What is Auteur Theory and Why Is It Important?

Auteur Theory, Auteur, French New Wave, Cahiers du cinéma, François Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock, Speilberg, Scorsese, Kubrick, Coppola, Fincher, Nolan, PT Anderson, Burton, Tarantino, Wes Anderson

What is Auteur Theory and Why Is It Important?

Auteur Theory is a way of looking at films that state that the director is the “author” of a film. The Auteur theory argues that a film is a reflection of the director’s artistic vision; so, a movie directed by a given filmmaker will have recognizable, recurring themes and visual queues that inform the audience who the director is (think a Hitchcock or Tarantino film) and shows a consistent artistic identity throughout that director’s filmography.

The term “Auteur theory” is credited to the critics of the French film journal Cahiers du cinéma, many of which became the directors of the French New Wave. However, according to New York University professor Julian Cornell, the concept had been around for a while prior. The Cahiers critics simply refined the theory.

“In the French New Wave, people developed the notion of the filmmaker as an artist. They didn’t invent the idea, but they did popularize it. A German filmmaker who started as a German theatre director, Max Reinhardt, came up with the idea of the auteur – the author in films. He came up with that around the teens….So, [director François] Truffaut and the French New Wave popularized it, or they revived it.” – New York University Professor Julian Cornell

A filmmaker singled out by the Cahiers critics who was the definition of the idea of the auteur is Alfred Hitchcock. By many Hitchcock was viewed primarily as a “vulgar showman” who made commercial thrillers.

“I liked almost anybody that made you realize who the devil was making the picture.” – Howard Hawks

However, his obsessions that showed up repeatedly in his films and the distinct imprint of his personality that appeared in all of his works made him a prime candidate for critical focus within the context of a theory that fetishizes the idea of a singular, distinctive vision that can be seen clearly throughout an entire career.

In all of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, the audience can see certain ideas and images that pop up again and again. This is where the term the “Hitchcock Blonde” came from.

Think of Speilberg, Scorsese, Kubrick, Coppola, Fincher, Nolan, PT Anderson, Burton, Tarantino, Wes Anderson or Cassevettes, they all have such of unique style all onto themselves. Many of them have such a strong visual style that you can recognize one of their films from a few frames of the film.

Check out the videos below to go deeper into Auteur Theory.


The Origins of Auteur Theory

Auteur – it’s a favorite term of cinephiles around the world. But what exactly is Auteur Theory? In this Filmmaker IQ course we peel back pages of time and explore the origins of Auteur Theory from the economically tumultuous adolescence of French Cinema to the culture war waged in the columns of competing American movie critics.



Truffaut on the Auteur Theory

“The politique des auteurs consists, in short, of choosing the personal factor in artistic creation as a standard of reference, and then assuming that it continues and even progresses from one film to the next. It is recognized that there do exist certain important films of quality that escape this test, but these will systematically be considered inferior to those in which the personal stamp of the auteur, however run-of-the-mill the scenario, can be perceived even minutely.” – Andre Bazin



Auteur Theory in Hitchcock’s Work


BONUS: TOP TEN Online Filmmaking Courses


Auteur Theory: Quentin Tarantino


Auteur Theory: Joel and Ethan Coen


If you liked What is Auteur Theory and Why Is It Important, then you’ll love:
Italian Neorealism: Martin Scorsese’s Origins

martin scorsese, italian neorealism, The Bicycle Thief

french new wave, 400 Blows, Breathless, Jacques Demy, Agnes Varda, Alain Resnais, Louis Malle, Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut

Cinema Verite, Cinema Verité

Mise en Scene, 180 degree rule, filmmaking, filmmaker, cinematography. indie film hustle


Enjoyed What is Auteur Theory and Why Is It Important? Please share it in your social networks (FacebookTwitter, email etc) by using social media buttons at the side or bottom of the blog. Or post to your blog and anywhere else you feel it would be a good fit. Thanks.

I welcome thoughts and remarks on ANY of the content above in the comments section below…

indie film syndicate, indie film hustle, filmmaking course, online film school, filmmaking, indie film,


Get Social with Indie Film Hustle:
Facebook: Indie Film Hustle

Twitter: @indiefilmhustle 
Instagram: @ifilmhustle

YouTube: Indie Film Hustle TV
Podcast: IFH Podcast
Podcast: Film Festival Hacks Podcast
IFH: Filmmaking Hacks