Crime film

Crime films, in the broadest sense, are a cinematic genre inspired by and analogous to the crime fiction literary genre. Films of this genre generally involve various aspects of crime and its detection. Stylistically, the genre may overlap and combine with many other genres, such as drama or gangster film,[1] but also include comedy, and, in turn, is divided into many sub-genres, such as mystery, suspense or noir.

Source of plots

Crime films are often based on real events or are adaptations of plays or novels. For example, the 1957 film version of Witness for the Prosecution is an adaptation of a 1953 stage play of that name, which is in turn based on Agatha Christie's short story, originally published in 1933. The film version was remade in 1982, and there have been other adaptations. However, each of these media has its own advantages and limitations, which in the case of cinema is the time constraint.

Plays and films

Witness for the Prosecution is a classic example of a "courtroom drama". In a courtroom drama, a charge is brought against one of the main characters, who claims to be innocent. Another major part is played by the lawyer (in England a barrister) representing the defendant in court and battling with the public prosecutor. He or she may enlist the services of a private investigator to find out what really happened and who the real perpetrator is. However, in most cases it is not clear at all whether the accused is guilty of the crime or not—this is how suspense is created.

Often, the private investigator storms into the courtroom at the very last minute in order to bring a new and crucial piece of information to the attention of the court. This type of literature lends itself to the literary genre of drama focused more on dialogue (the opening and closing statements, the witnesses' testimonies, etc.) and little or no necessity for a shift in scenery. The auditorium of the theatre becomes an extension of the courtroom. When a courtroom drama is filmed, the traditional device employed by screenwriters and directors is the frequent use of flashbacks, in which the crime and everything that led up to it is narrated and reconstructed from different angles.

In Witness for the Prosecution, Leonard Vole, a young American living in England, is accused of murdering a middle-aged lady he met in the street while shopping. His wife (played by Marlene Dietrich) hires the best lawyer available (Charles Laughton) because she is convinced, or rather she knows, that her husband is innocent. Another classic courtroom drama is U.S. playwright Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men (1954), which is set in the jury deliberation room of a New York Court of Law. Eleven members of the jury, aiming at a unanimous verdict of "guilty", try to get it over with as quickly as possible. And they would really succeed in achieving their common aim if it were not for the eighth juror (played by Henry Fonda in the 1957 movie adaptation), who, on second thoughts, considers it his duty to convince his colleagues that the defendant may be innocent after all, and who, by doing so, triggers a lot of discussion, confusion, and anger.


Action crime

A hybrid of action films and crime films and a subgenre of action films as well. Most films of this kind fall in the category of heist films, prison films and sometimes cop and gangster films. Car chases and shootouts are commonly featured. Example include Police Story, The Dark Knight, Baby Driver, Master, Collateral and Heat.

Crime comedy

A hybrid of crime and comedy films. Mafia comedy looks at organized crime from a comical standpoint. Humor comes from the incompetence of the criminals and/or black comedy. Examples include Analyze This, The Pope of Greenwich Village, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, In Bruges, Mafia!, Tower Heist and Pain & Gain.

Crime drama

A combination of crime and drama films. Examples include such films as Straight Time and Badlands.

Crime thriller

A thriller in which the central characters are involved in crime, either in its investigation, as the perpetrator or, less commonly, a victim (generally, this is just a thriller). While some action films could be labelled as such for merely having criminality and thrills, the emphasis in this genre is the drama and the investigative/criminal methods. Examples include Untraceable, The Silence of the Lambs, Heat, Seven, Witness, Memories of Murder, The Call, and Running Scared.

Dacoit film

A genre of Indian cinema (including Bollywood) revolving around dacoity. The genre was pioneered by Mehboob Khan's Aurat (1940) and Mother India (1957). Other examples include Gunga Jumna (1961), Sholay (1975) and Bandit Queen (1994).

Film noir

A genre popular in the 1940s and 1950s often fall into the crime and mystery genres. Private detectives hired to solve a crime are in such films as The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Kiss Me Deadly, L.A. Confidential, The Long Goodbye, and Chinatown. Neo-noir refers to modern films influenced by film noir such as Sin City.

Gangster film

A genre of film that focuses on gangs and organized crime. Examples include Goodfellas, The Godfather, and Casino.

Heist film

This film deals with a group of criminals attempting to perform a theft or robbery, as well as the possible consequences that follow. Heist films that are lighter in tone are called "Caper films". Examples include The Killing, Oceans 11, Dog Day Afternoon, Reservoir Dogs, and The Town.

Heroic bloodshed

A Hong Kong action cinema crime film genre. The genre was pioneered by John Woo's A Better Tomorrow (1986) and Ringo Lam's City on Fire (1987), starring Chow Yun-fat. Elements of the genre can be seen in Hollywood crime films since the 1990s, such as the work of John Woo and Quentin Tarantino.

Hood film

Film dealing with African-American urban issues and culture. They do not always revolve around crime, but often criminal activity features heavily in the storyline. Examples include Menace II Society and Boyz n the Hood.

Legal drama

Not usually concerned with the actual crime so much as the trial in the aftermath. A typical plot would involve a lawyer trying to prove the innocence of his or her client. Examples include 12 Angry Men and A Time To Kill.

Mafia film

Film which focuses on characters who are involved seriously with the Mafia or organized crime. Notable mob films include: The Godfather, Goodfellas, Once Upon a Time in America, Bugsy, Little Caesar, The Untouchables, The Public Enemy, Scarface, and The Departed.

Mumbai underworld

An Indian cinema crime film genre, often produced in Bollywood. The genre frequently draws inspiration from real Mumbai underworld gangsters, such as Haji Mastan, Dawood Ibrahim and D-Company. The genre was pioneered by Salim-Javed's Zanjeer (1973) and Deewaar (1975), starring Amitabh Bachchan. Other examples include the Don franchise (1978–2012), Nayakan (1986), Salaam Bombay! (1988), Parinda (1989), Satya (1998), Company (2002), Black Friday (2004), Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai (2010).

Mystery film

Film which focuses on the efforts of the detective, private investigator or amateur sleuth to solve the mysterious circumstances of a crime by means of clues, investigation, and clever deduction

Police procedural

Police procedurals have remained a mainstay with He Walked By Night, In the Heat of the Night, Madigan, and The French Connection.

Yakuza film

Japanese crime film genre. Examples include Abashiri Prison, Branded to Kill, Battles Without Honor and Humanity, and Sonatine.

See also


  1. ^ "Metasearch Search Engine". Retrieved 2019-01-18.

Further reading

  • Leitch, Thomas M. Crime Films. CUP, 2002, ISBN 978-0521646710
  • Rafter, Nicol. Shots in the Mirror: Crime Films and Society, 2nd ed. New York, OUP, 2006, ISBN 978-0-19-517506-6
Angel Esquire

Angel Esquire is a 1919 British silent crime film directed by W.P. Kellino and starring Aurelio Sidney, Gertrude McCoy and Dick Webb. It was based on the 1908 novel Angel Esquire by Edgar Wallace.

Bars of Hate

Bars of Hate is a 1935 American crime film directed by Albert Herman.

Below the Deadline (1946 film)

Below the Deadline is a 1946 American crime film directed by William Beaudine and starring Warren Douglas, Ramsay Ames and Jan Wiley.

Blackout (1986 film)

Blackout is a 1986 Norwegian Film noir directed by Erik Gustavson, starring Henrik Scheele and Juni Dahr. The film follows the private investigator Werner (Scheele) as he deals with a beautiful but dangerous woman, a brutal chief of police and a gangster boss.

Crack House (film)

Crack House is a 1989 American crime film directed by Michael Fischa and written by Blake Schaeffer. The film stars Jim Brown, Anthony Geary, Richard Roundtree, Cher Butler, Angel Tompkins, Clyde Jones, Albert Michel Jr. and Heidi Thomas. The film was released on November 10, 1989, by Cannon Film Distributors.

Détective (1985 film)

Détective is a 1985 French crime film directed by Jean-Luc Godard. It was entered into the 1985 Cannes Film Festival.

Four Shall Die

Four Shall Die is a 1940 American supernatural crime film directed by William Beaudine.

Hell Train (film)

Hell Train (French: Train d'enfer) is a 1985 French crime film directed by Roger Hanin. It was entered into the 14th Moscow International Film Festival where it won a Special Prize.

Killer at Large (1947 film)

Killer at Large is a 1947 American crime film directed by William Beaudine and starring Robert Lowery, Anabel Shaw and Charles Evans.

Life of Crime (film)

Life of Crime is a 2013 American black comedy crime film written and directed by Daniel Schechter, based on Elmore Leonard's novel The Switch (1978), which includes characters later revisited in his novel Rum Punch (1992), which was adapted into the Quentin Tarantino film Jackie Brown (1997). Life of Crime was screened on the closing night 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, on the opening day of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, at the 2014 Traverse City Film Festival and released in theaters on August 29, 2014.

Parker (1984 film)

Parker is a 1985 British crime film directed by Jim Goddard and starring Bryan Brown, Cherie Lunghi and Kurt Raab, in which a British businessman disappears on a visit to Germany.


Poliziotteschi (Italian pronunciation: [polittsjotˈteski]; plural of poliziottesco) constitute a subgenre of crime and action films that emerged in Italy in the late 1960s and reached the height of their popularity in the 1970s. They are also known as Italo-crime, Euro-crime, poliziesco, spaghetti crime films, or simply Italian crime films. Influenced by both 1970s French crime films and gritty 1960s and 1970s American cop films and vigilante films, poliziotteschi films were made amidst an atmosphere of socio-political turmoil in Italy and increasing Italian crime rates. The films generally featured graphic and brutal violence, organized crime, car chases, vigilantism, heists, gunfights, and corruption up to the highest levels. The protagonists were generally tough working class loners, willing to act outside a corrupt or overly bureaucratic system.

The Fighting Coward (1935 film)

The Fighting Coward is a 1935 American crime film directed by Dan Milner.

The Frog

The Frog is a 1937 British crime film directed by Jack Raymond and starring Noah Beery, Jack Hawkins and Richard Ainley. The film is about the police chasing a criminal mastermind who goes by the name of The Frog. It was based on a novel by Edgar Wallace. It was followed by a loose sequel The Return of the Frog, the following year.

The Miami Story

The Miami Story is a 1954 American film noir crime film directed by Fred F. Sears and starring Barry Sullivan and Luther Adler.The film features an introduction by Florida U.S. Senator George Smathers.

The Return of the Frog

The Return of the Frog is a 1938 British crime film directed by Maurice Elvey and starring Gordon Harker, Hartley Power and Rene Ray. It was a sequel to the 1937 film The Frog, and was based on a 1929 Edgar Wallace novel. It was shot at Beaconsfield Studios. The film's plot concerns a police hunt for the criminal known as The Frog.

The Ringer (1931 film)

The Ringer is a 1931 British crime film directed by Walter Forde and starring Patric Curwen, Esmond Knight, John Longden and Carol Goodner.

Scotland Yard detectives hunt for a dangerous criminal who has recently returned to England. The film was based on an Edgar Wallace story The Gaunt Stranger, the basis for his play The Ringer. Forde remade the same story in 1938 as The Gaunt Stranger. There was also a silent film of The Ringer in 1928, and a 1952 version starring Donald Wolfit. It was made at Beaconsfield Studios.

Too Many Winners

Too Many Winners is a 1947 American crime film directed by William Beaudine and starring Hugh Beaumont, Trudy Marshall and Ralph Dunn.

Tough Assignment

Tough Assignment is a 1949 American crime film directed by William Beaudine and starring Don Barry, Marjorie Steele and Steve Brodie. It is regarded as a film noir.

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