Could anyone please explain me if there is a difference between words 'movie film', 'film', and 'movie'? When it is appropriate to use a 'movie film'? I thought it was a mistake to say so, but then discovered Wikipedia article titled "Movie film format".

  • 2
    I think the structure of this phrase is not "[movie film] format" but "movie [film format]". "Film format" is a commonly used term; see the link: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_format
    – herisson
    May 2 '15 at 23:57
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    Agreed with @sumelic's analysis of the title of that WP article. And I've never seen "movie film", and can attest that if I saw it in the wild, I would take it for a solecism.
    – Dan Bron
    May 3 '15 at 0:05
  • I have discovered word "moviefilm" on DVD cover (describing a mockumentary comedy) and was sure it was a joke; but then while writing analysis did some web search and got confused. Thank you for comments &explanation, now I can go back to may paper.
    – Valeria
    May 3 '15 at 0:28
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    This is a noun compound, where one of the nouns has been formed from a previous noun compound. Movie was shortened from moving picture, and then movie film was used to describe the kind of film used to make movies. May 3 '15 at 1:54

'Film' has a number of meanings, one of which is 'movie or 'motion picture'. If 'film' has that meaning then 'movie film' is clearly a tautology.

However 'film' can also mean the celluloid strip on which a movie (amongst other things) can be made. Some kinds of film can be used for movies and some cannot. It would be entirely correct to call the kind of celluloid film intended for making movies 'movie film'. It is not a tautology because neither 'movie' on its own nor 'film' on its own convey the whole concept. It is this concept that the Wikipedia article is talking about.


It is what is called a retronym.

At one time, all movies were in "film fomat"; that is, they existed only on film. Then there came videotape (VHS and BetaMax formats), DVD, and now the purely digital transmission of movies via cable or internet. So a word is needed to refer to the "old-fashioned" kind.

There are many such retronyms: acoustic guitar, analog watch, combustion engine, etc.

For a list, see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_retronyms .

  • Wouldn't what you're talking about be a "film movie" or "film format movie" vs. a "digital movie" ? We certainly can't contrast "movie film" with "movie digital" unless we get French with our modifier placement...
    – herisson
    May 4 '15 at 3:19
  • I'm afraid I may have leaped to the conclusion that there was such a term as "movie film" based on OP's question. Today I actually looked at the Wikipedia article "Movie Film formats en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Movie_film_formats , which describes various film formats used in movies. Interestingly, Wikipedia still redirects "movie" and "motion picture" inquiries to the "film" article, as if "film" were synonymous with "movie". Yet they do have an article on Digital Cinema. May 4 '15 at 6:20
  • So perhaps "film-format movie" is the real retronym. May 4 '15 at 6:23

The word "movie film" is not to my knowledge a common term for a motion picture. As noted in the other answers, "movie film" is indeed a term used to refer to the physical "film" material used to make a movie. However, I don't think that's how it's being used in your particular example.

There is a term "film format" (see this site for an example of this term being used). As described on this site, it refers to the size and proportions of the film material being used (and also of slides, negatives, or transparencies derived from that material).

This term is used on Wikipedia articles; for evidence, see the Wikipedia article "Film Format".

I cannot in fact find a Wikipedia article titled "Movie Film Format", but I would interpret this phrase as a noun compound composed, not of "Movie Film" + Format", but of "Movie" + "Film Format". That is, it's the film format of a movie. (This is not redundant because not all film is used to make movies.)

Evidence for this being the correct division of this compound word, at least in this context: at the bottom of the Wikipedia article on film formats, we see a link box which has "Motion Picture film formats". The words "Motion Picture" are of course a synonym for "movie", and together constitute a link to the article on motion pictures; as I said earlier, there is no Wikipedia article on "movie film" or "motion picture film".

That said, the word is ambiguous, and as seen in the question, answers and comments, might be interpreted as referring to "[movie film] format" with the sense of "the format of [the photographic film used to make movies]".

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