Skip to main content

Filmed Thought

Cinema as Reflective Form

With the rise of review sites and social media, films today, as soon as they are shown, immediately become the topic of debates on their merits not only as entertainment, but also as serious forms of artistic expression. Philosopher Robert B. Pippin, however, wants us to consider a more radical proposition: film as thought, as a reflective form. Pippin explores this idea through a series of perceptive analyses of cinematic masterpieces, revealing how films can illuminate, in a concrete manner, core features and problems of shared human life.

Filmed Thought examines questions of morality in Almodóvar’s Talk to Her, goodness and naïveté in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, love and fantasy in Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows, politics and society in Polanski’s Chinatown and Malick’s The Thin Red Line, and self-understanding and understanding others in Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place and in the Dardennes brothers' oeuvre. In each reading, Pippin pays close attention to what makes these films exceptional as technical works of art (paying special attention to the role of cinematic irony) and as intellectual and philosophical achievements. Throughout, he shows how films offer a view of basic problems of human agency from the inside and allow viewers to think with and through them. Captivating and insightful, Filmed Thought shows us what it means to take cinema seriously not just as art, but as thought, and how this medium provides a singular form of reflection on what it is to be human.

312 pages | 66 color plates, 30 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2020

Film Studies

Philosophy: Aesthetics, General Philosophy


"Filmed Thought is accessibly written, focuses on wonderful films, and argues compellingly for the intellectual intricacy of cinematic works that may already be very familiar to us."

Lucy Bolton | Times Higher Education

“I suspect I will often return to Filmed Thought. Each chapter is packed with observations which cast an academically well-worn movie in a whole new light. When I read Pippin’s remark that we never see Jeff from Rear Window take an actual picture (or even load any of his cameras), I wanted to smack my head for never having noticed something so simple, yet so fascinating in its implications. Such small, strange details illustrate how the best films demand both multiple viewings and constant reassessment. Hopefully, Pippin’s analytical framework will inspire similar pieces on more diverse films.”

Thomas Puhr | Film International

“If, as Pippin has recently put it, cinema is ‘filmed thought,’ then the cinema from below embodies a historically distinct kind of thinking. As attempts to peek behind the curtain or—to use their metaphor of choice—to look beneath the surface of life under capitalism.”

Jensen Suther | Senses of Cinema

"Pippin, a prolific analyst of cinematic art...[argues] that film, or at least some films, are not just entertainment to be watched and enjoyed, but require a more involved engagement and interpretive effort—not unlike philosophical texts—and that such effort yields insights not only aesthetic but ethical, ontological, and epistemological."

C. D. Kay | Choice

"Analytically assured and compulsively readable. . . . Filmed Thought is an important contribution to film-philosophy that attests to the difficult relationship between the two disciplines."

Radical Philosophy

Honorable Mention

2019 CriterionCast Gift Guide: The 20 Best Film Books to Give This Year

“An ambitious and successful exploration of film as philosophy—or rather, to quote the title of an important book by V. F. Perkins, of film as film, and thereby as a version of philosophy. The form reflects on itself, and in this way brings medium and content into a subtle and shifting relationship with each other and with the world. Philosophers have written very well on film before—the obvious instances are Gilles Deleuze and Stanley Cavell, the latter playing a large part in Pippin’s book—but none has written with so long and so close an attention to individual films or with so intimate a sense of where and how the philosophy plays out in these works (and what kind of philosophy it is not).”

Michael Wood, Princeton University, author of "Alfred Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much" and "Film: A Very Short Introduction"

Filmed Thought is film philosophy at its finest. At a time when so much academic philosophy speaks only to specialized audiences, Pippin’s book is a remarkable work of public scholarship, one that will surely become a classic. Just as viewers never tire of rewatching the films of Hitchcock, Malick, and Ray, readers will return again and again to Filmed Thought, finding something new, something captivating, something worth thinking about, each and every time.”

Martin Woessner, City College of New York

“There are many riches in these chapters that will reward the careful reader. Taken together, the result is stimulating, engaging, and thought-provoking. Filmed Thought shows convincingly why philosophers should take cinema seriously, and how film theorists can engage in philosophy through cinema. A major contribution.”

Robert Sinnerbrink, Macquarie University, author of "Cinematic Ethics" and "New Philosophies of Film"

Table of Contents

Section I Cinema as Reflective Form

1 Cinematic Reflection
2 Cinematic Self-Consciousness in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window

Section II Moral Variations

3 Devils & Angels in Pedro Almodóvar’s Talk to Her
4 Confounding Morality in Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt

Section III Social Pathologies

5 Cinematic Tone in Roman Polanski’s Chinatown: Can “Life” Itself Be “False”?
6 Love & Class in Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows

Section IV Irony & Mutuality

7 Cinematic Irony: The Strange Case of Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar
8 Passive & Active Skepticism in Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place

Section V Agency & Meaning

9 Vernacular Metaphysics: On Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line
10 Psychology Degree Zero? The Representation of Action in the Films of the Dardenne Brothers

Works Cited

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press