For a small country with a post–World War I population of around ten million, whose history is filled with wars, revolutions, political repression, and foreign domination, Hungary's achievement in filmmaking is extraordinarily impressive. This history itself has provided a major source of thematic material, as has Hungary's rich literary tradition. Almost from its beginnings, film has been taken seriously as an art in the country. Even in the decades from 1950 to 1990, when the film industry was completely under government control, this control was exerted more lightly and with a greater respect for artistic achievement than in any other country of the Soviet bloc. It might even be said that the market-driven policies that have dominated since 1990 have had a detrimental effect on the overall quality of the country's cinema.
In addition to fiction feature film, Hungary has a strong tradition of documentary filmmaking and also of animation, the latter primarily through the work of the Pannónia Studio and directors such as Sándor̈chler (1935–2004) and Marcell Jankovics (b. 1941). And, though Hungarian cinema is freely acknowledged to be a director's medium, much of the credit for the achievement of its best films must go to such fine actors as Zoltán Latinovits (1931–1976), MiklósGábor (1919–1998), Mari Törõkcsik (b. 1935), and György Cserhalmi (b. 1948), and to such superb cinematographers as György Illés (b. 1914), János Kende (b. 1941), Elemér Reisenbúlyi (b. 1939), and Lajos Koltai (b. 1946).