13 Quintessential Movie Genres And How To Identify Them

A movie can be categorised by its style or themes to form a genre. Learn about the characteristics that distinguish different movie genres.



What Are Movie Genres?  

Films are classified into genres (movie genres) based on their stylistic or narrative components. A movie’s genre can influence characters, settings, story devices, and tone. For instance, battle sequences and slow-motion camera shots are common in action movies. Jump scares and a focus on action rather than speech are common in horror movies.

Drama, thriller, comedy, fantasy, romance, science fiction, adventure, sports, action, western, horror, musical, and mystery are among the most common movie genres. Examples of topics that can be found in action, drama, or thriller movies include war and zombies.

What Is a Film Subgenre?

A subgenre in cinema is a distinct kind of filmmaking that fits into a larger genre, such as comedy, horror, or drama. Subgenres vary in terms of style. For instance, comedies include romantic comedies and slapstick cartoons. However, there are major differences between the two in terms of plot, dialogue, aesthetics, and humour.

Numerous diverse subgenres within a single cinema genre are possible. Consequently, they frequently overlap and have things in common.

Drama Movie Genres 

Drama stories typically have many conflicts and high stakes. For example, they require that every character and scene advance the plot since they are plot-driven. Dramas have a definite narrative plot structure and often feature emotionally charged individuals in settings that are either extreme or taken from real life.

Historical drama or costume drama, teen drama, romantic drama, film noir, docudrama, medical drama, and neo-noir are examples of movies that fall within the drama sub-genre. Dramatic movies include Citizen Kane (1941), The Godfather (1972), and The Social Network (2010).

Thrillers skillfully combine suspense, tension, and mystery into one thrilling story.

Thriller Movie Genres

Thrillers skillfully combine suspense, tension, and mystery into one thrilling story. Successful thrillers have a good pace, frequently include red herrings, reveal narrative twists, and expose information just when the audience needs to know it. Therefore, the stakes are frequently set against the backdrop of a ticking clock in thrillers.

The thriller genre includes crime movies, political thrillers, and techno-thrillers. Psychological thrillers include The Shining (1980) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

Comedy Movie Genres

Comedy movies are amusing and witty. The comedy theme of these movies frequently involves putting a character in a difficult, entertaining, or humorous situation that they are not equipped to handle. A good comedy film should focus less on making jokes all the time and more on telling a realistic, true story with complex characters who take away a valuable lesson.

Comedy subgenres include mockumentaries, dark comedies (or black comedies), romantic comedies, parodies and spoofs, and slapstick comedies. For example, in the comedy The Jerk (1979), starring Steve Martin, a sharecropper from a Black family discovers he is white. The character is rhythmless and illiterate.

A haunted house with lights on at night depicting horror movie genres | FILMD

Fantasy Movie Genres

Fantasy movies often include magical and supernatural elements that don’t exist in reality. While some movies mix fantasy elements with real-world settings, many of them construct wholly fictional planets complete with their own set of rules, logic, and populations of extraordinary animals and races. Fantasy movies are speculative yet unrelated to truth or scientific fact, just like science fiction movies.

Fantasy subgenres include things like high fantasy, fairy tales, and magical realism. A classic example of a fantasy movie is the Harry Potter film series, which is based on the books by J.K. Rowling and follows a young boy at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Romance Movie Genres

Romance movies are, for the most part, love stories. The two protagonists at their centre explore many aspects of love, such as connections, sacrifice, marriage, obsession, or destruction. In romance films, difficulties for the love characters to overcome occasionally include sickness, betrayal, tragedy, or other challenges.

Popular romance subgenres include romantic comedies, gothic romance, and romantic action. A well-known romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal is When Harry Met Sally (1989).

Science Fiction Movie Genres

The sci-fi genre creates imagined components not found in the real world in its planets and parallel dimensions. For example, science fiction covers a wide range of topics, including time travel, space travel, futuristic settings, and the effects of scientific and technical advancements.

For the audience to get into the plot and universe of a science fiction film, rigorous world-building and tremendous attention to detail are typically required. The sci-fi movies Star Wars (1977), The Matrix (1999), and Inception are some examples (2010).

Adventure Movie Genres

Because the adventure and action genres are so similar, adventure movies are occasionally billed as action/adventure movies. Adventure movies typically have many of the same fundamental features as action movies. However, it is the environment that serves as the key distinction.

Adventure films are frequently set in a remote, exotic, or strange location. For instance, Swashbuckler movies and survival movies can be categorised under this heading. The adventure subgenre is perhaps best represented by the Pirates of the Caribbean film series from 2003.

Sports Movie Genres

Sports-themed films usually focus on a team, a specific player, or a fan, with the sport itself serving as the driving force behind the plot and the main driver of the narrative. However, these films mostly use the sport as a backdrop to provide insight into the emotional arcs of the major characters and are not exclusively focused on the sport itself.

Sports movies frequently have allegories and can be dramatic or funny. The Bad News Bears (1976), A League of Their Own (1992), and Bend It Like Beckham are a few well-known sports movies (2003).

Action Movie Genres

Action films often have a fast pace and feature A LOT of action. For example, this includes the use of pursuit scenes, battle scenes, and slow-motion images. They may include action-packed stunts, martial arts, or superheroes. Fast-pace action movies tend to prioritise ‘how to deliver the plot’ rather than focussing on the plot itself. Action movies keep viewers on the edge of their seats and are fascinating to watch.

The action genre includes films about cops, disasters, and some spy stories. For instance, the genre is exemplified by James Cameron’s American spy drama True Lies from 1994, which stars Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Western Movie Genres

In a western, cowboys or gunslingers chase outlaws in the Wild West. The main character frequently seeks retribution and engages the villain in a duel or shooting at the conclusion. It is possible for the characters and the action in a western to be inspired by and informed by the vivid settings of the American West, such as the desert, mountains, or plains.

The subgenres of Western include spaghetti westerns, space westerns, and sci-fi westerns. For example, westerns include The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) and Django Unchained (2012).

In order to play on viewers’ anxieties or nightmares, horror films frequently feature serial killers or monsters as persistent, terrible antagonists.

Horror Movie Genres

People who watch horror films often experience components that fill them with an intense terror and dread. In order to play on viewers’ anxieties or nightmares, horror films frequently feature serial killers or monsters as persistent, terrible antagonists. Horror fans deliberately seek out these films for the adrenaline rush that ghosts, gore, monsters, and jump scares provide.

The macabre, ghost stories, gothic horror, science fiction horror, supernatural, dark fantasy, psychological horror, and slasher film subgenres are all examples of horror movies. Horror films like The Exorcist from 1973 and Nightmare on Elm Street from 1984 are some fine examples. 

Musical Movie Genres

In Musical films, directors blend songs or musical numbers with the narratives to advance the plot or further the character development. Although not exclusive to that genre, musicals tend to have an association with romantic novels.

Large-scale stage-like productions are a feature of musical movies, and the scenes incorporate any essential premises or character components. Classic musical movie examples are West Side Story (1961) and The Wizard of Oz (1939).

Mystery Movie Genres

Mystery movies often require a detective or amateur sleuth to solve ‘a problem’. It’s always tense watching the protagonist of a mystery film as they piece together the events and investigate suspects to find the answer to the main mystery.

The mystery subgenre frequently includes the two subgenres of hardboiled noirs and police procedurals. For instance, examples include Knives Out (2019), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), and Murder on the Orient Express (1974).

That’s A Wrap Folks

If this article has whet your interest in filmmaking, take a sneak peek at this article which introduces you to, and discusses the directing style of, Greta Gerwig! And if 13 movie genres wasn’t enough for all of you budding film aficionados, take a look at this list of 120+ courtesy of the Nashville Film Institute!

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