Cover image for Encyclopedia of film themes, settings and series
Encyclopedia of film themes, settings and series
Armstrong, Richard B., 1956-
Publication Information:
Jefferson, N.C. ; London : McFarland, [2000]

Physical Description:
xii, 225 pages : illustrations ; 29 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN1997.8 .A76 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize Non-Circ

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This work includes over 670 entires on a variety of film themes, settings, and series. Each entry contains a mini-essay that defines the topic, followed by a chronological list of representative films. Example entries are alcoholism, the RBI, oil wells and twins.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

This is the third edition of the inconsistently titled subject film index by the Armstrongs. The first edition, published by McFarland, appeared in 1990 as The Movie List Book: A Reference Guide to Film Themes, Settings and Series and had 450 entries. The book was lauded as a much-needed resource offering subject access to primarily English-language, sound-era films. In 1994, a second edition offering approximately 100 new entries was published by Betterway Books as The Movie List Book: Hundreds of Fun and Fascinating Lists of Films by Their Settings and Major Themes. McFarland now offers the latest version, featuring more than 670 entries and covering films through August 2000. Both films made for television and for theatrical release are included, as are a few well-known foreign film series. As in the previous two editions, arrangement is alphabetical by movie topics (mostly themes, settings, and series, as the title suggests). Each entry offers background information on the topic, ranging anywhere from two sentences to several paragraphs. The narrative is chatty, informative, and opinionated; in the absence of a bibliography, one assumes all of the commentary reflects authorial viewpoints. Following each narrative is a chronological list of representative films in each category, ranging anywhere from 3 to 80 titles. Aside from the many new film titles added since the last edition, more than 100 new topics have been added. Examples of new series include Aladdin series, Beverly Hills Cop series, and Watchers series; other new categories include Bond villains, Bowling, and Zorro. The authors admit in their introduction that they inevitably leave out some films; indeed, one can easily justify adding the 1985 Better Off Dead to the Suicide entry, for example, or the 1999 Girl, Interrupted to Asylums. In addition, one can lament that recent films have narrowly missed the cutoff publication date and must await the next edition to be added (for example, the 2000 film Nurse Betty would make a nice addition to Soap operas). Most categories from the previous editions appear to be preserved. The Encyclopedia of Film Themes, Settings and Series remains a unique resource among film indexes. At its inception in 1990, genre-specific guides with selected filmographies were already available, but none covered topics as specific as this or indexed series. This remains true today: the closest competition is in books like Films by Genre (McFarland, 1993), which only covers broader categories. The keyword index of the mammoth Internet Movie Database [] will retrieve some themes and settings (e.g., Girl, Interrupted pops up under asylum). The Encyclopedia of Film Themes, Settings and Series is recommended for all libraries with patrons interested in film. Both the casual movie viewer and the film enthusiast will find this book fun and informative. Although the price is a tad on the heavy side, the book is handsomely bound and has enough new material to make it a worthwhile purchase. The authors obviously cannot cover all topics, and therefore might seem to select them arbitrarily, but their attempts at compiling an "exhaustive list of English-language film series" come close to being achieved.

Choice Review

Libraries that own the Armstrongs' The Movie List Book (1990) will want to update it with this revised edition, now more accurately retitled. This edition is a comprehensive list of motion picture themes, plot elements, settings, character types, and series with examples of films under each heading. The scope, clearly defined in the useful introduction, includes movies linked by a recurring theme, setting, or characters that were released in theaters or broadcast on television through August 2000. The book includes information about English-language films of the sound era, including a narrative description and a representative filmography of each theme, setting, or series entry. The book groups films thematically and generically, and does not duplicate the efforts of other reference books since it omits credits and plot summaries for each title. A useful and unique reference for scholars and students of all levels to help identify movies with similar characters, plot, or thematic elements. K. A. Burke New York University