Genres of Films

A Comprehensive Guide to Genres of Films in 2024

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series History of Cinema

Genres of Films

A genre is a category of writing, music, or any other art form with a particular style, form, or content. In simple words, the genre is a way to classify any form of art into more or less similar kinds of categories.

The concept of the genre began during the Hollywood studio period, i.e., in the 1920s. The film genre is the simplest way to categorize different styles, stories, and content.

Genres in films not only help the filmmakers identify the film and make decisions accordingly, but they also make it easier for the audience to understand the style and basic plot of the film.

As many people only watch selective films of some specific style they like, categorizing films into genres helps the audience find a film according to their likes and dislikes that they would be interested in watching.

Nowadays, we also see a variety of genres while browsing through different OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ Hotstar, which gives us a rough idea of the film’s basic storyline.

Film Genres Theory

Genre theory offers a powerful framework for interpreting the traditions, motifs, and narrative structures that define various film categories.

Each genre has unique storytelling techniques and expectations, from thrilling action flicks to emotional dramas. By defining these frameworks, one can gain valuable insights into how filmmakers construct their visions to connect with audiences.

Genre theory is essential for movie enthusiasts, filmmakers, and critics alike. By understanding genre principles, one can delve deeper into the cinematic experience, uncovering the underlying patterns and structures that can deepen one’s appreciation and understanding of the medium.

Exploring Various Types of Genres


Action movies captivate audiences with thrilling sequences, stunts, and narratives that pump adrenaline.

Fans of these movies are promised an exciting, realistic, and nerve-wracking experience that pulls them into worlds of brave heroes, scary villains, and breathtaking action scenes.

Within the action genre, many subgenres and styles range from classic suspenseful and high-stakes action thrillers to exciting action adventures that take viewers on adventures worldwide. For instance, James Bond movies are known to set the storyline across multiple continents.

Genres of Films

Action films have the power to ignite imaginations and leave audiences craving for more. The seamless integration of exciting action scenes with interesting stories makes action movies stand out.

For example, watch this clip from the Netflix movie Extraction (2020). The scene is of a one-shot gunfight involving actor Chris Hemsworth, who is playing Tyler Rake, a fearless black market mercenary who embarks on a deadly extraction mission to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord.

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In these movies, the characters are often complex and have strong motivations. They have to overcome problems that seem impossible to solve by using their determination, skill, and sometimes luck.

Action movies are known for their daring stunts, high-speed chases, and intense face-to-face combat. These movies push the limits of what is possible on the big screen, astounding viewers with their amazing performances.


The Western film genre typically features action-packed scenes that take place in remote areas. In Hollywood, these films are often set in the American West (also known as the Wild West) during the 19th century.

The genre often involves a protagonist who travels to different towns or remote places, encountering and fighting local gangs or goons. It usually includes horseback riding and gunfights. Although some films may feature native actors, cowboys typically play the leading roles in Westerns.

The Western film genre has been around since the early days of cinema. It started with movies like Edwin S. Porter’s “The Great Train Robbery” in 1903 and John Ford’s “The Iron Horse” in 1924, which featured cowboy characters.

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The popularity of Western films endured throughout the 20th century. One of the most notable Western genre films is The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966).


Some Indian Western films include Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay (1975), Narendra Bedi’s Khote Sikkay (1974), Ravikant Nagaich’s Kaala Sona (1975), Ambarish Sangal’s Wanted: Dead or Alive (1984).


Comedy films are a much-loved genre in cinema, and they are appreciated for their ability to entertain and bring about laughter. These films comprise many subgenres, including slapstick and screwball comedies, romantic and dark comedies, and more.

Often featuring exaggerated characters, absurd situations, and witty dialogue, these films aim to amuse and uplift audiences, providing a refreshing escape from reality.

Slapstick Comedy

Slapstick comedies are a type of comedy that uses exaggerated physical humor and outrageous actions to entertain the viewers. Charlie Chaplin’s films are excellent examples of this type of comedy. In Bollywood, Andaz Apna Apna, directed by Rajkumar Santoshi, is a good example of slapstick comedy.

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Slapstick comedies are known for their fast-paced, snappy dialogues filled with clever quips, humorous one-liners, and sarcastic tone. The characters are in unpredictable and chaotic situations that often arise due to romantic entanglements and social class conflicts.

The characters’ witty banter and amusing exchanges keep viewers interested and entertained, which makes it entertaining to watch.

Screwball Comedy

Screwball comedies are an American genre of comedy movies that became popular during the Great Depression in the mid-1930s.

The term “screwball” was used to describe films that featured contrasting elements put together in an unusual way:

  • educated & uneducated
  • rich & poor
  • intelligent & stupid
  • honest & dishonest
  • male & female.

The hero and heroine, typically from different social, sexual, and economic backgrounds, find themselves in improbable situations and comic misadventures. Ultimately, their conflicting social classes were happily resolved when they fell in love or married.

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One of the best-known screwball comedies ever made is Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934), which also won Academy Awards.

Screwball comedies use social satire, fast-moving events, and witty dialogue. These movies often have unexpected plot twists and funny moments that entertain the audience. They also use clever wordplay and sarcastic comments to add to the humor.

Romantic Comedy (Rom-Com)

Romantic comedies are a genre of film that has the unique ability to capture the hearts of audiences with their captivating stories of love and humor. These movies often focus on the complexities of human relationships, portraying relatable characters who find themselves in amusing and heartwarming situations.

With witty dialogue, playful banter, and feel-good moments, romantic comedies offer a delightful escape from reality, reminding us of the power of love and the importance of laughter. Jab We Met (2007), Band Baaja Baarat (2010), and Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani (2013) are a few examples of rom-com movies from Bollywood.

Dark Comedy

In dark comedies, serious subjects like aggression, mortality, and social chaos are mixed with humor. They cleverly use humor to shed light on these thought-provoking topics, providing audiences with an ironic cinematic experience.

These films give us a new perspective on life by pushing the boundaries and blending intellect and anonymity.

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One of the most renowned dark comedies in Bollywood is Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983). The film effectively portrays the common man’s struggle to survive in a corrupt society.


The crime genre encompasses literature, film, and art that delve into criminal activities, law enforcement, investigation, and the underworld. It focuses on exploring the motives, methods, and consequences of criminal behavior and the efforts of law enforcement and individuals to solve crimes and bring criminals to justice.

Crime films usually revolve around the actions of criminal masterminds, chronicling their rise and fall. Some crime films will have a storyline that follows the criminal’s victim, while others follow the person in pursuit of the criminal.

This genre tends to be fast-paced with an air of mystery; this mystery can come from the plot or the characters themselves.

The Francis Ford Coppola-directed Godfather trilogy is arguably the greatest American crime movie ever. A cult crime film in Bollywood is Satya (1998), which Ram Gopal Verma directed.


Mob and gangster films are a type of crime film that focuses on organized crime and the mafia. The plot usually revolves around a crime boss’s life and ultimate downfall. Some of these films explore the negative effects of organized crime, while others try to depict the characters’ humanity.

Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur is one of the cult movies in this genre.


Film-noir is not just a genre but a term used to describe a particular, stylistic type of crime drama that was popular during the 1940s and 1950s. The unique visual style of film-noir is characterized by black-and-white cinematography and stark lighting effects.

The protagonist of such films is usually a cynical hero. To explain the intricate plot, film-noir relies on a narrative voice and various flashbacks.

After the 1990s, Ram Gopal Verma and Anurag Kashyap experimented with many noir films in Hindi cinema. They are regarded as the key filmmakers of film noir in India.


Neo-noir refers to a modern film that takes on the characteristics of film noir. Modern updates are made within Neo-Noir in terms of media and visual elements. Neo-Noir films also update themes and content to fit with current society.

In Bollywood, Sriram Raghavan is considered one of the finest directors in this genre. His films Johnny Gaddaar, Badlapur, Andhadhun, and Merry Christmas are examples of the neo-noir film genre.


Crime-thriller films belong to a subgenre that combines the suspenseful elements of a thriller with a crime-based plot. Generally, the plot of this sub-genre revolves around a serial killer, murderer, robbery, or manhunt.

Unlike traditional crime films, crime thrillers’ storylines focus on both the criminal and the protagonist. Crime-thrillers employ both action and psychological elements to create tension and suspense.


Human emotions are complex and deep. Drama films help us truly understand and appreciate these emotions. The powerful stories in drama films dive into the depths of the human experience, unearthing the raw and unfiltered emotions that make us who we are.

From tales of love and heartache to ones of perseverance and social justice, drama films offer something for every viewer. They take us through the intricate layers of relationships, personal struggles, and social issues, provoking thought and sparking important conversations.

Through the lens of characters and their journeys in drama films, we can connect with their experiences, allowing us to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of life.

Drama film genres consist of multiple sub-genres:

Character-Driven Drama

The film that belongs to this genre consists of a narrative revolving around the protagonists’ personal journeys, inner conflicts, and emotional arcs. 

These films often explore themes of love, loss, redemption, and self-discovery, allowing audiences to forge deep connections with the characters and their struggles. 

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For instance, “Tamasha” is a moving story about finding oneself and love. Directed by Imtiaz Ali, it depicts the journey of Ved, a young man leading a mundane life but finding comfort in storytelling. On a vacation in Corsica, he meets Tara, and their encounter sparks a passionate love affair. However, societal expectations force them to separate. Years later, they reunite, facing their true selves and society’s norms to embrace their authentic identities and love.

Social Drama

Another powerful subgenre is social drama, which tackles relevant and thought-provoking issues such as racism, poverty, addiction, or political turmoil. These films aim to raise awareness, spark discussions, and inspire social change by illuminating our world’s harsh realities and injustices. 

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For instance, Anusha Rizvi’s “Peepli Live” is a satirical comedy-drama. Set in rural India, the film follows the plight of Natha, a debt-ridden farmer facing the threat of losing his land.

To escape his predicament, Natha decides to commit suicide, hoping his family will receive compensation from the government. His plan inadvertently sparks a media frenzy and political exploitation, shedding light on the plight of farmers and the sensationalism surrounding their struggles.

Historical Drama

Historical dramas can take viewers back to important historical times by showing how real people or fictional characters dealt with major historical events. In addition to being entertaining, these movies teach us about the past and help us understand the human experience.

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“Jodhaa Akbar” is a romantic historical drama directed by Ashutosh Gowariker. Set in the 16th century, it tells the story of the Mughal Emperor Akbar and his marriage to Jodhaa, a Rajput princess.

Biographical Drama

Biographical drama depicts the lives and experiences of real individuals, often historical figures or contemporary personalities. These films typically blend factual events with fictionalized elements to provide insights into the subject’s character, achievements, and struggles.

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For instance, “Gandhi,” an epic biographical drama, directed by Richard Attenborough, chronicles the life of Mahatma Gandhi, from his early years in South Africa as a lawyer to his pivotal role in India’s struggle for independence through nonviolent civil disobedience.

It explores Gandhi’s philosophy of ahimsa (nonviolence) and satyagraha (truth force), his leadership during significant events like the Salt March, and his ultimate sacrifice for the cause of peace and unity.

Regardless of the subgenre, drama films can evoke many emotions, from laughter and joy to heartbreak and sorrow. They challenge our perceptions, confront us with difficult truths, and ultimately inspire us to reflect on our lives and the world around us. 

Drama films also remind us of the profound beauty and complexity of the human condition, encouraging us to embrace empathy, compassion, and a deeper appreciation for life.

Science-Fiction (Sci-Fi)

Science fiction is a widely popular film genre that involves storytelling using scientific elements. It features fictional stories that revolve around science and can be set in the future or other worlds. Commonly, sci-fi movies showcase spaceships, aliens, and advanced technology. The history of sci-fi films can be traced back to the silent era, where Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon (1902) marked the beginning of this genre.

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Star Wars (1977) by George Lucas is the most influential science fiction movie ever made. It’s a space adventure about a group of heroes fighting against the dark forces to save their galaxy.

One of the most prominent directors of this genre is Christopher Nolan, who has made movies like Interstellar (2014), Inception (2010), and Tenet (2020).

The release of Mr. India in 1987 contributed significantly to the popularity of science fiction movies in Hindi cinema. In 2003, Koi… Mil Gaya became a blockbuster hit, which led to the creation of the successful Krrish series, one of the first superhero and science fiction film series in Indian cinema. The 2018 Tamil movie 2.0, featuring Rajinikanth, is one of India’s most expensive and successful science fiction movies ever.


The fantasy film genre is characterized by imaginative storytelling that often includes supernatural elements, magic, or exotic fantasy worlds, sometimes featuring magical creatures.

In contrast to science fiction films, fantasy films are purely fictional and do not adhere to scientific laws. They often depict places, events, or situations that defy natural laws.

Fantasy movies often feature human characters with extraordinary abilities, and their stories are set in contemporary times with magical elements. Such movies showcase magical effects or supernatural occurrences happening in the real world today.

The fantasy genre is known for creating imaginative and fantastical worlds that allow viewers to escape reality. It often overlaps with other genres like science fiction (sci-fi) and horror. One of the most well-known fantasy film series worldwide is Harry Potter.

Some Indian Fantasy films include Tumbbad (2018), Paheli (2005), Vaah! Life Ho Toh Aisi! (2005), Bhoothnath (2008), Taarzan: The Wonder Car (2004), Bhoot Unkle (2006), Eega (Makkhi) (2012), and more recently, Brahmāstra: Part One: Shiva (2022).


The romance genre is a type of film that revolves around love stories and the romantic relationship between the main characters. These movies typically showcase two protagonists as they navigate the various elements of love, including relationships, sacrifice, marriage, and obsession.

The romance genre’s main focus is the development of the characters’ relationships and romantic involvement. Romance movies often portray challenges such as illness, tragedy, or other obstacles that the love interest must overcome.

Romance can be found in almost every other film, even if the story or plot does not fully revolve around it. There is a high chance of a romantic touch in every film.

The romance genre was born in the classic Hollywood era, i.e., the 1930s–1950s. The romantic comedy film, also called “rom-com,” became very popular. A few well-known films in the romantic genre include: Gone with the Wind (1939), Casablanca (1942), Pretty Woman (1980), Titanic (1997), and A Walk to Remember (2002).

Romantic Drama

Romantic dramas combine romance and drama to explore the complexities of love and relationships. Through a passionate love story, these movies often reveal the emotional struggles and ethical dilemmas that individuals face, as well as the societal expectations they face.

The films’ depth of emotion and character development lead to heartfelt performances and touching conclusions that showcase the timeless power of love.

Among the notable Bollywood romantic drama movies, Aditya Chopra directed Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge in 1995, then Karan Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in 1998, Imtiaz Ali’s Jab We Met in 2007, and Ayan Mukerji’s Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani in 2013.

Romantic Comedy (Rom-com)

See above, under the sub-genre of comedy.

Chick Flick

Chick flicks are movies that primarily target a female audience, featuring themes of romance, personal relationships, and female empowerment. They often portray topics such as romantic love, friendship, and personal growth.

Chick flicks are known for combining emotional scenes with humor and feel-good vibes. These films often feature strong female protagonists who overcome obstacles and achieve personal milestones, making them relatable and inspirational for viewers.

Vikas Bahl’s 2013 Bollywood chick-flick Queen is a great example of this genre.


The musical genre combines music, song, and dance with storytelling to create a unique and immersive cinematic experience. In musicals, characters express their emotions, thoughts, and motivations through song and dance routines. This film genre combines visual and auditory elements to enhance storytelling, character development, and emotional impact.

The Jazz Singer premiered in 1927 and was the first movie musical. Singin’ in the Rain (1952) was another classic musical that showcases the transition from silent films to talkies in Hollywood’s Golden Age, featuring memorable song and dance numbers.

Indian cinema and music have always been inseparable. Musicals in Hindi cinema combine music, dance, and emotion that enhance storytelling. They are a way to add drama and romance to a scene. These musical performances are not only entertaining but also serve as narrative devices. They are a popular feature in Hindi cinema as they add an extra dimension to the story.

Ardeshir Irani’s 1931 musical film Alam Ara was the first Indian motion picture with sound. Sooraj Barjatya’s Hum Aapke Hain Koun!, released in the 1990s, was one of the highest-grossing Indian films of that decade. The movie had a total of 14 songs, which made the most of the melodious voice of the legendary playback singer, Lata Mangeshkar.

In Indian cinema, the popularity of songs is almost a guarantee of the commercial success of a movie. In 2023, ‘Naatu Naatu’ won the Oscar for Best Original Song for the movie ‘RRR,’ becoming the first ever Indian song to win in the category.


Documentaries are non-fiction films that intend to capture and examine real-life events, individuals, places, or topics. They provide an informative and often thought-provoking insight into the world around us, presenting facts, perspectives, and truths.

Documentaries cover many subjects, from historical events to social issues, from nature and wildlife to biographical portraits. Using various cinematic techniques such as interviews, archival footage, narration, and observational filming, documentaries offer audiences a glimpse into different aspects of reality, promoting understanding, empathy, and advocacy.

Documentaries cover various sub-genres, each with distinct themes, styles, or approaches to storytelling.

Biographical documentaries

These documentaries highlight the lives and accomplishments of notable figures, including artists, activists, politicians, and celebrities.

Historical documentaries

These documentaries offer insights into significant historical events, periods, or movements and their impact on the present.

Nature and wildlife documentaries

These documentaries feature stunning cinematography and scientific exploration, showcasing the beauty and complexity of the natural world.

Social and political documentaries

These documentaries aim to raise awareness, provoke discussion, or inspire change regarding pressing issues, societal challenges, and political movements.

True crime documentaries

These documentaries provide an in-depth examination of real-life criminal cases, investigations, or mysteries and their aftermath.

Music and arts documentaries

These documentaries showcase artists, musicians, or cultural movements, offering insights into the creative process, art, and music.

Environmental documentaries

These documentaries center around environmental issues, conservation efforts, and the impact of human activity on the planet. They often advocate for sustainability and the preservation of nature.

These sub-genres, among others, contribute to the richness and diversity of the documentary genre, offering audiences a wide range of perspectives and experiences.


Animation is a film genre that uses images to bring characters and stories to life. It includes a variety of styles and techniques, from traditional hand-drawn animation to computer-generated imagery (CGI).

The genre includes various sub-genres, such as:

Traditional Animation

Hand-drawn animation involves creating each frame by hand, creating a classic and artistic visual style. Examples include Disney classics like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “The Lion King.”

CGI Animation

Computer-generated imagery (CGI) animation employs digital technology to produce characters, environments, and visual effects. This sub-genre is widely used in contemporary animated films such as “Toy Story” and “Frozen” and includes 2D and 3D animation.

Stop-motion Animation

Stop-motion animation is a technique that involves manipulating physical objects or puppets frame by frame to create the illusion of movement.


Anime is an animation style from Japan known for its colorful art, fantastical themes, and lively characters. Some popular examples include “Spirited Away” and “My Neighbor Totoro.”

These sub-genres contribute to the diversity and creativity of the animation genre, appealing to audiences of all ages and interests.

The Cinema section in the CUET UG 2024 Mass Media and Communication syllabus includes this topic.

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