Introduction to Film Guides

These guides were originally designed to facilitate discussions in various film courses I taught at Allegheny College. They were distributed before the movies were screened to alert students to significant production details, to emphasize certain cinematic techniques, and to prepare for critical analysis. Although not always scrupulous in giving away plot development, I have generally tried to avoid “spoilers” for first-time viewers.

The list is highly selective, as it represents not a survey of cinema history but a catalogue of my own personal taste. With literature as with the movies, I never sought to teach works that I did not deeply admire or, more often, profoundly love. I am an art cinema guy, not a movie buff. Therefore, the selection notably lacks in Hollywood classics or contemporary blockbusters. Even among the masterworks of the modern art cinema, the titles included notably omit films by directors such as Godard, Fellini, and Kubrick, who do not rank among my favorites.

The filmmakers noted here are also disproportionately distributed, which reflects both the topics of particular courses and my preference to teach multiple titles by specific directors. Thus, the preponderance of films by Woody Allen, about whom I wrote my most recent book. For readers interested in organizing a course of their own, I have indicated in parenthesis the particular classes to which certain selections belonged. In a few cases, the guides also include supplemental materials like shot-by-shot scene analyses, excerpts from reviews, or bibliographical suggestions.

I welcome your corrections or comments. You can reach me at

— Lloyd Michaels, Editor, Film Criticism, 1976-2015

Key to Courses

  • CAF = Contemporary American Filmmakers
  • CIF = Contemporary International Filmmakers
  • IB = Ingmar Bergman
  • WA = Woody Allen

Film Guides