But be careful, because each genre comes with a large set of expectations.
Most genres lend themselves to certain pre-established thematic dilemmas: westerns tend to be about individualism versus societal needs, science fiction is often about innovation versus tradition, comedies are about fun versus responsibility, and dramas pit two incompatible adult responsibilities against each other.
Genres also establish how the characters will be expected to act. In most genres, we expect the behavior of the characters to reflect human nature, but there are exceptions. Nobody in the real world has ever said, “A serial killer is obsessed with me, so I’ll kill him myself without going to the cops,” but it happens all the time in thrillers. At the end of the movie version of Strangers on a Train, it’s ridiculous for Guy to go after Bruno himself, except for the fact that thriller fans would be disappointed if he didn’t.
Mixing genres can be done, but there’s always a danger that you’ll mix or lose the metaphor, as we discovered before.
Choosing to write in a certain genre is always a trade-off: you agree to write within certain pre-established expectations, and in return you get a preselected audience that has accepted your inherent promise that you’ll provide what they crave. It’s a great power that comes with great responsibility.
The 40 Year Old Virgin
YES, the romantic comedy / sex-comedy
YES. It consistently and successfully combines sci-fi and horror.
YES. The romantic melodrama.
YES. It’s a Hitchcockian/erotic thriller throughout, albeit it an odd one.
The Bourne Identity
YES. It’s straight up spy, with a little more romance than usual.
YES. Raunchy comedy
YES. Somewhat, a short-lived genre: the international-intrigue-romance
Do the Right Thing
YES. Comedy-drama, mixed throughout.
YES. It combines four: Sports, biopic, drama, merged throughout
YES. The fairy tale
YES. Horror and social satire merged from the beginning.
Sort of: It’s a romantic comedy until it becomes a sci-fi / metaphysical comedy 18 minutes in. That’s a little late, but the two are well-blended from that point on.
How to Train Your Dragon
YES. Action-Comedy / Heroic Fantasy
In a Lonely Place
NO. it’s halfway between film noir and neo-gothic romance and doesn’t quite satisfy either.
YES. Consistently mixes action and conspiracy.
YES. A straight-up coming of age tale.
YES. The small-time-crook black-comedy
YES. The coming of age movie
YES. Historical drama.
YES. classic straight-up horror.
YES. Combines male-bonding comedy / romantic drama, which is a somewhat awkward combination, but it’s maintained and it works.
The Silence of the Lambs
YES. Combines sci-fi and fantasy throughout
YES. gothic melodrama mixed with Hollywood satire.