Genre Study: The Gangster Thriller (Part Two)

 Genre Study is Page 85’s new blog series that examines how genres evolve over time, and how you can make the most out of the genre you’re writing by studying films of the past.

Previously on yesterday’s episode of Genre Study: The Gangster Thriller (Part One), I talked about the common conventions of a gangster thriller, and began a brief history of the gangster thriller genre itself.

Today, I’m adding one more film to the list, and tomorrow I’m breaking down 6 tips you need to keep in mind when writing your gangster thriller.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Also known as: a delightfully cheery love story

So Bonnie and Clyde is one of those movies that tells you — repeatedly — that the couple is going to get killed at the end through morbid poetry that the characters write, ominous symbols, and other minor characters who say things like, “I will bring flowers to their funeral!”

One of the reasons that Bonnie and Clyde can’t survive in the end is because survival would have betrayed the genre conventions. In gangster films, somebody has to pay the price for subverting the law. And usually, it’s the gangsters themselves who have to pay.

Despite the decidedly dark ending, Bonnie and Clyde is a more vicarious take on the traditional gangster film. We got these two lovers who are robbing banks, naming themselves the Barrow Gang, and wreaking havoc and making law enforcement look like fools. This kind of change puts more emphasis on the audience, who is now invited to go on this fun joyride with the leading couple.

If you want to write a gangster film that focuses on a couple, decide how you want to play out the “doomed love” trope, and decide what kinds of conflicts to inject into the leading couples’ relationship, and how and when you want to resolve these conflicts. In Bonnie and Clyde, Clyde was afraid of physical intimacy. This is a good issue because it threatens his pride, and is the source of their arguments and unhappiness for a good portion of the film before it is resolved.


So, you may be wondering, “Amy, why isn’t the epic gangster film The Godfather included in this brief history?!” Well, dear readers, if you pick up any screenwriting book in the world, you will see pages and pages of praise written in the name of The Godfather. It’s really an overused example. Here at Page 85, we like breaking the mold. We’re like that one obscure hipster screenwriting blog in the corner of the party rocking back and forth clutching his collection of straight-to-DVD movies and muttering obscure movie lines nobody’s ever heard of.


Tomorrow’s article deals with 6 Tips to Keep in Mind When Writing a Gangster Thriller. 

Stay tuned!

Speak Your Mind