Throughout the course of film history, movies have retained a strong presence in popular culture and entertainment. Since the invention of the kinetoscope in 1888 and the subsequent premiere of the world’s first motion picture, films have inspired artistry, culture, and the imaginations of audiences everywhere. From silent films of the late 1800s to the modern blockbusters of today, movies have become one of the most dominant mediums of our time.
The advent of the motion picture began with Thomas Edison’s and William K.L. Dickson’s Kinetoscope in 1888. The boxy device only allowed one viewer at a time and featured a short film projected on a loop. The film was usually only a few seconds in length which, of course, was nothing like modern movies. However, the technology and innovative design of the machine sparked a revolutionary concept within the world of film production.
From there, many different types and styles of movies quickly blossomed and altered the entertainment medium. In 1895, directors Auguste and Louis Lumière created the Cinématographe and released L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station), the first narrative film of its kind. This silent short is notable for inspiring a unique level of immersion and emotion within viewers asides from humor which was the primary goal of theatrical comedies up until this point.
The era of silent films (1895-late 1920s) was one of great experimentation and creative avenues for filmmakers as they worked to invent new techniques, refine technologies, and master the motion picture form. The early silent films of the 1910s made use of intertitles, cross-cutting editing techniques, and various camera angles to create more cinematic scenes than ever before. This period also saw some of the first feature length silent films such as DW Griffiths’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Abel Gance’s Napoleon (1927).
In the late 1920s/early 1930s with the rise of “talkies,” sound (namely dialogue, music, and sound effects) started being recorded with each image within synchronous sound systems. It was not until The Jazz Singer (1927) that a feature-length film made use of synchronized dialogue. This undoubtedly changed the course of both the motion picture industry and storytelling as a whole. The 1930s not only brought us films with music and audio, but also iconic stars. For the first time, many influential figures of both cinema and the entertainment industry emerged, including Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn, and Bette Davis.
The 1940s gave us perhaps one of the most iconic and beloved decades of cinema—and not only in Hollywood. After the success of Italy’s exploration of fascism and Neo-Realism in the 1930s, world cinema skyrocketed like never before. Directors of the era pushed the envelope, creating new story conventions, camera techniques, and genre-defining types of movies. Three of the most influential films of the decade were The Maltese Falcon (1941) with Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca (1942) from Michael Curtiz, and The Third Man (1949) starring Orson Welles.
The 1950s were an iconic time for movies too—not only were the studios churning out star-studded epics and musicals, but this was also the decade when cinema turned to television. In fact, the first planned TV shows were similar to films, consisting of a multi-act play broadcasted in one night. Just as the 1930s saw the coming of the talkie, the 1950s saw an influx of color films. Cinematic techniques and formulas flourished as well, such as the introduction of mass audience participation throughout production due to the advent of crowdsourcing.
The 1960s welcomed more exotic stories, increased use of violence, and filmmaking from developing countries in Africa, India, the former Soviet Union, and Latin America, just to name a few. While there were still many studio productions in this era, independent and experimental films also thrived thanks to the growth of film festivals and a larger focus on international culture. The decade brought better color production and the evolution of cinematography, allowing for tighter transitions and a greater use of non-traditional methods.
From the 1970s to the late 1990s, the motion picture industry went through quite a drastic change as film technology advanced and filmmakers began to explore much more intricate concepts and stories. The substantial growth of computers and digital technology over this period allowed for the development of computer-generated images, creating the possibility of entire movie universes. The dawn of the horror resurgence in the late 70s, the reflection of contemporary culture through the 1980s, and the