Film research and cinema studies guide

Ways of researching film at the State Library Victoria

Looking at film genres

Films are often thought of in terms of 'genre'. A genre is a particular theme or method of storytelling for a film. Common genres for film include: drama, action, comedy, thriller and so on.

Thinking about film in genres can be useful in tracking down a particular type of film and filmmakers who specialise in a genre. Genre films can often be thought of as a straight-forward piece of storytelling and entertainment, but some genre films deliberately explore complex themes (eg: a horror film such as 'Dawn of the dead' is thought of as a 'zombie film' and also as a commentary on the perils of capitalism).

Many general/introductory film texts discuss genre. Some books that examine film genre in detail include:

The library has a significant amount of material that is findable using genre terminology. The pages below are just a sample of some of the more common genres.



Spectacular explosions, special effects, and tales of daring feature strongly in this genre. The big-budget comic book/superhero film are included as action films.

A selection of books


The art of making images and objects appear to be moving is called animation. There are many forms of animation, plenty of which were created before the advent of film (for example the flip book and the phenakistiscope).

In the modern era, animated films are associated with many different types of films including large scale Hollywood productions (aimed at children) and experimental film.

Animation - general search - Animat* (this includes the terms 'animation' and 'animated').

There are extensive resources available at the State Library Victoria about animation.

Using a country with the animat* search term may be helpful in narrowing the results - animat* Japan*

Animation studios

A selection of books


Dealing with the gruesome and scary, the horror film is best for those who love a good fright!

  • horror film* is an effective general term. Combining this term with another is worth considering (eg: using a country to limit your search may give you more defined results - eg: for Italy use horror film* Ital* (for both Italy and Italian))

A selection of books


Science Fiction

The science fiction film deals with largely imaginative concepts such as time travel, outer space and extraterrestial beings, future technologies, and the strange and mysterious.

Science Fiction - general search term - science fiction film*

A selection of books

Crime & Film Noir

The crime genre film looks at those who perform misdeeds and those who try to catch them. Film noir s a related term to crime film as it refers to certain Hollywood crime films (originally from around the late 1930s to the mid 1950s) that had a very pessimistic outlook on the human condition. This term (meaning 'dark film') was first used by French critics.

Whether 'film noir' it is a genre itself is debatable, but it is undeniable these original group of films have had a large impact on filmmaking worldwide.

Film Noir - general search - film* noir

Crime film - general search - crime film*

Gangster film - general search - gangster* film*

A selection of books


Melodrama is a well-known drama film genre where the dramatic elements of the film are heightened.

A selection of books


The musical genre of film are movies where a significant portion of the film and its narrative are performed in song. This genre was once a staple of Hollywood cinema (since the introduction of sound to film in the late 1920s), though in the last 40 years it's has appeared less frequently.

In world cinema it is India via Bollywood that are the biggest producers and enthusiastic viewers of musical film.

Musical film - general search term - musical* film*

A selection of books

See also Bollywood

The library has an extensive collection of film musical and soundtrack cds, vinyl records, and online.


The film western is a recognised genre that is mainly related to the United States of America and is a representation of the late 19th/early 20th century colonisation of the country by white setters of their frontier lands. Many western type films have been made elsewhere around the world, most notably in Italy.

The western genre is little seen in Hollywood in modern times, but it is a very important genre from film's early days until around the 1970s.

Western film* - general search - western film*

A selection of books


The original use of the word for comedy (in ancient Greece) is somewhat different to the modern popular meaning in regards to comedy film. The main aspect of the comedy film is that the film is humorous or funny. There are many sub-genres of the comedy film, such as; romantic comedy, satire, slapstick, and parody.

Comedy film - general search term - comedy film*

A selection of books

Films for children/children in films

Many films have been made that are intended for an audience of children and teenagers. Many films that fall within other genres (for example: animated films) are made especially for children or teenagers.

The representation of children and teenagers is an important area of study and examples of these works can be found using the search terms below.

Children's film - general search term - children* film*

Another search term is children in motion pictures

Films for teenagers/teenagers in films

Teenagers - general search term - teen* film* or teenagers in motion pictures

Researching documentary

Documentary films have been an important filmmaking method since early cinema. It is essentially the filmic depiction of an aspect of reality. A common term for documentary is 'cinema verite'.

Documentary film - general search (documentar* film*)

State Library Victoria holds many resources about documentary film. It may be worth using filters and specific search terms to locate the item you require.

DVD/Video documentary - there is a significant collection of documentary DVD/Video held at State Library Victoria that can be viewed.

A selection of books

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New genre books

It's alive! : classic horror and sci-fi movie posters from the Kirk Hammett Collection / edited by Daniel Finamore ; with contributions by Steve Almond, Daniel Finamore, Joseph LeDoux.

Contemporary musical film / edited by K.J. Donnelly and Beth Carroll.

Anatomy of the superhero film / Larrie Dudenhoeffer.