Module UXS-2064:
Film Theory

Module Facts

Run by School of Music and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Gregory Frame

Overall aims and purpose

This module will introduce you to a wide range of theoretical debates that have impacted upon film studies as a discipline. We will examine topics such as auteur theory, star theory, genre, feminism, realism, Marxism, postmodernism, race, sexuality and history. This module is equally applicable for those studying film practice and film as an academic discipline. As well as providing a firm grounding in major theoretical debates in film studies, this module prepares you to think and write about film using appropriate critical models. Students will work with both films and theoretical writings.

Course content

Topics that will be covered in this module include: auteur theory, star theory, genre theory, feminism, ideology, postmodernism, race, sexuality, history and realism. Stars and directors who may be examined include: Orson Welles, Douglas Sirk, William Wyler, John Ford, Todd Haynes, Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, Gus van Sant, Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, Rita Hayworth.

Assessment Criteria


C- to B+

Submitted work is competent throughout and may be distinguished by superior style, approach and choice of supporting materials. It:

  1. Demonstrates good or very good structure and logically developed arguments.
  2. Draws at least in parts on material that has been sourced and assessed as a result of independent study, or in a way unique to the student.
  3. Assertions are backed by evidence and sound reasoning.
  4. Accuracy and presentation in an appropriate academic style.


D- to D+

Submitted work is adequate and shows an acceptable level of competence as follows:

  1. Generally accurate but with omissions and errors.
  2. Assertions are made without clear supporting evidence or reasoning.
  3. Has structure but is lacking in clarity and therefore relies on the reader to make links and assumptions.
  4. Draws on a relatively narrow range of material.


A- to A*

Submitted work is of an outstanding quality and excellent in one or more of the following ways:

  1. Has originality of exposition with the student’s own thinking being readily apparent.
  2. Provides clear evidence of extensive and relevant independent study.
  3. Arguments are laid down with clarity and provide the reader with successive stages of consideration to reach conclusions.

Learning outcomes

  1. LO5: Students will be able to provide a close textual analysis of a film text using the theories presented on the module

  2. LO1: The student will be able to distinguish the pathway and history of film studies as a discipline that is distinct from any other.

  3. LO2: The student will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the major theoretical approaches to film studies.

  4. LO3: The student will be able to evaluate how conceptual arguments can be used to shape a reading of a film text.

  5. LO4: Students will be able to explore the interplay between film form and meaning.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY Clip analysis

A 1500-word detailed clip analysis examining a film from one theoretical viewpoint. With reference to a film clip lasting no more than ten minutes, you will be expected to carry out an analysis using ONE of the theoretical approaches we have used in the first half of the semester.

ESSAY Whole film analysis

A 2000-word detailed discussion of a film text from one theoretical viewpoint.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


a 1-hour formal lecture (x 11 weeks)




Film screenings

Private study 145

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

Critical analysis

i. engage critically with major thinkers and debates within the field, putting them to productive use

ii. understand forms of communication, media, film and culture as they have emerged historically and appreciate the processes through which they have come into being, with reference to social, cultural and technological change

iii. comprehend how different social groups variably make use of, and engage with, forms of communication, media, film and culture

iv. make critical judgements in the understanding and evaluation of these forms

v. consider and evaluate their own work in a reflexive manner, with reference to academic codes of practice and/or professional conventions, issues and debates.

vi. appreciate and apply ethical consideration and judgement to analysis of production, distribution and consumption in communication, media, film and culture.


i. carry out various forms of research for essays, projects, creative productions or dissertations involving sustained independent and critical enquiry

ii. formulate appropriate research questions and employ appropriate methods and resources for exploring those questions

iii. locate, retrieve, evaluate and draw upon the range of data, sources and the conceptual frameworks appropriate to research in the chosen area

iv. draw on the strengths and understand the limits of the major quantitative and/or qualitative research methods, and be able to apply this knowledge critically in their own work

v. draw on and evaluate and apply research enabled by established and emergent technologies

vi. draw and reflect upon the relevance and impact of their own cultural commitments and positioning to the practice of research

vii. locate, understand, and apply the research ethical codes produced by relevant subject associations, and understand and comply with the ethical standards appropriate to research in their field of interest

viii. collate, critically evaluate and understand a variety of research material within and beyond academic literature.

Generic skills

i. work in flexible, creative and independent ways, showing self-discipline awareness of relevant ethical considerations, self-direction and reflexivity

ii. collate, organise and deploy ideas and information in order to formulate arguments cogently, and express them effectively in written, oral or other forms

iii. retrieve and generate information, and evaluate sources, in carrying out independent research

iv. organise and manage supervised, self-directed projects

v. communicate effectively in interpersonal settings, in writing and in a variety of media

vi. work productively in a group or team, showing abilities at different times to listen, contribute and also to lead effectively

vii. deliver work to a given length, format, brief and deadline, properly referencing sources and ideas and making use, as appropriate, of a problem-solving approach


Resource implications for students

One of the essential readings for each week is taken from The Oxford Guide to Film Studies, so this is a recommended purchase for students.

Talis Reading list

Reading list

André Bazin, ‘The Evolution of the Language of Cinema’, What is Cinema? Volume 1, ed./trans Hugh Gray (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), pp.23-40.

Baudry, Leo and Cohen, Marshall (eds) (2009), Film Theory and Criticism (5th edition) New York / Oxford: OUP

Benshoff, Harry M, America on film: representing race, class, gender, and sexuality at the movies (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell 2009).

Fuchs, Cynthia, ‘The Buddy Politic’ in Steve Cohan and Ina Rae Hark (eds.) Screening the Male (London: Routledge 1992), pp.194-212.

Bordwell, David, Narration in the Fiction Film (London: Methuen, 1985) Casetti, Franceso (1999), Theories of Cinema 1945-1995, Austin: University of Texas

Collins, Jim, Hilary Radner and Ava Preacher Collins (eds), Film Theory Goes to the Movies (London: Routledge, 1993).

Cook, Pam (ed.), The Cinema Book (London: British Film Institute, 1985). Second Edition.

David Bordwell, ‘Historical Poetics of Cinema’, in R. Barton Palmer (ed.), The Cinematic Text: Methods and Approaches (New York: AMS Press, 1989).

Ed Buscombe, ‘The Idea of Genre in the American Cinema’, Screen, 11: 2 (1970), pp.33-45.

Hill, John and Church-Gibson, Pamela (eds.), The Oxford Guide to Film Studies, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Hollows, Joanne, and Mark Jancovich (eds), Approaches to Popular Film (Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Jean-Luc Comolli and Jean Narboni, ‘Cinema/ideology/criticism’, Screen, 12: 1 (1971)

Laura Mulvey, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, Screen 16: 3 (1979), pp.6-18.

Mast, Gerald, Marshall Cohen and Leo Braudy (eds), Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974 1995).

Peter Wollen, ‘The Auteur Theory’ in Signs and Meaning in the Cinema (London: Palgrave 1969)

Richard Dyer, ‘Stars as Types’ in Stars (London: BFI 1979), pp.53-98.

Stam, Robert (2000), Film Theory: An Introduction, Oxford: Blackwell

Stam, Robert and Miller, Toby (eds.), Film and Theory: An Anthology, Malden, Mass., USA, and Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: