10 Most Successful Movie Themes
Before we can talk about the best movie themes in film, we have to understand what theme exactly is.
In the dictionary:
Theme – an idea that recurs in or pervades a work of art or literature.
So, for example, The Notebook has several themes, which films can and do have, but its main theme is, love.
Love is such a big theme that we’ll jump right into our list.
While we are giving you the most successful themes in movies, we are not ranking them on their importance. As you’ll see, most standout films have more than one theme.
If you’ve ever watched a film you’ll have noticed that 100% had loved as one of its themes. Think about it? There’s always a love storyline in any film. Go ahead, try and think of a film that doesn’t have a love storyline?
Can’t do it, can you?
Love, a great theme to write about and needed to be on our list for sure.
Go to Genre – Romance
One of the most popular film genres is horror, and in horror, there is a ton of fear themes. If you’re writing a scary move and don’t incorporate fear, then you haven’t written a horror film at all, you’ve written a boring drama.
Go to Genre – Horror – Thrillers
Good Vs Evil
Do we even have to explain this one? Any superhero film that you have ever seen falls into this theming. Even films like the Lord of the Ring series is all about Good vs. Evil.
But it doesn’t have to just be used in films with massive battles and explosions.
Take a look at a comedy like Due Date. Robert Downey Jr. can be considered the good guy as he’s our main character just trying to get home before his wife gives birth to their first child. Zach Galifianakis can be seen as the evil character, seemingly sabotaging our protagonist throughout the film, until this theme slowly disappears as the two characters become friends.
Go To Genre – Action
We’re all going to die someday. That can be a very scary thing for some and a calming thing to understand for others. Death is a major part of life so its obvious that it would be a major theme used in all sorts of films.
Usually, in high stakes type of films, death is the danger of pushing our characters into action.
A film like Inception, by Christopher Nolan, can have amazing visuals and imaginative plot points, but at the end of the day, one of the major themes in the film is death.
Sometimes this theme can be very obvious when a film is about war, but it can also come as a subtle theme in genres like bio-films.
Death is something that’s never going to away, so don’t expect it to leave our films either.
Who doesn’t like to watch a film about someone getting their comeuppance?
Films like Gladiator, Kill Bill: Vols 1 & 2, even Mean Girls, are all about our main protagonist getting revenge (justice) for what has been done wrong to them or someone close to our character’s heart.
This popular theme allows us the viewer (and yes, the screenwriter) to see things come to life that we wish we could do in our own lives but understand such things would most likely have us in jail, for life, with no chance of parole.
Everyone loves to see someone get what they deserve, and that’s why Revenge makes for a great movie theme.
This one, like love, is very straight forward, in fact probably more so.
Obviously, any film that is about war will have themes of war. Films like Saving Private Ryan, Dunkirk, War of the Worlds are all about war. How each film explores that theme are vastly different from each other, but the core theme is there in all of them.
Once again, this is a perfect theme for superhero movies, especially team-ups like The Avengers or Justice League, where our heroes are usually fighting some sort of alien army.
But if you want to be a little more subtle, a movie like Scarface also has some elements of war.
Coming of Age
Not only is this a theme a lot of popular films explore, but its also a popular genre.
The Breakfast Club, Superbad, Stand by Me, Perks of Being a Wallflower, are all films with Coming of Age as one of their themes. The list could literally go on and on.
Coming of age usually covers themes of universal experiences, which make them so popular with audiences. We all know those awkward, angsty, embarrassing, etc events we had to go through while maturing into adulthood, which allows us to connect more closely with our main character.
This is a great theme for biofilms. We don’t make films about famous people simply because they’re famous. We make films about their lives because they are the people that battled adversity, and somehow in the end, reach their goals and accomplished their dreams.
We all want to have that inspiration of seeing someone like us being unstoppable in their journey to a better life, because if we see someone else able to do it maybe – just maybe we’ll be able to as well.
It’s also a great theme to explore as a screenwriter because you’re going into your story already with a clear understanding that you’re going to put your character through the ringer and almost to the edge of death, before giving them their much-earned comeback.
This is a popular theme because it’s obviously once again tied into the superhero genre. We all want to see the good in people, and especially in today’s world, it can feel like there are no more good people left.
Well, films that deal with themes of Hero allow us to see the world in a more optimistic light. The hero film can inspire us to take actual action in our real everyday lives.
The hero theme doesn’t just have to be for superhero films.
A film about Martin Luther King, Jr would have themes of “the hero” too. What’s even better is that that was in fact a real, living, breathing, hero that once lived with us.
Man vs Machine
This is a theme that you see explored all the time in the sci-fi genre. At least once a year, there will be a film released exploring this theme. When done well, they become classics and/or pick up a ton of awards.
Two films that fit that billing, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Ex Machina.
When dealing with this theme, as a screenwriter you might start to fall into some classic Man vs Machine tropes. So, to keep your story fresh, figure out a way you can incorporate another theme to mesh with this main one that we might not have seen before, or at least not very often.
Obvious choices would be to go either to love or fear, but if you’re looking to make an impact on a genre and change the way Man vs Machine stories are seen and told, you might want to connect a theme like Remorse and see what interesting plot points you may be able to come up with.
Go to Genre – Sci-fi
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How to Find Theme
What’s the theme you? You don’t know what the theme is your fifth grade teacher we taught you nothing. Oh, we’re gonna talk about what a theme is. Yoga is here and today is all about themes. So if you’re a little hazy on the whole, what is the theme thing? Stay tuned because I’m gonna confuse the hell out of you. totally kidding, I wouldn’t I wouldn’t do that to you guys. I love you guys. So I guess we should probably start with what is theme, maybe definition theme, a central idea in a piece of writing or other work of art. You can think of it as the meaning the life lesson or the moral of the story themes don’t have character names and plot details. And then when we’re talking about themes we’re talking about a universal concept that is much bigger than the characters or the story that you create these abstract ideas or observations can be applied to well everybody me you this guy. Well, maybe not that guy.
But movie theme is more or less the writer or filmmakers message to the audience. Any good film or screenplay can have many things. Some themes are insanely obvious, and others are more subtle. For example, you could say that a theme for Finding Nemo is through friendship you can overcome your fears and insecurities doesn’t have a character doesn’t mention any plot points and it’s a universal concept can be applied to me you are this guy. What theme isn’t?
Well, theme is not communicated in one word, it’s it’s about love, friendship, friendship, family. These are really themes. They’re just subjects or topics. However, you can use the subject to help you find a theme themes are observations, opinions, or ideas about the subject of a movie. For example, the subject of a movie could be revenge, but the theme could be revenge destroys everything and everyone including the person seeking How do you find the theme?
Well, there are a few different ways. Let’s talk about that one look at your protagonists journey. How does your main character change throughout the course of the story? What do they learn? If you substitute your main character for say all of mankind, then your protagonists journey and how they change can be a theme for example, in Iron Man, Tony Stark begins the film as a naive war profiteer, but over the course of the film, he realizes the destructive impact of his actions and takes full responsibility for them. So based on his character arc, you could say that a theme is we must all take responsibility for our own actions because at the end of the day, nobody else will and another theme could be no matter how many mistakes you’ve made, it’s never too late to set things right.
To look at the central conflict of the story, what are the opposing forces which one wins? And if so, why? And by forces I mean, the more abstract generalized definition for example, in the Terminator
The two opposing forces are man and machine you could say that the theme is no matter how advanced our creations become they can never replace the human spirit you know Arnold Schwarzenegger was all swole up with his you know metal skeleton and everything but I mean, we still one I mean, you aren’t a Swanson I mean, I love you bro. But you lost the machines took an L three. Sometimes the character can just flat out state a theme of the movie doesn’t always happen, but sometimes it does.
For example, in The Incredibles, just before Bob tries to fight the Omni bot alone at the climax, his wife Helen says this, I’m asking you to wait with a kid and I’m telling you Not a chance. You’re my husband, I’m with you. For better or worse, if we work together, you won’t have to be so if you’ve seen the movie, you understand that Bob has had trouble embracing this whole marriage slash family thing and his wife Helen is pretty much outright flat saying if we weren’t together, we can conquer anything. thing with family and marital unity.
Anything is possible. Oh, that was actually kind of good. I like the way I worded them. write that one down. No, you want to avoid being too vague or obvious with your theme. For example, family is awesome. Love is blind. love conquers all. Friendship is important. Yeah, I’m just I’m just not digging those. There’s more. It’s worth mentioning that themes can be horribly subjective. Two different people can read the same scripts or watch the same movie and walk away with two completely different things.
Sometimes a film can have conflicting themes. Or sometimes people can see themes in a piece of work or film that the filmmaker outright rejects or didn’t intend to be there. Somebody could easily think that the theme for Man of Steel is never trust frickin aliens pay, it’s subjective, he wouldn’t be wrong. The general rule of thumb is, if you see it, you own it. We bring our own life experiences into the scripts that we read in the films that we watch, the way that we interpret the meaning of what we see is also informed by our own life experiences. As a result, people will inherently see different messages and meanings.
So whatever themes you see they’re absolutely true for you. Now, of course, all the examples that I used earlier are all based on my own subjective experience. So you got to come up with your own theme. does this affect my writing? You’ll find that when you’re writing your own work, the same themes keep popping up whether you intend for it or not, you’ll naturally sort of gravitate to certain topics or subject matters. It could possibly maybe more than likely probably leaning more towards Sure.
Almost 100% sure definitely probably mean that these things are important to you on a subconscious level. I noticed in my own work I always tend towards the exploration of pain my characters are always dealing with a lot of I don’t know what it is about it I just, you know, when I start writing, I always end up writing about that in some form or another as a writer, try not to force a theme oftentimes when you’re working on a project and you get put so far into the writing process, a theme just sort of rises to the surface that had probably been laying dormant in the back of your mind somewhere it seems to work best that way.
Anyway, some people like to start writing with a loose theme in mind some people don’t think about theme at all and as they write if a theme pops up great, if not great, do you think about theme before you go into the project? Or do you just kind of let it surface as you’re working? Are you are you a big theme or are you not a big theme or that that’s not even a word?
So get in the comment box and you know, let me let me know what you think. Well, that’s all I got for you.
Finding the movie theme of Jurassic Park
There it is. For a kid growing up in the 90s, Jurassic Park was everything. It’s hard to imagine anything cooler than a dinosaur. And this film brought dinosaurs to life in a way never before possible. But as time has shown simply, including dinosaurs is not enough to make a movie good. Allen, and then revisiting the film as an adult, it’s clear that one of the most impressive aspects of Jurassic Park is its screenplay.
While the film is filled with exciting action sequences and amazing visual effects. It is also populated by interesting characters who are used to explore an important modern theme. So today I want to examine how the themes origins inspired the creation of two very specific central characters to look at how both the plot and supporting characters challenge their beliefs, and dissect how every single choice made by the writers fed the theme until it became a full grown, unstoppable monster. Welcome to Jurassic Park.
In the early 1980s, author Michael Crichton was working on a script about a graduate student using technology to recreate a dinosaur as he was writing crighton arrived at a problem explaining this kind of research is tremendously expensive. And the question arises, who will pay for it? The only thing that I could think of was that it would come from a desire for entertainment.
So the idea of a dinosaur theme park became the foundation of cratons premise and buried inside this premise who would find what would become the DNA of the story? Its theme in this book into the woods a five act journey into story, john York discusses the importance of theme. A theory is posited as an argument explored and a conclusion reached.
That, in a nutshell, is what theme is, subject matter is a static given. theme, on the other hand, is an active exploration of an idea. It’s a premise to be explored. It’s a question, is it a good idea to bring back dangerous extinct creatures? Just because we have the technology to do something doesn’t mean that we should. And more broadly, is everything we call progress actually progress? This is the theme of Jurassic Park. But Michael crighton didn’t think the question had a simple answer.
So he and screenwriter David cap use the theme as a blueprint for creating two characters with opposing viewpoints. When we first meet Dr. Alan grant, he is anti progress in two distinct ways. Computers feeling’s mutual. We see the grant is completely mistrusting of technology. Look at the external grants that must be compatible. We also see that he is not compatible with a more symbolic representation of the future. He slashes to here.
You are alive when they start to eat you. Grant doesn’t like kids, and doesn’t want to have them. What’s wrong with kids? He looked in noisy there’s messy they’re expensive to see.
They smell. Throughout the first act we see examples of grants dislike of children and his contentious relationship with technology again, and again. And again, and grant clearly represents the anti progress side of the theme. But soon someone with an opposing viewpoint comes barging into his world. JOHN Hammond Hammond is so pro technology and progress he doesn’t even consider that genetically engineering dinosaurs might be dangerous. When a worker is killed by a velociraptor Hammonds only concern is that it might delay the parks opening. In fact, Hammonds favorite catchphrase spent no expense was spared no expense spared no expense is an expression of this mindset forward at all costs. How can we stop in the minds of discovery Act, the first act of Jurassic Park establishes grant and Hammonds opposing takes on the theme of progress. But just having characters and body different perspectives isn’t enough. To truly explore a theme you must find ways of testing the characters believes.
An act to the screenplay splits Scranton Hammond up putting an entire island and a 10,000 volt fence between them. This separation allows each of them to encounter situations uniquely designed to attack their beliefs. when the power goes out all over the island, grant is suddenly forced to get along without the help of any technology.
They wouldn’t touch. Don’t touch anything we stopped, while at the same time finding himself responsible for the lives of hemmens grandchildren. But that’s not Throughout the second act of the film, every single moment and grand story is about one of these two things. Boy, eventually, Grant even acknowledges that he has been resisting progress and his own life, and then he might be ready to change. What do you like to do now, if you don’t have to pick up desert bones anymore?
I don’t know, I guess I guess we’ll just have to evolve to. Meanwhile, Hammond is dealing with the fact that the dinosaurs he decided to bring back to life are destroying everything he’s built. But even worse, they’re now threatening the lives he values most. By having to witness the disaster unfold, Hammond is forced to realize that he only loved progress at all costs when he thought he had control over it. But it’s not just the situations that are designed to attack grant and Hammonds beliefs.
The script uses Dr. Ian Malcolm k audition to test the character of grant by flirting with grants partner, Dr. Ellie sattler. As I go into, as identified by and in his interactions with grant, we see that Malcolm might have some of the qualities Dr. Sadler wants that grant lacks. Really kids. me Oh, hell yeah, three. I love kids. Anything at all can and does happen.
This hints that if grant doesn’t figure out a way to evolve, he could lose Dr. Sadler welcome tests Hammond by spelling out the exact problem with Hammonds pro progress obsession. Our scientists have done things which nobody’s ever done before. Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they couldn’t they didn’t stop to think of a shot. Once Malcolm is injured Dr. Sadler another well designed supporting character steps in to test Hammonds beliefs for weaknesses when we have control over have control that’s the illusion. The only thing that matters now are the people we love.
Elon Lexan to him.
Jump out there were people are dying. The screenwriter even reminds us of Hammons catchphrase at the end of the scene, highlighting how Hammons progress at all costs viewpoint has failed in the face of disaster, and now sits around him melting. La reaches out and takes a spoon out of one of the buckets of ice cream and licks it good. He looks up at her and his face is different, as the unhappy irony of what he’s about to say finally hits home. expanse.
Ian Malcolm Alec Sadler, and even characters like Dennis nedry, Muldoon and Gennaro are fun additions to the story, each with their own memorable moments. Clever. But more importantly, these supporting characters exist to sharpen the film’s focus on theme by challenging the beliefs of grant and Hammond. And because their beliefs are challenged throughout the film, by the end, they’ve both learned to evolve. Now they pulled off the tar locks. During the movies climax flexes skill with new computer technology becomes the reason all the characters are rescued. The fact grant is forced to acknowledge Mr. Hammond phone’s gonna come through the glass and after the trauma of this ordeal, Hammond has realized that sometimes the cost of progress is simply too high.
After careful consideration, I decided not to Windows to park so by
the both of them have changed their beliefs suggest that the central question at the core of a theme doesn’t always have to have a neat, easy answer. As Michael Creighton said, it seems to me that we live in a society in which technology is continuously presented as wonderful. Isn’t it fabulous that we all have computers? Well, yes and no is my response. Yes, and no. Jurassic Park is a great example of how to use theme to guide the design of a screenplay. It celebrates the marvels that technology can provide, while also warning of the dangers of irresponsible progress. And taking it a step further, the filmmakers even found ways to weave in moments about all kinds of progress issues from the early 90s. from illegal and bureaucratic red tape to feminism.
Eat man, woman inherits theory, to corporate espionage. This commitment to theme elevates the film above a simple monster movie, helping make it one of our most beloved and enduring cinematic experiences. One that may never go extinct. And it allows a thrilling, meaningful adventure to wait inside the gates of Jurassic Park.
Jurassic Park was first released in theaters in June of 1993. But it didn’t come out on VHS until October of 1994. As a seven year old, having to wait that long to watch it again, it was very frustrating. But I filled that time by playing with my Jurassic Park toys. And by reading the original book, the book has a much darker tone, but it’s really great.
And if you haven’t read it, you should, which is why I’m so glad that audible has sponsored this video, because you can start a 30 day trial today and get your first audio book for free by going to audible.com slash lfts or by texting lfts to 500 500. Audible has the largest selection of audiobooks on the planet, and you can listen to them on all your devices, seamlessly switching between your phone, car or tablet, picking up exactly where you left off.