Comedy film

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A comedy film is a category of film which emphasizes humor. These films are designed to make the audience laugh through amusement. [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. [2]

In The Screenwriters Taxonomy (2017), Eric R. Williams 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. [3] Instead, his comedy taxonomy argues that comedy is a type of film that contains at least a dozen different sub-types. [4]


Silent film era

The first comedy film was L'Arroseur Arrosé (1895), directed and produced by film pioneer Louis Lumière. Less than 60 seconds long, it shows a boy playing a prank on a gardener. The most noted comedy actors of the silent film era (1895-1927) 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. [5] The genre dates from the silent era. Notable examples of this type of film are those produced by Monty Python. [6] Other examples include Duck Soup (1933) and Caddyshack (1980).

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. [7] Examples include Animal House (1978) and Freddy Got Fingered (2001).

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. [8] Some examples include both Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) and Swing Vote (2008).

Comedy of manners

A comedy of manners satirizes the mores and affectations of a social class. The plot of a comedy of manners 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 which dates back at least as far as Much Ado about Nothing created by William Shakespeare, published in 1623. [9] 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 taboo subjectsincluding death, murder, crime, suicide, and warin a satirical manner. [10] Examples include Dr. Strangelove (1964) and Shallow Grave (1994).


Farcical films exaggerate situations beyond the realm of possibilitythereby making them entertaining. [11] Film examples include Sleeper (1973) and Bullet Train (2022).


Mockumentary comedies are fictional, but use a documentary style that includes interviews and "documentary" footage along regular scenes. Examples include This Is Spinal Tap (1984) and Reboot Camp (2020).

Musical comedy

Musical comedy as a film genre has its roots in the 1920s, with Disney's Steamboat Willie (1928) being the most recognized of these early films. The subgenre resurged with popularity in the 1970s, with movies such as Bugsy Malone (1976) and Grease (1978) gaining status as cult classics.

Observational humor

These films find humor in the common practices of everyday life. [12] Some film examples of observational humor include Knocked Up (2007) and The Intern (2015).

Parody (or spoof)

A parody or spoof film satirizes other film genres or classic films. Such films employ sarcasm, stereotyping, mockery of scenes from other films, and the obviousness of meaning in a character's actions. [13] Examples of this form include Blazing Saddles (1974) and Spaceballs (1987).

Sex comedy

The humor in sex comedy is primarily derived from sexual situations and desire, [14] as in Bachelor Party (1984) and The Inbetweeners Movie (2011).

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; [15] case in point: Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) and The Hangover (2009).

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. [16] Chasing Amy (1997) and The Shaggy Dog (2006) are examples of straight comedy films.

Slapstick films

Slapstick films involve exaggerated, boisterous physical action to create impossible and humorous situations. Because it relies predominantly 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 stars of the slapstick genre include Harold Lloyd, Roscoe Arbuckle, Charlie Chaplin, Peter Sellers and Norman Wisdom. 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 Get Smart (2008).

Surreal comedy

Although not specifically linked to the history of surrealism, these comedies includes behavior and storytelling techniques that are illogicalincluding bizarre juxtapositions, absurd situations and unpredictable reactions to normal situations. [16] Some examples are It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) and Space Jam (1996).

Hybrid subgenres

According to Williams' taxonomy, all film descriptions should contain their type (comedy or drama) combined with one (or more) subgenres. [4] This combination does not create a separate genre, but rather, provides a better understanding of the film.

Action comedy

Films in this 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 (labeled macro-genres by Williams) include: [4]

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 .

Other categories of the action comedy include: [4]

Buddy films

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

Comedy thriller

Comedy thriller is a 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. [17] Examples include the Pink Panther series, [18] Scooby-Doo films, Clue (1985) and Knives Out (2019).

Crime comedy

A hybrid mix of crime and comedy films, examples 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 comedic 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.

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. [4]   Often, the protagonists deal with multiple, overlapping issues in the course of the film. [4]   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 societal 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 Wife, the Director General (1966), 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. [4] 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 screwball comedy during its heyday include It Happened One Night (1934), Bringing Up Baby (1938), The Philadelphia Story (1940), His Girl Friday (1940), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941); more recent examples include What's Up, Doc? (1972), Rat Race (2001), and Our Idiot Brother (2011).

Science fiction comedy

Science fiction comedy films often exaggerate the elements of traditional science fiction films to comic effect. Examples include Spaceballs , Ghostbusters , Galaxy Quest , Mars Attacks! , Men in Black , and many more.

Sports comedy

Sports comedy combines the genre of comedy with that of the sports film genre. 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. [3] 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. [3] 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. [4] 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

Fantasy comedy or comic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that is primarily humorous in intent and tone. Typically set in imaginary worlds, fantasy comedy often involves puns on and parodies of other works of fantasy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Film genre</span> 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Screwball comedy</span> Principally Hollywood genre of comedy film

Screwball comedy is a subgenre of the romantic comedy genre that became popular during the Great Depression, beginning in the early 1930s and thriving until the early 1940s, that satirizes the traditional love story. It has secondary characteristics similar to film noir, distinguished by a female character who 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Action film</span> Film genre

Action film is a film genre in which the protagonist is thrust into a series of events that typically involve violence and physical feats. The genre tends 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Western (genre)</span> Multimedia genre

The Western is a genre set in the American frontier. Commonly associated with folk tales of the Western United States, particularly the Southwestern United States, as well as Northern Mexico and Western Canada. Commonly referred to as the "Old West" or the "Wild West" and depicted in Western media as a hostile, sparsely populated frontier in a state of near-total lawlessness patrolled by outlaws, sheriffs, and numerous other stock "gunslinger" characters. Western narratives commonly concern the gradual attempts to tame the crime-ridden American West, often in service of wider themes of justice, freedom, rugged individualism, Manifest Destiny, and the national history and identity of the United States.

Psychological horror is a subgenre of horror and psychological fiction with a particular focus on mental, emotional, and psychological states to frighten, disturb, or unsettle its audience. The subgenre frequently overlaps with the related subgenre of psychological thriller, and often uses mystery elements and characters with unstable, unreliable, or disturbed psychological states to enhance the suspense, drama, action, and paranoia of the setting and plot and to provide an overall unpleasant, unsettling, or distressing atmosphere.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Crime film</span> Film 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Campaign setting</span> Fictional environment setting for a role-playing game

A campaign setting is usually a fictional world which serves as a setting for a role-playing game or wargame campaign. A campaign is a series of individual adventures, and a campaign setting is the world in which such adventures and campaigns take place. Usually a campaign setting is designed for a specific game or a specific genre of game. There are numerous campaign settings available both in print and online. In addition to published campaign settings available for purchase, many game masters create their own settings, often referred to as "homebrew" settings or worlds.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sports film</span> Film genre

A sports film is a film genre in which any particular sport plays a prominent role in the film's plot or acts as its central theme. 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 maintain high following and esteem for such movies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Romance film</span> Film genre

Romance films or movies involve romantic love stories recorded in visual media for broadcast in theatres or on television that focus on passion, emotion, and the affectionate romantic involvement of the main characters. Typically their journey through dating, courtship or marriage is featured. These films make the search for romantic love the main plot focus. Occasionally, romance lovers face obstacles such as finances, physical illness, various forms of discrimination, psychological restraints or family resistance. As in all quite strong, deep and close romantic relationships, the tensions of day-to-day life, temptations, and differences in compatibility enter into the plots of romantic films.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Exploitation film</span> Informal film genre

An exploitation film is a film that tries to succeed financially by exploiting current trends, niche genres, or lurid content. Exploitation films are generally low-quality "B movies", though some set trends, attract critical attention, become historically important, and even gain a cult following.

Slice of life is a 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, 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Comedy</span> 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Drama (film and television)</span> Film and television genre

In film and television, drama is a category or genre 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. To these ends, a primary element in a drama is the occurrence of conflict—emotional, social, or otherwise—and its resolution in the course of the storyline.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thriller film</span> 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pornographic parody film</span>

A pornographic parody film is a subgenre of the pornographic film industry genre where the basis for the production's story or plotline is the parody of a mainstream television show, feature film, public figure, video game or literary works. This subgenre also includes parody of historical or contemporary events such as political scandals. The subgenre has gained acceptance by the adult industry to the extent that major awards are presented in this category by organizations such as AVN and XRCO.

American comedy films are comedy films produced in the United States. The genre is one of the oldest in American cinema; some of the first silent movies were comedies, as slapstick comedy often relies on visual depictions, without requiring sound. With the advent of sound in the late 1920s and 1930s, comedic dialogue rose in prominence in the work of film comedians such as W. C. Fields and the Marx Brothers. By the 1950s, the television industry had become serious competition for the movie industry. The 1960s saw an increasing number of broad, star-packed comedies. In the 1970s, black comedies were popular. Leading figures in the 1970s were Woody Allen and Mel Brooks. One of the major developments of the 1990s was the re-emergence of the romantic comedy film. Another development was the increasing use of "gross-out humour".

Inspired by the biological classification system of the Linnaean taxonomy, screenwriter Eric R. Williams developed the Screenwriters Taxonomy in 2017 to create a common language of creative collaboration for filmmakers. Williams’ central thesis in The Screenwriters Taxonomy: A Roadmap to Collaborative Storytelling is that the term “genre” is used so broadly to describe films that the modern use of the word has become meaningless. The Screenwriter's Taxonomy proposes seven categories for discussing the creative process of telling cinematic stories.

  1. Type
  2. Super Genre
  3. Macrogenres
  4. Microgenres
  5. Voice
  6. Pathway
  7. Point of View


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