There is something to be said for not knowing how films are made. It’s called movie magic for a reason; when the movies work, a trip to the theater can become an almost supernatural experience that defies rational explanation.

But odds are, if you truly love movies you’re also afflicted by an insatiable curiosity about them. Not just watching them, but understanding how they are made and why some productions turn into classics while others result in legendary disasters. To find out, there are only a few places to turn, and the oldest and most reliable remains a good book — like the ten featured below, which should be considered essential reading for any true cinephile.

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While the tomes on our list vary in style and subject, they’re all movies about the process of making movies in one way or another. These are not books of film criticism or appreciation; you won’t find anything by Manny Farber or Pauline Kael or Andrew Sarris on there. (Although if you’re interested in that sort of thing, you should definitely look into getting a copy of Negative SpaceI Lost It at the Movies, or The American Cinema for yourself.) We also didn’t get into great books of film history, or biographies of notable directors either. (If that’s what you want, go check out Movie-Made America by Robert Sklar or Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler for starters.)

These books are more how-tos, or sometimes how-not-tos. They will show you that it’s not magic that makes the movies; it’s people, who are brilliant and creative and sometimes deeply misguided or slightly crazy. But in a way, that makes their work all the more impressive.

The Best Books About Filmmaking

Every cinephile should read these ten books about the world of movies.
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