BA in Cinema & Media Studies

From its invention in the late 19th century, film has grown into one of the most complex art forms, popular entertainments, and powerful social forces in contemporary life. Everywhere we turn, we are surrounded by hybrid versions of the cinema: viral videos and YouTube uploads; home movies and reality television; advertisements and video games; surveillance footage and video conferences; and, of course, the masterpieces of global cinema and the expensive entertainments of the film and television industries. The most vital dimensions of our culture, our thought, and our expression have been shaped decisively by the language of the moving image, with its unique aesthetic codes and traditions, and with its many cultural and technological histories.

The undergraduate program in Cinema & Media Studies (CIMS) offers students a comprehensive education in the history, culture, aesthetics, and theory of moving-image media. Our course offerings are global in range and interdisciplinary in orientation. The CIMS program draws on affiliated faculty from departments across the college, from English and world languages and literatures to sociology and art history. We offer courses on a variety of film movements and genres, individual filmmakers, and a range of media, as well as courses devoted to national cinemas in Asia, Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.

Students graduating with a degree in Cinema & Media Studies will acquire a rich humanities-based background in a field with growing cultural and economic relevance, as well as enduring artistic significance and political urgency. Our graduates develop critical skills needed to navigate today’s media landscape with technical knowledge, historical perspective, creativity, and imagination. Recent graduates have used their degrees to pursue a range of careers, including: film programming, publishing, arts journalism and film criticism, filmmaking, art making, creative writing, education, business, marketing, advertising, and brand consulting.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the BA degree, students are able to:

  • Demonstrate familiarity with a substantial body of films and other media forms from the silent era to the present, drawing on the multilayered histories informing how that material has been created and received.
  • Demonstrate visual and verbal literacy by analyzing and writing with clarity and terminological precision about various kinds of moving images.
  • Understand how the material constraints of different moving-image media impact the basic ability to tell stories about human life and communicate ideas in audio-visual terms.
  • Identify and comprehend key issues relating to the converging aesthetics and overlapping media histories linking film, television, video, and digital media.
  • Conduct research on topics in cinema and media studies, formulating apt questions, identifying sources, and using them appropriately to support an argument or interpretation.
  • Discuss the applicability of scholarship from cinema and media studies to the other visual arts, literature, technology, culture, commerce, and politics.
  • Identify the major movements and turning points in cinema and media history, and situate them within a broader socioeconomic and cultural context, including national, regional, and global contexts beyond the US.
  • Analyze and write about alternative forms of moving image practice, particularly those outside traditional narrative (documentary, the cinema of attractions, avant-garde cinema, and video art, etc.).
  • Identify and comprehend the virtues and limitations of the concept of authorship for film, television, and other moving-image media, and speak knowledgeably about the work of at least one major figure (director, showrunner, screenwriter, producer).
  • Describe a number of different theoretical approaches to film and utilize this theoretical knowledge when analyzing a particular film, genre, filmmaker, or topic in cinema studies.

Graduates with deep knowledge of cinema and media are particularly sought after in fields such as curating, film and media programming and exhibition, screenwriting, arts journalism, education, communication, entertainment law, and the media industries.


All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Cinema & Media Studies students will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in Philosophical Inquiry and Life’s Meanings, Aesthetic Exploration, Historical Consciousness, Individual in Community, Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy, Ethical Reasoning, Digital/Multimedia Expression, Critical Thinking, Writing-Intensive Course, Research & Information Literacy, Social Inquiry I, Oral and/or Signed Communication, Writing, Research & Inquiry, Teamwork/Collaboration, and Creativity/Innovation. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, cocurricular experiences.

The major requires a total of 11 courses (44 units), all completed with a minimum grade of C. At least three of those 11 courses must be taken at the advanced (CI 400/500) level; and each student’s program of CIMS electives must include courses in at least three of the following national/regional cinemas: Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America, Mideast and North Africa, US.

Requirements are distributed as follows:

  • A four-course CIMS core, comprising two courses in film history, one in the aesthetics of film and media, one in film and media theory;
  • One course in non-cinematic media;
  • One course in auteur studies (intensive study of one or several filmmakers or major figures in the creation and production of other moving-image media: showrunners, writers, producers, etc.);
  • One focused CIMS elective chosen from offerings that focus on a film genre, a film movement, or non-narrative film; and
  • Four unrestricted CIMS electives (students should, however, consider how they will meet requirements in national/regional cinema and advanced coursework).

Specifically required are the following:

  • Two courses in Film History:
    • CAS CI 101 History of Global Cinema 1: Origins through the 1950s (fall) and
      CAS CI 102 History of Global Cinema 2: 1960s to the Present (spring)

These two courses may be taken in either order. CI 101 is not a prerequisite for CI 102.

  • One course in Aesthetics of Film and Media:
    • CAS CI 200 Introduction to Film & Media Aesthetics
  • One course in Film and Media Theory:
    • CAS CI 512 Film and Media Theory or with prior approval of student’s CIMS advisor, another course focusing on film theory
  • One course in non-cinematic media: CAS CI 255, CAS CI 367, CAS CI 530, CAS CI 590. See below for other courses outside of the program that count toward the non-cinematic media requirement.
  • One course in auteur filmmaking, focused on one, two, or several directors (or writers, showrunners, cinematographers, producers, actors, etc.) and numbered CAS CI 340–359, 440–459, or 540–559; as well as CAS CI 383
  • One course in a film genre (the western, the musical, film noir, the horror film, etc.) or movement (Italian neo-realism, the French New Wave, etc.) or in non-narrative film (the documentary, avant-garde cinema, experimental media, etc.) chosen from CAS CI 320–339, 420–439, or 520–539; as well as CAS CI 353, CAS CI 369, CAS CI 380, CAS CI 381, CAS CI 389, and CAS CI 395. Please note CAS CI 321 and CAS CI 325 count as electives.
  • Four Cinema & Media Studies electives, chosen in consultation with the student’s advisor from the following:
    • CI courses in theory, non-cinematic media, auteur cinema, genres, movements, or non-narrative film not used to fulfill requirements 5–7 above, or CI courses in film and media history and aesthetics beyond CAS CI 101–102 and CAS CI 200
    • Courses approved for the major that examine film in relation to other arts or humanities disciplines
    • Other Cinema & Media Studies courses taken, with advisor’s prior approval, including as part of Boston University Study Abroad (BUSA) or other external programs
    • Maximum of one approved 4-unit academic internship (CAS CI 493 or 494) or directed study (CAS CI 491 or 492) in cinema and media studies
    • For qualified CAS students: one or two terms of Senior Honors Work (CAS CI 497 or 498) required for graduation with Honors in the Major

With approval from the student’s CIMS advisor, CAS CI 390 and CAS CI 490 may also be used to fulfill the above requirements, with the specific category they fulfill dependent on the topic in the term the course was taken.

The following courses, in addition to those listed above, may be taken as electives toward the major’s requirement of four: CAS CI 260–299, 360–399, 460–499, and 560–599.

Some courses offered in other schools, colleges, departments, and programs may be taken for units in the Cinema & Media Studies major and minor programs. These classes are pending seat availability. Please discuss these options with your advisor before adding them to your schedule. Classes include:

  • Film & Media Theory: COM FT 520, COM FT 536
  • Non-Cinematic Media: CAS AA 313, CAS AH 392, CAS AH 393, CAS AH 395, CAS AR 415, CAS AR 576, CAS AR 170, CAS EN 393, COM FT 303, CAS HI 231, CAS SO 253, COM FT 520, COM FT 531, COM FT 534, COM FT 541, COM FT 545, COM FT 554, COM FT 570, COM FT 571, COM FT 572, CAS LR 442
  • Genre/Movement: CAS HI 508, CAS HI 539, COM FT 401, COM FT 547, COM FT 556, COM FT 557, COM FT 558, COM FT 559, COM FT 560, COM FT 576
  • Electives: CAS AA 210, CAS AN 397, CAS EN 500, CAS HI 300, CAS WS 329, COM FT 353, COM FT 404, COM FT 411, COM FT 500, COM FT 457, COM FT 458, COM FT 532, COM FT 538, COM FT 567, CAS LF 308, CAS LG 307, CAS LG 325, CAS LI 313, CAS LJ 441, CAS LR 312, CAS LF 440, CAS LS 308

Honors in the Major

CAS students with a GPA of 3.30, overall and in CI courses, may apply to pursue Honors in the Major. A total of 12 CIMS courses are required, with five at the 400-level or above, including two terms of mentored senior honors work (CAS CI 497/498) that result in an original research paper (thesis) and defense of the paper in an oral examination with a committee of faculty readers. A grade of B+ or higher in both terms of senior honors work is required for graduation with Honors in Cinema & Media Studies. Qualified students who are interested in this option should discuss it with their academic advisor no later than March of their junior year.