From the outset, motion pictures have stimulated discussion and debate as a technology, a social phenomenon, a political tool, a moral danger, and an art. The earliest discussions and debates took place outside an academic context. From noted filmmakers such as Sergei Eisenstein (1898–1948), Vsevolod Pudovkin (1893–1953), and Maya Deren (1917–1961) to eclectic thinkers and social critics such as Siegfried Kracauer, John Grierson (1898–1972), and André Bazin, a body of knowledge began to develop that would provide a launching pad for the academic study of film in the years following World War II, especially the 1960s.
These pioneers also established a tradition of commentary about film that continues to operate independent of the university. Exemplified today primarily by the circulation of relatively formulaic film reviews, biographies, profiles, and box-office statistics, these popular forms of commentary work largely to support the dominant forms of feature filmmaking and to aid consumers of entertainment in their choice of films. The devoted amateur cinephile has given way to the professional film reviewer and the university scholar, although passionate engagement with the art and politics of film can still exist in both sectors.