The Story of Film: An Odyssey

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The Story of Film: An Odyssey
The Story of Film - An Odyssey (poster).jpg
Based onThe Story of Film
by Mark Cousins
Written byMark Cousins
Directed byMark Cousins
Narrated byMark Cousins
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes15
ProducerJohn Archer
EditorTimo Langer
Running time915 minutes
Production companyHopscotch Films
Original networkMore4
Original release
  • September 2011 (2011-09)

The Story of Film: An Odyssey is a 2011 British documentary film about the history of film, presented on television in 15 one-hour chapters with a total length of over 900 minutes. It was directed and narrated by Mark Cousins, a film critic from Northern Ireland, based on his 2004 book The Story of Film.[1][2]

The series was broadcast in September 2011 on More4, the digital television service of UK broadcaster Channel 4. The Story of Film was featured in its entirety at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival,[3] and at 2012 Istanbul International Film Festival.[4] It was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in February 2012.[1] It was broadcast in the United States on Turner Classic Movies beginning in September 2013.[5]

The Telegraph headlined the series' initial broadcast in September 2011 as the "cinematic event of the year", describing it as "visually ensnaring and intellectually lithe, it’s at once a love letter to cinema, an unmissable masterclass, and a radical rewriting of movie history."[6] An Irish Times writer called the programme a "landmark" (albeit a "bizarrely underpromoted" one).[7] The programme won a Peabody Award in 2013 "for its inclusive, uniquely annotated survey of world cinema history."[8]

In February 2012, A.O. Scott of The New York Times described Cousins' film as "a semester-long film studies survey course compressed into 15 brisk, sometimes contentious hours" that "stands as an invigorated compendium of conventional wisdom." Contrasting the project with its "important precursor (and also, perhaps, an implicit interlocutor)", Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma, Scott commended Cousins' film as "the place from which all future revisionism must start".[1]

List of episodes[edit]

Each episode section below lists the film clips that are featured in that episode.[1][3][9][10]

Episode 1 - Birth of the Cinema[edit]


1895-1918: The World Discovers a New Art Form or Birth of the Cinema

1903-1918: The Thrill Becomes Story or The Hollywood Dream

Episode 2 - The Hollywood Dream[edit]

1918-1928: The Triumph of American Film...

...And the First of its Rebels

Episode 3 - The Golden Age of World Cinema[edit]

1918-1932: The Great Rebel Filmmakers Around the World

Episode 4 - The Arrival of Sound[edit]

The 1930s: The Great American Movie Genres...

...And the Brilliance of European Film

Episode 5 - Post-War Cinema[edit]

1939-1952: The Devastation of War...And a New Movie Language

Episode 6 - Sex & Melodrama[edit]

1953-1957: The Swollen Story: World Cinema Bursting at the Seams

Episode 7 - European New Wave[edit]

1957-1964: The Shock of the New - Modern Filmmaking in Western Europe.

Episode 8 - New Directors, New Form[edit]

1965-1969: New Waves - Sweep Around the World.

Episode 9 - American Cinema of the 70s[edit]

1967-1979: New American Cinema.

Episode 10 - Movies to Change the World[edit]

1969-1979: Radical Directors in the 70s - Make State of the Nation Movies.

Episode 11 - The Arrival of Multiplexes and Asian Mainstream[edit]

1970s and Onwards: Innovation in Popular Culture - Around the World.

Episode 12 - Fight the Power: Protest in Film[edit]

The 1980s: Moviemaking and Protest - Around the World.

Episode 13 - New Boundaries: World Cinema in Africa, Asia & Latin America[edit]

1990-1998: The Last Days of Celluloid - Before the Coming of Digital.

Episode 14 - New American Independents & The Digital Revolution[edit]

The 1990s: The First Days of Digital - Reality Losing Its Realness in America and Australia.

Episode 15 - Cinema Today and the Future[edit]

2000 Onwards: Film Moves Full Circle - and the Future of Movies.

Epilogue the Year 2046

Critical reception[edit]

The film has earned critical praise[11] and holds an 86% fresh rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on six reviews.[12] Shawn Levy, writing for The Oregonian, compared it to "a tour through a museum with a deeply passionate and engaging guide."[12] Mark Feeny, in The Boston Globe, described it as "wildly ambitious, often extremely good, occasionally maddening, and always stimulating."[13]


Some critics took issue with Cousins' speaking style, and with portions of his analysis.[14] Village Voice critic Nick Pinkerton argued Cousins took an inconsistent and iconoclastic stance against Hollywood in favour of realist or innovative cinema,[15] stating "for all its claims of rewriting, [The Story of Film] is too reliant on received film buff wisdom".[16] Writing for Film Comment, Jonathan Rosenbaum was specifically critical of Cousins' view of experimental film, stating "Cousins has a weakness for overwrought yard sales, as his unswerving devotion to Baz Luhrmann, Christopher Nolan, and Lars von Trier repeatedly demonstrates — as well as an obvious lack of ease and fluency when it comes to experimental filmmaking in general, a discomfort that someone like (Matthew) Barney banks on by providing a “digestible” mainstream alternative, rather as Nolan’s Memento provides an unthreatening crossword-puzzle version of the early features of Alain Resnais."[17]


  • 2013 Peabody Award
  • Runner-up for Best Documentary Feature-2012 Palm Springs International Film Festival[18]
  • Stanley Kubrick Award-2012 Traverse City Film Festival[19]

2021 follow-up[edit]

A 2-hour-and-20-minute follow-up covering films from 2010 to 2021, titled The Story of Film: A New Generation, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in July 2021.[20][21] It was released in UK cinemas and on streaming platforms in December 2021.[22]

Part 1 - Extending the Language of Film

Part 2 - What are we Digging for?


  1. ^ a b c d Scott, A. O. (31 January 2012). "Your Film of Films: A Sweeping History of an Art". New York Times. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
  2. ^ "The Story of Film: An Odyssey Trailer" – via
  3. ^ a b Cousins, Mark (2011). "The Story of Film: An Odyssey - Real To Reel". Toronto International Film Festival. Archived from the original on 6 November 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  4. ^ Dönmez-Colin, Gönül. "Istanbul International Film Festival 2012". OpenJournals.
  5. ^ King, Susan (2 September 2013). "'The Story of Film: An Odyssey' gives a non-Hollywood history". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  6. ^ Sukhdev Sandhu, "The Story of Film, cinematic event of the year: Mark Cousins's 15-hour television series is an epic journey through the history of cinema, says Sukhdev Sandhu", The Telegraph, (UK) 2 September 2011.
  7. ^ Donald Clarke, "Mark Cousins’s Story of Film", Irish Times, 5 September 2011.
  8. ^ 73rd Annual Peabody Awards, May 2014.
  9. ^ Staff (2012). "The Story of Film: An Odyssey". Channel 4. Archived from the original on 4 July 2013. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  10. ^ Staff (2012). "The Story of Film: An Odyssey - Episodes". Channel 4. Archived from the original on 3 February 2017. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  11. ^ "The Story Of Film: An Odyssey". The A.V. Club. 12 December 2012.
  12. ^ a b "The Story Of Film: An Odyssey - Rotten Tomatoes".
  13. ^ Feeney, Mark (16 May 2012). "The Story of Film: An Odyssey" – via The Boston Globe.
  14. ^ Doan, Brian. "Traditions of Quality: Mark Cousins' "The Story of Film: An Odyssey" | Features | Roger Ebert".
  15. ^ Pinkerton, Nick (1 February 2012). "The Story of Film: A 15-Hour Tour Through Movie History". The Village Voice.
  16. ^ "The Story of Film: An Odyssey" – via
  17. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan. "Mark Cousins's Excellent Adventure". Film Comment. Film Comment. Retrieved 28 September 2021.
  18. ^ "Palm Springs International Film Festival (2012)". IMDb.
  19. ^ "Traverse City Film Festival (2012)". IMDb.
  20. ^ Thompson, Anne (8 July 2021). "How Mark Cousins Connected Cinema, Again, in 'The Story of Film: A New Generation'". IndieWire. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  21. ^ Dalton2021-08-12T08:31:00+01:00, Ben. "Mark Cousins' 'The Story Of Film: A New Generation' sells to North America (exclusive)". Screen.
  22. ^ Kemp, Philip (17 December 2021). "The Story of Film: A New Generation takes viewers on an enriching journey through a decade of cinema". Sight and Sound. British Film Institute. Retrieved 22 June 2022.

External links[edit]