Different Genres of Film
What is Genre? A genre is a category of literature, music, or any other form of art characterised by a particular style, form, or content. In simple words, the genre is a way to classify any form of art into more or less similar kinds of categories.
The concept of the genre actually began during the Hollywood studio period i.e. from the 1920s. The film has been one of the most popular forms of expression for over a century. The film genre is the simplest way to categorise different styles, stories, and content. Genres in films not only help the filmmakers to identify the film and make decisions accordingly but also makes it easier for the audience to understand the style and basic plot of the film. As a lot of people only watch selective films of some specific style they like, categorising films into genres helps the audience to find a film according to their likes and dislikes that they would be interested in watching. Nowadays we also see a variety of genres while browsing through different OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ Hotstar, which gives us a rough idea about the basic storyline of the film.
The genre basically consists of four elements: Story, Plot, Character, and Setting. You can easily classify a film into different genres by identifying these elements of that particular film.
So, we can simply say that genre categorises films!
Most Common Genres
There exist numerous genres of films, some of the most popular genres include:
Action, Comedy, Horror, Romance, Drama, Thriller, Science Fiction (Sci-fi), Fantasy, Western, etc.
We will discuss in detail these genres and their sub-genres along with prominent directors and some good examples of International and Indian films of each genre further in the blog.
Some other genres and subgenres are Animation, Crime/Mystery, Musical, Adventure, War, Spy, Historical/Epic, Sport, Documentary, etc. Although films based on only these genres are very rare, these genres act as a second genre in a Hybrid genre film and play a vital role in the plot of a film.
Let us now talk about some of the above-mentioned genres of films…
Action movies have been around since the early rise of cinema. Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery (1903) is considered to be the first action film. Films in this genre usually involve a lot of action scenes including violence (fighting or shoot-outs), car chases, and often lots of explosions. Previously, action films were associated with more masculine themes and male-dominant audiences. A significant amount of action movies focused on thrillers, crime, adventure, and war.
Must Watch: Mission: Impossible (1996), Die Hard (1988), Terminator (1984), The Matrix (1999), Apocalypse Now (1979), American Sniper (2014), Drunken Master (1978), Enter the Dragon (1973) are some of the greatest action films of all time.
Sub-genres of the action film genre includes:
War and military action, disaster films, martial arts, and other fighting films, spy films, superhero films, etc.
Prominent directors who have contributed greatly towards action genre films:
James Cameron (Terminator films (Part 1 & 2), Aliens, True Lies)
Andrew Davis (Code of Silence, Above the Law, Under Siege, The Fugitive)
John Woo (Hard Target, Broken Arrow, and Face/Off)
John McTiernan (Die Hard films (Part 1 & 3), Predator, The Last Action Hero)
Ridley Scott (Black Rain, Black Hawk Down)
The Wachowskis (The Matrix trilogy)
Some Indian action films:
Siddharth Anand’s War (2019), Sujeeth’s Saaho (2019), Ali Abbas Zafar’s Sultan(2016), Aditya Dhar’s URI: The Surgical Strike (2019), J. P. Dutta’s Border (1997), Nikkhil Advani’s Chandni Chowk to China (2009).
Comedy is yet another genre that has been enjoyed by the audience since the beginning of the cinema; these films are loved by mostly everyone, regardless of their age. The comedy began as short-length films where the characters were put in different situations in which they were seen dealing with them in a funny, humorous way. The main motive of a comedy genre film is to make the audience laugh. Comedy can be found in most movies, but if the majority of the film is intended to be a comedy it could be placed in this genre.
During the silent film era, a lot of comedy films were made. Louis Lumière’s L'Arroseur Arrosé (The Sprinkler Sprinkled)(1895) is considered to be the first comedy film ever made. Then, in the 1920s and 30s, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and other actors became famous for their funny roles. Comedy films today are viral worldwide and can be found on various TV channels.
Sub-genres of the comedy film genre includes:
Slapstick Comedy, Satire, Screwball Comedy, Parody Comedy, Black/Dark Comedy, Situational comedy (Sit-com), Action comedy, Romantic comedy (Rom-com), etc.
Prominent directors who have contributed greatly towards comedy genre films:
Jay Roach (Austin Powers film series, Meet The Parents, Mystery,Alaska, Borat, Meet the Fockers)
Adam McKay (The Big Short, Vice, Anchorman film series, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers)
Tom Shadyac (Ace Ventura, Liar Liar, Bruce Almighty)
Todd Phillips (The Hangover trilogy, Road Trip)
Peter Farrelly (Dumb and Dumber, Ther’s Something about Mary, Fever pitch)
Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Take the money and run, Sleeper, Love and Death)
Some Indian comedy films:
Anees Bazmee’s Welcome (2007), Neeraj Vora’s Phir Hera Pheri (2006), Indra Kumar’s Dhamaal (2007), Rohit Shetty’s Golmaal: Fun Unlimited (2006), Priyadarshan’s Chup Chup Ke (2006).
The main motive of a horror film is to scare the audience and experience fear. The Plot of horror movies often features a monster, some type of evil force, or a frightening situation. Horror films have been made since the beginning of the cinema; Georges Méliès House of the Devil (1896) is considered to be the first horror film ever made.
Although horror genre films didn't become that popular until the 1950s (when Universal Studios released their Dracula, Frankenstein, and Mummy movies), a few silent films like Frankenstein (1910), Dante’s Inferno (1911), The Student of Prague (1913) and Sacrifice (1918) did manage to become popular.
Must Watch: The Haunting (1999), The Exorcist (1973), Hereditary (2018), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), The Thing (1982), Paranormal Activity (2007), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Alien (1979), The Conjuring (2013) are some of the best-known horror films to date.
Folk Horror, Body horror, Comedy horror, Slasher horror, Psychological horror, Zombie Horror, etc.
Prominent directors of the genre:
Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street film series, Scream film series, Wes Craven's New Nightmare, The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes)
James Wan (The Conjuring film series, Insidious film series, Saw, Dead Silence, Malignant)
Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy, The Handmaiden, Stoker, Thirst, Three... Extremes)
Rob Zombie (Halloween, House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil's Rejects, 3 From Hell, The Lords of Salem)
Some Indian Horror films:
Vikram Bhatt’s Raaz (2002), Priyadarshan’s Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007), Vikram Bhatt’s 1920 (2008), Vikram Bhatt’s Shaapit (2010), Prosit Roy’s Pari (2018), Amar Kaushik’s Stree (2018).
The Romance genre is pretty self-explanatory; it can be defined as a film genre in which Romance is an important aspect. Romance genre films are love stories that focus on the romantic involvement of the main characters and the development of their relationship. These types of films usually center around two protagonists exploring some of the elements of love like relationships, sacrifice, marriage, or obsession. Romance movies sometimes feature hardships like illness, tragedy, or other obstacles for the love interests to overcome. Romance is seen in almost every other film; though the story or the plot wouldn’t be revolving fully towards romance, there are high chances of being a romantic touch in every film.
The Romance genre was born out of the Classical Hollywood era i.e. the 1930s-1950s. The romantic comedy film, also called "rom-com", became very popular.
Must Watch: Titanic (1997), Pretty Woman (1980), Silver Linings Playbook (2012), The Notebook (2004), A Walk To Remember (2002), Casablanca (1942), Gone with the Wind (1939).
Historical Romance, Romantic Drama, Romantic Comedy (Rom-com), Chick Flick, Paranormal Romance, etc.
Prominent directors of the genre:
Rob Reiner (When Harry Met Sally, The Princess Bride, Flipped, The American President, And So It Goes, Rumor Has It)
Woody Allen (Manhattan, Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris, A Rainy Day in New York, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Match Point, Scoop)
Garry Marshall (The Princess Diaries Film series, Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, Valentine's Day, The Flamingo Kid)
Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook, The Other Woman, Unhook the Stars)
Richard Linklater (The Before Trilogy, Me and Orson Welles)
Some Indian Romance films:
Aditya Chopra’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), Karan Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Imtiaz Ali’s Jab We Met (2007), Mohit Suri’s Aashiqui 2 (2013), Ayan Mukerji’s Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), Abhishek Verman’s 2 States (2014), Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha (2015), Sandeep Patel’s Love Ni Bhavai (2017), Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat (2016).
The drama was one of the earliest genres of films, and it’s still a popular genre today. These films often include stories with settings or life situations that portray realistic characters in conflict with either themselves, others, or forces of nature. Charles Tait, Millard Johnson, and W.A. Gibson’s The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906) is considered to be one of the earliest drama films.
Whereas comedy genre films entertain the audience by making them laugh, Drama films entertain the audience by telling interesting stories. A drama film sometimes has a narrative, narrating a story throughout the movie or in the major part of the film. The main focus is on the protagonist dealing with different complications going on in their life. If any movie’s elements are serious, emotional, and focus on the protagonist dealing with different situations; it can be considered as a Drama.
Drama is a very broad genre and the subgenres of it often overlap; some of the subgenres are, Crime Drama, Melodrama, Teen Drama, Dark Drama, Comedy Drama, Historical Drama, Docudrama, etc.
Prominent directors of the genre:
Spike Lee (Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing, 25th Hour, Jungle Fever, Da 5 Bloods, He Got Game, Son of the South)
Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas, The Irishman, The Wolf of Wall Street, Taxi Driver, Silence, Raging Bull)
David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven, Mank, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button)
Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, Darkest Hour, The Soloist)
Some Indian Drama films:
Anurag Kashyap’s Dev.D (2009), Krishna D.K.’s Shor in the City (2010), Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai (2012), Yash Chopra’s Silsila (1981), Shimit Amin’s Rocket Singh (2009), Aditya Chopra’s Mohabbatein (2000).
A 'Thriller' is a film genre that keeps people on the edge of their seats. Thriller film evokes excitement and suspense in the audience. It generally makes them feel tense, nervous, or excited during the suspenseful moments of the story and not knowing what's going to happen further. The Thriller film genre emerged in Hollywood in the 1920s. Film adaptations of old detective stories were very popular at that time.
Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) took the thriller film genre to next level. Its influence is notable even in today's modern-day thriller films. Later on, Hitchcock released more thriller films that were well received by the audience and then went on to release Family Plot (1976) which became his final film in the thriller genre. Thriller films continued to be made in Hollywood after Hitchcock's exit from filmmaking; one of the most popular thriller films of all time, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) was also released in this decade.
Mystery/Crime Thriller, Horror Thriller, Disaster Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Conspiracy Thriller, Spy Thriller, Supernatural Thriller, etc.
Prominent directors of the genre:
Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho, Vertigo, The Birds, Strangers on a Train, Rope, Notorious, Suspicion)
David Fincher (Fight Club, Gone Girl, Zodiac, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Game)
Brian De Palma (Mission: Impossible, Blow Out, Body Double, Snake Eyes, The Black Dahlia)
M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Split, The Village)
Some Indian Thriller films:
Sujoy Ghosh’s Badla (2019), Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahani (2012), Aditya Datt Table No. 21 (2013), Navdeep Singh’s Manorama Six Feet Under (2007), Reema Kagti’s Talaash (2012), Jeethu Joseph’s Drishyam (2013), Neeraj Pandey’s A Wednesday (2008), Vijay Lalwani’s Karthik Calling Karthik (2010).
Science Fiction (Sci-fi)
Science fiction is a popular film genre that can be defined as a fictional story that involves scientific elements. These are fictional stories based on science that can be about the future or other worlds, and often include spaceships, aliens, and advanced technology. The Sci-fi film history began in the silent era with Georges Méliès A Trip to the Moon (1902).
Byron Haskin’s The War of the Worlds (1953) inspired by H. G. Well’s Novel with the same title is considered as one of the first major science fiction films. It tells a story about an alien invasion on Earth through the eyes of a middle-class English family. George Lucas’s Star Wars (1977) is undoubtedly the most influential science fiction film of all time. It's a space opera about a group of heroes who fight against dark forces to save their galaxy.
Must Watch: Interstellar (2014), Blade Runner (1982), Star Wars (1977), The Matrix (1999), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), The Martian (2015), Arrival (2016), Gravity (2013) are some of the best sci-fi movies of all time.
Cyberpunk, Space opera, Time travel, post-apocalyptic and dystopian, Alien lifeforms.
Prominent directors of the genre:
Christopher Nolan (Interstellar, Inception, Tenet)
Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049, Dune, Arrival)
Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, The Martian, Prometheus)
James Cameron (Avatar, Aliens, The Terminator (Part 1 & 2), The Abyss)
Duncan Jones (Moon, Mute, Warcraft, Source Code)
JJ Abrams (Star Trek, Super 8, Star Wars Film series
Some Indian Sci-fi films:
Harry Baweja’s Love Story 2050 (2008), S. Shankar’s Enthiran (Robot) (2010), Vikram Bhatt’s Mr. X (2015), Vipul Amrutlal Shah’s Action Replayy (2010), Arati Kadav’s Cargo (2019).
The fantasy film genre can be defined as imaginative storytelling that often involves some form of magic, supernatural elements, or exotic fantasy worlds; there are sometimes magical creatures too. In fact, Like science fiction films, fantasy films are also fiction but are not based on reality or scientific fact. These films include situations, places, or events that don’t comply with natural laws. Fantasy films have human characters with extraordinary abilities, which involve stories set in contemporary times with magical elements. Such films feature magical effects or supernatural occurrences happening in the real world of today.
These films help you escape reality and enjoy imaginative and fantasy worlds. The Fantasy genre sometimes overlaps with Science fiction (Sci-fi) and Horror film genres. Harry Potter film series is one of the widely known fantasy genre films all around the globe.
There are two main subgenres of Fantasy; High Fantasy, which involves stories set in alternative fictional worlds and Contemporary Fantasy, which involves stories set in contemporary times (Real World) with magical elements.
Prominent directors of the genre:
Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the chocolate factory, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride)
David Yates (Harry Potter Film series (Part 5 to 8), Fantastic Beasts Film series)
Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water, Hellboy, El laberinto del fauno, Pinocchio (Upcoming))
Peter Jackson (The Hobbit film series, Lord of the Rings film series)
Some Indian Fantasy films:
Anand Gandhi and Rahi Anil Barve’s Tumbbad (2018), Amol Palekar’s Paheli (2005), Mahesh Manjrekar’s Vaah! Life Ho Toh Aisi! (2005), Vivek Sharma’s Bhoothnath (2008), Abbas-Mustan’s Taarzan: The Wonder Car (2004), Mukesh Saigal’s Bhoot Unkle (2006), S. S. Rajamouli and J. V. V. Sathyanarayana’s Eega (Makkhi) (2012).
The western film genre is a film style that usually takes place in a remote area, including many action sequences. In Hollywood, films are often set in the American West (also known as the Wild West) during the 19th century. The genre sometimes features a protagonist who travels to different towns or other remote places, fights, and gets in trouble with some local goons or gangs; involving horse riding and gunfights. Cowboys often play the leading roles in Westerns, while others feature native citizens.
The genre dates back to the early days of cinema, with films like Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery (1903) and John Ford’s The Iron Horse (1924), starring cowboy characters. The western film genre remained popular throughout the 20th century.
Must Watch: Dances with Wolves (1990), Unforgiven (1992), Tombstone (1993), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), The Magnificent Seven (2016), True Grit (1969), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).
Classic western, Modern western, Spaghetti westerns, Outlaw western, Space westerns, etc.
Prominent directors of the Western genre:
Sergio Leone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More)
John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Bad Day at Black Rock, Joe Kidd, Last Train from Gun Hill)
Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Ride the High Country)
Anthony Mann (Winchester '73, The Man from Laramie, Bend of the River, The Far Country)
John Ford (The Searchers, Stagecoach, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Fort Apache)
Some Indian Western films:
Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay (1975), Narendra Bedi’s Khote Sikkay (1974), Ravikant Nagaich’s Kaala Sona (1975), Ambarish Sangal’s Wanted: Dead or Alive (1984).
A hybrid film genre shows characteristics of two or more genres of film. Many filmmakers like aspects of one genre as well as characteristics of another but don't want to limit their film to one genre and hence blends in two or more genres together. Most of the films in today's generation are hybrid genre movies; Just think of any of your favourite films from the new age cinema and there is a high chance of it being a hybrid film.
A good example of a hybrid film could be James Mangold’s Logan (2017) which shows a superhero character, action plot, sci-fi story in a western setting. Some other examples could be Noam Murro’s 300: Rise of an Empire(2014), Paul Feig’s A Simple Favour (2018), Robert Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful (1997).
Genres that have received the most number of Oscar Awards
Since the Academy Awards (Oscars) started in the year 1929, many films and filmmakers have received awards and recognition for their contribution to the Film Industry. There are many different categories of awards in the Oscars but when it comes to the ‘Best Picture’ category, the Drama genre is far ahead of any other film genre in terms of nominations and winnings. In the past, more than 90 years of Oscars; most of the films winning the Best Picture award were Drama genre films followed by Romance, Comedy, War, History, Crime, etc.
No Science Fiction (Sci-fi), Animation, or Superhero film has ever won an Oscar for Best Picture yet, although there have been a few nominations. Fantasy, Horror, Western, Musical, and Mystery are some of the few film genres that have won the least number of Academy Awards for Best Picture.
And that was it! As we've seen, with a wide variety of genres, films offer us different emotions, different stories and different characters to fall in love with. A look into these very foundations help us not only watch different kinds of films but also varied approached to filmmaking.