The best books on the art of filmmaking

Who am I?

One reason I became a professor of humanities, teaching subjects like film, theater, and literature, was to share my enthusiasm for the great works of imagination which have inspired people for centuries. Stories shape our lives and pass on our most important values and beliefs to future generations. In my academic career, I have directed plays and have written two novels, but teaching film has been my major passion for the last several years. 

I wrote...

How Films Tell Stories: The Narratology of Cinema

By Larry A. Brown,

Book cover of How Films Tell Stories: The Narratology of Cinema

What is my book about?

Enhance your appreciation of the movies you watch.

Written for the intellectually curious film viewer, How Films Tell Stories presents a concise introduction to narrative film theory in an easy-to-read style. Part one discusses the basic elements of story – plot, character, and fictional world – as applied to cinema. Part two explores how these elements are communicated, examining time manipulation, perspective, cinematography, editing, and sound. Narrative concepts are explained using over 200 film examples from Hollywood classics to contemporary blockbusters. A companion website provides links to many of the scenes mentioned in the book. Each chapter concludes with questions encouraging readers to produce their own analysis of the narrative strategies of films.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Narration in the Fiction Film

Why did I love this book?

This book initiated my interest in narrative film theory back in my graduate school days. It became a crucial source for my dissertation.

Bordwell writes about popular films but with a highly analytical eye. All his books are worth reading for those who want intelligent, in-depth discussion, not just stories about Hollywood culture. 

By David Bordwell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Narration in the Fiction Film as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First Published in 1987. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.

Book cover of Unheard Melodies: Narrative Film Music

Why did I love this book?

I found Claudia Gorbman’s book insightful in her examination of how film music helps to reinforce the story and enhance the mood of what’s happening on the screen.

Music has a powerful impact on the film viewer, shaping our emotional response to the characters and their triumphs and challenges. Using many examples, this book sharpened my understanding of how music works in a film. 

By Claudia Gorbman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Unheard Melodies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A good book for the basics of classical film music.

Book cover of How to Read a Film: Movies, Media, and Beyond

Why did I love this book?

This is another seminal text which introduced me to the critical theory of film viewers as “readers.”

Watching a movie is not a passive activity. The mind is very active, constantly shifting through the multiple channels of information, organizing the details into a coherent picture of the fictional world presented in the film.

Monaco examines several ways in which this creative-receptive process works in the viewer’s mind.

By James Monaco,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Read a Film as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Richard Gilman referred to How to Read a Film as simply "the best single work of its kind." And Janet Maslin in The New York Times Book Review marveled at James Monaco's ability to collect "an enormous amount of useful information and assemble it in an exhilaratingly simple and systematic way." Indeed, since its original publication in 1977, this hugely popular book has become the definitive source on film and media.
Now, James Monaco offers a special anniversary edition of his classic work, featuring a new preface and several new sections, including an "Essential Library: One Hundred Books About Film…

Book cover of The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers

Why did I love this book?

This popular text on screenwriting relates films to narrative ideas found in ancient myths around the world.

Vogler does an excellent job in demonstrating how films often use elements of plot and character that have proven to be universal characteristics of stories for centuries. He applies these concepts not only to fantasy films but standard Hollywood dramas such as Titanic

By Christopher Vogler,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Writer's Journey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally an influential memo Vogler wrote for Walt Disney Animation executives regarding The Lion King, The Writer’s Journey details a twelve-stage, myth-inspired method that has galvanized Hollywood’s treatment of cinematic storytelling. A format that once seldom deviated beyond a traditional three-act blueprint, Vogler’s comprehensive theory of story structure and character development has met with universal acclaim, and is detailed herein using examples from myths, fairy tales, and classic movies. This book has changed the face of screenwriting worldwide over the last 25 years, and continues to do so.

Book cover of Cinematic Storytelling: The 100 Most Powerful Film Conventions Every Filmmaker Must Know

Why did I love this book?

Using multiple helpful examples to illustrate her points, the author examines the various ways that films tell their stories visually through the use of cinematography.

Techniques of lighting, editing, movement, color, and camera placement are effectively discussed, making this a helpful and practical resource for film-making students as well as those who simply want to appreciate the art of filmmaking. 

By Jennifer Van Sijll,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cinematic Storytelling as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What the industry's most succcessful writers and directors have in common is that they have mastered the cinematic conventions specific to the medium.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in film, filmmaking, and myth?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about film, filmmaking, and myth.

Film Explore 195 books about film
Filmmaking Explore 14 books about filmmaking
Myth Explore 73 books about myth

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