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Study information

Philosophy of Film

Module titlePhilosophy of Film
Module codePHL1112
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Edward Skidelsky (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

In this module, you will watch and discuss 10 films, with a view to investigating the philosophically interesting problems that they raise. Topics discussed include horror films, film and politics, film and psychoanalysis and the aesthetics of cinema. This module is suitable for all students. It does not require a prior background in philosophy. Films often address philosophically interesting topics, but not in the manner of abstract philosophical books or articles. A film, like any fiction, tells a story, in which a philosophical idea may be obliquely conveyed. But it is also a visual article, which can further clarify or complicate its philosophical meaning. The nature of cinema as a medium is a philosophically interesting topic in its own right. This module introduces you to a variety of philosophical problems through film, and asks what cinema may contribute – if anything – to our understanding of those problems

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module is intended as an alternative introduction to philosophical thinking, adding an audio-visual dimension to more text based modules such as Introduction to Philosophical Analysis. The module prepares students for further studies at stages 2 and 3 by introducing them to various ways in which philosophical thinking can be applied productively to hypothetical and real life problems in a wide variety of contexts. The module also provides important analytical and interpretative skills essential in an increasingly visual social world.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. demonstrate familiarity with a representative selection of philosophically important films and the issues they address;
  • 2. extract abstract philosophical content from concrete narrative structures;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. analyze images and narratives with respect to their rational content;
  • 4. talk and write about images and narratives intelligently;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. construct and evaluate abstract ideas; and
  • 6. assess and criticize the views of others.

Syllabus plan

Each week will be devoted to a different film, which will then be discussed in weekly tutorials together with selected philosophical literature. Films to be discussed are likely to be chosen from the following list:

  • Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956)
  • A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)
  • The Truman Show (Peter Wier, 1989)
  • Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen, 1989).
  • The Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925).
  • The Triumph of the Will (Leni Riefenstahl, 1935). 
  • Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960)
  • The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (Slavoj Zizek, 2006)
  • Deconstructing Harry (Woody Allen, 1997)

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities20Weekly film screenings
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities22Weekly two hour lectures and seminars. Each lecture consists of an introduction and the viewing of a film, which will then, supported by relevant literature, be discussed in the seminars. Students are required to give at least one assessed presentation on an aspect of the scheduled topic.
Guided Independent Study108Directed reading, viewing and private study.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Students are required to write one essay plan Approximately 500 words1-6Written comments and classroom discussion

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination 502 hours1-6Written
Essay503,000 words1-6Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExamExam (2 hours)1-6August/September reassessment period
EssayEssay (3,000 words)1-6August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Allen, Richard (ed.), Film Theory and Philosophy (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997).

Carroll, Noël (ed.), Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures: an Anthology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006).

Mullhall, Stephen, On Film (London: Routledge, 2002).

Shaw, Daniel, Film and Philosophy: Taking Movies Seriously (New York: Wallflower, 2008).

Wartenberg, Thomas E. (ed.), The Philosophy of Film: Introductory Text and Readings (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Key words search

Philosophy, Film

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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