The decade of the 1870s in film involved some significant events.
- 1874 - French astronomer Pierre Janssen used his "photographic revolver" to photograph the transit of the planet Venus across the Sun.
- 1877 - French inventor Charles-Émile Reynaud improved on the Zoetrope idea by placing mirrors at the center of the drum. He called his invention the Praxinoscope. Reynaud developed other versions of the Praxinoscope, too, including a Praxinoscope Theatre (where the device was enclosed in a viewing box) and the Projecting Praxinoscope. Eventually he created the "Théâtre Optique", a large machine based on the Praxinoscope, but was able to project longer animated strips. In the USA, the McLoughlin Bros. from New York released in 1879 a simplified (and unauthorized) copy of Reynaud's invention under the name "Whirligig of Life".
- 1878 - Railroad tycoon Leland Stanford hired British photographer Eadweard Muybridge to settle the questions of whether a galloping horse ever had all four of its feet off the ground. Muybridge successfully photographed a horse in fast motion using a series of 12 cameras controlled by trip wires. Muybridge's photos showed the horse with all four feet off the ground. Muybridge went on a lecture tour showing his photographs on a moving-image device he called the zoopraxiscope. Muybridge's experiments inspired French scientist Étienne-Jules Marey to invent equipment for recording and analyzing animal and human movement. Marey called his invention the chronophotographic camera, which was able to take multiple images superimposed on top of one another.
- 1879 - American George Eastman invents an emulsion-coating machine which enables the mass-production of photographic dry plates.
- March 13, 1870 - Henri Étiévant, French actor, director (died 1953)
- March 23, 1871 - Heinrich Schroth, German actor (died 1945)
- April 21, 1871 - Jaro Fürth, Austrian actor (died 1945)
- May 30, 1871 - Olga Engl, Austrian actress (died 1946)
- February 12, 1872 - Oscar Stribolt, Danish actor (died 1927)
- December 22, 1872 - Georg Blomstedt, Swedish actor (died 1933)
- March 7, 1873 - Madame Sul-Te-Wan, American actress (died 1959)
- June 13, 1873 - Karin Swanström, Swedish actress, director (died 1942)
- December 23, 1874 - Viggo Wiehe, Danish actor (died 1956)
- January 22, 1875 - D. W. Griffith, American filmmaker (died 1948)
- March 19, 1875 - George Pearson, English filmmaker (died 1973)
- September 12, 1875 - Matsunosuke Onoe, Japanese actor (died 1926)
- December 8, 1875 - Frederik Buch, Danish actor (died 1925)
- February 26, 1876 - Amy Veness, English actress (died 1960)
- June 20, 1876 - Romuald Joubé, French actor (died 1949)
- June 19, 1877 - Charles Coburn, American actor (died 1961)
- April 12, 1878 - Lionel Barrymore, American actor (died 1954)
- April 14, 1878 - Donald Meek, American actor (died 1946)
- May 25, 1878 - Bill Robinson, American dancer and actor (died 1949)
- January 18, 1879 - Betty Kuuskemaa, Estonian actress (died (1966)
- June 9, 1879 - Dudley Digges, American actor (died 1947)
- August 15, 1879 - Ethel Barrymore, American actress (died 1959)
- October 15, 1879 - Jane Darwell, American actress (died 1967)
- November 4, 1879 - Will Rogers, American actor and comedian (died 1935)
- November 15, 1879 - Lewis Stone, American actor (died 1953)
- December 27, 1879 - Sydney Greenstreet, English actor (died 1954)