Action & Adventure

Since at least the 1960s, moviegoers have flocked to big-budget action and adventure blockbusters, especially during the peak summertime months. These movies constitute the majority of Hollywood productions and they bring in the lion’s share of revenue for the major studios. According to the website Box Office Mojo, seven of the top-10 highest grossing movies to date—from Avatar (2009) at #1 to Iron Man 3 (2013) at #10—are action blockbusters. Audiences clearly love these movies; critics, meanwhile, love to hate them. As screenwriter Larry Gross put it,


“Whatever you call this genre—the movie-as-Theme-park, the movie-as-Giant-Comic-Book, the movie-as-Ride—I call it simply the Big Loud Action Movie. For better or worse it has been a central economic fact, structuring all life, thought and practice in Hollywood at least since the late 70s. This will not change soon.”


Statistics and comments like these should raise several questions for any student of the action genre. Why are many critics so opposed to this kind of movie? Meanwhile, what is it about action movies that audiences find so engaging? What are the critics missing? Over the course of this semester, we will try to answer these questions—and more—as we begin to break down how action movies are made, how they affect us, and what makes some better than others.


How to Make a Plot Segmentation

Vocabulary List #1: Narrative and Narration

Vocabulary List #2: Elements of Film Style

How to Write Analytically About Film Style


"Are Popular Movies Works of Art?"

David Bordwell, "In critical condition"

Pauline Kael, "Whipped"

Roger Ebert, review of Raiders of the Lost Ark


1. Goldfinger Mini-Analysis Paper

2. Ocean's Eleven Socratic Seminar

3. Speed Narrative Segmentation

4. Mission: Impossible Analysis Essay

5. "6-Second Film School": A Vine Project

6. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Analysis Project

7. Inception Socratic Seminar

8. Spider-Man 2 Movie Review

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