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A special kind of film that was a mainstay in cinemas from the 1910s to the 1950s.

The basic structure is a film that is presented in consecutive installments in a theatre, with the expectation that the audience would come each week to see the whole story through. As such, it was famous for its fight scenes and its cliffhangers (most of which were notoriously poor).

The genre first started with such serials as the silent film The Perils of Pauline, but they hit their artistic peak in the 1930s and 1940s. Although some big studios like Universal played the field with the Flash Gordon Serial serials, the most famous and renowned producer of serials was Republic Pictures, especially with the director team of Whitney and English, who produced classics like Daredevils of the Red Circle and The Adventures of Captain Marvel (the first Superhero film).

Eventually, the genre petered out against the competition of television; furthermore, a common criticism during the genre's waning years was that the focus had shifted from plot and character development to action and stunts, highlighting the importance of the Cliffhanger as a gimmick tool (and also underscoring said gimmick's flaws to boot). But the spirit of the Film Serial lives on whenever a TV show episode cuts to commercial with a cliffhanger — and even more so in the modern era of arc-based plots, or whenever a last-second twist at the end of an episode entices viewers to keep watching.

The influence of these serials also led to film series such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones.


Tropes common to this format include:

Notable Film Serials include:

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