In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Violence and Cinema

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Anthologies
  • The Aesthetics of Violence
  • Narrative Structure and Violence
  • Documentary Film and Violence
  • Race and Violence
  • Masculinity and Violence
  • Ultraviolence
  • Violence and the Apocalypse
  • Representations of Torture
  • Aesthetics of Combat
  • Violence and the Spectator
  • Theorizing Violence and its Role in Society

Cinema and Media Studies Violence and Cinema
Hilary Neroni
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 July 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0148


Originally, studies on violence in the cinema were connected to particular genres or filmmakers. This scholarship often investigated the patterns and tropes of violence as it was identified with genres, such as the western, the gangster film, and horror—or filmmakers such as Sam Peckinpah or Arthur Penn. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, however, there was a wave of new scholarship on violence in the cinema that often focused on how the form of violence created meaning. And since then, there has been steady publication of new scholarship every year investigating violence in the cinema. This bibliography is organized to represent the different paths of investigation that scholars have taken. A certain segment of the scholarship is still concerned with figuring out the relationship of violent spectacle to the narrative structure, while others investigate how violence impacts racial or gender identities. Still other scholarship considers the aesthetic qualities of violence in “ultraviolence,” specifically depicted in war films and apocalyptic films. Recent scholarship has also been addressing the rise in a new abundance of torture scenes in film often linking them to post-9/11 fears and issues. This contemporary scholarship has also led to some reinvestigations of genre, the Production Code, and various filmmakers associated with violence, all interpreted through this new lens concerning the aesthetics and structural impact of violence itself.

General Overviews

There are several works that help to situate some of the scholarship on violence. Kendrick 2009 gives an overview of the field, as well as several genres and auteurs associated with violence. Prince 2000 introduces the issues attached to ultraviolence and related scholarship as it appears in his anthology. Slocum 2001 presents a thorough overview of the issues of reception, aesthetics, and narrative structure, as well as the scholarship addressing those issues both in the field and in his anthology.

  • Kendrick, James. Film Violence: History, Ideology, Genre. New York: Wallflower, 2009.

    Part of Wallflower’s Short Cuts series, Kendrick gives an overview of the issues involved in scholarship on violence in the cinema. The book addresses problems of definition, constructs a history of filmic violence, studies violence in various genres, and develops a case study of auteurs associated with violence.

  • Prince, Stephen. “Graphic Violence in the Cinema: Origins, Aesthetic Design, and Social Effects.” In Screening Violence. Edited by Stephen Prince, 1–46. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000.

    Prince introduces his anthology with a historical overview of ultraviolence in cinema, a look at the debates over effects on the viewer, and an overview of the scholarship.

  • Slocum, J. David. “Violence and American Cinema: Notes for an Investigation.” In Violence and American Cinema. Edited by David J. Slocum, 1–36. New York: Routledge, 2001.

    As an introduction to his anthology, Slocum not only gives an overview of the current trends in scholarship about violence in the cinema but also categorizes these responses to make sense of the field.

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