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Genre

Selecting the Right Genre for Your Open Screenplay

To help you make the correct choice for the genre of your Open Screenplay, here are some descriptions of our Main Genres. Remember, no matter which genre your story is, be sure to fulfill the audience’s expectations of the type of entertainment they are signing up for. 

Action

Action stories are meant to get the audience’s blood pumping with excitement. They focus on physical action and incorporate visually stimulating events like explosions, chases, and gunfights. As a result, Action screenplays tend to have less dialogue and more scene direction in the screenplay than scripts of other genres.

Examples of Action features: Bad Boys, Casino Royale, Crank, The Dark Knight, Die Hard, John Wick, Mad Max, The Matrix, Mission: Impossible

Examples of Action television series: 24, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Daredevil, Hawaii Five-O

Adult

In Adult stories, sex and nudity are the focus of both action and dialogue. They are explicit in their depictions of sex or sexual situations and often include a lot of profanity. These projects are not appropriate for children and Open Screenplay users under the age of 18 will not be able to view Adult genre Open Screenplays.

Examples of Adult features:  Debbie Does Dallas, Emmanuelle

Examples of Adult television series: The Best Sex Ever, Co-Ed Confidential

Adventure

Adventure stories create a sense of wonder and excitement through a new and heightened situation. If your Open Screenplay includes pirates, knights, treasure hunts, quests, jungle expeditions, desert crossings, ocean explorations, or the great unknown, you’re most likely writing an Adventure story.

The Adventure genre is often confused with the Action genre.  While Adventures have action elements, the focus is less on the physical action and more on the new situation.

Examples of Adventure features: Pirates of the Caribbean, A Knight’s Tale, Finding Nemo, Kon-Tiki, Moonrise Kingdom, The Princess Bride, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Romancing the Stone, The Goonies, Swiss Family Robinson, Up

Examples of the Adventure genre in TV: Arrow, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Black Sails, Polo, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Pokemon

Comedy

Very simply, Comedies make the audience laugh. Whether it’s through physical humor, clever dialogue, outrageous characters, or outright random events, it comes down this: if the majority of the moments in your story are intended to make your audience laugh, you’re writing a Comedy. 

Examples of Comedy features: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Dumb & Dumber, Billy Madison, Airplane, Best in Show, Borat, Bridesmaids, Caddie Shack, Elf, Knocked Up, Mean Girls, Men in Tights, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Napoleon Dynamite, Old School, Shaun of the Dead, Step Brothers, Superbad, Tropic Thunder, Wayne’s World, Wedding Crashers, Zoolander

Examples of Comedy television series: Arrested Development, The Big Bang Theory, Family Guy, Freaks and Geeks, Friends, Modern Family, The Office, Sanford and Son, Parks and Recreation, The Simpsons

Documentary

Documentaries are grounded in reality and strive to inform the audience in some way. They are non-fiction narratives that use factual records, reports or a combination of interviews, archival footage, photographs, document scans, and other information-based materials that help visually convey a message or story. They can advocate for change, capture images of nature and wildlife, seek to expose little known truths, or tell an interesting factual story that has not yet been explored.

Note that some parts of Documentary screenplays will not be able to be scripted into pages (such as the responses to interview questions), but it’s still important to write the intended structure of the Documentary and any narrative needed. 

Examples of Documentary features: Amy, An Inconvenient Truth, Bowling for Columbine, Citizenfour, March of the Penguins, Restrepo, Searching for Sugarman, Super Size Me, Grey Gardens

Examples of Documentary television series: Cosmos, Deadliest Catch, How it’s Made, The Jinx, Making a Murderer, Planet Earth, Vice

Drama

Drama stories are intended to move audiences or make us think.  They tend to focus on real-world situations, characters, and narratives. Screenplays in the Drama genre usually have longer scenes with more dialogue than scripts of other genres. They aim to move the audience emotionally through character development, social interaction, and conflict often wrought with hardship, difficulty, or pain. But they can also be light-hearted and positive.

Examples of Drama features: 12 Years A Slave, A Beautiful Mind, American Beauty, Atonement, The Blind Side, Boyhood, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, The Godfather, Million Dollar Baby, Schindler’s List, The Social Network.

Examples of Drama television series: The Good Wife, Big Love, House, Law & Order, Mad Men, Narcos, The Sopranos, The West Wing, The Wire

Experimental

In the Experimental Genre, anything goes. This is a genre that doesn’t follow the conventions of traditional narrative storytelling by trying something new with some aspect of storytelling or filmmaking, usually meant to make the audience think in new ways or see a unique perspective. Experimental stories are usually characterized by an absence of linear narrative, abstract visual techniques, and asynchronous sound or images. Overall, this is an extremely flexible genre in terms of what can be included.

Examples of Experimental features: Eraserhead, Meshes of the Afternoon, many films by Andy Warhol

Examples of Experimental television series:  Off the Air, Xavier: Renegade Angel (though it can be argued it is an absurdist comedy)

Note:  While many children’s shows might be very trippy or surreal, they are usually not Experimental – they are a collection of segments meant to engage a young mind, each with a (hopefully) specific educational purpose.  While you might consider certain ideas “weird”, that does not mean the show is doing something unexpected with a genre. 

Fantasy

The Fantasy Genre engages audiences with ideas that have no basis in reality but are exciting nonetheless.  Magic, fairy tales, mythical beasts, some superheroes, and talking animals fall into this category.  

The genre is often confused with (and lumped into) the genre Sci-Fi, but the distinction is Sci-Fi is theoretically possible given our current knowledge of science, where Fantasy incorporates ideas beyond realistic boundaries.  Magic, myths, and legends can be part of Fantasy stories.

Examples of Fantasy features: The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Jumanji, The Lord of the Rings, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, World of Warcraft, The Never Ending Story

Examples of Fantasy television series: Adventure Time, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time, The Shannara Chronicles, Xena: Warrior Princess, My Little Pony

Horror

“Scare me and make me jump out of my seat while gasping…”  said no audience member out loud, ever – but that is what they subconsciously want when they watch a Horror story. 

Horror stories create tension in the viewers with frightening, disturbing, and gory images and ideas. Blood, violence, and the unknown are common motifs. When choosing to watch a Horror project, the audience wants to be scared, so give ‘em what they want!

Examples of Horror features: 28 Days Later, The Blair Witch Project, The Cabin in the Woods, Exorcist, The Evil Dead, It Follows, Jaws, Psycho, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, The Shining

Examples of Horror television series: American Horror Story, Hemlock Grove, The Walking Dead, Tales From the Crypt

Musical

If your characters break into song multiple times in your story, then you’ve got a musical on your hands. Musicals can be paired with other genres such as Comedy and Drama, but a Musical incorporates multiple musical numbers where the characters sing as part of the story.

Examples of Musical features: The Sound of Music, Les Miserables, Aladdin, Chicago, Fiddler on the Roof, Grease, Hairspray, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady, Tangled, West Side Story, Once, Dancer in the Dark

Examples of Musical television series: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Flight of the Conchords, The Singing Detective, Galavant

Mystery

Mysteries are all about suspicion, intrigue, doubt, and deceit, and invoke a feeling of curiosity paired with tension in the audience. The stories often focus on crimes and are driven by the audience’s desire to learn more and piece together the puzzle. Ultimately, Mysteries engage  the audience through a series of clues and result in a reveal.

Examples of Mystery features: Chinatown, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl, , Memento, Clue, Mystic River, Seven,  Shutter Island, The Usual Suspects, Zodiac

Examples of Mystery television series: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Columbo, Sherlock, True Detective, Veronica Mars, Twin Peaks, Castle, Wayward Pines  (Season 1)

Romance

Sometimes we want to feel something in our hearts, and Romances fulfill that desire.

Romance stories focus on love and relationships, and explore everything that goes with them - first dates, breakups, engagements, marriage, falling in and out of love, divorce, sexuality. The primary goal is to emulate the emotions we feel when going through romantic relationships.

Many Romances have equal parts Comedy and thus become the blended genre “Romantic Comedy”.  These stories focus on the humorous aspects of love and relationships.

Examples of Romance features: 500 Days of Summer, Brokeback Mountain, Gone with the Wind, Love Actually, The Notebook, An Affair to Remember, Under the Tuscan Sun

Examples of Romance television series: Gossip Girl, Outlander, certain episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives.

Examples of Romantic Comedy features: Annie Hall, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, 50 First Dates

Examples of Romantic Comedy television series:  Sex and the City, Mad About You, Dharma & Greg, How I Met Your Mother

Science Fiction

Science Fiction (Sci-Fi) stories intrigue the audience through heightened ideas that have some basis in current real-world science. Basically, something that is possible but has not yet been proved or achieved, even if highly improbable. Aliens, artificial intelligence, time travel, parallel universes, other worlds, outer space, and future technologies are often elements in Sci-Fi stories.

Examples of Science Fiction features: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, Avatar, Blade Runner, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, District 9, Interstellar, Jurassic Park, The Martian, The Matrix, Robocop, The Terminator.

Examples of Science Fiction television series: Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Quantum Leap, Orphan Black, Babylon 5, Stargate SG-1, Wayward Pines (Season 2)

Suspense

Suspense stories hook viewers with feelings of apprehension, tension, and anxiety.  Often confused with Mysteries - which withhold information from the audience - Suspense stories give us the “whole picture” and makes us tense in watching anticipated plot events take place. 

Examples of Suspense features: Gone Girl, Rear Window, Ex Machina, Strangers on a Train

Examples of Suspense television series: Breaking Bad (certain episodes), Dexter, Bates Motel

Thriller

A good Thriller keeps you on the edge of your seat through surprises, high-stakes jeopardy, and often a constant threat of danger for the Protagonist.  While Suspense genre stories also create tension, Thrillers are faster-paced and have more action.

Examples of Thriller features: The Butterfly Effect, Silence of the Lambs, Fight Club, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl, Eagle Eye, Seven, Taken, Inception

Examples of Thriller television series: Breaking Bad, (certain episodes), Fargo, Lost, Mr. Robot, Sherlock, True Detective, Sons of Anarchy, Hannibal

Tragedy

Tragedies are Dramas with somber tones and sad or bleak endings. While focusing on the serious elements of relationships and strong emotional ideas, their themes are often more pessimistic than optimistic. If your protagonist dies or loses everything at the end of your story, you’re likely writing a Tragedy.

Examples of Tragedy features: Brokeback Mountain, Old Yeller, Romeo and Juliet, Requiem for a Dream,

Examples of Tragedy television:  Breaking Bad (entire series), The Day After

Note:  Some series that are of different genres have had tragic endings to their series. 

  • Roseanne was a comedy that ended as a sad drama.
  • It can be argued that Seinfeld ends as a tragedy where none of the characters have learned anything and end up in a worse place because of it, having made the world a worse place as well.
  • Quantum Leap was a sci fi adventure that ended in a downbeat way that left too many questions unresolved, and the Protagonist lost forever.

Western

Westerns are generally set in the American West during the 1800s, and comment on the ideas of bravery, fortitude, and a “new world.” Protagonists of Westerns are most often cowboys, gold-miners, ranchers, or families struggling with the challenges of the frontier.  When watching a Western, the audience can expect tropes such as: outlaws, horses, gunfights, saloons, and the “hooker with a heart of gold.”

Examples of Western features: Dances with Wolves; Django Unchained; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; The Lone Ranger; Once Upon a Time in the West; The Searchers; The Wild Bunch. 

Examples of Western television series: Deadwood, Hell on Wheels, Gunsmoke, The Lone Ranger, Little House on the Prairie.