Psychoanalytic film theory, despite its relatively late development, has become one of the most widely practiced theoretical approaches to cinema studies today. This is largely owing to the fact that psychoanalysis and film technology were born in the same era, and essentially grew up together. Thus, as cinema quickly came to focus on ways of rendering subjective experiences--the innermost psychological depths of the characters it portrayed--it naturally drew upon the newest conception of subjectivity offered in the field of psychology, namely the psychoanalytic conception of it. A great many films from the first half of the 20th Century accordingly drew upon such psychoanalytic concepts as: the unconscious, DreamWorks, the Oedipus complex, the Electra complex and psychoanalysis itself. Psychoanalytical film theory is a school of academic film criticism that developed in the 1970s and '80s, is closely allied with critical theory, and that analyses films from the perspective of psychoanalysis, generally the works of Jacques Lacan.
Psychoanalytic film theory occurred in two distinct waves. The first, beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, focused on a formal critique of cinema’s dissemination of ideology, and especially on the role of the cinematic apparatus in this process. The main figures of this first wave were Christian Metz, Jean-Louis Baudry, and Laura Mulvey. They took their primary inspiration from the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, and they most often read Lacan through the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser’s account of subject formation. The second wave of psychoanalytic film theory has also had its basis in Lacan’s thought, though with a significantly different emphasis. Beginning in the late 1980s and early 1990s, this manifestation of psychoanalytic film theory, which continues to remain productive even today, shifted the focus from cinema’s ideological work to the relationship between cinema and a trauma that disrupts the