When filmmakers and movie critics refer to a film genre, they generally mean a specific style or subject matter. While a movie may have elements of a number of different genres, it is often classified under a single genre for reference purposes. Some people may consider director Mel Brook's movie Blazing Saddles to be in the Western genre, for instance, but its satirical tone and comedic writing put it squarely in the genre of comedy. Other film genres include drama, romantic comedy, action/adventure, musical and experimental.
A film's inclusion in a recognized genre gives potential viewers some general hints about its subject matter and suitability. If a film is described as a Western, for example, the audience should expect to see cowboys on horseback in the American West during the 19th century. There are also certain stock characters and dramatic situations associated with a specific category, such as a sheriff, a villain and a saloon bartender in a Western.
Categorizing films by genre is not always an easy task, since a dramatic film may have its share of comedic moments or a comedy may take a more dramatic turn. Some film experts will create new genres or subgenres to describe these hybrid films, such as action comedies or dramedies. In general, however, most films made in a specific genre, such as film noir or crime drama, follow the established structure and plot lines of that genre. A few movies may challenge the rigidity of their own genres, however, such as Clint Eastwood's deconstructed Western Unforgiven, which pointedly avoided many of the cliches associated with the Western film genre.
Film genres are similar to musical genres or literary genres in many ways. A filmmaker often understands what elements are expected in a specific film genre and steer the film towards that end. Certain actors are generally associated with a specific type of category, as well as scriptwriters and directors. The late director John Ford, for example, worked almost entirely in the Western film genre. Actor Hugh Grant is perhaps best known for his work in the romantic comedy genre. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer specializes in the action film genre.