There are few experiences as baffling as cozying up for a movie night and struggling to pick out a movie. Despite being swamped with options from top streaming services, knowing which flick to pick can be frustrating and dizzying.
Though there’s a series or movie for each mood, knowing where to find each can be tough. After all, cinema is its own artistic field, with plenty of specific terms to go with it. Comedy isn’t just about laughs, for example—it’s also about sticking to a certain form, whether slapstick, farce, mockumentary, or a buddy comedy.
So, how do you demystify all these different concepts in order to find something to watch? Read on for some useful insights.
One of the most common genres of modern cinema is the action-hybrid movie, which combines multiple themes to deliver on high-stakes conflict. One of the most classic and recognizable versions of the action-hybrid is the gambling film.
Though tangentially related to the spy thriller via one secret agent man with a penchant for craps, gambling in movies tends to run the gambit when it comes to action subgenres. Most are action-thrillers, highlighting the high-stakes world of hitting it big on a casino floor, like the action-comedy Ocean’s Eleven franchise.
Others are decidedly more artistic treasure hunt adventures, including Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas and Adam Sandler’s most recent project, Uncut Gems. There’s plenty of action, but with an element of gambling involved, the element of unknowability keeps viewers hooked.
Though not a separate genre of film like the other terms in this list, art nouveau is a style that can be applied to narratives, combining psychology with a distinctive visual theme. Art Nouveau typically refers to applied art (particularly decorative arts), but is also used by filmmakers to develop themes primarily through set and costume design.
For example, Wes Anderson has made his name with kitschy comedic films like The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Royal Tenenbaums. Much like his fast-paced dialogue and melancholic aspects, viewers tend to either love or hate the gaudy style of art nouveau.
Some also consider Quentin Tarantino’s work in Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs to incorporate-certain visual elements of art nouveau, which are used to elevate darker psychological themes.
As the title implies, atmospheric films emphasize a tangible sentiment that’s imbued by all elements of filmmaking, from cinematography to lighting to sound. Typically, the atmosphere is handled as a subgenre, as any film has the potential to be ‘atmospheric’ based on how directors and producers approach the narrative.
Some of the most famous atmospheric films are from Terrence Malick, director of The Tree of Life and Voyage of Time. By blending elements of storytelling with shots that emphasize texture and sensuality, Malick’s work looks to synthesize the experience of building real-life memories through film.
Typically, the parody film is connected to comedic takes on classics, including the Scary Movie franchise, which spoofed popular horror films, as well as meta-comedy films like This Is the End, from leading film comedians like James Franco and Seth Rogen.
However, not all parodies make cheap recreations of that year’s blockbuster hits. Some films, like This, is Spinal Tap, helped usher in a new genre: the mockumentary. Since then, masterful creations have followed similar lines, including Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows. Those eager to learn more about parodies can also take a look at its original hero: Mel Brooks.
In recent years, neo-noir films have seen a massive resurgence in popularity. Originally, film noir stretched back a century, featuring hard-boiled mysteries and grizzled detectives hot on the case. Today, neo-noir features the same criminal intrigue, but with a much darker theme.
Some chalk this newfound popularity up to the renewed interest in true crime. Franchises like John Wick and Blade Runner each have elements of neo noir cinema, combined with action and sci-fi elements respectively. Many of today’s most popular neo noir films, including Drive and Inherent Vice, also include highly stylized visuals, which usually add a shadowy or ‘dark’ (noir) element.