Free MIT Course Teaches You to Watch Movies Like a Critic: Watch Lectures from The Film Experience

We all have our favorite film critics. Maybe we gravitated to them because they write well or because they share our tastes, but the very best of them — the critics we read even on genres and directors we otherwise wouldn’t care about — make us see movies in a new way. Specifically, they make us see them the way they do, and the point of view of a professional critic steeped in cinema history and theory (not to mention the thousands and thousands of hours of actual film they’ve watched) will always have a richness that the casual moviegoer can’t hope to enjoy on his/her own.

Unless, of course, you take The Film Experience, a 23-lecture course from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And you don’t need to enroll at MIT — or even show up and surreptitiously audit — to take it, since the school has made those lectures, their accompanying materials, and even supplemental media (just like the DVD extras that have inspired a generation of cinephiles) free on their OpenCourseWare site. They’ve also assembled the videos, starring MIT’s Film and Media Studies program founding professor David Thorburn, into a single Youtube playlist.

Thorburn’s lectures begin with the introduction to film as a cultural form at the top of the post, which itself begins with the question “What is film?” He then launches into a journey through film history, from the silent comedies of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin (see also our Keaton and Chaplin collections) to the Hollywood studio era and Alfred Hitchcock (for whom we’ve got a collection as well) to American film in the 1970s and Italian neorealism to François Truffaut and Akira Kurosawa. When you come out of the course possessing a newly heightened ability to decode the language of film, you may or may not hear the calling to become a critic yourself — but at least it’ll make your next trip to the multiplex more interesting.

The Film Experience will be added to our collection, 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.


If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.

If you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, and Venmo (@openculture). Thanks!

Related Content:

The 10 Greatest Films of All Time According to 846 Film Critics

Take a Free Course on Film Noir; Then Watch Oodles of Free Noir Films Online

65 Free Charlie Chaplin Films Online

The General, “Perhaps the Greatest Film Ever Made,” and 20 Other Buster Keaton Classics Free Online

22 Free Hitchcock Movies Online

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

by | Permalink | Comments (7) |

Support Open Culture

We’re hoping to rely on our loyal readers rather than erratic ads. To support Open Culture’s educational mission, please consider making a donation. We accept PayPal, Venmo (@openculture), Patreon and Crypto! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (7)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Joey McLaughlin says:

    Don’t watch movies like a critic if you want to enjoy them lol

  • janitor says:

    true dat

  • Katie says:

    @Joey McLaughlin @janitor BULLSHIT. If anything, knowing more about film will only enhance your experience and make you enjoy things that previously got over your head. And this applies to EVERYTHING. THE MORE KNOWLEDGE YOU HAVE, THE MORE YOU APPRECIATE LIFE.

    I hate this bigoted, ignorant, anti-academic thing going on on social media. It’s like people are too lazy to learn anything and are proud of it. F*** all this.

  • Monoj says:

    YES! Thank you.

  • Chuck V. says:

    Watched the Hitchcock lecture and found it to be rife with errors. Off the top of my head:

    Hitchcock was not a Jesuit, he was taught by Jesuits. (To be a Jesuit, you have to take religious orders.)

    The lecturer gets the title of H’s first film wrong, it’s The Pleasure Garden, singular not plural. Also, while this film was a German-British co-production, Hitch did not have a co-director.

    When Hitchcock came to the US to work for Selznick, Selznick was the head of Selznick International Pictures. SIP made films that were considered great, but they are not commonly termed one of the GREAT studios.

    The lecturer claims that Rebecca is the least Hitchcockian of Hitch’s films. Even if we ignore H’s early work when he was still finding his creative way, this is a dubious assertion. Surely the screwball comedy Mr. and Mrs. Smith qualifies as less Hitchcockian. (Also, he refers to Rebecca as a re-make of the novel. The proper term is adaptation. A re-make would be a second (or later) film based on a prior movie or a prior movie’s source material.)

    While Rope does attempt to disguise some of its cuts, four of them are completely obvious. (Also, again there is misuse of terminology. He refers to “cassettes” of film. At that time, cameras took “magazines.”)

    Bruno Antony, the antagonist of Strangers on a Train, wants the hero to murder his father, not his wife. He has no wife mentioned in the film. (In fact, Antony is played as more than a bit of a gay stereotype. Has the lecturer actually seen the film?)

    Michael Caine does not appear in Frenzy. (He was offered a role, but turned it down. So, the lecturer has read a little about the film, but perhaps hasn’t seen this one either?)

    There is no nudity in Family Plot.

    Frankly, the lecture gave me the impression that the instructor had skimmed some of the literature on Hitch, thereby picking up some of the obvious talking points, darkness, cameos, doubling (how did he miss McGuffin?), without actually acquainting or re-acquainting himself with the actual films.

  • film criticism says:

    Thank you so very much for highlighting about the fact that how film criticism is an aspect and course to pursue before you criticise a film unnecessarily.

    Film Criticism

  • Manoj Pandey says:

    This is an eye-opening comment. Though I was about to start off with this playlist but reading your comment sort of ruined my mood. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.