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The Characteristics of Various Movie Genres

Jun 13, 2008
The first movies were nothing more than silent, short reels of film, usually depicting ordinary people performing everyday tasks. It was not long, however, before filmmakers began experimenting with elements of plot and characterization, and soon, themed movies were being made.

While many genres and sub genres exist, there are a few basic, or main movie genres that most films fall into. These include, but are not limited to, action, adventure, comedy, crime or gangster films, epics or historical films, dramas, horror, musicals, science fiction, war films, and westerns.

Westerns are considered to be the defining American film genre, and were among some of the first popular types of movies. Westerns are defined by classic plot elements such as horses, small towns, cowboys, Indians, outlaws, bank robberies, etc. Westerns have fallen in and out of popularity over the decades and have been redefined and modified as well, but the basic premises and plots have remained the same.

Comedies, like westerns were among the first types of films to gain popularity with movie audiences. Early vaudeville stage acts, and the slapstick comedy styles popularized in silent films paved the way for lighthearted, amusing, plots exaggerating situations, relationships, characters. Over time, comedic subgenres, including romantic comedies, black comedies, spoofs, and others, were developed.

Physical stunts, rescues, battles, natural disasters, destruction, and fast-paced plots characterize action movies. Characters in these films are often two dimensional heroes or villains. These types of movies are sometimes sub categorized into disaster film, martial arts film, and other specialized distinctions.

Adventure films contain elements of both the action and the fantasy movie genres, and are often set in exotic locations. The plots of these types of films frequently revolve around searches for lost treasures or for the unknown, and the genre encompasses pirate or swashbuckling films and some historical epics.

Crime films, including the popular gangster film subcategory, revolve around the actions of criminals, the most popular being bank robbers, thieves and murderers. The film noir sub genre comes under this category, as does the serial killer film classification.

Movie genre categories may be broad, but sub categorical distinctions can become very specific. The more that one knows about the different movie genres, the easier it becomes to identify different plot elements, settings, and characterization traits of favorite films.

Movie audiences expect different things from comedies than they do from adventure movies, westerns, or horror movies, and for good reason. Learning more about genre classifications can help make the experience of watching your favorite films even better.
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