Survey of Film Genres

Survey of Film Genres
A good place to start in the study of film is a survey of some key genres that define the medium, in this case: The Gangster Film, The Suspense Thriller, The Western and The Romantic Comedy. These genres span the course of cinema’s history from the silent era to films today.

The Gangster Film
Mob bosses, tommy guns, car chases, suicide doors, smart dames, and lots of booze—just some things that define this genre.

  • Mervyn LeRoy, Little Caesar (1931)
  • Bill Wellman, Public Enemy (1931)
  • Howard Hawks, Scarface (1932)
  • Howard Hawks, Big Sleep (1946)
  • Francis Ford Coppola, Godfather I (1972)
  • Francis Ford Coppola, Godfather II (1974)

Film Noir & The Suspense Thriller
Mysterious characters, fear, cigarette smoke, fog, shadows, and menacing villains come together to play upon the viewer’s nerves.

  • Bill Wilder, Double Indemnity (1944)
  • Jaques Tournier, Out of the Past (1947)
  • Charles Lotten, Night of the Hunter (1955)
  • Orson Welles, Touch of Evil (1958)

The Western
One of the oldest genres in cinema—playing on nostalgia and history; filled with horses, wagons, sheriffs, and iconic wild west towns.

  • John Ford, My Darling Clementine (1946)
  • Howard Hawks, Red River (1948)
  • Fred Zinneman, High Noon (1952)
  • John Ford, The Searchers (1956)
  • Arthur Penn,Little Big Man (1970)

The Romantic Comedy
Man plus woman, sarcasm and screwball, love and laughs, romantic tension, and couple combinations that just don’t fit.

  • Frank Capra, It Happened One Night (1934)
  • Gregory Le Caba, My Man Godfrey (1936)
  • Frank Capra, You Can’t Take It With You 

(1938)
  • Howard Hawks, His Girl Friday (1940)
  • Alfred Hitchcock, and Mrs. Smith (1941)

Recommended Reading

  • Keith Grant, Film Genre: From Iconography to Ideology (2007)
  • Lester Friedman, David Desser, Sarah Kozloff and Martha Nochimson, An Introduction to Film Genres (2013)
  • Barry Langford, Film Genre: Hollywood and Beyond (2005)
  • Rick Altman, Film/Genre (1999)
  • George Anastasia, Glen Macnow and Joe Pistone, The Ultimate Book of Gangster Movies: Featuring the 100 Greatest Gangster Films of All Time (2011)
  • Jack Shadoian, Dreams and Dead Ends: The American Gangster Film (2003)
  • Janet Walker, Westerns: Films through History (AFI Film Readers) (2013)
  • James Harvey, Romantic Comedy in Hollywood: From Lubitsch to Sturges (1998)
  • Charles Derry, The Suspense Thriller: Films in the Shadow of Alfred Hitchcock (McFarland Classics) (2001)

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