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Ergocinema / Movie Genres

What are Movie Genres?

A writer’s definition: This article is all about the major genres and how they can help you with your personal story development.

When you work on a screenplay, you’ll inevitably be confronted with different genres. These are unique story forms and they are really important, because audiences use them to decide what they want to see: in the spring cheesy RomComs with the spouse, in the summer the latest Action Blockbusters with the boys and every other day, on the small screen, the regular Crime shows with the whole family… Movie genres are very clear concepts that audiences quickly recognize. The movies on the other hand are constantly in flux and can be highly individual. In any given movie, genres are cheerfully combined with each other and may result in completely new, exciting forms.

An overview of the most important genres using my 12 best movie examples

Movie genres with examples

Anyone who has ever tried knows that writing can be quite overwhelming. Every genre follows its own set of rules, and if you try to combine them, all too often they simply contradict each other and the result is a mess. In order to bring more clarity to the writing process, I’ll introduce you to my 12 favorite cinematic representatives of the most important genres, so we can analyze the different plot structures together.

Here they are in a table overview:

Movie Genre Main Character Want Movie Example
Adventure Movies To go on a literal journey STAR WARS
Action Movies To win a battle DIE HARD
Romantic Movies To find love ANNIE HALL
Horror Movies To overcome a monster PSYCHO
Fantasy Movies To explore a speculative world HARRY POTTER (2001)
Science-Fiction Movies To explore speculative tools FORBIDDEN PLANET
Detective Movies To solve a crime L.A. CONFIDENTIAL
Crime Movies To catch a criminal HEAT
Thriller Movies To escape while solving a crime THE FUGITIVE
Biopics & History Movies To find meaning in real life events AMADEUS
Drama Movies To emancipate oneself THE WRESTLER
Comedy Movies To find success FERRIS BUELLER

Before you are able to properly combine movie genres, you need to figure out what genres exist and what makes them different. Each narrative form focuses on a different aspect of storytelling. For example, the three major genres of the Speculative Fiction genre family put the imaginary in the foreground: Science-Fiction the tools of a future, Fantasy the rules of a fantasy world, and Horror the fear of an unknown adversary.

Movie Genres for writers

What Genres are best for me?

Many writers impose the wrong movie genres on their story ideas. They are meticulous in making sure their stories stick to specific plot points, but as we all know writing is not painting by numbers. When developing your own idea, it’s helpful to examine it early on to find out what genres are best suited for it. Here are some questions to help you identify the appropriate ones:

  • What is the role or function of my main character in this particular story?
  • What is the want of my individual main character?
  • What is the role or function of my particular adversary?
  • What is the unique question raised by this story?

Especially in the beginning, when your premise is still fresh, the answers to these questions are still in flux and don’t have to be set in stone right away. However, they can help you progress faster in your story development. Find out what works best for you and solidify your ideas.

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