Course Syllabus

WHS Department of English
Film I Elective
Ms. Prinn
2019-2020 Semester 1
Room 220

“Everything I learned I learned from the movies.”
                -Audrey Hepburn (actress, 1929-1993)

“It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.”
                      - Robert Ebert (film critic, 1942-2013)

Course Description

Welcome to Film I.  This elective course focuses on those films and filmmakers (from around 1900-1968) that have had a profound influence not only on American cinema but on how we see the world around us. We will view some indispensable classics this semester that will help us appreciate the history  and continued influence of this fascinating medium. We will examine the art of filmmaking, including the basic terminology and its many collaborative artists: actors, directors, screenwriters, and cinematographers. Also, we will view instructive documentaries designed to introduce us to the significant genre films in the development of cinema, such as: the western, the musical, and film noir.

 Films (roughly in this order and subject to slight changes as we go):

Early film shorts 1895-1920: Lumière brothers, George Méliès, Edwin S. Porter, D.W. Griffith

La Sortie des ouvriers de l’usine Lumière (1895)

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

The Great Train Robbery (1903)

Intolerance (clips) (1916)

Modern Times (1936)

Duck Soup (1933)

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Citizen Kane (1941)

Casablanca (1942)

Double Indemnity (1944)

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Rear Window (1954)

Vertigo (1958)

Psycho (1960)

The Searchers (1956)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

12 Angry Men (1957)

Bridge On the River Kwai (1957)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Documentaries on early film technology, end of the Silent Era, The Golden Age of Cinema, Film Noire, Hitchcock, and The Western


  • Show up for class on time and prepared with notebook and materials (pen, viewer’s guide, etc.)
  • Watch films attentively. The majority of the course will be spent viewing films in class and discussing the elements of significance.
  • Actively participate in class with questions, discussion, and ideas.
  • Be responsible if you miss class, be proactive, and make up work promptly.
  • Use the Internet resources to help you succeed (see below).
  • Be flexible as the course may adapt and adjust as the semester continues.
  • Be kind, courteous, curious, and respectful.


As we watch each film, you will complete a viewer’s guide that will help you take notice of significant elements on screen.  You will submit these guides for credit. Once per quarter, you will write a 2-page response (double-spaced, 12-point font) analyzing one or more element(s) of a film or a pair of film(s). You will have a choice for your essays, usually responding to a review of the film or drafting your own critique in response to a prompt I give you. You may also design your own prompt if you talk it over with me first. 


Attendance/Attitude/Effort/Participation           20%

Viewer’s Guides                 60%

Two-page responses        20%



These websites are trustworthy and will provide you with a plethora of reliable information about the films we will watch. Very important: Be sure to site your source(s) if you refer to these resources in planning and/or writing your papers. Plagiarism is never acceptable and violates our core value of academic excellence. (AMC Film Site) (American Film Institute) (International Movie Database)

Final Thoughts

I’m excited to teach this class, and I’m glad you’ve signed up. I encourage you to bring your enthusiasm and your positive energy to the group. Your enjoyment of and success in this class will be determined mostly by showing up consistently ready to watch classic films and discuss, learn, and share along with your classmates. This class will be what we make it as a community, and I have high hopes.  As director Martin Scorsese once said, “Now more than ever we need to talk to each other, to listen to each other and understand how we see the world, and cinema is the best medium for doing this.”




Course Summary:

Date Details