What is the greatest genre in all of cinema? This is a terrible question. First of all, it’s completely subjective. Different personalities appreciate different genres, and while some may do better at the box office, that doesn’t necessarily make them better or worse genres. And in that same vein, because a film is of a certain genre does not automatically qualify it as being good or bad.
What determines a good film above all else is the story. Without a solid script, you might as well not make the movie – it would be a tremendous waste of time.
When you do have a good story with a well-paced plot, complex characters, and well-timed dialogue, then you might have the potential for a decent film. Add an ensemble of actors with good chemistry and a hard-working crew, you increase your chances of making a good movie. This is true no matter what the genre. Therefore, I think it is unfair to compare them at all.
Another thing to mention in this conversation – more and more contemporary films blur or even ignore this idea of genre. Films can successfully be several genres at once, or even better, switch halfway through the movie. Bong Joon Ho taught us that. The 92nd Academy Awards saw him win the Oscar for Best Picture for ‘Parasite,’ a comedy/thriller, which really means the film started out more comedic, then caught us all unawares and switched to a thriller.
The idea that horror/thriller films could also be funny or even satirical is still a relatively new idea. Aside from ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ ‘Scream,’ and ‘Jennifer’s Body,’ there weren’t a whole lot of films that were both creepy and humorous.
Taika Waititi made vampires funny with ‘What We Do in the Shadows,’ ‘Anna and the Apocalypse’ turned the zombie movie into a coming-of-age Christmas musical, which is a whole new genre in itself.
Speaking of new genres, you can try to classify 2018’s ‘The Favourite,’ however you like – period drama, comedy drama, black comedy, period black comedy – but director Yorgos Lanthimos seems to have stumbled on something unique. Three complex female characters from the 18th century engage in intrigue and deceit, with breaks for lust in between, all the while eating cake, taking mud baths, and shooting foul. ‘The Favourite’ is truly in a class of its own.
Another unexpected genre-bender that worked out well was ‘Logan’ (2017), which successfully combines the Superhero and Western genres. In light of the superhero boom that we’ve seen in recent years, filmmakers have had to get creative to keep audiences interested. ‘Logan’ does this almost flawlessly: the film serves as a last hurrah for Wolverine, presented as the anti-hero in a suit with action sequences that give him the chance to show off his claws one last time. It also expands on the comic mythology fans know and love, using characters like X-23 and Old Man Logan.
But the Western aspects are also prominent – ‘Logan’ is much darker and more serious than any Marvel movie. With mutants nearly extinct on Earth, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine spends his days drinking on a remote stretch of the Mexican border, hiding from the world and earning petty cash as a driver. He does this while reflecting on a life of violence and facing his inner demons. It is gritty and harsh, and the action more man vs. man. If that doesn’t scream Western, I don’t know what does.
Back in the realm of Marvel, you could argue that John Watts’ Spider-Man adaptation bent the rules of the superhero film as well: ‘Spider-Man Homecoming’ felt less like a comic book or a bunch of quick-paced action sequences and more like what would happen if Peter Parker was a character in a John Hughes film. We get to see much more of the awkward, funny, teenager side of Peter, who’s just trying to navigate school, friends, and girls. It helps that he was played by Tom Holland, an actual teenager during filming, whereas Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were at least a decade post-high school. You wouldn’t have seen them assembling a Lego Death Star with their best friend Ned, or even make an appearance at their school’s homecoming dance. John Hughes was always one to embrace high school and everything that came with it – nerds included! (Shoutout to Anthony Michael Hall for his killer nerd performances).
Genres, like all (most) rules, were meant to be broken, or at least tampered with. And filmmakers should steal each other’s ideas – they should steal from other art and experiment with their own. Quentin Tarantino is a master thief, shamelessly stealing from all his favorite films – and I say this with as much affection I can muster (I respect the heck out of his filmmaking, just have trouble with the man). Taika Waititi has proved himself one of the greats of risk-taking, original, and occasionally unorthodox films with ‘What We Do in the Shadows,’ ‘Thor: Ragnarok,’ and ‘Jojo Rabbit.’ Bong Joon Ho is a lesson to all filmmakers about how to combine genres, always employing elements of dark humor, mystery, crime, and horror.
To insinuate that there is such a thing as the best genre ever would be ludicrous. As I said before, everyone has their own opinions – I have friends who are complete horror fanatics – they live and breathe it. Others have entire shrines of figurines, posters, and merchandise dedicated to their favorite superhero films. While still others, like me, just appreciate a great story.
Sure, there are genres that I gravitate towards more than others, perhaps, but film is one instance where I will gladly try new things. Not usually being one for thrillers, I still sat through ‘A Quiet Place,’ ‘Get Out,’ and ‘Parasite,’ and my mind is still blown by the sheer originality and creativity of the storylines. I’m also not the biggest fan of the Coen Brothers’ films, which are a genre all their own, but I thought ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ was a stroke of genius. I encourage everyone to be open in their cinema ventures, because that’s what all films should do, isn’t it? Take you on an adventure.