Film History, Part 1 - Silicon Valley High School


Price: $125 | Credits: One Semester | Dept: Art | Course ID# 275-1

Welcome to Film History, Semester 1! This course is designed for an introduction to film history, media studies, and an appreciation of film and new media as art forms. Students will discover that films from the past can still be great films, even though they’re in black-and-white, in another language, as a documentary, or even from the Silent Era. Using compelling videos and online materials, this film history course is designed to meet the National Core Arts Standards and the California Arts Standards for Visual Arts. This course is recommended for students in grades 11 or 12.

The assigned films in this course are available through streaming services like YouTube, Amazon Prime, or Netflix. One of the best classic film libraries is found on Kanopy.  Many of the films that are either required or recommended can be found using the “Classic Cinema” filter. Most public libraries offer free access to this site; all students need is a library card to log in, eliminating the need to rent or subscribe to any service. 

Credits & Study Hours
Upon completing this course, the student is awarded one semester of credits (5 credits or 0.5 Carnegie credits). The credits correspond to 75 hours of study. Of course, some students work more quickly than others, and some can devote more hours to study, so some students are able to complete the course in an accelerated rate


Film History, Part 1 will take students on a film journey:

  • To 1895: Prehistory
  • 1896-1915: The Birth of Film (“The Cinema of Attractions”)
  • 1916-1930: Silent Film; The Births of Radio and Sound Film 
  • 1931-1945: The Great Age of Hollywood and Radio (and Italian Neorealism)
  • 1946-1960: The Growth of Television (and Independent Film)
  • 1961-1980: The Modern World (Modernist influences: New Wave Cinema)

Students will learn:

To analyze the evolution of film: from its Prehistory (before 1895) as a new invention and art form, to film as the “Cinema of Attractions” (1896-1915), to the Silent Film Era (1916-1926) and the Births of Radio and Sound Film (1927-1930), including films’ technical innovations, cultural impact, and major artistic movements. We’ll analyze Buster Keaton’s The General (1926), a silent film masterpiece lauded for its innovative stunts, humor, and surprisingly authentic portrayal of the Civil War era.

To understand the historical context and social forces that shape film production during the “Hollywood Golden Age”; view a screening of The Wizard of Oz (1939) and appreciate the technical colorization and aspect ratios of filmmaking; recognize the roles and contributions of filmmakers to the creation of a film; understand the threats (censorship) to film expression; and develop effective communication skills through diverse modes of expression to discuss film.

To look at the dynamic relationship between film, television, and postwar society, dissecting key eras and cinematic movements. Explore the rise of television and its impact on Hollywood’s Golden Age, dive deep into the iconic musical Singin’ in the Rain (1952), and analyze the revolutionary French New Wave. Encounter cinematic giants like Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock, delve into the shadowy world of film noir and the evolving American Western, and finally, dissect the themes of nostalgia, conformity, and rebellion in two contrasting postwar classics.

To look through the lens of key cinematic movements and filmmakers from Europe, Sweden, Asia, and beyond, this course will equip students with the critical tools to analyze and interpret diverse film styles and techniques employed in post-war world cinema, paying particular attention to the innovative approaches of the European New Wave, Swedish Film, Asian cinema, and ethnocentric cinema and examine the socio-political and cultural contexts that shaped film production and reception during the turbulent decades of the 1950s-1970s.

To analyze Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and comparing it to other works of the Hollywood New Wave (1967-1976), students will critically assess the subversive nature of film during this era, identifying key characteristics shared by “film school auteurs” and exploring how these filmmakers challenged cinematic conventions and social norms. Students will actively engage with the film and the historical context, encouraging them to go beyond surface-level understanding and critically examine the ways Kubrick and other New Wave filmmakers subverted conventions and challenged societal expectations through their work.

Assigned Movies – The General (1926); The Wizard of Oz (1939), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), Rebel Without a Cause (1955); and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).


This course covers the following topics:

  • The Birth of Cinema
  • The Golden Age of Cinema
  • Post-War Growth of Television and Independent Film (1945-1960)
  • World Cinema (1950s-1970s)
  • Stanley Kubrick & the Hollywood New Wave (1967-1976)
Course Details:
• One Semester Credit: $125
• First Semester of Film History
NCAA: No (NCAA only approves Core Courses)