Horror Infographics: The Most Popular Movie Genres 1910-2021

Scary DVDs! Woo!
Film Genre Popularity 1910-2021, Bo McCready

Just how popular is Horror? Data analyst Bo McCready has done a fascinating Tableau (An excellent infographics generator!) analysis of the history of film, and the relative popularity of each movie genre. The trick here is to recognize what the context of “popular” is here. For this table, this is the number of films produced in any given year, for EVERY year since 1910, according to our favorite resource, IMDb.

This is a distinction of “give the people what they want” in terms of the production of film types, in that the industry will produce more movies of a certain genre if they believe there is an audience, hence: Popular. It isn’t a list of film rankings per see. If you go to the cross-tab information, it will bring up the most highly rated films of the genre of any given year, and it also provides information on “most votes”, and I’m not sure what that refers to. I think the better cross-metric would be box office receipts, which establish the true financial cinematic power.

This helps put some data to long-held beliefs about movie-going trends. You see the big spike in war movies in the 1940s (naturally, for propaganda purposes) and the rise and fall of both the western and musical genres, which barely produce more than a couple of films each year in recent decades. It is notable to see the huge rise in documentary production since the late ’90s, with that genre taking up the top spot in terms of what gets released. I would surmise that is due to the ease with which it is to release an independent documentary short film, and IMDb picking up on that.

If you run a box office comparison, certainly Action would dominate the current cinema environment. It is also remarkable how consistently comedies get released every decade. That is an evergreen genre, but if you think about it, how many great comedies do you remember getting released in any given year? Great comedies have got to be the hardest things to produce, but they consistently get produced year after year.

What does this mean for horror?

It’s on the rise, with our favorite genre now ascending to 10% of the market, which is a little more than romance, about the same as Action and Thriller, and considerably more than War, Sci-Fi, Musicals, Westerns, and Fantasy. You also see the suppression of the Hayes Code between 1936 and the 1960s. The lull of the ’90s is also visibly evident with the entire decade essentially one big trough of releases after the heyday of the 1980s and the resurgence to what we have now. What is clear is that we have more offerings now than ever before!

Thanks to Bo McCready for producing what I am assuming was a time-consuming compilation. I believe he updates it every year. Bo, I would love it if you could take this same graphic and apply the box office to the analysis, and if you have these graphs side by side, it really tracks the trend lines for if we can expect more investment into Horror!

To get a closer look and to use the Tableau sliders here is the link to his graph:


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