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Most Popular Movie Genres

Types of movies are divided into dozens of genres and movie sub-genres. Each has distinct expectations and tropes. Understanding the differences can make it easier to find new movies to watch and rate them.

Here is your complete guide to the most popular movie genres using multiple sources from across the net.


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A movie genre is a category of movies based on narrative elements, aesthetics, or emotions.

Different movie categories help viewers select movies based on the type of content they can expect to see. For example, people wanting excitement may choose a movie from the action genre. If you want an emotional response, you may browse dramas.

Moviegoers tend to develop preferences for specific categories of film. Cinema actors and directors also frequently become associated with certain genres. Browsing a genre makes it easier to find movies that are likely to appeal to your interests.


A movie genre consists of specific thematic elements or styles or story type. Some of the main elements that determine the movie category include:

  • Setting
  • Theme
  • Mood
  • Target audience
  • Type of production
  • Filmmaking techniques

The setting of the movie refers to when the story takes place and the geographic location. Sci-Fi movies often take place in the future and may include settings in space or other worlds. Historical dramas and Westerns are set in the past.

The theme is the most defining characteristic of a movie genre. The theme refers to the concepts that the movie revolves around. An action movie involves lots of action. A drama includes drama. A horror movie includes scenes of horror.

Each genre also has a distinct mood associated with it. The mood is the overall emotional tone of the film. A film of this type may attempt to trigger emotions of empathy, sadness, and relief. A comedy movie typically tries to elicit laughter.

Some genres are intended for specific audiences. For example, a children’s movie is aimed at children. It is more likely to include themes that children can easily comprehend.

Movies are also occasionally categorized by the type of production. A blockbuster film is a type of movie produced by a large studio and intended for a wide theatrical release. An independent film is a movie produced independently by donors or independent producers.

Pigeon-holing a film by category can often influence the techniques used by filmmakers. Horror movies often include quick cuts designed to produce jump scares. Sci-Fi movies often feature special effects or makeup effects.

Films of a particular genre may also include the same types of film scores, sound editing, and pacing. For example, action movies like Goodfellas and similar are often fast-paced and include film scores designed to heighten the intensity of action scenes.

Along with film genres, you should pay attention to movie sub-genres. This is a type of movie that can blend elements from multiple types of categories and sub-categories to produce a hybrid genre. For example, a “courtroom drama” is a drama movie set in a courtroom.

Small icon image of a movie cameraSHARING THOUGHTS ON DIFFERENT FILM GENRES

Do you have your own ideas about favourite genres and sub-genres of movie? Sharing recommendations is often satisfying. You also gain something new to talk about after a friend or family member watches your recommendation. Want to share your reviews with friends and family? We’re building just the app for you!


Image of cinema tickets and popcorn

Movie genres establish expectations. When you pick a movie of a specific type, you know what to expect.

Understanding the top movie genres saves you time when selecting a movie to watch or stream. You can focus your search on movies that contain the elements you typically enjoy.

Actors and directors are also frequently connected to specific genres. If you have a favourite actor or director, you are more likely to enjoy more of their films or movies that belong in the same grouping.

Dozens of sub-genres exist. Yet, most movies are easily placed into one of the seven main film genres.

Here is a closer look at some of the main categories of movies.


Scene from the adventure movie Raider of the Lost Ark

Adventure movies often include plots that send characters on journeys. Some of the hallmarks of this genre include physical action, courageous characters, and a variety of settings. Characters may visit exotic, far away lands or embark on a quest.

Adventure motion pictures also include suspenseful scenes where the protagonist faces life-threatening situations. Many such films may also qualify as action movies as they may contain intense action sequences and fast pacing.

The antagonists in these films are often extremely evil and lack moral values. The line between heroes and villains is typically clearly defined.

Blockbuster films released for the summer are often adventure motion pictures with expensive special effects and big-name stars.


Still from the action film Mad Max Fury Road

Some of the earliest movies belong to the action genre and it remains one of the most popular. Action movies include many action sequences, such as fight scenes or car chases. Stunt work is a common feature of this category.

Many action films pit a hero against a villain or hero against nature in, for example, a disaster movie. The hero of the story must defeat the villain or natural disaster or stop a potential threat of some sort.

Action movies often feature fast pacing and more intensity compared to other genres. The goal of an action film is to thrill and excite the audience.

Sub-genres of the action motion picture group include westerns, spy movies, and war movies. Some movies are also categorized as action/adventure films, as the two genres are closely related.


Image showing the drama film Moonlight

The drama film genre is for movies with emotional conflicts. They are often plot-driven films that place characters in difficult situations.

Some critics argue that drama is not a distinct genre, as all plots involve dramatic elements, including most comedies. Drama is defined as an exciting or unexpected series of events, which applies to most movies.

Fans typically describe dramas as movies designed to make you feel strong emotions. Watching a drama may make you cry or feel sympathy for the situations that the characters experience. Dramas also tend to feature realistic settings and characters.

Many subgenres have evolved over the years. Common examples include courtroom/law dramas, medical, historical, romantic, teen, and docudrama. More recently, drama films based on noir are increasing in popularity.


Scene from the thriller film Taken

Thriller movies such as subgenre crime films, western genre, war genre and character study movies (to name but a few) build tension and often include elements of mystery and drama. Most feature elements from other genres. For example, many include action, drama, or science fiction.

The thriller film genre gained popularity in the 1970s, following the popularity of the pulp fiction novels that many early movies of this type were based on. Common plots and themes of this category include cat-and-mouse games, espionage, and psychological conflicts.

The aim of this type of movie is typically to entertain the audience, with less of a focus on technical aspects, such as dramatic acting and direction. The style of the movie is often lighthearted.

Movies in this group are also defined by the moods that they convey. The goal of a thriller movie is typically to elicit feelings of excitement, suspense, surprise, and anxiety. The filmmakers may use dark lighting and suspenseful music to heighten the tension.


Image from the comedy movie Borat

The comedy genre includes movies intended to make the audience laugh. Comedy movies may include humorous themes, settings, characters, or situations.

Many sub-genres exist, such as romantic comedy and dark comedy. Romantically comedic films revolve around a romantic situation while dark comedies feature dark humour and plots.

A slapstick or screwball comedy is a film like Bridesmaids with over-the-top hijinks. The plot is often silly or irreverent.


Scene from the horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street

A horror film is usually an attempt to make the audience scream or jump. These movies often feature frightening images or scenes. Characters may need to face evil antagonists, ranging from monsters and creatures to serial killers.

The earliest horror movies focused on creating a macabre atmosphere. They often dealt with psychological thriller themes, such as dual personalities and insanity.

After the introduction of sound, these scary movies started featuring more creatures, such as Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and werewolves. Slasher films were popular in the 1980s while the early 2000s featured many movies with extreme violence and gore.

Examples of sub-genres of horror include supernatural thrillers, ‘slasher’ movies, psychological and gothic film types, even romantic teen movies like Twilight, for example.


Shout from the sci-fi film Star Trek Beyond

The science fiction (Sci-Fi) genre features some great science fiction movies depicting futuristic or otherworldly settings. Common themes include space travel, time travel, and conflicts between alien races.

These movies also frequently showcase technological advancements. They may feature fictional worlds or predict the future of our world.

This genre is occasionally divided into two main categories (some say sub-genres) – hard sci-fi and soft sci-fi. Hard stories include elements based on scientific fact and technology while soft stories focus less on accuracy and more on creativity.

This category is known for producing innovative and experimental films such as Star Wars and Intergalactic. Interestingly, the highest-grossing film to the date of this article is Sci-Fi. Can you guess what it is?

Small icon image of a movie camera WHAT IS THE HIGHEST GROSSING FILM TO DATE?

Well……up to mid-2021, the highest-grossing film at the box office (home viewing not included) was the 3D epic Avatar in the Science Fiction genre. Bringing in over $2.8 Billion dollars in revenue, this 2009 movie remains a major landmark production in the cinema and one of the most popular movie theatre films in the Sci-Fi category.


The popularity of specific movie genres depends on the metrics that you use, such as:

  • Box office revenue
  • Popularity on streaming services
  • Popularity by gender
  • Popularity by country

Based on box office revenue, adventure is the most popular movie genre. These movies produced $64 billion in revenue at the North American box office between 1995 and 2021.

According to Netflix themselves, comedy is the most-watched movie genre on their streaming service. It’s also the most popular for men and women. About 90% of men and 91% of women enjoy comedy films.

Here is a breakdown of some of the most popular movie genre statistics based on each of the metrics listed.

Small icon image of a movie cameraWHAT GENRES ARE GROWING IN POPULARITY?

Thriller, Horror, and Sci-Fi genres and the Film Noir subgenre have grown in cinema and streaming popularity in the past several years. The drama grouping of films has also gained popularity recently. About 51.6% of all new movies belong to the drama genre. From an industry perspective, drama can be one of the least expensive types of movie to produce (unless it’s a period piece for example). This allows for a wide selection of movies to choose from.







Our thanks to all the sources that produced the data above and made it public.

Small icon image of a movie cameraWHAT GENRES ARE WANING?

Based on box office revenue, documentaries have decreased in popularity in recent years. Yet, the same genre has also gained popularity on Netflix and other streaming services. War, romance, musicals, and westerns have also become less popular at the box office. Crime movies have experienced a gradual decline in popularity over the past two decades.


Collating and weighting data from these multiple sources brings us to the ultimate list of popular movie genres. Here is BOB’s top movie genre list.


The Ultimate Genre Popularity List merges data from the sources discussed to provide the most comprehensive look at the popularity of each. You can quickly see which genres attract the largest audiences with a glance at the film list. Understanding each genre may save time and help you discover your next favourite film.

A recent study found that the average person spends about 30 hours a week watching movies and TV. The average person also spends about an hour per day trying to decide what to watch. Knowing the characteristics of the most popular movie genres is useful for finding and recommending movies. If you enjoy a movie that belongs to a particular type, you may like other movies in the same grouping. You can also provide recommendations based on the categories that your friends, family, or co-workers tend to enjoy. BoB is perfect for such sharing.

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