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.


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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.

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Comments (7)
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  • 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.

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