10 Film Movements That Changed Everything

Battle of Algiers (1966)
Battle of Algiers (1966)
Like messages in bottles, film movements come in waves. And also like those floating, nautical correspondences, the significance of their messages aren't often received until much, much later.

CineFix has compiled a list of 10 of the most influential film movements in cinematic history, including Italian Neorealism, Soviet Montage, and a handful of "new waves".

Studying the work of auteurs like Godard, Rossellini, and Bergman is great, but learning why their work was significant historically will broaden your scope on cinema as a whole -- how it ebbs and flows, grows, changes, and cycles. For instance, you could watch Pierrot le fou and think, "Man, that Jean-Luc Godard makes some eccentric and quirky films! He's just like Wes Anderson," but if you take a second to inform yourself on pre and post-WWII France, Jean Renoir, Cahiers du Cinéma, the whole Truffaut vs. Godard thing, even La Grande Vadrouille -- the film that helped usher commercial films back into the French mainstream -- then you'll really understand (and really appreciate) the rebellious, transcendent work those Nouvelle Vague filmmakers were doing. 

If you don't have time to watch the video, here's the list of each of the film movements mentioned in the video, complete with descriptions from CineFix and several films that'll give you a good introduction.

British New Wave (late 1950s - late 1960s)

A focus on the realities of working class daily life.

Watch: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz), The Sporting Life (Lindsay Anderson)

Scandinavian Revival (1940s - 1950s)

Dark, monochrome, slow, and a little bit mystical.

Watch: The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman), Day of Wrath (Carl Th. Dreyer)

Japan’s Golden Age of Cinema (1950s)

Filmmakers in an unoccupied and uncensored post-WWII Japan unleashed all of their creativity at once.

Watch: Seven Samurai, Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa), Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu)

New Queer Cinema (early 1990s)

Embracing gender and sexuality as socially constructed objects.

Watch: Paris is Burning (Jennie Livingston) Go Fish (Rose Troche)

Third Cinema (1960s - 1970s)

Staunchly anti-colonial in countries of the third world.

WatchHour of the Furnaces (Fernando SolanasOctavio Getino), The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo)

Neorealism (1944–1952)

Stories, shot on location, filled with lower class non-actors struggling to go about their normal lives in the the shadow of the war.

Watch: The Bicycle Thief (Vittorio De Sica), Paisan (Roberto Rossellini)

German Expressionism (1910s - 1930s)

Shadowy movies with exaggerated design as a rejection of reality.

Watch: Nosferatu (N.F. Murnau), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene), Metropolis (Fritz Lang)

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSExdX0tds4

Soviet Montage (1920s - 1930s)

Focus on cutting because that’s what separates film from other art forms.

Watch: Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein), Man With a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov)

The Golden Age of Hollywood (late1920s - early 1960s)

As the rest of the world dealt with war the American film market thrived and benefitted from refugee filmmakers who had come to the US to escape the turmoil.

Watch: Casablanca (Michael Curtiz), Citizen Kane (Orson Welles)

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJvlGh_FgcI

Nouvelle Vague (1958 - late 1960s)

Filmmaking as art by auteurs, not pandering to viewers or made solely for profit.

Watch: Breathless, Pierrot le fou (Jean-Luc Godard), Jules and Jim, The 400 Blows (Fraçois Truffaut)

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJFFy3soy9Y

For a full list of all of the film movements, as well as key films to watch from each of them, CineFix has uploaded this Google doc to check out.     

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Your Comment


Really cool.

August 28, 2015 at 1:46PM


so proud to be an Algerian & the battle of Algiers isn't just a movie its the real face of organised revolution against the true terrorism & colonization i highly recommend it

August 29, 2015 at 3:27PM


Where are todays film movements? Where are the regional differences and styles? Digital puts cameras in the hands of so many people in a similar way to the handhelds of the Nouvelle Vague yet we are all told to obsess about genre, specifically horror or gangsters, preferably both. If its not pigeon-holed then it will never be commercial. It seems that in several places at several times, there were people who disagreed with that and the videos above seems to show that for the most part, they were correct. This links with Simon Cade talking about "caring too much about what is popular at the moment".

Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks said that it was easier to play your own songs rather than other peoples because your own songs were tailored to yourself, they played to your strengths and I think that this should apply to film making too.

There are some superb cinematographers on this site who produce some beautiful footage. They would be wasting their skills if they were producing something that didn't use their abilities.

It boils down to this, when future film historians look back to us, what film movements will they be able to see?

September 1, 2015 at 1:59AM

Julian Richards
Film Warlord

A great and long long journey explained very beautifully.a story from the evolution of New World.beautifully focused and described the interesting but true facts of Cinema.Love it.

October 14, 2016 at 12:23AM, Edited October 14, 12:23AM


Wow, it's amazing how filmmaking evolves, going back and forth. What is the current wave? Is there one?

January 28, 2017 at 11:05AM, Edited January 28, 11:05AM

Abi Stricker

We studied some of these films in HS and college English Lit classes. And in a HS religion class taught by a priest who was a member of the French Communist Party. Quite engaging. ... These days I have enjoyed Sex Education, The SocIety (the common good v the capital I in the title), Vivarium, Ozark, Normal People and others which continue to comment with art and insight on how we live these days. i also enjoy Longmire and its exploration of stoic manhood in the pursuit of virtuous living. Formulaic but very good characters, and the intersection of white culture with native American culture works well. And a very different British zombie series whose name I forget even though I remember almost every scene. I do not especially enjoy Hollywood films.

August 5, 2020 at 12:34AM, Edited August 5, 12:34AM

John McGrath
Retired educator, flaneur