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Film Genres

(Дополнительный материал к пособию Кузовлева В.П. Английский язык 10–11 Раздел 6. What Helps You to Enjoy Yourself?)

What are Film Genres? Film genres are various forms or categories, classifications or groups of films that have similar, familiar or instantly-recognizable patterns, syntax, filmic techniques.

Main Film Genres
Descriptions of  Main Film Genres
Action Films
Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Leon, Rambo
Action films usually include high energy, big-budget physical stunts and chases, possibly with rescues, battles, fights, escapes, floods, explosions, natural disasters, fires. There are usually ‘good-guy’ heroes battling ‘bad guys’. This includes the James Bond ‘fantasy’ spy/espionage series, martial arts films. A major sub-genre is the disaster film.
Adventure Films
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Adventure films are usually exciting stories, with new experiences or exotic locales, very similar to or often paired with the action film genre. They can include traditional swashbucklers (swashbuckler - «сорвиголова»), serialized films, and historical spectacles (similar to the epics film genre), searches or expeditions for lost continents, “jungle” and “desert” epics, treasure hunts, disaster films, or searches for the unknown.
Comedy Films
Some Like It Hot,
Comedies are light-hearted plots consistently and deliberately designed to amuse and provoke laughter by exaggerating the situation, the language, action, relationships and characters. This section describes various forms of comedy through cinematic history, including slapstick (фарс), spoofs and parodies, romantic comedies, black comedy.
Crime & Gangster Films
The Godfather
Crime (gangster) films are developed around the sinister actions of criminals or mobsters, particularly bankrobbers, underworld figures, or ruthless hoodlums who operate outside the law, stealing and murdering their way through life. Criminal and gangster films are often categorized as film noir or detective-mystery films. This category includes various ‘serial killer’ films.
Drama Films
Gone With the Wind,
Shindler’s List
Dramas are serious, plot-driven presentations, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction. Usually, they are not focused on special-effects, comedy, or action. Dramatic films are probably the largest film genre, with many subgenres like melodramas (women’s ‘weeper’ films),epics (historical dramas), or romantic genres. Dramatic biographical films (or “biopics”) are a major sub-genre.
Epics/Historical Films
Epics include costume dramas, historical dramas, war films, or ‘period pictures’. Epics often share elements of the elaborate adventure films genre. Epics take an historical or imagined event, mythic, legendary, or heroic figure, and add an extravagant setting and lavish costumes. Epics are often a more spectacular version of a biopic film. Some ‘sword and sandal’ films qualify as a sub-genre.
Horror Films
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Horror films are designed to frighten and to invoke our hidden worst fears, often in a terrifying, shocking finale. Horror films feature a wide range of styles, from the earliest silent Nosferatu classic, to today’s CGI monsters (computer generated imagery monsters). They are often combined with science fiction when the menace or monster is related to a corruption of technology, or when Earth is threatened by aliens. The fantasy and supernatural film genres are not usually synonymous with the horror genre. There are many sub-genres of horror: slasher (о резне), teen terror, serial killers, satanic, Dracula, Frankenstein, etc.
Musicals/Dance Films
The Sound of Music
Musical/dance films are cinematic forms that emphasize song and dance and make them an integrated part of the film narrative. Major subgenres include the musical comedy or the concert film.
Science Fiction Films
2001: A Space Odyssey,
Star Wars
Sci-fi films are often quasi-scientific, visionary and imaginative – complete with heroes, aliens, distant planets, fantastic places, great dark villains, futuristic technology, unknown forces, and extraordinary monsters (‘things or creatures from space’), either created by mad scientists or by nuclear havoc (опустошающие последствия ядерной войны). They are sometimes an offshoot of fantasy films, or they share some similarities with action/adventure films. Science fiction often expresses the potential of technology to destroy humankind and easily overlaps with horror films.
War (Anti-War) Films
Apocalypse Now,
Saving Private Ryan
War films acknowledge the horror and heartbreak of war, letting the actual combat fighting (against nations or humankind) on land, sea, or in the air provide the primary plot or background for the action of the film. War films are often paired with other genres, such as action, adventure, drama, romance, comedy (black), suspense, and even epics and westerns, and they often take a denunciatory approach toward warfare.
The Good, the Bad, the  Ugly
The Magnificent Seven
Westerns are the major defining genre of the American film industry – a eulogy (восхваление) to the early days of the expansive American frontier. They are one of the oldest, most enduring genres with very recognizable plots, elements, and characters (six-guns, horses, dusty towns and trails, cowboys, Indians, etc.). Over time, westerns have been re-defined, re-invented, expanded, and even spoofed (пародированы).

Subgenres: disaster (“Airport”), spy (“Goldfinger”), period (“Pride and Prejudice”), biopic (“The Life of Emile Zola”), cartoon (“Pinocchio”), romance (“Ghost”), fantasy (“King Kong”, “The Wizard of Oz”, “Superman”, “Batman”), thriller/suspense (“The Silence of the Lamb”).
Non-genre films: animated films, children/kids/family films, classic films, cult films (“Pulp Fiction”), documentary films, serial films (“Indiana Jones”), silent films.
Films can be also distinguished like this:

Contrasting Types of Films
Non-fiction (or documentary), or biopics
Feature films
Shorts (or short subjects), anthology films (films with two or more discrete stories), or serials
‘A’ (or first-run, rented for a lump sum) pictures
‘B’ pictures (lower quality)
3-D (three-dimensional images)
Black and white
‘Pan and Scan’ formats
Animated films
Live-action films
Domestic films
Foreign-language films (sub-titled or dubbed)
Original version
Prequels (“Blade”), sequels (“Blade II”, “Blade: Trinity”), re-releases and remakes
Mainstream (big-budget Hollywood) studio films, sometimes blockbusters
Independent (aka “indie”) (or amateur), avant-garde or experimental-underground films (usually low-budget), or art-house films
Rated films - regarding the degree of violence, profanity, or sexual situations within the film: G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17 (X)
Unrated films (for home video and DVD)

US Rating System

The MPAA film rating system is a system used in the United States and territories and instituted by the Motion Picture Association of America to rate a movie based on its content. It is one of various motion picture rating systems used to help patrons decide which movies may be appropriate for children and/or adolescents.
In the United States, the MPAA rating system is the most recognized system for classifying obscene content, but it is not used outside of the film industry because the MPAA has trademarks on each individual rating.
The current MPAA movie ratings consist of:


Rated G – General audiences
All ages admitted.

Rated PG – Parental guidance suggested
Some material may not be suitable for young children.

Rated PG-13 – Parents strongly cautioned
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Rated R – Restricted
No one under 17 admitted unless with a parent or adult guardian


Rated NC-17 – No one 17 and under admitted.

Minor Subgenres

Thriller films are movies that primarily use action and suspense to engage the audience. Thrillers emphasize nervous tension and anxiety. Thriller films are distinct from horror movies which emphasize fear, or action movies which emphasize exhilaration. The motive force of a thriller can range from small-scale fraud to international conspiracy, but topics such as disasters (the disaster movie) or defeating criminals (the crime film) are typically the preserve of other genres.
Alfred Hitchcock is considered by many to be the master of the genre. His ability to create “nail-biting” scenarios is studied in many film schools around the world. North by Northwest is a prime example. It builds tension with a minimum of pugilistic action, relying instead on mystery and suspense. One of the reasons Hitchcock may have been so effective at this genre was his tendency to put “the common man” in the position of what would be the action hero in an action film.
The conspiracy thriller (or paranoid thriller) is a subgenre of the thriller which flourished in the 1970s in the US (and was echoed in other parts of the world) in the wake of a number of high-profile scandals and controversies (most notably Vietnam, the assassination of President Kennedy, Chappaquiddick and Watergate), and which exposed what many people regarded as the clandestine machinations and conspiracies beneath the orderly fabric of political life.
Techno-thrillers are a hybrid genre, drawing subject matter generally from spy thrillers, war novels, and science fiction. They include a disproportionate amount (relative to other genres) of technical detail on its subject matter; only science fiction tends towards a comparable level of supporting detail on the technical side. The inner workings of technology and the mechanics of various disciplines (espionage, martial arts, politics) are thoroughly explored, and the plot often turns on the particulars of that exploration. They are often criticised for overwhelming the human characters with machinery.
Techno-thrillers tend to have a broad scope in the narrative, and can often be regarded as contemporary speculative fiction – world wars are a common topic – and techno-thrillers often overlap, as far as the genre goes, with near-future science fiction. To the extent that technology is now a dominant aspect of modern global culture, most modern thrillers are ‘techno-thrillers’.
Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October is the first modern techno-thriller to be recognized as such, and Clancy has come to dominate the genre much as Stephen King dominates modern horror fiction.

By Irina Ishkhneli ,
School No. 1738, Moscow