Cinema in El Salvador had its first impulses in 1989, but it all started in 1905 when they began recording the first images of San Salvador and Ilopango lake. In 1917 at the Teatro Principal, the film titled Eruption of the San Salvador Volcano premiered, which was more than one hour and was filmed during and after the disaster. Similarly, another early feature film was “Las fiestas agostinas” which premiered with great success in 1924. Among the pioneers of filmmaking in El Salvador are Anibal Salazar, Humberto Gonzalez and Ricardo Imery.

Initially, film was predominated as government propaganda. The former president Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez saw in it a tool in his favor, so he lowered taxes on import of equipment and installed laboratories in the presidential palace. He worked with the Italian director Alfredo Massi, who was an icon of Salvadoran film since the 1930s, in different titles like:  Receiving Minister US Military Parade of General Martinez, Power Transmission of General Martinez, Minister Reception Minister of Mexico, Creation of the Central Reserve Bank and Aspects of the Work of Martinez. Massi continued filming for other military presidents like General Salvador Castaneda Castro (1945-1948), Colonel Oscar Osorio (1950-1956), Lieutenant Colonel José María Lemus (1956-60) and Colonel Julio Adalberto Rivera (1961-1967). His work, from 1929 to 1966, is nearly four decades of film memory in El Salvador.

Juan Jose Salazar Ruiz is another important cameraman from the 1950s and 1960s. As of 1951, he made documentaries for the magazine Cine Revista Salvadoreña. In it, in addition to the news and commercials, filmed poetry and jokes were presented in which Albertico, Medina Funes, Aniceto and other comedians appeared. In 1952, Salazar Ruiz became independent and founded Cine Selecciones, which includes postings of the government, sports, social and advertising and it stayed active until 1980.

In 1954, the Salvadoran Film Company, owned by Julio Subiyaga, shoot along the United States the film The Black Pirate (1955). In this project, locations, extras, two of the protagonists and budget are domestic, so that the film can technically be considered as a co-production. This film failed, commercially and critical and the Salvadoran film production company, who has the rights for Central America, did not recover the investment. Despite this failure, the following year another co-production took place, this time in Mexico. This was the film Five lives and a destiny, directed by the Mexican of Spanish origin, José Baviera (1956).

This time, the parties involved are the company Izalco Films and the Spaniard Antonio Orellana, the Salvadoran Guillermo Pinto participated as an associate producer.

The film tells the plot five fugitives who escape from a prison, which is used as the location the headquarters in Santa Ana and as a pretext to do a tour of the Salvadoran landscapes. Yet again, this production was considered low or no film quality and had no economic success, which discouraged domestic investors and caused the dismantling of Izalco Films. Faced with this new failure, El Salvador had to wait almost a decade for another coproduction.

Alejandro Cotto is the most famous filmmaker of El Salvador. His first films about the town of Suchitoto, Suchitoto Festival (1950) and Symphony of my village (1951), were made with a camera he borrowed from Alfredo Massi, this are typical films with marimba music. Cotto then benefits from a scholarship to study film in Mexico and in there, he understood that there is a different film apart of what he knew, the European cinema.

On his return to El Salvador, Cotto worked in the press department of the Presidential House and the Juvenile Division. For it, he made his first professional film, Journey of Hope (1959), a black and white documentary, suggesting a complaint of parental irresponsibility, with some images of poverty that made the view of the country as underdeveloped. Later, he worked with some German producers of Kaiser Films with which launched the Face (1961) and the Bogie of Dreams (1973)

José David Calderón founded his own film production company, Cinespot, in which, in 1969, he filmed a feature about the classification of El Salvador to the World Cup in Mexico 1970, Passport to the World. The film is an unprecedented blockbuster at a time when the country was experiencing an economic downturn due to current conflicts with Honduras, which were casually just called the "Soccer War” and was leading to the closure of borders of Honduras for Salvadoran peasants. Also, he worked on the projects Fish out of water, Izalco and he began Birds without nest. Which by the coup General Carlos Humberto Romero, the country stopped and what was believed as a temporary matter, it was the beginning of a war that lasted more than a decade, so the project never materialized.

During these years of internal fighting, the film industry was a major weapon in combat. Multiple European and American filmmakers produced dozens of documentaries for their audiences. Similarly, the international television networks were installed permanently in San Salvador and covered daily the events.

Among these, it stands out the film Historias de Pulgarcito by the Mexican director Paul Leduc (1980), it is a documentary feature film financed by the National Resistance and which is based on the text of the eponymous poet Roque Dalton and had a significant local participation. This is the first film with resonance abroad, winning awards at international festivals.

Various groups of artists were integrated and performed the first films about the war in order to witness the conflicts that occur in the country. It wasn’t until 2005 that a Mexican director with experience in Hollywood, Luis Mandoki, became interested of Oscar Torres’ screenplay about an 11 year old boy named Chava, caught between the army and the Salvadoran guerrillas. For various political and budgetary matters, the film was shot in Mexico.

The Salvadoran, Andre Guttfreund is the only Central American to have won an Oscar. The achievement came in 1977 for best short fiction for In The Region of Ice, an adaptation of the book by the American novelist Joyce Carol Oates. It was a thesis project he did with his partner Peter Werner at the American Film Institute. He was the producer and Werner was director. Guttfreund lived in the United States until 2009 when he began making visits to El Salvador and to take part in film fiction workshops, however, it was in 2011 that finally returned to help with the development of the film industry and the production of fiction.