Movie Genres Examples
From the Create Your Screenplay Seminar

Examples of the Fourteen Basic Movie Genres--

Action (Disaster): Stories whose central struggle plays out mainly through a clash of physical forces.

48 Hours
Die Hard
Air Force One
Jurassic Park
Lethal Weapon

Return of the Jedi (also Science Fiction)
Speed (also a Thriller)
Titanic (also a Love story)
The Terminator
True Lies

Adventure: Stories whose central struggle plays out mainly through encounters with new "worlds."

Apollo 13
The Deep
Get Shorty (extraordinary blend of Gangster, Love, and Crime with a twist)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (also an Action picture)

Little Big Man (Also Epic/Myth)
Lawrence of Arabia
Quest For Fire
Rain Man
Robinson Crusoe
Water World

Comedy: Stories whose central struggle causes hilarious results.

Ace Ventura, Pet Detective (also Adventure - the name gives it away)
Analyze This
Annie Hall
French Kiss
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (also Fantasy)

My Best Friend's Wedding
Nine to Five
Shakespeare in Love
The Spy Who Shagged Me
When Harry Met Sally
Working Girl (also Love Story)

Coming-of-Age Drama: Stories whose central struggle is about the hero finding his or her place in the world.

American Beauty
American Graffiti
The Breakfast Club
The Graduate
The Last Picture Show
The Lion King
My Brilliant Career
The Paper Chase
Pretty In Pink

Rebel Without a Cause
Risky Business
Saturday Night Fever
Shakespeare in Love (also Romantic Comedy)
Splendor in the Grass
Top Gun (also Action)
The Water Boy (also Comedy)

Crime: Stories whose central struggle is about catching a criminal.

48 Hours
Basic Instinct
French Connection
Ghost (also Love and Thriller)

Patriot Games
Pulp Fiction (Also Black Comedy, Bends the Genre a lot))
The Sting
The Untouchables

Detective Story/Courtroom Drama: Stories whose central struggle is to find out what really happened and thus to expose the truth.

Caine Mutiny
Death and the Maiden
A Few Good Men
The General's Daughter
Inherit the Wind

The Maltese Falcon
Rear Window
A Time to Kill
The Verdict

Epic/Myth: Stories whose central struggle plays out in the midst of a clash of great forces or in the sweep of great historical change.

Apocalypse Now
The Birth of a Nation
Bridge on the River Kwai
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The Godfather

Gone With the Wind
The Grapes of Wrath
Lawrence of Arabia (also Adventure)
Star Wars
The Ten Commandments

Fantasy: Stories which are animated, or whose central struggle plays out in two worlds - the "real" world and an imaginary world.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Alice in Wonderland
Heaven Can Wait

Mary Poppins
The Mask
Peter Pan
Snow White
Toy Story
The Wizard of Oz
Who Killed Roger Rabbit?

Gangster: Stories whose central struggle is between a criminal and society. A cautionary tale, rooted in a main character who commits crimes (This genre is often blended with Film Noir).

Bonnie and Clyde
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Dead End
Dead Man Walking
The Godfather (also Epic/Myth)

La Femme Nikita
Out of Sight (also Love Story)
Sling Blade
The Usual Suspects

Horror: Stories whose central struggle focuses on escaping from and eventually defeating a Monster (either human or non-human).

The Blair Witch Project
Friday the Thirteenth
I Know What You Did Last Summer
It's Alive

King Kong
Nightmare on Elm Street

Love (Romance): Stories whose central struggle is between two people who each want to win or keep the love of the other.

Annie Hall
As Good As It Gets
Casablanca (also Epic/Myth)
The Graduate
It Happened One Night

Mickey Blue Eyes
Notting Hill
Pretty Woman
Roman Holiday
The Way We Were
Wuthering Heights

Science Fiction: Stories whose central struggle is generated from the technology and tools of a scientifically imaginable world.

2001 A Space Odyssey
Back to the Future
Blade Runner (also Crime)
ET: The Extra Terrestrial
The Fifth Element

The Sixth Sense
Star Wars (and all the sequels or prequels)
The Terminator
Twelve Monkeys

Social Drama: Stories whose central struggle is between a Champion and a problem or injustice in society. Usually the Champion has a personal stake in the outcome of the struggle.

A Civil Action
Dead Man Walking
Dr Strangelove
Grapes of Wrath
Kramer Vs Kramer

Philadelphia (also Courtroom Drama)
Schindler's List
To Kill a Mockingbird

Thriller: Stories whose central struggle pits an innocent hero against a lethal enemy who is out to kill him or her.

The Net
No Way Out
North by Northwest (also Love Story)
Sleeping With the Enemy

Night of the Hunter
Three Days of the Condor
Wait Until Dark
Witness (also Love Story)

Other Types of Movies: There obviously are many other groupings that might be constructed. Discussing genres of movies might just be a way of describing the history of moviemaking - a method of grouping motion pictures for whatever convenient need arises for whatever individual or group. Without trying to define them, I'm listing here a number of other possible types.

The Art Film: Not a preferred Hollywood Type. HOWEVER -- the acceleration of cheaper video-to-film technology makes this an interesting potential genre to look at for the future.

The Black Comedy: A comedy that uses death and morbid doings as the root of its humor. Surfaces regularly. Most recent incarnations, Very Bad Things and Pulp Fiction.

The Buddy Movie: Not a distinctive genre. Really describes a vehicle for two stars of relatively equal importance, although one of them is usually the main character. Redford and Newman are the most well known pairing from the recent past.

When these types of films work, they can be a cash cow for the studios; for example, the "road" films of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, the musicals of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the wacky doings of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Abbot and Costello, etc. In today's market there is probably a pent-up appetite for female pairings, witness the phenomenal success of Thelma and Louise (despite the sour "downer" ending -- somebody took the ending of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid too seriously. They should have checked out The Sting).

The Film Noir: From the standpoint of the way I prefer to define a "genre" -- that is, defining the genre according to the nature of the central struggle -- this type of film is more of a stylistic categorization. Even so, the typical black and light patterns, the dark shadows, the penchant for cynicism and irony, the use of the dark side of human behavior, these elements still have a potent appeal for a large segment of the moviegoing audience.

The Ghost Story: Obvious from its title, needs no definition. This type of story, popular in the past, has been somewhat supplanted by the horror genre. Interesting to us writers for its resurgence with a twist in the Demi Moore thriller Ghost. Testament to the writer's imagination.

The Heist (or Caper): Sort of a "cross-categorization." An intricately planned theft by a group of people. Examples: Ocean's Eleven, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Great Train Robbery, and more recently, one of the genres in The Usual Suspects.

The Picaresque: An episodic string of adventures by a hero who moves from place to place. Stellar example, Tom Jones, and more recently, Forrest Gump.

Other obvious types:

The Historical Drama
The Musical
The Western

So, enough analysis of genre.
Try to settle on a mix of two genres for your story. To start with, that is. Keep the possibility open that you might be able to spice up your story with little bits of a third genre, but -- proceed with caution. As an old Hollywood pro once growled at me, "More than two genres is a mess."

Go back to: Genres Start page



TOPICS 16-26


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