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Pigeonholed Director

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"I am a typed director. If I made Cinderella, the audience would immediately be looking for a body in the coach."

Essentially the director's equivalent of Typecasting, where certain directors are linked to a certain genre they work in, or are best remembered for one or more certain films.

Most likely to happen because directors work in genre they know best, mostly if they also write. But they might as well be stuck in a genre they do not favor because an out of their genre product was their only success. To be considered as an artist, a director is expected to have a unique feel to his works, which leads to this. Ostensibly the one time directors try and step out of the genre, they can be accused by fans of Oscar Bait, subscribing to Tom Hanks Syndrome and selling out, even if said project might be something they care about. This also makes it harder for them to start Doing It for the Art because the kind of movies the director wants to make are not what the market and society expects from him. It's not that people don't like those kinds of movies, its just that they don't want those kind of movies from him/her.


In some cases, the directors burst Out of the Ghetto and fully reach the level where they can shift between multiple genres or find success in works entirely different from what they first became known for.


  • All but two of James Cameron's films are science fiction.
  • David Fincher: Expect it to be gritty, stylish, morally murky, and concerning criminal goings-on (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the only outright exception so far, The Social Network fits the bill aside from the grittiness and direct criminality - the Framing Device are two lawsuits against Mark, and he does some nasty stuff in his path)
  • Steven Spielberg is remembered for tales of childlike innocents or intrepid adventurers (or both) triumphing against an unforgiving world, usually in a sci-fi setting. May include Parental Neglect and/or Parental Abandonment. He finally broke out of pigeonholing when he made Schindler's List which became commercially successful. His earlier attempts to break out of the genre (The Color Purple and Empire of the Sun, as well as his first film, The Sugarland Express) were commercial disappointments and critically divisive though they did attract some support later on. Since then, Spielberg has been able to shift between genre science-fiction and serious period films, to the extent that Lincoln and Bridge of Spies were far better received than more Spielbergian fare such as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The BFG.
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  • Stanley Kubrick outsmarted genre pigeonholing by making a classic in every genre, sometimes more. He ended up being pigeonholed for his Signature Style, as he's best known for filming with a cold, controlled eye and slow, steady pacing.
  • David Cronenberg will always be a pioneer of Body Horror even though he was dabbling in other genres as early as 1979's Fast Company, an auto racing drama that brought together much of his Production Posse for the first time. Later on, he'd tackle literary and stage adaptations, crime dramas, a historical drama about Sigmund Freud, and even a satire of Hollywood. However, there's still a common Signature Style threaded through the bulk of these movies, as noted at that trope: "Basically, if it causes passions to flare in otherwise intelligent people, he’s there to analyze it."
  • How many non-Thriller films has Alfred Hitchcock done again?
  • Quentin Tarantino doesn't have a genre stereotype unless "Genre Throwback" fits. Though most of his movies deal with criminals and hitmen, and he has a distinguished Signature Style - characters discussing other movies, the plot stopping for a while so people can trade witty banter, swearing and slurs, women's feet and bloody deaths, at times for laughs.
  • David Lynch: Mind Screw. Lots and lots of Mind Screw. Weirdly, for a few years in the early 1980s, he was considered a mainstream Oscar-friendly director after the success of The Elephant Man (although even it is a little on the weird side, and apparently nobody had seen his debut picture), which is why they gave him the Dune movie. After that flopped, he dove right back into the Mind Screw, and - with the exception of The Straight Story - never looked back, and has been getting progressively weirder since the late '90s.
  • Martin Scorsese has become synonymous with (organized) crime dramas, even though he's tried just about every genre you can imagine: musical, romantic comedy, documentary, Biblical epic, costume drama, even a biopic about the Dalai Lama. But the problem is that the only films of his which are successful commercially are the ones in the particular genre, while films dealing with serious and more introspective themes (like Silence and The Age Of Innocence) are commercially unsuccessfully.
  • Akira Kurosawa is mostly known for his samurai films in America but also made a number of films about contemporary post-war Japan.
  • Michael Bay: Big, dumb, loud, action-heavy, vaguely misogynistic, even more vaguely racist, with thin characters, shaky plots and terrible dialogue, and things go BOOM a lot.
    • Don't forget a blatant pro-military or pro-authority theme.
  • The Wachowskis: Cyberpunk (or at least dystopia), in a flashy and stylized manner, with a strong anti-authoritarian streak, and a lot of philosophizing. When they tried to do something Lighter and Softer with Speed Racer, the audience and critical reception was ugly.
  • Terrence Malick: Slooooooow and pretty and introspective.
  • Christopher Nolan: Neo-noir, non-linear, psychological thrillers with obsessed protagonists.
  • Sam Mendes: Painterly composed and overall sombre films about dysfunctional families and morally flawed characters trying to fix themselves.
    • Yes, Skyfall and Spectre count as those movies. They're basically Mendes films which happen to star James Bond and contain big action set pieces (which are also done in a painterly composition).
    • Away We Go still has Mendes' quirks as a director (composed style, dysfunctional families, etc.) but nobody dies at the end. The film is also more optimistic compared to his previous work.
  • George Lucas: A Genre Throwback - as noted by both Star Wars and Indiana Jones - and period films - American Graffiti. His debut, THX 1138, is the only exception.
  • Ishiro Honda, director behind the Godzilla series also was known for being an assistant to Akira Kurosawa and directing a number of romance films.
  • Nicolas Winding Refn primarily makes slow-paced, brightly colored thrillers with a subtle Black Comedy streak, synth soundtracks and flashes of brutal violence.
  • M. Night Shyamalan became known as "the guy who does twist endings." When he tried to make a big-budget film that didn't rely on a twist ending, the results were...not well-received.
  • Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach are best known as "those guys who make quirky comedies about dysfunctional families". However, Anderson's movies are much more mainstream and colorful than Baumbach's (who abides by True Art Is Angsty).
  • Roland Emmerich: sci-fi or regular action movies with lots of destruction. He also seems to love The End of the World as We Know It. When he decided to break the mold with Anonymous, it was met with indifference.
  • George A. Romero has directed only two non-horror films: 1971's There's Always Vanilla and 1981's Knightriders. Six of his fifteen films are zombie films in the series he began with Night of the Living Dead (1968).
  • John Ford's westerns, usually with John Wayne.
  • Sergio Leone and the Spaghetti Western. Only his first and last movie were out of the genre.
  • Applied not to a single director, but to a particular studio. Microsoft's Ensemble Studios was seen as experts in making Real-Time Strategy games thanks to the success of their Age of Empires franchise. However, this ended up dooming them. Their pigeonholing as RTS developers meant that they had difficulty getting funding and approval for other types of projects, and the shrinking market for RTS games (relative to the expansion of the market as a whole) eventually led to them closing down shop. Many of Ensemble's former employees regrouped to form Robot Entertainment, where under a new studio brand they could finally branch out into other areas.
    • Ensemble is hardly the first or even the second studio to get pigeonholed, either.
  • Baz Luhrmann: Period Pieces (with anachronistic soundtracks, most of the time), a cliched romance, and fast-paced editing that's hard to follow and even watch.
  • Don Mancini is the guy who only makes Child's Play movies and that's just about it.
  • Kevin Smith is the guy who makes comedies where people curse a lot and make vulgar sex references. Except for Red State.
  • Tim Burton is always making weird fantasy films that star Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Most of the characters have white faces and are outcasts to society.
  • The Farrelly Brothers are always doing gross-out comedies that last for 2 hours. They have edited down their movies because of this. The original cut of There's Something About Mary was 3 hours long.
    • The same goes for Judd Apatow who also only makes gross-out comedies that are 2 hours long. Most of the extras on his DVDs are deleted scenes. Even if they're not on the deleted scenes section.
  • Eli Roth states that he only wants to make horror movies. Nothing else.
  • Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker only make spoof movies.
  • James Wan is the guy who mostly makes horror movies. So far only two of his movies, Furious 7 and Aquaman (2018) have been non-horror. Oddly enough, those two exceptions are his highest-grossing films, grossing over a billion each.
  • The films of Jim Jarmusch tend to have plots that are very episodic in nature, with lots of character interaction, deadpan or offbeat humor, and very little in the way of action. Even when dealing with genres such as a vampire movie, such as Only Lovers Left Alive, or a Romantic Comedy such as Broken Flowers, his trademarks stay very much intact.
  • The Coen Brothers always make crime comedies, or crime thrillers, or crime dramas.
  • Gen Urobuchi is well-famed for horror and dark themes. He actively tried to hide his involvement with Puella Magi Madoka Magica, because he knew it would tip off the fans.
  • Wes Craven was known for directing horror/thriller films almost exclusively, with the exception of 1999's musical drama Music of the Heart.


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