This type of cut emphasizes spatio-temporal continuity. It is a cut in film editing from one scene to another in which the two camera shots’ compositional elements match, helping to establish a strong continuity of action – and linking two ideas with a metaphor.
Match cuts form the basis for continuity editing, such as the ubiquitous use of match on action. Continuity editing smoothes over the inherent discontinuity of shot changes to establish a logical coherence between shots. Even within continuity editing, though, the match cut is a contrast both with cross-cutting between actions in two different locations that are occurring simultaneously, and with parallel editing, which draws parallels or contrasts between two different time-space locations.
A graphic match (as opposed to a graphic contrast or collision) occurs when the shapes, colors and/or overall movement of two shots match in composition, either within a scene or, especially, across a transition between two scenes. Indeed, rather than the seamless cuts of continuity editing within a scene, the term “graphic match” usually denotes a more conspicuous transition between (or comparison of) two shots via pictorial elements. A match cut often involves a graphic match, a smooth transition between scenes and an element of metaphorical (or at least meaningful) comparison between elements in both shots. A match cut contrasts with the conspicuous and abrupt discontinuity of a jump cut. For more on jump cuts, see this wiki article and note the example from Godard’s Breathless (1960) where the cut from shot one to shot two makes the subject appear to “jump” in an abrupt way – a classic demonstration of how jump cuts are considered a violation of classical continuity editing.
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey contains a famous example. After an ape discovers the use of bones as a tool and a weapon, there is a match cut to a space station. The match cut helps draw a connection between the two objects as exemplars of primitive and advanced tools respectively.