What is a Narrative Film?

Have you ever think about what is a narrative film? or Film Narrative?

In a previous article, I explained “What is Film?” In this article, I am going to state some facts about a film form or pattern. As a film fan or film scholar almost everyone watch narrative films and so everyone knows about it more or less.

In this essay I will try to give more than primary idea about film narrative. I will give some popular film examples so that readers can relate the traits and understand more clearly. So, why to delay? Let’s get started with an insightful definition.


The film which depicts narration in a simple liner way is defined as a narrative film. It is called fictional film too. The fictional films will tell the audience a story in its own way or in a specific structure. The flow of events in film narrative is not unorganized. Rather, they are always organized based on a major line of action and connected through theme.

Birth of Narrative Film

Perhaps the best known of early fictional films is Georges Méliès’s A Trip to the Moon from 1902. Méliès was one of the first directors to progress cinematic technology, which paved the way for narratives as style of film. Film narratives became popular film form for this introduction of Méliès and so it can be said he is the father of narrative film who gave birth of it.

The Great Train Robbery is another remarkable film example to define as early film narratives. This film is most considered as the first successful narrative film. The film released in 1903. As an example of an early silent film narrative, The Great Train Robbery tells a fairly simple story about the numerous train robberies committed by men like Butch Cassidy and Billy the Kid throughout the Midwest and West during the mid-to-late-19th century.

Besides, Film like The Vanishing American (1925) told a simple, familiar story is also an ideal example of fictionalfilm. Many of these early movies were based on existing literature and everyday occurrences. Early fictional film directors usually avoid complex story telling way. Rather they like to depict plain and simple familiar stories within short span of time. Common life vents were worth considering which took place in early film narratives.

Key Traits

There are some common traits which we notice in narrative films. Such as,

i) Narrative films follow traditional three-act structure. This is an excellent method of storytelling and one which the human mind appreciates. The first act consists of exposition, the second act narrates the major events and conflict of the story and the third one is all about climax and resolution.

ii) Filmmakers choose simple, sequential and well organized script for fictional film making.

iii) Plot is simpler and more coherent than non-narrative or nonlinear films.

iv) Fictional films are directed by a story that has a specific structure.

v) The classic structure of the narrative film is basically based on cause and effect.

vi) The major events of this film maintain a chronological sequence but some narrative films may use flashback incidents but they are not shuffled.

vii) This key element of fictional film-making lies in continuity editing.

Best Narrative Films of All Time

According to narrative theory, these films follow a certain pattern that tells a story in the best possible way. Some films followed this theory properly. There are so many narrative film examples which cannot be mentioned in one article. I am only providing the top 10 best narrative film names according to my personal preference. Following legendary films are considered also as ‘Best Narrative Films of All Time’ by some film critics.

  1. A Trip to the Moon (1902)
  2. The Great Train Robbery (1903)
  3. Gone with the Wind (1939)
  4. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  5. Citizen Kane (1941)
  6. Bicycle Thieves (1949)
  7. Pather Panchali (1955)
  8. The Godfather (1972)
  9. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  10. Parasite (2019)

Ending Speech

Films have the ability to exchange new ideas and may teach past or future lessons. Besides, some films are made just for entertainment purpose. Just as there are different styles of art, there are also different styles of film. Narrative films are one of them. It is that film form which touched the minds of viewers the most. Likewise, audience can connect themselves emotionally by watching fictional films.