It is claimed that the Cinema of Iran began with a film of the coronation of king Muzaffar al-Din Shah in 1896 photographed by Rusi Khan. However there is no evidence to substantiate the claim. But it is certain that Shah during his visit to Paris in 1900 saw moving pictures, liked them, ordered his official photographer to purchase motion picture equipment. Thus cinema became a diversion for royal court and well-to-do section of the society when it came to Iran (1900).

The early film making in Iran was often supported by the royalty of the time who were interested only in the entertainment value of the medium. Therefore, most of films of this period are news reels of activities, such as various royal and religious ceremonies which were mostly screened in the royal palace. One could see these newsreels at the homes of dignitaries during weddings, circumcision celebrations and birth ceremonies.


Asghar FarhadiAsghar Farhadi, Iranian Film Director 


In the decade of 1966-1976 of film-making in Iran, various factors provided the production of a large number of feature, documentary, and animated films as well the entrance of many young film-makers into the arena of film-making with fresh, new perceptions and approaches. Some of these factors are the establishment of film schools; National Iranian Television (NIT) in 1969, National Iranian Radio and Television (NIRT) 1972; numerous film festivals; film clubs, such as Kanun Film, Farabi Film Club, the Cinematheque of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Arts and various film clubs at the universities; film production companies with government assistance, such as Tel Film, Film Industry Development Company of Iran (FIDCI), and the New Film Group; the emergence of foreign trained Iranian film-makers as a collective force which abandoned the traditional film formula, characters and situations; and a new generation of socially conscious writers.

The school of Television and Cinema was established in Tehran in 1969. It was fully financed and supported by the government of Iran through the NIRT (National Iranian Radio and Television). After passing the entrance exam, the students went through a technical training period of two years along with their regular courses of study which related one way or another to film-making. All expenses were paid by the government. Included were the use of film equipment, raw stock, processing, animation materials, and the student’s housing and board costs, plus a stipend of about $300 a month. In return, students were required to work for the government after their graduation for a period of five years as a camera-person, soundperson etc., usually at NIRT in Tehran or its branches in the other cities.

Following the Iranian Islamic revolution of 1979 and the inauguration of the Islamic Republic, many predicted that new restrictions would kill off Iran’s cinema. But Iranian film has survived, undergoing remarkable transformations in parallel with the wider changes in Iranian culture and society. Today, Iranian cinema is recognized as one of the most innovative and exciting in the world, and films from Iranian directors are being screened to increasing acclaim at international festivals. The key to resolving the apparent contradiction between Iran’s repressive image and the renaissance of Iranian cinema is to understand the relationship that developed between art, society and the state after the Islamic revolution.

Some of The Best Iranian Films

A Separation (2011)

A married couple are faced with a difficult decision – to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer’s disease. (123 mins.)
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Stars: Peyman MoadiLeila HatamiSareh BayatShahab Hosseini

Hamoun (1990)

Hamoon’s wife is leaving him. He is also trying to finish his Ph.D. thesis. He is forced to reexamine his life… (120 mins.)
Director: Dariush Mehrjui
Stars: Ezzatolah EntezamiBita FarahiSedigheh KianfarTuran Mehrzad

Taste of Cherry (1997)

An Iranian man drives his truck in search of someone who will quietly bury him under a cherry tree after he commits suicide. (95 mins.)
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Stars: Homayoun ErshadiAbdolrahman BagheriAfshin Khorshid BakhtiariSafar Ali Moradi

The Cow (1969)

The whole village knows that Mashti Hassan loves his cow to death. One day he goes to Tehran. His cow dies. The villagers are afraid of what might happen once Hassan finds out his cow is dead. (105 mins.)
Director: Dariush Mehrjui
Stars: Ezzatolah EntezamiMahin ShahabiAli NassirianJamshid Mashayekhi

About Elly (2009)

It’s a story about three Iranian families who are traveling to North of Iran in order that they can… (119 mins.)
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Stars: Golshifteh FarahaniShahab HosseiniTaraneh AlidoostiMerila Zare’i

Children of Heaven (1997)

Zohre’s shoes are gone; her older brother Ali lost them. They are poor, there are no shoes for Zohre… (89 mins.)
Director: Majid Majidi
Stars: Mohammad Amir NajiAmir Farrokh HashemianBahare SeddiqiNafise Jafar-Mohammadi

The Color of Paradise (1999)

Mohammad, a boy at Tehran’s institute for the blind, waits for his dad to pick him up for summer vacation… (90 mins.)
Director: Majid Majidi
Stars: Hossein MahjoubMohsen RamezaniSalameh FeyziFarahnaz Safari

Boutique (2003)

A clothing store worker (Jahan) meets a poor girl named Eti. Jahan tries to help the girl and solve her problems, but… (113 mins.)
Director: Hamid Nematollah
Stars: Mohammad Reza GolzarGolshifteh FarahaniReza RooygariAli Alaei

Border Café (2005)

“Cafe Transit” depicts an independent-minded widow who bucks tradition to run her dead husband’s truck stop cafe. (105 mins.)
Director: Kambuzia Partovi
Stars: Fereshteh Sadre OrafaiyParviz ParastuiNikos PapadopoulosSvieta Mikalishina