history of genre


One of the first films to officially mark the start of the gangster/crime genre was D. W. Griffith’s The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912), it was about organized crime. this was not the first crime/gangster film ever made but it is a very significant one. the film was shot in New York where in today’s film industry is of course a very popular place to film.

Another big development in the history of crime films was scare face which came out in 1931. the film was about a man who committed a murder and then went on to commit many more murder sprees. many of today’s crim films copy the idea of someone going out of control and killing lots of people.

when world war two came about around the 40s the crime films where violent, brutal and cynical. after world war two many gangsters where represented as corrupt business men in suits that carry around heavy guns. one of the first changes to the gangster stereotype was   Byron Haskin’s I Walk Alone (1948). 

in the 50s gangsters where represented as organised crime organisations or gangs. a lot of the crime films of this time showed society to be broken and corrupt with a lot of crime going on.

in the 70s, Death Wish was released. this film focused on the death of loved ones and the revenge that victims took on the murderess. this is also a very common story line idea that many directors use today, one of which is the film “taken” where a father gets his daughter stolen from him and he is so full of rage and is so desperate he will do just anything to get her back.

there are many sub genres of crime films that directors have tryed.these include:

Cops & Robber (Blues Brothers)

Detectives/Mysteries/Private Eyes (Sherlock Holmes)

Femme Fatales (Gone Girl)

Film Noir

Hard-Boiled Detectives

Law and Order

Lovers on the run



Outlaw Biker Films


Trial Films

Vice Films


Iconography of the Crime film

the mise-en-scene in a crime film is usually a very good give away to what kind of subgenre the crime film is. for example, a gun and a suit will represent James bond and gangster films where as a magnifying glass and spectacles will represent Sherlock homes.

some obvious associations can be:

Dead body outlines in chalk

blood splatters

tommy guns


police characters or investigators

however, there does not always have to be an obvious object that links to crime. for example, in many crime films there will be a lot of screen time focused on showing a random object like a wrench. this foreshadows that this will probably be the murder weapon that is used later on in the film

Examples of Crime Films

Blues brothers- 1980

Scarface- 1983

Reservoir Dogs- 1992

Goodfellas- 1990

Sin City- 2005

Layer Cake- 2004

Memories of murder – 2003

Millers crossing – 1990

Heat – 1995

Actors/Directors Associated with Crime films

John Belushi – Blues Brothers

Dan Aykroyd – Blues Brothers

Al Pacino – Scarface

Quentin Tarantino – Reservoir Dogs

Robert De Niro – Goodfellas

Bruce Willis – Sin City

Daniel Craig – Layer Cake

Jon Polito – Miller’s Crossing

Song Kang-Ho – Memories of murder

many of the same actors can be relate to differnt films, especially if they are involved in a franchise. for example jim carrey everyone relate to comedy. so if a film with him is coming out they know it will definetly be a comedy. this was why when the film “23” came out noone went to watch it as they dont like seeing him play a serious role.


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