Film Industry

Movie Genres: Our Complete Guide To The Most Popular Movie Genres

Photograph of the blog post author, Jodie Francis

Jodie Francis

3.6.2021

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Do you love watching movies? Maybe you’re thinking about making one yourself. This article is a great place to begin. We’re taking things back to basics and taking a look at the different movie genres out there. It’s important that you understand the varying film genres and the specific features that can accompany each genre. 

movie genres wheel spin

In this article, we will ask what are movie genres and go through the most popular film genres in cinema as well as some sub-genres.

So, make sure that you keep on reading for your complete guide to some of the most popular movie genres!

What Is A Movie Genre?

couple on a sofa laughing

Movie genres are classed as different categories in which films can be placed. This will be based upon a variety of factors, including the tone, theme, plot, characters, and mood. 

There are also sub-genres of movies, and this is a smaller category of film. This category will usually be a combination of two different genres. Both movie genres and sub-movie genres can affect and influence each other. 

There are a few factors that can define movie genres, and that is it has to describe a style of entertainment. It can also influence sub-genres of movies, and it can also be combined with additional genres. 

The Most Popular Movie Genres

main movie genres minimalistic

Now let’s move onto the main bulk of the article – the movie genres list! Firstly, let’s take things back to basics and outline the basic film genres in one place. You see, in the earlier days of cinema and filmmaking, all of the genres were pretty standard and defined. 

This matched the arts and literature at the time. Cinema-goers would know exactly what they were getting from a film due to its genre and the typical tropes that would accompany them. 

Here are the basic film genres to look out for:

  • Drama 
  • Comedy 
  • Action 
  • Fantasy 
  • Horror 
  • Romance 
  • Western 
  • Thriller 

These basic film genres can also spark a variety of sub-genres and categories. We will get into this deeper into the article, but here is an example that relates to the romance genre.

Here are the sub-genres that can be applied to the romance genre:

  • Romantic comedy (rom-com)
  • Historical romance
  • Romantic action
  • Romantic thriller
  • Gothic romance
  • Chick flick
  • Romantic drama

Action

bruce willis in die hard

When you think about movie genres, action is likely one of the first genres that you’ll think of! It is one of the earliest movie genres, much like in literature and other entertainment and art. 

The action movie genre has a broad range of different examples, such as train robberies, war epics, or Westerns. Action films have been super popular with audiences since the very beginning of the film

Action movies will likely remain one of the top movie genres for years to come. The audience can watch good versus evil and follow the hero on their quest. 

Some great examples of action movies are: Die Hard, Terminator 2 Judgement Day, John Wick, Point Break, and more. There are plenty of sub-genres for action movies, for example spy and espionage action, martial arts, and war and military action.

Horror

here's johnny the shining jack nicholson

Now let’s move onto something a little more scary – horror movie genres! Much like the action genre, you can also trace the horror movie genre way back to the early days of cinema. 

Some people may regard horror films as a more modern invention, but movies like Shinin No Sosei (Resurrection of a Corpse) dated back to 1898, prove otherwise! 

The horror movie genre is popular as people can experience a true sense of escapism and fear. Going to the cinema to watch a horror movie can make the experience even more terrifying thanks to the loud sound effects and darkness. 

Of course, the horror genre is also extremely prevalent in literature, such as Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Dracula by Bram Stoker. These novels have been adapted numerous times for the big screen.

As time has moved on, the Gothic horror genre still remains popular, however, there have also been numerous new genres.

Some of the most popular include genre elements like zombie horror, body horror, slashers, hauntings, found footage horror, serial killer and many more. A psychological horror will really challenge you yet scare the living daylights out of you!

Comedy

the gentlemen guy ritchie

The comedy genre remains one of the most popular movie genres. It is a movie genre beloved by both children and adults alike. There’s a variety of comedy movies out there to choose from, like slapstick comedy, satire comedy, screwball comedy, and more. 

The genre itself is pretty flexible, as moviemakers have become more creative with their mix of genres. One example is action comedy movies, like The Hitman’s Bodyguard, The Gentleman, and Murder Mystery. 

The comedy genre shouldn’t be overlooked or dismissed, as these films have the power to make a whole cinema laugh and experience joy. 

Western

clint eastwood the good the bad and the ugly

Some people will regard the Western film genre as a sub-genre. However, it has arguably earned its place on the movie genres list. The Western genre has been around for many years now, and it can be linked back to the days of classic Hollywood movies. 

They have been present in the earlier days of cinema and saw their popularity continue into the 1970s. 

The Western genre has seen some fantastic blockbusters in recent years. Some examples include The Sisters Brothers, True Grit, and The Assassination of Jesse James. 

Unsurprisingly this movie genre has sparked many sub-genres, such as modern Western, classic Western, fantasy Western, space Western, and more. 

Sci-Fi (Science Fiction) 

interstellar wave planet with ship

The sci-fi movie genre is one of the main movie genres out there. It quickly became a classic genre, and you can trace its roots back to the silent film era! It is a highly experimental genre, and this is what first attracted audiences to it. One of the earliest sci-fi films is A Trip to the Moon, released back in 1902. 

People are fascinated with the unknown and what outer space may hold. It’s interesting to watch different filmmakers’ interpretations and the advanced technology that’s used. 

Some great examples of sci-fi movies include The Predator, Arrival, and Interstellar. So, what sub-genres of sci-fi exist? There are many, such as time travel, space travel, aliens, disasters, monsters, and robots.     

Thriller  

anthony hopkins the silence of the lambs

Now it’s time to examine the thriller movie genre. This type of film has steadily risen in popularity, before becoming one of the go-to genres for moviegoers. It’s no coincidence that the movie genre rose in popularity at the same time as spy literature of the 1960s and 1970s. 

The thriller genre can be used to highlight the failures of governments, institutions, and society as a whole. The viewer then gets to watch the hero right these wrongs, making it a satisfying and enjoyable movie genre. 

There are so many examples of this film genre. For example, thrillers include the James Bond movies, The Silence of the Lambs, and Misery. The thriller genre has spawned various sub-genres of film, such as the crime movie genre, legal thriller, spy thriller, supernatural thriller, and more. 

Drama

the trial of the chicago 7 courtroom

Defining the drama movie genre can sometimes be a bit tricky, so here is what you should look out for. If the film has plenty of conflict and high stakes, then this is one of the key elements of a drama movie. The genre is also driven by the plot and all of the characters drive the story forward. 

Drama movies can sometimes feel fast-paced depending on the above factors. The genre can also base the movie upon real-life people and situations. These types of films can be emotional to watch. 

Some examples of drama movies include The Trial of The Chicago 7, The King, Molly’s Game, Wonder, and more.

Due to the nature of the genre, there are plenty of different sub-genres to look out for. For example, romantic drama, historical drama, film noir, medical drama, docudrama, teen drama, and more. 

Fantasy

harry potter and sirius black

The fantasy movie genre is one of the most popular mainstream movie genres for people to watch. This is for a variety of reasons, for example, people enjoy the escapism of the fantasy elements, the special effects can look beautiful and real, and the storylines can be completely absorbing. 

The genre itself can be easily recognised, as it contains supernatural and magical elements that you won’t recognise from the real world. 

Some films will completely transport you to another world, while others can be set in the real world alongside another magical realm. These different worlds can have magical creatures, its own law system, and other exciting additions. The fantasy genre can be popular with both adults and children. 

There are so many fantasy movies to choose from, such as the Harry Potter franchise, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Enter the Void, How to Train Your Dragon, and plenty more.

There are a variety of fantasy movie sub-genres that are popular, such as high fantasy, magical realism, fairy tales, fables, low fantasy, sword and sorcery, superhero fiction, and more. 

Romance

leonardo dicaprio and kate winslet in titanic

Our list of types of movie genres wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of romance! The romance genre is self-explanatory – it’s all about people finding love and embarking on courtships.

This genre has been popular with moviemakers since the beginning, as the audience members enjoy the escapism that the genre can bring. 

Of course, there are romance focused movies, but in pretty much every movie there’s a sub-plot of a romance going on. This can keep the audience engaged and in suspense as to whether the romance will work out or not. 

Some great examples of romance movies are Pride and Prejudice, Titanic, Dirty Dancing, and Call Me By Your Name. More recently in cinema, movie makers have moved away from classic romances, and branched out into a variety of sub-genres.

The most popular include romantic drama, romantic comedy (rom-com), historical romance, and paranormal romance. 

Using Film Genres 

room of collectibles with netflix on tv

So, how do you apply this information about movie genres to your own work? Firstly, it’s important that you do your own research and take your own initiative.

This could be researched by searching the internet for helpful articles for one particular genre, watching films in the genre that interests you or even getting in contact with other industry professionals to ask for their help and advice. 

It’s also important to understand that rules can be broken, and film genres can be changed or combined with others. As the creation of movies evolved, filmmakers have become more creative and willing to challenge the boundaries and expectations of particular genres. 

For example, this is what created the rom-com genre or sci-fi Western movies. Research how filmmakers work and how they have altered traditional genres. 

If you can understand what they are trying to achieve, then this could be helpful for your own work. So, get stuck into your research and soon you will have decided on the perfect movie genre for your film. 

Now You Know Everything About Movie Genres

movie genres cloud

And that completes our guide to everything that you need to know about movie genres. Film genres are vital to making your film, as they are a way of categorising it, as well as a vital form of marketing the movie once it has been made. This allows the cinema audience to decide whether the genre of movie would be something of interest to them. 

Before deciding on a movie genre, we would recommend that you conduct your own research into them. Make use of our article as a guide to all movie genres (the main ones), and then go from there! 

Why not check out some of the movies on our list? After all, it could not only be helpful for you, but it’s also a great excuse to check out some wonderful movies!

If you would like to learn more about the film industry, then make sure that you head over to Music Gateway! Here you can read articles like How to Become a Filmmaker, Best Lens for Filmmaking, How to Become a Screenwriter, and plenty more! 

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