The Slovak Film Institute (SFI) was established in Bratislava on 1 April 1963. The film archive of the Central Film Distribution Company of that time, founded by Ivan Rumanovský in 1958, became a part of the SFI. Following resumption of the activities of the Czechoslovak Film Institute (CSFI) in Prague, the SFI was appointed as its branch in 1963; shortly afterwards, the statute of the joint archive of the CSFI Prague and SFI Bratislava was approved at the Congress of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF). The SFI became an independent institution in 1991 and an independent member of the FIAF only in 2001. Ján Komiňár became the first director of the SFI, holding that office for the longest time of all SFI directors to date. More than twenty others succeeded him in this post, the current General Director being Peter Dubecký. In 1968, the Institute moved from its first site on the premises of the Film Club on Rybné námestie to its current location on Grösslingova ulica. Since 1968 it has archived selected foreign film works in addition to domestic productions and since 1969 it has initiated a broad range of activities in the area of research of the history of Slovak cinematography.

The Slovak Film Institute is the only state institution in Slovakia in the area of cinematography that deals with film and cinema as such in a comprehensive manner. It collates, preserves and protects film and other audiovisual works and documentation materials, and makes them available to the public. The SFI administers the film archive which, under its legal status, is an archive of specific significance. It consists of all, frequently unique, films made in Slovakia. These collections represent an important part of the cultural heritage and constitute a national property protected by the state. The SFI also exerts producer rights to Slovak films produced by organisations exclusively owned and managed by the state and increases the value of these rights by commercial activities.

The SFI has been a member of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) since 2001, and a member of the international organisation European Film Promotion (EFP) since 2006, focusing in particular on presentation of the audiovisual culture and industry of the Slovak Republic. In addition, the SFI is a member of the Slovak Association of Libraries (SAK), Slovak Association of Producers in Audiovision (SAPA) and, via the MEDIA Desk, also a member of the European Documentary Network (EDN).