What is an Exploitation Film?

What can be an exploitation film? Any idea?

Probably a general idea may come in your head immediately after reading the term. May be you are thinking which films depict exploitation or violence are called exploitation film. The basic idea is right but there are more unknown facts to know about an exploitation film. So, Are you interested to know more? Then keep reading.

Let’s begin with a quick elementary definition.


The low quality B-graded films which have pictorial presentation of extreme violence or may have lurid elements are defined as exploitation films. This type of films uses promotional strategies in order to maximize theater attendance. An exploitation film has more lurid elements than other normal films. It is not a specific traditional genre. Like film noir it constructed to differentiate a specific category of film. However, exploitation films included also in western, horror or action genre. No matter what genre it be, there must be some element played up to excite or just simply attract the audience.

Brief History

Exploitation films may narrate explicit sex, sensational violence, drug use, nudity, gore, the bizarre, destruction, rebellion as well as mayhem through its visual. Such films were first seen in their modern form in the early 1920. But they got popularity in the 60s and 70s with the general relaxing of censorship and cinematic taboos in the U.S. and Europe. Consequently, many filmmakers started showing interest to make such films.

The Motion Picture Association of America and distributors cooperated with censorship board to get approval for screening these films. Further, producers along with director used sensational elements in these films to grab attention of audiences. Since the 1990s, this genre also received attention in academic circles, where it is sometimes called ‘paracinema’. X-rated exploitation films. It also commonly referred to as grindhouse pictures. In addition to, Grindhouse is an American term for a theater that mainly showed exploitation films.

Many exploitation films known as violent action films called “drive-in” films. As the drive-in movie theater began to decline in 1960 to 1970, theater owners began to look for ways to bring in patrons. One solution was to book exploitation films. Some producers from 1950 to 1980 made films directly for the drive-in market, and the commodity product needed for a weekly change led to another theory about the origin of the word.

For example, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) often considered as the basic premise of exploring this type of films. Although Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (1974) usually treated to begin this genre, John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) the vital reason for cementing the genre in the public eye.

Elements or Traits

There are some common traits of pictorial presentation that audience will get from the exploitation films. These are:

i) Revenge is a common element in the world of exploitation film.

ii) Extreme sexual violence and murder-based violence.

iii) Prostitution or child abusing.

iv) Inherent dualism toward gender or bisexual issues.

v) Exploitative death of a human being or animal. Terrible death faces, horror, erotic crime scenes can be shown in an exploitation film.

vi) Usage of good visual effects and full of fascinated action scenes.

vii) Abundant scenes featuring graphic and disturbing rape or woman torture.

vii) Sex madness, thrill, mystery, psychological disorders, terrible serial killing, drug addiction or excessive use of drugs- these all are common elements of the exploitation films.


Exploitation films also may have diverse subgenres. For instance, cautionary films, blaxploitation films, cannibal films, Slasher films, sexploitation films, spaghetti westerns, nudist films, ozploitation films, carsploitation films, Nazisploitation films etc. There are also some minor subgenres of exploitation films.

Some Noteworthy Exploitation Film Examples

  1. Marihuana (1936), directed by Dwain Esper.
  2. Shaft (1971), directed by Gordon Parks.
  3. Cannibal Holocaust (1980), directed by Ruggero Deodato.
  4. Black Christmas (1974), directed by Bob Clark.
  5. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1966), directed by Russ Meye.
  6. Death Rides a Horse (1967), directed by Giulio Petroni.
  7. Garden of Eden (1954), directed by Max Nosseck.
  8. Mad Max (1979), directed by George Miller.
  9. I Spit on Your Grave (1978), directed by Meir Zarchi.
  10. Love Camp 7 (1969), directed by Lee Frost.