Types of film and TV series

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Hello and welcome to Learn English Vocabulary. My name is Jack and I’m making this podcast for you to learn or revise English vocabulary. You can find a transcript of this podcast on LearnEnglishVocabulary.co.uk. There’s a page for this podcast with the transcript, an activity and a task for you to do in the comments section.


Today, I want to talk about different genres of film and TV series. These days with so many streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Apple it’s difficult to know what to watch.   One thing you can look at is the genre, that is the type of film or tv programme. My wife loves programmes about police detectives solving murders and I love anything sci-fi, especially if it’s set in space. However, we often don’t like the same things. She thinks the stuff I like is nonsense and I think the stuff she likes is … well, it’s a bit dark and depressing sometimes.

There are loads of different genres and I don’t have time to talk about them all so I’m going to pick the 9 most popular on Netflix and present them as a little quiz. I’ll tell you the genres first and then, I’ll describe each in turn and you have to see if you know what genre I’m describing.  

Genre quiz

OK, so the genres I’m going to describe are: action, animation, documentary, drama, fantasy, horror, rom-com, sci-fi and thriller. There are other genres. On regular TV, there are loads of cheap programmes, but I don’t want to talk about cooking shows or house makeovers today. I’m going to stick with the big-budget productions. 

Genre number 1

Time for the first genre. This is a genre that I rarely watch because these films drive me crazy. These films are designed to be exciting and scary. They are films about monsters and usually have really stupid characters who would be fine if they had any common sense.  On Netflix, there are loads of films in this category that I wouldn’t have thought of as this genre. I grew up on Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th films. For a while, there were loads of great films of this type from Japan and recently we’ve had the brilliant Stranger Things on Netflix. 

What genre am I describing?

I’m talking about horror films. Do you like horror films? My sister gets scared stiff when she watches a scary horror film says she has to leave the light on when she goes to bed. Can you recommend any good horror films for my sister to watch?

Genre number 2

The next genre is tricky. I’m not sure this is very helpful because there are lots of different types of this genre. The most important characteristic, what defines this genre is that the story is serious. These are not the sorts of films and shows that will make you laugh. 

Can you work out what genre I’m describing?

The genre is drama. As I said, there are lots of different types of drama. My wife loves crime dramas. These are sometimes called police procedural dramas because they often focus on the technical processes involved in solving a crime. You also get historical dramas or costume dramas that are set in the past. Another common type of drama is the courtroom drama which follows the prosecution or defence of someone accused of a crime. If a film tries to be lifelike and shows people living in very difficult situations, we say it’s a gritty drama. 

Genre number 3

This next genre will be very quick to describe. This is a film or series that’s made using drawings or computer-generated scenes and characters rather than showing scenes that have been created with actors. There’s a company called Pixar that’s made loads of famous films in this genre like Toy Story and the Incredibles and of course there’s Disney that used to specialise in this type of film in the past with films like Dumbo, The Lion King and Aladdin. 

What genre am I describing?

Animation, of course. I have seen loads of animation recently because I have children. Loads of animations are really quite good fun for adults and children. I recently watched the Japanese animation Spirited Away with my kids which was great up until near the end when it got too weird and my children couldn’t stand it. 

Genre number 4

This next genre is very different. It’s not like any of the others, but is very popular and there are loads on Netflix. This type of film or series does not try to tell a story, but tries to show you something real. The BBC and David Attenborough make amazing films in this genre, all about animals and the natural world. Michael Moore made some very successful films in this category, especially Bowling for Columbine in 2002 and Fahrenheit 9/11 in 2004. 

Do you know what genre this is?

This time, I’m talking about documentaries. I don’t watch these much because I don’t like serious voiceovers, especially if it’s an important topic. However, I have grown up watching David Attenborough wildlife documentaries and my kids enjoy them as much as I do.

Genre number 5

Time for a couple of quick and easy ones. OK, I mentioned this at the start. This genre is characterised by futuristic settings, often in space and with advanced technology. Star Trek is probably the most famous franchise in this genre. 

Are you a fan of this genre? Do you know what it is?


Genre number 6

It’s sci-fi. This is a popular genre of literature as well as film and TV. This is often mixed with another genre, mostly because of one set of films. This next genre is about magical or mysterious topics. So, witches and wizards, dragons and mythical creatures are regular features of this genre. 

Do you know what I’m describing? 

I’m talking about fantasy. Star Wars is a sci-fi fantasy or science fantasy. It has lots of sci-fi elements, but there’s also a lot of magic in it and it’s not supposed to be set in the real world. I think superhero films are also mostly fantasy, but there have been so many of them over the last few years that they are pretty much their own genre now. 

Genre number 7

The next genre I want to talk about used to be very common when I was growing up. The biggest film stars all made these films. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Kurt Russell and more recently Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson all specialise in these films. Superhero films are this normally this type of film as well as fantasy. In these films, you are going to see lots of violence and fighting and usually car chases and explosions.

What genre of film am I describing?

I’m talking about action films. Lots of films have action in them, but a proper action film should be scene after scene of violence and fighting. Recently, there was a film called Extraction which was a proper dumb action film.


Genre number 8

The following genre is a type of film that I don’t watch. I am afraid that I won’t be able to tell you any recent examples of this genre. These films are about men and women who start off hating each other, but through a series of unlikely encounters end up falling in love. Also, these films are supposed to make you laugh.

What am I describing? I’m talking about rom-coms or romantic comedies. You might have noticed that I haven’t included comedy as a genre in this podcast. That’s because I don’t like comedies. Well, also because comedies are usually funny versions of all the other genres. So you might have a comedy crime drama or a comedy sci-fi. 

Genre number 9

The last genre I’m describing in this podcast is my favourite. That’s because it includes spy films and mysteries. This type of film should be tense, exciting and a bit scary, but normally, there’s nothing magical in the story. Everything should be possible in the real world. Some people think that the Silence of the Lambs is a horror film, but in my opinion, as all the monsters in the film are people and could be real it is actually this genre. 

Do you know what this last genre is?

I’m talking about thrillers. All these genres get mixed up and so it’s rare that one film is only one genre. I haven’t mentioned westerns which have cowboys or biopics which tell the story of someone’s life and probably lots more, but I hope that I have covered most films and series.


In the comments section, please let me and everyone else know what type of film you like and what your favourite films are. I have seen loads of British and American films and some films from other countries, but not many so please, if you have any recommendations of great films from your country, especially thrillers, I’d love to hear them. 

Remember, there is a webpage for this podcast on LearnEnglishVocabulary where you will find the transcript and some language activities to test yourself to see if you have learned the words for the genres I’ve spoken about in this podcast. 

If you have enjoyed this podcast, please leave me a comment or a rating or a review. I love to hear from you and any comments or suggestions you have. So please visit LearnEnglishVocabulary.co.uk and say hello.

Thanks for listening.

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