Is Found Footage a Genre Or a Trope?

Screen Junkies is a YouTube channel that got its fame from Honest Trailers, a well-known segment where they tend to shred well-known films for various flaws. Over the last few years they’ve expanded their repertoire, and one of these new additions is a show called Movie Fights. On this show, three contestants argue over a variety of topics relating to movies. On this week’s episode, the contestants were asked what horror trope they’d want to get rid of. Josh Robert Thompson (voice of Geoff on The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson) said found footage, to which Ben Begley (actor in The Hungover Games) argued that it was a genre, and not a trope. While they never really came to a consensus, it did bring up an interesting question: Is found footage a genre, or a trope?

Found footage as a stylistic choice is most prominent in the horror genre. It became a popular choice for low budget productions after the release of The Blair Witch Project in 1999, but was featured in other films before then (i.e. Cannibal Holocaust). Since the release of Blair Witch Project it has been used in countless films, some hits like Paranormal Activity and others you’ve likely never heard of like Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes.

This format’s appearance in other genres than horror makes it more of a trope than an individual genre. There are a plethora of genres that have used found footage as its method to convey its story, and no one would really argue that films as varied as End of WatchChronicle, and Paranormal Activity belong in the same genre. Additionally, you’d likely never use found footage as a way to describe the themes within a film, which once again makes it more of a trope than a genre. Saying a film is found footage doesn’t actually tell the viewer anything about what the story is going to be about, only what format it will be told in.

While it might appear that found footage is worthy of being called a genre, it is nothing more than a stylistic choice to convey a story. As such, it is much more of a trope than an individual genre.


Kris Solberg
Kris Solberg
26 year old Norwegian native. Fond of writing, reading comics, watching movies, playing games, and anything else that might peak my interest.