It is no stretch to say that the University of Iowa helped to invent Film Studies as a discipline. The first graduate thesis on film at UIowa dates all the way back to 1916, and our own program has been producing doctoral work in Film Studies since 1960 (when John Kuiper wrote a dissertation on Sergei Eisenstein in what was then called the Division of Radio, Television and Film). Today, the list of former UI graduate students reads like a “who’s who” of pioneering figures in the field: Dudley Andrew, David Bordwell, Mary Ann Doane, Aaron Gerow, Barbara Klinger, Patrice Petro, David Rodowick, Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano, and many more. Iowa alumni are also very well represented among the winners of the prestigious Distinguished Career Award from the Society of Film and Media Studies, the highest honor our field can bestow.

Today, our PhD program offers students comprehensive training in film theory and history amidst a stimulating interdisciplinary environment in one of the country’s best small cities for the arts. Our students also acquire the entire range of skills they need for employment in the academic job market, as well as numerous transferable skills. With guaranteed financial support, nearly all graduate students can expect to gain extensive experience in the classroom. Students also regularly organize conferences and events and work with local institutions such as FilmScene.

Our students also enjoy a rich graduate student community. Film Studies graduate students regularly collaborate with graduate students from the MFA program in Cinematic Arts, and they take seminars with other graduate students across the university.

For a good overview of what your trajectory might look like, you can consult our Graduate Student Handbook of Policies and Procedures, especially the section outlining the PhD timeline with milestones by semester. And for more information on the course requirements for the PhD degree, please consult the university’s general catalogue.

To see our recent PhD placement record, please see the Careers and Opportunities page.

For more information on graduate student funding, please our Funding page here.

If you think you might be interested in applying, it's good to start by consulting faculty profiles available on our People page. Active faculty in Film Studies include Paula Amad, Michael Cowan, Corey Creekmur, Chris Goetz, Hayley O'Malley and Andrew Owens. Departmental research strengths include early modernist cinemas, game studies, European film, Black cinema, Queer cinema, documentary, animation, postcolonial approaches and media archaeology.

For instructions instructions, deadlines and minimal requirements for PhD applications, please consult the Graduate Admissions page.

For any further questions, you may also contact our Director of Graduate Studies, listed on the People page of this website.