The theme is basically the idea or the premise of a movie. Sometimes people select a movie theme to watch a certain kind of film, and thus, understanding the movie theme is particularly important for a filmmaker. Whether the filmmaker likes it or not, the general audience tends to place the movie theme in front of anything. Mostly, it is the producer who picks the theme and then hires the crew to make a film. For young filmmakers, understanding the importance of movie themes is of utmost importance.
People often confuse the theme of a movie with its genre. Well, a genre is the style of the film, more like what type of film it is. And a theme is what the film is all about; the content of the film. In other words, genre defines the category of artistic compositions like music, form, or content. Whereas the theme is a motif. A theme defines the topic of discussion in the story, like whether it talks about vengeance or love it anything else. The genre has specific boundaries, but themes can be universal. Let’s take an example. We have all seen Star Wars, right? Now, it is a genre-specific movie i.e science fiction. Easy and clear. But, what is the theme of the movie? Well, it talks about love, loyalty, redemption, and friendship. This is the difference between the genre and theme of a film. Let’s understand movie themes with some more details.
What Is The Purpose Of A Movie Theme?
Well, you can understand from the above example that themes can interact with the audience in a sentimental way. When it comes to Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece “Interstellar,” the genre is science fiction. Judging it by its genre can be troublesome for the audience, as not all of them have the knack for understanding physics while watching a movie. But, if you watch it as per the theme of the movie, you will get the sentiment underneath. This is a story about a father and a daughter promising each other to stay together. So, a theme can leave an impact for a longer period of time in the minds of the viewers. If you take another example like “Harry Potter,” the theme of the film still knocks at the bottom of your heart because it talks about friendship, love, and trust. So, yes, a movie theme has a great purpose, and as a filmmaker, one must learn its importance.
See More: The Definition, Classification And Importance Of Film Genre, Explained
Types Of Movie Themes
If we take movie themes as human emotions, it isn’t easy to categorize them all. But, as humans have common feelings, films do have common themes. These themes will enter a story no matter how hard you try to avoid them. Although, why avoid the emotions we all have in common, like-
Love: Most films always have more than one theme. But, if we are talking about the themes we see in common, “Love” is one of the most recurring themes in films that deal with a lot of emotions. We all enjoy a good love story. Be it “Titanic,” “The Lunchbox,” or any romantic drama, we all loved the films because they talked vividly about “Love.” Why is this theme popular? Well, “love” is a universal emotion. Humans feel love mostly the same way all over the world. So, it is quite easy for all to get the vibe of romance from the beginning to the end.
Humans vs Robots: From the day Stanley Kubrick created his masterpiece “2001: A Space Odyssey”, a new theme came into existence. It’s not like this theme never came up before that. But this film created a benchmark for this new theme. The warfare between humans and technology. It sets up the theme for films like “Wall-E,” “I Am Legend,” “Terminator,” etc. Well, “Terminator” can be remarked as the torch bearer for this theme. Today, a lot of films and documentaries are based on this theme alone. People are having so much fun seeing what went wrong with all the scientific advancements.
Good vs. Evil: If we look at the biggest franchises in the world of cinema, most of them carry the theme of good vs. evil. Be it “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter,” “Lord of the Rings,” or even the “Avengers”, the particular theme remains the same. Yes, they talk about the greater good, humanity, and friendship, but at the center of them, it is always the tug of war between good and evil—the good tries to save people, whereas the bad enjoys killing or destroying them. Well, in reality, it is always about perspective. But, it is a good theme for a blockbuster anyway.
Death: Most western movies have this theme in common. Let’s pick “No Country for Old Men” as an example. It is a drama that talks about killing. Everyone is killing everyone, and there is death following almost every sequence. It is a sort of theme that gives western films a structure or a formation. The audience loves to see this in these movies.
Sacrifice: Be it “The Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter,” the characters who sacrifice always have a special spot for the viewers. Characters like Gandalf, Sam, and Frodo in “The Lord of the Rings” or in “Harry Potter” there are Sirius Black, Severus Snape, Remus Lupin, and Mrs. Weasley. These characters will always be known for the sacrifice they make. It is indeed one of the themes that unite us, the audience, together.
Determination: Sports films mostly contain this theme. Also, many other films deal strongly with this theme. If we take “Rocky” as an example, we can distinctly remember that the whole franchise was based on the perseverance of the characters. This theme often gives the audience a thrill, seeing a common man so determined to achieve his dreams. And when he finally achieves it, the crowd cheers with the character.
Coming of Age: This theme follows the protagonist’s transition from childhood to adulthood. “Harry Potter” is one example of this theme.
Revenge: This theme plays off on its own. It leaves a good impact on the audience. Films like “Gangs of Wasseypur” and “John Wick” have this theme. Revenge-themed films are always entertaining. We love to see when justice is delivered.
Reasoning vs. Faith: Some films involve superstitions. Films like “Raiders of the Lost Ark” follow some mythical superstitions. Indiana Jones is a logical man who is also forced to believe in some powers beyond his understanding. This theme triggers our thinking. Some of the horror genre’s films also contain themes like this.
War: War is precisely a self-explanatory theme. The theme revolves around survival, freedom, love, etc. It is no wonder why war films are an easy pick for the audience. It delivers a holistic theme altogether.
So, these are the commonly used themes in a film. There are other categories of themes like drama, romantic drama, fear, etc., however, I hope we have discussed the most popular themes that the audiences generally refer to.