What is a Film Genre

Genre is a French word, which has its origins in Latin (Genus) and Greek (genos) , which means Kind  or sort. Genre can be used to describe any category of literature, music or any other art form. Like a film genre, there are musical and literary genres.

A film or a movie can belong to many different genres but based on the one underlying theme of the movie, the film is categorized under one specific genre. Action, adventure, romantic comedy, musicals, crime and gangster, drama, epics/ historical, fantasy, horror, science fiction, war, westerns are some commonly identifiable film genres. When critics or filmmakers specify the genre of a film it gives the movie going audience an idea about what kind of film it is.

Drama, western classical, horror, action/adventure movies are the earliest genres. Musical genre came much later and science fiction genre was not even heard of till 1950. Over a period of time, some new genres keep emerging and sometimes it leads to a work (which in this case is a film) which is a combination of two genres which can be classified under hybrids. There are films which have 2 or three overlapping genres. Action comedy is a new genre which emerged recently. Fantasy film is a genre which has gained popularity since 1990s due to financial success of Harry Potter series. This genre is different from science fiction movies.   


Films belonging to a particular genre have certain similarities, conventions, theme, film technique, sound, type of actors, and mood. Certain actors are known to work for a specific genre. For example Hugh grant movies belong to romantic comedy genre or actor John Ford was known for Western Hollywood movies.

For film critics, it is easier to compare films when they are classified under specific genres. Most films are categorized based on the setting, mood and theme topic of the film. While the setting of the film describes the environment of the narrative or story, the theme tells about he issues that the film talked about. The mood describes the dominant emotional tone of the movie; whether it is cynical, optimistic, hopeful or sad. The categorization can be very debatable since two films with the same setting can have a different emotional tone or theme.

For a film maker it is important to have a clear understanding of film genres as it is only through this that he can satisfy movie enthusiasts as well as film critics. Many screenwriters study successful movies of specific genres and sometimes write screenplays based on that, which lack originality.

There are certain non genres like film noir (black film), animation movies, documentary films, children’s films, cult movies, and silent movies etc. which do not follow a traditional genre.  

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