21L.011 | Fall 2013 | Undergraduate

The Film Experience

Films & Readings

This page includes the films and readings for each week, and a list of additional recommended readings.

Selected video lectures from the Fall 2007 class, which have previously been published in MIT OpenCourseWare, are assigned as preparation for some class sessions.

Most films viewed in the first two weeks are in the public domain, and can be viewed online at the given links and via the Public Domain Films page. Links provided for films produced after 1923 go to reference webpages at Wikipedia and IMDb.

Primary Course Text

[Cook] = Cook, David A. A History of Narrative Film. 4th ed. W. W. Norton & Company, 2003. ISBN: 9780393978681.

Part I. The Silent Era



The Great Train Robbery. Directed by Edwin S. Porter. 11 min. Thomas A. Edison, Inc., 1903.

A Beast at Bay. Directed by D. W. Griffith. 14 min. 1912.

The Lonedale Operator. Directed by D. W. Griffith. 17 min. 1911.

Cops. Directed by Buster Keaton. 18 min. First National Pictures, Inc., 1922.

The General. Directed by Buster Keaton. 75 min. United Artists, 1926.


Keaton (see the Public Domain Films page for links to these and related films):

  • Cops: Opening sequence with Keaton behind bars, scene with bomb and the scene where he see-saws
  • Keystone Cops short sequence: cops dragged behind the car
  • Sherlock Jr.: scene with the motorcycle

Flipped class week: before this week’s screening, watch OCW videos Lecture 1: Introduction (2007) and Lecture 2: Keaton (2007).

[Cook] pp. 1–41 and 51–85.

Gunning, Tom. “An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and the (In)Credulous Spectator.” Art and Text 34 (1989).

[Cook] pp. 177–82.

Mast, G. “Mack Sennett and the Chaplin Shorts” and “The Comics.” In A Short History of the Movies. 6th ed. Prentice Hall College Div, 1996, pp. 87–103 and 134–44. ISBN: 9780023770753.



The Immigrant. Directed by Charlie Chaplin. 20 min. Mutual Film Corporation, 1917.

Easy Street. Directed by Charlie Chaplin. 19 min. Mutual Film Corporation, 1917.

Modern Times. Directed by Charlie Chaplin. 87 min. United Artists, 1936.

See the Public Domain Films page for links to other Chaplin films.

Flipped class week: before this week’s screening, watch OCW videos Lecture 3: Chaplin, Part I (2007) and Lecture 4: Chaplin, Part II (2007).

Agee, James. “Comedy’s Greatest Era.” In Agee on Film. Vol. 1. Mcdowell Obolensky, 1958, pp. 2–19.

5–6 Film as a global and cultural form: German film

Nosferatu. Directed by F. W. Murnau. 93 min. Film Arts Guild, 1922. 

The Last Laugh. Directed by F. W. Murnau. 101 min. UFA, 1924.

Battleship Potemkin clip: Odessa Steps sequence. Directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein. 1925.

Cabinet of Dr Caligari clip: sleepwalking monster takes woman. Directed by Robert Wiene. Decla-Bioscop, 1920.

Metropolis clip. Directed by Fritz Lang. Original release by Universum Film AG, 1927; restoration © 2010 The Murnau Foundation.

[Cook] Chapters 4–5.
Part II. Hollywood Genres
7–8 Hollywood in the 1930s

It Happened One Night. Directed by Frank Capra. 105 min. Columbia Pictures, 1934.

His Girl Friday. Directed by Howard Hawks. 92 min. Columbia Pictures, 1940.

The Lady Eve clip: Stanwyck character comments on the women trying to get the attention of Fonda. Directed by Preston Sturges. Paramount Pictures, 1941.

Ball of Fire clip: Stanwyck character meets Cooper and the other professors. Directed by Howard Hawks. Samuel Goldwyn Productions, 1941.

[Cook] Chapters 7–8.
9–10 Hitchcock

Shadow of a Doubt. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. 108 min. Universal Pictures, 1943.

Rear Window. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. 112 min. Paramount Pictures, 1954.

Strangers on a Train clip: climactic scene of battle on a merry go-round. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Warner Bros., 1951.

11–12 The Musical

Singin’ in the Rain. Directed by Stanely Donen and Gene Kelly. 103 min. MGM, 1952.

Cabaret. Directed by Bob Fosse. 124 min. Allied Artists, 1972.

Love Me Tonight clip: pass-along song “Isn’t It Romantic?” featuring Maurice Chevalier. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Paramount Pictures, 1932.

42nd Street clip: song “Young and Healthy” with Busby Berkeley sequence of Dick Powell and a “universe of women.” Directed by Lloyd Bacon. Warner Bros., 1933.

Top Hat clip: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance to “Cheek to Cheek.” Directed by Mark Sandrich. RKO, 1935.

Braudy, Leo. “Genre: The Conventions of Connection.” In Film Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Edited by Gerald Mast and Marshall Cohen. Oxford University Press, 1979, pp. 443–68. ISBN: 9780195025033.
13–14 The Western

The Searchers. Directed by John Ford. 119 min. Warner Bros., 1956.

McCabe and Mrs. Miller clip: gunfight on the bridge, young man is killed. Directed by Robert Altman. Warner Bros., 1971.

[Cook] Chapter 12.

Stone, Robert. “The Search Party,” The New York Times, November 10, 2007.

15–16 American Film in the 1970s

McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Directed by Robert Altman. 120 min. Warner Bros., 1971.

Five Easy Pieces clip: Jack Nicholson order food in a diner, Directed by Bob Rafelson. Columbia Pictures, 1970.

The Long Goodbye clip: Detective Marlowe shoots a friend who got away with murder. Directed by Robert Altman. United Artists, 1973.

High Noon clip: opening ballad with villains riding through town. Directed by Fred Zinnemann. United Artists, 1952.

Flipped class week: before this week’s screening, watch OCW videos Lecture 15: American Film in the 1970s, Part I (2007) and Lecture 16: American Film in the 1970s, Part II (2007).

[Cook] pp. 845–68.

Lethem, Jonathan. “The Greatest Death Scene,” The New York Times, November 10, 2007.

Part III. International Masters
17–18 Renoir and Poetic Realism

Grand Illusion. Directed by Jean Renoir. 114 min. World Pictures, 1937.

Boudu Saved From Drowning clip: Boudu leaves his own wedding party on the river. Directed by Jean Renoir. Les Établissements Jacques Haïk, 1932.

Rules of the Game clip: hunting scene. Directed by Jean Renoir. Gaumont Film Company, 1939.

[Cook] pp. 303–26.

Excerpts from Bazin, André. Ch. 5 “The French Renoir.” In Jean Renoir. Da Capo Press, 1992.

19–20 Italian Neorealism

Bicycle Thieves. Directed by Vittorio De Sica. 93 min. Ente Nazionale Industrie Cinematografiche, 1948.

Rome, Open City clip: child saboteurs return home to their parents. Directed by Roberto Rossellini. Minerva Film S.p.A., 1945.

Flipped class week: before this week’s screening, watch OCW videos Lecture 19: Italian Neorealism, Part I (2007) and Lecture 20: Italian Neorealism, Part II (2007).

[Cook] pp. 355–68.

Zavattini, Cesare. “Some Ideas on the Cinema.” In Film: A Montage of Theories. Edited by R. Dyer MacCann. Dutton, 1966, pp. 216–28.

21 The French New Wave

The 400 Blows. Directed by François Truffaut. 99 min. Cocinor, 1959.

Umberto D. clip: old men on a bus. Directed by Vittorio De Sica. Dear Film, 1952.

[Cook] pp. 431–58.
22 Kurosawa’s Rashomon Rashomon. Directed by Akira Kurosawa. 88 min. Daiei Film Co. Ltd., 1950.    
23 Summary Perspectives: Film as Art and Artifact   Seven Samurai clip: journey to village, Mifune’s character catches a fish. Directed by Akira Kurosawa. Toho, 1954.  

Supplemental Readings

Thorburn, David. “Television as an Aesthetic Medium.” (PDF) Critical Studies in Mass Communication 4, no. 2 (1987): 161–73.

———. “Television Melodrama.” In Television: The Critical View. Edited by Horace Newcomb. 7th ed. Oxford University Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780195301168.

———. “Web of Paradox.The American Prospect, December 19, 2001.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2013
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Lecture Videos
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments
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