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THRILLER. GENRE TYPES. HORROR. COMEDY. ROMANCE. DRAMA. ADVENTURE. SCIENCE FICTION. FANTASY. ACTION. CRIME. THRILLER GENRE. Thriller film is a genre that revolves around suspense and anticipation. the aim for thrillers is to keep the audience alert and on the edge of their seats.

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genre types










thriller genre

Thriller film is a genre that revolves around suspense and anticipation. the aim for thrillers is to keep the audience alert and on the edge of their seats.

Audience expectations: the main characters that thrillers feature are the antagonist (villain) and a protagonist (hero).

Antagonists -Usually Convicts, criminals, stalkers, assassins, serial killers, kidnappers, terrorists..

Protagonists -Usually Innocent victims, sometimes characters with dark pasts / Cops / Ex cops..

The feelings that thrillers create for audience:

Intense excitement


A high level of anticipation

Ultra-heightened expectation



Nerve-wracking tension

thriller timeline 1920 1930

Safety last

(1 Apr 1923)

One the earliest thriller films that starred Harold Lloyd. About boy performing a daredevil stunt on the side of a skyscraper.


(30 Jun 1929)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock his first sound film. There was also a silent version.

The Lodger

(14 Feb 1926)

One of the earliest thrillers directed by Alfred Hitchcock known as the "master of suspense". The lodger is a suspenseful Jack-the-Ripper story.

The earliest thrillers quite often had an element of comedy in, for example safety last. They were also all in silence appart from music untill 1927.

thriller timeline 1960 1970

Wait until dark

(26 Oct 1967) Directed by Terence Young

Peeping Tom (16 May 1960 ) Directed by Michael Powell


(16 Jun 1960)

Early thrillers were usually psychological rather than action.

thriller timeline 1990 2005

The silence of thelambs

(14 Feb 1991)

Directed by Johnathan Demme. Young FBI agent Jodie Foster in a psychological war against a cannibalistic psychiatrist named Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), while tracking down transgender serial killer Buffalo Bill.


(11 March2005)

Dircted by Florent Emilio Siri


(22 Sep1995)

Directed by David Fincher. About the search for a serial killer who re-enacts the seven deadly sins.

Joy Ride

(5 Oct 2001)

Directed by John Dahl

More recent thrillers tend to have a variety of sub genres for example crime plays a big part in the film Hostage.

sub genres and hybrids in thriller
Sub genres and hybrids in thriller

Definition: ??

  • Crime e.g. Inception / The Usual Suspects
  • Medical e.g. Coma (Michael Crichton 1987)
  • Eco/ Disaster Thriller e.g. The Day After Tomorrow (Roland Emmerich 2004)
  • Romance ‘gone bad’/Stalker Fatal Attraction (Adrian Lyne 1987)
  • Serial Killer e.g. Seven
  • Psychological e.g. Jacobs Ladder
  • Legal e.g. The Firm (Sydney Pollack 1993)
  • Spy e.g. The Bourne Identity / Mission Impossible
  • Action e.g. Die Hard
narrative conventions
  • The narrative often twists and turns and gives clues for example se7en.This gives a chance for the audience to try and guess what happens but there are usually dead ends and big twists to throw them off.
  • Thrillers have ‘restricted narration’ –this is when questions and answers are not answered until the very end of the film, making the audience want to watch until the end.
  • There is often a crime in the core of the film and the whole film will build up to the climax.
characters in a thriller
CHARACTERS in a thriller
  • Protagonist (hero):
  • often an everyday person who is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time for example Shia Labeouf in the thriller Disturbia.
  • Or a cop of some kind drawn into an impossible case, for example brad Pitt in se7en.
  • The protagonist usually has some kind of a flaw which he has to prove him self rid of by the end of the film, for example Colin Farrel in Phone Booth. Who’s flaw is his that he is deceiving his wife.
  • Antagonist (villain):
  • usually psychotic and often very intelligent, knowing a lot about the protagonist and seeming to be always a step ahead of them until the end of the film.
  • Quite often the evil characters identity is hidden for some of the film keeping the audience constantly guessing.
camera work
Camera work

Camera work in thrillers includes things like shot sizes and framing. thrillers like to use things like close up and extreme close up a lot as it can grasp a lot of emotion if on a character and can also make the audience feel quite uncomfortable when watching adding to the tension etc…They also like to use point of view shots. for example if someone was creeping up on someone else they might use it here for dramatic irony.


Editing in thrillers may include things like shapes turning from one object to another, for example in Hitchcock's psycho the plug hole of a drain turns into an eye. Also there may be periods of time that some shots last for that are very quick, creating flashing images which adds to the un certain feeling of the audience.


Sound in thrillers include diegetic- where the characters can hear the sound for example explosions and gun shots. There is also non diegetic, this is mainly things like music( sound that the characters cannot here). Thrillers usually use dramatic non-diegetic sounds and tense sounds to add to the effect when something big is happening. For example in Psycho the famous scene in the shower involves a lot of silence at first, building tension and then there is some non diegetic screeching noise which almost sounds a knife cutting into something, it is presented very loud and repetitively, so make the audience feel un settled.