The film collection is one of the largest among European film archives and includes:
- 2 000 Polish films from 1908 until today
- 160 pre-war films
- 100 000 Polish documentary and short films
- 2 000 Polish animated films
- 15 000 foreign films
Pre-war films and polonica (foreign films with the participation of Polish artists) are the most valuable part of the collection, especially the films starring the great silent film star Pola Negri.
The basis of the National Film Archive's collection was the collection of film prints collected by the Theatre School in Łódź, from its founding through to 1955, when it was transferred to the newly-established Film Archive in Warsaw. For decades, the collection has been enriched with films distributed in Polish cinemas, gifts, exchanges with member archives of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) and purchases from private individuals. After 1989, the collection was enlarged by the archives of the liquidated former state-owned studios and production companies. Since 1996, the mandatory deposit of new films has been required by law.
The destruction of the achievements of Polish cinema during the Second World War forced the National Film Archive to search for films made before 1939 in foreign archives and from distributors linked with the Polish community abroad, mainly in the US and Canada. Approximately 70% of the titles found have come from those sources. And in that way, the National Film Archive was able to obtain a print of the oldest Polish film – "Prussian Culture" from 1908.
The search for lost films continues today and bears fruit every year with new discoveries.
- In the late 1990s – the feature films "Mocny człowiek" [Strong Man] (1929) dir.Henryk Szaro and "Kult ciała" [Cult of the Body] (1930) dir. Michał Waszyński were discovered at the Royal Film Archive in Brussels.
- 2003 – at the Bundesarchiv in Berlin the feature film "Ludzie bez jutra" [People With No Tomorrow] (1919) dir. Aleksander Hertz was discovered and a print of the film "Tajemnica pokoju nr 100" [The Mystery of Room 100] (1914) starring Aleksander Zelwerowicz and Stefan Jaracz was acquired from the Filmmuseum in Amsterdam.
- 2005 – the Film Archive collections were enriched with a print of the film by Michał Waszyński "Kocha, lubi, szanuje" [Love, Cherish, Respect] (1934) starring Eugeniusz Bodo and Loda Halama; the copy having been found in the French archives in Bois d'Arcy.
- Fragments of Polish silent films were also found, such as "Iwonka" (1925), directed by Emil Chaberski, and "Ziemia obiecana" [Promised Land] (1927), directed by Aleksander Hertz and Zbigniew Gniazdowski and a number of documentaries from the archives of the American Library of Congress were acquired as well.
Part of the collection of Polish cinematography has been digitised. Selected films have been digitally restored under the Nitrofilm and Digital Repository projects.
Since 2012, the results of this work have been presented on the Digital Repository project's website, together with descriptions based on the original production documents, as well as press comments and the opinions of experts from various disciplines.