Comedy film

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A comedy film is a category of film in which the main emphasis is on humor. These films are designed to make the audience laugh through amusement and most often work by exaggerating characteristics for humorous effect. [1] Films in this style traditionally have a happy ending (black comedy being an exception). One of the oldest genres in film—and derived from the classical comedy in theatre—some of the earliest silent films were comedies, as slapstick comedy often relies on visual depictions, without requiring sound. When sound films became more prevalent during the 1920s, comedy films took another swing, as laughter could result from burlesque situations but also dialogue.


Comedy, compared with other film genres, puts much more focus on individual stars, with many former stand-up comics transitioning to the film industry due to their popularity. While many comic films are lighthearted stories with no intent other than to amuse, others contain political or social commentary (such as The King of Comedy and Wag the Dog ).

The Screenwriters Taxonomy contends that film genres are fundamentally based upon a film's atmosphere, character and story, and therefore the labels "drama" and "comedy" are too broad to be considered a genre. [2]  Instead, the taxonomy contends that comedy films are a "Type" of film; listing at least a dozen different sub-types of comedy films. [3]


Silent film era

The first comedy film was L'Arroseur Arrosé (1895), directed and produced by Louis Lumière. The most noted comedy actors of the era were Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton.


Anarchic comedy

The anarchic comedy film, as its name suggests, is a random or stream-of-consciousness type of humour which often lampoons a form of authority. [4] The genre dates from the silent era, and the most famous examples of this type of film would be those produced by Monty Python. [5] Others include Duck Soup (1933) and National Lampoon's Animal House (1978).

Bathroom comedy (or gross out comedy)

Gross out films are a relatively recent development and rely heavily on vulgar, sexual or "toilet" humor. They often contain a healthy dose of profanity. [6] Examples include Porky's (1982), Dumb and Dumber (1994), There's Something About Mary (1998), and American Pie (1999).

Comedy of ideas

This sub-type uses comedy to explore serious ideas such as religion, sex or politics.  Often the characters represent particular divergent world views and are forced to interact for comedic effect and social commentary. [7]   Some examples include: Bob Roberts (1992) and MASH (1970).

Comedy of manners

A comedy of manners satirizes the manners and affectations of a social class, often represented by stock characters. Also, satirical comedy-drama & the plot is often concerned with an illicit love affair or some other scandal. However, the plot is generally less important for its comedic effect than its witty dialogue. This form of comedy has a long ancestry, dating back at least as far as Much Ado about Nothing created by William Shakespeare. [8] Examples for comedy of manners films include Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) and Under the Tuscan Sun (2003).

Black comedy

The black comedy film deals with normally taboo subjects, including death, murder, crime, suicide, and war, in a satirical manner. [9] Examples include Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Monsieur Verdoux (1947), Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), The Ladykillers (1955), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), The Loved One (1965), MASH (1970), S.O.B. (1981), The King of Comedy (1983), Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983), Brazil (1985), After Hours (1985), The War of the Roses (1989), Heathers (1989), Wag the Dog (1997), Your Friends & Neighbors (1998), Dev.D (2009), Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), Keeping Mum (2005), Thank You for Smoking (2005), Burn After Reading (2008), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), The Favourite (2018), Parasite (2019), AK vs AK (2020).


Farcical films exaggerate situations beyond the realm of possibility – thereby making them entertaining. [10]   Film examples include: In the Loop (2009) and Some Like it Hot (1959).


Mockumentary comedies use a fictional documentary style which includes interviews and "documentary" footage along regular scenes. Examples include: The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980), This Is Spinal Tap (1984), Waiting For Guffman (1996), Best In Show (2000), Borat (2006), and Reboot Camp (2020).

Observational humor

These films find humor in the common practices of everyday life. [11]   Some film examples of observational humor include: Carnage (2011) and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002).

Parody (or spoof)

A parody or spoof film satirizes other film genres or classic films. Such films mock-u-mentary, employ sarcasm, stereotyping, mockery of scenes from other films, and the obviousness of meaning in a character's actions. [12] Examples of this form include Mud and Sand (1922), Blazing Saddles (1974), Airplane! (1980), Young Frankenstein (1974), Spaceballs (1987), and Scary Movie (2000).

Sex comedy

Humor that is primarily derived from sexual situations and desire, [13] such as Choke (2008) and Knocked Up (2007).

Situational comedy

Humor that comes from knowing a stock group of characters (or character types) and then exposing them to different situations to create humorous and ironic juxtaposition; [14] case in point: Galaxy Quest (1999) and Madea's Big Happy Family (2011).

Straight comedy

This broad sub-type applies to films that do not attempt a specific approach to comedy but, rather, used comedy for comedic sake. [15]   Clueless (1995) and Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) are examples of straight comedy films.


Slapstick films involve exaggerated, boisterous action to create impossible and humorous situations. Because it relies predominately on visual depictions of events, it does not require sound. Accordingly, the subgenre was ideal for silent movies and was prevalent during that era. [1] Popular silent stars of the slapstick genre include Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Roscoe Arbuckle, and Harold Lloyd. Some of these stars, as well as acts such as Laurel and Hardy and the Three Stooges, also found success incorporating slapstick comedy into sound films. Modern examples of slapstick comedy include Mr. Bean's Holiday (2007) and The Three Stooges (2012).

Surreal comedy

Storytelling that includes behavior and storytelling techniques that are illogical; includes bizarre juxtapositions, absurd situations and unpredictable reactions to normal situation; [15] for instance:  Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) and Swiss Army Man (2016).

Hybrid subgenres

According to the Screenwriters Taxonomy, all film descriptions should contain their type (comedy or drama) combined with one (or more) of the eleven super-genres. [3] This combination does not create a separate genre, but rather, provides a better understanding of the film.

Action comedy

Films in this genre/type blend comic antics and action where the stars combine one-liners with a thrilling plot and daring stunts. The genre became a specific draw in North America in the eighties when comedians such as Eddie Murphy started taking more action-oriented roles such as in 48 Hrs. (1982) and Beverly Hills Cop (1984).

Sub-genres of the action comedy (known as macro-genres in the Screenwriters Taxonomy) include: [3]

Martial arts films

Slapstick martial arts films became a mainstay of Hong Kong action cinema through the work of Jackie Chan among others, such as Who Am I? (1998). Kung Fu Panda is an action comedy that focuses on the martial art of kung fu.

Superhero films

Some action films focus on superheroes; for example The Incredibles , Hancock , Kick-Ass , and Mystery Men .

Another category of the action comedy (considered a Pathway in the Screenwriters Taxonomy [3] ) include:

Buddy films

Films starring mismatched partners for comedic effect, such as in Midnight Run , Rush Hour , 21 Jump Street , Bad Boys , Starsky and Hutch , and Ted .

Comedy thriller

Comedy thriller is a genre/type that combines elements of humor and suspense. Films such as Silver Streak , Charade , Kiss Kiss Bang Bang , In Bruges , Mr. and Mrs. Smith , Grosse Point Blank , The Thin Man , The Big Fix , and The Lady Vanishes .

Comedy mystery

Comedy-mystery is a film genre combining elements of comedy and mystery fiction. Though the genre arguably peaked in the 1930s and 1940s, comedy-mystery films have been continually produced since. [16] Examples include the Pink Panther [17] and Scooby-Doo films. [18]

Crime comedy

A hybrid and mix of crime and comedy films. Examples of crime comedies include: Inspector Palmu's Mistake (1960), Oh Brother Where Art Thou? (2000), Take the Money and Run (1969) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).

Fantasy comedy

Fantasy comedy films use magic, supernatural or mythological figures for comic purposes. Some fantasy comedy includes an element of parody, or satire, turning fantasy conventions on their head, such as the hero becoming a cowardly fool or the princess being a klutz. Examples of these films include Big , Being John Malkovich , Ernest Saves Christmas , Ernest Scared Stupid , Night at the Museum , Groundhog Day , Click , and Shrek .

Comedy horror

Comedy horror is a genre/type in which the usual dark themes and "scare tactics" attributed to horror films are treated with a humorous approach. These films either use goofy horror cliches, such as in Scream , Young Frankenstein , The Rocky Horror Picture Show , Little Shop of Horrors , The Haunted Mansion , and Scary Movie where campy styles are favored. Some are much more subtle and don't parody horror, such as An American Werewolf in London . Another style of comedy horror can also rely on over-the-top violence and gore such as in The Evil Dead (1981), The Return of the Living Dead (1985), Braindead (1992), and Club Dread (2004) – such films are sometimes known as splatstick, a portmanteau of the words splatter and slapstick. It would be reasonable to put Ghostbusters in this category.

Life (or: day-in-the-life) comedy

Day-in-the-life films takes small events in a person's life and raises their level of importance.  The "small things in life" feel as important to the protagonist (and the audience) as the climactic battle in an action film, or the final shootout in a western. [3]   Often, the protagonists deal with multiple, overlapping issues in the course of the film – just as we do in life. [3]   The day-in-the-life comedy often finds humor in commenting upon the absurdity or irony of daily life; for example The Terminal (2004) or Waitress (2007).  Character humor is also used extensively in day-in-the-life comedies, as can be seen in American Splendor (2003).

Romantic comedy

Romantic comedies are humorous films with central themes that reinforce our beliefs about love (e.g.: themes such as "love at first sight", "love conquers all", or "there is someone out there for everyone"); the story typically revolves around characters falling into (and out of, and back into) love. [19]   Amélie (2001), Annie Hall (1977), Charade (1963), City Lights (1931), Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), It (1927), The Lobster (2015), My Favorite Wife (1940), Pretty Woman (1990), Some Like It Hot (1959), There's Something About Mary (1998) and When Harry Met Sally... (1989) are examples of romantic comedies.

Screwball comedy

A subgenre of the romantic comedy, screwball comedies appear to focus on the story of a central male character until a strong female character takes center stage; at this point, the man's story becomes secondary to a new issue typically introduced by the woman; this story grows in significance and, as it does, the man's masculinity is challenged by the sharp-witted woman, who is often his love interest. [3]   Typically it can include a romantic element, an interplay between people of different economic strata, quick and witty repartee, some form of role reversal, and a happy ending. Some examples of the screwball comedy are: It Happened One Night (1934), Bringing Up Baby (1938), The Philadelphia Story (1940), His Girl Friday (1940), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941), and more recently, What's Up, Doc? (1972).

Science fiction comedy

Science fiction comedy films often exaggerate the elements of traditional science fiction films to comic effect. Examples include Back to the Future , Spaceballs , Ghostbusters , Evolution , Galaxy Quest , Innerspace , Iron Sky , Mars Attacks! , Men in Black , and The World's End .

Sports comedy

Sports comedy combines the genre of comedy with that of sports. Thematically, the story is often one of "Our Team" versus "Their Team"; their team will always try to win, and our team will show the world that they deserve recognition or redemption; the story does not always have to involve a team. [2]   The story could also be about an individual athlete or the story could focus on an individual playing on a team.  The comedic aspect of this super-genre often comes from physical humor ( Happy Gilmore - 1996), character humor ( Caddyshack - 1980), or the juxtaposition of bad athletes succeeding against the odds ( The Bad News Bears - 1976).

War comedy

War films typically tells the story of a small group of isolated individuals who – one by one – get killed (literally or metaphorically) by an outside force until there is a final fight to the death; the idea of the protagonists facing death is a central expectation in a war film. [20] War comedies infuse this idea of confronting death with a morbid sense of humor.  In a war film even though the enemy may out-number, or out-power, the hero, we assume that the enemy can be defeated if only the hero can figure out how. [21]   Often, this strategic sensibility provides humorous opportunities in a war comedy. Examples include Good Morning, Vietnam ; M*A*S*H ; the Francis the Talking Mule series; and others.

Western comedy

Films in the western super-genre often take place in the American Southwest or in Mexico, with a large number of scenes occurring outside so we can soak in nature's rugged beauty. [2] Visceral expectations for the audience include fistfights, gunplay, and chase scenes. There is also the expectation of spectacular panoramic images of the countryside including sunsets, wide open landscape and endless deserts and sky. [3]   Western comedies often find their humor in specific characters ( Three Amigos , 1986), in interpersonal relationships ( Lone Ranger , 2013) or in creating a parody of the western ( Rango , 2011).

By country

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CountryComedy film
Flag of the United States.svg  US American comedy films
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  UK British comedy films
Flag of France.svg  FRA French comedy films
Flag of India.svg  IND Indian comedy films
Flag of Italy.svg  ITA Italian comedy films

See also

Related Research Articles

Film genre Classification of films based on similarities in narrative elements

A film genre is a stylistic or thematic category for motion pictures based on similarities either in the narrative elements, aesthetic approach, or the emotional response to the film.

Romantic comedy Film genre

Romantic comedy is a subgenre of comedy and slice-of-life fiction, focusing on lighthearted, humorous plot lines centered on romantic ideas, such as how true love is able to surmount most obstacles. One dictionary definition is "a funny movie, play, or television program about a love story that ends happily". Another definition suggests that its "primary distinguishing feature is a love plot in which two sympathetic and well-matched lovers are united or reconciled".

Screwball comedy Principally American genre of comedy film

Screwball comedy is a subgenre of the romantic comedy genre that became popular during the Great Depression, originating in the early 1930s and thriving until the early 1940s. It satirized the traditional love story. Many secondary characteristics of this genre are similar to film noir, but it distinguishes itself for being characterized by a female that dominates the relationship with the male central character, whose masculinity is challenged. The two engage in a humorous battle of the sexes, which was a new theme for Hollywood and audiences at the time.

Action film Film genre

Action film is a film genre in which the protagonist or protagonists are thrust into a series of events that typically include violence, extended fighting, physical feats, rescues and frantic chases. Action films tend to feature a mostly resourceful hero struggling against incredible odds, which include life-threatening situations, a dangerous villain, or a pursuit which usually concludes in victory for the hero. Advancements in computer-generated imagery (CGI) have made it cheaper and easier to create action sequences and other visual effects that required the efforts of professional stunt crews in the past. However, reactions to action films containing significant amounts of CGI have been mixed, as films that use computer animations to create unrealistic, highly unbelievable events are often met with criticism. While action has long been a recurring component in films, the "action film" genre began to develop in the 1970s along with the increase of stunts and special effects. Common tropes of the genre include explosions, car chases, fistfights and shootouts.

Genre is any form or type of communication in any mode with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a category of literature, music, or other forms of art or entertainment, whether written or spoken, audio or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria, yet genres can be aesthetic, rhetorical, communicative, or functional. Genres form by conventions that change over time as cultures invent new genres and discontinue the use of old ones. Often, works fit into multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions. Stand-alone texts, works, or pieces of communication may have individual styles, but genres are amalgams of these texts based on agreed-upon or socially inferred conventions. Some genres may have rigid, strictly adhered-to guidelines, while others may show great flexibility.

A running gag, or running joke, is a literary device that takes the form of an amusing joke or a comical reference and appears repeatedly throughout a work of literature or other form of storytelling. Though they are similar, catchphrases are not considered running gags.

Crime film Film genre inspired by and analogous to the crime fiction literary genre

Crime films, in the broadest sense, is a film genre inspired by and analogous to the crime fiction literary genre. Films of this genre generally involve various aspects of crime and its detection. Stylistically, the genre may overlap and combine with many other genres, such as drama or gangster film, but also include comedy, and, in turn, is divided into many sub-genres, such as mystery, suspense or noir.

Sports film Film genre

A sports film is a film genre that uses sport as the theme of the film. It is a production in which a sport, sporting event, athlete, or follower of sport are prominently featured, and which depend on sport to a significant degree for their plot motivation or resolution. Despite this, sport is ultimately rarely the central concern of such films and sport performs primarily an allegorical role. Furthermore, sports fans are not necessarily the target demographic in such movies, but sports fans tend to have a large following or respect for such movies.

Romance film Film genre

Romance films or romance movies are romantic love stories recorded in visual media for broadcast in theaters and on TV that focus on passion, emotion, and the affectionate romantic involvement of the main characters and the journey that their love takes them through dating, courtship or marriage. Romance films make the romantic love story or the search for strong and pure love and romance the main plot focus. Occasionally, romance lovers face obstacles such as finances, physical illness, various forms of discrimination, psychological restraints or family that threaten to break their union of love. As in all quite strong, deep, and close romantic relationships, tensions of day-to-day life, temptations, and differences in compatibility enter into the plots of romantic films.

Silent comedy

Silent comedy is a style of film, related to but distinct from mime, invented to bring comedy into the medium of film in the silent film era (1900s–1920s) before a synchronized soundtrack which could include talking was technologically available for the majority of films. Silent comedy is still practiced, albeit much less frequently, and it has influenced comedy in modern media as well.

Surreal humour is a form of humour predicated on deliberate violations of causal reasoning, producing events and behaviours that are obviously illogical. Constructions of surreal humour tend to involve bizarre juxtapositions, incongruity, non-sequiturs, irrational or absurd situations and expressions of nonsense.

American humor refers collectively to the conventions and common threads that tie together humor in the United States. It is often defined in comparison to the humor of another country – for example, how it is different from British humor and Canadian humor. It is, however, difficult to say what makes a particular type or subject of humor particularly American. Humor usually concerns aspects of American culture, and depends on the historical and current development of the country's culture. The extent to which an individual will personally find something humorous obviously depends on a host of absolute and relative variables, including, but not limited to geographical location, culture, maturity, level of education, and context. People of different countries will therefore find different situations funny. Just as American culture has many aspects which differ from other nations, these cultural differences may be a barrier to how humor translates to other countries.

Comedic device refers to a kind of device used to make a statement more humorous. In layman's terms, it is what makes things funny.

Slice of life describes the depiction of mundane experiences in art and entertainment. In theater, slice of life refers to naturalism, while in literary parlance it is a narrative technique in which a seemingly arbitrary sequence of events in a character's life is presented, often lacking plot development, conflict and exposition, as well as often having an open ending.

Comedy horror Genre that combines elements of horror and comedy

Comedy horror, also known as horror comedy, is a literary, television, and film genre that combines elements of comedy and horror fiction. Comedy horror has been described as able to be categorized under three types: "black comedy, parody and spoof." It often crosses over with the black comedy genre. Comedy horror can also parody or subtly spoof horror clichés as its main source of humour or use those elements to take a story in a different direction, for example in The Cabin in the Woods, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Shaun of the Dead or the Evil Dead franchise.

Comedy Genre of dramatic works intended to be humorous

Comedy is a genre of fiction that consists of discourses or works intended to be humorous or amusing by inducing laughter, especially in theatre, film, stand-up comedy, television, radio, books, or any other entertainment medium. The term originated in ancient Greece: in Athenian democracy, the public opinion of voters was influenced by political satire performed by comic poets in theaters. The theatrical genre of Greek comedy can be described as a dramatic performance pitting two groups, ages, genders, or societies against each other in an amusing agon or conflict. Northrop Frye depicted these two opposing sides as a "Society of Youth" and a "Society of the Old". A revised view characterizes the essential agon of comedy as a struggle between a relatively powerless youth and the societal conventions posing obstacles to his hopes. In this struggle, the youth then becomes constrained by his lack of social authority, and is left with little choice but to resort to ruses which engender dramatic irony, which provokes laughter.

Drama (film and television) Film and television genre

In film and television, drama is a category of narrative fiction intended to be more serious than humorous in tone. Drama of this kind is usually qualified with additional terms that specify its particular super-genre, macro-genre, or micro-genre, such as soap opera, police crime drama, political drama, legal drama, historical drama, domestic drama, teen drama, and comedy-drama (dramedy). These terms tend to indicate a particular setting or subject-matter, or else they qualify the otherwise serious tone of a drama with elements that encourage a broader range of moods.

Thriller film Film genre

Thriller film, also known as suspense film or suspense thriller, is a broad film genre that evokes excitement and suspense in the audience. The suspense element found in most films' plots is particularly exploited by the filmmaker in this genre. Tension is created by delaying what the audience sees as inevitable, and is built through situations that are menacing or where escape seems impossible.

A bromantic comedy is a comedy film genre that takes the formula of the typical "romantic comedy" but focuses on close male friendships.


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