The Thriller Genre
The thriller genre
as a concept, has
the ultimate goal
of giving the
audience a sense
of suspense, a
rush of emotion.
In the genre
innocent yet brave
the normally evil
The audience expects to be
scared and on the edge of
there seat, this has been a
expectations since the first
thriller films were released.
The thriller genre has various
elements, commonly they
have a task to complete. The
storyline is fast pace, there is
a loss of equilibrium, they
are normally set in normal
settings such as an urban
area Violence is common.
Such as the plot twist in Sixth Sense
Jaws - 1975
The Shining 1980
SUBGENRES include the below
There are several different subgenres of thriller, these
four sub/hybrid genres. But there are many more sub and hybrid
Kill Bill – A Action
Suspects – A
Taxi Driver – A
Drive – A Neo Noir
Early Modern Thrillers
Alfred Hitchcock and More
One of the earliest ‘thrillers’ was Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last
(1923), were an All-American boy performs a daredevil stunt of a
skyscraper – this is because it is classed as an ‘adrenaline inducing
By 1931, the meaning of thriller had become associated with
crime and psychologically emotive pieces when German thriller
film M came out – about a homicidal child.
By 1944, one of the first famous British Thrillers was made called
Gaslight, it features a scheming husband plotting to steal his
young wifes inheritance. And in 1945, Oscar Wildes masterpiece ‘A
Picture of Dorian Grey was made into a film
Alfred Hitchcock is considered the master of suspense, he is notorious
for manipulating his audience's fears and desires, and taking viewers into
a state where they can relate to the protagonists situation directly.
Hitchcock placed an innocent and normal person into a dangerous
situation in most of his films.
He used cinematic techniques in his movies, that shocked audiences by
sequences of edits, this can be seen in the drain to eye sequence in
He used visually expressive features such as the surreal dream sequence
in Vertigo (1958), or the murder in the victims glasses to insight fear
into the audience. He also used McGuffins (Also known as red herrings in
his plots) – this is the use of an item/extra storyline to carry the story
The Dark Knight (2008) is a superhero thriller. It
centres around Batman trying to dismantle the
remaining criminal organisations that plague Gotham
City, his quest is to beat evil master criminal the Joker.
- It is a typical thriller because Batman the character
only became ‘Batman’ after being dragged into the situation
forcefully when his parents are killed in front of him
- He has the character stereotype of being a somewhat
anti hero as he is seen as a cold and sometimes callas
- It is set in a city, a usual thriller setting, and is filmed
in blues and dark lighting to set the mise-en-scene
Inception (2010) Is a Science Fiction Thriller. It centres
around Dom Hobb, a criminal and architect of the
imagination, who specialises of stealing ideas in dreams
by going into them, and must complete his biggest task
- Hobb is also an anti hero as he is a criminal, and the
story line centres around crime
- The film uses CGI edits, such as the scene when he
flips the ‘world’ upside down
- The film uses mise-en-scene to set time film, often
shooting in dark colours – such as in the fight sequence
when trying to perform the ‘heist’ of the idea.
• THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL – 1978 – A crime thriller about Barry Kohler, who stumbles
upon a secret organization made up of Third Reich war criminals including an infamous
Nazi doctor, not only does Kohler try to thwart the plans of the secret organization, but in
film uncovers that the organization successfully created 94 perfect clones of Hitler, sent
around the world for adoption, it ends with the search and planned systematic homicide for
the tyrannical clones of Hitler.
• It is a typical thriller because the protagonists are anti-heroes – because they will commit
mass murder towards clones
• The first main protagonist is dragged into the situation as a average and innocent character
• THE USUAL SUSPECTS– 1995 – After a faceless figure ‘’Keyser’’ sets a ship in San Pedro Bay
alight, the FBI agent Jack Baer and Customs agent Dave Kujan arrive separately for
information of what really went on aboard the ship, after searching they bring together 5
criminals including an ex police officer, a professional thief. The film depicts the search for
an answer for the crime and who committed it.
• It is typical of the crime genre as there is a continuous quest for justice.
• It also contains character stereotypes of Anti-Heros
• LAW ABIDING CITIZEN – 2009 – Clyde Sheltons search for justice, after his wife and
daughter are killed in a home invasion, right before his eyes, when prosecutor Nick Rice,
gives a lesser sentence to one of the perpetrators of the crime due to corruption. Shelton
feeling betrayed by the justice system becomes homicidal and goes on a killing spree
• The character Clyde Shelton is a antagonist, but the line between good and evil is blurred
due to Rice initial corruption
• Rice as a character is a anti hero due to his corruption leading to the films events
• REAR WINDOW One of the first critically aclaimed Psychological thrillers was made in 1954. It
is about a story professional photographer ‘L.B Jeffries’ who get’s injured during an action
shoot, as he is confined to his New York apartment, he spends increasing amounts of his time
observing his neighbors through his rear window, and begins to suspect that one of his
neighbors murdered his wife and enlists his nurse to find evidence.
• This follows the Thriller conventions of normal protagonists being thrown into an dangerous
• It also displays disruption of equilibrium a) he starts of oblivious to his homicidal neighbor, b(
He breaks his leg and observes (Loss of Equilibrium), c) get’s nurse to find evidence against
neighbor, and finds justice in wife’s death.
• PLAY MISTY FOR ME – 1971 – A story about obsession, the film centers around famous
disk jockey (DJ) Dave Garver attracts the attention of demented fan Evelyn Draper. After he
picks her up in a bar one night and brings her home, he is relentlessly stalked by
Evelyn, who assaults his made, mutilates and destroys his house and as a climactic peak of
violence threatens to butcher his girlfriend.
• It also follows Thriller conventions, as he is dragged into the dangerous situation
unknowingly, and is relatively normal due to the fame complex people have
• It is also centered around obsession of the human mind
• MOMENTO – 2000 – Is a modern thriller. It chronicles two separate stories of Leonard, an ex
insurance investigator who can no longer build new memories, as he attempts to find the
murderer of his wife the last thing he remembers. To not forget things, he captures important
memories via polaroid photographs and tattoos.
• One storyline is forward in time, while the other is told backwards, which is unusual for
• It is centered around the obsession of Leonard
• It also has Crime Thriller elements to it
Obsession is a
common feature in
the thriller genre.
(And it usually
either risk death
of self or
others, so are
There is usually a
quest for justice
in thriller films.
And the narrative is
usually from the
protagonists point of
they have normal
jobs, or have a
dark past but are
These are not
people, who have
flaws, for instance
greed. Or are solving
personal gain, and
lack good qualities.
They are often ex
Often disturbed in
Thriller films are
generally set in
such as High
School, Hotels, o
r urban areas.
To help set the Mise-EnScene the film maker will
assess the location, time
period and ensure the correct
costume, makeup and prop
and décor used throughout to
help set the Mise-En-Scene
Thriller films will
also use the actors
stance, posture and
social interactions to
set the scene.
As well as this they
will use lighting and
the colour to show
the audience the
mood of the scene
In thriller films, camera work is often either really steady or
frantically moves around. In dialogue filled scenes the camera will
focus on the characters not the setting unless vital to the scene.
Common shots are close ups, extreme close ups, mid shots, but
unusual shots such as high/ low shots and POV shots can be used.
In thriller films, editing is used to build tension. This is done to
keep the audience apprehensive throughout the film, this can be
done by thinking about the shot transition speed.
Fast Pace Editing could resemble time lapse. Slow Pace Editing to
build suspense. Or could be done by various editing techniques
such as shot reverse shot, the 180º rule, jump cut, montages and
For instance in Alfred Hitchcocks Psycho, in the infamous shower
scene there are over 78 different shot transitions.
The two above images are Hans
Zimmer (Inception) and John
Williams (Jaws) two very famous
Movie sound track composers;
especially thriller genre
In thriller movies, music is
throughout the music as
diegetic or non diegetic
sound in the back ground.
This is normally to set the
mood. Therefore in thriller
movies the music is
normally fast pace to keep
the adrenalin following.
Conventions of the music
can include, low melodic
string sections, open
notes, and ‘drone’ type
ar,asc&start=101&title_type=feature - I used IMDB to find a
timeline of thriller films, I also used this for photo sources.
•http://thescriptlab.com/screenplay/genre/thriller -I used this
website for an overview of the thriller genre
•http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thriller_(genre) - I used wikipedia for
a basic knowledge of the thriller genre
•http://www.filmsite.org/thrillerfilms.html - I used filmsite as
another time line of thriller films
•http://www.slideshare.net/lewisharland/conventions-of-thethriller-genre-11373344 - This website helped me plan my own
•http://www.timetoast.com/timelines/history-of-thriller-films This is a final time line of the thriller genre.
•http://oahkarinarhoden.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/editingterminology-reaction-shot-it-is.html -- A shot and editing