How many times have you seen a movie or show that mashes up two different genres or characters, and lets their differences play out in strange and unusual ways?
Well, that very idea was coined as a "wunza" movie or TV show.
Wunza movies, also known as "wunza films" or "wunza pictures," are a type of Hollywood film that combines two or more familiar genres or elements to create a unique and often entertaining hybrid.
In this article, we will explore the history and evolution of wunza movies, examine some of the most successful examples from different eras, and discuss their impact on the film industry and popular culture.
Let's get started.
'Zombieland'Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing
What's a "Wunza" Movie or TV Show?
Wunza movies are a fascinating genre of film that blends two or more seemingly incompatible genres or elements to create a unique and often surprising viewing experience.
Let's start with a strict definition and then have some fun.
Wunza Movie and TV Show Definition
A wunza movie or TV show is a term used to describe a film or TV show that combines two or more familiar genres or elements to create a unique and often entertaining hybrid. The term "wunza" comes from the phrase "one's a," and is a playful way to describe a movie or TV show that is a mix of different genres or characters from very different backgrounds.
Wunza movies and TV shows often blend disparate genres, such as horror and comedy, action and romance, or science fiction and westerns. By combining these genres, wunza movies and TV shows create a unique tone or atmosphere that sets them apart from other movies or TV shows.
While some critics argue that wunza movies and TV shows can be formulaic and predictable at times, they also have the potential to break new ground and push the boundaries of traditional genre conventions.
'Midnight Cowboy'Credit: United Artists
Who Came Up With the "Wunza" Phrase?
Roger Ebert writer Gerardo Valero used the term "wunza movie" (sometimes spelled "wunza" or "wunza movie") to refer to a type of formulaic Hollywood film that combines two or more familiar genres or elements. For example, a wunza movie might be described as "a wunza romantic comedy and action movie" or "a wunza horror and sci-fi movie."
In his review of the movie Rush Hour, Ebert writes, "Rush Hour is our reliable friend, the Wunza Movie, pairing two opposites: Wunza legendary detective from Hong Kong, and wunza Los Angeles cop. And wunza Chinese guy, and wunza black guy. And wunza martial arts expert and wunza wisecracking showboat. Neither wunza's original casting idea, but together, they make an entertaining team."
Ebert used the term in his reviews to describe movies that he felt were unoriginal or uninspired, and that relied too heavily on tried-and-true formulas rather than taking risks or breaking new ground. He coined the term as a playful way to criticize these types of movies, and it became a part of his signature style of film criticism.
But he also always left room for these movies to surprise and entertain him.
'Roger Ebert'Credit: Chicago Sun Times
What Makes Wunza Movies and TV Shows Fun?
As a writer, I have to admit I'm drawn to these sorts of films. Not only do they present interesting and divergent characters to write, but they allow you to play in two different genres, which can boost creativity and allow you to think outside the box.
Wunza movies and TV shows can be fun for several reasons:
They offer a fresh take on familiar genres: By combining different genres or elements, wunza movies and TV shows can create a unique and often unexpected blend of storylines, characters, and settings. This can be a refreshing change from more predictable movies and TV shows that stick to a single genre.
They appeal to a wider audience: Since wunza movies and TV shows combine different genres, they can appeal to a wider range of viewers who may not typically enjoy a particular genre on its own. For example, a horror-comedy film may appeal to both horror fans and comedy fans.
They can be humorous: Many wunza movies and TV shows incorporate humor into their storylines, which can make them entertaining and enjoyable to watch. The mix of genres can also create comedic situations, as characters from different worlds or genres interact with one another.
They can be action-packed: Wunza movies and TV shows often combine action and adventure with other genres, such as science fiction or fantasy. This can make for exciting and dynamic viewing experiences that keep audiences engaged.
'Dog'Credit: United Artists Releasing
Exploring Wunza Characters in Movies and TV
Wunza characters in movies and TV shows are typically designed to embody and interact with the different genres or elements that are being blended. These characters can be complex and multifaceted, but they often have certain characteristics that are associated with the genres they represent. Here are some examples:
Action heroes with comedic personalities: Wunza movies and TV shows that blend action and comedy often feature characters who are skilled fighters or action heroes but who also have humorous personalities. These characters may crack jokes during fights or use sarcasm to defuse tense situations.
Horror movie characters who are aware of horror movie tropes: Some wunza horror movies and TV shows feature characters who are aware of the conventions and tropes of horror movies. These characters may be self-aware and able to comment on the horror movie genre itself, which can add an extra layer of humor or satire to the story.
Western characters in modern-day settings: Wunza movies and TV shows that blend western and modern-day elements often feature characters who embody the classic western archetype, such as the lone gunslinger or the lawman, but who exist in a modern-day setting. These characters may have old-fashioned attitudes or values that clash with modern sensibilities, which can create tension and conflict.
Science fiction characters with human emotions: Wunza science fiction movies and TV shows often feature characters who are from other worlds or who have advanced technology, but who also exhibit human emotions and characteristics. These characters may struggle with human relationships or have relatable fears and desires, despite their otherworldly abilities.
Wunza characters are designed to embody and interact with the different genres or elements that are being blended together. By combining different character archetypes and traits, wunza movies and TV shows can create unique and entertaining storylines and interactions.
'Sharknado'Credit: The Asylum
Wunza Movie Examples
Here are a few examples of movies that could be considered "wunza movies" based on their genre combinations:
- Cowboys & Aliens (2011) - A wunza western and sci-fi movie
- Sharknado (2013) - A wunza disaster and creature feature movie
- Snakes on a Plane(2006) - A wunza action and horror movie
- Zombieland (2009) - A wunza horror and comedy movie
- The Mummy(1999) - A wunza action and adventure movie with horror elements
- Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) - A wunza historical drama and horror movie
These movies combine genres in unique ways to create a distinct tone or atmosphere, but some critics argue that they can be formulaic and predictable.
However, it's important to note that not all movies that mix genres should be considered "wunza movies" and that the term itself is subjective and can be used differently by different critics and audiences.
'The Mummy'Credit: Universal Pictures
Rush Hour as a Wunza Movie
Rush Hour (1998) is an action-comedy film that could be considered a "wunza movie" because it combines elements from two familiar genres - action movies and buddy comedies. The film stars Jackie Chan as a Hong Kong detective and Chris Tucker as a fast-talking LAPD detective who are forced to work together to solve a kidnapping case in Los Angeles.
The movie features the fast-paced action and fight scenes that are common in action movies, but also includes a lot of comedic banter between the two lead characters. The humor in the movie often comes from the cultural differences between Chan's character, who speaks limited English, and Tucker's character, who is more brash and outspoken.
By combining these two genres, Rush Hour creates a unique tone that sets it apart from other action movies or buddy comedies. While some critics may argue that the film relies too heavily on formulaic elements from both genres, its success at the box office and its popularity with audiences suggest that it struck a chord with viewers who were looking for a fun and entertaining movie that freshly blended action and comedy.
'Rush Hour'Credit: New Line Cinema
Wunza TV Show Examples
Of course, the wunza phenomenon doesn't just delegate to movies, we see it in television as well. It's a great way to have an ongoing series about an odd couple that has to learn to live or work with each other.
Here are a few examples of TV shows that could be considered "wunza TV shows" based on their genre combinations:
- The Odd Couple (1970 / 2015) - A wunza neat freak, wunza slob comedy series
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) - A wunza horror and teen drama series
- Lost in Space(2018-) - A wunza science fiction and family drama series
- Wynonna Earp (2016-2021) - A wunza western and supernatural series
- The Good Place (2016-2020) - A wunza comedy and philosophical series
- Stranger Things (2016-) - A wunza science fiction and horror series
- Ash vs Evil Dead(2015-2018) - A wunza horror and comedy series
These TV shows combine genres in unique ways to create a distinct tone or atmosphere that sets them apart from other shows. While some critics may argue that they can be formulaic and predictable at times, they also have the potential to break new ground and push the boundaries of traditional genre conventions, just like wunza movies.
I love all these shows and think the genre-blending opened them up to new stories and stakes we usually don't see on TV.
'Buffy: The Vampire Slayer'Credit: 20th Television
Summing Up The Wunza Movie and TV Show Definition and Examples
Wunza movies and TV shows are an interesting and innovative genre of film that offer a fresh and exciting take on familiar genres. Their ability to blend two or more seemingly incompatible genres or elements creates unexpected and engaging storylines and characters that can be both entertaining and emotionally impactful.
They push the boundaries of traditional genre conventions, resulting in innovative approaches to filmmaking that can influence the future of cinema and TV. Their appeal to a wide range of audiences also makes them accessible and appealing to many viewers. With their unique blend of genres and unexpected twists, wunza movies will continue to captivate audiences and push the boundaries of filmmaking for years to come.
Let us know what you think in the comments.