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What are Portmanteau Films?

The term portmanteau is commonly used in the description of anthology films. Which represent a subgenre of films consisting of various different shorts which are tied by a unique theme or bond. Although portmanteau films are mentioned rather frequently in the study of short anthologies, many wonder, “What are portmanteau films?” And more importantly, where does the term portmanteau film even come from?

antique movie reel

What is a Portmanteau Film?

Portmanteau films represent a unique style of short films that are frequently referred to as anthologies or as omnibus films. You might have even heard this type of film referenced as a film package. Whether it’s called one or the other. All of these unique terms mean basically the same thing.

Portmanteau films represent a subgenre of films that consist of multiple short films. Which are uniquely connected by theme, premise, or a turning point event. It’s very common for these films to be directed by different film directors.

They should not be confused with a revue. Representing a similar concept in which multi-act theatrical entertainment sketches were once popular.

The portmanteau film should also not be confused with the composite films. Or compilation films which were both common means of combining short films based on structure, style and aesthetic appearance.

Characteristics of Portmanteau Films

Portmanteau films are generally tied by a particular theme or a premise. Sometimes a particular place or a person is the connection behind portmanteau films. Other times, the underlying connection is an object that is present in each of the short stories.

The overall idea is that a portmanteau film or anthology film represents a group of short films that have a connection of some sort.

The connection binds the stories together and may be subtle or incredibly prominent. Some portmanteau films have a top-level story which acts as the primary framing device leading into a series of sub-stories.

Likewise, the connecting device between the shorts might be a particular actor or character. In The Red Violin (1998), storylines each revolved around different owners of the same violin. Thus making it technically a portmanteau film despite having not originally been coined such.


Portmanteau films are most frequently described as anthology films. They should not be mistaken for hyperlink cinema which is slightly different from a portmanteau.

The Portmanteau features individual story segments, one at a time and completely independent of one another whereas hyperlink cinema will show parts of multiple stories throughout a movie.