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By Noelle Buffam · March 26, 2011

Crime film is a genre that revolves around the action of a criminal mastermind. A Crime film will often revolve around the criminal himself, chronicling his rise and fall. Some Crime films will have a storyline that follows the criminal's victim, yet others follow the person in pursuit of the criminal. This genre tends to be fast paced with an air of mystery – this mystery can come from the plot or from the characters themselves. 

Crime Film Examples:


Fargo – A car salesmen from Minnesota is in debt, so he hires two men to kidnap his wife in order to collect her ransom money.

The Silence of the Lambs – An FBI agent develops a relationship with the notorious serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lector, to gain Lector’s assistance in the hunt for another serial killer.

Reservoir Dogs – An unacquainted group of professional criminals is brought together for a diamond robbery that goes amiss. 

CRIME Sub-genres



Mob/Gangster films are a sub-genre of crime films that center on organized crime or the mafia. Often the plot revolves around the rise and fall of an organized crime leader. Many Gangster films explore the destructive nature of organized crime, while others attempt to show the humanity of the individual characters.

Examples: Goodfellas, Scarface, The Departed.


Film-Noir is not simply a genre, but rather a term for a distinct, stylistic type of crime drama that was popular throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Film-Noir is characterized by a black-and-white visual style and stark lighting effects. The main character is usually a cynical hero. Film-Noir relies on a narrative voice and various flashbacks to explain the intricate plot.

Examples: Sunset Boulevard, The Maltese Falcon, Sweet Smell of Success.


Neo-Noir refers to modern film that takes on the characteristics of Film-Noir. Modern updates are made within Neo-Noir in terms of media and visual elements. Neo-Noir films also update themes and content to fit with current society.

Examples: Chinatown, Sin City, L.A. Confidential.


Crime-Thriller film is a sub-genre that incorporates the suspenseful aspects of a thriller with a crime film plot. This sub-genre's plot usually centers on a serial killer, murderer, robbery or manhunt. As opposed to traditional crime films, the storyline focuses both around the criminal and the protagonist. Crime-Thrillers use both action and psychological aspects to build tension and suspense.

Examples: The Usual Suspects, The Fugitive, Jagged Edge.