Best Film Theory Graduate Programs

Jan 28, 2019

There are a number of options for individuals interested in enrolling in a graduate program that is focused on film theory. This article will provide students with information about specific universities and the programs they offer in this field.

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While graduate programs focused specifically on film theory do exist, it is more common to find generalized programs in film or cinema studies that include a film theory component. This article highlights three of the best programs in which students can study film theory. Details about each program will be covered, including program structure, content, and degree type. Additionally, the article will briefly cover a few other programs that are available.

University of California - Los Angeles

The University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) offers a Master of Arts program in Cinema and Media Studies which allows students to select either the Integrated Degree or Research Professions track. The Integrated Degree track is intended for students who are interested in further study and research. Within this track, students are able to take courses in film theory, like classical and contemporary film theory, but are also encouraged to explore the practical side of film by taking courses in producing and screenwriting. The Research Professions track is meant as preparation for careers in film criticism or festivals, along with a variety of media positions.

Students also have the opportunity to apply for UCLA's Ph.D. program at the time of their application to the M.A. program. Alternatively, they might apply to a Ph.D. program, either at UCLA or elsewhere, once they have completed part of the program.

Central Michigan University

Offering a program specifically in film theory, Central Michigan University's Master of Arts in Film Theory and Criticism may be an attractive option for students seeking the most in-depth study opportunities in film as it relates to culture. This program is intended for individuals who have previously studied some aspect of film or broadcasting, though students without an undergraduate degree in these areas may still be considered for admission if they have a background in some type of cultural studies and have also taken at least a few film-related courses.

Students in this program will complete coursework and conduct independent research, which is intended to prepare them for research-oriented careers in film or for teaching positions. The program also offers 16 graduate teaching assistantship positions to its students, which entail teaching some courses and assisting professors, in exchange for full tuition funding and valuable teaching experience.

Yale University

Yale University offers a Ph.D. program in Film and Media Studies. While this program is rooted in the study of theory, criticism, and history of film, it also encourages students to explore a wide range of related topics. In fact, students in the program are required to pair their focus in film studies with one of ten other fields, including options like comparative literature, history of art, Italian, or other languages, in order to develop greater breadth of skill set without losing any of the depth of knowledge.

The emphasis on research within this program is strong, and students have access to numerous facilities and resources to help them pursue their research interests successfully. The Film Study Center is home to many films that students may access, in addition to other materials in the archives of the multiple libraries on campus, including the Beineke rare book library.

Additional Graduate Film Theory Program Options

  • New York University - New York University offers students the opportunity to enroll in an M.A. program in Cinema Studies. Part of this program's required core curriculum is a course in film theory and students have the option of further studying this area through their elective course selection.
  • Columbia University - Students who enroll in the M.A. program in Film and Media Studies can select the Media Art/Media Theory concentration in order to tailor their degree towards a focus in film theory. Some relevant courses to students interested in theory include queer film theory, sound and image theory, and theory of documentary activism.
  • University of Chicago - Another option for students interested in a Ph.D. program is the University of Chicago's Ph.D. in Cinema and Media Studies, which has a partial focus on film theory. Students interested in a shorter program can also enroll in the flexible one-year M.A. in Humanities, which allows students to select their own curriculum according to their interests.

To review, students can study film theory at the graduate level through a number of highly respected universities around the country. These programs will provide an in-depth look at film theory and encourage students to pursue their own research, while also providing credentials to help them secure a professional position upon graduating.

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