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By David Young · May 1, 2023
As long as there have been stories, we have tried to put them in buckets: early on, it was either tragedy or comedy. Soon enough, though, other genres came to be: fables belonged to the fantasy genre, while certain epics were the precursors to superhero flicks today. But genres aren’t hard and fast — more often than not, you’ll find that each story fits into more than one bucket. Sometimes, a genre combination comes along that surprises us all and takes us for a ride. Those genre mashups, however strange, have set new precedents and challenged audiences in new ways. Look below to see some of those surprising or even baffling weird genre mashups.
It’s hard to say which element comes first in this genre mashup – the sci-fi or the film noir. In Blade Runner, both genres are present and give dimension to a timeless narrative that really asks a fundamental question: What defines our humanity? Many science fiction stories beg the same question, of course. But few employ the detective neo-noir approach we see from Ridley Scott in this movie: the tense, evocative soundscape meets a brooding environment and a rough law-bringer (Harrison Ford) providing one cut of the film with noir-style inner monologues.
That said, it’s agreed by many that the best version has no narrator at all. Let the dystopian futurescape and moody detective protagonist speak for themselves.
Read More: From Mad Max to Blade Runner: How to Make a Long-Awaited Sequel WorkDownload the script!
An outright horror film tends to not have outright romance as a second thread within the narrative. That is unless you’re doing a genre mashup. But at it’s core, Shaun of the Dead is a parody film — making nods to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead series that started the zombie movie craze.
But instead of zombies for scares, Shaun of the Dead uses tongue-in-cheek to showcase its apathy to Shaun’s (Simon Pegg) own spin on a famous line from Night of the Living Dead: “We’re coming to get you, Barbara!” If that sounds familiar, it should — just like many of the scenes and the concepts you’ll see in this satirical, parodical horror-rom-com.
Read More: How to Write a Good Genre ParodyDownload the script!
Most romances don’t also qualify as monster movies, but it’s not unheard of. That said, the fantasy romance presented in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is singularly different. It’s as much a narrative as it is steeped in visual poetry — a marked difference from monster-movie-romances of the kitsch variety like Twilight.
This also qualifies as historical speculative fiction — a del Toro trademark — making it all the more alluring compared to some of the other examples that exist in this blend of genre mashups.
Read More: The Passion of Storytelling Traditions in Guillermo del Toro FilmsDownload the script!
Romance is a large qualifier for genre-bending since it usually becomes less of a genre than a subplot of many narratives. That said, sometimes you’ll find a film that puts romantic melodrama at the forefront while marrying it conceptually with a genre like sci-fi.
That gets you a movie like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which uses that romance narrative to ask fundamental questions about what human love really means. Using technology to push that boundary is what sci-fi is all about, so this is clearly a film that embraces both directions quite well.
Read More: From Script to Screen: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindDownload the script!
Not every genre-bender is a film that does the whole story that way. Some movies bring in one genre only to establish an entirely different one as the story develops. From Dusk Till Dawn, for instance, is a crime thriller that eventually evolves into a satisfyingly pulp-driven action-horror.
You can learn a few lessons about how to change that narrative midway through the story by studying this film and others like it.
More Read: Crime Pays: The Best OG Crime Movies UncoveredDownload the script!
You may have wondered how long it would take to mention the sci-fi Western extravaganza that is Westworld — and to explain why it’s such a trailblazer. After all, we have space westerns, don’t we? Well, while a space western brings the iconic genre traits of a Western novel or film into a space setting (think Firefly), the combination isn’t multiple genres.
However, Westworld — as a novel and as a series — upholds tenets of science fiction storytelling and the Western genre all at once. Firefly and other stories in space, like Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope, look and sound like sci-fi stories but lack the genre’s method of exploring the human condition. Those are fantasy stories, and in Firefly’s case, a fantasy Western — just one that’s set in space.
Read More: HBO Shows That Transformed TV (and Us) ForeverDownload the script!
There are many genres that fit well together all the time — like the action thriller genre. Then, there are genre mashups that feel wrong until they feel right. Some of those stories, the ones that challenge the status quo, push boundaries enough that they become iconic. If you’re ready to try and push those boundaries yourself, check out the scripts above and take the time to really see where the genres blend seamlessly — as well as where they push against each other to make the concept really shine.