Course Description

An historical survey of film from the advent of commercial motion pictures in the 1890s, the proliferation of national cinema movements throughout the 20th century, and the influence of each in the formation of a global film culture at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Because it is impossible to survey the entire history of film in a single semester that meets once a week, we will be focusing on two broad themes in pre–World War II era and in the post-World War II era.

  1. Following the commercialization of motion pictures in the late nineteenth century and the development of narrative techniques in the early years of the twentieth century, national cinemas emerged throughout the world. Filmmakers working these national cinemas emphasized certain stylistic techniques in their filmmaking. For example, American cinema emphasizes storytelling over all other techniques, while filmmakers in the Soviet Union theorized that editing was the most important technique. We will focus our study in the prewar era on these national cinema tendencies. We cover this in modules 1–6.
  2. Following World War II, new waves of filmmaking that focused less on the differences between nations in favor of the common bonds between people. There was also an emergence of modernism in film, breaking established conventions of the previous generations. We cover this in modules 7–12.

Exam 1 divides the modules and our coverage of these broad themes.

Remote Online Course

This course will be conducted remotely over the Internet.

Most learning activities will be asynchronous, meaning that you will complete these on your own time. This includes readings, screenings, quizzes, essays, and exams.

In addition, there will be a certain number of synchronous activities, including a weekly discussion session on Zoom where we discuss the major issues relating to that week’s module on the history of film.


Juan Monroy

Office Hours

Office hours will be held remotely. Sign up for an appointment at

After you sign up, I will email you a Zoom Meeting link for you to join the meeting.


Please complete all of the assignments by the date noted on the course schedule


Assigned readings are listed in the course schedule below and available from the following sources:

  1. Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell. Film History: An Introduction, 5th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2022.

  2. Karen Gocsik, Dave Monahan, and Richard Barsam. Writing About Movies, 5th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2019.

If you prefer, you’re welcome to use older editions of Film History: An Introduction published in the last decade.

The course schedule links to readings found in the digital textbook that is available for sale or rent from Vitalsource.

Reading Quizzes

Each week, I will post a reading quiz on Canvas. The quiz will consist of true-false and multiple choice questions.

Complete each quiz by the dates noted on Canvas.

  • Ten of twelve quizzes are required
  • Weight: 10%


Watch each of the films listed in the course schedule below. You will need to authenticate with your Pratt One Key credentials to access these screenings.

All films produced prior to 1930 are silent and are identified as such. Any music or other sounds was added years later. The soundtrack you hear should not be considered part of the original filmmakers’ work.

Some titles are available to stream from commercial services, such as The Criterion Channel, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and Kanopy. Where available, I have linked to Just Watch, a service that aggregates the availability of online streaming for most movie titles.

Letterboxd Lists of Relevant Films

I also have a Letterboxd list of relevant films for each module.

  1. Invention of Cinema
  2. Germany and Mise-en-scène
  3. French Film and Cinematography
  4. Soviet Montage
  5. Classical Hollywood Cinema
  6. World War II and Documentary
  7. Italy and Neorealism
  8. France and New Waves
  9. Latin America and Third Cinema
  10. West German and Eastern European New Waves
  11. New Hollywood
  12. East-Asian Cinema


Each module requires you to watch a recorded lecture in multiple parts. The recorded lectures move through the course material quicker than an in-person lecture. As you watch each video, pause and rewind the video as necessary to take notes on the material. This will help ensure you’re ingesting the course material.

The videos are all captioned and a transcript is available in Canvas. However, Canvas Studio, where the videos are hosted, disappeared from Canvas. I am providing a backup, uncaptioned video available from Pratt Talks (Kaltura) linked under each video.

Each lecture is unlocked on Tuesday and is linked on the course schedule below.

Weekly Discussion Session

We will have a weekly discussion session on Zoom, at the following time:

  • Section 1: Tuesdays, 9:00–10:15 AM on Zoom
  • Section 2: Tuesdays, 2:00–3:15 PM on Zoom

In these sessions, we will discuss the major issues relating to that week’s module on the history of film and closely examine how the films we studied represent those issues.

Students will be assigned to a breakout room to analyze an excerpt from a film we have studied for this module. The excerpts (“clips”) are posted in Canvas under the respective module.

These sessions will be recorded and made available only to students in our class upon request.

Zoom Video Policy: You’re welcome to keep your video off during our class.

Writing about Movies Assignments

Using the textbook, Writing About Movies, we will be developing our writing skills through a series of exercises throughout the semester, culminating in a research and analysis essay (detailed below).

  1. Summarize and Evaluate (lowest score dropped)
    • Germany and Mise-en-scène
    • French Film and Cinematography
    • Soviet Montage
  2. Shot Analysis
  3. Formal Analysis
  4. Understanding Primary and Secondary Sources
  5. Cultural Analysis
  6. Organizing and Outlining
  7. Composing Thesis and Topic Sentences

Each exercise will be available on Canvas. All exercises are required—except that I will drop your lowest Summarize and Evaluate score—and will be worth 30% of your final grade.

Film Research and Analysis Essay

A 1,200-word film research and analysis essay that analyzes the formal and cultural elements of a suitable, historically important film that is listed in one of the twelve Letterboxd lists for this course. Your research should include the film itself and primary and secondary historical sources.


You are required to complete two exams.

  1. Exam 1: covers our survey of early film history to World War II
  2. Exam 2: covers our survey of film history after World War II

Each exam will consist of two types of questions:

  1. Identification of film stills from films screened in class, requiring you to identify and explain the image in the context of the film.
  2. Short answer questions, requiring you to engage the screenings and readings related to the major movements and trends in film history we covered in class.Your answers to the exam questions should synthesize what you learned in the readings, discussions, and screenings for each module.

Both exams are required and constitute 40% of your final grade.

  • higher exam score: 25%
  • lower exam score: 15%

Course Schedule

Complete each assigned activity—readings, quizzes, lectures, and screenings—by the date listed for each module.

Module 0: Introduction

In this introductory session, we will meet each other on Zoom, at the time noted below. I will discuss the format of the course, our approach to film history, and our goals for understanding the history of film for this abbreviated course.

Module 1: Invention of Cinema

The invention of motion pictures in the late 19th century was a combination of breakthroughs in photography, persistence of vision, industrialization, and a commercial fascination with visual entertainment. By the early years of the 20th century, filmmakers developed novel techniques to tell stories that would keep audiences interested in the movies and an entire industry to exhibit these films.

All films in this module are silent films. Any music or other sounds were added years later. The soundtrack you hear should not be considered part of the original filmmakers’ work.

Module 2: Weimar Germany and Mise-en-Scène

In the years following its defeat in World War I, German filmmakers borrowed from painting and theater to craft a distinct style that would influence filmmakers throughout the world for many decades.

All films in this module are silent films. Any music or other sounds were added years later. The soundtrack you hear should not be considered part of the original filmmakers’ work.

Module 3: France, the Avant-Garde, and Cinematography

All films in this module are silent films. Any music or other sounds were added years later. The soundtrack you hear should not be considered part of the original filmmakers’ work.

French filmmakers in the 1920s fostered a film culture that treated film in the tradition of fine arts, not commercial entertainment as was common in the previous decade.

Module 4: Soviet Union and Montage

Editing allowed filmmakers in the Soviet Union to combine shots not only for the purpose of storytelling but for communicating complex themes and concepts relevant to the Russian Revolutions.

All films in this module are silent films. Any music or other sounds were added years later. The soundtrack you hear should not be considered part of the original filmmakers’ work.

Module 5: 1930s Hollywood and the Studio System

American filmmaking was dominated by a streamlined, assembly-line production system that would largely prioritize storytelling over utilizing the visual, sonic, spatial, rhythmic, and temporal possibilities of filmmaking.

Module 6: World War II and Documentary

Between the two world wars, documentary filmmakers forged narrative and experimental traditions for nonfiction filmmaking. When World War II broke out, the form was well suited for promoting the causes of Great Britain and of the United States against fascism and the Nazis.

Module 7: Italy and Neorealism

Following the aftermath of World War II, Italian filmmakers disavowed the polished look of their predecessors in favor exploring the struggle and anguish of everyday postwar life.

Module 8: France and the New Waves

At the end of the 1950s, a new wave of mostly young, first-time filmmakers excited international audiences with films that simultaneously portrayed their philosophical and literary concerns and borrowed from Hollywood films of the war years with their own distinct personal styles.

Module 9: Latin America and Third Cinema

Latin American cinema surged in the 1930s, after the coming of sound, particularly in Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil. But Hollywood, like the US government and industry, also dominated Latin American nations. In the wake of the New Waves and Neorealism, some nations, particularly Cuba and Argentina, rejected the cinemas of the First and Second Worlds in favor of unique, experimental style that would be used for engaging the public with revolutionary ideas.

Module 10: West German and Eastern European New Waves

While most filmmaking behind the “iron curtain” was state-controlled, some intrepid filmmakers in Eastern European nations developed experimental techniques to craft a political cinema that could skirt the scrutiny of state censors.

Module 11: New Hollywood

The fall of studio system in the late 1960s allowed filmmakers, inspired by the work of the European New Waves, to challenge the established practices and style of Hollywood in favor of an artistically minded cinema.

Module 12: East-Asian Cinemas

Following the Chinese Revolution of 1949, cinema would evolve as an isolated, state-sponsored propaganda model on the Mainland and as a commercial, narrative system critical of the Revolution in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

  • Read Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 27, “Cinema Rising: Pacific Asia and Oceania Since 1970”
  • Read Writing about Movies, “Considering Structure and Organization”
  • Watch the recorded lectures on Canvas:
    1. East Asian Cinemas (14 min.)
  • Watch Raise the Red Lantern [Da hong deng long gao gao gua] (Yimou Zhang, PRC, 1991, 125 min.)
  • Watch Chungking Express [Chung Hing sam lam] (Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong, 1994, 102 min.)
  • Reference my list of relevant films on Letterboxd
  • Complete Quiz 12 on Canvas
  • Join the Live Discussion Session on Zoom: