Genre: – An Explanation & Exploration of The Various Categories That Comprise Cinema

Standing under the ever-widening umbrella of ‘genre in cinema’ are thousands of titles and filmmaking styles that keep redefining the business of movies, and shows/series for that matter. Genres are important because they help bring order to a blossoming field of potential like filmmaking.

Most readers already know that a movie genre is often the term people use to describe their favorite films. “I love all things horror. I like getting scared out of my pants.” | “I am more of a fantasy freak. I believe it explores the truth behind reality much better than drama.” | “I prefer romance over action. Love is just chemical hogwash, I agree, but color me hogwash anyway.” | “I can’t stop watching classic films. There’s something about the ‘golden age’ of movies that makes me want to go back in time”.

A barebones description of Genre: ‘Theme’ or ‘Pattern’ of any movie or show.

While everyday audiences enjoy choosing their preferred genres, filmmakers often turn to ‘genre theory’ to help them craft the best version of the script they have at hand.  




How Important Is Genre Theory To The Art of Filmmaking?


According to PremiumBeat (the website),

“The term [genre] dates back to ancient Greek literature. But, for writers, artists, and filmmakers, it’s usually the simplest, most practical way to categorize different styles of stories and content. We see genres while browsing through video stores or scrolling through Netflix, giving us a rough idea of what the stories are like or similar to.”


Genre theory is especially relevant today because we no longer have set categories for film and TV, but rather ‘genre hybrids’. This is a result of expanding creativity in show business over the years.


Different stories and ways of telling them often dictate what sort of genre this or that movie or show falls into. People still use the current genre terms for when they wish to tell a friend they are off to the movies to see a comedy or a musical.


The basic genres are Action | Romance | Comedy | Western | Drama | Fantasy | Mystery | Thriller | Horror | Sports | Musicals | Science Fiction.


Then we have sub-genres, which have proven to be a way for film geeks and nerds to stand out from the average film-appreciation crowd. These sub-genres can be anything from psychological thrillers and romantic comedies to action dramas and horror fantasies. As Dorothy said in the ‘Wizard of Oz’, “We aren’t in Kansas anymore.”




How Do People Even Define Genres?


It isn’t as simple as saying “It’s a boy” or “Congratulations, you have a daughter.” Movies take effort to ‘birth’ into the world of art, and as such classifying them needs a bit of attention to detail. Genres are not determined based on how people react to a series or movie when they see it, but rather what the movie or series is all about at its core.


This means screenplay, dialogue, setting, and performances have the last word on genre determination. Even direction and cinematography, music, and/or CGI can be what they are and still not impact how a professional or expert would classify a movie or show.


Imagine this: an upbeat song playing when a romantic couple is dancing does not necessarily mean the movie is a romantic comedy. The director can easily ‘turn the tide’ into horror’s favor simply by introducing, say, Carrie who comes on stage during a high school prom, and well, we all know how that ended.


In the previous instance, we have a full-fledged horror movie. This is purely based on what Carrie says and does, and the setting she says and does it in. This is what genre is all about, namely slotting various types of movies and shows into apt categories as befits the beauty and wonder of storytelling in film.



Exploring The Basic Genres


Masterclass (the website) said it best, “Film genres are important for screenwriters and film audiences because they establish a tonal expectation.”

This ‘tone’ sets the core pace and style of the entire movie, starting from the script and on outwards. Let’s explore what makes each of the basic genres tick. We intentionally kept from naming certain movies and shows, because once we started with those we felt the urge to publish an entire library.


1. Action


Fast-paced, violence to varying degrees, weapon fire exchanges, stunts, martial artistry, high-octane moments, even superhero involvement, all come under the broad banner of this truly broad genre. Action films are designed for their content than anything story-driven, though there have been plenty of titles that balance both. Spy, disaster, and police movies are often action genre films.


2. Romance


This is the most apparent genre in the lineup. It involves a pair or couple indulging in romantic whims and relationship desires. Some such films also have a defined obsession, marriage, and/or personal sacrifice angle. Tragic elements are not unheard of, especially around illness and infidelity. Romantic comedies of course fall into this category.


3. Comedy


Equal parts entertaining and amusing, such movies have a good dose of fun and hilarity in them. They are not the same as ‘comic relief’, which is woven into more serious movies to provide a break, or relief, from the tone of those titles. Any film with a sufficiently humorous plotline falls under this genre. They often include one, some, or most of the following: slapstick, spoof, and parody, mockumentary, dark humor.


4. Western


Gunslinging, showdowns, cowboys, salon bar brawls, and a distinctly Wild West infused plotline can well and truly be termed a Western genre movie. Shootouts and hero-versus-villain moments are quite common in such films, only they’re set in a yesteryear lawless environment with revenge or vengeance often at the core of the plotline. Nearly all Westerns are based on the American West and include plains, mountains, and deserts as part of their landscape choices.


5. Drama


Conflict, a core element of seriousness, and a particularly plot-driven storytelling style are often what comprise the Drama genre. Such films contain clearly defined emotional or real-life narratives that often depend on character-centric plotlines to carry the message across.


6. Fantasy


Supernatural and magical elements pervade the Fantasy genre. Some such titles have also shown to equalize the use of real-life scenarios with a distinct fantasy plotline. Such juxtapositions have not stopped these films from incorporating imaginary universes, often in great detail. Movies under this genre often include creatures, races, laws, and logic that are entirely from one’s imagination, making them more speculative than realistic.


7. Mystery


You’ll know it’s a mystery when you have amateur sleuths or full-fledged detectives taking the storyline forward. Evidence and clues feature strongly in such titles, with plenty of suspense thrown in. Such whodunits are a hugely popular genre, one that can be implemented into any other genre, depending on the story.


8. Thriller


Plenty of excitement, edge-of-your-seat, tense storylines dictate the ebb and flow of such movies. Information is revealed at precise times in such films, making them highly connected to the Mystery genre. The pace is ideal and contains key plot-twists. A ‘timer’ or ‘deadline’ is often present in such titles.


9. Horror


Fear and dread, often coupled with supernatural, gruesome, hair-raising, and frightful themes comprise the Horror genre. Any title that scares you comes under this genre category. Monsters and nightmare scenarios play important roles in such films. Evil villains and serial killers are also significant inclusions. Jump scares, paranormal plotlines, gore, and a large infusion of adrenaline-rush moments comprise this genre.


10. Sports


As the name suggests, any storyline with an overt sporting or sports-centric theme comes under this category. Such films focus just as much on the plotline as the athletes or fans that feature in them. Emotional character arcs are not unheard of. Several titles in this genre are allegorical. They also have strong ties to the Comedy and Drama genres.


11. Musicals


Plenty of song-and-dance routines interspersing a funny or serious storyline are what Musical genres are best at. Though Romance genres often use Musicals in their stories, this particular genre has proven itself versatile in other ways. Stage productions were the origin of such titles, but cinema has proven to redefine the Musical genre in its own unique style.


12. Science Fiction


Despite enjoying powerful connections to the Fantasy genre, Sci-Fi movies are notably different. They cover a wide spectrum of themes, with most such titles revolving around outer space and/or the use of extra-terrestrial characters or settings in their plotlines. Scientific and technologically advanced story elements feature quite strongly in such titles.


Click here to get a list of movies by Genre, categorized by IMDb.



The Future of Genre Cinema


Genres used to be set in stone, to make it easier for viewers and audiences to get their money’s worth at the box office.


For instance, you may want to go on a date with someone and you are confident that taking them to a rom-com will increase your chances of getting their approval. Now imagine taking your date to a rom-com genre movie only to find that the film centers around an alien couple trying to emulate human love.


This is the future of genre cinema, meaning a beautiful blend of possibilities when it comes to storytelling. Gone are the old days when we used to get precisely what we saw on, say, the movie poster. The same applies to spotting the genre a film is said to be and going to see it purely for that.


Hybrids of all types have taken over the art of filmmaking, and that’s a good thing. Restrictions make for standard storytelling, which worked remarkably well back in the days when ‘moving pictures’ was a revolutionary ‘new thing’ in the world of art.


These days, genres no longer define a story. People often go catch a film based on who’s acting in it. For instance, this writer will see anything with Meryl Streep in it, and thoroughly enjoy it irrespective of the genre.


But does this mean genres have lost their worth? Are they merely useful for ‘library categorization’ purposes? Yes and no, because genres still cater to several different fan bases all over the world. They help us narrow down our search for that ‘perfect movie’ to see over the weekend, either alone, with buddies or family, or with a special someone.


Genres still set the tone for a movie. Too much deviation from a chosen genre can result in ‘messy moviemaking’, and none of us want that.  



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