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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.
Screenwriter and scholar Eric R. Williams identifies Crime Film as one of eleven super-genres in his screenwriters’ taxonomy, claiming that all feature length narrative films can be classified by these super-genres. The other ten super-genres are Action, Fantasy, Horror, Romance, Science Fiction, Slice of Life, Sports, Thriller, War and Western.Williams identifies drama in a broader category called "film type", mystery and suspense as "macro-genres", and film noir as a "screenwriter's pathway" explaining that these categories are additive rather than exclusionary. Chinatown would be an example of a film that is a drama (film type) crime film (super-genre) that is also a noir (pathway) mystery (macro-genre).
Crime films are often based on real events or are adaptations of plays or novels, or a remake or adoption of a previous film. Some plots are original and entirely fictional. For example, the 1957 film version of Witness for the Prosecution is an adaptation of a 1953 stage play of that name, which is in turn based on Agatha Christie's short story, originally published in 1933. The film version was remade in 1982, and there have been other adaptations. However, each of these media has its own advantages and limitations, which in the case of cinema is the time constraint.
Witness for the Prosecution is a classic example of a "courtroom drama". In a courtroom drama, a charge is brought against one of the main characters, who claims to be innocent. Another major part is played by the lawyer (in England a barrister) representing the defendant in court and battling with the public prosecutor. He or she may enlist the services of a private investigator to find out what really happened and who the real perpetrator is. However, in most cases it is not clear at all whether the accused is guilty of the crime or not—this is how suspense is created.
Often, the private investigator storms into the courtroom at the last minute in order to bring a new and crucial piece of information to the attention of the court. This type of literature lends itself to the literary genre of drama focused more on dialogue (the opening and closing statements, the witnesses' testimonies, etc.) and little or no necessity for a shift in scenery. The auditorium of the theatre becomes an extension of the courtroom. When a courtroom drama is filmed, the traditional device employed by screenwriters and directors is the frequent use of flashbacks, in which the crime and everything that led up to it is narrated and reconstructed from different angles.
A classic courtroom drama is U.S. playwright Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men (1954), which is set in the jury deliberation room of a New York Court of Law. Eleven members of the jury, aiming at a unanimous verdict of "guilty", try to get it over with as quickly as possible. And they would really succeed in achieving their common aim if it were not for the eighth juror (played by Henry Fonda in the 1957 movie adaptation), who, on second thoughts, considers it his duty to convince his colleagues that the defendant may be innocent after all, and who, by doing so, triggers much discussion, confusion, and anger.
A hybrid of action films and crime films and a subgenre of action films as well. Most films of this kind fall in the category of heist films, prison films and sometimes cop and gangster films. Car chases and shootouts are commonly featured. Example include the Police Story franchise, The Dark Knight , Baby Driver , Master, Collateral, and Heat.
A hybrid and mix of crime and comedy films. Mafia comedy looks at organized crime from a comical standpoint. Humor comes from the incompetence of the criminals or black comedy. Examples include Family Plot , Analyze This , The Pope of Greenwich Village , Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels , In Bruges , Mafia! , Tower Heist and Pain & Gain .
A combination of crime and drama films. Examples include such films as Straight Time and Badlands , as well as television series such as The Sopranos and American Crime .
A thriller in which the central characters are involved in crime, either in its investigation, as the perpetrator or, less commonly, a victim (generally, this is just a thriller). While some action films could be labelled as such for merely having criminality and thrills, the emphasis in this genre is the drama and the investigative/criminal methods. Examples include Rope (1948), Dial M for Murder (1954), Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Witness (1985), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Heat (1995), Seven (1995), Memories of Murder (2003), Running Scared (2006), The Call (2013), and Untraceable (2008).
A genre of Indian cinema (including Bollywood) revolving around dacoity. The genre was pioneered by Mehboob Khan's Aurat (1940) and Mother India (1957). Other examples include Gunga Jumna (1961), Sholay (1975) and Bandit Queen (1994).
A genre popular in the 1940s and 1950s often fall into the crime and mystery genres. Famous film noir are The Maltese Falcon (1941), Laura (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Notorious (1946), Strangers on a Train (1951) and Kiss Me Deadly (1955). Neo-noir refers to modern films influenced by film noir such as Sin City .
A genre of film that focuses on gangs and organized crime. Examples include The Godfather trilogy (1972−1990), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Goodfellas (1990), and The Irishman (2019).
This film deals with a group of criminals attempting to perform a theft or robbery, as well as the possible consequences that follow. Heist films that are lighter in tone are called "Caper films". Examples include The Killing , Oceans 11 , Dog Day Afternoon , Reservoir Dogs , and The Town .
A Hong Kong action cinema crime film genre. The genre was pioneered by John Woo's A Better Tomorrow (1986) and Ringo Lam's City on Fire (1987), starring Chow Yun-fat. Elements of the genre can be seen in Hollywood crime films since the 1990s, such as the work of John Woo and Quentin Tarantino.
Film dealing with African-American urban issues and culture. They do not always revolve around crime, but often criminal activity features heavily in the storyline. They may include honor killings, initiations, unprotected sex, fights, word play and punch lines, cryptic storytelling, love scenes and blood feuds. Examples include Menace II Society and Boyz n the Hood .
Not usually concerned with the actual crime so much as the trial in the aftermath. A typical plot would involve a lawyer trying to prove the innocence of his or her client. Examples include 12 Angry Men (1957) and A Time To Kill (1996).
Film which focuses on characters who are involved seriously with the Mafia or organized crime. Notable mob films include: The Godfather , Goodfellas , Once Upon a Time in America , Bugsy , Little Caesar , The Untouchables , The Public Enemy , Scarface , and The Departed .
An Indian cinema crime film genre, often produced in Bollywood. The genre frequently draws inspiration from real Mumbai underworld gangsters, such as Haji Mastan, Dawood Ibrahim and D-Company. The genre was pioneered by Salim–Javed's Zanjeer (1973) and Deewaar (1975), starring Amitabh Bachchan. Other examples include the Don franchise (1978–2012), Nayakan (1986), Salaam Bombay! (1988), Parinda (1989), Satya (1998), Company (2002), Black Friday (2004), Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai (2010).
Film which focuses on the efforts of the detective, private investigator or amateur sleuth to solve the mysterious circumstances of a crime by means of clues, investigation, and clever deduction
Police procedurals have remained a mainstay with He Walked By Night , In the Heat of the Night , Madigan , and The French Connection .
Japanese crime film genre. Examples include Abashiri Prison , Branded to Kill , Battles Without Honor and Humanity , and Sonatine .
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. Films in this style traditionally have a happy ending. One of the oldest genres in film—and derived from the classical comedy in theatre—some of the earliest silent movies 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.
A film genre is a motion-picture category based on similarities either in the narrative elements, aesthetic approach, or the emotional response to the film. Drawing heavily from the theories of literary-genre criticism, film genres are usually delineated by "conventions, iconography, settings, narratives, characters and actors". Standard genre characters vary according to the film genre; for film noir, for example, standard characters include the femme fatale and the "hardboiled" detective; a Western film may portray the schoolmarm and the gunfighter. Some actors acquire a reputation linked to a single genre, such as John Wayne or Fred Astaire. A film's genre will influence the use of filmmaking styles and techniques, such as the use of flashbacks and low-key lighting in film noir, tight framing in horror films, fonts that look like rough-hewn logs for the titles of Western films, or the "scrawled" title-font and credits of Se7en (1995), a film about a serial killer. As well, genres have associated film-scoring conventions, such as lush string orchestras for romantic melodramas or electronic music for science-fiction films.
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 and frantic chases. Action films tend to feature a resourceful hero struggling against incredible odds, which include life-threatening situations, a villain or a pursuit which usually concludes in victory for the hero. Advancements in 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 action scenes in films are generally, but not limited to, explosions, car chases, fistfights and shootouts. Action also includes various events
Crime fiction, detective story, murder mystery, mystery novel, and police novel: These terms all describe narratives that centre on criminal acts and especially on the investigation, either by an amateur or a professional detective, of a serious crime, generally a murder. It is usually distinguished from mainstream fiction and other genres such as historical fiction or science fiction, but the boundaries are indistinct. Crime fiction has multiple sub-genres, including detective fiction, courtroom drama, hard-boiled fiction, and legal thrillers. Most crime drama focuses on crime investigation and does not feature the court room. Suspense and mystery are key elements that are nearly ubiquitous to the genre.
Thriller is a genre of fiction, having numerous, often overlapping subgenres. Thrillers are characterized and defined by the moods they elicit, giving viewers heightened feelings of suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation and anxiety. Successful examples of thrillers are the films of Alfred Hitchcock.
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 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.
A mystery film is a genre of film that revolves around the solution of a problem or a crime. It focuses on the efforts of the detective, private investigator or amateur sleuth to solve the mysterious circumstances of an issue by means of clues, investigation, and clever deduction.
The Lufthansa heist was a robbery at New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport on December 11, 1978. An estimated $5.875 million was stolen, with $5 million in cash and $875,000 in jewelry, making it the largest cash robbery committed on American soil at the time. Jimmy Burke, a Lucchese crime family associate, was reputed to be the mastermind of the robbery, but he was never officially charged in connection with the crime. Burke is also alleged to have either committed or ordered the murders of many of those involved in the months following the robbery to avoid being implicated in the heist. The only person convicted in the robbery was Louis Werner, an airport worker who helped plan the heist. The money and jewelry were never recovered.
Henry Hill Jr. was an American mobster who was associated with the Lucchese crime family of New York City between 1955 and 1980. In 1980, Hill was arrested on narcotics charges and became an FBI informant. He testified against his former Mafia associates, resulting in 50 convictions, including those of caporegime (captain) Paul Vario and James Burke on multiple charges. He had entered the Witness Protection Program in 1980, but was removed from the program in the early 1990s.
Mafia comedy films are a subgenre hybrid of comedy films and crime/gangster films.
Poliziotteschi constitute a subgenre of crime and action films that emerged in Italy in the late 1960s and reached the height of their popularity in the 1970s. They are also known as polizieschi all'italiana, Euro-crime, Italo-crime, spaghetti crime films, or simply Italian crime films. Influenced by both 1970s French crime films and gritty 1960s and 1970s American cop films and vigilante films, poliziotteschi films were made amidst an atmosphere of socio-political turmoil in Italy and increasing Italian crime rates. The films generally featured graphic and brutal violence, organized crime, car chases, vigilantism, heists, gunfights, and corruption up to the highest levels. The protagonists were generally tough working class loners, willing to act outside a corrupt or overly bureaucratic system.
Trial films is a film genre, also commonly referred to as courtroom drama.
AFI's 10 Top 10 honors the ten greatest US films in ten classic film genres. Presented by the American Film Institute (AFI), the lists were unveiled on a television special broadcast by CBS on June 17, 2008. In the special, various actors and directors, among them Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, Kirk Douglas, Harrison Ford, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Roman Polanski, and Jane Fonda, discussed their admiration for and personal contributions to the films cited.
Mafia films—a version of gangster films—are a subgenre of crime films dealing with organized crime, often specifically with Mafia organizations. Especially in early mob films, there is considerable overlap with film noir. Popular regional variations of the genre include Italian Poliziotteschi, Chinese Triad films, Japanese Yakuza films, and Indian Mumbai underworld films.
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, 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 Romantic thriller or a romance thriller is a narrative that involves romance and thriller. Etymology of the word thrill comes from English root meaning “to pierce”. A thrill is a sharp sensation.
A gangster film or gangster movie is a film belonging to a genre that focuses on gangs and organized crime. It is a subgenre of crime film, that may involve large criminal organizations, or small gangs formed to perform a certain illegal act. The genre is differentiated from Westerns and the gangs of that genre.