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Film and Media Studies

Film and Media

Man VS. Nature

Man vs. Nature can extend beyond the destruction of planet earth. These films can focus on an individual battling an animal of nature (Jaws) and can often incorporate dystopian themes. Man vs. Nature can also extend to technology perverting nature. These films often warn of the danger of tampering with the natural elements. When technology runs amok, monsters and obstacles are created (Jurassic Park). Action flicks are a staple for Man vs. Nature, but no matter what genre these films surface from, the theme always revolves around the power of natural world and the perseverance of mankind.

Man vs. Himself

Man vs. Himself the entire story is underlined by the notion that man is his own worst enemy. Therefore, many of these films deal with greed, power, and the downward spiral that they can cause. ScarfaceWall Street, and The Godfather are prime examples of this internal battle. 

The Loss of Innocence

The Loss of Innocence theme incorporates a young protagonist that is introduced to the complexity of the adult world. Sometimes the protagonist is eager to step into this new world (Sixteen Candles), and sometimes they are thrown into it by some incident (Juno). While lighter comedies may focus on rituals of becoming adults, such as drinking and partying, there are many more serious films that center around this theme. Often, the actual loss of innocence is spurred by a traumatic event such as death, abuse, or even a divorce. Darker films (American Beauty) explore the more turbulent world of the modern American teenager. While these films traditionally center on teenagers, they can reach many younger demographics as well (Where the Wild Things Are). Even Toy Story 3 touched on the loss of innocence and the end of the childhood era.


The theme of Revenge has been present in film from the early silent era and continues to be popular today. While revenge films revolve around the same idea, the endings can differ greatly. For instance, sometimes the revenge is justified and the ending turns out well (Revenge of the Nerds, Mean Girls). Sometimes though, the wrong person feels revengeful and the outcome turns out badly (CarrieCape Fear). But even though the endings can vary, films that have the theme of Revenge are always about the journey. Films like Kill Bill and Memento center entirely on this idea, taking us on a tumultuous ride that culminates around an act of vengeance.

Death as a Part of Life

As one of the most emotional and thought-provoking issues of life, death is an eternal theme in films. The inevitability of death, the mystery that surrounds it, and the implications that it brings make death one of the most interesting motifs of all. Some films incorporate it into the narrative of the story and thus the theme of death emerges. However, many other films focus on impending death, exploring issues of grief and loss (Steel Magnolias, Pay it Forward). Often, films that incorporate the theme of death as a part of life explore the after world (What Dreams May Come, The Lovely Bones). While these films portray death and dying, the theme truly resonates when the characters discover that life continues even after the physical body is no more.

The Battle

Conflict is an integral part of any film. However, some films revolve around a literal battle. This battle can be between two individuals, two countries, or even two worlds. Usually, the audience does bond to the protagonist’s cause. It is easy to pick sides with films like Braveheart and 300. Unlike the traditional Good vs. Evil theme, the battle may incorporate two differing sides – neither of which is right or wrong. For example, films like The War of the Roses make it difficult as both main characters are neither good nor evil and a little bit of both. Films that center on a battle are often based in historical facts (We Were Soldiers), but they can also be categorized as science fiction, action, war, or epics. And although the theme of battle can span genres, these films will always contain a definitive battle scene(s), literal, figurative, or both. Often it’s the fear of dying that weighs the most.

Individual vs. Society

This theme shows the battle between the protagonist and the social norm or social traditions. Often, these films show the protagonist sacrificing his own well-being for a cause. For instance, Schindler’s List tells the story of a man who becomes concerned for Jewish people after witnessing their persecution under the Nazi regime. Erin Brockovich tells the story of a ordinary woman who takes extraordinary measures to take down a power company. These characters are willing to sacrifice everything for their cause. However, the Individual vs. Society isn’t only about sacrifice and social injustice. These films can explore the individual fighting against authority (Fight Club), or societal acceptance (The Elephant Man). No matter the subject, the characters face constant conflict as they try to come to terms with society.

Love Conquers All

In film, the theme that Love Conquers All has always been an infectious standard, good and bad. From Love Story to The English Patientto Titanic, there is no doubt that Hollywood considers love to be the most noble of pursuits. And regardless of the genre (from the Disney animated classic Snow White to the sci-fi thriller The Adjustment Bureau, the overpowering presence of “love conquers all” is seen as characters fight the undeniable fate of true love. No matter what obstacle a character may have to endure, movies revolving around this theme will end by reiterating this notion. 

Good vs. Evil

Films that explore the battle between Good vs. Evil, however, can range from children’s animation (Fantasia) to fantasy films (The Chronicles of Narnia), to classic action flicks (James Bond). This theme tends to be especially prevalent in film series (Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter). While good almost always triumphs over evil, it can be fascinating when evil prevails (Star Wars: Episode VThe Empire Strikes Back) even if it is only temporary. No doubt, Good vs. Evil is a celebrated theme within movies as it represents the ultimate showdown of polar opposites.

Triumph over Adversity

Triumph Over Adversity is in almost all movies, the main character faces an obstacle that he or she needs to overcome. However, in films with this theme, characters’ lives and stories are defined by the adversity they face. For instance, The Blind Side tells the story of a homeless boy who becomes an All American football player. Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of a Mumbai teen who becomes a successful contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” The theme of Triumph Over Adversity almost always revolves around an exceptional person in a horrible and hopeless situation. Whether they are born into it or fall into it, these stories show how the human spirit can rise up time and time again over tyranny, injustice, or just plain bad luck.