The Evolution of Every Movie Genre, in One Massive Chart

Source: -colin-/reddit
Source: -colin-/reddit

We live in the age of the superhero action flick.

With the rise of digital upstarts like Netflix, big film studios are increasingly producing movie that are guaranteed to be commercially viable — which means Americans will get to enjoy about 40 superhero movies in the next six years

This raises an interesting question: Have epic action films always dominated cinema? Have our tastes in movies stayed the same throughout the history of the moving image?

To examine the evolution of movie genres, Redditor -colin- built a simple script to scrape data from IMDB about movies with a verified date and genre attached. Here's the resulting timeline:



Yes, this is timeline is way, way to big and intricate to be viewed here on Mic. You can click this image to expand it to a full-size version or explore an interactive version here.

The interactive reveals some interesting trends. Before the turn of the century, the majority of movies were either shorts or documentary films. Starting in the 1900s, comedies and dramas began to dominate the film industry:


Between 1970 and 1990, there was a big spike in adult films:



Starting in 1986, short films started making a comeback, probably because technological advances made it easier for amatuer filmmakers to produce high-quality cinematic work:



These maps are fascinating, but they also pose a fascinating contrast to the way we think about movie genres today. Thanks to big data, services like Netflix can serve up millions of increasingly specific categories, like "Period Pieces About Royalty Based on Real Life" and "Foreign Satanic Stories from the 1980s." 

This is a great sign for consumers, of course. "Netflix has created a database of American cinematic predilections," wrote Alexis Madrigal in the Atlantic. "The data can't tell them how to make a TV show, but it can tell them what they should be making. When they create a show like House of Cards, they aren't guessing at what people want."

With this enormous influx of data in the film industry, chances are this chart will begin to look very different over the next few years.

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Jared Keller

Jared Keller is the former director of news at Mic.

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