This article compares the discourses, practices and politics of film education in France and Germany, and outlines their historical development. The discourses on film education in the two countries are fundamentally different: whereas German film education is anchored in the global politics of media education and around notions of Medienkompetenz (media competence), cinema in France is a field of art education centred on the transmission du cinéma (film mediation) or l'éducation artistique (art mediation). While the first initiatives in film education in both countries date back to the beginning of the twentieth century, this article explores how they developed in significantly different ways. In France, the establishment of film education was promoted and influenced by the culture of cinephilia, which imposed the notion of film as an art form. In Germany, film education – after having been pushed by the Nazi regime – suffered for a long time from sceptical attitudes towards the media and their ideological impact, and was formed by the critical approach of the Frankfurt School. This article details how history and the 'state of the art' of film education are interlinked with the different discourses and cultures of cinema in both countries, as well as the extent to which present political and educational practices draw upon long-standing historical and cultural traditions. In doing so, this article contributes to reflections upon film education at a wider European or international level, where similar debates around film or media literacy are taking place.