5 Types of Conflict in Film. Definition, Meaning & Examples.


Definition: Conflict is the central problem or struggle that drives the plot and creates tension. It can involve various elements, such as personal conflicts between characters, societal conflicts, or conflicts with external forces. Conflict is essential in storytelling and film as it propels the narrative and contributes to character development.

Here are some common types of conflict and examples from famous movies:

Conflict Type 1: Man vs. Man

conflict man vs man

This type of conflict involves two or more characters in direct opposition. It can be physical, emotional, or intellectual.

One noteworthy example is the film “The Dark Knight” (2008), where Batman (Man) battles against the Joker (Man).

Their conflicting ideologies and relentless pursuit of each other create intense moments and develop their characters.

You might like Antagonists in Film. Meaning, Definition, and Examples.

Conflict Type 2: Man vs. Society

conflict man vs society

In this type of conflict, the protagonist struggles against societal norms, rules, or expectations.

A memorable illustration is found in “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994).

The protagonist, Andy Dufresne (Man), fights against the corrupt prison system (Society) and its oppressive regime.

This conflict highlights the power dynamics and moral struggles within society.

Conflict Type 3: Man vs. Nature

conflict man vs nature

In this conflict, the protagonist faces challenges imposed by the natural world. “The Revenant” (2015) is a prime example, where the protagonist, Hugh Glass (Man), confronts harsh weather conditions, wild animals, and the wilderness itself (Nature).

This conflict tests his survival skills and reveals his resilience and determination.

Speaking of man vs nature, check out the best bear horror movies.

Conflict Type 4: Man vs. Self

conflict man vs inner self

Internal conflict is an essential component that drives character development.

It occurs when a character battles their fears, desires, or flaws. “Black Swan” (2010) showcases the inner turmoil of the protagonist, Nina Sayers (Man vs. Self).

She struggles with her perfectionism, insecurities, and psychological breakdown, which heightens the tension and drives her character arc.

Conflict Type 5: Man vs. Technology

conflict man vs technology

This conflict arises when a character faces challenges posed by machines, artificial intelligence, or futuristic advancements.

The film “The Matrix” (1999) explores this conflict as Neo (Man) fights against the machine-controlled world (Technology).

The conflict raises questions about the nature of reality and the impact of technology on humanity.

See the best sci-fi horror movies every filmmaker should watch.

Closing Thoughts

Conflict is vital in movies as it drives the plot, creates tension, and engages the audience emotionally.

It forces characters to grow, presents moral dilemmas, and ultimately resolves the story.

Without conflict, movies would lack excitement and fail to captivate viewers.

You might also like this article about film climaxes.


  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

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