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10 of the Most Niche YouTube Video Essays You Absolutely Need to Watch

Meredith Dietz Avatar

The genre of YouTube video essays is more interesting than it sounds. Sure, any piece of video content that advances a central thesis could be considered a “video essay.” But there are key components of video essays that elevate the genre into so much more than simply a YouTube version of a written article. Over the past few years, the term “YouTube video essay” has grown to evoke connotations of niche fascination and discovery. For creators, the field is highly competitive with strong personalities trying to get eyes on extremely in-depth analysis of a wide range of topics. The “niche” factor is especially important here. Ultimately, the hallmark of a good video essay is its ability to captivate you into watching hours of content about a subject matter you would have never expected to care about in the first place. Scary? Maybe. Fun? Definitely.

Whether you’re sceptical about the power of video essays, or you’re an existing fan looking for your next niche obsession, I’ve rounded up some of my personal favourite YouTube video essays for you to lean in and watch. This is not a comprehensive list by any means, and it largely reflects what the algorithm thinks (knows) I personally want to watch.

Other factors that influenced my selection process: The video essays needed to have a strong, surprising thesis — something other than a creator saying “ this thing good ” or “ this thing bad. ” These videos also stood out to me due to their sheer amount of thorough, hard-hitting evidence, as well as the dedication on the behalf of the YouTubers who chose to share with us hours upon hours of research into these topics.

And yes, I have watched all the hours of content featured here. I’m a professional.

Disney’s FastPass: A Complicated History

Let’s start strong with a documentary so premium, I can’t believe it’s free. Multiple articles and reviews have been dedicated to Defunctland’s video series about, well, waiting in line. I know what you’re thinking — the only thing that sounds more boring than waiting in line is watching a video about waiting in line. But Defunctland’s investigation into the history of Disneyland’s FastPass system has so much more to offer.

Class warfare. Human behaviour. The perils of capitalism. One commenter under the video captures it well by writing “oddly informative and vaguely terrifying.” Since its launch in 2017, Kevin Perjurer’s entire Defunctland YouTube channel has become a leading voice in extremely thorough video essays. The FastPass analysis is one of the most rewarding of all of Defunctland’s in-depth amusement park coverage.

I won’t spoil it here, but the best part of the video is hands-down when Perjurer reveals an animated simulation of the theme park experience to test out how various line-reservation systems work. Again, no spoilers, but get ready for a wildly satisfying “gotcha” moment.

Personally, I’ve never had any interest one way or another about Disney-affiliated theme parks. I’ve never been, and I never planned on going. That’s the main reason I’m selling you on this video essay right off the bat. Defunctland is a perfect example of how the genre of video essays has such a high bar for investigative reporting, shocking analysis, and an ability to suck you in to a topic you never thought you’d care about.

Watch time : 1:42:59 (like a proper feature documentary)

THE Vampire Diaries Video

No list of video essays can get very far without including Jenny Nicholson , a true titan of the genre. Or, as one commenter puts it, “The power of Jenny Nicholson: getting me to watch an almost three hour long video about something I don’t care about.” I struggled to pick which of her videos to feature here, but at over seven million views, “THE Vampire Diaries Video” might just be Nicholson’s magnum opus. Once you break out the red string on a cork board, it’s safe to say that you’re in magnum opus territory.

I haven’t ever seen an episode of CW’s The Vampire Diaries , but since this video essay captivated me, I can safely say that I’m an expert on the show. Nicholson’s reputation as a knowledgeable, passionate, funny YouTuber is well-earned. She’s a proper geek, and watching her cultural analyses feel like I’m nerding out with one of my smartest friends. If you really don’t think The Vampire Diaries investigation is for you (and I argue that it’s for everyone), I recommend “ A needlessly thorough roast of Dear Evan Hansen ” instead.

Watch time : 2:33:19

In Search Of A Flat Earth

Did you think you could get through a YouTube video round-up without single mention of Flat Earthers? Wishful thinking.

“In Search of Flat Earth” is a beautiful, thoughtful video essay slash feature-length documentary. Don’t go into this video if you’re looking to bash and ridicule flat earth conspiracy theorists. Instead, Olson’s core argument takes a somewhat sympathetic gaze to the fact that Flat Earthers cannot be “reasoned” out of their beliefs with “science” or “evidence.” Plus, this video has a satisfying second-act plot twist. As Olson points out, “In Search of Flat Earth” could have an alternative clickbait title of “The Twist at 37 Minutes Will Make You Believe We Live In Hell.” Over the years,  Dan Olson of Folding Ideas has helped to popularise the entire video essay genre, and this one just might be his masterpiece.

Watch time : 1:16:16

The Rise and Fall of Teen Dystopias

Sarah Z is your go-to Gen Z cultural critic and explainer. The YouTuber brings her knack for loving-yet-shrewd analysis to dig into fandom culture, the YA book industry, and why the teen dystopia got beaten into the ground.

I’ve found that one of the most reliable video essay formulas is some version of “what went wrong with [incredibly popular cultural moment].” In the case of teen dystopias, it’s a fascinating take on how a generation of teen girls were drawn to bad arse, anti-establishment heroines, only to watch those types of characters get mass produced and diluted into mockery. But maybe I’m biased here; as the exact demographic targeted by the peak of The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Divergent, this cultural debrief speaks to my soul.

Watch time : 1:22:41

A Buffet of Black Food History

Food is an effective way to combine economic, cultural, and social histories–and Black American food history is an especially rich one. Food resonates with people, allowing us to connect with the past in a much more real way than if we were memorising dates and locations from a textbook. Historian Elexius Jionde of Intelexual Media is a pro at taking what could be a standard history lesson and turning it into an interesting journey full of crazy characters and tidbits.

Most of the comments beneath the video are complaints that the video deserves to be so much longer. It’s jam-packed with surprising facts, fun asides, and, of course, tantalising descriptions of the food at hand. Jionde even warns you right at the top: “Turn this video off right now if you’re hungry.”

Watch time : 22:39

The reign of the Slim-Thick Influencer

At this point, I’m assuming you know what a BBL is. Even if you aren’t familiar with the term (Brazilian butt lifts, FYI), then you’ve still probably observed the trend. Before big butts, it was thigh gaps. The pendulum swing of trending body types is nothing new. Curves are in, curves are out, thick thighs save lives, “skinny fat” is bad, and now, “slim thick” looms large. How do different body types fall in and out of fashion, and what effect does this have on the people living in those bodies?

Creator Khadija Mbowe identifies and analyses a lot of the issues with how women’s bodies (especially Black women’s) are commodified, without ever blaming the bodies that are under fire. Mbowe handles the topic with grace and humour, even when discussing how deeply personal it is to them. If you’ve ever found yourself staring at a photo of an Instagram influencer, please do yourself a favour and watch this video essay.

Watch time : 54:18

Flight of the Navigator

Once again: I have been sucked into a video about a film that I have never seen and probably never will. Captain Disillusion, whose real name is Alan Melikdjanian, is another giant of the video essay genre, posting videos to a not-too-shabby audience of 2.29 million subscribers. Most of Captain Dissilision’s videos that I’d seen before this were of the creator debunking viral videos, exposing how certain visual effects were “obviously” faked. In this video, he turns his eye for debunking special effects not to viral videos, but to the 1986 Disney sci-fi adventure Flight of the Navigator.

This behind-the-scenes analysis of the Disney film is incredibly informative, tackling every instance when someone might ask, “ Hey, how did they manage to film that? ” It also touches upon the history of the special effects industry, something that deserves a little extra appreciation as CGI takes over every corner of movie-making.

Watch time : 41:28

The Failure of Victorious

YouTuber Quinton Reviews is dedicated to his craft, and I thank him for it. As you’ve certainly caught on to by now, you truly do not need to know anything about the show Victorious to enjoy an hours-long video essay that digs into it. What makes this video stand out is the sheer amount of content that this YouTuber both consumed and then created for us. Part of the video length — a whopping five hours — is due to the fact that every single episode of the Nickelodeon show is dissected. Another reason for the length is all the care that Quinton Reviews puts into providing context. And the context is what made me stick around: the failures of TV networks, the psychological dangers of working as child stars, and the questionable adult jokes that were broadcast to young audiences…if you’re at all interested in tainting your memory of hit Nickelodeon shows, this video is for you.

Watch time : 5:34:58 ( And that’s just part one. Strap in! )

Why Anime is for Black People

In this video Travis goes through the history of the “hip hop x anime” phenomenon, in which East Asian media permeates Black culture (and vice versa, as he hints at near the end). Although I am (1) not Black and (2) not an avid anime fan, I first clicked on this video because I’m a fan of comedian and writer Yedoye Travis. And yet — big shocker — I was immediately engrossed with the subject matter, despite having no context heading into it. Once you finish watching this video, be sure to check out Megan Thee Stallion’s interview about her connection to anime .

I haven’t run this part by my editor yet, but now would be a prime time to plug Lifehacker Editor-in-Chief Jordan Calhoun’s book, Piccolo Is Black: A Memoir of Race, Religion, and Pop Culture . Just saying.

Watch time : 18:34 (basically nothing in the world of video essays, especially compared to the five hours of Victorious content I binged earlier)

Efficiency in Comedy: The Office vs. Friends

I’m rounding out this list on a note of personal sentimentality. This is one of the first video essays that got me hooked on the format, mostly because I had followed creator Drew Gooden to YouTube after his stardom on Vine (RIP). This video is one of his most popular, combining comedy and maths to pit two of the most popular sitcoms of all time in a joke-for-joke battle.

Gooden in particular stands out as someone who excels as both an earnest comic and a thoughtful critic of comedy. I appreciate his perspective as someone who knows what it’s like to work for a laugh and wants to get to the bottom of why something is or isn’t funny. This isn’t even one of Gooden’s best videos (I actually think his take on the parallels between Community and Arrested Development has a much stronger argument), but it’s a great example of the sort of perspective best situated to make video essays in the first place. Because what makes all these video essays so compelling is often the personality behind the argument. These aren’t investigative journalists or professional critics. They’re YouTubers. Really smart YouTubers, but still: These videos are born out of everyday people who simply have something to say.

I believe the modern YouTube video essay is uniquely situated to put cultural critique back into the hands of the average consumer — but only if that consumer is willing to put in the work to become a creator themselves.

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The best video essays of 2021

Introspection and the act of watching emerged as recurring themes across a year in which video makers responded to the realities of a continuing pandemic. Our poll of 30 video essayists, academics, critics and filmmakers highlights 120 recommendations.

18 January 2022

By  Ariel Avissar , Cydnii Wilde Harris , Grace Lee

Sight and Sound

After ‘Year of the Virus 2: 2 Metres 2 Vaccines’, it’s no surprise that we’re presenting yet another poll inevitably marked by isolation and fatigue.

There have been numerous developments and projects of note, continuing the previous year’ s theme of collaboration. There’s been the forming of Video Essay: Futures of Audiovisual Research and Teaching , an academic research project led by Johannes Binotto at Lucerne University in collaboration with the University of Zurich, which has produced some fascinating work this year; the One Villainous Scene collaboration, for which Nando v Movies gathered 230 essayists on YouTube to explore their favourite villains; the TV Dictionary collection, for which 20 essayists followed Ariel Avissar’s open invitation to dabble in videographic ruminations on television series; and two more volumes of the Essay Library Anthology, ‘micro-essay compilations’ by members of the Essay Library Discord community, touching on the very relevant themes of ‘time’  and ‘death’ .

This year also saw the return of several big names, such as Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou (the team behind Every Frame a Painting ) in their contributions to Netflix’s Voir series, and Mike Rugnetta (former host of Idea Channel ), who began uploading essays to a personal account .

But even amid these excellent projects, not only have video makers continued to struggle within the realities of a continuing pandemic, even poll voters have been down from previous years, suggesting that many of us have struggled with not only finding the time to make but also finding the time to watch video essays this year.

That being said, many of the videos that have been made and watched seem to have turned their attention towards the very act of watching, a trend that’s perhaps unsurprising given the amount of time we’ve all been afforded with ourselves this year. Left to our own devices, it’s only a matter of time before we begin to look inward, and thus introspection marks a clear theme in this year’s most talked-about videos. This result may be even more inevitable than any undercurrent of fatigue or isolation, as what would a group of video essay enthusiasts love more than essays about essays and videos about videos.

There’s no shame in a little indulgence this year.

Trends and numbers

Of the 30 contributors to the poll this year (down from 42 last year), 20 are male, 9 are female and 1 is non-binary. Two thirds of them are based in Europe, one third in the USA . They are video essayists, academics, critics and filmmakers. They submitted a total of 178 votes, for 122 unique entries that span online video essays, essay films, documentaries, installations, television series and Twitter threads. These works were made – or published – this past year, by both established essayists and newcomers to the field; they range from 20 seconds to 6 hours in length, with the average length above 22 minutes (5 minutes longer than last year’s average).

Practices of Viewing , “a video essay series on new media and their many old histories” by Johannes Binotto, was the top-mentioned item, receiving a total of 13 mentions (of either the series as a whole or several individual entries). Also of note were: the collaborative TV Dictionary collection, which received 7 mentions (of either the project as a whole or of various individual entries); Screening Room: On Digital Film Festivals by Jessica McGoff (6 mentions); and What Isn’t a Video Essay? by Grace Lee (5 mentions). As previously stated, most of these are devoted to an exploration of the subject of video essays or videographic criticism and of various practices of consuming, engaging with and reacting to media images. This trend also extends to Max Tohline’s A Supercut of Supercuts (4 mentions), Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin’s Videography 1978 (4 mentions), and several other entries featured on the poll.

Of the essayists whose work is featured, 38% are female (up from 33% last year, and 24% the year prior) and 50% are male (down from 53% last year, and 68% the year prior), with the remaining 12% made by mixed-gender teams or non-binary essayists.

The videos are overwhelmingly presented in English (95%) and are predominantly from the US (36%) and the UK (22%), followed by 23 other countries (mostly in Europe), marking a gradual rise in the number of countries featured in the poll. The dominant focus in terms of medium, though somewhat less so than in previous years, remains film (63% of videos), with television a more significant – though still distant – second (13% — up from 5% last year). 23 of the videos (or 19%) were published in various online academic journals, primarily [in]Transition (10 entries) and Tecmerin (5 entries).

Besides voting for their favourite video essays of the year, contributors were also given the option to suggest video essayists to be featured on our new ‘Emerging voices’ section, which seeks to spotlight new makers of note, whose work this year was significant or impactful, and who are well worth keeping an eye on in the following years.

Emerging voices

This year has been one not just of self reflection, but of discovery. In light of all the discoveries we’ve been making, we wanted to use this year’s poll to spotlight new voices who have emerged this year. We asked our peers to submit individual essayists that they believed had truly struck out anew this year, be that through debuting their first works, or by significantly expanding their own profiles.

One journey many of us can relate to is that of finding our voice throughout our academic progression. Many of our emerging voices are students whose works originally developed as academic assignments. Emily Su Bin Ko, from the University of Massachusetts, was one such creator. For her latest piece, the pointed videographic exploration Citizen Kane: Transcending Bazin’s Dichotomy , she was singled out by both Barbara Zecchi and Adrian Martin as having demonstrated her analytical talent, an engaging style and a thought-provoking voice.

Another was Niki Radman from the University of Glasgow, who made her debut this year with the video essay eye/contact , and was noted by Ian Garwood. The piece explores the work of Barry Jenkins through a critical supercut, and demonstrates an exciting mastery of the form and an ability to poetically communicate her ideas.

Matthew Smolenski from the University of Warwick was suggested by Katie Bird as another newcomer of note for their video essay Here, There and Everywhere: Movement in the Beatles’s Fiction Filmography , which deftly addresses movement and sound on screen through the context of the Beatles’ filmography.

Myrna Moretti from Northwestern University was also praised by Katie Bird. Her work, Friends from TV on the Internet , made for the Desktop Documentary Seminar at SCMS 2021, manages to be both lighthearted and poignant as it explores fandom, nostalgia, and climate anxiety.

Not all submissions received were discovered through traditionally academic spaces. Some were video essayists who have been accruing greater audiences on YouTube. Maia, known as Broey Deschanel , was put forth by Dan Schindel for her well-researched and thoughtful analysis of pop culture subjects. Her works on Sofia Coppola and Love Island were mentioned specifically, and while she has been working steadily since 2018, her work of this past year has been exceptional.

Yhara Zayd was also recognised by Dan Schindel for the uniqueness of her topics and the finesse of her analyses. Since 2019, she’s been creating thoughtful and original critiques on everything from Skins US to Reefer Madness (1936), and an acknowledgement of her work is well-deserved.

Corinth Boone is a cartoonist, animator, and now video essayist, with the debut of her piece, So I Decided to Watch All the Lupin III Movies . She was specifically hailed by Shannon Strucci for her wit, editing skills, and the well-researched manner of the work.

Finally, Sophie from Mars was suggested by Grace Lee. While she has been successfully analysing media and culture for many years now, Sophie was specifically heralded for the achievements of their work of the last year, the skilful honing of their visual style, and an affecting personal point of view.

Growth is a term that is wholly dependent on context. Thus, the creators selected for this emerging voices section represent the diversity of the videographic community itself, and we’re pleased to share each of their stories.

All the votes

Film theorist, curator and occasional video essayist, Charles University in Prague and Národní filmový archiv

Screening Room: On Digital Film Festivals by Jessica McGoff

Throughout the pandemic, I have become fascinated with the idea of extending the screen-mediated experience of the world beyond the actual computer or smartphone interface. Chloé Galibert-Laîné already explored this notion in 2020’s Forensickness ; this year, Jessica McGoff utilised the ‘desktop cinema without the desktop’ approach to reflect on attending digital film exhibitions within the spatial monoculture of her apartment. A paper-made quasi-cinematic dispositif crushed by an intervention of a fluffy cat is only one of the many playful experiments McGoff stages to invent new ways in which we can exploit the limitations of the pandemic against the grain.

The Elephant Man’s Sound, Tracked by Liz Greene

One of the great potentialities of videographic criticism is giving insight into the research process in all of its stages and facets. Yet, rarely do videographic essays delve into such meticulous depth as Greene’s investigation of her ongoing encounters with The Elephant Man’s soundtrack. One minor detail – a strangely cleaned-up line of dialogue – serves as a MacGuffin that sparks a journey across often obscure or intimate research artefacts and software interfaces. The essay highlights the alignment between research and post-production as material processes whose gaps, fissures, and excesses tell their own stories.

The Thinking Machine #48: Videography 1978 by Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin

Examination of continuities and discontinuities between analogue and digital images is another area where videographic criticism thrives. Besides the works of Johannes Binotto, whom I mentioned in previous polls and who continues this line of work in the Practices of Viewing series, a moving autobiographical essay on films as material artefacts was created by López and Martin. Videography 1978 offers a fresh look on the ‘unattainable object’ issue, highlighting, for example, the non-identity of analogue and digital frames. The essay testifies that despite the (often justified) criticism, cinephilia as a mode of watching and analysing films remains relevant.

Mediated Auscultation by Emilija Talijan

Out of this year’s essays published in [in]Transition, Talijan’s exploration of the relationship between cinema and the stethoscope resonated most closely with me. I generally appreciate when videographic works reach toward a broader context of audiovisual culture, particularly of its very origins, and Mediated Auscultation finds the proper equilibrium between structured argumentation and formal experimentation. The stethoscope’s technological possibilities deconstruct the audiovisual unity of film back into a multiplicity of deranged, often impenetrable images and sounds, with a nerve-racking heartbeat rhythm always hovering around.

Train Again by Peter Tscherkassky

Once again, my list would not be complete without at least one experimental found footage film. Tscherkassky’s treatise on the ever-present bond between trains and cinema overflows with allusions to early cinema and the avant-garde, yet achieves to marry the old with the always already new. The Austrian artist’s vintage analogue deformations join forces with digital pixelation to show the train-image for what it is – a constantly trembling and crumbling entity on the verge of destruction and rebirth.

Ariel Avissar

Video essayist and media scholar at Tel Aviv University

Viewing the world outside from the comfort/prison of her room, McGoff offers a perceptive meditation on contemporary ways of seeing that is as irreverent as it is reverent. Quintessential viewing for the pandemic era. Make this a double feature with McGoff’s My Mulholland from last year, which likewise investigates the superimposition of online and offline experience.

I am Sitting in a Room, Listening to Mank by Cormac Donnelly

Sitting in a different room, Donnelly offers a sonic counterpoint to McGoff’s, offering a fascinating examination of the sonic soundscapes that envelop us all as we sit, in our own rooms, watching and listening (though perhaps not listening as attentively as we ought to). Make this a double feature with Donnelly’s Sonic Chronicle Post Sound from last year, which investigates (diegetic) sonic soundscapes.

Practices of Viewing by Johannes Binotto

Like McGoff and Donnelly, Binotto’s fascination is with the way we interact with images and sounds, and this phenomenal series, consisting of five entries to date, is a must-watch for anyone interested in the way technology mediates images and sounds, and the possibilities it opens up for interfering with and complicating its own mediation. My personal favourite is the one on screenshots , but it’s dealer’s choice, really. Make that last one a double feature with Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin’s Videography 1978 , Binotto’s explicit source of inspiration, which also explores technologies of viewing – and their pre-digital antecedents.

Irani Bag by Maryam Tafakory

Made as part of the Monographs  series of essays on Asian cinema commissioned by the Asian Film Archive last year, which is finally available online now, Tafakory’s soulful and mesmerising video employs excerpts from 24 Iranian films to interrogate the ways in which a handbag can serve as a surrogate for bodily contact, enabling the performers to “touch without touching”. Make this a double feature with Tafakory’s longer essay film follow-up, the upcoming Nazarbazi ; it is a meditation on the subject (and absence) of touch in Iranian cinema that is powerful, reflective and, yes, touching.

A History of the World According to Getty Images by Richard Misek

Misek offers a thoughtful and ever-timely exploration of the ways in which commercial archives mediate – and commodify – our access to the past, and offers a mode of resistance in the form of a direct intervention. Be on the lookout for it when it comes out sometime next year; in the meantime, whet your appetite with this shorter, early iteration of the project titled Captured Images , which can serve as a sort of trailer for the longer film – and also stands on its own.

Mad Men ’s ‘Babylon’  by Ariane Hudelet

Hudelet patiently and diligently traces multiple intertextual threads offered by a song featured on an early episode of Mad Men, presenting the kind of thorough, insightful and enjoyable analysis that I, for one, would love to see dedicated to more works of television in videographic form. On that note, make this a double feature with Occitane Lacurie’s Prendre conscience / perdre connaissance , a fascinating desktop examination of intertextual relations between Westworld and Last Year at Marienbad.

A Supercut of Supercuts: Aesthetics, Histories, Databases by Max Tohline

And finally, Tohline’s epic, feature-length reflection on the supercut is a comprehensively impressive (or impressively comprehensive?) investigation of one of the digital age’s most viral videographic genres. Over its 130 minutes, Tohline examines the supercut’s aesthetics, structures and effects; its complex and multiple contexts and histories; and its relation to technology and ideology, as a simulation of database logic. The analysis is coherent and persuasive, and the diverse perspectives are highly informative and enriching. No need for a double feature on this one (though I dare you not to look up any of the numerous supercuts sampled in the video).

Johannes Binotto

Lecturer in media and cultural studies, video bricolageur, leading videoessayresearch.org

I feel absolutely unable to have an overview of what work has been done in the field throughout this year. Instead the video essays on my list are all works that I came across not because I was searching for them but purely by accident, strangely in-between, and when I least expected them. Each of them hit me sideways so much that I still don’t want to recover from what they did to me.

How to Perform Teaching During a Pandemic Spring Session, 2020: GENDER STUDIES , Rain & Cats Cut by Dayna McLeod

I was watching Dayna McLeod’s haunting take on Lynch’s Wild at Heart when I came across this other piece that perhaps many would not even consider a video essay. McLeod performs the performance of someone who has to perform gender studies (and its interest in performance) under the circumstances of COVID remote teaching and being constantly interrupted. This is really wild, unpredictable, intellectual, clever, very funny, but – and this gets me the most — so extremely touching in its acknowledging one’s own awkwardness and vulnerability. We always joke about the things that hurt us most.

3 x Shapes of Home by Elisabeth Brun

What would seem as a purely conceptual and abstract research on how to investigate landscapes through different film practices turns out to be like a poem by Whitman, encompassing the most intimate and the most universal. A film in which the sudden freeze of an image and the humming of the filmmaker cuts me so much I start to cry. A crab gently poking at the camera is a sight I will keep dreaming of.

RETOURNE - TOI (Reading Ovid’s ‘Orpheus & Eurydice’ in Portrait of a Lady on Fire) by Catherine Grant

I thought I already knew this video but when seeing it during a workshop I was shocked by how much it affected me. It left me overwhelmed yet at the same time made me want to work myself in exactly this state of overload. I guess I heard the Althusserian interpellation in the title. And it is fitting that I had to return to this video to find out its unique power since it is about the hypnosis of repetition, both on narrative and formal level.

The Conversation is the Confessional by Max Tohline

I probably should have picked Max’s incredible jumbo jet of a video essay on the supercut, but this one means a lot to me because it is among many things also a personal present. Seeing a collection of video essays students of mine made on The Conversation, Max not only fell in love with them but wanted to join our group by contributing his own thoughtful, sensitive, and complex analysis of the religious under- under overtones in this film. Like a confession of its own. What a gift!

The Archival In-Between by Evelyn Kreutzer and Noga Stiassny

I don’t know how to talk about this one because it attempts what must remain impossible, approaching the unapproachable. It uses archival material that I am not sure anyone should ever use again but of which I am also convinced that it must be seen. The video’s impossibility seems to me the impossibility of the archive per se Foucault wrote about. So how then even to begin to make this video? It gives no answer but begins and remains beginning. Like the crackling noise on the soundtrack: a needle in the empty grooves of a record before the music starts.

Vertigo - Making Space. A 3D Video Essay by David Bucheli

Who hasn’t fantasised of seeing Vertigo in 3-D? David’s video fulfils the dream but does so by rendering it a disturbing nightmare. There are moments when the 3-D-effect works as one would think it is supposed to, giving us Scotty and Madeleine as seemingly graspable bodies but even more fascinating are those moments when the images we see on left and right eye no longer align but completely diverge, fall apart, splitting your consciousnesses in half. The longer I watch the more I fear this video will damage my brain irrevocably.

TV Dictionary —  On Becoming a God in Central Florida by Clair Richards

This was a triple surprise. A video on a series I had never heard of before by an essayist I hadn’t known before focusing on a term I never cared about before. Watching admiring the scene it picks and how it dances together with the text I ask myself: What is the strength of a video essay? For me it’s not tech-savviness nor the amount of material or concepts it works with. I think it’s rather the willingness to make yourself be seen doing something you haven’t yet nor ever will have mastered. It’s not a confidence thing.

Assistant professor, communication, University of Texas at El Paso

The Elephant Man ’s Sound, Tracked by Liz Greene

Greene’s video leads the viewer through a unique historical investigation of initial discovery, possibility, and lingering questions in a way that allows the viewer to feel how answers to a production’s history are many, and regularly conflicting. Unlike most historical presentations that simply point at the ‘evidence’, Greene allows us to literally ‘search’ and ‘flip the pages’ alongside. Greene focuses on equivocation, back tracking, and talking around, and what is largely left unsaid in many of the interviews. This project cuts around auteurism, without being a critique and articulates Splet amongst a larger set of industrial and and national forces.

Long Take, Pop Song by Ian Garwood

Nothing brought me more joy this year than this little pop diddy composed by Garwood and sung by Anna Miles ear-worming its way into my daily thoughts. Beyond the catchiness of the tune that directs this video on the important of pop music in a scene from Before Sunrise, Garwood brings in a pop aesthetic to the video with the use of animated and freeze frames, turning the conceit of the Before Trilogy into a comic book that takes place within the span of a pop song. It is a delight and a treat to see criticism have fun.

From now on, I won’t be able to watch Jeanne Dielman without also seeing McGoff’s own sink. This moment where a small scene of washing dishes floats about McGoff’s sink (the lines of the tiles almost matching) last only 6 seconds, but the gesture speaks to the intimacy and vulnerability of McGoff’s style. Her now signature approach to desktop, combined anew with the casual recordings of daily life (the record, the cat, the windows, the screens, the screens, the screens) offers a critical and personal glimpse into something that felt/feels all too familiar over the past years.

The TV Dictionary project by Ariel Avissar and various

Ariel Avissar’s TV Dictionary project was enormously generative for my own thinking about what diverse and creative experiments could be produced out of a simple prompt. I was inspired to create my own lists of terms and shows I would apply them to, and though I never made one, this speculative edit was a thrill. There’s too many videos to celebrate. But Libertad Gills and Juan Llamas Rodriguez tapped into the layering of their terms ‘ experience ‘ and ‘ comfort ’: how their shows feel to viewers and what is felt between characters in a moment or shared series of moments.

Beyond inspirational, and field changing, nothing made me want to throw in the towel on making more than seeing Binotto’s playful, critical, and incisive video series Practices of Viewing. Each one challenged our ways of ‘seeing’ and making, each one carefully bringing in new techniques to test the boundaries and possibilities of videographic form. But whatever trepidation I felt, was always overshadowed by the openness and curiosity that grounded each of Binotto’s experiments and his welcomeness as a videographic maker joyfully throwing out these gambits for the rest of us to up our games. But, MASK did me in.

Mourning with Minari by Kevin B. Lee

I’ll need to sit and rewatch Lee’s video essay many more times before I’ll have words good enough to match his evocative “gathering of images” of grieving through making, of holding space, and of breathing this memorial into being. By walking us through Minari, Lee leaves room for the questions trauma and white supremacist violence has left in its wake. By showing what has been made invisible, Lee similarly works through what it means to “manage the politics of presence” in the film and in US visual culture writ large, not to see these images as ‘empty’ but as open

De la femme by Caterina Cucinotta and Jesús Ramé López.

Stitching and Cutting, Stitching and Cutting, Stitching and Cutting! The repetition and overlap of the manual labor of production (seamstresses and editors) woven together with the metaphorical and literal fabrics of the film: its costumes and film strips. A gorgeous meditation on the gendered craft work of Hollywood production using both scraps of fabric and trims of film: materials on display and also what is not meant to be seen. The multi-screen side-by-side creates simple unexpected patterns and delightful sonic parallels to the sewing machine and the editor’s splicing. With these workers we get close in, slow down, and reconfigure.

Steven E. de Souza

It’s a Christmas movie. Bylines: @nytimes @LosAngelesTimes @EmpireMagazine @FadeInMagazine @SightSoundMagazine

Listening to Toy Story by Andrew Saladino (The Royal Ocean Film Society)

The almost purest representation of a literal ‘moving picture’, animation’s inevitable accommodation of sound would seem an afterthought hardly worth a thought, its early scores dismissed even by its applicants as ‘mickey mousing’. A century on, any imagined deficiencies of bandwidth inherent in the medium compared to live action demands sound loom even larger in its duty to inform and enhance a narrative.

Here’s Why Movie Dialogue Has Gotten More Difficult to Understand (And Three Ways to Fix It) by Ben Pearson (Slashfilm)

After nodding my head sagely at Andrew Saladino’s essay how diligently animation endeavors to add depth, clarity and content to its simulacrum of reality, I’m now shaking it in dismay at Pearson’s analysis of live action’s race in the opposite direction, coupled with minor relief that it’s not just me, I don’t actually need a hearing aid.

The Coolest Stunt You’ve Never Heard Of by Adam Tinius (Entertain The Elk)

It’s the rare filmmaker who didn’t start down the storytelling path in childhood, in backyards populated by cops n’ robbers, cowboys, pirates, and — most of all — imagination. Sometimes less is more, and we were right all along: simply pretending may be the best trick of all.

Golden Ratio in Cinema by Walter Murch

Mind Blown.

The Aesthetics of Evil by Lewis Michael Bond and Luiza Liz Bond (The Cinema Cartography)

Where would we be without our villains? (I know where I’d be, still teaching ESL at John F. Kennedy Junior High School in Willingboro, New Jersey — Go, Gryphons!) But in a world of increasingly grey tones, with black and white cowboy hats and their corresponding matching horses long dispatched to Boot Hill, how do we signal Villainy before it even opens its mouth? Here, Luiza Liz Bond and Lewis Michael Bond crack the color code; let the Pantone chips fall where they may.

Queen’s Gambit : What Makes a Story Cinematic? by Adam Tinius (Entertain The Elk)

People sitting silently in chairs glaring daggers at each other over seven hours of film will be edge of the seat suspense, said no one ever.

Scott Frank: Hold my beer vodka.

Voir, episode 6: Profane and Profound by Walter Chaw (on Netflix )

Just in time for its 40th anniversary, Walter Chaw spares no superlatives in his pedestaling of 1982’s 48 HRS . as a watershed work of not only genre, but as a seminal, crucial and long overdue vivisection of contemporary society. In an essay flaying metatextual layers aside, he shows us the racism that’s the apex tentpole of the American power structure, and unpacks this archetypical ‘buddy comedy’ as a poisoned chalice of popcorn, its bitter taste sweetened by heaping doses of comedy.

Who am I to disagree?

Will DiGravio

Host, The Video Essay Podcast ; creator, ‘ Notes on Videographic Criticism ’

These seven videos/projects/films, for me, epitomise the greatness of this form: they provide a new way of seeing and engaging with familiar images, sounds, and mediums. Each taught me how to be a better watcher, listener, and reader. They inspired me, and I look forward to returning to them time and time again in the years to come.

A Fish with the Movie Camera: Lucrecia Martel’s Pescados as Metacinema by Barbara Zecchi

All Light, Everywhere by Theo Anthony

What is Neo-Snyderism? by Ariel Avissar

The Rise of Film TikTok by kikikrazed aka Queline Meadows

Citizen Kane : Transcending Bazin’s Dichotomy by Emily Su Bin Ko

Maggie Mae Fish

Actor, writer, film video essayist

The Day Rue ‘Became’ Black by Yhara Zayd

I love all of Yhara’s work, but this video in particular touches on a moment I remember in real-time — the backlash against a canonically young Black girl in the Hunger Games books, who when brought to life in the films illuminated the stunted imagination and racism in YA  audiences.

Bo Burnham’s Inside and ‘White Liberal Performative Art’  by F.D.  Signifier

F.D. Signifier is one of the most cuttingly insightful media critiques, and his work on Bo Burnham’s quarantine ‘masterpiece’ hits into why this type of art can ring hollow or shallow for as many people as it resonates with.

Rac(ism) & Horror by Khadija Mbowe

Khadija is funny, snarky, our ‘Millennial Auntie’ and in this video becomes a film professor to give an overview of the intersection of Blackness and the horror genre. It would be at home in any university course on the subject, but Khadija goes full out swapping costumes and sets to give as much entertainment as insightful analysis of a broad and deeply important topic.

Thomas Flight

Video essayist and filmmaker

What Isn’t a Video Essay? by Grace Lee (What’s So Great About That?)

The video essay is a notoriously hard genre to define. Grace Lee expertly uses the form to examine itself and avoids easy or cliché answers, appealing instead to our subjective intuition.

What Distinguishes the Great Existential Films? by Tom van der Linden (Like Stories of Old)

2021 came as a year of personal video essays. Blending a reading of real-world spaces and film, Tom explores his love of existential cinema through his love of empty churches.

The Game That Won’t Let You See All of It by Jacob Geller

Geller looks at how a video game, several films, and a TV show use their structure to examine the passage of time.

Midsommar ’s Audiovisual Tricks by Spikima Movies

Sometimes video essays serve a very practical purpose. Ari Aster’s Midsommar got under my skin, and I wanted to know why. But I was too unsettled to dive deeply enough into Midsommar’s world to figure out why for myself. Fortunately, Spikima does the dirty work of thoroughly answering that question in this essay. Does knowing a film’s tricks make it less horrifying?

How Movies Helped Me Process My Mother’s Death by Adam Tinius (Entertain The Elk)

Adam Tinius, from Entertain The Elk, offers a deeply personal and emotional examination of how losing his mother to cancer compared to representations of death and grief in film.

EraserNomad by Liz Greene

Greene discovers an implausible but compelling visual link between Nomadland and Eraserhead. There’s a strange echo in how Jack Nance and Francis McDormand navigate these spaces. Perhaps their characters are haunted by a similar ghost.

Ian Garwood

Senior lecturer in film and television studies, University of Glasgow

Not that anyone will be checking back, but my list this year features only names who I have not picked for previous polls.

Marion Cotillard Doesn’t Exist (And This Is the Proof) by Elena G. Vilela

Not that anyone will be checking back, but my list this year features only names who I have not picked for previous polls. I love the ‘Truman Show’ conceit of this video, which is superbly realised through dead-pan narration and an incredibly astute selection of clips.

This is an exhaustive, yet consistently enlightening and accessible, treatise on the supercut. Three years in the making, Max Tohline’s feature-length essay identifies a dizzying array of precursors to the internet-era supercut, as well as pinpointing its aesthetic and ideological effects.

This is a fascinating essay that makes an imaginative and persuasive association between the technology of cinema and the stethoscope. Its philosophical analysis of cinematic listening is pursued through a wonderful selection of clips.

Practices of Viewing: Muted by Johannes Binotto

On the one hand, Johannes Binotto’s Practice of Viewing could be seen as something of a video essayist’s manual, each entry itemising a technique associated with video essay-making processes. However, there is nothing textbook about the way these techniques are discussed: the address is passionate and wide-ranging, offering enlightenment on why these processes fascinate, rather than a ‘how to’ instruction. I’ve chosen this particular entry as it aligns with my interest in sound. It also provides an ending that resonates uncannily with the preoccupations of Mediated Auscultation – so watch them as a double bill.

[Safe] and The Neon Demon in Dialogue by Oswald Iten

Like Binotto’s work, Oswald Iten’s three-part experimental mash-up of [Safe] and The Neon Demon is accessible through videoessayresearch.org , a research website that should be bookmarked by anyone interested in the development of videographic criticism. Each of the videos combines the films according to a different founding principle, providing captivating evidence for Jason Mittell’s claim that formal parameters lead to content discoveries.

TV Dictionary —  Bron/Broen ( II ) by Barbara Zecchi

Ariel Avissar’s curation of the TV Dictionary  series was a highlight of the year, one in which I was happy to indulge as both creator and viewer. I’m really interested in the range of approaches adopted to address the same brief: to encapsulate a TV series in one word. Barbara Zecchi chooses a distinctive path by allowing a scene to play out at length first, before introducing her chosen word, and then letting the scene resume, now understood in the light of that word. I won’t spoil the surprise by revealing the pivotal word (but it made me laugh)!

Picturing the Collective: Seven Days in May by Libertad Gills

One technique showcased in the TV Dictionary series was to let a scene play out with minimal, yet still integral, textual commentary. Libertad Gills, who added an entry on Derry Girls to the collection, adopts a similarly minimalist approach to her use of captions in this video, which runs through a sequence from Affonso Uchoa’s Seven Days in May. The result is an explanatory scene analysis that displays the lightest of touches.

Tomas Genevičius

Art critic, kritikosatlasas.com

Josephine Massarella: One Woman Walking by Stephen Broomer

The Moment of Recognition: Phantom Lady and Sorry, Wrong Number by Patrick Keating

Silence in The Passionate Friends by Oswald Iten

The Thinking Machine #50: Nicholas Ray — Notes on Style by Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin

Practices of Viewing: F. FWD by Johannes Binotto

Catherine Grant

Screen media-maker and publisher of scholarly video essays, and a former professor of screen studies (Website: https://catherinegrant.org )

Her first video essay and a superbly engaging work on Gen Z’s latest hub for film appreciation by the video essay’s MVP in 2021, which Queline followed up with another excellent study, The Two Worlds of Wolfwalkers . If these two huge achievements weren’t enough, Queline was also instrumental in the wonderful Essay Library Collaboration Project. Join the Essay Library Discord and check it out. And listen to Will DiGravio’s great conversation with her at the Video Essay Podcast ..

We were very lucky, at [in]Transition, the peer-reviewed video-essay journal I co-edit, to be able to publish some marvellous entries by new makers in this emergent scholarly field. Of the three I am highlighting here, one of the strongest in scholarly terms was this work that explored how one form of media (the stethoscope) might reveal something about another (cinema), and in so doing revisited some essential questions of cinema’s medium specificity in a supremely original way.

TERROR NULLIUS Unmixed by Caitlin Lynch

Given the ubiquity of global remix culture, Caitlin Lynch’s highly original proposal for a videographic research methodology designed to tackle this culture deserves a lifetime achievement award! What an amazingly useful concept ‘unmixing’ is, especially when it comes to deeply political work, like that by Australian collective Soda_Jerk. I can only agree with peer-reviewer Jaimie Baron who wrote that TERROR NULLIUS Unmixed shows that ‘the activities of remixing and unmixing, alternating in a potentially never-ending cycle, may constitute a productive strategy for grappling with our mediated traces of history, to which a definitive and closed meaning can never be attached.’

Stories of Haunted Houses: Female Subjects and Domestic Spaces in Contemporary Gothic Films and TV Series by Chiara Grizzaffi and Giulia Scomazzon

My personal favourite video essay on television and film, published in 2021, was co-authored by a new maker (Giulia Scomazzon) and by someone who is better known so far for her brilliant writing on video essays, my [in]Transition co-editor Chiara Grizzaffi (author of the great book I film attraverso i film. Dal «testo introvabile» ai «video essay»). Their collaboration produced a substantial and satisfying work, with affect like no other — a perfect combination of poetic, personal and scholarly approaches to contemporary female gothic films and tv series.

Outside the Lines by Dayna McLeod

One of the most exciting developments of 2021 was the turn to video essays made by established found footage and experimental film artists. Dayna McLeod is an internationally known Montreal based performance artist and video artist whose work often touches on topics of feminism, queer identity, and sexuality. In her first ever online video essays — on Lynch’s Wild at Heart — she shakes up the videographic universe with a wonderful fusion of personal-essay-filmmaking in a film critical vein. I really love what Dayna achieves in the incredibly concise and powerful frame of Outside the Lines.

Stephen Broomer is an internationally renowned experimental filmmaker, film preservationist, and scholar of Canadian cinema. His new turn to video essays in 2021 was both brilliant and prolific, resulting in two new series of high quality work: Art & Trash , which premiered in February 2021 with a twelve-episode first series of video essays on underground, avant-garde, psychotronic and outsider media, which his essay on Josephine Massarella inaugurated; and Detours, an equally rich new videographic series on the bruised soul of film noir . 2021 was an incredibly productive year from a remarkable filmmaker. I can’t wait for more.

TV Dictionary —  Derry Girls by Libertad Gills

My final vote in the poll (as I will retire after a long but happy stint as participant in it this year) goes to yet another young filmmaker, long interested in found footage, who is now making online video essays. Libertad Gills made my very favourite video essay, to date, in Ariel Avissar’s wonderful collaborative project TV Dictionary . Her work gets at the heart of what’s so brilliant about Derry Girls, which is no mean feat in three and half minutes, and reminds us, along the way, what a work of genius the series is.

Chiara Grizzaffi

Postdoctoral Fellow at IULM University. Co-editor of [in]Transition

Montegelato by Davide Rapp (watch trailer )

Screen Glare by Enrico Camporesi, Stefano Miraglia

Rites of THE PASSAGE by Catherine Grant & Deborah Martin

The Thinking Machine #49: The Burning House by Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin

A Woman’s Place: Home in Cinema by Louise Radinger Field

Practices of Viewing: Screenshots by Johannes Binotto

How Good Filmmaking Brings a Script to Life by Michael Tucker (Lessons From the Screenplay)

Cydnii Wilde Harris

Film scholar and video essayist

I’ve always loved a good homework assignment, and I’ve particularly enjoyed seeing everyone’s responses to Ariel’s prompt. Every one I’ve seen has been a standout. I particularly really enjoyed those that used the video essay medium to play with form and tone, and really capture the essence of their chosen tv shows. But one that stuck with me in particular was Ariel’s own on Seinfeld : A real punch of text, editing, laugh tracks, and humor for the tv show about nothing. A’s all around.

Johannes’s Practices series has been such a marvel throughout the year. With every new entry, I’m confronted with his genius, and it’s been really inspiring to bear witness. Muted in particular really resonated with me. The whole series feels like an interrogation of film history, media present, while somehow remaining deeply meditative and personal. Johannes’s work, without fail, always leaves me feeling invigorated, about what I’ve just seen, and what I could possibly do.

Rio Bravo Diary by Will DiGravio

Watching the Rio Bravo Diary unfold all year has been such a treat. I didn’t grow up with any real affinity for the western, so to read Will’s essays about what this film in particular meant to him growing up and coming of age really helped me reappraise this specific film. His transparency has been really revelatory to see, and I really appreciate how he’s invited us all to get to know him a little better through this year-long project. Further, the consistency and discipline of dealing with a single text for a full 365 is such an interesting experiment in the first place.

It is so, so cool to see someone top themselves so consistently. The things Jessica accomplishes here, the introspection, the way she was able to tackle the issue of accessibility while also broadening the topic, the interplay between film, the internet, and the various windows surrounding us all from literal glass panes to phone, tablet, tv, and theater screens. I don’t think I’ve ever wished a video essay would keep going while also being so impressed by how perfectly it ends. It’s just so dynamic in every sense of the word, and incredibly well done.

let’s talk about sexless media | feminism, christianity, violence, etc by wit and folly

This is a video essay that somehow managed to synthesise an online conversation with such care and context that I can’t help but share it with friends. What they accomplish is one of my favourite forms of video essays on YouTube. It’s informative, well researched, yet personable and accessible. Their argument flows really nicely, and the citations do a lot to back up the personal statements made. It also really nicely laid out something that maybe I had felt about a recent media trend, but hadn’t yet been able to articulate myself. If I had to answer the question of sex scenes in films, I would simply point to this video essay as my answer.

Gab the Goat (ft. Yhara Zayd): A Celebration of Gabrielle Union & An F-U to Colorism and Tokenism by Melina Pendulum

I’m so happy I waited to submit, because these are two of my favourite video essayists discussing one of my favourite actresses (I’m also happy because it means I get to nominate them both under a single entry). I think sometimes we have a knee jerk reaction to group projects, and I think this video essay is a perfect example of how to combine two distinct voices and visions into a single project. The exploration into Union’s career is long overdue and so deserved. I think what struck me most was how strong the voice was. They make no apologies for their stance, and really challenge Hollywood to not just reflect but act. They really manage to ask some tough questions of not just the Hollywood system, but those that benefit from it. It’s theory with praxis and it’s all deliciously powerful.

Oswald Iten

Film scholar, video essayist, animator, PhD researcher

‘The Lighthouse’ (2021) by Leonardo Govoni, Cristina López Caballer, Mehran Abdollahi

Amuse-œil by Eric Faden

Barbara Stanwyck Rides Again by Shannon Harris, Catherine Russell

Sound and Silence in Gravity: Fidelity vs Intelligibility by Jordan Schonig

Special Mention: A Supercut of Supercuts by Max Tohline.

Miklós Kiss

Associate professor in audiovisual arts and cognition at University of Groningen, NL / co-author of Film Studies in Motion: From Audiovisual Essay to Academic Research Video

A wonderfully rich follow-up of Visual Disturbances (on my S&S best of list of 2019) on the analytical urge of ‘interrogating’ filmic images, obsessing on a rather invisible 1.14-second-long shot from Citizen Kane, and on those ‘small gifts for the eye’ that subtly but abundantly appear in Playtime. Like I said earlier: Faden’s care for quality is admirable and inspiring.

Mike Figgis on Timecode and Split-Screen Cinema by Leigh Singer

The COVID pandemic has normalised a once special technique of split screen, forcing its ‘cubist psychology’ on us while locked in our homes with only virtual split-windows to the world. Singer’s interview with Mike Figgis, director of the quadruple split screen film Timecode, is a highly informative, superbly comprehensive, and abundantly illustrated walkthrough of the (cinematic) history and effect of the technique.

Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse, but as an ethnographic documentary exploring the life of lighthouse keepers in the early 20th century, directed by Robert Flaherty. An ‘ethnographic screwmeneutics’ project by the students of my Videographic Criticism course at the University of Groningen.

A massive (two hours!) video on supercuts, covering every possible angle on the technique, thereby forcing all the other supercut-researchers to find another subject of study.

Keating, with his signature analytical thoroughness, walks us through his audiovisual thinking process, distinguishing between camera movements delivering characters’ ‘revelation’ and ‘recognition’.

VR supercut diorama, the first of its kind, piecing together 180 films, TV series and commercials of the Monte Gelato waterfalls (near Rome) in 3D and with spatialised audio. Great idea, incredible effort, and superb implementation. Cinephile goosebumps are guaranteed!

Jaap Kooijman

Associate professor in media studies, University of Amsterdam, organiser ASCA videographic criticism seminar

The Black and White Coffee Set by Barbara Zecchi

Barbara Zecchi’s The Black and White Coffee Set is brilliant in its simplicity. The focus on one prop (he black-and-white coffee set in Ana Muylaert’s Que horas ela volta?) and the way the design of the audiovisual essay aesthetically repeats it, effectively work together to show the narrative importance of a seemingly mundane object. While its playfulness makes the audiovisual essay enjoyable to watch, its more ‘serious’ argument about Brazilian class and race relations remains clear throughout.

Staring Back by Sara Delshad

Although Staring Back works perfectly well as a study of auteurism, convincingly showing a signature style of filmmaker Chris Marker, Sara Delshad’s audiovisual essay stands out for me in the way it forces the viewer to become aware of their own subject position. The audiovisual essay highlights the human and non-human animal subjects staring back at the camera and, in extension, at the viewer. Those moments when the subjects answer the viewer’s gaze evokes a feeling – at least in me – of being caught staring. Delshad cleverly uses slow motion and freeze frame to enhance this sensation.

Sonic Chronicle, Post Sound by Cormac Donnelly

Some audiovisual essays really teach you something new. In Sonic Chronicle, Post Sound, Cormac Donnelly applies R. Murray Schafer’s definition of the soundscape to sonically analyze the newsrooms scenes in Zodiac, The Post, and All the President’s Men. Donnelly uses both sonic and visual techniques to make sound tangible, enabling those with untrained ears, like myself, not only to pay attention to, but also make sense of sound.

Evelyn Kreutzer

Postdoctoral researcher, Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf

Practices of Viewing: Mask by Johannes Binotto

I always attempt to curate my suggestions for the annual best video essays lists in a way that represents the breadth of video-essayistic output. Binotto’s Practices of Viewing series reflects sophisticated, in-depth, and yet very accessible and informative introductions to film-analytical concepts that are very suitable for both teaching purposes and film-scholarly thinking more broadly. I like Mask in particular because it evokes multiple layers of cinematic framing and spectatorship that seems to speak intuitively to our current moment of increasingly ‘masked’ experiences of the world.

Silence and Words: Voice-over and Trauma in Coixet & Campion by Barbara Zecchi

Barbara Zecchi’s video essay is a powerful, deeply affective video on cinematic sound, specifically the transcendence of internal and external sound (experience and narration). As a sound scholar, I always look and listen for videos like these.

The Typewriter (Supercut) by Ariel Avissar

Ariel Avissar’s video is less an academic video essay than it is an impressive, entertaining, and insightful supercut of a single object/motif across numerous media sources that is simple in its conceptual premise but very sophisticated in its execution and certainly provocative of critical reflexion.

TV Dictionary —  Marcella by Barbara Zecchi

Like the entire TV Dictionary  series (curated by Ariel Avissar), Barbara Zecchi’s video on Marcella turns the seemingly narrow pairing of a dictionary entry to a TV series into a multi-faceted, scholarly evocative, and visually stunning exercise. I like the whole series but so far this entry has been my favorite.

Video essayist

I don’t know what I was doing this year, but apparently it wasn’t watching a whole lot of videos, so no ‘hidden gems’ from me this year. But these three entertaining and engaging videos, while popular in terms of views, may have slipped through the more academic net. So enjoy!

Space Jam 2 is a Lie by John Walsh (Super Eyepatch Wolf)

I’m a sucker for some fiction, and Super Eyepatch Wolf sure knows how to have fun with the video essay format, making some of the most creative uses of the form. This video was a stand out for me this year.

The Battle of SHARKS ! By CGP  Grey

A charming story of the battle between art and city council planning permission, I don’t know if I’ve ever finished a video feeling more giddy and delighted. Review from my mum: “That video is worth more than every other video on YouTube put together, and deserves an award.”

CO - VID s: the 90’s neoliberal fantasia as experienced by daria morgendorffer, millennial by Ian Danskin (Innuendo Studios)

A wonderful defense of a defense of millennial teens, and an account of millennial nostalgia, which I am already nostalgic for. Ahh 28th Jan 2021, when I was still so full of hope for the year ahead. Ian Danskin continues to make exceptionally engaging videos from a deeply personal perspective that perfectly balances anecdote and academia.

Kevin B. Lee

Video essayist and educator; @alsolikelife

Three Minutes: A Lengthening by Bianca Stigter (watch trailer )

Three minutes of home movie footage taken in 1938 are explored through an impressive array of videographic techniques to create a vast and deeply moving contemplation on lives lost and history regained.

Also: ‘One Thousand and One Attempts to Be an Ocean’ by Wang Yuyan (watch trailer ), whose epileptic temporality goes in the polar opposite direction to achieve its own revelatory experience of the extreme online present.

Home When You Return by Carl Elsaesser (see details )

Stretching and blurring the boundaries of video essay, experimental film and home movie, traces of a 1950s homemade melodrama by amateur filmmaker Joan Thurber Baldwin intermingle with a mournful homage to the author’s grandmother and her vacated home. A powerful mélange of cinematic and domestic spaces, past and present.

Also: Screening Room: On Digital Film Festivals , by Jessica McGoff

Launched this year, this series currently consists of five video essays, each concerning a different method through which viewing is mediated (muting, screenshot, pausing, fast forwarding, masking). With an arresting combination of playfulness and obsessiveness, Binotto re-performs and reflects upon the techniques that govern spectatorship.

Also: Amuse-oeil by Eric Faden

What Isn’t a Video Essay? By Grace Lee (What’s So Great About That?)

YouTube video essays have generally bloated into hours-long vlogfests to maximize monetization algorithms, but here is a rigorously crafted tour de force that rewards rewatching for the many memeic details it contains. It breathlessly performs a mind engaging the internet on its own terms, utilizing the temporal and audiovisual affordances of always-on networked life to reflect thoughtfully back upon itself.

Also: The Scholarly Video Essay by Ian Garwood. Garwood demurs from calling this a video essay, but they certainly demonstrate how pre-recorded lectures can evolve from a lowly COVD -era necessity into an arresting videographic form in its own right.

This was released just around last year’s poll; since then it’s become a go-to reference for film dinosaurs like me to make sense of how film culture can thrive among a new generation and its preferred platforms.

Also, this .

Transitional Moments in Cinematic Virtual Reality by Sarah Atkinson

A critical and revealing interrogation of the gender (en)coding of virtual reality as it has been presented in cinema, implicitly calling for a more inclusive re-coding of these mediums not only as a means for entertainment but for social co-presence.

Also: Michael Ironside and I by Marian Mayland (watch trailer )

The Best Simpsons Episode is About Losing Everything You Love by Jacob Geller

As also evidenced in his The Game That Won’t Let You See All of It , Geller is able to narrate the YouTube video essay and its pop culture preoccupations into areas of uncommon sensitivity and existential poignancy.

Also: Mad Men’s Babylon: Mapping out a Musical Metaphor by Ariane Hudelet

Adrian Martin

Film critic and audiovisual essayist

Satirical pastiches are good when they are accurate, and this one is so accurate it manages to satirise several things at once, from nerd-fan culture to the Kogonada craze.

Prendre conscience / perdre connaissance by Occitane Lacurie

The smart conjunction of Last Year at Marienbad and Westworld via a quote from surrealist cinephile Robert Benayoun – I could hardly ask for anything more.

Most audiovisual essays depend on some level of prior film analysis, but not so many are actually very good at really achieving an analysis above the most obvious and basic undergraduate level. Keating is an excellent analyst and he turns his insights into finely constructed montage pieces, like this one.

A lot of so-called remix culture simply, from Adam Curtis downward, simply celebrates the brute fact of being able to sample and throw things together — often quite incoherently. Lynch’s superb work takes a patient strategy of unmixing to comment on those genuine remix masters, the Soda_Jerk team.

Vedette — For Laura Mulvey by Catherine Grant

Catherine Grant’s dispositifs of audiovisual comparison, often with an inscribed text component, can look deceptively simple. This one revealingly lines up words from Laura Mulvey’s recent work with breathtaking passages of two classic Max Ophüls films.

Dialogue III : CAROL / JESSE by Oswald Iten

This is the culminating and best work in Iten’s series interweaving Todd Haynes’ Safe and Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon. More than a matter of demonstrating the banal influence of one film or filmmaker on another, this audiovisual essay achieves a dreamy, hallucinatory intensity and texture.

Secrets of Ghosts by Johanna Vaude

If you’re going to re-imagine a pre-existing film in a new and creative montage, really push it to something extreme. Vaude, among the most masterful of all practitioners in this field, works her special magic on Mulholland Drive, part of her series of ongoing commissions from Arte’s BLOW UP  program.

Daniel Mcilwraith

Video essayist and video editor

in process… | james benning at neugerriemschneider by Erika Balsom

The Representation of Rape on Screen by Lucie Emch

Alan O’L eary

Associate professor of film and media in digital contexts at Aarhus University. His manifesto for a parametric videographic criticism was published this year in NECSUS .

Nuit Debout/Up At Night by Nelson Makengo (watch trailer )

Congolese artist-filmmaker Nelson Makengo spreads his portrait of Kinshasa, a city beset by power cuts, across three screens punctuated with bare lightbulbs and the dancing beams of torches, the whole underpinned by an evocative sound world of generator noises, off-screen conversations and voices from the radio. Some participants at the ethnographic film festival where I saw Up At Night complained they found the three-screen format distracting, but it is precisely the reflexive use of multiscreen—sometimes showing identical images, sometimes different, and sometimes nothing—that places Up At Night in the essay film tradition and lifts it clear of documentary or auto-ethnography.

Obliged to placate a UK funding system structurally suspicious of academic and artistic enquiry, Screenworks , the journal of practice research in screen media, insists on a detailed setting out of research questions and social impact for each of its video publications. Elisabeth Brun duly complies in the statement accompanying her intimate and spectacular 3 x Shapes of Home, but the film contains all the elements it needs to explain itself. I love how it’s unsatisfied with, and unafraid to compromise, its own beauty, and how the playful voiceover interacts dynamically with content and form. It’s a sensual and conceptual treat.

Ian Garwood has used tweets as ‘research outputs’ in a novel way as part of his Indy Vinyl project (see his 2020 article in NECSUS ) but Will DiGravio has actually deployed the structural affordances of Twitter in his year-long analysis of Rio Bravo. In 365 daily tweets, DiGravio methodically posted 22-second clips from Hawk’s film prefaced by an observation or reaction in 280 characters. This is ‘video/essay’ as iterative performance rather than reporting of analysis and I like to think of it in the tradition of Barthes’ S/Z, where scientific method is pushed to absurdist (and intensely personal) ends.

The Television Will Not Be Summarized by Elizabeth Alsop

Elizabeth Alsop is concerned in this video essay with an ‘exhibitionism’ that resists and exceeds plot summary in shows like The Leftovers, Hannibal and Twin Peaks: The Return. Alsop talks in her [in]Transition creator statement of confronting the methodological challenge of dramatizing (rather than summarizing) spectacular televisual phenomena without merely appropriating their rhetorical force. I admire how she meets this challenge with wit and economy (and without voiceover) through a combination of sound and cryptic imagery, multiscreen and onscreen text. The framing sections effectively stage the meditative experience of the extended extracts that form the central bulk of the video essay.

OUT OF PLACE (Or, Lost in NOMADLAND ) by Catherine Grant

Apparently, Catherine Grant has asked not to be mentioned in this year’s poll, but it would be strange to omit our leading role model in ‘filmmaking research’ (Grant’s preferred term). Anyway, I have chosen an epigraphic video I don’t particularly like. Grant’s treatment of onscreen text is exemplary, as ever, but the quote from Sarah Ahmed is coercive and folksy, while the juxtaposition of quirky music and looped images of Frances McDormand risks whimsy. The point for me, though, is that this sketch forms part of a broader practice that is always more than the sum of its video parts.

He Almost Forgets That There Is a Maker of the World by Ben Spatz, N. Eda Erçin, Caroline Gatt and Agnieszka Mendel

In this essay, onscreen text is used to annotate a 30-minute single-take recording of researcher-performers using speech, song and body to interact with books and each other to investigate some meanings of Jewishness. This ‘illuminated video’, as maker Ben Spatz dubs it, is an expression of what Spatz refers to in a series of writings as ‘the video way of thinking’ (see 2018 article of that name and the 2020 book ‘ Making a Laboratory ’). What I particularly value here is the idea and practice of essay-making as an experimental situation rather than as the mere documentation or reporting of research.

Julian Palmer

YouTube video essayist, The Discarded Image

A trip into the video essay metaverse, but done in a unique and funny style that makes potentially academic content propulsively entertaining.

Using a combination of self-shot footage (mostly churches) and some of the great existential films from Bergman, Schrader, Tarkovsky, Malkick, etc, LSOO explores why he’s drawn to religious art and architecture, without being overtly religious himself, which I can relate to.

The Invisible Horror of The Shining by Kristian T. Williams (kaptainkristian)

After being away from the scene for two years, it was great to see the return of Kristian’s trademark slick style. He takes arguably the most talked to death film of all time, and makes it fresh.

Why Is Bo Burnham’s Inside like That? by Thomas Flight

Clearly inspired by Bo Burnham’s groundbreaking achievement, Flight applies many similar techniques—with numerous camera set-ups and video essay styles—to explore that work in a wholly original way.

The Transformation of Anthony Hopkins by Luís Azevedo (Little White Lies)

A touching and creative tribute to the legendary actor. Azevedo has Hopkins in dialogue with himself, creating an emotional journey through his many roles.

I’m sure we all use movies to guide us through the toughest times. And this emotionally raw video uses them as a way to remember a loved one, and deal with a devastating loss.

Jemma Saunders

Audio-visual PhD student at the University of Birmingham

Epigraph —  Grand Budapest Hotel by Owen Mason-Hill

Concise videographic epigraph that explores and pleasingly manipulates colour, maintaining an Anderson aesthetic throughout.

Documentary as a Genre of Fiction by Oscar Mealia

A complex reflection on documentary storytelling that focuses on Orson Welles’ F for Fake and includes a performative element from the creator. Rich in its academic grounding and playful in execution.

Audiovisual Film Criticism and Cosmopolitanism ( AKA The Haunting of the Headful Academics) by Ian Garwood

A video essay that ate other video essays. This really resonated with me, not only for its acknowledgement and incorporation of the Zoom space we have inhabited for much of the last two years, but for the important questions it poses about how we choose our material as essayists.

I just find this joyous to watch: beautifully paced and a brilliant example of how the supercut can reveal as well as revere.

This is a powerful and haunting piece of work. In slowing down, repeating, and zooming in to archival footage, it forces the viewer to confront and re-engage with what may seem familiar images of the Holocaust.

BBC Inside Cinema series

Many of these bite-size explorations are essentially well-crafted compilations with voiceovers rather than more experimental or academically essayistic pieces, but I learn something every time I watch one. There’s an eclectic range of topics, from uncanny spaces and nuns on film; to examinations of the macguffin and credit sequences.

An Investigation of Colour in Black Mirror by Matt Cook

I’m a firm believer that any video essay should make the most of the form and this is a strong example of an undergraduate doing just that through employing various audio-visual techniques to develop his argument. It’s great to hear a regional accent too!

Daniel Schindel

Associate editor, Hyperallergic

ACTION BUTTON REVIEWS Tokimeki Memorial by Tim Rogers (Action Button)

Tim Rogers transitioned from being a leader within New Games Journalism to producing some of the most in-depth video reviews about video games and how they create meaning. This epic six-hour essay goes in-depth on a little-known Japanese romance game, including summaries of two playthroughs of it. In line with the rest of Rogers’s work, it is not merely about this game, but about a sprawling, branching series of fascinating tangents around interpersonal relationships and how interactive art can engage them.

Why Don’t the Cops Fight Each Other? by Grayson Earle

A terrific example of found commentary in pop culture. The designers of Grand Theft Auto V likely didn’t intend to make a statement on the ‘Blue Wall of Silence’, but by programming police officers not to attack one another, no matter what, they unwittingly replicated real-world dynamics. Earle turns his tinkering with the game’s code into an intriguing investigation into media message-making.

Identity: A Trans Coming Out Story by Abigail Thorn (Philosophy Tube)

This is the least ‘essay-like’ work on my ballot, but Abigail Thorn is pushing the creative envelope so much within the field of popular YouTubers that I feel she deserves mention. One thing I love about Philosophy Tube is how Thorn finds a way to incorporate the concepts she discusses into the forms of the videos themselves. Here, she makes clear the performative nature of gender by having a cis male portray the closeted, male-presenting version of herself. The moment when that actor steps aside and Thorn comes out (sorry) is one of my favourite in any video this year.

The way that Binotto scrutinises the structures and conventions of digital modes of viewing through the lens of analog interfaces is consistently engrossing. It’s always a treat each time a new instalment in this series pops up.

There had to be something here acknowledging the pandemic, and McGoff’s literate and deeply considered rumination on the experience of a virtual film festival spoke more to my supremely odd times as a cinephile under lockdown than anything else I’ve seen on the matter.

The History of the Atlanta Falcons by Jon Bois, Alex Rubenstein, Joe Ali

Jon Bois might just be my favourite documentarian working today, and I have a strong suspicion that soon a lot more internet videos are going to be taking cues from his work. This multipart look at the trials and tribulations of the Falcons is a longform study of failure in all its myriad forms. In the hands of Bois and his collaborators, we see in this team a devastating series of near-misses, could-have-beens, and lost opportunities. Sports narratives often focus on snatching victory from the jaws of defeat; who knew the opposite could be so engrossing?

My only complaint about Grace Lee is that she doesn’t upload more often! Especially since in her recent work she’s demonstrated an incredible visual sensibility, casually packing tons of information — jokes, easter eggs, and more — into every shot. This video is near and dear to my heart because it speaks to my own struggles to define video essays, and my gnawing feeling that sometimes we might be getting too permissive with the term, or alternatively too restrictive. Few essayists explore this kind of ambivalence as well as Lee.

Shannon Strucci

Video essayist,  StrucciMovies

how i would defeat the immortal snail by Faline San

Faline San’s videos are typically anecdotes about her life or explanations of her thought process regarding bizarre niche topics. They caught my attention due to her quick pacing, engaging storytelling, her finely-tuned (and very funny) editing style, and her self-deprecating sense of humor. how i would defeat the immortal snail is a great example of this – it’s essentially a ten minute rant about a Reddit thought experiment , but it’s very funny and complex. This is especially impressive considering she is still a teenager, and I look forward to seeing what work she produces in the future!

The Bizarre World of Fake Psychics, Faith Healers, and Mediums by John Walsh (Super Eyepatch Wolf)

John’s essays are always funny and thought-provoking and he had some more avant-garde videos this year that pushed video essays as a medium (specifically his Space Jam and Dell nightmare videos, which I’d also recommend) but his fake psychics video stood out to me as something with the potential to help save a viewer from being taken advantage of, which is tremendously valuable. It’s dense with research and history and comes from both a place of anger and empathy. It’s a fantastic video.

Scout Tafoya

Johannes had a hell of a year. This whole series is superb.

Tenderness — Rio Bravo Diary by Will DiGravio

De la femme by Caterina Cucinotta and Jesús Ramé López

Reimagining Blackness and Architecture ( MOMA ) by Russell Yaffe, Rafael Salazar Moreno ( RAVA  Films)

Great series.

Our Focus by Kevin B. Lee

Max Tohline

Independent media scholar and video essayist

Flight of the Navigator | VFX Cool by Alan Melikdjanian (Captain Disillusion)

Captain Disillusion’s videos debunking viral hoaxes or misinformation about visual effects wizardry have been top-tier YouTube content for years, but nothing could have prepared me for this ravishing deconstruction of the technical magic in the cult-classic Flight of the Navigator. I don’t have euphoric superlatives extreme enough for how I felt watching this video the first time — not only does C.D. use VFX to analyze VFX (probably the final boss of videographic criticism); his attention, research, wit, obsession, and good old fashioned formal analysis blow everything else out of the water.

Though it has stiff competition from Faden, Keating, Mittell, and others, Mediated Auscultation is my favorite peer-reviewed essay of the year. Like many film scholars, I’ve never given enough attention to sound — precisely because sound never struck me as being essentially ‘cinematic’. But Talijan shows that cinema’s promise of immersive sensing from a distance applies as much to sound as image. The icing on the cake is that while plenty of video essays are ‘meditative’, few have made the tone demonstrate the argument as Talijan does here, with the audio putting me in a near- ASMR  haze.

I never realized it was possible to deploy a parody of a video essay (in this case a classic on neorealism from kogonada) in the service of an argument that is not only NOT a joke, but possibly richer than that of the original. Whereas kogonada merely illustrated a reasonably conventional understanding of the difference between de Sica’s style and classical Hollywood style, Avissar completely overturned my narrow-minded received takes on Snyder by offering me a different mode of attention. Even if an ambiguity remains as to what Snyder’s style ‘means’, I’ll never pigeonhole him the same way again.

No Face Is an Incel by CJ the X

Generally I’d exclude wall-to-wall-talking-head channels from a list of great video essays, but CJ the X is in the middle of an annus mirabilis. So, for those who don’t have the 2.5 hours for CJ ’s urgent cry-of-the-soul Burnham/Bezos essay , here’s an intoxicating 100-mile-an-hour sprint of an essay that performs a Žižekian looking-awry on Spirited Away that might not be dressed up in academic finery, but has a more nimble intellect than many who’ve put up with the steamroller of peer review.

As we enter the eighth or ninth wave of rumination on what ‘counts’ as a video essay and how to think videographically, Johannes Binotto has become the undisputed master of reflection on the everyday practices of viewing that form the foundation of what video essayists do. Watching his ongoing Practices of Viewing series (in particular the one on the screenshot, but also others on pausing, fast-forwarding, muting), I felt like I’d found Arne Saknussemm’s name scratched into the cave wall— a fellow traveler.

eye / contact by Niki Radman

This essay takes its time and a good deal of text setting up its argument, but when it finally unveils its purely visual denouement — a 3x3 grid of images that jaw-droppingly links one note of Barry Jenkins’s formal language with his whole symphony of themes surrounding identity — I felt like I was gonna turn into drops.

Inside: Are Video Games Art? by Arttective

The tip of the YouTube iceberg conceals a Sierpinski triangle of icebergs beneath it — so many that it’s mathematically remarkable that any individual essay ever made it to my eyes at all. Had I not met Arttective on the Essay Library Discord server, I wouldn’t have seen this gem, which uses the rewind and skip keys on YouTube to inject some tantalizing interactivity into the grammar of the video essay. But I’m so glad I did: the experience is engrossing. If anyone out there solves the puzzle in this video, please let me know the answer!

David Verdeure

Creator, collector and curator of video essays under the nom de video Filmscalpel

The pandemic proves fertile ground for video essays. Changing film distribution models mean movies are available sooner to audiovisual critics. In-person and live events have been replaced with pre-taped materials, creating another vein of visuals for video essay makers to tap into. We’re often confined to our personal visual echo chambers that are filled with screens that confound as much as they clarify. And that we’re forced to spend more time in close quarters may also contribute to the unmistakable trend that video essays are getting longer. In 2021 audiovisual strategies that are common to the video essay popped up everywhere. In academia and the arts. In news broadcasts and film festivals. In talk shows and on TikTok. These are just a few remarkable examples.

In his feature-length video Tohline gives an overview of the history, the aesthetics and the modus operandi of the supercut. He examines the tension between its dueling impulses of (fannish) desire and serious analysis, and he proposes strategies to increase the form’s critical impact. But most important is how Tohline regards the supercut not as a mere editing technique but as the material expression of a specific and novel way of thinking. We try to make sense of the world by ordering it into either archives or databases, and the supercut is the poster child for that database mode.

Just when you think the whole supercut model has been mapped, along comes an innovative application of this strategy. Davide Rapp combines clips of the Monte Gelato waterfalls near Rome into a 28-minute VR collage. Scores of rectangular film and television scenes together form a full circle, recasting the role of the spectator from immobile viewer in a theater seat to participatory flaneur. Montegelato is an immersive three-dimensional palimpsest that puts the viewer at the center of this nexus of cinematic storytelling: a location that inspired filmmakers working across different genres, in different times and with very different means.

Gyres 1-3 by Ellie Ga (watch excerpt )

American artist Ellie Ga’s single channel video installation Gyres 1-3 is another example of how to put an inventive spin on a classic videographic strategy. This is a desktop video essay of sorts, with the desktop being a light table onto which she arranges and rearranges transparent photographs. Her essayistic voice over narration is triggered by the succession of (often) archetypal images that serve as lodestars for the video’s loose narrative structure. But unlike the more traditional virtual desktop, Ellie Ga’s physical handling of the transparent slides adds a tactile and more personal touch to the process.

Under the White Mask: The Film That Haesaerts Could Have Made by Matthias De Groof (watch trailer )

In 1958 Paul Haesaerts made Under the Black Mask, a documentary on Congolese art. That Belgian film was formally inventive but it also perpetuated racist stereotypes. Scholar and filmmaker Matthias De Groof remixed Haesaerts’ film into a scathing critique of colonialism. He combined the footage of mute masks with an impassioned voice over by slam poet Maravilha Munto. In Haesaerts’ version, art hid atrocities. Aestheticism was used as a mask for the ugly face of colonialism to hide behind. This powerful remix tears off that mask: it uses exactly the same artistic means but reclaims their critical potential.

Cinema Turns: Catalan Creative Documentary by Celia Sainz

In this beautifully paced and expertly constructed video essay Celia Sainz focuses on a quartet of documentary films made in Catalonia over the past two decades by female filmmakers. She does not seek to ascribe a collective national identity or ideological agenda to these works but looks for shared artistic (cinematographic and narrative) strategies. Like the creative documentaries it studies, this video essay uses time and tone to drive home its points. The assured audiovisual approach and well-judged rhythm of this piece are part and parcel to its intellectual and affective impact.

Lucie Emch’s video essay deals with the troublesome on-screen representation of rape. She starts off in a conventional way but then brings music videos into the mix. The video essay really hits its stride when it mashes up Jenny Wilson’s RAPIN * music video (from 2018) with Ida Lupino’s film Outrage (from 1950).

This fine piece was published by Tecmerin. That online journal deserves to be lauded for its persistent efforts to bring to the fore the work of video essay makers who are not native English speakers, and for the fact it reviews and publishes pieces in many different languages.

Barbara Zecchi

Professor and director of the film studies programme, University of Massachusetts Amherst

The most intelligent video-essay I’ve seen on sound (or rather, on lack of sound) in cinema. Brilliant!

With over 40 works to date, Ariel Avissar’s intelligent project has certainly accomplished its expected goal of increasing the video essay’s interest in television products. It has also achieved a less expected result: it strengthened a community of video essayists who have engaged playfully in this almost addictive collaborative endeavor.

Film Thought 1. Will the Plausible: On FIVE CARD STUD by Will DiGravio

Skillfully produced (superb storytelling and rhythm), this video-essay takes full advantage of the form’s possibilities by centering in a simple perceptive observation. A little gem which marks the beginning of a promising new series by Will DiGravio

Cinephilia translated into an audiovisual essay at its best. A deeply personal and emotional account of Adrian Martin’s love for film and for film analysis becomes one of the best pieces I can think of on a rigorous and theoretical reflection on the video-graphic essay as a form.

Public Controversy and Film Censorship. The release of All Quiet on Western Front (1930) in Berlin by Manuel Palacio y Ana Mejón

I saw this video-essay for the first time when Ana Mejón presented it at the video-graphic webinar organized by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid in September. I was immediately impressed. It’s a superbly crafted video-essay that condenses thorough and serious work of scholarly research.

A powerful and chilling work that did not go unnoticed at the Adelio Ferrero Festival, Italy. I look forward to the multi-modal project that will be published in the upcoming issue of Research in Film and History together with this video-essay.

It’s so smart and funny, and, as Jason Mittell said, it “speaks to many of us.”

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Other things to explore

The best video essays of 2023.

By Queline Meadows

The best films of 2023 – all the votes

Martin scorsese on winning sight and sound’s best films of 2023 poll with killers of the flower moon.

top 10 video essays

Notes on Videographic Criticism

top 10 video essays

Volume 4, Issue 3: The Best Video Essays of 2023

Plus, a mix of new videographic publications, cfps, and more.

top 10 video essays

For the seventh time, the venerable British magazine Sight & Sound has published a survey of the year’s “best” video essays . Curated this year by Irina Trocan, Queline Meadows, and Will Webb, this year’s poll features “48 voters from 17 countries, including academics, critics, online creators and festival curators. Together, their 260 nominations include 181 distinct titles.”

The BFI logo

For the fifth time, I sent in ballot, which reads as follows:

Each year, it gets more difficult to be a viewer of video essays; it is a beautiful and frustrating thing. More people are making them. They are longer. They screen at festivals, and in varied corners of the internet. Below are a few of the video essays that have resonated with me this year. Rather than try and explain why I picked them, I will instead attempt to describe something in each work. Here’s hoping it might inspire you to give them all a watch. Joséphine Baker Watches Herself by Terri Francis [3:43] On the left, Joséphine Baker performs in the famous skirt made out of bananas. On the right, a clip from a 1968 CBC interview with Baker. Below, a translation on screen: “No, it’s about work. You have to work hard.” A video essay that grows richer with each rewatch. Apostles of Cinema (Tenzi za sinema) by Cece Mlay, Darragh Amelia, Gertrude Malizana, Jesse Gerard Mpango “I like quality films. And I like difficult films,” says DJ Black. But if it is bad, “I can’t dub it.” [04:51] An incisive documentary about film culture in Tanzania. watch me sleep: self-surveillance and middle-aging queer performance anxiety by Dayna McLeod There’s a moment in the second minute I felt throughout my whole body. A revelation. Void by Kevin Ferguson The persistence of Robert Duvall’s bald head, especially at [00:13] and [04:46]. Why the Internet Loves Buster Keaton by Don McHoull I imagine Don’s masterful montages of the internet’s response to Keaton’s artistry, and also that of Fayard and Harold Nicholas, playing on the wall of a gallery. moving poems: a raisin in the sun (1961) by Desirée de Jesús Water ripples. Sidney Poitier, playing with his lighter, gestures for a drink. His finger points to the text on screen, “in the sun?” Off-screen dialogue plays. [00:26] A harmonious blend of sound, image, and text. Miss Me Yet by Chris Bell Each episode begins with George W. Bush raising his middle finger to the camera, a gesture that becomes more grotesque and poignant the more one watches.

As always, reading the list this year came with a fantastic sense of discovery, and also the occasional, “How did I miss that one?!”, or “That was released this year?!” I look forward to revisiting the list again and again in the coming months and years.

I am equally excited to share a new episode of The Video Essay Podcast, “Curating Sight & Sound 's Best Video Essays of 2023.” In a conversation moderated by Kevin B. Lee, the curators of this year's list discuss the results of the poll, their curatorial strategies, and offer general thoughts on the video essay landscape in 2023.

This episode is the first in an ongoing collaboration between The Video Essay Podcast and Kevin, who, in his role as the Locarno Film Festival Professor for the Future of Cinema at USI University of Lugano, is leading a three-year research project on video essays with Johannes Binotto and Evelyn Kreutzer, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Thanks for reading Notes on Videographic Criticism! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.

News & Notes

Have something you would like featured in this section? Email me! willdigravio[at]gmail.com.

Lucy Fife Donaldson, Colleen Laird, Dayna McLeod and Alison Peirse have announced a new videographic initiative, Ways of Doing . From their website :

We are fostering an ethical praxis of audiovisual research, including the modeling of feminist citational practices, collective care, and the creation of an inclusive, videographic community of practitioners. We encourage engagement with the resources we offer here and provide suggestions on citational practices for the classroom and for your own creative practice.

Applications are now open for the 2024 Scholarship in Sound & Image Workshop at Middlebury College! From Jason Mittell:

Join me, Catherine Grant and Dayna McLeod in Middlebury Vermont from June 16-29 to learn how to make videographic work, whether you're new to the form or have experience and want to develop your skills & style.

Applications are due February 12, 2014. For more information on the program, tuition, and beautiful Middlebury, Vermont (yes, I am biased!) click here .

Calls for Video Essays

II International Permanent Seminar Intersecting Perspectives on Spanish Media: Women and Horror, June 13th and 14th, Campus Madrid-Puerta Toledo (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid):

This seminar aims to address the relationship between women and horror in Spanish cinema and TV from various perspectives, with special attention to contemporary works, but without overlooking the influence that past works have had on present views in terms of themes, representation, or circulation. We invite submissions of papers or video essays on the following topics: Horror works directed and/or written by women. Social and aesthetic representation of women in horror films and TV series. Genre hybridity, horror & gender. Horror subgenres (slasher, zombie films, etc.) and gender Female stars & horror. Horror & the representation of LGBTQI+ subjectivities and bodies. Horror, gender & class. Distribution and consumption of Horror Films and its relationship with gender. Connections between Spanish media and other industries with a special focus on Latin America. Deadline for proposals: February 15, 2024. More here .

The Essay Library invites submissions for the collaborative project, “These Video Essays Do Not Exist | An April Fools' Day collaboration.” Learn more here ahead of the March 24, 2024 deadline.

The Jimmy Stewart Museum invites submissions for its Video Essay Showcase. No deadline is given, but works will screen at a virtual symposium in May 2024. Learn more here .

The International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) calls for academic audio/visual work to be presented at IAMCR 2024, which will be held in Christchurch, New Zealand, from 30 June to 4 July 2024. Learn more here before the February 7, 2024 deadline.

New Publications

Over at RogerEbert.com , a host of writers penned a wonderful tribute to Scout Tafoya, whose ongoing video essay series The Unloved celebrated its tenth anniversary. Read here .

Issue 12 of the journal Tecmerin includes a special section, “Urban Spaces and Cinema. Ibero-American Cities in the Audiovisual Field,” edited by Luis Deltell Escolar and Nadia McGowan. Essays include:

“ Four individuals in São Paulo ” by Luis Deltell Escolar “ A-Ten-Thousand-Legs Madrid ” by Asier Gil Vázquez “ Dispossesssion Through Mortgage Debt in Three Acts ” by Laura Caballero Rabanal “ Realism(s) ” by Sylvia González Rodríguez “The Mistery of Creating: Murcia under Carlos Saura’s gaze” by Daniel Toledo Saura “ Cities of Ibero-America as seen by Artificial Intelligence ” by Nadia McGowan Additional video essays published in the issue: “ Women on the Verge of Financial Crisis ” by Tomer Nechushtan “ Rapuncelia ” by Joseph M. Johnson “ Power and Gardens ” by Nico Carpentier “ ‘Do you really want to have children?’ Off-screen Motherhood in Spanish Dramedies ” by Lorenzo Torres, Mariona Visa, and Mª Isabel Menéndez Two videos published as part of the Student Showcase: “ Los tramposos ” by Pablo Manzano Ben “ La virgen de diciembre ” by Gabriela Verdú Bisbal, Anabel Cobo Vázquez, and Irene Igeño García And four new additions to the Screen Stars Dictionary : “ Aishwarya Rai Bachchan ” by Sureshkumar P. Sekar “ Leonard Bernstein ” by Evelyn Kreutzer “ Robert De Niro ” by Daniel O’Brien “ Shah Rukh Khan ” by Ritika Kaushik “ Tony Leung ” by Jialu Zhu

An exciting new special issue of [in]Transition , curated by Ariel Avissar, who writes:

This is the first of two special issues devoted to videographic pedagogy, highlighting student work. The current issue showcases and reflects on a selection of videos made by students of my own videographic criticism honors course at the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University, between 2020 and 2022.

Watch here .

Be sure to watch the Essay Library Anthology’s sixth volume, “ Becoming Someone Else .”

Back in October, over at Hyperallergic, Dan Schindel put together a list, “ Five Video Essays That Go Beyond the Surface .”

The Autumn 2023 issue of NECSUS , which centers on the theme of “#Cycles,” includes five audiovisual essays:

Cycles of Labour: In the Metaverse, We Will Be Housewives by Veronika Hanáková, Martin Tremčinský, and Jiří Anger Split Screen as Hermeneutic Tool: Recursivity and Crosstalk in Better Call Saul by Nicolás Medina and Miklós Kiss Close Circuit by Tripot I foresee that I’m going to have known it by Vorozheikin Yevhen The Time-Loop as Game Mechanic, Narrative Device and Cycle of Systemic Racism by Daniel O’Brien

The latest issue of Open Screens , the journal of the British Association of Film, Television, & Screen Studies, includes two publications that will be of particular interest to readers of this newsletter:

“ Tennis | House: Medical Imaging as Videographic Criticism ” by Kevin Ferguson “'Enter the Memory': Interactivity, Authorship, and the Empowered Spectator in the Digital Audio-Visual Essays of Chris Marker” by James Michael Slaymaker

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10 Video Essays That Will Get You Addicted To Video Essays

From deep dives into pretty privilege, to incel culture, to why we love Meryl Streep- here are some of the best gateway video essays.


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Combining the format of the informative (and at times hilarious) essay with video media, video essays have exploded in popularity in the last few years. With 100s of video essayists on 100s of channels across Vimeo and youtube, getting into video essays can be overwhelming.

As a self-confessed video essay addict, I’ve picked ten great video essays to kick you down the rabbit hole. These are perfect for chucking on instead of aimlessly scrolling, or filling the time on your commute, while also learning a new point of view.

Woke Brands | hbomberguy

Hbomberguy explores the trend of ‘woke’ branding, asking whether a product can actually be progressive.

Incels | Contrapoints

Trans video essayist, Natalie Wynn takes a hypnotizing deep-dive into the dark twisted internet subculture of incels.

Pretty Privilege | Khadija Mbowe

Opera singer and vlogger, Khadija Mbowe discusses how social media has exaggerated the phenomena of people having privilege because they’re perceived as pretty.

How The Pandemic Distorted Time | Vox

Have you been feeling like time isn’t moving the same way since the pandemic? The folks over at Vox explain why.

What Is *Good* Queer Representation in 2020? | melinapendulum

Black Bisexual vlogger, Melina takes a deep-dive into what queer representation on film and television is in 2020 and how it’s changed over the last few decades.

Protest Music of the Bush Era | Lindsay Ellis

Lindsay Ellis has often been credited for popularising the video essay on youtube so her channel is full of excellent content, but this recent one touring the popular protest music of the noughties is an eye-opener.

Data | Philosophy Tube

Somewhere between a video essay and absurdist skit, Data by Philosophy Tube sees host Abigail Thorn act out the ethical considerations and concerns of data mining technology.

Tiger King: The Problem with True Crime | Broey Dachenel

broey deschanel uses Tiger King as a case study to demonstrate the issues at large in the mainstream true crime genre.

Why Do We Love Meryl Streep? | Be Kind Rewind

One of my all-time favourite essayists for her analysis of Hollywood culture, this video seeks to answer the age old question: why is Meryl Streep that good?

Jennifer’s Body & the Horror of Bad Marketing | Yhara Zayd

In this video, Yhara zayd takes you step by gruelling step through how and why cult classic Jennifer’s Body was so badly marketed.

Merryana Salem is a proud Wonnarua and Lebanese–Australian writer, critic, teacher, researcher and podcaster on most social media as  @akajustmerry . If you want, check out her podcast,  GayV Club  where she gushes about LGBT rep in media with her best friend. Either way, she hopes you ate something nice today.

The Best Video Essays of 2022

This article is part of our 2022 Rewind .  Follow along as we explore the best and most interesting movies, shows, performances, and more from this very strange year.   In this entry, we explore the best video essays of 2022.

2022 has, inconceivably, come to an end. And in the spirit of reflection and gratitude, it’s time to appreciate the thing that had our back when times were tough; the thing that helped us wind down after a long day at work; the thing that made that first cup of coffee in the morning go down just a little easier: video essays.

This year, I had the pleasure of once again curating The Queue , a thrice-weekly column dedicated to highlighting short-form video content about films, television, and the craft of visual storytelling. As a result, the focus of the video essays below is movies and TV shows — if you’re wondering why there are no video essays on speed running mechanics or broadway musical drama, that’s why!

There were, it must be said, a heck of a lot of top-shelf video essays this year that fell outside the scope of this list (including, but not limited to, Jacob Geller’s poetic eulogy to sea monsters ; People Make Games’ anthropological exploration of VRChat , and Jenny Nicholson’s sarcastically long portrait of Evermore , the theme park that tried to sue Taylor Swift).

Once again, I had a doozy of a time narrowing down a short list of this year’s selections. So if you could all stop making such good #content, that would be great (just kidding, never stop). I want to sincerely thank all the essayists I’ve covered this year for their hard work. I hope I get to continue seeing you in my feed in 2023 and beyond.

Bergman Island: Art, Love, and the Unbearable Process of Making

French director Mia Hansen-Løve embraces the notion of autobiographical filmmaking. And the video essay above does a beautiful job illustrating how her first English-language film,  Bergman Island , draws attention to the process of its own making without sacrificing its own story. I love how this essayist unravels the tapestry of the film’s twisty relationship with metatext with tangible examples and accessible language.

This video essay on the metatextuality of Mia Hansen-Løve’s  Bergman Island   is by  Broey Deschanel  a self-described “snob (and YouTuber) whose video essays cover everything from new releases like Licorice Pizza  and  Euphoria  to camp classics like  Showgirls . You can subscribe to their YouTube account  here  and you can follow them on Twitter  here .

Realism and Fantastic Cinema

We’re living during an interesting time in visual effects, where more often than not, realism is the goal. The following video essay offers a convincing gospel that preaches a different approach, which proposes that “fantastic cinema” that actively doesn’t chase photorealism or expose its own trickery is different, special, and worth fighting for. If you’ve found other arguments against  modern CGI unconvincing — or if your love of practical effects starts and stops with fetishism — I urge you to give this a look.

This video essay on why the pursuit of realism in special effects is hurting the fantasy genre is by APLattanzi , a freelance filmmaker and illustrator who hails from the Philadelphia area. You can subscribe to them on YouTube  here . Their essays cover a large swath of topics, from film scores to short films. You can also find them on Letterboxd  here .

Gen Z needs more slacker movies

In all fairness, this video essay is preaching to the choir: I’m a huge sucker for slacker movies. And if for  whatever reason you’re not, this essayist articulates something that feels True about what the sub-genre offers to the 2020s, an age where we’re increasingly bumping up against the political spirit of fucking off and the price of who can afford to do nothing.

This video essay on why the younger generation (I’m dating myself, whoops!) need some new slacker movies   is by  Niche Nonsense , a video essay channel that provides, well, just that: niche nonsense. The channel was only created in mid-December of 2021. And you can get in on the ground floor and subscribe here .

Leslie Cheung & Hong Kong LGBT Cinema

Love letters are contagious, and if you’re unfamiliar with Hong Kong star Leslie Cheung , this is a great introduction to one of the greatest LGBTQ+ icons in film history and how he left his impact on the Queer Hong Kong films that came in the wake of his trailblazing.

These videos on the impact of Leslie Cheung on Hong Kong queer cinema is by  Accented Cinema , a Canadian-based YouTube video essay series with a focus on Asian cinema. You can subscribe to Accented Cinema for bi-weekly uploads here . You can follow them on Twitter  here .

The Secret Ingredient That Makes Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man’ So Great

When people say that modern superhero movies feel soulless, you don’t always get a lot of concrete examples or arguments as to why this is the case aside from a general feeling . Luckily, the above video essay takes the time to nail something specific about why Sam Raimi ‘s Spider-Man   trilogy feels so much more sincere and front-the-heart than modern, irony-poisoned Marvel fare.

This video essay on why everyday people make Sam Raimi’s  Spider-Man  films feel so special is co-written by  Patrick (H) Willems  and  Siddhant Adlakha .  You can find their own directorial efforts and their video essays on their channel  here . You can also find Willems on Twitter  here . And you can find Adlakha on Twitter  here .

The Lion King and Disney’s Sequel Curse

Frankly, I didn’t know that I  needed  an hour-long defence of The Lion King 1 ½ until it was sitting in my YouTube subscriptions. The Disney animated feature-length sequel landscape is, by and large, pretty mid. And while  The Lion King 2  is one of the better ones out there,  The Lion King 1 ½  is in a class all of its own. If you’re not familiar, the sequel takes place during the events of the first film, but it’s told from the perspective of Timon and Pumba. The following video essay does a stellar job describing why it rules, how it ties into Shakespeare, and why it’s a great example of self-aware filmmaking.

This video on the incredible Disney sequel  The Lion King 1 ½  is by Jace, a.k.a   BREADSWORD,  an LA-based video essayist who specializes in long-form nostalgia-heavy love letters. Impeccably edited and smoother than butter, BREADSWORD essays boast an unparalleled relaxed fit and an expressive narrative tone. Long essays like this take a lot of time to put together, and somehow BREADSWORD makes it all look effortless. You can subscribe to them on YouTube  here . And you can follow them on Twitter  here .

Twin Peaks Actually, ACTUALLY EXPLAINED (No, But For Real)

This is, quite frankly, one of the most lucid explanations of “why  Twin Peaks is the way it is” that I’ve ever seen. Maybe its my small screen ignorance showing, but the idea that TV reflexivity is the key that unlocks Twin Peaks really feels capital-t True. The above is the first of a two-parter, and will hit harder if you’ve seen all three seasons and  Fire Walk With Me . I’m also a massive fan of how this essayist choses to frame their work; the Socratic dialogue is alive and well.

This video essay on what Twin Peaks is about, actually, is by Maggie Mae Fish , a Los Angeles-based comedian, actress, and culture critic who releases short films and video essays on her  YouTube account . Fish has been featured on College Humor, Screen Junkies, and JASH. She was also a former lead actor and writer at Cracked.com. You can follow Fish on Twitter  here .

Nothing But Trouble is a Very Weird Movie

Even if you haven’t had the pleasure of watching Nothing But Trouble  with your own two, God-given eyes, you may still have heard rumblings of its notorious status. I appreciate that this video essayist takes the time to give complicated stories — like the making of this movie and why it came to be thought of as a massive bomb — the time they deserve to breathe and speak for themselves.

This video essay on why  Nothing But Trouble  is good, actually comes to us from  In Praise of Shadows , a video essay channel run by Zane Whitener  and based in Asheville, North Carolina. The channel focuses on horror, history, and retrospectives. Under their “Anatomy of a Franchise” banner, they break down horror properties including  Tremors ,  The Stepfather , and  Re-Animator,  in addition to  The Hills Have Eyes . You can check out the series’ playlist  here . And you can subscribe to the In Praise of Shadows YouTube channel  here . And you can follow them on Twitter  here .

Why The Bear Hits So Hard

There’s a special bond between cooking and the moving image and Hulu’s The Bear  is the latest piece of pop culture to bring the two art forms together. I love how this video essay balances its analysis of the technical and scripted aspects of the show to explain the controlled chaos that defines the feel of the show. Breakdowns like this, that do as much showing as they do telling, are really what the video essay format is all about.

This video essay on the appeal of  The Bear  is by Virginia-based filmmaker and video editor  Thomas Flight . He runs a YouTube channel under the same name. You can follow Thomas Flight and check out his back catalog of video essays on YouTube  here . You can follow him on Twitter  here .

Under The Skin | Audiovisual Alienation

While I do think that  all  movies partake in non-verbal storytelling (they are moving  pictures, after all), I do think some films are more non-verbal than others. This isn’t to say that these films aren’t about  anything or that, more disparagingly, they are “just vibes” (yeesh). Case in point: this thoughtful analysis of Under the Skin , a film that uses non-verbal storytelling to put us in the shoes of an alien visitor trying to make sense of the confusing, predatory, and often beautiful human world.

This video essay on how  Under the Skin  uses non-verbal storytelling to explore the question of what it means to be human   is by  Spikima Movies , a Korean-Canadian who’s been dropping gems on YouTube since 2019. You can subscribe to Spikima’s channel for more incredible essays  here . And you can follow them on Letterboxd  here .

How a 10-year-old girl wrote Japan’s most insane horror film

Just when I thought that House   was starting to slip into that special category of movies that have been “talked to death,” someone goes ahead and makes a video essay like this. I adore the messy human stories behind canonized films. And the way that this video essayist describes the father-daughter relationship behind the deeply personal making of House  is impeccable, even if you’re already familiar with the general beats.

This video essay on the uncanny origins of the 1977 horror film  House   is by  k aptainkristian, a YouTube-based video essay channel that peddles visual love letters to filmmakers, musicians, and syndicated cartoons. The account is run by  Kristian T.   Williams , whom you can follow on Twitter  here . You can subscribe to kaptainkristian, and check out their back catalog on YouTube  here .

Studio LAIKA and the Ghosts of Invisible Labor

Given that conversations on labor and animation are becoming more and more prescient and pointed, this video essay feels like a must-watch. This essayist’s analysis is deeply insightful, compelling, and well-argued. The idea that animators on Laika films are in-universe Lovecraftian gods tickles my brain something fierce.

This video essay on the self-reflexive industrial allegory of Laika studios is written and directed by  Mihaela Mihailova . It is produced by Alla Gadassik and edited by Gil Goletski, with Jacqueline Turner providing the narration. The end of the video credits the Vancouver-based Emily Carr University of Art and Design for support. Mihailova is an Assistant Professor in the School of Cinema at San Francisco State University. She is the editor of the essay collection Coraline: A Closer Look at Studio LAIKA’s Stop-Motion Witchcraft  (Bloomsbury, 2021)

Why This 1950s Studio Made Movies Backwards

We love a gimmick. And we especially love a gimmick that produces some wildly kick-ass movie posters. This video essay offers a lucid explanation of how AIP cracked the code for making B-Movies: poster first, movie later. Has this principle of making a film from a marketing perspective mutated into something more insidious over time? Yep. Will that make me any less charmed by exploitation cinema? Nope. Look, someone  had to make the movies that play at the drive-in while teens suck face in the back of their parents’ Cadillac.

This video on how American International Pictures marketed their films backward is by  Andrew Saladino , who runs the Texas-based  Royal Ocean Film Society . You can browse their back catalog of videos on their Vimeo account  here . If Vimeo isn’t your speed, you can give them a follow on YouTube  here .

Why Did Spaghetti Westerns Look Like That?

On the one hand, this is something of a biased pick because I eat Spaghetti Westerns for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. On the other hand, this video essay does a really solid job honing in on one specific aspect of the sub-genre and asking: why? I love laser-focused topics like this, and the fact that it’s about one of the most iconic shot types in genre cinema is just icing on the cake.

This video essay on Sergio Leone’s filmography and how he perfected the use of the close-up shot is by  Adam Tinius , who runs the YouTube channel  Entertain the Elk . They are based in Pasadena, California. You can follow them on YouTube  here . And you can follow them on Twitter  here .

The Catharsis of Body Horror

Frankly, the fact that this video essay managed to stay online for as long as it has (thus far) without getting sent back to the shadow realm by YouTube’s AI censor bots is a straight-up miracle. Luckily, as of writing this, the essay is still live and absolutely worth your time, especially  if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t vibe with body horror. There’s no shame in having likes and dislikes. But this essay very clearly articulates why body horror is a lot more than the sum of its goo-covered, fleshy parts.

This video essay on the catharsis themes of body horror is by  Yhara Zayd . They provide insightful deep dives on young adult content from  Skins  to  My Best Friend’s Wedding . You can check out more of their content and subscribe to their channel on YouTube  here . If you like their stuff and you want to support them, you can check out their Patreon  here .

Related Topics: 2022 Rewind , The Queue

Recommended Reading

Anatomy of a suspense scene: alfred hitchcock’s 4-part formula, how a24 revived studio loyalty, can we have more solarpunk movies, please, why “day for night” is so hard to pull off.

The Best Video Essay Channels, Ranked

Cinephiles and film buffs owe it to themselves to check out these YouTube channels which brilliantly analyze and explain movies using video essays.

If you’re a die-hard movie fan, you don’t have to be a hardcore collector to know that you can find a lot of your special features free on YouTube – from movie trailers and top-ten lists to reaction videos and cast-and-crew interviews. But the crème de la crème for any budding cinephile is YouTube ’s subculture of video essayists.

The best of these content creators, particularly those focused on dissecting and analyzing film and television, give viewers a lot of food for thought, making them consider things they hadn’t before, even when it comes to movies they have watched 100 times. There is an embarrassment of content out there, but this article seeks to separate the wheat from the chaff – we are recommending only the channels with the best, most refreshing, and most original analysis. If you're a film lover or budding buff, you owe it to yourself to check out these great video essay channels.

What’s So Great About That?

UK creator and pop-culture academic Grace Lee makes video essays examining themes and form in both horror and animated media; she has an affinity for the deeper, more unexpected thoughts evoked by her favorite genres. Whereas many content creators are quippy or sarcastic, Lee’s voiceover narrative approach is one of measured thoughtfulness.

Related: Explained: How Twin Peaks Changed Television

While her output as What's So Great About That? is not as large as some other creators on this list, that is far from a bad thing as Lee seems to focus more on quality than quantity. Each video discusses fairly narrow topics within a given property – examples include the “treachery of language” in the work of David Lynch or the concept of the “unnatural” in the original Evil Dead film.

You might mistake Canadian vlogger Sarah Z (pronounced “Zed”) for your best friend. She sits on the couch with a cup of coffee and speaks directly to you, a monologuist spending hours on end about all of her opinions, from toxic fandoms to true-crime documentaries.

But these monologues are not the boring, meaningless yarns that you might expect. Rather, Sarah’s channel is an ever-deepening trove of incisive and engaging media analysis encased in a shell of light and fluffy entertainment. The whole thing is driven by Sarah’s palpable excitement and enthusiasm for the topics she is covering, and a penchant for long, detailed videos that are extensively researched. Some videos will even stretch far beyond the one-hour mark, including a 90-minute video on geek culture and a full two hours on Dear Evan Hansen .

Another Canadian creator steps up to the plate in the form of Sage Hyden , a fantasy novelist whose essay channel Just Write seems particularly preoccupied with film’s place in the cultural conversation. In particular, Hyden is fascinated with the messages that movies send us, what they are trying to communicate (consciously or subconsciously), and how they shape our perceptions and prejudices.

For topics that can sometimes land on the serious side, Hyden’s tone and writing style are conversational and often funny, and his insights are fairly eye-opening. Topics include Willy Wonka and its relationship to misconceptions about poverty, the importance of the original Mulan film, and the cinematic lineage of the modern murder mystery Knives Out .

If you consider yourself an outsider or find yourself disagreeing with most of your friends on their favorite movies, you might find a mutual kinship with creator Yhara Zayd , whose videos examine film and television through lenses both personal and political. Zayd’s is not the kind of detached analysis you can expect from many YouTubers; rather, though she is very well-researched, she is also full of unapologetic hot takes, and her videos are brimming with the caustic personality of a modern-day Pauline Kael.

Related: These Are the Best Marilyn Monroe Movies

In some ways, Zayd has crafted the perfect synergy between the highly-opinionated critic and the relentless deconstructionist, enthusiastically dissecting and questioning the images and media we regularly consume. She also has a distinct knack for self-awareness, gazing inward as she gazes outward, a quality which separates her content from that of many of her peers. Zayd covers such divergent subjects as the commodification of the great Marilyn Monroe, reflections of housing discrimination in 1980s horror films , and the under-appreciated legacy of Not Another Teen Movie .

For something a little less personal but no less fascinating, it is worth checking out the prolific Susannah McCullough and her channel The Take . McCullough and her extraordinary team make what are probably the best “Explained” videos you’ll be able to find, along with character breakdowns, deconstructions of tropes, and the lessons movies can teach us. They’ve got videos that deconstruct and explain Donnie Darko , The Sopranos , Get Out , and many, many more. They’ve also nerded out with full series on different franchises, including detailed character analyses in shows such as Friends and Breaking Bad .

The writing is smart but accessible, and the arguments are utterly convincing. The videos themselves are breezily edited and full of poppy visuals. The channel also covers many, many genres and types of movies, so you are sure to find something on a movie or TV show you love. The Take offers incisive film analysis in a context that is fun and completely unpretentious.

Maggie Mae Fish

Decadent, performance-driven vlogs like ContraPoints and Philosophy Tube are all the rage these days, and film buffs finally have their own version in the form of Maggie Mae Fish . Ms. Fish is a singular, idiosyncratic voice who pivots wildly from dedicated film scholar to sketch-comedy caricature and back again. She typically sits center-frame in a variety of ornately designed sets, dressed in colorful outfits, while she patiently spoons out detailed, thoughtful analysis over the course of long videos.

For any video-essay enthusiast, Fish is the real deal – wickedly entertaining, subversive, accessible, and always thought-provoking. Her recent two-video series on Twin Peaks is catnip for any fans seeking a new perspective on the show – and an excellent dressing-down of Twin Perfect’s infamous 4.5-hour breakdown. She also deconstructs auteur theory through the works of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick, and spends two hours discussing Loki ’s debt to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker .

Lindsay Ellis

When it comes to distinct personalities, no vlogger quite matches the likes of the controversial but brilliant Lindsay Ellis . She is a brand unto herself, with an over-the-top, self-deprecating style that can only be described as a hopped-up, sleep-deprived, but no less informed, Adam Curtis. She is often seen drinking wine in her videos, breaking down popular media like Disney movies, musical adaptations, and The Lord of the Rings franchise.

Ellis is one of the originals of the medium, and her work is so singular that her influence has likely extended to all the other creators who occupy this list. Some of her most brilliant work includes “The Whole Plate,” a nine-video series that completely deconstructs the first Transformers film through the lenses of gender, sexuality, and film studies. Her most iconic work includes 40-minute videos ranting about the film adaptations of Rent and The Phantom of the Opera . Due to recent Internet events, she has stopped making videos on YouTube, but her existing videos are still there for all to see and are absolutely worth checking out.

Every Frame A Painting

Sometimes the most obvious answer is still the best one. Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou’s gorgeous video series Every Frame A Painting is still the benchmark against which all other video essayists are judged. You’ve probably seen their video on Edgar Wright and visual comedy, or the one on silence in the films of Martin Scorsese. The channel has been defunct for several years now, but the content still feels as fresh and original as it did when it was first published.

The topics covered are narrow and unexpected, but they all work extraordinarily well. The writing is tight and evocative, and Zhou’s voice is unforgettably soothing and inviting. The editing is also crisp and beautiful. Ramos and Zhou have become so renowned for their work that they were even invited to contribute to David Fincher’s Voir , a video essay project for Netflix.

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Sensitive to Art & its Discontents

Five Video Essays That Go Beyond the Surface

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Since Hyperallergic first began periodic roundups of video essays in May 2019 , a lot has changed in the field. Some of the video creators featured in the column have ceased working, while many new ones have emerged. The form has become so expansive that it’s spawned its own sub-genres and filmmaking cliques. With so many to sort through, here are some recommendations for the best recent video essays to check out.

YouTube video

“ The History of the Minnesota Vikings” by Dorktown

Even if you don’t care about sports, you should watch the latest from Jon Bois, Alex Rubenstein, and the rest of the crew at Dorktown, a division of the sports website SBNation. A multi-part epic that runs 10 hours in total might seem daunting, but don’t let that dissuade you. Hyperallergic has previously delved into what makes Bois so fascinating as a filmmaker , and he’s only refined his technique and deepened his storytelling sophistication since then. This isn’t just a history of Minneapolis’s football team; it’s the past few decades of US culture filtered through its obsession with football.

YouTube video

“ The Four horse_ebooks of the Apocalypse” by What’s So Great About That?

The only negative thing I’ll say about Grace Lee is that I wish they posted more than once or twice a year. Their inimitable, dense, layered visuals and editing enable them to explore wide topics at length in videos that seldom last more than 20 minutes. Here Lee looks at pop culture’s fixation with the end of the world — in particular, the shift in recent years from fantastical apocalypse stories to a sense of resignation about an inevitable climate apocalypse.

YouTube video

“ Art in the Pre-Apocalypse” by Jacob Geller

Staying on theme, this is the latest from one of the best video essayists in the game. Geller concentrates specifically on films, video games, and other works set in the lead-up to seemingly inescapable catastrophes, from the 1950s novel and film On the Beach to the independent protest photography game Umurangi Generation . Can art about staring into the abyss help us process the calamity we see before us in our own lives?

YouTube video

“ How languages steal words from each other” by Tom Scott

Tom Scott specializes in bite-sized videos that often emphasize travel to interesting and unusual places, but occasionally he dives into social phenomena and the particularities of language. This is a great primer on the innumerable intersections between different languages formed by thousands of years of loanwords, calques, and other transmissions of words and ideas.

YouTube video

“ Weaponizing Aaliyah & the Culture of Female Rivalry” by Yhara Zayd

Where many people might notice an annoying internet trend and simply tweet about it, Yhara Zayd seriously considers it. Here, irked by constant unflattering (often unwarranted) comparisons between Beyoncé and the late, great Aaliyah, she explores how celebrity discourse in journalism and fan communities loves to artificially pit women against one another.

If you have a recommendation for a video essay to feature in this series, or want to submit your own video for consideration, reach out to [email protected].

Dan Schindel

Dan Schindel is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Brooklyn, and a former associate editor at Hyperallergic. His portfolio and links are here. More by Dan Schindel

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Screen Rant

10 best youtube channels for film video essays, according to reddit.

After watching a movie, one of the best things a fan can do is sit by and watch a video analysis by reviewers like Lindsay Ellis and Possum Reviews.

With Wakanda Forever closing off Phase Four on November 11, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is preparing for an introduction to its fifth phase, and many fans are excited to see what the franchise has to offer. Yet, many are also questioning how all these new Phase 4 characters connect to each other, with the multiverse looming as the main arc. After all, most Marvel movies are now somewhat disconnected.

Thankfully, there is a vast host of YouTube reviewers and analysts who are dedicated to explaining the intricacies of movies and anything fans might have missed. Most of these YouTube video essays are made by some key YouTubers who do an excellent job getting fans caught up in the worlds of Hollywood.


Some reviewers do a great job of taking apart popular movies to show why they're excellent. The film YouTuber YourMovieSucksDOTorg is best at showcasing just why fans may dislike certain movies. While that might be inherently more negative, it can still be enjoyable.

"His Toy Story 3 review blew my mind. I knew I hated it but he kind of showed me why," says a now-deleted Reddit user. While he addresses both beloved and critically panned movies, the panned movies tend to be the videos that draw the most love from audiences. Sometimes fans just need to know why a plot feels weak or repetitive.

Possum Reviews

Another YouTuber who tends to focus on movies that received overwhelmingly poor receptions, Possum Reviews has grown a large fanbase by putting his attention on reviewing "garbage" movies, as his possum icon indicates. "I really love watching Possum Reviews even though his reviews of blatantly bad movies are really cynical," says Redditor Owijs .

Most of his reviews tend to be funny, which helps to keep the content engaging even when the actual film he reviews is appallingly bad. While he sometimes addresses beloved movies, it's the mediocre ones that draw the most eyes.

While most moviegoers don't think about soundtracks, the YouTuber Sideways goes into detail on just how the best soundtracks in movies interact with each film and create an environment. Tackling both musical and nonmusical movies, the channel does an extraordinary job of teaching fans about sound in films.

"Genuinely such interesting analysis of music in shows/movies from a very funny, intelligent guy who always sounds like he’s having the best time talking about whatever he’s talking about," states Reddit user ameboleyn . His excitement, even when addressing movies like Cats , is palpable and keeps viewers as engaged as he is.

Red Letter Media

A YouTube channel focused on friends reviewing movies that are both good and bad, RedLetterMedia has picked up many fans through the years, and for good reason. With the channel often known for its dry humor, Redditor TylerKnowy described it as "a mix of comedy and insight."

The channel has different shows with each addressing several topics. From Re:View 's more positive view of film to the often maligning Half in the Bag , the channel has something for everyone — as long as everyone likes their sense of humor. Of course, given that they often tackle movies that divide critics and audiences , they can be contentious.

With videos ranging from 10 minutes to over an hour long, the YouTube channel FilmJoy has things for everyone to enjoy. Of course, while the channel offers several shows, most of the channel's supporters tend to find themselves more engaged by the Movies with Mikey show.

"Intelligent, funny and extremely heartfelt. His whole approach is to discuss beloved films and why they're so special," says Reddit user johnspost . Instead of focusing on cynicism and encouraging fans to dislike certain movies, it brings about positivity, which is somewhat rare among YouTubers.

This Guy Edits

While many film critics focus on acting, character development, plot, or setting, the YouTuber This Guy Edits focuses on the editing in film and how it affects each movie. Instead of critiquing individual movies, the channel educates the public to help them consider editing in their own review of films.

"I find myself analyzing cuts and sound design way more after watching This Guy Edits," shared Reddit user InuitOverit . Considering how many movies are edited after their initial release , it's got a wide array of content to sift through, which means fans have a lot to learn from a true professional.

Lindsay Ellis

A film critic who used her YouTube channel to launch a book of her own, Lindsay Ellis recently left the YouTube scene, but her remaining backlog of content is still fascinating to look through. "Her videos are really funny while also being very interesting," commented Redditor bman9919 .

Often, Ellis considered topics that most fans failed to consider and showcased just why she took that perspective. She focused on a wide array of issues, including animation, the influence of the filmmakers on each film, and even why the greatest movie musicals are no longer particularly popular.

Like Stories Of Old

The YouTuber Like Stories of Old is a critic who likes to go into depth with each video, which is why it's so rare to see content for his channel under 20 minutes long. It's also why he only tends to release videos irregularly, often with a month or more between releases.

"His voice and delivery is so unique and soothing... it's pretty remarkable how well constructed each piece is," says Redditor stumpcity . The channel addresses wide-ranging issues in Hollywood, like the Hero's Journey, entire genres in film, and archetypes within the industry. He offers a fascinating in-depth look at whatever topics he chooses, and it's why he's a beloved critic.

Every Frame A Painting

While there are many visually stunning movies that can awe viewers, the YouTuber Every Frame A Painting takes apart movies to show fans exactly why they come to love the looks and aesthetic of movies. It also takes a look at how to improve those very aesthetic through editing.

"They were mainly about filmmaking techniques, editing, shot composition, blocking, etc., instead of plot/story/theme like the majority seem to be," says Reddit user scoutcjustice . While unfortunately Every Frame A Painting has stopped producing videos, fans still have a lot to learn from the content the channel already produced, as the majority continues to be relevant today.

Thomas Flight

Often addressing topics like director preferences and the impact of particular films, the YouTuber Thomas Flight could give a masterclass in film criticism, as most fans would agree. "Thomas Flight does a really good job at highlighting technical details and is also great at explaining the historical reference points for many directors," posits Reddit user redditaccount001 .

With essays about editing, genres, and sound quality in movies, fans may come for the analysis of their favorite film and leave with a new appreciation for dynamic styles in film. The channel's in-depth analysis explains why each upload comes somewhat inconsistently, but the content is quality enough that fans hardly mind.

Next: 10 Best "Let's Play" YouTubers For Fans To Watch

What is a Video Essay - Best Video Essays Film of 2020 - Top Movie Video Essay

What is a Video Essay? The Art of the Video Analysis Essay

I n the era of the internet and Youtube, the video essay has become an increasingly popular means of expressing ideas and concepts. However, there is a bit of an enigma behind the construction of the video essay largely due to the vagueness of the term.

What defines a video analysis essay? What is a video essay supposed to be about? In this article, we’ll take a look at the foundation of these videos and the various ways writers and editors use them creatively. Let’s dive in.

Watch: Our Best Film Video Essays of the Year

Subscribe for more filmmaking videos like this.

What is a video essay?

First, let’s define video essay.

There is narrative film, documentary film, short films, and then there is the video essay. What is its role within the realm of visual media? Let’s begin with the video essay definition. 


A video essay is a video that analyzes a specific topic, theme, person or thesis. Because video essays are a rather new form, they can be difficult to define, but recognizable nonetheless. To put it simply, they are essays in video form that aim to persuade, educate, or critique. 

These essays have become increasingly popular within the era of Youtube and with many creatives writing video essays on topics such as politics, music, film, and pop culture. 

What is a video essay used for?

  • To persuade an audience of a thesis
  • To educate on a specific subject
  • To analyze and/or critique 

What is a video essay based on?

Establish a thesis.

Video analysis essays lack distinguished boundaries since there are countless topics a video essayist can tackle. Most essays, however, begin with a thesis. 

How Christopher Nolan Elevates the Movie Montage  •  Video Analysis Essays

Good essays often have a point to make. This point, or thesis, should be at the heart of every video analysis essay and is what binds the video together. 

Related Posts

  • Stanley Kubrick Directing Style Explained →
  • A Filmmaker’s Guide to Nolan’s Directing Style →
  • How to Write a Voice Over Montage in a Script →

interviews in video essay

Utilize interviews.

A key determinant for the structure of an essay is the source of the ideas. A common source for this are interviews from experts in the field. These interviews can be cut and rearranged to support a thesis. 

Roger Deakins on "Learning to Light"  •  Video Analysis Essays

Utilizing first hand interviews is a great way to utilize ethos into the rhetoric of a video. However, it can be limiting since you are given a limited amount to work with. Voice over scripts, however, can give you the room to say anything. 

How to create the best video essays on Youtube

Write voice over scripts.

Voice over (VO) scripts allow video essayists to write out exactly what they want to say. This is one of the most common ways to structure a video analysis essay since it gives more freedom to the writer. It is also a great technique to use when taking on large topics.

In this video, it would have been difficult to explain every type of camera lens by cutting sound bites from interviews of filmmakers. A voice over script, on the other hand, allowed us to communicate information directly when and where we wanted to.

Ultimate Guide to Camera Lenses  •  Video essay examples

Some of the most famous video essayists like Every Frame a Painting and Nerdwriter1 utilize voice over to capitalize on their strength in writing video analysis essays. However, if you’re more of an editor than a writer, the next type of essay will be more up your alley. 

Video analysis essay without a script

Edit a supercut.

Rather than leaning on interview sound bites or voice over, the supercut video depends more on editing. You might be thinking “What is a video essay without writing?” The beauty of the video essay is that the writing can be done throughout the editing. Supercuts create arguments or themes visually through specific sequences. 

Another one of the great video essay channels, Screen Junkies, put together a supercut of the last decade in cinema. The video could be called a portrait of the last decade in cinema.

2010 - 2019: A Decade In Film  •  Best videos on Youtube

This video is rather general as it visually establishes the theme of art during a general time period. Other essays can be much more specific. 

Critical essays

Video essays are a uniquely effective means of creating an argument. This is especially true in critical essays. This type of video critiques the facets of a specific topic. 

In this video, by one of the best video essay channels, Every Frame a Painting, the topic of the film score is analyzed and critiqued — specifically temp film score.

Every Frame a Painting Marvel Symphonic Universe  •  Essay examples

Of course, not all essays critique the work of artists. Persuasion of an opinion is only one way to use the video form. Another popular use is to educate. 

  • The Different Types of Camera Lenses →
  • Write and Create Professionally Formatted Screenplays →
  • How to Create Unforgettable Film Moments with Music →

Video analysis essay

Visual analysis.

One of the biggest advantages that video analysis essays have over traditional, written essays is the use of visuals. The use of visuals has allowed video essayists to display the subject or work that they are analyzing. It has also allowed them to be more specific with what they are analyzing. Writing video essays entails structuring both words and visuals. 

Take this video on There Will Be Blood for example. In a traditional, written essay, the writer would have had to first explain what occurs in the film then make their analysis and repeat.

This can be extremely inefficient and redundant. By analyzing the scene through a video, the points and lessons are much more clear and efficient. 

There Will Be Blood  •   Subscribe on YouTube

Through these video analysis essays, the scene of a film becomes support for a claim rather than the topic of the essay. 

Dissect an artist

Essays that focus on analysis do not always focus on a work of art. Oftentimes, they focus on the artist themself. In this type of essay, a thesis is typically made about an artist’s style or approach. The work of that artist is then used to support this thesis.

Nerdwriter1, one of the best video essays on Youtube, creates this type to analyze filmmakers, actors, photographers or in this case, iconic painters. 

Caravaggio: Master Of Light  •  Best video essays on YouTube

In the world of film, the artist video analysis essay tends to cover auteur filmmakers. Auteur filmmakers tend to have distinct styles and repetitive techniques that many filmmakers learn from and use in their own work. 

Stanley Kubrick is perhaps the most notable example. In this video, we analyze Kubrick’s best films and the techniques he uses that make so many of us drawn to his films. 

Why We're Obsessed with Stanley Kubrick Movies  •  Video essay examples

Critical essays and analytical essays choose to focus on a piece of work or an artist. Essays that aim to educate, however, draw on various sources to teach technique and the purpose behind those techniques. 

What is a video essay written about?

Historical analysis.

Another popular type of essay is historical analysis. Video analysis essays are a great medium to analyze the history of a specific topic. They are an opportunity for essayists to share their research as well as their opinion on history. 

Our video on aspect ratio , for example, analyzes how aspect ratios began in cinema and how they continue to evolve. We also make and support the claim that the 2:1 aspect ratio is becoming increasingly popular among filmmakers. 

Why More Directors are Switching to 18:9  •  Video analysis essay

Analyzing the work of great artists inherently yields a lesson to be learned. Some essays teach more directly.

  • Types of Camera Movements in Film Explained →
  • What is Aspect Ratio? A Formula for Framing Success →
  • Visualize your scenes with intuitive online shotlist software →

Writing video essays about technique

Teach technique.

Educational essays designed to teach are typically more direct. They tend to be more valuable for those looking to create art rather than solely analyze it.

In this video, we explain every type of camera movement and the storytelling value of each. Educational essays must be based on research, evidence, and facts rather than opinion.

Ultimate Guide to Camera Movement  •  Best video essays on YouTube

As you can see, there are many reasons why the video essay has become an increasingly popular means of communicating information. Its ability to use both sound and picture makes it efficient and effective. It also draws on the language of filmmaking to express ideas through editing. But it also gives writers the creative freedom they love. 

Writing video essays is a new art form that many channels have set high standards for. What is a video essay supposed to be about? That’s up to you. 

Organize Post Production Workflow

The quality of an essay largely depends on the quality of the edit. If editing is not your strong suit, check out our next article. We dive into tips and techniques that will help you organize your Post-Production workflow to edit like a pro. 

Up Next: Post Production →

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How to Create a Video Essay for Your College Application

Some colleges may accept a video essay in lieu of the traditional written essay as part of the college application process.

[Featured image] Job candidate smiles at her tablet as she logs on for a video interview with a hiring manager in an open office space.

A video essay serves as a personal introduction on a college application. As a modern trend in the application process , some colleges and universities allow prospective students to submit a video essay, either in the place of the traditional written essay or, sometimes, as a separate element of the application packet.

With a video essay, you can naturally highlight your personality while providing the decision-makers with a glimpse into your world. You have the power to present yourself in your best light— literally —in a more personal medium than the regular written word.

What was once limited to art and design schools is now part of the normal process for schools like theUniversity of Chicago and Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. This modern twist on essays allows students to express themselves in a way that was once reserved for social media.

To impress the college admissions representatives of your chosen school, take the proper measures when planning. When preparing your video, give plenty of forethought to make your best first impression.

Learn more: How to Write a Personal Statement

How to make a video essay

Verify how long the video can run; this should be listed in each of your institutions’ requirements. For example, the University of Chicago allows videos of up to two minutes. Stay within the university’s range to be considered. The challenge is to focus on your presentation and choose your words wisely.

1. Choose a topic.

Next, decide on the topic of the video. Some schools may invite you to discuss a particular topic, and others will want the video essay to serve as a personal introduction in place of an interview.

If the video serves as an interview, include the answers to the following questions: 

Why do you wish to attend this specific school?

What will you bring to the college campus?

What will you do when you arrive?

Overall, you can use the video to show why you’ll be a natural fit at the school.

Read more: What Should I Major In? 5 Things to Evaluate

2. Create an outline and script.

Show off your production skills, but don’t overextend yourself. University representatives will focus on various aspects of your video in addition to its production. Plan your talking points, create a script, and practice by recording yourself multiple times before finally hitting the send button.

A video script is different from a written essay . Make a logically organized list of the topics you want to cover in a way that allows you to speak naturally and comfortably at the camera. Use the outline to guide you as you record in lieu of memorizing a script.

Record yourself with your phone’s camera, and practice the presentation repeatedly until you feel comfortable. Time yourself to stay within the time limit predefined by the college or university you're applying to. Once you feel satisfied with your script, you’ll be ready for the next step.

3. Use imagery and audio files.

Think about the scene you are depicting in the video. Verify your background. If you’re in your bedroom, for example, make sure it’s tidy and clean. Display things that visibly render your interests, such as a trophy from a swim meet or a stack of your favorite nonfiction books.

You can also film your video in a nearby park or landmark to represent your interests and make good use of the natural lighting. Use the setting to reveal a part of your personality and gain the interest of your college admissions representative. 

Along with video of you talking, you may wish to include additional images, video, and audio files that go along with your message. Collect all your content first before initiating the editing process.

4. Upload files into editing software.

Demonstrate your presentation skills by doing more than one take of your video and editing them to create a polished final cut. For this, you can use any of the trusted free editing software, including iMovie and Lightworks, which are typically user-friendly. You can drag and drop any file you upload and add sound and visual effects as you edit your content.

For tutorials on new software, look for relevant courses on Coursera like Mastering Final Cut Pro , where you’ll learn skills to make your video look professional.

Keep your post-production simple since you will principally be ranked on the content of your video rather than the graphics and transitions, that is unless you’re applying to become a videography student.

5. Share or submit your work.

Follow the submission guidelines described in the university’s application process to ensure you meet all requirements. You may only need to submit a link to your video upload from a commonly used video-sharing website.

If such is the case, upload your completed video essay for free on popular video-sharing platforms like Vimeo or YouTube. Once you’ve uploaded your video to your preferred site, you will have the option to copy a shareable link. Before you send the link, test it on your computer or phone to make sure it leads to your video.

Use the Common App to submit your essay.

Many high school juniors and seniors are familiar with the Common App , which is used by hundreds of colleges and universities to streamline the process of application. For the 2021-2022 school year, there were seven different essay prompts that you could choose from for the traditional written essay.

For some institutions, you may have the option to submit your essay through the Common App. You may also be able to submit a video essay in place of a written essay or as its complement. You’ll need to research and follow the directions of the institution you’re applying to.

Take note of these best practices of video production to make sure your video is both memorable and favorable.

Videography tips for success 

Apply your top-notch creativity in this nontraditional medium to produce your video essay. Discuss ideas for your video with a guidance counselor, parent, or trusted teacher. Ask them for feedback to make sure the message resonates properly.

Reach for success in these other ways:

Have good lighting and sound: Avoid distracting the viewer with shadows, cluttered backgrounds, or loud background noises. Sit near a window to use natural sunlight and prevent a washed-out appearance.

Dress for success: Wear a presentable outfit like you would for an in-person interview. Aim for business or business casual attire, tidy hair, and positive body language. This will improve your confidence as well as send the message that you’re serious about this application.

Answer questions directly: If the school asks specific questions on their application process or has prompts that need to be included in your video essay, make sure to directly provide the answers to each of them. Avoid getting carried away during the creative process.Write the questions and timestamp of the video where they’re answered.

Be yourself : Perhaps one of the most important video tips is to be authentic and relaxed. Review your script and practice repeatedly so you can naturally express yourself without reading it. Give yourself plenty of time to complete the project, and remember to meet the submission deadline.

Express yourself: Interviewing Skills to Benefit Your Career

Practice your presentation skills and increase your confidence before working on your video essay with the following courses from top universities, available on Coursera: 

Effective Communication: Writing, Design, and Presentation Specialization

Storytelling and influencing: Communicate with impact

Speaking Skills for University Success

Speak English Professionally: In Person, Online & On the Phone

Keep reading

Coursera staff.

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

top 10 video essays

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The video essays that spawned an entire YouTube genre

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Polygon’s latest series, The Masterpieces of Streaming , looks at the new batch of classics that have emerged from an evolving era of entertainment.

top 10 video essays

Like every medium before it, “video essays” on YouTube had a long road of production before being taken seriously. Film was undervalued in favor of literature, TV was undervalued in favor of film, and YouTube was undervalued in favor of TV. In over 10 years of video essays, though, there are some that stand out as landmarks of the form, masterpieces to bring new audiences in.

In Polygon’s list of the best video essays of 2020 , we outlined a taxonomy of what a video essay is . But time should be given to explain what video essays have been and where they might be going.

Video essays can be broken into three eras: pre-BreadTube, the BreadTube era, and post-BreadTube. So, what the hell is BreadTube? BreadTube, sometimes also called “LeftTube,” can be defined as a core group of high production value, academically-minded YouTubers who rose to prominence at the same time.

A brief history of video essays on YouTube

On YouTube, video essays pre-BreadTube started in earnest just after something completely unrelated to YouTube: the adoption of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (or, colloquially, just the “Common Core”). The Common Core was highly political, a type of hotly-contested educational reform that hadn’t been rolled out in decades.

Meanwhile, YouTube was in one of its earliest golden eras in 2010. Four years prior, YouTube had been purchased by Google for $1.65 billion in stock, a number that is simultaneously bonkers high and bonkers low. Ad revenue for creators was flowing. Creators like PewDiePie and Shane Dawson were thriving (because time is a flat circle). With its 2012 Original Channel Initiative , Google invested $100 million, and later an additional $200 million, to both celebrity and independent creators for new, original content on YouTube in an early attempt to rival TV programming.

This was also incentivized by YouTube’s 2012 public change to their algorithm , favoring watch time over clicks.

But video essays still weren’t a major genre on YouTube until the educational turmoil and newfound funds collided, resulting in three major networks: Crash Course in 2011 and SourceFed and PBS Digital Studios in 2012.

The BreadTube Era

With Google’s AdSense making YouTube more and more profitable for some creators, production values rose, and longer videos rose in prominence in the algo. Key creators became household names, but there was a pattern: most were fairly left-leaning and white.

But in 2019, long-time YouTube creator Kat Blaque asked, “Why is ‘LeftTube’ so white?”

Blaque received massive backlash for her criticisms; however, many other nonwhite YouTubers took the opportunity to speak up. More examples include Cheyenne Lin’s “Why Is YouTube So White?” , Angie Speaks’ “Who Are Black Leftists Supposed to Be?” , and T1J’s “I’m Kinda Over This Whole ‘LeftTube’ Thing.”

Since the whiteness of video essays has been more clearly illuminated, terms like “BreadTube’’ and “LeftTube” are seldom used to describe the video essay space. Likewise, the importance of flashy production has been de-emphasized.


Like most phenomena, BreadTube does not have a single moment one can point to as its end, but in 2020 and 2021, it became clear that the golden days of BreadTube were in the past.

And, notably, prominent BreadTube creators consistently found themselves in hot water on Twitter. If beauty YouTubers have mastered the art of the crying apology video, video essayists have begun the art of intellectualized, conceptualized, semi-apology video essays. Natalie Wynn’s “Canceling” and Lindsay Ellis’s “Mask Off” discuss the YouTubers’ experiences with backlash after some phenomenally yikes tweets. Similarly, Gita Jackson of Vice has reported on the racism of SocialismDoneLeft.

We’re now in post-BreadTube era. More Black creators, like Yhara Zayd and Khadija Mbowe, are valued as the important video essayists they are. Video essays and commentary channels are seeing more overlap, like the works of D’Angelo Wallace and Jarvis Johnson .

With a history of YouTube video essays out of the way, let’s discuss some of the best of the best, listed here in chronological order by release date, spanning all three eras of the genre. Only one video essay has been selected from each creator, and creators whose works have also been featured on our Best of 2020 list have different works selected here. If you like any of the following videos, we highly recommend checking out the creators’ backlogs; there are plenty of masterpieces in the mix.

PBS Idea Channel, “Can Dungeons & Dragons Make You A Confident & Successful Person?” (October 10, 2012)

Many of the conventions of modern video essays — a charismatic quick-talking host, eye-grabbing pop culture gifs accompanying narration, and sleek edits — began with PBS Idea Channel. Idea Channel, which ran from 2012 to 2017 and produced over 200 videos, laid many of the blueprints for video essays to come. In this episode, host Mike Rugnetta dissects the practical applications of tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons . The episode predates the tabletop renaissance, shepherded by Stranger Things and actual play podcasts , but gives the same level of love and appreciation the games would see in years to come.

Every Frame a Painting, “Edgar Wright - How to Do Visual Comedy” (May 26, 2014)

Like PBS Idea Channel, Every Frame a Painting was fundamental in setting the tone for video essays on YouTube. In this episode, the works of Edgar Wright (like Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World ) are put in contrast with the trend of dialogue-based comedy films like The Hangover and Bridesmaids . The essay analyzes the lack of visual jokes in the American comedian style of comedy and shows the value of Wright’s mastery of physical comedy. The video winds up not just pointing out what makes Wright’s films so great, but also explaining the jokes in meticulous detail without ever ruining them.

Innuendo Studios, “This Is Phil Fish” (June 16, 2014)

As documented in the 2012 documentary Indie Game: The Movie and all over Twitter, game designer Phil Fish is a contentious figure, to say the least. Known for public meltdowns and abusive behavior, Phil Fish is easy to armchair diagnose, but Ian Danskin of Innuendo Studios uses this video to make something clear: We do not know Phil Fish. Before widespread discussions of parasocial relationships with online personalities, Innuendo Studios was pointing out the perils of treating semi-celebrities as anything other than strangers.

What’s So Great About That?, “Night In The Woods: Do You Always Have A Choice?” (April 20, 2017)

Player choice in video games is often emphasized as an integral facet of gameplay — but what if not having a real choice is the point? In this video, Grace Lee of What’s So Great About That? discusses how removing choice can add to a game’s narrative through the lens of sad, strange indie game Night in the Woods . What can a game with a mentally ill protagonist in a run-down post-industrial town teach us about what choices really mean, and how is a game the perfect way to depict that meaning? This video essay aims to make you see this game in a new light.

Pop Culture Detective, “Born Sexy Yesterday” (April 27, 2017)

One of the many “all killer no filler” channels on this list, Pop Culture Detective is best known as a trope namer. One of those tropes, “Born Sexy Yesterday,” encourages the audience to notice a specific, granular, but strangely prominent character trait in science fiction and fantasy: a female character who, through the conceit of the world and plot, has very little functional knowledge of the world around her, but is also a smoking hot adult. It’s sort of the reverse of the prominent anime trope of a grown woman, sometimes thousands of years old, inhabiting the body of a child. When broken down, the trope is not just a nightmare, it’s something you can’t unsee — and you start to see it everywhere .

Maggie Mae Fish, “Looking For Meaning in Tim Burton’s Movies” (April 24, 2018)

Tim Burton is an iconic example of an outsider making art for other outsiders who question and push the status quo ... right? In Maggie Mae Fish’s first video essay on her channel, she breaks down how Burton co-opts the anticapitalist aesthetics of German expressionism (most obviously, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari ) to give an outsider edge to films that consistently, aggressively enforce the status quo. If you’re a die-hard Burton fan, this one might sting, but Jack Skellington would be proud of you for seeking knowledge. Just kidding. He’d probably want you to take the aesthetic of the knowledge and put it on something completely unrelated, removing it of meaning.

hbomberguy, “CTRL+ALT+DEL | SLA:3” (April 26, 2018)

Are you looking for a video essay with a little more unhinged chaos energy? Prepare yourself for this video by Harry Brewis, aka hbomberguy, analyzing the webcomic CTRL+ALT+DEL, and ultimately, the infamous loss.jpg. But this essay’s also more than that; it’s a response to the criticisms of analyzing pop culture, saying that sometimes art isn’t that deep, or that works can exist outside of the perspective of the creator. This video is infamous for its climax, which we won’t spoil here, but go in knowing it’s, at the very least, adjacent to not safe for work.

Folding Ideas, “A Lukewarm Defence of Fifty Shades of Grey” (August 31, 2018)

Speaking of not-safe-for-work, let’s talk about kink! Dan Olson of Folding Ideas has been creating phenomenal video essays for years. Highlighting “In Search of Flat Earth” as one of the best video essays in 2020 (and, honestly, ever) gives an opportunity to discuss his other masterpieces here: his three-part series dissecting the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise. This introduction to the series discusses specifically the first film, and it does so in a way that is refreshingly kink-positive while still condemning the ways Fifty Shades has promoted extremely unsafe kink practices and dynamics. It also analyzes the first film with a shockingly fair lens, giving accolades where they’re due (that cinematography!) and ripping the film to shreds when necessary (what the hell are these characters?).

ToonrificTariq, “How To BLACK: An Analysis of Black Cartoon Characters (feat. ReviewYaLife)” (January 13, 2019)

While ToonrificTariq’s channel usually focuses on fantastic, engaging reviews of off-kilter nostalgic cartoons — think Braceface and As Told By Ginger — takes this video to explain the importance of writing Black characters in cartoons for kids, and not just one token Black friend per show. Through the lens of shows like Craig of the Creek and Proud Family , ToonrificTariq and guest co-host ReviewYaLife explain the way Black characters have been written into the boxes and how those tropes can be overcome by writers in the future. The collaboration between the two YouTubers also allows a mix of scripted, analytical content and some goofy, fun back-and-forth and riffing.

Jacob Geller, “Games, Schools, and Worlds Designed for Violence” (October 1, 2019)

Jacob Geller ( who has written for Polygon ) has this way of baking sincerity, vulnerability, and so much care into his video essays. This episode is rough, digging into what level design in war games can tell us about the architecture of American schools following the tragic Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. It’s a video essay about video games, about violence, about safety, and about childhood. It’s a video essay about what we prioritize and how, and what that priority can look like. It’s a video essay that will leave you with deep contemplation, but a hungry contemplation, a need to learn and observe more.

Accented Cinema, “Parasite: Mastering the Basics of Cinema” (November 7, 2019)

2019 Bong Joon-ho cinematic masterpiece Parasite is filled to the brim with things to analyze, but Yang Zhang of Accented Cinema takes his discussion back to the basics. Focusing on how the film uses camera positions, light, and lines, the essay shows the mastery of details many viewers might not have noticed on first watch. But once you do notice them, they’re extremely, almost comically overt, while still being incredibly effective. The way the video conveys these ideas is simple, straightforward, and accessible while still illuminating so much about the film and remaining engaging and fun to watch. Accented Cinema turns this video into a 101 film studies crash course, showing how mastery of the basics can make a film such a standout.

Kat Blaque, “So... Let’s Talk About JK Rowling’s Tweet” (December 23, 2019)

In 2020, J. K. Rowling wrote her most infamous tweet about trans people, exemplifying a debate about trans rights and identities that is still becoming more and more intense today. Rowling’s tweet was not the first, or the most important, or even her first — but it was one of the tweets about the issue that gained the most attention. Kat Blaque’s video essay on the tweet isn’t really about the tweet itself. Instead, it’s a masterful course in transphobia, TERFs, and how people hide their prejudice against trans people in progressive language. In an especially memorable passage, Blaque breaks down the tweet, line by line, phrase by phrase, explaining how each of them convey a different aspect of transphobia.

Philosophy Tube, “Data” (January 31, 2020)

One of the most underrated essays in Philosophy Tube’s catalogue, “Data” explains the importance of data privacy. Data privacy is often easily written off; “I have nothing to hide,” and “It makes my ads better,” are both given as defenses against the importance of data privacy. In this essay, though, creator Abigail Thorn breaks traditional essay form to depict an almost Plato-like philosophical dialogue between two characters: a bar patron and the bar’s bouncer. It’s also somewhat of a choose-your-own-adventure game, a post- Bandersnatch improvement upon the Bandersnatch concept.

Intelexual Media, “A Short History of American Celebrity” (February 13, 2020)

Historian Elexus Jionde of Intelexual Media has one of the strongest and sharpest analytical voices when discussing celebrity, from gossip to idolization to the celebrity industrial complex to stan culture . Her history of American celebrity is filled to the brim with information, fact following fact at a pace that’s breakneck without ever leaving the audience behind. While the video initially seems like just a history, there’s a thesis baked into the content about what celebrity is, how it got to where it is today, and where it might be going—and what all of that means about the rest of us.

Princess Weekes, “Empire and Imperialism in Children’s Cartoons—a super light topic” (June 22, 2020)

This video by Princess Weekes (Melina Pendulum) starts with a bang — a quick, goofy song followed by a steep dive into imperialization and its effect on intergenerational trauma. And then, it connects those concepts to much-beloved cartoons for kids like Avatar: The Last Airbender , Steven Universe , and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power . Fans of shows like these may be burnt out on fandom discourse quickly saying, “thing bad!” because of how they view its stance on imperialization. Weekes, however, has always favored nuance and close reading. Her take on imperialization in cartoons offers a more complex method of analyzing these shows, and the cartoons that will certainly drum up the same conversations in the future.

Yhara Zayd, “Holes & The Prison-Industrial Complex” (July 7, 2020)

2003’s Holes absolutely rules, and Yhara Zayd’s video essay on the film shows why it isn’t just a fun classic with memorable characters. It’s also way, way more complex than most of us might remember. Like Dan Olson, Yhara Zayd appeared on our list of the best video essays of 2020, but frankly, any one of her videos could belong there or here. What makes this analysis of Holes stand out is the meticulous attention to detail Zayd has in her analysis, revealing the threads that connect the film’s commentary across its multiple interwoven plotlines. And, of course, there’s Zayd’s trademark quiet passion for the work she’s discussing, making this essay just as much of a close reading as it is a love letter to the film.

D’Angelo Wallace, “The Disappearance of Blaire White” (November 2, 2020)

D’Angelo Wallace is best known as a commentary YouTuber, someone who makes videos reacting to current events, pop culture, and, of course, other YouTubers. With his hour-long essay on YouTuber Blaire White, though, that commentary took a sharp turn into cultural analysis and introspection. For those unfamiliar with White’s work, she was once a prominent trans YouTuber known for her somewhat right-wing politics, including her discussion of other trans people. In Wallace’s video, her career is outlined — but so is the effect she had on her viewers. What is it about creators like White that makes them compelling? And what does it take for us to reevaluate what they’ve been saying?

Chromalore, “The Last Unicorn: Death and the Legacy of Fantasy” (December 3, 2020)

Chromalore is a baffling internet presence. With one video essay up, one single tweet, and a Twitter bio that simply reads, “just one (1) video essay, as a treat,” this channel feels like the analysis equivalent of seeing someone absolutely captivating at a party who you know you’ll never see again, and who you know you’ll never forget.

This video essay discusses themes of death, memory, identity, remorse, and humanity as seen through both the film and the novel The Last Unicorn . It weaves together art history and music, Christian iconography and anime-inspired character designs. It talks about why this film is so beloved and the effect it’s had on audiences today. It’s moving, deeply researched, brilliantly executed, and we will probably never see this creator again.

Khadija Mbowe, “Digital Blackface?” (December 23, 2020)

“Digital Blackface” is a term popularized by Lauren Michele Jackson’s 2017 Teen Vogue essay, “We Need to Talk About Digital Blackface in Reaction GIFs.” The piece explains the prominence of white people using the images of Black people without context to convey a reaction, and Khadija Mbowe’s deep dive on the subject expands on how, and why, blackface tropes have evolved in the digital sphere. Mbowe’s essay involves a great deal of history and analysis, all of which is deeply uncomfortable. Consider this a content warning for depictions of racism throughout the video. But that discomfort is key to explaining why digital blackface is such a problem and how nonblack people, especially white people, can be more cognizant about how they depict their reactions online.

CJ the X, “No Face Is An Incel” (April 4, 2021)

Rounding out this list is a 2021 newcomer to video essays with an endlessly enjoyable gremlin energy that still winds up being some of the smartest, sharpest, and funniest discussions about pop culture. CJ the X, a human sableye , breaks down one of the most iconic and merch-ified Studio Ghibli characters, No Face, who is an incel. This is a video essay best experienced with no knowledge except its main thesis—that No Face is an incel—so you can sit back, be beguiled, be enraptured, and then be convinced.

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Amazon MGM Studios renews the hit series 'Fallout' for Season 2 on Prime Video

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A cover image of Prime Video's Fallout with the logo on the left and the cast sitting on a couch to the right with a city in the background.

Amazon MGM Studios has renewed its highly acclaimed new series, Fallout , for a second season on Prime Video.

Based on the iconic video game franchise from Bethesda, Fallout ranks among Prime Video’s top three most-watched titles ever. Season One is the service’s most watched season of a series globally since the premiere of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power . Fallout made its global debut exclusively on Prime Video on Wednesday, April 10, in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide.


The series hails from Kilter Films and executive producers Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. Nolan directed the first three episodes, with Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Graham Wagner serving as executive producers, creators, and co-showrunners.

“Jonah, Lisa, Geneva, and Graham have captivated the world with this ground-breaking, wild ride of a show. The bar was high for lovers of this iconic video game and so far, we seem to have exceeded their expectations, while bringing in millions of new fans to the franchise. The cast led by Ella Purnell, Aaron Moten , Walton Goggins, and Kyle MacLachlan have knocked it out of the park!” said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon MGM Studios. “We’d like to thank Jonah and Lisa and our friends at Bethesda for bringing the show to us as well as Geneva and Graham for coming aboard as showrunners. We are thrilled to announce season two after only one week out and take viewers even farther into the surreal world of Fallout .”

“Praise be to our insanely brilliant showrunners, Geneva and Graham, to our kick-ass cast, to Todd and James and all the legends at Bethesda, and to Jen, Vernon and the amazing team at Amazon for their incredible support of this show. We can’t wait to blow up the world all over again,” said Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, Kilter Films.

A scene from Prime Video's Fallout.

“Holy shit. Thank you to Jonah, Kilter, Bethesda and Amazon for having the courage to make a show that gravely tackles all of society's most serious problems these days—cannibalism, incest, jello cake. More to come!” said Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Graham Wagner, executive producers, creators, and co-showrunners.

“It’s been one of the most spectacular projects we’ve ever been a part of. Jonah and team did such an incredible job, and we’re overjoyed not just by the reaction to the show, but that we get to work with these amazing people even more,” said Todd Howard, executive producer, Bethesda Game Studios.

A scene from Prime Video's Fallout.

Fallout is the story of haves and have-nots in a world in which there’s almost nothing left to have. Two-hundred years after the apocalypse, the gentle denizens of luxury fallout shelters are forced to return to the irradiated hellscape their ancestors left behind—and are shocked to discover an incredibly complex, gleefully weird, and highly violent universe waiting for them.

Ella Purnell is Lucy, an optimistic Vault-dweller with an all-American can-do spirit. Her peaceful and idealistic nature is tested when she is forced to the surface to rescue her father. Aaron Moten is Maximus, a young soldier who rises to the rank of squire in the militaristic faction called the Brotherhood of Steel. He will do anything to further the Brotherhood’s goals of bringing law and order to the wasteland. Walton Goggins is the Ghoul, a morally ambiguous bounty hunter who holds within him a 200-year history of the post-nuclear world. These disparate parties collide when chasing an artifact from an enigmatic researcher that has the potential to radically change the power dynamic in this world.

The series stars Ella Purnell ( Yellowjackets ), Aaron Moten ( Emancipation ), Kyle MacLachlan ( Twin Peaks ), and Walton Goggins ( The Hateful Eight ). Athena Wickham of Kilter Films also executive produces, along with Todd Howard for Bethesda Game Studios and James Altman for Bethesda Softworks. Amazon MGM Studios and Kilter Films produce in association with Bethesda Game Studios and Bethesda Softworks. The series cast includes Moisés Arias ( The King of Staten Island ), Sarita Choudhury ( Homeland ), Michael Emerson ( Person of Interest ), Leslie Uggams ( Deadpool ), Frances Turner ( The Boys ), Dave Register ( Heightened ), Zach Cherry ( Severance ), Johnny Pemberton ( Ant-Man ), Rodrigo Luzzi ( Dead Ringers ), Annabel O'Hagan ( Law & Order: SVU ), and Xelia Mendes-Jones ( The Wheel of Time ).

Fallout is available to stream exclusively on Prime Video in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide.

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Short on time? 10 books you can finish quickly.

The book world staff rounds up some of their favorite books that come in under 200 pages.

Sometimes, even those of us who read for a living are happy to pick up a book that we can finish in just a few days — or maybe even in a lazy afternoon at the park. We’re pretty sure that’s true for everyone else, too, so the Book World staff rounded up some of our favorite titles — new and old, fiction and nonfiction — that come and go as quickly as Washington’s brief spring. Here you’ll find memoirs and novels alike. Our only rule is that everything had to come in under 200 pages — sometimes a lot shorter.

‘Look at Me,’ by Anita Brookner

A surprising number of my favorite books hover around the 200-page mark, and some of these are indisputable classics (“Mrs. Dalloway,” “Notes From Underground,” “The Great Gatsby,” “The Good Soldier”). What’s most remarkable is how much these books can get done in a relatively small space, constraint seeming to paradoxically increase breadth and ambition. In “ Look at Me ” (1983), Anita Brookner’s third novel, a research librarian named Frances Hinton narrates the story of how she entered the social orbit of a shiny, charming married couple and their friend. Like many of Brookner’s characters, Frances lives a stringent, lonely life that seems a combination of consciously, even proudly, chosen and temperamentally inevitable. Not much happens in the book by way of plot, and not much has to. This is one of the most beautifully written and psychologically penetrating novels you’ll find. (192 pages) — John Williams

‘Waiting for the Barbarians,’ by J.M. Coetzee

In “ Waiting for the Barbarians ” (1980), Nobel Prize-winning South African writer J.M. Coetzee pulls off an eventful trick, writing about his home country’s political sins (and political sins more generally) through an allegory about an unspecified “Empire.” Narrated by a magistrate in the hinterlands, the plot revolves around the capture and treatment of “barbarians” who oppose the Empire. Often disturbing, the book is a condensed epic, vividly written and philosophically provocative on nearly all its relatively few pages. (152 pages) — John Williams

‘The Dry Heart,’ by Natalia Ginzburg

“ The Dry Heart ” (1947), a sleek and startling novella by postwar Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg, is a sort of feminist answer to Albert Camus’s “The Stranger.” His book begins, famously, “Mother died today.” Ginzburg’s even more arresting opening is at once flatly matter-of-fact and feverishly wrathful. “I shot him between the eyes,” she writes on the book’s very first page. “He” is the narrator’s decidedly underwhelming husband, a philandering loafer who marries her out of boredom and refuses to terminate a years-long affair with another woman.

Ginzburg is a crisp stylist, and her unsentimental and disciplined prose is curiously at odds with her novella’s guiding sentiment: fury that simmers until, all at once, it boils over. “The Dry Heart” is as taut and methodical a record of rage and revenge as you are apt to find. (96 pages) — Becca Rothfeld

‘Spurious,’ by Lars Iyer

People are often drawn to short novels because of some unspoken promise of elegance and perfectionism. Such books are marketed to readers as marvels of precision, darling little objects. (Yes, there’s something mildly orthorexic about what Esquire called the rise of the “slim volume.” ) Lars Iyer’s “ Spurious ” (2011), though, is foul-mouthed, high-spirited, rough around the edges. Nothing much happens in it: Two best frenemies tool around England and, in the words of the author , “take the mickey” out of each other. I’m told it’s a “philosophical novel” — Lars and his friend W, like the author, work in academia and bemoan their intellectual limitations — but don’t blanch! It’s also way more entertaining than it has any right to be. Iyer makes you believe in insult comedy as an Olympic sport, even a form of love. And if you like this one, it’s a gateway to five more in a similar vein. The perfect tonic for anyone haunted by the thought that they ought to be reading something better, more rigorous, more wholesome. (190 pages) — Sophia Nguyen

‘Where Reasons End,’ by Yiyun Li

Written after the suicide of Yiyun Li’s son, this novel from 2019 is largely composed of conversations between a bereaved mother and her dead child, Nikolai. They muse over various intellectual matters — the nature of time, the proper usage of language — and needle each other. (At one point, he tells her, “If you’re protesting by becoming a bad writer, I would say it’s highly unnecessary,” to which she retorts, “Dying is highly unnecessary too.”) It’s a tough book to widely recommend, purely because of the heaviness of its subject matter. But “ Where Reasons End ” is also unforgettable, the kind of book that feels like a miracle of physics: You’re amazed by how lightly the prose moves, despite the density of its emotional core. (192 pages) — Sophia Nguyen

‘The Minotaur at Calle Lanza,’ by Zito Madu

Throughout the first year of the covid pandemic, my girlfriend and I mainlined season after season of the genial PBS travel program “Rick Steves’ Europe,” seeking a habitable elsewhere in its images of crowded market squares and ornate palazzos. Nigerian American writer Zito Madu’s experience of the era was altogether different, thanks to an artist’s residency that brought him to Venice in the fall of 2020, a time when the city had been largely emptied out, especially of the tourists who normally drift along its canals.

In this memoir published earlier this year, that evacuated milieu becomes an occasion for Madu’s elegant meditations on alienation, especially from his own family but also from the overwhelmingly White world he moves through. His prose has the smooth and constant warmth of blood in a vein, a fluidity so steady it sometimes seems no different from stillness. Though Madu’s narrative culminates in a shockingly surreal sequence that is unlike anything I have read in a memoir, I will remember “ The Minotaur at Calle Lanza ” for its calmer moments: an African priest’s service in an otherwise Italian Catholic church or the quiet labor of a glass blower, a man content to carry on his business in silence “as if you weren’t there.” (184 pages) — Jacob Brogan

‘The Spinning Heart,’ by Donal Ryan

A portrait of a rural Irish town decimated by economic collapse, Donal Ryan’s debut novel made a splash when it was published in 2012, winning the Irish Book Award for both newcomer of the year and book of the year. Each of the 21 short chapters in “ The Spinning Heart ” is told from the perspective of a different inhabitant, their lives woven together by economic uncertainty and marred by tragedy. Bobby Mahon, a construction company foreman, blames himself after owner Pokey Burke skipped town, putting the livelihoods of his workers at risk. And Pokey’s father, Joseph Burke, is ashamed of his son, who appears to have fleeced the laborers to save himself. As the residents’ stories unfold, their public personas shield inner monologues that expose the truth about what they think of one another and of themselves. (156 pages) — Becky Meloan

‘About Alice,’ by Calvin Trillin

The author photo on the back of Calvin Trillin’s 2006 memoir about his wife, Alice, may be the happiest I’ve ever seen. It’s from their wedding day in 1965. Neither seems dressed for the occasion, but they are beaming. That joy radiates through “ About Alice ,” adapted from a New Yorker article, which should be sad because it is essentially about Alice’s death, on Sept. 11, 2001 (not in the terrorist attacks but in a New York hospital a few miles away, of heart failure stemming from lung cancer treatment).

Here the longtime New Yorker writer, who for years had turned his wife into a favorite character in his books and articles, aims to set the record straight about her. She was wise, yes, but not a stern “dietician in sensible shoes.”Rather, “she had something close to a child’s sense of wonderment. She was the only adult I ever knew who might respond to encountering a deer on a forest path by saying, ‘Wowsers!’” By the end of this brief, witty and loving portrait, you’ll wish you’d met Alice, too, if only to hear that exclamation. (78 pages) — Nora Krug

‘The Island of Dr. Moreau,’ by H.G. Wells

There are several late-19th-century novellas — among them, Stevenson’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Wells’s “The Time Machine,” James’s “The Turn of the Screw” and Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” — that strikingly anticipate the anxieties and obsessions of our modern world. All four are rightly celebrated, but I now find a fifth, H.G. Wells’s “ The Island of Dr. Moreau ” (1896), the most disturbing and prophetic of all.

Why? Because it probes real-life issues that haunt us more than ever: What makes us human? Are we really that different from other animals? What is the relationship between science and morality? In particular, Wells asks us to think hard about the ethics and consequences of experimentation and what we now call genetic engineering.

Not least, “The Island of Dr. Moreau” embeds all these questions in a perfectly orchestrated crescendo of mystery, terror, violence, sacrifice and spiritual desolation. You will never forget it. “Are we not men?” (160 pages) — Michael Dirda

‘Another Brooklyn,’ by Jacqueline Woodson

With the economy of a poet, Jacqueline Woodson packs so much life and pain into her National Book Award-winning novel, “ Another Brooklyn .” When it was published in 2016, it was a return of sorts; Woodson had been focusing her creative efforts on books for young readers, to critical acclaim, and this was her first novel for adults in nearly two decades. The story, though, revolves around a child: August is 8 years old when she moves from Tennessee to New York with her brother and father after her mother’s death. Her fragmented recollections of 1970s Brooklyn — related years later after she becomes an anthropologist — work on multiple frequencies, capturing a child’s partial understanding of the dangers around her and the electric thrill of new friendships while also conveying nostalgia for the relationships that couldn’t withstand time and the innocence that was lost too soon. (192 pages) — Stephanie Merry

More from Book World

Love everything about books? Make sure to subscribe to our Book Club newsletter , where Ron Charles guides you through the literary news of the week.

Best books of 2023: See our picks for the 10 best books of 2023 or dive into the staff picks that Book World writers and editors treasured in 2023. Check out the complete lists of 50 notable works for fiction and the top 50 nonfiction books of last year.

Find your favorite genre: Three new memoirs tell stories of struggle and resilience, while five recent historical novels offer a window into other times. Audiobooks more your thing? We’ve got you covered there, too . If you’re looking for what’s new, we have a list of our most anticipated books of 2024 . And here are 10 noteworthy new titles that you might want to consider picking up this April.

Still need more reading inspiration? Super readers share their tips on how to finish more books . Or let poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib explain why he stays in Ohio . You can also check out reviews of the latest in fiction and nonfiction .

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    The 2022 video essay retrospective was compiled with the help of 44 voters (from 21 countries) for the 'Best of' or 'Emerging voices' sections. The contributors bring in their expertise as video essayists (several of whom earned nominations in the poll from their peers), film/art critics, film-studies academics (professors, researchers) and festival curators, collectively building a ...

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    The best video essays of 2021. Introspection and the act of watching emerged as recurring themes across a year in which video makers responded to the realities of a continuing pandemic. Our poll of 30 video essayists, academics, critics and filmmakers highlights 120 recommendations. 18 January 2022. By Ariel Avissar, Cydnii Wilde Harris, Grace Lee.

  9. Volume 4, Issue 3: The Best Video Essays of 2023

    I am equally excited to share a new episode of The Video Essay Podcast, "Curating Sight & Sound 's Best Video Essays of 2023." In a conversation moderated by Kevin B. Lee, the curators of this year's list discuss the results of the poll, their curatorial strategies, and offer general thoughts on the video essay landscape in 2023.

  10. The 15 Best Video Essays of 2021

    But, for now, let's take a look back on the best video essays of 2021: Why 4:3 Looks So Good. Sneak Peek. For a significant period of both film and television history, the boxy 4:3 aspect ratio ...

  11. 10 Video Essays That Will Get You Addicted To Video Essays

    In this video, Yhara zayd takes you step by gruelling step through how and why cult classic Jennifer's Body was so badly marketed. Merryana Salem is a proud Wonnarua and Lebanese-Australian writer, critic, teacher, researcher and podcaster on most social media as @akajustmerry. If you want, check out her podcast, GayV Club where she gushes ...

  12. The Best Video Essays of 2022

    Essay By. This video on the incredible Disney sequel The Lion King 1 ½ is by Jace, a.k.a BREADSWORD, an LA-based video essayist who specializes in long-form nostalgia-heavy love letters ...

  13. The Best Video Essay Channels, Ranked

    Every Frame A Painting. Sometimes the most obvious answer is still the best one. Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou's gorgeous video series Every Frame A Painting is still the benchmark against which ...

  14. Five Video Essays That Go Beyond the Surface

    With so many to sort through, here are some recommendations for the best recent video essays to check out. by Dan Schindel October 16, 2023 October 16, 2023. Share. Share "Art in the Pre ...

  15. 10 Best YouTube Channels For Film Video Essays, According To Reddit

    FilmJoy. With videos ranging from 10 minutes to over an hour long, the YouTube channel FilmJoy has things for everyone to enjoy. Of course, while the channel offers several shows, most of the channel's supporters tend to find themselves more engaged by the Movies with Mikey show. "Intelligent, funny and extremely heartfelt.

  16. The best video essays of 2020

    It's sobering, emotional, and moving. 7. "Why Anime is for Black People - Hip Hop x Anime," Yedoye Travis (Beyond the Bot) Beyond the Bot is a new New York-based collective making video ...

  17. The Top 10 Video Essays of 2022

    What is the best video essay of 2022? Only one video can give you the answer!The Playlist: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLU3-pPdRjmJJp2JZ9v9m_-MIjoKMYxS...

  18. What is a Video Essay? The Art of the Video Analysis Essay

    A video essay is a video that analyzes a specific topic, theme, person or thesis. Because video essays are a rather new form, they can be difficult to define, but recognizable nonetheless. To put it simply, they are essays in video form that aim to persuade, educate, or critique. These essays have become increasingly popular within the era of ...

  19. The Top 10 Video Essays of 2023

    The Playlist: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLU3-pPdRjmJLvHtshChGuFXHzuiH5Do76&si=X9oWv-swr_7mcQrxThe essayists mentioned:@PixelaDay @KaiAfterKai @maraga...

  20. What is the best video essay you've ever seen? : r/videoessay

    Life is Strange 2 is an episodic video game developed by DONTИOD Entertainment and published by Square Enix for PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch. "Two brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz, 16 and 9, are forced to run away from home after a tragic incident in Seattle. In fear of the police, Sean & Daniel head to Mexico while attempting to ...

  21. How to Create a Video Essay for Your College Application

    The challenge is to focus on your presentation and choose your words wisely. 1. Choose a topic. Next, decide on the topic of the video. Some schools may invite you to discuss a particular topic, and others will want the video essay to serve as a personal introduction in place of an interview. If the video serves as an interview, include the ...

  22. 'American Idol' Top 12 Results 2024: Who Went Home?

    Who went home tonight on American Idol 2024. Jordan Anthony. Nya. Advancing artists tonight on American Idol 2024 Top 12. Abi Carter. Ajii. Emmy Russell. Jack Blocker. Jayna Elise.

  23. Top 100 Video Essays Of All Time

    Some of my favorite video essays on his website. Most of these are about video games. A little less of them are about movies or TV shows. A little less of th...

  24. 4/21/24: Top 10 Home Runs of the Week

    4/21/24: Top 10 Home Runs of the Week. April 22, 2024 | 00:04:55. Reels. From Mike Trout's go-ahead home run to Shohei Ohtani breaking the Japanese-born homer record, here are the Top 10 Home Runs of the Week. home run.

  25. The best video essays of all time, from BreadTube and beyond

    Dan Olson of Folding Ideas has been creating phenomenal video essays for years. Highlighting "In Search of Flat Earth" as one of the best video essays in 2020 (and, honestly, ever) gives an ...

  26. 10 Best Undetectable AI Tools to Bypass AI Detectors with Ease

    Read on to discover all about 10 of the best undetectable AI writers. BypassGPT - Best Undetectable AI Writing Tool Overall. HIX Bypass - Best Undetectable AI Writing Tool for Improving Quality ...

  27. Amazon MGM Studios renews Fallout for Season 2 on Prime Video

    Amazon MGM Studios has renewed its highly acclaimed new series, Fallout, for a second season on Prime Video. Based on the iconic video game franchise from Bethesda, Fallout ranks among Prime Video's top three most-watched titles ever.Season One is the service's most watched season of a series globally since the premiere of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

  28. 10 excellent short books

    There are several late 19th-century novellas — among them, Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Wells's "The Time Machine," James's "The Turn of the Screw" and Conrad's ...