Movie Genres & Examples

by Robert Godard
Films are organized according to genres.

Films are organized according to genres.

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Films are typically organized by genre. A genre describes similarities between films in terms of narrative content, style and themes. Some films may occupy multiple genres, but may lean more toward one than another. Genres are fluid and flexible; there are no set codes or criteria for determining movie genres.

Action and Adventure

Though "Action" and "Adventure" are sometimes considered separately, they have many similarities. Action and adventure movies feature physical confrontations between characters, some of whom may come from other planets or from the future or past. Weapons, explosions and car chases are staples of these films. Examples of this genre include "Die Hard," "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Waterworld."


Comedy movies feature light-hearted plots, with an emphasis on performance and humorous interactions between characters. The purpose of a comedy is to evoke laughter. A conflict is almost always present, but it is typically resolved in a rather unorthodox way. Examples include "Manhattan," "Knocked Up" and "Some Like it Hot."


Drama films tackle serious issues or conflicts. The driving force of a drama film is the plot and the emotions of the characters. Melodrama, a subgenre of drama, places an even bigger emphasis on emotions, sometimes to the point of exaggeration. Examples include "The English Patient," "Casablanca" and "Invictus."


Horror films usually feature a fantastical antagonist and a group of often naive protagonists who are trying to avoid being killed. Horror films often use clever special effects. The grand finale resolves the conflict with the death or vanquishing of the antagonist. Examples include "Halloween," "The Exorcist" and "Scream."


Western films take place in the Wild West. They are often set in the 1800s, when American pioneers were expanding the territory. Westerns often involve lawless settings, where the main character is good and delivers justice to wrongdoers. Examples include "My Darling Clementine," "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" and "3:10 To Yuma."


Musicals place an emphasis on song-and-dance routines throughout the film. These films often feature elaborate choreography and songs that move the plot along. Musicals were very popular from the 1930s through the 1960s. Though they have faded in and (mostly) out of favor since the 1960s, they have experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Examples include "Grease," "Mamma Mia" and "Chicago."


Broadly speaking, documentaries are nonfiction films that focus on a historical or societal question, which the film seeks to answer. Documentaries frequently feature interviews with people involved with this question, and may include reenactments of events or historical film footage. Examples include "Bowling For Columbine," "The Thin Blue Line" and "Chronicle of a Summer."

About the Author

Robert Godard began writing in 2007 for various creative blogs and academic publications. He has been featured on multiple film blogs and has worked in the film industry. He attended Baltimore College, earning his B.A. in history.

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