These thumbnails expand on the category definitions mentioned in this post about classification
at Science In Action
I got thinking about such a classification because some movies which are different in some ways are obviously exactly the same in other ways. Is there a way to classify movies that recognizes these underlying similarities and treats the differences as superficial? Examples:
10 Little Indians
- Seven Samuai = The Magnificent Seven
- High Noon = Outland
- Earthquake = Volcano
Who is the killer in the group? Usually isolated from outside help. Is anyone whom they seem?
- The Sleeping Car Murders
- The Usual Suspects
Who will survive? No monster or killer on the loose. "Grand Hotel" goes down in flames.
Beat the Clock
- The Poseidon Adventure
- The Towering Inferno
Can they stop him in time? (Is this different enough from "thriller"?)
- The Manchurian Candidate
- Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Triumph or tragedy of one character. What made him/her tick?
- The Birdman of Alcatraz
- Lawrence of Arabia
- The Song of Bernadette
They start out hating each other, but end up best friends.
Coming of Age
- It Happened One Night
- The Rookie
- 48 Hours
The protagonist must find reserves of inner strength to overcome the intolerable situation. The protagonist changes, and must do it (more or less) on his or her own.
- Napoleon Dynamite
- Cast Away
- Soldier of Orange
- Sergeant York
- Labyrinth (quest + coming of age?)
- The Pianist
A lone protagonist must defeat overwhelming odds. If possible, save the world (or at least avert unimaginable tragedy). And must do it without (much) outside help. Sometimes close to "Beat the Clock"?
Hill of Beans
- The Day the Earth Stood Still
- Any James Bond film
- The Long Kiss Goodnight
- Twelve Monkeys
- The Lord of the Rings
A love triangle is embedded in some bigger situation. Who will get whom? Who really loves whom?
- House of Flying Daggers
- Manhattan (?)
"Listen. And understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead." "(bang! . . .bang!). . . Bullets have no effect on it!!" Can they stop it? Will anyone survive? (Not
isolated in an old house or equivalent.) (Is this different enough from "adventure"?)
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers
- The Blob
Things jumping out while the pool of victims is drained one by one. One or two will survive. Different from 10 Little Indians in that the threat is clearly from the outside. Different from Monster because the protagonists are isolated . . . and things keep jumping out at them!
Road Movie / Quest
- Slasher Films
- Pitch Black
- The Thing From Another World
This has a classic episodic structure. Often uses a quest to motivate the action. The central protagonists encounter diverse characters, incidents and situations as they move through the story. Does it actually have to involve travel from one place to another?
- O Brother, Where Art Thou? (with a nod to The Odyssey, the classic road tale)
- Quest for Fire
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
- The Muppet Movie
I have trouble with this one. The idea is that there is a good guy and a bad guy, and a lady in jeopardy (genders are fungible). It involves a duel, perhaps a duel of wits. Will the bad guy get away with it? Doesn't involve saving the world, just finding the truth and saving the "girl". Many of the best involve an ordinary guy being put in a threatening situation--he has to save himself (The 39 Steps, North by Northwest, Kill Bill?).
- The 39 Steps
- Grosse Pointe Blank
- Dial M for Murder
- The Big Hit
- L.A. Confidential
- The Crying Game
- Memento — But who is the lady in jeopardy? Maybe this isn't a required element. Or is this a "Trip"?
Here's another where I hijack the name for a narrower use. Men (or women, or men and women) are thrown together and bond into a team to do what has to be done. It's about the unit, not the enemy. The enemy will not be permanently defeated, but the unit will survive.
- Starship Troopers
- A Midnight Clear
- Hell Is For Heroes
- The Untouchables
- Seven Samurai
- The Big Red One
A "western", in this classification, is a contest between opposing economic or political systems (farmer/rancher, computer/human or empire/rebel), which are cast by the filmmaker as good vs. evil. Naturally heroes on each side are pitted against each other. Generally violence is involved.
- Star Wars
- The Matrix
- The Return of the King
- Blazing Saddles
If it is just a contest between good and evil individuals
, I might not call it a western.
- Gladiator — ". . . And I will have my revenge."
The term "western" does not refer to the locations. Nor are Titanic and The Poseidon Adventure "sea stories". Likewise a movie set in The West, involving horses, doesn't have to be a "western" in this sense.
- The Searchers — a road movie, with Ethan Edwards coming of age?
- Stagecoach — an adventure. The Indians aren't evil, just a force of nature. Who will survive? Poseidon Adventure on wheels.
A contest where one side isn't portrayed as good, and the other as evil, wouldn't qualify as a western.
And What About . . .
- West Side Story
- Hell in the Pacific
A straight love story
? Will they sleep together? (Or will they get back together?) Then what? No shootings. No car chases.
- A Man and A Woman
- The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain
- Edward Scissorhands
- Does It Happened One Night go here? (Gable does chase a car, but on foot.)
- Philadelphia Story
"? It seems like a sane story, but turns out to have all been a dream, or otherwise gets resolved without resolution. Is this a category of its own?
, with lots of stars and lots of intertwined stories?
- The Longest Day
- The Battle of the Bulge
- Grand Hotel
Obviously any kind of movie can be rendered in any location, period, or style, with or without musical numbers. For example:
- Bugsy Malone — musical western set in 20s with kids playing gangsters
- Outland — High Noon on a moon of Jupiter
- Team America World Police — parody musical western war movie
- The Muppet Movie — comedy musical road movie
- Shoot The Piano Player — noir thriller set in France
- El Mariachi — thriller set in Mexico
- Star Wars — western in outer space with hero elements
Ideally this classification system should be able to categorize any
movie. Some of the best, of course, incorporate several elements.
Where would you put these?:
- The Godfather (coming of age of Michael Corleone?)
- Pulp Fiction
- Kill Bill (thriller + quest?)
- Some Like It Hot
- The Princess Bride
- South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut — do we need a category for a straight musical, or are musicals just another type with musical numbers?
- The Muppets Take Manhattan — ("Big city, hmm? Live. Work, huh? But. Only peoples. Peoples is peoples. No is buildings. Is tomatoes, huh? Is peoples, is dancing, is music, is potatoes. So, peoples is peoples. Okay?")