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A general method is presented for studying the response of thin‐film structures to electromagnetic excitations. It is shown that for thin films which can be characterized by a complex, nonlocal conductivity tensor σ, a simple closed‐form solution can be obtained relating the secondary sources at the films to the external excitations. From this relation the dispersions and interactions of resonant surface waves, as well as the scattering properties of thin‐film geometries, can be studied. Several geometries consisting of plasma layers, dielectric films, and resistive and superconductive films serve to demonstrate the power and simplicity of this method.