Everybody has their own taste of movies/films ('movies' is used in American English and 'films' in British English) that they like to watch. Some people like movies which are about criminals, while other people like movies about two people falling in love.

To help people find a type of movie which is right for their taste, all movies are grouped/categorized by either their subject/story or the style it is made in. These groups are commonly called 'genres'.

Genres are normally used to group movies together which have a similar setting and story subject (e.g. movies/films which are in hospital and are about saving people's lives). But genres can also be used to group films together by how the style in which of the story is told (e.g. if the story is told in an exciting way, realistic way, comedic way etc...).

If you like movies, knowing what the names of the genres of films that you like to watch is not only important for easily finding films, but it also will help you to talk about films when speaking in English.

To help you learn the names of the different movie genres, I have created the below exercise. By first reading a text and then answering the questions in a quiz/test, this exercise will help you to both quickly learn the names of the main movie genres in English, understand what they mean and remember them.

To learn the vocabulary to describe the different parts and roles in films (essential for talking about films), do the exercise on 'vocabulary for describing films/movies'.

The second part of this exercise will be coming soon.


Exercise: Talking about movies

Read the following conversation where two friends (Juan and Peter) talk about different types/genres of movies.

The words in bold are the names of different types of movie genres. From the context, try to guess what they are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Juan:'What are your favourite genres of movies?'

Peter:'I like a lot of different types of movies. I like war movies. Movies whose main story/subject is about war and how it affects people. My favourite war movies are Saving Private Ryan and The Great Escape. They are both classic 'war movies'.

I also watch a lot of action movies. Movies where danger and action (like people fighting, car chases, climbing etc...) are very important parts of the storyline. There's nothing better than to go to the cinema and watch a film like Die Hard or Terminator. And you? What genres do you like to watch?'

Juan:'I like action movies as well. But I prefer to watch movies where there is some action but also the main characters are on journey in some exotic and strange places to explore or discover some treasure or save somebody.'

Peter:'You've just described adventure movies. I love them too. My favourite adventure movies are the Indiana Jones movies and The Lord of the Rings movies.'

Juan:'But I wouldn't call The Lord of the Rings movies 'adventure movies'. I think their genre is fantasy movies. Because they are set in an imaginary world where there is magic and imaginary creatures. Fantasy movies, normally have wizards, dragons and other magical creatures in them.'

Peter:'You're right that the The Lord of the Rings movies are fantasy movies. But they can also be called adventure movies as well. They are on a quest to destroy the evil ring and on their journey there is some action and they explorer lots of new places. Most films can be described under two or more different genres/types.'

Juan:'That's makes sense. Are movies about or contain vampires, ghosts, devils etc... called fantasy movies then? Because they are imaginary creatures.'

Peter:'No, they are not. Because they are not magical creatures like dragons, elves, dwarves, but unexplained phenomenon, objects or creatures. And as these films are normally set in the real world, they are called supernatural movies. Movies like The Exorcist and The Shinning are examples of supernatural movies. And some people call movies with vampires in them, supernatural movies as well.'

Juan:'But movies/film with ghosts and vampires can also be called horror movies, can't they?'

Peter:'They can be, but horror movies are movies whose main purpose is to scare or frighten you either physically or emotionally. So both The Exorcist and The Shining can be called both horror movies (because they are frightening) and supernatural movies (because they have ghosts or devils in them). But a film like Twilight isn't, because its main purpose isn't to frighten you. There are many horror movies which don't have supernatural forces in them, like Saw and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.'

Juan:'I love science fiction movies too. Movies which explore how the future and future technology and science will have an affect on our lives. Star Wars, Avatar and Alien are my favourite Sci-Fi movies of all-time.'

Peter:'I like Sci-Fi as well. Especially when the movies are about aliens and space.'

Juan:'I also like period dramas. Films which are set in the past and tells you about how people used to live. I really liked Titanic, Sense and Sensibility and Lincoln.'

Peter:'But isn't Lincoln about part of the real life of a real person, Abraham Lincoln?'

Juan:'Yes, it's about the last weeks of his life before he was assassinated.'

Peter:'When a movie's story is about the life of a real person, they are called biographical movies. Movies like The Social Network or Amadeus are biographical movies or as they are sometimes called 'biopics'. I suppose that Lincoln is in both genres (a period drama and a biopic), because the story is about a real person and it's set in the 19th century.'

Juan:'Another genre that I love to watch are films where the story is about gangsters, crime or the police. Crime movies like Goodfellas, Seven or The French Connection.'

Peter:'They are good. But I prefer movies about crime where the focus is more on the law and the lawyers who are trying save or convict somebody in court.'

Juan:'Do you mean courtroom dramas? Movies like Philadelphia, 12 Angry Men where a lot of the story happens in court?'

Peter:'Yeah, those types of films. I have a question. What is the difference between a drama and a thriller? Nobody has ever been able explain to me clearly what the difference is.'

Juan:'These genres are different styles in which the story in a movie is told. A drama is where the story in a movie/film is told in a more serious, emotional and realistic way. For example, Philadelphia, The Shawshank Redemption or The King's Speech are examples of dramas.

In a thriller, the style of the story is less realistic and it's more focused on keeping people very excited about what's going to happen next (there's lots of danger, tension and suspense). Most of the movies of Alfred Hitchcock like Vertigo, Psycho etc... are examples of thrillers.'


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Quiz:

Below is a photo/picture of each of the movie genres in bold from the above text. Now choose the word from the question's selection box which you believe matches the photo/picture. Only use one word once. Click on the "Check answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question which you can press/click on. In the first icon, , you can find extra information about the word/phrase (e.g. when, where and how to use etc...). In the second, , is where you can listen to the word/phrase and do a pronunciation test (to make sure you can say it correctly).


1. movie genre exercise photo

The is an example of the movie genre called      
   

Horror movies:
(noun) These are types of movies whose purpose is to scare/frighten you. Normally in these films, a lot of people are killed and there is a lot of blood. Examples of 'horror movies' are Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and 28 Days Later.

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Horror movies:

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2. movie genre exercise photo

The is an example of the movie genre called      
   

War movies:
(noun) These are types of movies whose story is focused on the fighting in battles and wars. Examples of 'war movies' are Saving Private Ryan, Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia.

Movies which are set in times of war but whose story is not focused on fighting, are not called war movies. For example, The English Patient. Although this movie is set in World War Two, it is not really about fighting, but about a relationship between two people. So this movie is called either a 'drama' (because it tells a story of conflict and emotion in a realistic way) or a 'romance' (because the main storyline is about a love affair between two people).

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War movies:

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3. movie genre exercise photo

The is an example of the movie genre called      
   

Fantasy movies:
(noun) These are types of movies whose story is set in an imaginary world (normally in the past) where there is magic and strange creatures (elves, dragons, dwarves etc...) live. Examples of 'fantasy movies' are The Lord of the Rings movies, Snow White and The Wizard of Oz.

Most movies that have vampires in them are not called 'fantasy movies'. Although vampires are imaginary creatures, most of these movies are set in real world situations.

Instead, these movies are either called 'horror movies' (if the movie's main purpose is to scare/frighten) and by some people, 'supernatural movies' (because they are set in the real world and are about things which science says doesn't exist).

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Fantasy movies:

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4. movie genre exercise photo

The is an example of the movie genre called      
   

Science fiction movies:
(noun) Also called 'Sci-Fi movies'. These are types of movies whose story is set in the future or in an imaginary present where some type of technology has changed how we live. Common themes in Sci-Fi movies are space travel, technological inventions or scientific discoveries and how these change how we live.

Examples of 'science fiction movies' are Blade Runner, Alien, Planet of the Apes and Day of the Triffids.

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Science fiction movies:

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5. movie genre exercise photo

The is an example of the movie genre called      
   

Crime movies:
(noun) These are movies whose story is focused on crime and the people who are involved in doing it (i.e. the criminals) or in stopping it (e.g. the police, lawyers etc...). Examples of this type of movie genre are Goodfellas, Twelve Angry Men or Dirty Harry.

These are sub-genres of 'crime movies'. 'Crimes movies' where the story is focused on the mafia and criminal gangs, are often called 'gangster movies'. Those which are focused on lawyers and courts, are often called 'courtroom dramas'. And those that focus on the police and their investigations, are often called 'police movies' or 'police detective/procedural movies'.

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Crime movies:

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6. movie genre exercise photo

The is an example of the movie genre called      
   

Action movies:
(noun) These are movies where there is a hero (or heroes) who throughout the movie is involved in lots of action scenes/sequences (fighting, jumping from building, car chases etc...). Examples of this type of movie genre are the James Bond movies, Die Hard and The Terminator.

Normally in 'action movies', the story is not that important (there are exceptions like the Bourne movies). These types of films try to keep the viewers entertained by showing them one action scene/sequence after another.

'Action movies' where the hero or heroes have to go on a long journey or are on a quest to find something (e.g. treasure or rescue a person) are called 'adventure movies'.

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Action movies:

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7. movie genre exercise photo

A movie where the story is told in this type of style, is called a      
   

Thriller:
(noun) This is a style of how the story in a movie is told rather than a subject. Movies which have a story where there is some type of conflict or where a person or people have to overcome some type of difficulty, can be told in one of two ways.

The first style is where the story is told in a realistic way. These type of movies have a style which is called 'dramas'. Examples of 'dramas' are The King's Speech, Chariots of Fire and Lincoln.

The second style of telling a story tries to captivate the interest of the viewer by using suspense, danger, tension and intrigue in the film. Films which uses these techniques to tell the story are called 'thrillers'. Examples of 'thrillers' are the films of Alfred Hitchcock, Seven and The Silence of the Lambs.

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Thriller:

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8. movie genre exercise photo

The is an example of the movie genre called      
   

Biographical movies:
(noun) Also called 'biopics'. These are movies whose story is about the life or a part of the life of a real person (normally famous). Examples of 'biographical movies' are Schindler's List, The Aviator and The Imitation Game.

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Biographical movies:

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9. movie genre exercise photo

The is an example of the movie genre called      
   

Supernatural movies:
(noun) Also called 'paranormal movies'. These are types of movies which are set in the real world, but whose story is about things which science says doesn't exist or can't be done. Movies which are about ghosts, contacting the dead or having powers to move things with the mind are called 'supernatural movies'. Examples of 'supernatural movies' are Ghost, The Exorcist and Poltergeist.

In addition, some people call movies about vampires, 'supernatural movies' (because most of these movies are set in the real world and are about things which science says doesn't exist).

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Supernatural movies:

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10. movie genre exercise photo

A movie where the story is told in this type of style, is called a      
   

Drama:
(noun) This is a style of how the story in a movie is told rather than a subject. Movies which have a story where there is some type of conflict or where a person or people have to overcome some type difficulty, can be told in one of two ways.

The first style of telling a story tries to captivate the interest of the viewer by using suspense, danger, tension and intrigue in the film. Films which uses these techniques to tell the story are called 'thrillers'. Examples of 'thrillers' are the films of Alfred Hitchcock, Seven and The Silence of the Lambs.

The second style is where the story is told in a realistic way. These type of movies have a style which are called 'dramas'. Examples of 'dramas' are The King's Speech, Chariots of Fire and Lincoln.

Although this is what a 'drama' means in theory, there are some genres of movies which have 'dramas' in the name (e.g. 'courtroom dramas'), but the movies in these genres can be 'thrillers' in the style that they use to tell the story. It can be confusing.

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Drama:

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11. movie genre exercise photo

The is an example of the movie genre called      
   

Courtroom dramas:
(noun) Also called 'courtroom movies'. This is a sub-genre of 'crime movies'. This is a type of movie where the story is focused on the lawyers who are trying save or convict somebody in court. Examples of this type of movie are A Few Good Men, Twelve Angry Men and Philadelphia.

Many of the films which are 'courtroom dramas' are not dramas (where the story of the film is told in a realistic way) at all, but 'thrillers' (where the story is told in a way which creates suspense, danger and tension in the people watching it). The movie A Few Good Men, is an example of a 'courtroom drama' which is actually a 'thriller'.

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Courtroom dramas:

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12. movie genre exercise photo

The is an example of the movie genre called      
   

Adventure movies:
(noun) These are a type of 'action movies'. They are 'action movies' where the hero/heroes have to go on a long journey or are on a quest to find something (e.g. treasure or rescue a person). Like other 'action movies', there are a lot action scenes/sequences (fighting, jumping from building, chases etc...) in 'adventure movies'.

Examples of this type of movie are the Lord of the Ring movies, the Indiana Jones movies and the Star Wars movies.

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Adventure movies:

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13. movie genre exercise photo

The is an example of the movie genre called      
   

Period dramas:
(noun) Also called 'historical dramas'. These are movies whose story is set in the past and have a storyline on a serious topic and the story is told in a realistic way (that's why they are called 'dramas'). Examples of this type of movie are Sense and Sensibility, Little Women and Chariots of Fire.

A movie is called a 'period drama' if the story is set before the Second Word War. But not all films which are set before this period are called 'period dramas'. Movies which don't show a storyline in a realistic way (e.g. like action or adventure movies) or whose story is not on a serious topic (e.g. comedies) are not called 'period dramas', but are called another genre instead.

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Period dramas:

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To learn more movie vocabulary, do the exercise on 'vocabulary for describing films/movies'.



Practice

Now that you understand the new vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences with the new words/phrases.

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