A lot of people have a hard time grasping the concept of realism in film. We’ve all seen films that are set in futuristic or fantastical worlds.

Some films are even set in our own world but don’t take place on Earth.

So why do we consider these to be realistic films? To understand this, you have to first understand what realism is for a film, and then you’ll understand why some films can be unrealistic, but still considered realistic.


What Is realism

What Is realism In Film?

Realism in film is all about creating an illusion of reality, and it usually refers to writing, speech or theater.

If a piece of fiction (whether film, theater, or another creative work) is labeled as “realistic,” then it must represent a clear reflection of the real world.

When you watch a realistic film, you know that what you are seeing is exactly what would happen in real life if you were there.

It follows the rules of the world we live in, but it also uses artistic creativity to put the viewer inside someone else’s life.

There are many kinds of realism such as urban and rural realism, social realism, and more.



What Is Realism In Film?

Realism is a subjective term when it comes to film because people have different opinions about what is realistic and what isn’t.

The most important thing you can do when it comes to realism in film is to watch a lot of them.

Every movie has its own style and way of doing things.

The more genres of movies you watch and the more variety of movies you see, the easier it will be for you to determine what’s realistic and what’s not because you’ll start to recognize certain styles that directors or filmmakers use.

There is a meta element to realism in film. The reason why films can be unrealistic and still be considered realistic has a lot to do with the meta element involved when watching a film that we discussed earlier.

Realism In Film Movements

Realism in film is a period of development in the movie industry when filmmakers strove for a greater degree of realism in their films than before. In other words, the filmmakers were trying to make movies that were more like real life.

It was developed from earlier filming styles and movements, including Italian Neorealism (1946-1958), French New Wave (1950s) and the Film Noir genre (1940s). Realist filmmakers worked to create more believable stories and characters and to remove elements that felt unrealistic to movie audiences.


This meant eliminating some of the special effects and stylized cinematic techniques used in earlier films. Realism has been a part of filmmaking since the very beginning, but it wasn’t until after World War II that the movement became so influential.

Before then, film content was largely shaped by the motion picture industry’s quest for larger audiences.

The movie moguls who owned studios wanted movies that would appeal to as many people as possible, so they often made films using established formulas or genres that had proved popular with viewers in the past.

As a result, early films often focused on action-adventure plots and featured glamorous actors in roles that were clearly fanciful or exaggerated. Films about cowboys and pirates still exist today.

The Golden Age Of Cinematic Realism

I think it was in the early 2000s that I first started hearing about a “Golden Age of Television”. The showrunners and producers of copious shows like The Wire, Breaking Bad and Mad Men were being interviewed by journalists all over the place, telling us how the current crop of TV writers had more creative freedom than ever before.

The Golden Age Of Cinematic Realism is here now.

It can be hard to notice this when you’re wading through a multitude of Marvel movies, the growing DC Extended Universe, and hundreds of other comic book-inspired films. But there are some genuinely excellent films out there that have been entirely ignored by audiences, or by the Academy Awards.

The last superhero movie to win an Oscar was Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight in 2008. No superhero film has won since then and none are nominated now.

But I’m not just talking about superhero films here.

While they do dominate the box office they are far from the only examples of cinematic realism that can leave you feeling more than a little unsettled. There are also horror films like Get Out that tap into our social consciousness; dramas like Moonlight; thrillers like Sicario; comedies like Toni Erdmann and lots more besides.

What Is Italian Neorealism

Italian neorealism is a style of film making that calls attention to the social problems of post-World War II Italy. The most important directors in this movement include, Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, and Luchino Visconti.

It turned Italian cinema away from the heavily stylized films known for their focus on escapism and toward a more realistic art form.

The idea of neorealism grew out of a movement in literature and theater, which also took place after World War II. It was a time when many artists felt that it was their duty to document the horrific conditions surrounding them.

Neorealist filmmakers chose to be politically engaged rather than just focusing on entertainment.

They wanted to show the world that things were much worse than people had been led to believe during the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini. The term “neorealism” is not used by critics to refer only to Italian cinema, but instead refers to any film that is essentially concerned with reality in its portrayal of life.

Many American films can be considered part of neorealism since they were often shot with handheld cameras and had little or no musical score. Films such as “Blowup” and “Bonnie and Clyde”.


What Is Realism In Film Today?

The question can be answered in multiple ways and there are many different opinions on the subject. Some of them are based on facts while others are not.

One way to answer this question is by looking at what realism in film has been, how it has developed throughout history and where it is going. To start with, let us understand what realism is.

Realism is a continuum; you cannot define it as an absolute category. It means different things to different people.

All art falls somewhere on this continuum, although some arts (like music) are more closely related to reality than others (like painting or sculpture). In the early days of cinema, movies were very realist – they were direct recordings of life itself.

In the 1920s, movies began to use more cinematic techniques like cutting and camera movement, but they still tried to emulate life by having actors play characters who were similar to themselves.

However, as time went on, filmmakers began to experiment with new techniques and ways of storytelling that did not aim for realism.

This started with the French New Wave of the 1960s and continued through the 1970s and 1980s into our present day films. There are many types of films that do not strive for realism such as animated films.

Realist Filmmakers

I’m not a big fan of “realism” in movies. I don’t go to a movie looking for something that seems like reality, I go to be entertained and to have an experience.

As a filmmaker, I think what is “realistic” is irrelevant and possibly destructive.

I want to see things that are unexpected, that make me say “wow!” I want the experience of being in a movie theater, not sitting at home watching television.

So it’s hard for me to understand why people get so caught up in the idea of realism in movie making.

When was the last time you were watching a film and said to yourself, “This would be great if only it were more realistic”?

To me, this idea is rooted in insecurity: people who like movies that are purely escapist want them to have some connection to reality so they can feel smart or sophisticated.

That’s why they love the Coen Brothers: they’re a middle class Jewish comedy team trying to make “realistic” films about working class characters. But what’s so great about that? It makes no sense to me.

Is Citizen Kane realistic? Is Godfather II? Is Seven Samurai? In all these cases, we are talking about works that are not really attempting any kind.

Characteristics Of Realism

The characteristics of realism are realism and naturalism.

Realism – The artistic representation of the world or some aspect of it, in its truth, without idealization.

Naturalism – A literature or drama characterized by a concern for the accurate reproduction of reality.

To understand what these two words mean, you must have a clear concept of reality. What is reality?

The real world is that world which exists independently from our senses and our conceptions: we perceive it through the senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell), but it exists independently from this perception.

One could say that what we perceive does not exist without the perceiving subject; on the other hand the object perceived does exist even if nobody looks at it. What is not real is whatever we do not perceive with our senses and which depends on our conception.

The same thing can be perceived in different ways by different people: one might see a house while another might see an old barn; one might see a forest while another sees only trees; one might see a group of people while another sees some random individuals.

In literature realism is a literary trend that describes things as they actually are or were in their own time, without idealization. The opposite trend to realism is romanticism.

Film Theory – Realism vs. Formalism

These are the two major approaches of analysis that you can use when looking at a film. Trying to boil down the hugely broad and deep range of approaches, theories and critical methods used to interpret and analyze film is a little like trying to describe what makes up an elephant.

Every school, approach or interpretation has its own ways of dissecting the elements that create the experience of watching a movie.

But there are two dominant theories out there: 

Realism was first developed as a formal movement in art. It was started by Gustave Courbet in France in the mid-19th century before spreading to other countries like England and America.

Realist artists sought to capture reality through their paintings without any sort of idealization or romanticizing, which had been prevalent in art at the time. Film Realism takes its cue from this original use of this term.

The theory examines how filmmakers portrayed real life events on screen as accurately as possible, using techniques such as natural lighting and shooting on location rather than on a studio back lot.

This style was particularly popular during Hollywood’s classical era, but it’s still around today.

H3 Tag:

What Is Realism In Film?

What Is Realism In Film?

The answer to the question is that realism in film is a little bit of everything. The real world is what we see, hear and feel every day.

Realism in film is showing the audience the world as it really is without the interference of any added cinematic tricks or illusions.

Realism in film can be shown using a few different techniques. Realism in film can be achieved by using natural lighting, filming on location and having all of the actors act naturally.

This technique shows the audience what life may look like without any special effects or camera tricks to make it look better or worse than it really is Realism in film should also include an accurate portrayal of events.

A good example of this would be Forrest Gump where all of the events that take place throughout the movie are based on actual historical events.

This allows for a greater connection with the audience because they know that what they are seeing is exactly how things happened and were not manipulated for entertainment purposes

This brings up another aspect of realism in film which is factual accuracy. Even though Forrest Gump covers numerous historical events throughout its running time, at no point does it ever stray from factual accuracy which helps to add to its overall sense of realism.

Realism Is A Reflection

We are what we do. Thus, realism is not just the making of an image, but also the making of a person.

By that I mean if we show a picture of someone being beaten down by life, then we are in some part showing ourselves being beaten down by life as well.

If we make a picture of someone who is exercising and looking healthy, then it is a reflection of ourselves as well. This is true at least to some extent. Thus, realism is more than just technique, but philosophy as well.

Realism is about striving to live honest lives in all respects and to have integrity in all things we do. Realism has many faces and many forms.

  • It is the thought that art can be used to make people aware of themselves and their surroundings.
  • it can be used to focus on the problems of society.
  • it can be used to make people think about their place in the world.
  • It can be used to show people what they’re capable of.
  • It can be used to encourage people to change their lives for the better.
  • It can be used to make people see their own flaws and weaknesses.
  • It can be used to show people what their future holds if they don’t change their ways.

Neorealism In Film

Neorealism (Italian: neorealismo) is a European film movement that began in the late 1930s in Italy and is often regarded as a forerunner to the French New Wave. Neorealist films are typically shot in working class locations without any dramatic lighting, use location sound, and often feature ordinary people in the leading roles.

Neorealist films usually deal with contemporary issues and problems, such as poverty, corruption, greed and other social issues. Mimo was one of the most prominent neorealist directors.

The term “neorealism” was first used by a group of Italian filmmakers who worked in France in the mid-1940s. They all shared a common view of what they wanted to express through cinema: the Reconstruction of Italian society after World War II.

These filmmakers were looking to break away from the artificiality of studio bound films; they used natural lighting and their casts were mostly non-professional actors.

Neorealism became popular outside of Italy almost immediately after its release with films such as The Bicycle Thief, Rome 11 O’Clock, Ossessione and Shoeshine continuing the style outside of Italy. Early neorealist films typically present us with characters who are poor and have difficulty surviving.

Contemporary Realism In Film

Contemporary realism is a film movement that began in the late 1970s and continues today. While there are many different genres within this category, it is defined by its attention to detail, which focuses on real world issues.

Its origin can be found in Italian Neorealism. This movement was born as a response to fascism and the commercialism that dominated Italy after World War II.

Many had lost faith in the government and believed that their current state was a direct result of the fascist regime. The film industry was also affected due to censorship laws, which restricted the themes and subjects filmmakers could address.

The movement lasted from 1945 to 1955. Films such as Rome, Open City (1945) and Bicycle Thieves (1948) were released during this time period. These films portrayed real life situations facing Italians after World War II including poverty and unemployment among other things.

Although contemporary realism is only about 40 years old, it has already expanded beyond its origins in Italian Neorealism. The movement continues to grow due to its focus on relatable stories from all over the world.

In fact, one of the biggest contemporary realist films ever made is Slumdog Millionaire (2008). It takes place in Mumbai, India but viewers don’t need any prior knowledge.

It is a form of naturalism that developed in the early 1930s as a reaction against the stylized acting and formal, theatrical sets and costumes common to previous decades.

The movement began in Germany and was popularized by directors such as Max Ophüls, whose film The Reckless Moment (1949) helped usher in the style’s golden age.



Modern realist films tend to focus on actors rather than staging elaborate sets. In the golden age of realism, the staging was often sparse, and the camera rarely moved.

Instead of elaborately decorated sets, modern realist films frequently used locations for their natural ambiance and authenticity.

Acting style.

Many modern realist films focus on minute details and interactions between characters, so actresses were encouraged to use very naturalistic movements and gestures in order to make their performances less theatrical or exaggerated.

The acting style also focused on capturing realistic facial expressions and body language to emphasize subtle emotions and reactions that might have been missed during traditional over-the-shoulder or close-up shots.

Natural lighting.

Natural light was used whenever possible for its ability to create shadows that indicate depth and provide a sense of warmth and realism in many scenes.

Subtypes Of Realism In Film And Media

The most notable feature of the modern world is that it is an ever-changing environment. That is why we have subtypes of realism in film and media.

The present day abounds with changes, so the same can be said about realism in its various forms.

The first subtype of realism in film and media is naturalism. Naturalism is a term related to art, which was used in philosophy as early as the 18th century.

The concept of naturalism was applied to a genre of literature, which sought to describe things as they are – without any exaggeration or embellishment. It has been applied to different entertainment genres, mainly drama and fiction novels.

Naturalistic characters are portrayed as ordinary people with realistic emotions, behavior and dialogue. Naturalism seeks to convey the true life experiences of individuals who are placed into extraordinary circumstances.

The audience may find these situations familiar, which makes for an exciting plotline that will keep them on their toes throughout an entire movie or book.

In order to achieve a naturalistic effect, filmmakers use techniques like filming on location and casting real people as actors instead of well-known celebrities (although some movie stars are also cast for their acting skills and ability to portray everyday people).

In the Beginning of Film, filmmakers used to create film that was very symbolic and fantasy like. As time went on, more real life events were portrayed in film. 

Tone is how the creator wants the audience to feel while watching the piece of media they have created.

Tone can be a lot of things, but the most common are happy, sad or angry. Depending on what the tone is supposed to be, it can change how we see the media.

For example, if you are watching a movie about a bear attacking you in your tent and you know nothing about it going in, then when you find out it’s about a bear attacking you in your tent it will seem more scary because of the tone.

On the other hand if you go into knowing it’s about a bear attacking in your tent then it will not seem as scary because you knew what to expect from the beginning tone.

So tone plays an important role in how we see our media because at any moment there could be a change in tone and this can cause a major difference in what we feel and understand about the media we are viewing.

Ready to learn about some other Film Movements & Film History?