Comparison of 9 Famous Movie's Act Structures
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This spreadsheet is a very basic, simplified break down of the act structures of nine famous movies. This chart leaves a lot of details that I'll include in a new spreadsheet in the future. So don't take this outline as gospel, but it will give you a useful overview of plot structure.
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Click here to see a more detailed breakdown of these movies and five others.
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Click here to see a comparison of popular Hollywood movie plot structure outlines.
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ACT 1ACT 2ACT 3ACT 4ACT 5
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BLADE RUNNERANTAGONISTAntagonist attacks and fails, triggering calling Hero back to work.Antag takes first step and finds clue that will allow him to create a plan.Antagonist's forces are hunted and killed by Hero.Antagonist's forces attack Hero and fail.Antag takes next step to completing his goal.Antagonist closes in on his goal.Antagonist accomplishes his goal and then attacks Hero.Denouement
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HEROHero is called from retirement and given a mission he can't refuse to kill Antagonist.Hero meets Lover whose goals and values directly conflict with Hero's goal and values.Hero takes first step in his investigation as well as with his love story.Hero follows clues to Antagonist's minion and kills him.Hero is attacked by Antagonist's forces but kills them, causing more conflict with Antagonist and Lover.Hero and Lover get closer, culminating in sex.Hero closes in on Antagonist.Hero storms Antagonist's castle and kills guardian enemies as well as Antagonist.
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STAR WARS
A NEW HOP
ANTAGONISTAntagonist captures Princess and states goals.Antagonist's forces attack Hero's home in pursuit of their goal.Antagonist' attacks, dashing Hero's plan.Antagonist's forces try to stop Hero's team from accomplishing their immediate goals.Antagonist's forces attack Hero and his team as they flee. They also find clue to Hero's team's weakness.Antagonist's team prepares and plans for final attack using clue to the Hero's team's weakness.Defend the castle. Antagonist's forces on the defensive.Defend the castle. Antagonist's forces winning, but lose at the last moment.Denouement
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HEROHero reluctantly attempts to complete the ordinary mission life has given him, until an opportunity for adventure presents itself.Hero meets Mentor, refuses the call, and accepts when Antagonist dashes his plans for an ordinary life.Hero gathers allies to accomplish step 1, but must make a new plan after Antangonist dashes step 2.Heros storm the castle, rescue the princess, and gain the clue to defeating Antagonist, but lose an ally.Hero's team flees while being chased/attacked by Antagonist's forces.Hero's team prepares and plans for final attack using clue to the Antagonist's weakness.Storm the castle. Hero's forces on the offensive.Storm the castle. Hero's losing but win at last second.
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STAR WARS
EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
ANTAGONISTAntagonist states his goal and follows a clue to the Hero's castle.Storm the Castle and win, but Hero's team escapes at the last minute.Antagonist chases Hero's sidekick and his lover (Step 1)Antagonist chases Hero's sidekick and his lover (Step 2).Antagonist prepares to trap Hero's team.Antagonist traps Hero's sidekick and lover.Defend the castle. Defensive.Defend the castle. Offensive and win, but Hero escapes at last minute.Denouement
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HEROIntroduce Hero and his team with a conflict with a one-off Antagonist.Defend the castle and lose, but escape at the last minute.Hero's sidekick and lover flee the Antagonist's forces (Step 1) while falling in love (Step 1)Hero's sidekick and lover flee the Antagonist's forces (Step 2) while falling in love (Step 2)
Hero recieves training, gains strength, and discovers his purpose.
Hero 's sidekick and his lover make a new plan and enact step 1.
Hero makes a new plan.
Hero enacts step 1 of his plan to save his team.Storm the castle. Offensive.Storm the castle. Defensive and lose, but Hero escapes at last minute.
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STAR WARS
RETURN OF THE JEDI
ANTAGONISTAntagonist states his goal.Antagonist states his plan and the stakes of his goal.Antagonist's forces plan and prepare to defend their gates.Antagonist's forces defend their gates and win.Antagonist's forces prepare and plan for final attack.Antagonist's forces defend the gates and lose.Antagonist's forces defend the castle while the Antagonist attacks the Hero directly.Antagonist's forces fail to defend the castle while Antagonist is killed by Hero.Denouement
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HEROStorm the castle of a one-off Antagonist.Offensive plan fails.Storm the castle of a one-off Antagonist. Offensive. One-off Antagonist loses. Hero wins allies.Hero's plan and prepare to storm Antagonist's gates.Hero's team storms the Antagonist's gates and lose but gain allies.Hero's team prepare and plans for next step.Hero's team storms the gates with new allies and win.Hero's team attacks the castle while Hero is attacked by Antagonist.Hero's team destroys the castle while the Hero kills the Antagonist.
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AVATARANTAGONISTOne-off Antagonist is defeated by Hero.Hero meets the real Antagonist, who states his goals and values.Antagonist states his goal.Antagonist prepares for big attack.Antagonist's forces attack twice.Antagonist rallies his forces for final battle.Storm the Castle
Antagonist's forces winning.
Storm the Castle
Antagonist's forces lose.
Denouement
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HEROHero fails his quest in life, but chance gives him another opportunity to accomplish his goal in a bigger, better way.Hero arrives in new world, inprocesses with his team and passes the initiation test.Hero goes on first mission, strays from the path, resulting in meeting Lover, who trains him in new external and internal skills.Hero masters internal and external skills, is reborn, culminating in having sex with Lover.Hero scrambles to survive Antagonist's first attack and then try and fail to prevent the second.Hero's recover/escape from Antagonist's grip. Hero pulls sword from the stone and uses it to reunite his forces.Defend the Castle
Hero's forces losing.
Defend the Castle
Hero's forces win.
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THE AVENGERSANTAGONISTAntagonist attacks Hero's castle and steals a valuable resource.Antagonist flees with valuable resource and escapes.Plan and prepareAntagonist's forces attack while Hero's team is falling apart from their flaws.Antagonist's forces storm the Hero's outpost Antagonist wins and gets a valuable resource.Plan and prepare for final showdown.Storm the Castle
Winning
Storm the castle
Antagonist's forces lose, and Antagonist is neutralized.
Denouement
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HEROHero's team defends their castle against attack by Antagonist.Hero's team chases Antagonist but fails to catch him.Assemble the team. Plan, find a clue, follow the clue to showdown with Antagonist.Heros try to figure out Antagonist's plan while their flaws tear the team apart.Heros team defends the outpost and suffers heavy losses because of their flaws.Plan and prepare for final showdown.Defend the castle.
Holding the line.
Defend the castle.
Heros rally, correct their flaws and win.
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JURASSIC PARKANTAGONISTIntroduce Antagonists 1 and 2.Introduce Antagonist 3, 4, and 5.Antagonist 3's actions foreshadow his impending attack.Antagonist 4's actions foreshadow his impending attack.
Antagonist 3 prepares to enact his plan, then enacts step 1, 2, and 3 of his plan.
Antagonist 4 attacks Hero's team, winning and killing Antagonist 2.Antagonist 3 enacts step 4 of his plan but fails and is killed by Antagonist 5.
Antagonist 4 attacks Team A. They escape and move forward.
Antagonist 1 attacks Team B. They escape and move forward.
Antagonist 1 attacks Hero's team.Antagonist 1 attacks Hero's team, resulting in getting killed by Antagonist 4.Denouement
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HEROHero who is happy in his life, accepts a quest he doesn't want but can't afford to refuse.Hero arrives in new world, meets his new team, and becomes emotionally committed to the quest.Hero's team recieves training on new world and a mission briefing. The team gains new allies who conflict with Hero's flaw and embark on their quest.Heros stray from the path, setting them up to have their path cut off by Antagonist's 3's actions.Hero's team is attacked by Antagonist 4 and lose, resulting in the team splitting up into Team A and Team B. They react and make new plans.Team A enacts their plan and accomplishes their goal despite being attacked by Antagonist 4.
Team B enacts their plan and accomplishes their goal despite being attacked by Antagonist 1.
Team A and B reunite, make new plan, and enact it while being attacked by Antagonist 1.Hero's team accomplish their goal and return to the normal world.
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THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTIONANTAGONISTOne-off Antagonist attacks Hero and wins.Introduce Antagonist 1 and 2Antagonist 1 repeatedly attacks Hero until he is neutralized by Antagonist 2.
Antagonist 2 recuits Hero to help him accomplish his goal.
Antagonist 2 rewards Hero with cursed rewards.Antagonist 2 gets an opportunity to fulfill his goal and makes Hero help him.Antagonist 2 takes everything from Hero and punishes over a conflict of interests.Antagonist is attacked by Hero.Antagonist is killed, and his forces receive justice.Denouement
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HEROHero's flawed response to conflict results in him being ordered to go to a new world.Hero inprocesses into new world and passes initiation test.Hero meets new allies, gets new resources, attempts to survive, and displays his strength, resulting in being offered an opportunity from Antagonist 2, which Hero accepts.Hero moves toward his goal by working for Antagonist 2. He sees a snapshot of what his life will be like if he stays the path, which will ultimately be internal and external death.Hero gets new resources to help him achieve his immediate goal.Hero's longterm goal conflicts with Antagonist 2's. Antagonist 2 attacks and takes everything from Hero, cutting off all paths. While at his lowest, he reacts, plans, and prepares to attack Antagonist 2.Hero attacks Antagonist according to plan.Hero takes everything Antagonist 2 values and uses it to accomplish his own ultimate goal.
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GOOD WILL HUNTINGANTAGONISTIntroduce Antagonist who wants something only Hero can give him. Antagonist discovers Hero's existence.Antagonist follows clues leading to Hero.Antagonist follows clues to Hero and finds him at his weakest. Antagonist forces Hero to accept an external and internal mission that both benefit him.Antagonist recruits Mentor to be the agent of conflict in Hero's internal quest.Antagonist moves closer to his goal by using Hero.Antagonist prepares and enacts plan to use Hero further and gives Hero ultimatum he can't accept culminating in big showdown with Hero.Hero's actions cause Antagonist confrots his own flaw.Antagonist has major conflict with Mentor where they both say and hear what they need to.Denouement
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HEROIntroduce Hero, show his strength, flaw, goal.Hero uses his flaw to accomplish his goal by attacking a one-off Antagonist. Hero wins a false victory.Hero meets Lover and wins her interest by defeating a one-off Antagonist. Hero's failure at end of Act 1 gives Antagonist leverage over Hero, and forces him to accept an external and internal mission.Hero takes first steps in his love story, external quest, and internal quest. He wins false victories against one-off Antagonists, resulting in him meeting his mentor and having a showdown, which Hero wins with another false victory.Hero trains with Mentor and makes progress in his external, internal, and love quest, but reverts to using his flaw.Hero refuses ultimatums by Antagonist, Lover, and Mentor, causing him to lose everything.Hero suffers the consequences of using his flaw and refusing to change. Antagonist, Mentor, and Lover tell him what he needs to hear, and he finally listens.Hero prepares to slay his inner deman, which is does with Mentor.
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