The first film screening in the Netherlands took place on June 6, 1896. A certain production of topical films got underway, and a short fiction film was made in 1902 by brothers Albert and Willy Mullens. The first production companies, i.a. The Hollandia company, established in the pre-World War I era, produced short melodramas and farces. In 1927, the idealistic organization Film Liga was started by Joris Ivens with the intention of producing and distributing quality films outside the usual imports. Ivens became the main character in a documentary film movement that also spoke names such as Mannus Franken, Jan and Max De Haas and Gerhard Rutten. Ivens soon became the world leader, becoming his generation’s leading documentary. In the 1930s, a handful of Germans were in exile for a certain feature film production: Friedrich Zelnik with Vadertje Langbeen (1937), Ludwig Berger with Pygmalion (1937) and Jaap Speyer. Charles Van der Linden made Young Hearts (1936).
In the post-war period, the Dutch documentary tradition received a reinforcement in the form of Bert Haanstra, who won the Oscar with his portrayal of a glassblowing workshop, Glas (1958). On the feature film side, Haanstra was successful with Fanfare (1958). Fons Rademakers gained international attention with Dorp aan de Rivier (1957) and Als Twee Druppels Water (1963), and became a central director for decades to come. He gained wide international distribution with Max Havelaar (1976), and won the Oscar for De Aanslag (1987). Paul Verhoeven, after a handful of films in his homeland with titles such as Keetje Tippel (1975) and De vierde man (1983), became a success director in Hollywood. The photographer and director Jan De Bont is also active in American film.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Dutch films often received international distribution. Among the top directors should be mentioned George Sluizer with Spoorlos (1989), Jos Stelling with De Wisselwachter (Spore Exchanger, 1987), Dick Maas with Flodder (1987) and Amsterdamned (1988) and Alex van Warmerdam with Abel (1986) and De Noorderlingen ( 1990). Marleen Gorris won the Academy Award with Antonias Line (1995). In the international arena there are also actors such as Rutger Hauer, Jeroen Krabbe and Johanna ter Steege. Theo van Gogh was assassinated in 2004 by a religious extremist following the television viewing of his Islamic critical documentary Submission: Part I (2004).