You may already consider yourself a film buff – or get called a film geek behind your back (absolutely nothing wrong with that, all the best film students and film scholars start out that way). If you have a passion for film of any kind, hold on to it. Wear your film-geek label with pride.

But if you want to become a successful film student, you need to add a few tools to your toolbox, which is where this book comes in. A good film student doesn’t simply memorise film facts – who played who in what and whether they received Oscars that year. After all, the Internet now remembers all these details. Instead, a film student can take a movie to bits to see how it works, place it into its historical or social context, or use it to help explain and understand aspects such as politics and national identity. Film studies isn’t about what and who, it’s about how and most importantly why.

If you take a class in film studies – or choose to pursue a degree in it – I’m afraid that you’re going to have to put up with lots of sniggering about ‘Mickey Mouse studies’. Everybody watches films, don’t they? Does that mean universities should hand out degrees with subscriptions to Netflix? Ignore these people. They’re just jealous.

Unlike many other forms of art, films were and continue to be genuinely, staggeringly popular – and some people confuse popularity with stupidity. But that’s the stupidest mistake of all. To be popular, films need to resonate deeply with great swathes of the ...

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