Studies (MA) Theses

Film and Media Studies (MA) Theses

Below is a selection of dissertations from the Film and Media Studies program in Dodge College of Film and Media Arts that have been voluntarily included in Chapman University Digital Commons. Additional dissertations from years prior to 2019 are available through the Leatherby Libraries' print collection or in Proquest's Dissertations and Theses database.

Theses from 2024 2024

Intolerable Masculinity: Screening Men's Shame and Embracing Curious Futures , Cole Clark

Embracing the Wound of Contingency: Transcribing Reality in Supernatural Horror and Found Footage , Mason Dax Dickerson

Bluey And Adult Fandom: The Importance Of Play In Culture , Olivia C. Gerzabek

Independent Visions of Marginal America: Reimagining a Nation Through Outsiders, Searching, and Non-Arrival , Z Evan Long

From Film Sets to Front Lines and Back Again: Reinventing Star Image in Post-World War II Hollywood , Livia Belen Lozoya

Real to Reel: The "Third Gender" Narratives and Queer Identity in Rituparno Ghosh's Bengali Films , Manjima Tarafdar

Cinema's Poetic Function: Creating an Amorous Distance , William Yonts

Theses from 2023 2023

Desire for Transformation: The Actualization of Self-identity Through Change In the Films Raw and Titane , Owen Bradford

The Rape-Revenge Genre in the Digital Age of Heightened Visibility: The Rise of Female Storytellers and Fourth-Wave Feminism , Marynell Dethero

The Audrey Hepburn Image: Stardom, Gendered Authorship, and Creative Agency , Livi Edmonson

How Donald Trump and the 2016 Presidential Election Eclipsed Frank Underwood’s Election in ‘House of Cards’ , Charna Flam

Balancing Multiple Worlds: The Multiverse and the Fractured Asian American Experience in Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) , Austin Kang

The Disintegration of Marriage in Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Happy Hour (2015) , Afra Nariman

What Are You Crying For?: Renegotiating White Masculine Hegemony through Melodramatic Excess in the 1990s Films of Tom Hanks , Bryce Thompson

“Let’s Do The Time Warp, Again!” The Rocky Horror Picture Show as Hysterical Theatre , Frances Wendorf

Theses from 2021 2021

(De/Re)Constructing ChicanX/a/o Cinema: Liminality, Cultural Hyphenation, and Psychic Borderlands in Real Women Have Curves and Mosquita y Mari , Diana Alanis

Obsessed With the Image: Vulgar Auteurism and Post-Cinematic Affect in the Late Films of Tony Scott , Ethan Cartwright

The Ben-Hur Franchise and the Rise of Blockbuster Hollywood , Michael Chian

Cinematic Palimpsests: Polysemy and In(ter)dependency in the Spectator Experience , Lyric Luedke

Beyond the Image: Marilyn Monroe, Shelley Winters, and The Method , Emily K. Oliver

Layer Cake: Post-Cinematic Aesthetics and the “Social Justice Impulse” in Kaneza Schaal's Jack & , Amber M. Power

Re-animating Post-Digital Cinema: [Animated] Fluidity and Hybrid Aesthetics in Tomm Moore’s Celtic Trilogy , Thomas James Schwaiger

Curation of the Video Art Exhibition in the Museum , Kamla Thurtle

Pennies from Heaven: Death and the Afterlife in World War II Fantasy Films , Elise Williamson

Theses from 2020 2020

Unreal Reality: Post-socialist China's Massive Infrastructural Agenda in Jia Zhangke's "Three Gorges Films" , Weiting Liu

Smell as Self-identity: Capitalist Ideology and Olfactory Imagination in Das Parfum’s Multimedia Storytelling , Xinrong Liu

Revitalizing Hollywood Stardom: Classical Star Power and Enduring Marketability at Warner Bros. in the Beginning of New Hollywood , Tham Singpatanakul

Bong Joon-Ho’s Transnational Challenge To Eurocentrism , Lisa - Marie Spaethen

Theses from 2019 2019

Stardom, Spectacle, Show, and Salability: United Artists and the Founding of the Hollywood Blockbuster Model , Jessica Johnson

Iranian Cinema in Transition: Relative Truth and Morality in Asghar Farhadi’s Films , Mazyar Mahdavifar

AI Film Aesthetics: A Construction of a New Media Identity for AI Films , Priya Parikh

A Cauldron of Chaos and Cultivation: Rediscovering Disney Animation of the 1980s , Thomas Price

Inflicted Viewing: Examining Moral Masochism, Empathy, and the Frustration of Trauma Cinema , Kira Smith

Representative Biodiversity: The Ecosystem of Cartoon Network , Carl Suby

Bending Family Friendly into Fear: Nostalgia, Minstrelsy and Horror in Bendy and the Ink Machine , Isabelle Williams

Theses from 2014 2014

The Criterion of Quality: A Paratextual Analysis of the Criterion Collection in the Age of Digital Distribution , Jonathan Charles Hyatt

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Home > FACULTIES > Film Studies > FILM-ETD

Film Studies Department

Film Studies Theses and Dissertations

This collection contains theses and dissertations from the Department of Film Studies, collected from the Scholarship@Western Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Theses/Dissertations from 2015 2015

The Rise of Marvel and DC's Transmedia Superheroes: Comic Book Adaptations, Fanboy Auteurs, and Guiding Fan Reception , Alex Brundige

Contemporary French Queer Cinema: Explicit Sex and the Politics of Normalization , Joanna K. Smith

Rob Zombie, the Brand: Crafting the Convergence-Era Horror Auteur , Ryan Stam

Transnational Monsters: Navigating Identity and Intertextuality in the Films of Guillermo del Toro , Sean M. Volk

Theses/Dissertations from 2014 2014

Tragedy, Ecstasy, Doom: Modernist Moods of "West Side Story" , Andrew M. Falcao

Theses/Dissertations from 2013 2013

Music, Cinema and the Representation of Africa , Natasha Callender

Clash of the Industry Titans: Marvel, DC and the Battle for Market Dominance , Caitlin Foster

The New French Extremity: Bruno Dumont and Gaspar Noé, France's Contemporary Zeitgeist , Timothy J. Nicodemo

'Subbed-Titles': Hollywood, the Art House Market and the Best Foreign Language Film Category at the Oscars , Kyle W. J. Tabbernor

Theses/Dissertations from 2012 2012

Fighting, Screaming, and Laughing for an Audience: Stars, Genres, and the Question of Constructing a Popular Anglophone Canadian Cinema in the Twenty First Century , Sean C. Fitzpatrick

New York Beat: Collaborative Video and Filmmaking in The Lower East Side and the South Bronx from 1977-1984 , Andrew G. Hicks

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©1878 - 2016 Western University

Module 4: Imperial Reforms and Colonial Protests (1763-1774)

Historical thesis statements, learning objectives.

  • Recognize and create high-quality historical thesis statements

Some consider all writing a form of argument—or at least of persuasion. After all, even if you’re writing a letter or an informative essay, you’re implicitly trying to persuade your audience to care about what you’re saying. Your thesis statement represents the main idea—or point—about a topic or issue that you make in an argument. For example, let’s say that your topic is social media. A thesis statement about social media could look like one of the following sentences:

  • Social media are hurting the communication skills of young Americans.
  • Social media are useful tools for social movements.

A basic thesis sentence has two main parts: a claim  and support for that claim.

  • The Immigration Act of 1965 effectively restructured the United States’ immigration policies in such a way that no group, minority or majority, was singled out by being discriminated against or given preferential treatment in terms of its ability to immigrate to America.

Identifying the Thesis Statement

A thesis consists of a specific topic and an angle on the topic. All of the other ideas in the text support and develop the thesis. The thesis statement is often found in the introduction, sometimes after an initial “hook” or interesting story; sometimes, however, the thesis is not explicitly stated until the end of an essay, and sometimes it is not stated at all. In those instances, there is an implied thesis statement. You can generally extract the thesis statement by looking for a few key sentences and ideas.

Most readers expect to see the point of your argument (the thesis statement) within the first few paragraphs. This does not mean that it has to be placed there every time. Some writers place it at the very end, slowly building up to it throughout their work, to explain a point after the fact. For history essays, most professors will expect to see a clearly discernible thesis sentence in the introduction. Note that many history papers also include a topic sentence, which clearly state what the paper is about

Thesis statements vary based on the rhetorical strategy of the essay, but thesis statements typically share the following characteristics:

  • Presents the main idea
  • Most often is one sentence
  • Tells the reader what to expect
  • Is a summary of the essay topic
  • Usually worded to have an argumentative edge
  • Written in the third person

This video explains thesis statements and gives a few clear examples of how a good thesis should both make a claim and forecast specific ways that the essay will support that claim.

You can view the  transcript for “Thesis Statement – Writing Tutorials, US History, Dr. Robert Scafe” here (opens in new window) .

Writing a Thesis Statement

A good basic structure for a thesis statement is “they say, I say.” What is the prevailing view, and how does your position differ from it? However, avoid limiting the scope of your writing with an either/or thesis under the assumption that your view must be strictly contrary to their view.

Following are some typical thesis statements:

  • Although many readers believe Romeo and Juliet to be a tale about the ill fate of two star-crossed lovers, it can also be read as an allegory concerning a playwright and his audience.
  • The “War on Drugs” has not only failed to reduce the frequency of drug-related crimes in America but actually enhanced the popular image of dope peddlers by romanticizing them as desperate rebels fighting for a cause.
  • The bulk of modern copyright law was conceived in the age of commercial printing, long before the Internet made it so easy for the public to compose and distribute its own texts. Therefore, these laws should be reviewed and revised to better accommodate modern readers and writers.
  • The usual moral justification for capital punishment is that it deters crime by frightening would-be criminals. However, the statistics tell a different story.
  • If students really want to improve their writing, they must read often, practice writing, and receive quality feedback from their peers.
  • Plato’s dialectical method has much to offer those engaged in online writing, which is far more conversational in nature than print.

Thesis Problems to Avoid

Although you have creative control over your thesis sentence, you still should try to avoid the following problems, not for stylistic reasons, but because they indicate a problem in the thinking that underlies the thesis sentence.

  • Hospice workers need support. This is a thesis sentence; it has a topic (hospice workers) and an argument (need support). But the argument is very broad. When the argument in a thesis sentence is too broad, the writer may not have carefully thought through the specific support for the rest of the writing. A thesis argument that’s too broad makes it easy to fall into the trap of offering information that deviates from that argument.
  • Hospice workers have a 55% turnover rate compared to the general health care population’s 25% turnover rate.  This sentence really isn’t a thesis sentence at all, because there’s no argument to support it. A narrow statistic, or a narrow statement of fact, doesn’t offer the writer’s own ideas or analysis about a topic.

Let’s see some examples of potential theses related to the following prompt:

  • Bad thesis : The relationship between the American colonists and the British government changed after the French & Indian War.
  • Better thesis : The relationship between the American colonists and the British government was strained following the Revolutionary war.
  • Best thesis : Due to the heavy debt acquired by the British government during the French & Indian War, the British government increased efforts to tax the colonists, causing American opposition and resistance that strained the relationship between the colonists and the crown.

Practice identifying strong thesis statements in the following interactive.

Supporting Evidence for Thesis Statements

A thesis statement doesn’t mean much without supporting evidence. Oftentimes in a history class, you’ll be expected to defend your thesis, or your argument, using primary source documents. Sometimes these documents are provided to you, and sometimes you’ll need to go find evidence on your own. When the documents are provided for you and you are asked to answer questions about them, it is called a document-based question, or DBQ. You can think of a DBQ like a miniature research paper, where the research has been done for you. DBQs are often used on standardized tests, like this DBQ from the 2004 U.S. History AP exam , which asked students about the altered political, economic, and ideological relations between Britain and the colonies because of the French & Indian War. In this question, students were given 8 documents (A through H) and expected to use these documents to defend and support their argument. For example, here is a possible thesis statement for this essay:

  • The French & Indian War altered the political, economic, and ideological relations between the colonists and the British government because it changed the nature of British rule over the colonies, sowed the seeds of discontent, and led to increased taxation from the British.

Now, to defend this thesis statement, you would add evidence from the documents. The thesis statement can also help structure your argument. With the thesis statement above, we could expect the essay to follow this general outline:

  • Introduction—introduce how the French and Indian War altered political, economic, and ideological relations between the colonists and the British
  • Show the changing map from Doc A and greater administrative responsibility and increased westward expansion
  • Discuss Doc B, frustrations from the Iroquois Confederacy and encroachment onto Native lands
  • Could also mention Doc F and the result in greater administrative costs
  • Use Doc D and explain how a colonial soldier notices disparities between how they are treated when compared to the British
  • Use General Washington’s sentiments in Doc C to discuss how these attitudes of reverence shifted after the war. Could mention how the war created leadership opportunities and gave military experience to colonists.
  • Use Doc E to highlight how the sermon showed optimism about Britain ruling the colonies after the war
  • Highlight some of the political, economic, and ideological differences related to increased taxation caused by the War
  • Use Doc F, the British Order in Council Statement, to indicate the need for more funding to pay for the cost of war
  • Explain Doc G, frustration from Benjamin Franklin about the Stamp Act and efforts to repeal it
  • Use Doc H, the newspaper masthead saying “farewell to liberty”, to highlight the change in sentiments and colonial anger over the Stamp Act

As an example, to argue that the French & Indian War sowed the seeds of discontent, you could mention Document D, from a Massachusetts soldier diary, who wrote, “And we, being here within stone walls, are not likely to get liquors or clothes at this time of the year; and though we be Englishmen born, we are debarred [denied] Englishmen’s liberty.” This shows how colonists began to see their identity as Americans as distinct from those from the British mainland.

Remember, a strong thesis statement is one that supports the argument of your writing. It should have a clear purpose and objective, and although you may revise it as you write, it’s a good idea to start with a strong thesis statement the give your essay direction and organization. You can check the quality of your thesis statement by answering the following questions:

  • If a specific prompt was provided, does the thesis statement answer the question prompt?
  • Does the thesis statement make sense?
  • Is the thesis statement historically accurate?
  • Does the thesis statement provide clear and cohesive reasoning?
  • Is the thesis supportable by evidence?

thesis statement : a statement of the topic of the piece of writing and the angle the writer has on that topic

  • Thesis Statements. Provided by : Lumen Learning. Located at : . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Thesis Examples. Authored by : Cody Chun, Kieran O'Neil, Kylie Young, Julie Nelson Christoph. Provided by : The University of Puget Sound. Located at : . Project : Sound Writing. License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Writing Practice: Building Thesis Statements. Provided by : The Bill of Rights Institute, OpenStax, and contributing authors. Located at :[email protected]:L3kRHhAr@7/1-22-%F0%9F%93%9D-Writing-Practice-Building-Thesis-Statements . License : CC BY: Attribution . License Terms : Download for free at[email protected].
  • Thesis Statement - Writing Tutorials, US History, Dr. Robert Scafe. Provided by : OU Office of Digital Learning. Located at : . License : Other . License Terms : Standard YouTube License

How to Write a Film Analysis Essay: Examples, Outline, & Tips

A film analysis essay might be the most exciting assignment you have ever had! After all, who doesn’t love watching movies? You have your favorite movies, maybe something you watched years ago, perhaps a classic, or a documentary. Or your professor might assign a film for you to make a critical review. Regardless, you are totally up for watching a movie for a film analysis essay.

Our specialists will write a custom essay specially for you!

However, once you have watched the movie, facing the act of writing might knock the wind out of your sails because you might be wondering how to write a film analysis essay. In summary, writing movie analysis is not as difficult as it might seem, and experts will prove this. This guide will help you choose a topic for your movie analysis, make an outline, and write the text.️ Film analysis examples are added as a bonus! Just keep reading our advice on how to get started.

❓ What Is a Film Analysis Essay?

  • 🚦 Film Analysis Types

📽️ Movie Analysis Format

✍️ how to write a film analysis, 🎦 film analysis template, 🎬 film analysis essay topics.

  • 📄 Essay Examples

🔗 References

To put it simply, film analysis implies watching a movie and then considering its characteristics : genre, structure, contextual context, etc. Film analysis is usually considered to be a form of rhetorical analysis . The key to success here is to formulate a clear and logical argument, supporting it with examples.

🚦 Film Analysis Essay Types

Since a film analysis essay resembles literature analysis, it makes sense that there are several ways to do it. Its types are not limited to the ones described here. Moreover, you are free to combine the approaches in your essay as well. Since your writing reflects your own opinion, there is no universal way to do it.

Film analysis types.

  • Semiotic analysis . If you’re using this approach, you are expected to interpret the film’s symbolism. You should look for any signs that may have a hidden meaning. Often, they reveal some character’s features. To make the task more manageable, you can try to find the objects or concepts that appear on the screen multiple times. What is the context they appear in? It might lead you to the hidden meaning of the symbols.
  • Narrative structure analysis . This type is quite similar to a typical literature guide. It includes looking into the film’s themes, plot, and motives. The analysis aims to identify three main elements: setup, confrontation, and resolution. You should find out whether the film follows this structure and what effect it creates. It will make the narrative structure analysis essay if you write about the theme and characters’ motivations as well.
  • Contextual analysis . Here, you would need to expand your perspective. Instead of focusing on inner elements, the contextual analysis looks at the time and place of the film’s creation. Therefore, you should work on studying the cultural context a lot. It can also be a good idea to mention the main socio-political issues of the time. You can even relate the film’s success to the director or producer and their career.
  • Mise-en-scene analysis . This type of analysis works with the most distinctive feature of the movies, audiovisual elements. However, don’t forget that your task is not only to identify them but also to explain their importance. There are so many interconnected pieces of this puzzle: the light to create the mood, the props to show off characters’ personalities, messages hidden in the song lyrics.

To write an effective film analysis essay, it is important to follow specific format requirements that include the following:

  • Standard essay structure. Just as with any essay, your analysis should consist of an introduction with a strong thesis statement, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The main body usually includes a summary and an analysis of the movie’s elements.
  • Present tense for events in the film. Use the present tense when describing everything that happens in the movie. This way, you can make smooth transitions between describing action and dialogue. It will also improve the overall narrative flow.
  • Proper formatting of the film’s title. Don’t enclose the movie’s title in quotation marks; instead, italicize it. In addition, use the title case : that is, capitalize all major words.
  • Proper use of the characters’ names. When you mention a film character for the first time, name the actor portraying them. After that, it is enough to write only the character’s name.
  • In-text citations. Use in-text citations when describing certain scenes or shots from the movie. Format them according to your chosen citation style. If you use direct quotes, include the time-stamp range instead of page numbers. Here’s how it looks in the MLA format: (Smith 0:11:24–0:12:35).

Even though film analysis is similar to the literary one, you might still feel confused with where to begin. No need to worry; there are only a few additional steps you need to consider during the writing process.

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Need more information? It can be found in the video below.

Starting Your Film Analysis Essay

There are several things you need to do before you start writing your film analysis paper. First and foremost, you have to watch the movie. Even if you have seen it a hundred times, you need to watch it again to make a good film analysis essay.

Note that you might be given an essay topic or have to think of it by yourself. If you are free to choose a topic for your film analysis essay, reading some critical reviews before you watch the film might be a good idea. By doing this in advance, you will already know what to look for when watching the movie.

In the process of watching, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Consider your impression of the movie
  • Enumerate memorable details
  • Try to interpret the movie message in your way
  • Search for the proof of your ideas (quotes from the film)
  • Make comments on the plot, settings, and characters
  • Draw parallels between the movie you are reviewing and some other movies

Making a Film Analysis Essay Outline

Once you have watched and possibly re-watched your assigned or chosen movie from an analytical point of view, you will need to create a movie analysis essay outline . The task is pretty straightforward: the outline can look just as if you were working on a literary analysis or an article analysis.

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  • Introduction : This includes the basics of the movie, including the title, director, and the date of release. You should also present the central theme or ideas in the movie and your thesis statement .
  • Summary : This is where you take the time to present an overview of the primary concepts in the movie, including the five Ws (who, what, when, where, and why)—don’t forget how!—as well as anything you wish to discuss that relates to the point of view, style, and structure.
  • Analysis : This is the body of the essay and includes your critical analysis of the movie, why you did or did not like it, and any supporting material from the film to support your views. It would help if you also discussed whether the director and writer of the movie achieved the goal they set out to achieve.
  • Conclusion: This is where you can state your thesis again and provide a summary of the primary concepts in a new and more convincing manner, making a case for your analysis. You can also include a call-to-action that will invite the reader to watch the movie or avoid it entirely.

You can find a great critical analysis template at Thompson Rivers University website. In case you need more guidance on how to write an analytical paper, check out our article .

Writing & Editing Your Film Analysis Essay

We have already mentioned that there are differences between literary analysis and film analysis. They become especially important when one starts writing their film analysis essay.

First of all, the evidence you include to support the arguments is not the same. Instead of quoting the text, you might need to describe the audiovisual elements.

However, the practice of describing the events is similar in both types. You should always introduce a particular sequence in the present tense. If you want to use a piece of a dialogue between more than two film characters, you can use block quotes. However, since there are different ways to do it, confirm with your supervisor.

For your convenience, you might as well use the format of the script, for which you don’t have to use quotation marks:

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ELSA: But she won’t remember I have powers?

KING: It’s for the best.

Finally, to show off your proficiency in the subject, look at the big picture. Instead of just presenting the main elements in your analysis, point out their significance. Describe the effect they make on the overall impression form the film. Moreover, you can dig deeper and suggest the reasons why such elements were used in a particular scene to show your expertise.

Stuck writing a film analysis essay? Worry not! Use our template to structure your movie analysis properly.


  • The title of the film is… [title]
  • The director is… [director’s name] He/she is known for… [movies, style, etc.]
  • The movie was released on… [release date]
  • The themes of the movie are… [state the film’s central ideas]
  • The film was made because… [state the reasons]
  • The movie is… because… [your thesis statement].
  • The main characters are… [characters’ names]
  • The events take place in… [location]
  • The movie is set in… [time period]
  • The movie is about… [state what happens in the film and why]
  • The movie left a… [bad, unforgettable, lasting, etc.] impression in me.
  • The script has… [a logical sequence of events, interesting scenes, strong dialogues, character development, etc.]
  • The actors portray their characters… [convincingly, with intensity, with varying degree of success, in a manner that feels unnatural, etc.]
  • The soundtrack is [distracting, fitting, memorable, etc.]
  • Visual elements such as… [costumes, special effects, etc.] make the film [impressive, more authentic, atmospheric, etc.]
  • The film succeeds/doesn’t succeed in engaging the target audience because it… [tells a compelling story, features strong performances, is relevant, lacks focus, is unauthentic, etc.]
  • Cultural and societal aspects make the film… [thought-provoking, relevant, insightful, problematic, polarizing, etc.]
  • The director and writer achieved their goal because… [state the reasons]
  • Overall, the film is… [state your opinion]
  • I would/wouldn’t recommend watching the movie because… [state the reasons]
  • Analysis of the film Inception by Christopher Nolan .
  • Examine the rhetoric in the film The Red Balloon .
  • Analyze the visual effects of Zhang Yimou’s movie Hero .
  • Basic concepts of the film Interstellar by Christopher Nolan.
  • The characteristic features of Federico Fellini’s movies.
  • Analysis of the movie The Joker .
  • The depiction of ethical issues in Damaged Care .
  • Analyze the plot of the film Moneyball .
  • Explore the persuasive techniques used in Henry V .  
  • Analyze the movie Killing Kennedy .
  • Discuss the themes of the film Secret Window .
  • Describe the role of audio and video effects in conveying the message of the documentary Life in Renaissance .
  • Compare and analyze the films Midnight Cowboy and McCabe and Mrs. Miller .
  • Analysis of the movie Rear Window .
  • The message behind the film Split .
  • Analyze the techniques used by Tim Burton in his movie Sleepy Hollow .
  • The topic of children’s abuse and importance of trust in Joseph Sargent’s Sybil .
  • Examine the themes and motives of the film Return to Paradise by Joseph Ruben .
  • The issues of gender and traditions in the drama The Whale Rider.
  • Analysis of the film Not Easily Broken by Duke Bill.
  • The symbolism in R. Scott’s movie Thelma and Louise .
  • The meaning of audiovisual effects in Citizen Kane .
  • Analyze the main characters of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo .
  • Discuss the historical accuracy of the documentary The Civil War .
  • Analysis of the movie Through a Glass Darkly .
  • Explore the core idea of the comedy Get Out .
  • The problem of artificial intelligence and human nature in Ex Machina .
  • Three principles of suspense used in the drama The Fugitive .
  • Examine the ideas Michael Bay promotes in Armageddon .
  • Analyze the visual techniques used in Tenet by Christopher Nolan.
  • Analysis of the movie The Green Mile .
  • Discrimination and exclusion in the film The Higher Learning .
  • The hidden meaning of the scenes in Blade Runner .
  • Compare the social messages of the films West Side Story and Romeo + Juliet .
  • Highlighting the problem of children’s mental health in the documentary Kids in Crisis .  
  • Discuss the ways Paul Haggis establishes the issue of racial biases in his movie Crash .
  • Analyze the problem of moral choice in the film Gone Baby Gone .
  • Analysis of the historical film Hacksaw Ridge .
  • Explore the main themes of the film Mean Girls by Mark Walters .
  • The importance of communication in the movie Juno .
  • Describe the techniques the authors use to highlight the problems of society in Queen and Slim .
  • Examine the significance of visual scenes in My Family/ Mi Familia .
  • Analysis of the thriller Salt by Phillip Noyce.
  • Analyze the message of Greg Berlanti’s film Love, Simon .
  • Interpret the symbols of the film The Wizard of Oz (1939).
  • Discuss the modern issues depicted in the film The Corporation .
  • Moral lessons of Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond .
  • Analysis of the documentary Solitary Nation .
  • Describe the audiovisual elements of the film Pride and Prejudice (2005) .
  • The problem of toxic relationships in Malcolm and Marie .

📄 Film Analysis Examples

Below you’ll find two film analysis essay examples. Note that the full versions are downloadable for free!

Film Analysis Example #1: The Intouchables

Raising acute social problems in modern cinema is a common approach to draw the public’s attention to the specific issues and challenges of people facing crucial obstacles. As a film for review, The Intouchables by Oliver Nakache and Éric Toledano will be analyzed, and one of the themes raised in this movie is the daily struggle of the person with severe disabilities. This movie is a biographical drama with comedy elements. The Intouchables describes the routine life of a French millionaire who is confined to a wheelchair and forced to receive help from his servants. The acquaintance of the disabled person with a young and daring man from Parisian slums changes the lives of both radically. The film shows that for a person with disabilities, recognition as a full member of society is more important than sympathy and compassion, and this message expressed comically raises an essential problem of human loneliness.

Movie Analysis Example #2: Parasite

Parasite is a 2019 South Korean black comedy thriller movie directed by Bong Joon-ho and is the first film with a non-English script to win Best Picture at the Oscars in 2020. With its overwhelming plot and acting, this motion picture retains a long-lasting effect and some kind of shock. The class serves as a backbone and a primary objective of social commentary within the South Korean comedy/thriller (Kench, 2020). Every single element and detail in the movie, including the student’s stone, the contrasting architecture, family names, and characters’ behavior, contribute to the central topic of the universal problem of classism and wealth disparity. The 2020 Oscar-winning movie Parasite (2019) is a phenomenal cinematic portrayal and a critical message to modern society regarding the severe outcomes of the long-established inequalities within capitalism.

Want more examples? Check out this bonus list of 10 film analysis samples. They will help you gain even more inspiration.

  • “Miss Representation” Documentary Film Analysis
  • “The Patriot”: Historical Film Analysis
  • “The Morning Guy” Film Analysis
  • 2012′ by Roland Emmerich Film Analysis
  • “The Crucible” (1996) Film Analysis
  • The Aviator’ by Martin Scorsese Film Analysis
  • The “Lions for Lambs” Film Analysis
  • Bill Monroe – Father of Bluegrass Music Film Analysis 
  • Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Harry Potter’ Film Analysis
  • Red Tails by George Lucas Film Analysis

Film Analysis Essay FAQ

  • Watch the movie or read a detailed plot summary.
  • Read others’ film reviews paying attention to details like key characters, movie scenes, background facts.
  • Compose a list of ideas about what you’ve learned.
  • Organize the selected ideas to create a body of the essay.
  • Write an appropriate introduction and conclusion.

The benefits of analyzing a movie are numerous . You get a deeper understanding of the plot and its subtle aspects. You can also get emotional and aesthetic satisfaction. Film analysis enables one to feel like a movie connoisseur.

Here is a possible step by step scenario:

  • Think about the general idea that the author probably wanted to convey.
  • Consider how the idea was put across: what characters, movie scenes, and details helped in it.
  • Study the broader context: the author’s other works, genre essentials, etc.

The definition might be: the process of interpreting a movie’s aspects. The movie is reviewed in terms of details creating the artistic value. A film analysis essay is a paper presenting such a review in a logically structured way.

  • Film Analysis – UNC Writing Center
  • Film Writing: Sample Analysis // Purdue Writing Lab
  • Yale Film Analysis – Yale University
  • Film Terms And Topics For Film Analysis And Writing
  • Questions for Film Analysis (Washington University)
  • Resources on Film Analysis – Cinema Studies (University of Toronto)
  • Does Film Analysis Take the Magic out of Movies?
  • Film Analysis Research Papers –
  • What’s In a Film Analysis Essay? Medium
  • Analysis of Film – SAGE Research Methods
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How to Write a Critique Paper: Format, Tips, & Critique Essay Examples

A critique paper is an academic writing genre that summarizes and gives a critical evaluation of a concept or work. Or, to put it simply, it is no more than a summary and a critical analysis of a specific issue. This type of writing aims to evaluate the impact of...

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Have you ever read a review and asked yourself how the critic arrived at a different interpretation for the film? You are sure that you saw the same movie, but you interpreted it differently. Most moviegoers go to the cinema for pleasure and entertainment. There’s a reason why blockbuster movies attract moviegoers – cinema is a form of escape, a way to momentarily walk away from life’s troubles.


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Feminist Film Theory: An Introductory Reading List

Evolving from the analysis of representations of women in film, feminist film theory asks questions about identity, sexuality, and the politics of spectatorship.

Director Julie Dash poses for the movie "Daughters of the Dust," circa 1991

Not unlike the emergence of feminist theory and criticism in the domains of art and literature, the women’s movement of the late 1960s and 1970s sparked a focused interrogation of images of women in film and of women’s participation in film production.  The 1970s witnessed the authorship of massively influential texts by writers such as Claire Johnston, Molly Haskell, and Laura Mulvey in the United Kingdom and the United States, and psychoanalysis was a reigning method of inquiry, though Marxism and semiotics also informed the field.

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Feminist film theory has provoked debates about the representations of female bodies, sexuality, and femininity on screen while posing questions concerning identity, desire, and the politics of spectatorship, among other topics. Crucially, an increasing amount of attention has been paid by theorists to intersectionality, as scholars investigate the presence and absence of marginalized and oppressed film subjects and producers. This reading list surveys a dozen articles, presented chronologically, as a starting point for readers interested in the lines of inquiry that have fueled the field over the last fifty years.

Laura Mulvey, “ Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema ,” Screen 16, no. 3 (1975): 6–18.

To put it most simply, Mulvey’s 1975 essay is nothing short of iconic. A cornerstone of psychoanalytic feminist film theory, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” describes the ways in which women are displayed on screen for the pleasure of the male spectator. Many of the essays listed below engage explicitly with Mulvey’s essay and the notion of the male gaze, illustrating what Corrin Columpar (2002, see below) describes as a “near compulsive return” to this pioneering work. But even Mulvey herself would later push back on some of her most provocative claims , including her positioning of the spectator as male, as well as her omission of female protagonists.

“ Feminism and Film: Critical Approaches ,” Camera Obscura 1, no. 1 (1976): 3–10.

Established in 1976, Camera Obscura was (and remains) a groundbreaking venue for feminist film studies. This introductory essay to the first issue contextualizes the necessity of such a journal in a scholarly and cultural environment in which there is a true “need” for the feminist study of film. Camera Obscura was, in part, an American response to the wave of British contributions to the field, often published in the journal Screen (the home of Mulvey’s essay). The editors spend much of this essay unpacking the camera obscura, an image projection device, as a metaphor for feminist film theory, as it functions as a symbol of contradiction that “emphasizes the points of convergence of ideology and representation, of ideology as representation.”

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Michelle Criton, Julia Lesage, Judith Mayne, B. Ruby Rich, and Anna Marie Taylor, “ Women and Film: A Discussion of Feminist Aesthetics ,” New German Critique no. 13 (1978): 83–107.

What makes film an enticing object of study for feminists in the first place? As Criton et al. attest, the answers lie in the social rather than individual or private dimensions of film as well as in its accessibility and synthesis of “art, life, politics, sex, etc.” The conversation featured here provides a glimpse into contemporary conversations about the work of Claire Johnston and Laura Mulvey and psychoanalysis as a shaping force of early feminist film theory. Additionally, they consider how a feminist filmmaking aesthetic can reveal and critique the ideologies that underpin the oppression of women.

Judith Mayne, “ Feminist Film Theory and Criticism ,” Signs 11, no. 1 (1985): 81–100.

Acknowledging the profound impact of “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Mayne surveys the development of feminist film theory, including both its historical contexts and its fixations upon psychoanalysis and the notions of spectacle and the gaze. Mayne outlines how contradiction—variously construed—is “ the central issue in feminist film theory and criticism” (emphasis added). Additionally, the author calls into question the historiography of women’s cinema, noting the “risk of romanticizing women’s exclusion from the actual production of films.” She urges scholars to, certainly, continue the necessary exploration of forgotten and understudied female filmmakers but to also open up the conception of women’s cinema to include not just the work of female directors but also their peripheral roles as critics and audience members.

Jane Gaines, “ White Privilege and Looking Relations: Race and Gender in Feminist Film Theory ,” Cultural Critique , no. 4 (1986): 59–79.

What, Gaines asks, are the limitations of feminist theory’s early fixation on gender at the expense of nuanced understandings of race, class, and sexuality? While feminist theory may, in its earliest years, have opened up possibilities for interrogating the gendered politics of spectatorship, it was largely exclusionary of diverse perspectives, including, as Gaines notes, lesbians and women of color. In doing so, “feminist theory has helped to reinforce white middle-class [normative] values, and to the extent that it works to keep women from seeing other structures of oppression, it functions ideologically.” Through an analysis of the 1975 film Mahogany and informed by black feminist theorists and writers such as bell hooks, Mayne argues that psychoanalysis ultimately results in erroneous readings of films about race.

Noël Carroll, “ The Image of Women in Film: A Defense of a Paradigm ,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 48, no. 4 (1990): 349–60.

Carroll theorizes why psychoanalysis was so attractive to feminists in the 1970s and 1980s: by providing a theoretical framework, he argues, psychoanalysis was a means to “incorporate” and “organize” the “scattered insights of the image of women in film approach.” Taking issue with Mulvey’s perspective on voyeurism, Carroll positions the image approach, or the study of the image of women in film—in this case with an emphasis on theories of emotion— as a “rival research program” to psychoanalysis. He argues that paradigm scenarios, or cases in which emotions are learned behavioral responses, influence spectatorship and how audiences respond emotionally to women on screen.

Karen Hollinger, “ Theorizing Mainstream Female Spectatorship: The Case of the Popular Lesbian Film ,” Cinema Journal 37, no. 2 (1998): 3–17.

Hollinger surveys theoretical responses to lesbian subjectivity and the female spectatorship of popular lesbian film narratives. She articulates the subversive power of the lesbian look as a challenge to Mulvey’s notion of the male gaze, asserting its potential to empower female spectators as agents of desire.

Corinn Columpar, “ The Gaze As Theoretical Touchstone: The Intersection of Film Studies, Feminist Theory, and Postcolonial Theory ,” Women’s Studies Quarterly 30, no. 1/2 (2002): 25–44.

The male gaze is not, as Columpar articulates, the sole tool “in the contemporary feminist film critic’s box”: so are the ethnographic and colonial gazes, brought to film theory from postcolonial studies. Columpar reiterates that the early fixation upon gender and the male gaze “failed to account for other key determinants of social power and position.” Interdisciplinary perspectives, such as those informed by postcolonial theory, are better equipped to unpack “issues of racial and national difference and acknowledge the role that race and ethnicity play in looking relations.”

Janell Hobson, “ Viewing in the Dark: Toward a Black Feminist Approach to Film ,” Women’s Studies Quarterly 30, no. 1/2 (2002): 45–59.

Hobson illuminates the absence and/or disembodied presence of Black female bodies in Hollywood cinema. She argues that the invisibility of Black women’s bodies on screen was a defense mechanism against the disruption of “whites as beautiful, as the norm.” By turning away from the gaze and toward the sound of Black women’s disembodied voices in speech and song, viewers are better equipped to recognize how their voices are “used in mainstream cinema by way of supporting and defining the normalized (white) male body,” therefore “ensur[ing] the identity of white masculinity.”

E. Ann Kaplan, “ Global Feminisms and the State of Feminist Film Theory ,” Signs 30, no. 1 (2004): 1236–48.

Kaplan reflects on her trajectory as a pioneering feminist film theorist, illuminating her shift from cinema’s depictions of the “oppressions of white Western women” to the study of trauma in global and indigenous cinema. Importantly, she notes that in her earlier research, she failed to “confront the really tough questions of my own positionality.” In doing so, she invites readers to consider the ethics of witnessing and white, Western feminist participation in the development of multicultural approaches.

Jane M. Gaines, “ Film History and the Two Presents of Feminist Film Theory ,” Cinema Journal 44, no. 1 (2004): 113–19.

It may come as a surprise to many that, internationally speaking, women were indeed undertaking various forms of creative labor in the world of film production during the silent era, including screenwriting, producing, directing, etc. The question, then, is not just “why these women were forgotten” but also “why we forgot them.” Gaines considers the “historical turn” in feminist film studies, arguing that scholars must be mindful of how they narrativize and rewrite the rediscovered facts of women’s work in cinema.

Sangita Gopal, “ Feminism and the Big Picture: Conversations ,” Cinema Journal 57, no. 2 (2018): 131–36.

In this fascinating article, Gopal synthesizes responses to a series of questions posed to film scholars regarding feminist theory, praxis, and pedagogy, as well as feminism as “an unfinished project” and feminist media studies as a “boundless” field. Where theory is concerned, Gopal usefully highlights Lingzhen Wang’s and Priya Jaikumar’s suggestions for more explicitly linking and situating feminist media studies within “the big picture.” Notably, Jaikumar ponders the possibilities of feminism creating a framework such that “it is not possible to ask a question if it is absent of a politics.”

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174 Film Research Paper Topics To Inspire Your Writing

174 Film Research Paper Topics

Also known as a moving picture or movie, the film uses moving images to communicate or convey everything from feelings and ideas to atmosphere and experiences. The making of movies, as well as the art form, is known as cinematography (or cinema, in short). The film is considered a work of art. The first motion pictures were created in the late 1880s and were shown to only one person at a time using peep show devices. By 1985, movies were being projected on large screens for large audiences.

Film has a rich and interesting history, as well as a bright future given the current technological advancements. This is why many professors will really appreciate it if you write a research paper on movies. However, to write a great paper, you need a great topic.

In this blog post, we will give you our latest list of 174 film research paper topics. They should be excellent for 2023 and should get you some bonus points for originality and creativity. As always, our topics are 100% free to use as you see fit. You can reword them in any way you like and you are not required to give us any credit.

Writing Good Film Research Paper

Before we get to the film topics for research papers in our list, you need to learn how you can write the best possible film research paper. It’s not overly complicated, don’t worry. Here are some pointers to get you started:

Start as early as possible Start your project with an outline that will keep you focused on what’s important Spend some time to find a great topic (or just use one of ours) Research every angle of the topic Spend some time composing the thesis statement Always use information from reliable sources Make sure you cite and reference properly Edit and proofread your work to make it perfect. Alternatively, you can rely on our editors and proofreaders to help you with this.

Now it’s time to pick your topic. We’ve made things easy for you, so all you have to do is go through our neatly organized list and select the topic you like the most. If you already know something about the topic, writing the paper shouldn’t take you more than 1 or 2 days, however if you have no desire to spend a lot of time on your assignment, thesis writing help from our professionals is on its way. Pick your topic now:

Easy Film Research Topics

We know most students are not too happy about spending days working on their research papers. This is why we have compiled a list of easy film research topics just for our readers:

  • What was the Electrotachyscope?
  • Research the history of film
  • Describe the first films ever made
  • Talk about the Kinetoscope
  • Who were Auguste and Louis Lumière?
  • An in-depth look at film during World War I
  • Talk about the evolution of sound in motion pictures
  • Most popular movie actors of all time
  • The life and works of Charles Chaplin
  • The life and works of Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein
  • Discuss the Mutoscope device
  • Talk about the introduction of natural color in films

Film Topics To Write About In High School

If you are a high school student, you probably want some topics that are not overly complicated. Well, the good news is that we have plenty of film topics to write about in high school. Check them out below:

  • An in-depth analysis of sound film
  • Research the shooting of Le Voyage dans la Lune
  • Talk about the Technicolor process
  • Research the film industry in India
  • The growing popularity of television
  • Discuss the most important aspects of film theory
  • The drawbacks of silent movies
  • Cameras used in 1950s movies
  • The most important cinema movie of the 1900s
  • Research the montage of movies in the 1970s
  • The inception of film criticism
  • Discuss the film industry in the United States

Interesting Film Paper Topics

Are you looking for the most interesting film paper topics so that you can impress your professor and your fellow students? We are happy to say that you have arrived at just the right place. Here are our latest ideas:

  • Are digital movies much different from films?
  • Research the evolution of cinematography
  • Research the role of movies in Indian culture
  • The principles of a cinema camera
  • Technological advancements in the film industry
  • The use of augmented reality in movies
  • Talk about the role of film in American culture
  • An in-depth look at the production cycle of a film
  • The role of the filming crew on the set
  • Latest cameras for cinematography
  • An in-depth look at the distribution of films
  • How are animated movies made?

Controversial Movie Topics

Why would you be afraid to write your paper on a controversial topic? Perhaps you didn’t know that most professors really appreciate the effort and the innovative ideas. Below, you can find a whole list of controversial movie topics for students:

  • An in-depth look at Cannibal Holocaust
  • Controversies behind Fifty Shades of Gray
  • A Clockwork Orange: the banned movie
  • All Quiet on the Western Front: a controversial war movie
  • Discuss The Texas Chain Saw Massacre movie
  • Apocalypse Now: one of the most banned movies
  • Brokeback Mountain and the controversies surrounding it
  • Talk about The Last Temptation of Christ
  • The Birth of a Nation: the movie that was banned in America

Movie Topics Ideas For College

As you probably know already, college students should choose topics that are a bit more complex than those picked by high school students. The good news is that we have compiled a list of the best movie topics ideas for college students below:

  • Methods to bring your sketches to life
  • Discuss problems with documentary filming
  • War movies and their impact on society
  • What does a director actually do on the set?
  • Talk about state-sanctioned movies in China
  • Research cinematography in North Korea
  • Talk about psychological reactions to films
  • Research the good versus evil theme
  • African Americans in the 1900s cinematography in the US
  • Discuss the creation of sound for films

Hottest Film Topics To Date

Our writers and editors did their best to compile a list of the hottest film topics to date. You can safely pick any of the topics below and write your essay or research paper on it. You should be able to find plenty of information online about each and every topic:

  • The life and works of Alfred Hitchcock
  • Talk about racial discrimination in war movies
  • The psychology behind vampire movies
  • The life and works of Samuel L. Jackson
  • Classic opera versus modern movie soundtracks
  • Hollywood versus Bollywood
  • The life and works of tom Hanks
  • Research the Frankenstein character
  • Major contributions by women in cinematography
  • The life and works of Harrison Ford
  • The 3 most popular topics for a moving picture

Good Movie Topics For 2023

We know, you probably want some topics that relevant today. You want to talk about something new and exciting. Well, we’ve got a surprise for you. This list of good movie topics for 2023 has just been added to the blog post, and you can use it for free:

  • The life and works of Will Smith
  • Why do people love movie monsters?
  • Talk about the popularity of fan movies
  • The life and works of Morgan Freeman
  • Gender inequality in UK films
  • Research movies that were produced because of video games
  • The life and works of Anthony Hopkins
  • The importance of the Golden Raspberry Award
  • Outer space: the future of cinematography
  • Compare today’s filming techniques to those in the 1950s
  • The importance of winning a Golden Globe Award

Fascinating Film Topics

Are you looking for some of the most fascinating film topics one can ever find online? Our experts have outdone themselves this time. Check out our list of ideas below and choose the topic you like the most:

  • Talk about the development of Star Wars
  • Talk about spaghetti western movies
  • Discuss the filming of Pride and Prejudice
  • Research fantasy films
  • The most popular movie genre in 2023
  • What makes a movie a blockbuster?
  • Filming for the Interstellar movie
  • Peculiarities of Bollywood cinema
  • Talk about the era of Hitchcock
  • Discuss the role of motion pictures in society
  • Talk about Neo-realism in Italian movies
  • Research the filming of A Fistful of Dollars

The History Of Film Topics

Writing about the history of film and cinematography can be a good way to earn some bonus points from your professor. However, it’s not an easy thing to do. Fortunately, we have a list of the history of film topics right here for you, so you don’t have to waste any time searching:

  • Research the first ever motion picture
  • Discuss the idea behind moving images
  • Research the Pioneer Era
  • Talk about the introduction of sound in movies
  • Talk about the Silent Era
  • Who created the first ever movie?
  • Discuss the Golden Era of cinematography
  • The era of changes in 2023
  • The rise of Hollywood cinematography
  • Discuss the first color movie
  • Research the first horror movie
  • Discuss the phrase “No one person invented cinema”

Famous Cinematographers Topics

You can, of course, write your next research paper on the life and works of a famous or popular cinematographer. You have plenty to choose from. However, we’ve already selected the best famous cinematographers topics for you right here:

  • The life and works of Sir Roger Deakins
  • Research the cinematographer Vittorio Storaro
  • An in-depth look at Bill Pope
  • Research the cinematographer Gordon Willis
  • The life and works of Wally Pfister
  • An in-depth look at Robert Burks
  • Research the cinematographer Stanley Cortez
  • The life and works of Conrad Hall
  • An in-depth look at Rodrigo Prieto
  • The life and works of Claudio Miranda
  • Emmanuel Lubezki
  • An in-depth look at Jack Cardiff
  • Research the cinematographer Michael Ballhaus
  • The life and works of Kazuo Miyagawa

Famous Films Topic Ideas

The easiest and fastest way to write an essay or research paper about movies is to write about a famous movie. Take a look at these famous films topic ideas and start writing your paper today:

  • Research A Space Odyssey
  • Research the movie Seven Samurai
  • Cinematography techniques in There Will Be Blood
  • Discuss the film The Godfather
  • An in-depth look at La Dolce Vita
  • Research the movie Citizen Kane
  • Cinematography techniques in Goodfellas
  • An in-depth look at the Aliens series
  • Cinematography techniques in Singin’ in the Rain
  • Research the movie Mulholland Drive
  • An in-depth look at In The Mood For Love
  • Research the movie City Lights

The Future Of Movies Topic Ideas

Did you ever wonder what the movies of the future will look like? We can guarantee that your professor has thought about it. Surprise him by writing your paper on one of these the future of movies topic ideas:

  • The future of digital films
  • Discuss animation techniques of the future
  • The future of cinematography cameras
  • How do you view the actors of the future?
  • Will digital releases eliminate the need for DVDs?
  • The role of streaming services in the future
  • Talk about the direct-to-consumer distribution concept
  • Is cinematography a good career for the future?
  • Will movie theaters disappear?
  • Virtual reality in future films
  • The rise of Pixar Studios

Awesome Cinema Topic Ideas

Our experts have just finished completing this section of the topics list. Here, you will find some of the most awesome cinema topic ideas. These should all work great in 2023, so give them a try today:

  • The concept of the Road Movie
  • Review the film “Donnie Brasco”
  • The popularity of musical movies
  • A comprehensive history of cinematography
  • Discuss the A Beautiful Mind movie
  • Compare watching movies now and in the 1990s
  • Talk about film narrative
  • The importance of the main characters in a movie
  • The process of selecting the right actor for the role
  • Well-known produces in the United States
  • The most popular actors in 2023
  • Research Nazi propaganda films

Simple Cinema Essay Ideas

If you want to write about cinematography but don’t want to spend too much time researching the topic, you could always choose one of our simple cinema essay ideas. New ideas are added to this list periodically:

  • Discuss the concept of limited animation
  • War movies during World War II
  • The importance of James Bond for Americans
  • What is docufiction?
  • The traits of a filmophile
  • The success of early crime movies
  • An in-depth look at Hanna-Barbera
  • The transition from VHS tape to DVD
  • Best comedy movies ever made
  • Discuss the Film Noir genre
  • What is a Blaxploitation?
  • The best samurai film ever produced

Movies And The Internet Topics

  • How does piracy affect the movie industry?
  • An in-depth look at Netflix
  • Research the top 3 movie streaming websites
  • Compare and contrast Netflix and Amazon Prime
  • Should movies be shared for free online?
  • The effects of online streaming on piracy
  • Is pirating movies illegal everywhere?
  • Illegal downloads of movies in North Korea
  • Piracy: a form of film preservation
  • The most pirated movies of the 21st century
  • Research the best ways to stop film piracy
  • The economic impact of movie piracy in the United States

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Are you preparing to start working on your thesis? Or perhaps you just need some help with a research paper or an essay related to films and the movie industry. Our thesis writing service is exactly what you have been looking for! We have the writers and the experts you need if you want to do a great job on your next academic writing project. And remember, you will get assistance fast and cheap from a team of ENL writers, editors and proofreaders. We are a reliable academic writing agency with years of industry experience, so collaborating with us is 100% secure.

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    This thesis presents an interdisciplinary study of the significance of contemporary film in our understandings of gender, race, and sexuality in Georgian England. ... substantial film to examine the relationship between history and film. Griffith retells his version of the Civil War, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the Ku Klux Klan ...

  3. PDF Everyone's a Critic: Film Criticism Through History and Into the

    Film Criticism Through History and Into the Digital Age A Senior Honors Thesis Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for graduation in the College Honors Program By James Battaglia Journalism Major, Film Studies Minor The College at Brockport May 2010 Thesis Director: Dr. Kate Madden, Associate Professor, Communication

  4. Historical Film

    General Overviews. The symbiotic relationship between film history and other histories (technological, social, cultural, political, etc.) is a crucial component of film studies, but in the case of historical film scholarship, this relationship can explain a lot about the role that historical films play within a particular culture or nation at a given moment.

  5. New Approaches to the Teaching of Film History

    film history classes. One of these is the emergence of Eastmancolor film, which became the dominant color system of the fifties and sixties, remaining the industry standard for about eighteen years.7 Combining the three separate strips of film which had been neces-sary in the Technicolor processes, Eastmancolor required only a

  6. Experiencing History in Film

    Experiencing History in Film. An Empirical Study of the Link between Film Perception and Historical Consciousness. FORREST GUMP, Robert Zemeckis, USA 1994. "We do not experience any movie only through our eyes. We see and comprehend and feel films with our entire bodily being, informed by the full history and carnal knowledge of our ...

  7. Fiction Film and History

    Like the medium of film in general, historical films also generate meaning through a process of signification. In film, the signified has "a conceptual character; it is an idea. It exists in the viewer's memory and the signifier merely actualizes it." 20 Historical referentiality can be understood analogously.

  8. Cinematic Poe: A Survey of Films Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and Their

    Poe as indispensably linked to key moments of cinema history itself. Therefore, in this thesis, I draw upon adaptation studies, film studies, theories of authorship drawing from literature and cinema studies, film history and the history of cinema's avant-gardes to inform the following discussion of the most significant Poe films.

  9. Film Studies Research Guide: History and/of Film

    For articles about history in movies or the history of film, refer to the Articles page.. But you should also check the history databases, since historians study the role of films in history as well as how history is represented in films -- and their articles may appear in journals that the film databases don't cover.

  10. Dissertations

    2015. Claudia Calhoun. " 'The Story You Are About to Hear Is True': Dragnet, Transmedia Storytelling, and the Postwar Police Procedural". with American Studies. 2015. Joshua Glick. "Los Angeles Documentary and the Production of Public History, 1958-1977". with American Studies.

  11. Biography and History in Film

    Thomas S. Freeman is Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Essex, UK. He is the co-author of Religion and the Book in Early Modern England: the Making of Foxe's 'Book of Martyrs' (2011). He is also the co-editor of The Tudors and Stuarts on Film (2008), and four other volumes on early modern English history.. David L. Smith is Fellow, Director of Studies in History ...

  12. PDF The Historical Epic Film: Visualizing Reality Through Crowds, Culture

    This thesis will trace the revisionist history appropriated by the film epic as it relates to the cinema's unique aesthetic. The essay will cite Siegfried Kracauer's The Mass Ornament and other modernist theory as a means of analyzing classic (Ben Hur, El Cid, etc.) and contemporary (Braveheart, Gangs of New York, etc.) epics.

  13. Film Studies Theses

    When the place speaks : an analysis of the use of venues and locations in the international film festival circuit . Li, Peize (2023-11-30) - Thesis. This thesis examines how film festival venues participate in shaping broader film cultures. It proposes an approach to studying film festivals that is founded on looking at their physical spaces ...

  14. The Relationship between Film and History in Early German ...

    This thesis works under the assumption that cinema of the first half of the twentieth century was acknowledged as the leading aesthetic and cultural medium, and was then redefined after 1945 (Benjamin, Kracauer, André Bazin). This redefinition could best be described using terms taken from current research on emotion in the humanities, namely ...

  15. Chapman University Chapman University Digital Commons

    This Thesis is brought to you for free and open access by the Dissertations and Theses at Chapman University ... materials, along with industry trade and guild film journals from the Media Digital History Library surrounding the marketing, public discourse, fandom, and reception of the three . Ben-Hur. versions released in the 20. th. century,

  16. Film and history: Robert A. Rosenstone and History on Film/Film on

    Abstract. Through a reading of Robert A. Rosenstone's book History on Film/Film on History (Pearson, 2006) it seems clear that Rosenstone's contribution to the contemporary understanding of history as more than textual mode of expression is without peer. Rosenstone's epistemic scepticism has squarely confronted conventional historical thinking and practice, elevating issues of narrative ...

  17. Film and Media Studies (MA) Theses

    Film and Media Studies (MA) Theses. Below is a selection of dissertations from the Film and Media Studies program in Dodge College of Film and Media Arts that have been voluntarily included in Chapman University Digital Commons. Additional dissertations from years prior to 2019 are available through the Leatherby Libraries' print collection or ...


    first independent film project. My thesis begins with detailing the steps I took in creating this film, starting with the writing of my screenplay and the researching of ... all the history and specifics about the sisters and their magic, since I knew what I was talking about, I forgot to make sure someone coming in blind understood. Thus, it took

  19. Film Studies Theses and Dissertations

    Theses/Dissertations from 2013. PDF. Music, Cinema and the Representation of Africa, Natasha Callender. PDF. Clash of the Industry Titans: Marvel, DC and the Battle for Market Dominance, Caitlin Foster. PDF. The New French Extremity: Bruno Dumont and Gaspar Noé, France's Contemporary Zeitgeist, Timothy J. Nicodemo. PDF.

  20. Historical Thesis Statements

    Thesis statements vary based on the rhetorical strategy of the essay, but thesis statements typically share the following characteristics: Presents the main idea. Most often is one sentence. Tells the reader what to expect. Is a summary of the essay topic. Usually worded to have an argumentative edge.

  21. How to Write a Film Analysis Essay: Examples, Outline, & Tips

    Just as with any essay, your analysis should consist of an introduction with a strong thesis statement, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The main body usually includes a summary and an analysis of the movie's elements. Present tense for events in the film. Use the present tense when describing everything that happens in the movie.

  22. 90 Popular Film Research Paper Topics to Inspire You

    Here are some captivating film research paper topics on music. The Evolution of Film Scores: From Silent Cinema to the Digital Age. The Role of Music in Establishing Film Genres. Iconic Film Composers: The Musical Styles of John Williams and Ennio Morricone. The Impact of Jazz on Film Noir Soundtracks.

  23. Feminist Film Theory: An Introductory Reading List

    Feminist film theory has provoked debates about the representations of female bodies, sexuality, and femininity on screen while posing questions concerning identity, desire, and the politics of spectatorship, among other topics. Crucially, an increasing amount of attention has been paid by theorists to intersectionality, as scholars investigate ...

  24. 174 Film Research Paper Topics

    Research the film industry in India. The growing popularity of television. Discuss the most important aspects of film theory. The drawbacks of silent movies. Cameras used in 1950s movies. The most important cinema movie of the 1900s. Research the montage of movies in the 1970s. The inception of film criticism.