With the 92nd Academy Awards on Feb. 9, 2020, we look at how popular film genres have changed over generations.

What’s a genre? The word is French and means type or category. There is no scientific method of assigning a film to genres, which began as a way filmmakers could easily cast and market their movies.

Genre refers to recurring, repeating and recognizable patterns including subject matter, characters or settings.

In the silent film era, many movies began to fall into categories such as Western, romance and horror.

As moviemaking advanced, more basic genres came about. The chart below has what are widely seen as the major movie genres.

According to filmsite.org, a website dedicated to rating films and film history, films were not subjected to genre analysis until the 1970s. All films fall into at least one major genre, although there are a number that are considered hybrids, with multiple overlapping subgenres (zombie romantic comedy, for example) that identify them.

All of this year’s best picture nominees have multiple genres and even more subgenres, but what they all have in common is they are dramas.

Genre bias?

It’s no coincidence that every film nominated for best picture this year is listed as a drama. A study done by entertainment news website Collider.com used data from the Internet Movie Database to see which genre won best picture the most from 1928-2010.

Winners may have multiple genres.

Here are some of the results:

1. Drama: Of 413 films nominated, 74 won.

2. Romance: Of 206 films nominated, 34 won.

3. Comedy: Of 98 films nominated, 14 won.

4. Biography: Of 67 films nominated, 14 won.

Note: In 2018 the best picture winner was “The Shape of Water.” The film could be put in several genres but is considered to be the first science fiction film to win best picture.

Genre popularity

Data journalist Bo McCready created this chart of film genre popularity from 1910-2018 based on the percentage of films released each year with their specified genre tagged on IMDB. The charts show that comedy has been the most consistently released genre. Horror and documentary films have been more frequently made in recent years, while Westerns and musicals have declined a lot since 1970. Horror and thriller films have also seen increases in recent decades.

2019 Best Picture nominees

Each has multiple genre listings on IMDB. They are shown with how much money they grossed. Two films made by Netflix were in theaters for only a few weeks before being streamed millions of times. Netflix has not released exact totals for those.

“Ford v Ferrari”

(Action, biography, drama)

Domestic box office: $111 million

Global box office: $211 million

“The Irishman”

(Biography, crime, drama)

Domestic box office: N/A

Global box office: $961,224

“Jojo Rabbit”

(comedy, drama, war)

Domestic box office: $21.9 million

Global box office: $30 million

“Joker”

(Crime, drama, thriller)

Domestic box office: $334 million

Global box office: $1.06 billion

“Little Women”

(Drama, romance)

Domestic box office: $74 million

Global box office: $107 million

“Marriage Story”

(Comedy, drama, romance)

Domestic box office: N/A

Global box office: $317,060

“1917”

(Drama, war)

Domestic box office: $39 million

Global box office: $60 million

“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

(Comedy, drama)

Domestic box office: $141 million

Global box office: $372 million

“Parasite”

(Comedy, crime, drama)

Domestic box office: $25 million

Global box office: $132 million

At the box office

This chart from The-numbers.com shows the top genres’ market share of box office dollars from 1995-2020. Action and adventure have dominated since the late 1990s.

Sources: IMDB, Bo McCready (Twitter.com@boknowsdata), filmsite.org, Oscars.org, The-numbers.com, Collider.com

LA Daily News