Film Theory: The Basics  book cover
1st Edition

Film Theory: The Basics

ISBN 9781138797345
Published February 24, 2016 by Routledge
206 Pages

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Book Description

Film Theory: The Basics provides an accessible introduction to the key theorists, concepts, and debates that have shaped the study of moving images. It examines film theory from its emergence in the early twentieth century to its study in the present day, and explores why film has drawn special attention as a medium, as a form of representation, and as a focal point in the rise of modern visual culture.

The book emphasizes how film theory has developed as a historically contingent discourse, one that has evolved and changed in conjunction with different social, political, and intellectual factors. To explore this fully, the book is broken down into the following distinct sections:

  • Theory Before Theory, 1915-1960
  • French Theory, 1949-1968
  • Screen Theory, 1969-1996
  • Post-Theory, 1996-2015

Complete with questions for discussion and a glossary of both key terms and key theorists, Film Theory: The Basics is an invaluable resource for those new to film studies and for anyone else interested in the history and significance of critical thinking in relation to the moving image.

Table of Contents


1 Theory Before Theory, 1915-1960

I. Early American Theorists and the Quest for Legitimacy

II. France, Film Culture, and Photogénie

III. Soviet Russia and Montage Theory

IV. Germany and the Frankfurt School

V. Post-War France: From Neorealism to the New Wave


2 French Theory, 1949-1968

I. The Linguistic Turn

II. Lacan and the Return to Freud

III. Althusser and the Return to Marx

IV. Cinema and Semiotics

V. May 1968 and Afterward


3 Screen Theory, 1969-1996

I. Screen and Theory

II. Feminist Film Theory

III. Postcolonial Theory

IV. Queer Theory

V. A Postmodern End


4 Post-Theory, 1996-2015

I. Theory’s Critics, Cognitive Science, and Historical Poetics

II. Deleuze and the Return of Philosophy

III. New Media and Post-Film Theory


Appendix I: Glossary of Key Terms

Appendix II: Glossary of Key Theorists


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Kevin McDonald is a Lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies at California State University, Northridge where he teaches popular culture and cultural theory. His research focuses on film theory and contemporary Hollywood. He is currently co-editing a collection entitled The Netflix Effect.


"Many introductions to film theory confuse and confound the beginner. Kevin McDonald’s addition to Routledge’s ‘The Basics’ series is different. It is one of the most accessible introductions to film theory currently available, and should become the first stop for students embarking on any future study of film theory."

Warren Buckland, Reader in Film Studies, Oxford Brookes University