The Master of Arts program in film studies requires a minimum of 36 s.h. of graduate credit, of which 24 s.h. must be earned at the University of Iowa. Students must earn a minimum g.p.a. of 3.25.

The 36 s.h. are typically acquired by taking 12 graduate-level courses that span two years. The program's focus is on advanced film theory and film history in an international context, with required distributions of coursework in U.S. cinema, European cinema, world cinemas, and at least one of the following areas: film production, documentary film, animation, or experimental film.

Students meet formal degree requirements through coursework and a written examination in their second year on key areas within film theory and film history, followed by an oral examination.

Under normal circumstances, students who do not already hold an M.A. in film studies or a closely allied discipline are first admitted into the program, even if they are interested in pursuing a doctorate in film studies. This is a two-year program, but in exceptional cases may be completed in three semesters and a summer. No more than six hours of graduate credit for courses taken elsewhere will be accepted toward the Master of Arts. 

The Master of Arts serves two basic purposes: 1) to give students substantial training in film analysis, history, and theory, and 2) to afford students an opportunity to learn about various film-related disciplines in order to make an informed career choice. Students who complete a M.A. may go on to Ph.D. work in film studies or another discipline, M.F.A. work in film and video production or another discipline, a library science degree, film distribution, film programming, archival work, arts management, and many other disciplines. The department offers at least two graduate courses in film studies each semester, and all students completing coursework in the program are expected to enroll in these; otherwise, M.A. students are encouraged to take advantage of the University's and the program's openness toward interdisciplinary work by taking courses in other departments, by attending lectures throughout the University, and by generally informing themselves about a wide range of disciplines and careers related to film studies.

Listed below are the general categories of coursework required to earn the degree; for more specific information on courses, curriculum, and requirements of the Master of Arts in film studies, visit the UI General Catalog.

Degree Requirements
Title Hours
Core Requirements 7-9
Distribution Requirement 8
Additional Upper-Level Electives 19-21
Language Study (see below) -
Written and Oral Examinations (see below) -
Total Hours 36

Important Deadlines

Application Deadline: January 15th (for Fall semester enrollment)


A faculty committee chaired by the head of film studies evaluates applications to the M.A. program. Application materials should include undergraduate and/or graduate transcripts, a personal statement, a writing sample, three letters
 of recommendation, test scores, and samples of creative work when relevant. Admission decisions are based on the full range of
 an applicant's accomplishments and evidence that the applicant will fit the elements of the program and will thrive in the department.

Previous experience in the area of film studies 
is desirable but not required. Applicants usually enter the M.A. program with a B.A. in film studies or an M.A. in an unrelated field.

Applicants for admission to the graduate program must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College on the Graduate College website. For more information, see the Graduate Admissions Process page.

Language Study

Given the program’s emphasis upon the study of film in an international context, foreign language acquisition is considered to be highly advantageous. Up to six hours of study in languages and literatures other than English (in courses numbered 3000 or above, as per Graduate College regulations) may be counted toward the degree.

Written and Oral Examinations

The written examination (two four-hour written exams in Film Theory and Film History taken in January of the second year) is followed by a one-hour oral examination conducted by the M.A. Examination Committee in early February.

For the M.A. exam, students choose one area from each list:

Film Theory

  • Feminist Film Theory
  • Film, Technology, and New Media
  • Film Theory, origins to 1965
  • Film Theory, 1965 to 1990
  • Film Theory, 1990 to the present
  • Film Theory and Postcolonial studies
  • Genre Theory
  • Marxist Film Theory
  • Narrative Theory
  • Psychoanalytic Film Theory
  • Queer Film Theory
  • Spectatorship and Reception
  • Third Cinema

Film History

  • Animation
  • Documentary Cinema
  • East Asian Cinemas1 (including Australia and New Zealand)
  • European Cinema2, origins to 1930
  • European Cinema2, 1930 to 1960
  • European Cinema2, 1960 to the present
  • Experimental Cinema
  • South Asian Cinema
  • Latin American Cinema, origins to 1960
  • Latin American Cinema, 1950 to the present
  • North African and Middle Eastern Cinema
  • Sub-Saharan African Cinema
  • U.S. Cinema, origins to 1930
  • U.S. Cinema, 1925 to 1960
  • U.S. Cinema, 1960 to the present

1 - film production in at least two (2) countries, studied comparatively.
2 - film production in at least three (3) countries, studied comparatively.

The first exam is given on the Thursday before the start of the spring semester, and the second exam is given on the following day. Each exam takes four hours, with three hours for writing, and an hour designated for outlining, revision, and proofreading. All students take the exams using a University computer. Students are expected to be familiar with the full range of material implied by their chosen areas and approved reading/viewing lists. Exams typically include both required questions and a choice among offered questions. The best answers reveal specific knowledge, broad conceptualization, lucid organization, and clear prose.