An auteur (ɜːr/; French: [o.tœʁ], lit. 'author') is a singular artist who controls all aspects of a collaborative creative work, a person equivalent to the author of a novel or a play.[1] The term is commonly used to refer to film directors with a recognizable style or thematic preoccupation.[2]

Auteurism originated in the French film criticism of the late 1940s as a value system[3] that derives from the cinematic theories of André Bazin and Alexandre Astruc—dubbed auteur theory by the American critic Andrew Sarris.[4][5] The concept was invented to distinguish French New Wave filmmakers from studio-system directors that were part of the Hollywood establishment,[1] and has since been applied to producers of popular music as well as to video-game creators.



Film director and critic François Truffaut in 1965

The definition of an auteur has been debated since the 1940s. André Bazin and Roger Leenhardt presented the theory that it is the director that brings the film to life and uses the film to express their thoughts and feelings about the subject matter as well as a worldview as an auteur. An auteur can use lighting, camerawork, staging and editing to add to their vision.[6]

Truffaut's development

In François Truffaut's 1954 essay "Une certaine tendance du cinéma français" ("A certain tendency in French cinema"), he coined the phrase "la politique des Auteurs", asserting that the worst of Jean Renoir's movies would always be more interesting than the best of the movies of Jean Delannoy. "Politique" might very well be translated as "policy" or "program"; it involves a conscious decision to value and look at films in a certain way. One might see it as the policy of treating any director who uses a personal style or a unique worldview as an Auteur. Truffaut criticized the Cinema of Quality as "Scenarists' films", which are works that lack originality and rely on literary classics. According to Truffaut, this means that the director is only a metteur en scene, a "stager". This tradition suggests that the screenwriter hands the script to the director and the director simply adds the performers and pictures.[7] Truffaut said: "[t]here are no good and bad movies, only good and bad directors".[citation needed]

Hollywood changes

From 1960, with his first self-directed film The Bellboy, Jerry Lewis was one of the earliest Hollywood studio-system actor-turned-director to be critiqued as an auteur. His attention to both the business and creative sides of production: writing, directing, lighting, editing and art direction coincided with the rise of auteur theory. He earned consistent praise by French critics in both Cahiers du Cinéma and Positif. His singular mis-en-scene, and skill behind the camera, was aligned with Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock and Satyajit Ray. Jean-Luc Godard said, “Jerry the only one in Hollywood doing something different, the only one who isn’t falling in with the established categories, the norms, the principles. ...Lewis is the only one today who’s making courageous films. He’s been able to do it because of his personal genius”.[8]


Even before auteur theory became clearly defined, the director was considered to be the most important among the people working on a film. Early German film theorist Walter Julius Bloem credited this to film being an art for the masses, and the masses being accustomed to regard someone who gives the final product (in this case, the director) as an artist, and those who contribute before (i.e. screenwriters) as apprentices.[9]

Starting in the 1960s, some film critics began criticising auteur theory's focus on the authorial role of the director. Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris feuded in the pages of The New Yorker and various film magazines.[10][11] One reason for the backlash is the collaborative aspect of shooting a film, and in the theory's privileging of the role of the director (whose name, at times, has become more important than the movie itself). In Kael's "Raising Kane" (1971), an essay written on Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, she points out how the film made extensive use of the distinctive talents of co-writer Herman J. Mankiewicz and cinematographer Gregg Toland.[12]

Some screenwriters have publicly balked at the idea that directors are more authorial than screenwriters, while film historian Aljean Harmetz, referring to the creative input of producers and studio executives in classical Hollywood, argues that the auteur theory "collapses against the reality of the studio system".[13] In 2006, David Kipen coined the term Schreiber theory to refer to the theory of the screenwriter as the principal author of a film.[14][better source needed]

Film historian Georges Sadoul pointed out that the main author of a film is not necessarily the director, but can be main actor, screenwriter, producer, or even the author of the original story (in case of literary adaptations). Also, he argued that the film can only be seen as a work of collective and not as a work of a single person.[15]

Some criticize Auteur theory, and the practice of praising Auteurs, for being male-dominated. Specifically in the U.S., no woman director has ever been invited to join the pantheon of international auteur directors. Kathryn Bigelow, a potential contender for recognition as an Auteur, had to leave the U.S. for financial security, and is still not included as an Auteur.[16] In fact, on the List of film auteurs, there are only five women out of a list of 133. Some point to the lack-of women directors. In 2016, just 7% of all directors for the top 250 grossing movies were women.[17] Others point to the lack of women in film schools, which has since changed. Now, Professor Martha Lauzen of San Diego State University says that women are represented in film schools.[18] The under-representation of women in film has been called celluloid ceiling.


In law,[vague] the film is treated as a work of art and the auteur, as the creator of the film, is the original copyright holder. Under European Union law, the film director is considered the author or one of the authors of a film, largely as a result of the influence of auteur theory.[19]

Other Languages
Bahasa Indonesia: Auteur
日本語: 作家主義
português: Auteur
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Autorski režiser
suomi: Auteur
中文: 作者论