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An anthology film (also known as an omnibus film, package film, or portmanteau film) is a feature film consisting of several different short films, often tied together by only a single theme, premise, or brief interlocking event (often a turning point). Sometimes each one is directed by a different director. These differ from "revue films" such as Paramount on Parade (1930)—which were common in Hollywood in the early sound film era to show off their stars and related vaudeville-style acts—composite films, and compilation films.
Sometimes there is a theme, such as a place (e.g. New York Stories, Paris, je t'aime), a person (e.g. Four Rooms), or a thing (e.g. Twenty Bucks, Coffee and Cigarettes), that is present in each story and serves to bind them together. Two of the earliest films to use the form were Edmund Goulding's Grand Hotel (1932), released by MGM with an all-star cast; and Paramount's If I Had a Million (also 1932), featuring segments helmed by a number of directors.
European directors such as Roberto Rossellini directed anthology films such as L'Amore (segments: "Il Miracolo" and "Una voce umana") (1948), Les Sept péchés capitaux (segment: "Envie, L'Envy") (1952), Siamo donne (segment: "Ingrid Bergman") (1953), and Amori di mezzo secolo (segment: "Napoli 1943") (1954). American studios soon followed with films like Quartet (1948) based on stories by W. Somerset Maugham. This led to two sequels, Trio (1950) and Encore (1951), as well as imitators like O. Henry's Full House (1952) and Actor's and Sin (1952).
Sometimes there is one "top-level" story, a framing device, which leads into the various "sub-stories", as in Tales of Manhattan (1942), Flesh and Fantasy (1943), Dead of Night (1945), and The Illustrated Man (1968). Dead of Night helped to popularize the format for horror films—although they had existed as far back as Unheimliche Geschichten (1919)—and British company Amicus made several such films in the 1960s and 1970s.
Michael Jackson's 1988 musical-fantasy film Moonwalker consisted of six short films, each based on a song from his album Bad. The centerpiece of the film is the short film Smooth Criminal which is based on the song by the same name. Joe Pesci co-stars in Smooth Criminal. The film was never released in theaters in the United States but it did run in theaters elsewhere.
The Red Violin (1998) could also be considered a portmanteau film, since the storylines revolve around the various owners of a precious sixteenth-century violin through the centuries. Similarly, 1964's The Yellow Rolls-Royce follows the owners of the titular vehicle.
Four Rooms is also an anthology film which follows the protagonist and his misadventures in four different rooms of a hotel. The four different segments (or rooms) were all directed by different directors.
Mohsen Abdolvahab's debut Please Do Not Disturb (2010) was a widely acclaimed tri-segmented Iranian anthology film.
Anthology films are often mistaken with hyperlink cinema. Hyperlink cinema shows bits of many stories throughout the movie, whereas anthology films show story segments of one at a time. Some mistaken examples include Pulp Fiction and Amores Perros, distributing their storylines non-chronologically, separated by segments.