Redefining Genre

So, my brother and I got very fed up last night with genre.

Take romance and psycho-thriller for example. One describes how a film makes you feel, the other describes how characters change throughout the film. They are not compatible comparisons!

Romance is about two people who meet and fall in love. When we hear the word romance, we know that the film will be about two characters who are not free to love each other in some way, but by the end of the film, they will both be free. But to say a movie is a romance tells us nothing about how we will feel when we watch it. In fact, it is so bad at conveying that idea that we have to pair funny romantic movies with the word Comedy, thus specifying it as a Rom-Com.

Whereas, if someone tells me we’re watching a psycho-thriller, I know exactly how I will feel when I watch it. As my brother put it, I will sit plastered to my seat, wondering eagerly what’s going to happen next, why it’s happening, and how.

So… We got ambitious, and decided to re-explore the entire concept of genre.

After an hour of discussion we split it into two categories.

  1. How Movies Make us Feel (External Genre)
  2. What World View Changes Throughout the Film (Internal Genre)

We call them:

  1. How to Feel Films
  2. Coming of Age Films

Number 1 is pretty self-explanatory. Movies make us feel a certain way, and dividing them into how they make us feel just makes sense. Especially since most genres that exist already fall into this category.

Number 2 might require some explanation. (UPDATE: You can read the post about it here.) Many films are driven by the main character changing their world view. They start by believing a lie about the world, or having wrong information, and by the end, their world view has shifted.

Most Stories have both an External and an Internal Genre, but they will be primarily driven by one or the other.


  1. Mystery (feeling: curiously confused)
  2. Action/Adventure (feeling: excited and adventurous)
  3. Horror (feeling: afraid)
  4. Psycho-Thriller (feeling: mentally stimulated)
  5. Off-Beat/Quirky (feeling: light about depressing or deep subject matter)
  6. Comedy (feeling: funny)
  7. Uplifting/Motivational (feeling: happy)
  8. Hopeful-Depressing (feeling: hopeful about depressing subject matter)


  1. Death
  2. Self-Delusion
  3. Romance
  4. Responsibility

(Sure there are still more…Haven’t exhausted all of these – love to hear if you can think of any others!)

Check in soon – I’m going to be elaborating on all the genres in future posts, supplying examples for each.

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5 thoughts on “Redefining Genre

  1. You missed “Surrealism”, a style that Aronofsky is known for. Jude Law is in a surrealist show, called “The Young Pope.”

    1. Ooh, very interesting! I suppose the affect of surrealism would be to make you feel removed from reality? My brother and I talked about that a lot last night. I’m thinking it might fall under quirky, as wrong as that sounds… But then, possibly not….

    2. OK, I did some research into surrealism, and the definition I found is that it’s a “movement in art and literature that seeks to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind, for example by the irrational juxtaposition of images.” This means that it’s a style of filmmaking, which I think is different from genre as I’m talking about it. Only because saying a film is surreal does not carry automatic emotion. How surrealism makes you feel falls into one of the previous categories that I’ve stated. I can’t think of a particular emotion that accompanies surrealism other than a film that makes us feel hopeful about depressing content, light about depressing content, etc. I’m pretty sure surrealism usually just deals with depressing content… 🙂
      I’m so glad you brought it up, and I might be wrong on this! I really haven’t seen that many surrealist films.

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