After several postponements due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the opening of the world’s premier institution all dedicated to the art and science of motion pictures is finally happening on September 30th this year – we’re talking about the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. Founded by the AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) itself, the organization that holds the Oscar ceremony every year and assigns its awards, this brand-new film museum isn’t certainly the first and only museum in the world dedicated to the art of cinema, but it is most certainly the grandest and, possibly, the richest created so far.
Looking forward to this historical and much-anticipated inauguration, we’ve been thinking about the similarly-purposed institutions scattered all over the world: cinema is a universal and universally loved art, it’s a huge portion of the culture and history of all countries, it has shaped and keeps shaping our world and society, and no surprise if lots of noteworthy museums stand out in so many lands of our planet. You just need to know where to find them.
Competing with each other for their architectural beauty and abundance of collections and exhibitions, here’s our selection of the best film museums around the world.
National Museum of Cinema – Turin, Italy
Turin’s film museum is one of the most important museums in the world entirely dedicated to film history and the only one of its kind in Italy. Located inside the city’s symbolic monument, the Mole Antonelliana, the museum’s foundation and construction was commissioned in 1941 by the historian Maria Adriana Prolo. The actual opening of the museum, though, took place only in the year 2000, and today it counts over half a million visitors from all over the world every year. Turin’s Museum of Cinema includes unique multimedia and interactive installations, spaces dedicated to western, musical, and fantasy movies, collections of photos, videos, movie clips, movie posters, costumes, cinematographic equipment, drafts, and pieces of sets from the earliest days of moviemaking up until today. Furthermore, right inside the museum, a panoramic lift with glass, see-through walls, can take you up to the highest peak of the Mole Antonelliana, for a breathtaking view of the whole city of Turin.
La Cinémathèque Française – Paris, France
They call it “the temple of the Seventh Art” for a reason: this institution dedicated to the conservation, restoration, and exposition of a huge part of the international cinema heritage houses one of the richest archives of cinematographic documents and equipment belonging to international cult movies. Founded in 1936 by cinema archivist Henri Langlois and director Georges Franju, this French-born film museum aims not only at the preservation and restoration of movies, but also at collecting all sorts of items related to the world of cinema: cameras, posters, articles, costumes, and pieces of movie sets, besides several yearly exhibitions dedicated to European actors and directors of international fame. Formerly the school of the Nouvelle Vague filmmakers, the Cinémathèque is currently located inside the old American Center in rue de Bercy, in Paris, and includes a rich library where specialized books, magazines, DVDs and VHSs are collected, plus a restaurant worth visiting just for its name: “Les 400 coups.”
German Film Museum – Frankfurt, Germany
Inaugurated in 1983 on the banks of the River Main in Frankfurt, the Deutsches Filmmuseum exhibits German cinematography from the past, present, and future. Including the collections donated by actors, directors, historians, and local cinematography institutes, this film museum takes you on a journey through the story of the origins, evolution, and expansion of the cinema industry. A tour around the rooms and (permanent and temporary) exhibitions of the museum will show you how acting, images, sound, and editing interact to give birth to the final product, through a rich collection of machinery, kaleidoscopes, peep shows, magic lanterns, and much more. Furthermore, interactive monitors give you the possibility to experiment yourself and modify a film scene by changing the order of photograms or playing with lighting and sounds.
Cinema Museum (Museu de Cinema) – Girona, Spain
AKA the one and only film museum in Spain. Created in the city of Girona (Catalonia) from the Tomàs Mallol Collection of pre-cinema and cinema objects, its history dates back to 1998 when Girona’s city council decided to acquire the private collection of Tomàs Mallol, a famous director and cinephile who possessed an actual film museum in his house. Mallol, in fact, had collected several movie clips and pieces of equipment used during filming, among which was the very first projector in the history of cinema, the one used by the Lumière brothers. The Museu de Cinema tells the story of the film industry starting from the 1500s, the century of the first motion pictures experimentations. Furthermore, Girona’s cinema museum offers an active educational service, with activities about cinema and the moving image, and an Institute of Studies, with a library service, a video library, and several archives available to consult.
London Film Museum – London, UK
Located in a very central area of the city, in the majestic palace of the County Hall, on the south bank of the River Thames, near Westminster Bridge, London Film Museum is entirely dedicated to the most famous movies, actors, and film studios in history. Its exhibitions revisit the history of cinema from its origins to the present time, with a focus on some particular aspects of moviemaking like the organization of sets, the revolution, and the evolution of cinema during and after the World Wars. Its collections include the original props and costumes from many famous films, like Mister Bean’s suit, some iconic clapper boards with notes of actors and producers written on them, a section all dedicated to animated films, a room all dedicated to the Harry Potter universe, another one dedicated to Sherlock Holmes, and so much more. To welcome you at the entrance, a real-size statue of Marylin Monroe in her most famous white, floaty dress, and a huge movie camera.
Odessa Film Studio – Odessa, Ukraine
Being the first film museum established in the Russian Empire, the film studio in Odessa is a state-owned institution located in this populous city in Ukraine. Founded in 1919 out of the remnants of a cinema studio, it was originally aimed at representing the political film section of the political department and 41st Division of the Russian Red Army. After the two World Wars, the Odessa film studio was reorganized to become what it is today: a building hosting a film studio (Vira Kholodna Film Studio), the Odessa Film School, a movie theater, and a Museum of the Cinema. A visit to the museum allows you to find out about the history of international cinema, through its collections of historic materials, from the invention of the Seventh Art to the postmodern, digital and avant-garde genres.
Moving Image Museum – Dubai, UAE
Also known as the History of Cinema Museum, this institution focuses on the history of the moving image and, specifically, on the prehistory of cinema. The Moving Image Museum is the only one of its kind in the whole Middle East, showing through its collections the progression of motion picture film and exhibiting the development of visual entertainment from its birth to the origin of modern-day cinema. Dubai’s film museum houses the private collection of Mr. Akram Miknas, a Bahraini/Lebanese businessman with a passion for photography, consisting of over 350 original moving image antiques dating back from the 1700s to the 20th century. Furthermore, the museum offers visitors several interactive models and objects such as an 18th-century Dutch peep box viewer to look into, or a reel of an early 20th-century mutoscope, which you can turn and see its typical funny flicker effect. This and way more in this suggestive film museum located in Dubai’s Barsha Heights integrated community.
China National Film Museum – Beijing, China
One of the largest professional film museums in the world, the National Film Museum of China was founded quite recently, in 2005, in celebration of the 100 years of Chinese cinema. CNFM showcases the history of Chinese cinema and hosts film technology expos, including 20 permanent exhibition halls which are also functional for meetings and academic exchanges to promote research aimed at advancing cinema culture in China and in the world. Furthermore, the museum includes inside its building one IMAX theater, one digital projection theater, and three 35mm projection theatres, providing visitors with a complete experience of contemporary cinema culture. Located in northeast Beijing, CNFM not only brings its visitors on a journey through the history of Chinese cinema and film genres, but it also offers separate exhibitions for dubbing of foreign films and animation for kids.
Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) – Melbourne, Australia
Celebrating the wonder and power of “the world’s most democratic art form” that is cinema, ACMI is located in the heart of Melbourne’s Federation Square, distinguishing itself as an overall world-leading cultural center and major attraction. Founded in 1946 as the State Film Center, a collection-based institution, ACMI evolved into an internationally recognized hub for advocacy, screen education, industry engagement, and glorification of the many forms of the moving image – film, television, computer gaming, and digital culture. A visit to ACMI includes the screening of films, TV productions, and digital clips, besides exhibitions (also interactive), talks, workshops, and more. Insider tip: at the entrance of the centerpiece exhibition, you can get your “Lens,” a free-handled, take-home device through which you can virtually collect the artworks and objects you like from the exhibit and create your personal online collection.
Museum of the Moving Image – New York City, NY, USA
Located in Astoria, Queens, a peripheric area of NYC, this film museum retraces the evolution and history of international cinema, television, and moving image in general, through an educational, fascinating, and fun path. The collections and exhibitions aim at documenting the historical and technological progress of cinema, TV, and digital media over the past few decades, specifically through numerous relics belonging to the art of cinema, often presented in an interactive way, and easily accessible even to the non-English speakers. The temporary and permanent exhibitions showcase several old movie clips, camcorders, equipment for the very first recordings of sounds, and primordial samples of film projectors and televisions. Furthermore, the museum includes a section dedicated to the development of cinema technique over the years until today, and a whole room dedicated to makeup, costumes, props, and pieces of famous film and television sets (such as “Sex and the City” and “King Kong”).
The Hollywood Museum – Los Angeles, CA, USA
Hollywood is universally known as the house of the most renowned American movie stars and blockbusters in the world – what better place, then, to also house a museum revisiting the history of American cinema? The Hollywood Museum is located in the heart of Hollywood, structured into three floors, and it includes some iconic memorabilia of the history of film. Its collections showcase more than 10,000 stage costumes, several different set props, posters of some of the most famous movies ever made, and personal objects which used to belong to the Hollywood stars. Touring the numerous rooms of the building, visitors will have a chance to see a wide range of relics, from Rocky’s boxing gloves to Christopher Reeve’s Superman costume. On a side note, to underline the amazing organizational spirit of the museum, all exhibits are presented in chronological order, from the first silent films to the special effects of modern cinema.
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures – Los Angeles, California
A new site of cultural interest for the Seventh Art is born and is about to open its doors to the public, standing out as the very first museum complex in the world entirely dedicated to the celebration of cinema and its history. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will be inaugurated in LA’s Miracle Mile neighborhood, between Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, on September 30th this year, five months later than originally scheduled due to the Covid-19 pandemic threat. The foundation of the museum was financed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), and the design was overseen by Italian architect Renzo Piano. The building was formerly a large warehouse used as a mall, built in 1938 and severely damaged after the 1987th earthquake. Years later, the Renzo Piano Building Workshop restructured the remains and converted them into a glass and concrete spherical unit precisely nicknamed “The Sphere.” LA’s brand-new film museum center will not only include spaces dedicated to temporary exhibitions, laboratories, entertainment and leisure areas, but also a movie theater with 100 seats, the David Geffen Theater. The collections of cinema memorabilia acquired by the Academy Museum count over 5,000 objects related to filming technology, costume design, production design, hair and makeup, posters, and promotional material: millions of photographs, thousands of films, videos, and scripts, and more than 1,700 special collections belonging to legends of cinema such as Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock. A tour of this museum would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all cinephiles out there in the world. Not to mention the last floor of The Sphere, where a wide terrace offers a breathtaking view of the city and the Hollywood hills.