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The Expanded Ultimate Story Checklist: Does the hero learn from mistakes in a painful way?

It would be nice if we all had enough perspective to spot our mistakes from far away and deal with them coolly, but in reality, we almost never admit our big mistakes until bad consequences have resulted. 

This is frequently where mentors and love interests get killed, where illusions get stripped away, and where lies are exposed.
  • Mentors are killed off in Star Wars and The Untouchables. 
  • Partners get killed off in Speed and thousands of other cop movies. 
  • In most comedies, the hero’s lies are exposed at this point, at the worst possible moment.

The 40 Year Old Virgin

YES. His conversation with Marla, for example

Alien

YES, she almost gets killed by Ash.

An Education

YES. After the reveal, very much so.

The Babadook

YES. she realizes that the only way to save her son is to face her grief.

Blazing Saddles

YES. Right after the midpoint, when the Waco Kid sets him straight about “the common clay of the new west…You know, morons.”

Blue Velvet

YES. He gets caught and beaten up, and realizes that Dorothy is too lost to save.

The Bourne Identity

YES. he almost gets her family killed (and does get their dog killed), and realizes that he can’t run any further.

Bridesmaids

YES. Very much so.

Casablanca

YES. he sees Lazlo’s heroism for himself and realizes he can’t compete.

Chinatown

YES. The truth about Catherine is devastating. 

Donnie Brasco

YES.  Outside the mob, he suffers through marriage counseling.  In the mob, he has to cut up bodies.

Do the Right Thing

YES. The killing of his friend and the riot teaches him that his attempts to ease tensions were foolish. 

The Farewell

YES. Her uncle convinces her she would have to stay in China to take care of Nai Nai, and she decides to do so… 

The Fighter

YES. Watching the documentary is painful for all.  Breaking with Alice is painful.  

Frozen

YES. her sister almost kills her, her fiance betrays her, etc. 

The Fugitive

YES. Very much so: Emotionally and physically.

Get Out

YES. Very much so.

Groundhog Day

YES. Very much so.

How to Train Your Dragon

YES.

In a Lonely Place

YES. but not until it’s too late.

Iron Man

YES. He literally has his heart ripped out by Stane, has to put in the heart that Pepper gave him.

Lady Bird

YES. Very much so.

Raising Arizona

YES. They realize it was wrong to take the baby.

Rushmore

YES.

Selma

Sort of?  It’s hard to tell.  Is the decision to reverse the second march evidence that he’s learned from the mistakes of the first march, or a blunder that almost wrecks the movement?  DuVernay leaves that open. 

The Shining

YES. Jack doesn’t.  Danny and Wendy do.

Sideways

YES. Maya realizes that Jack is getting married, and dumps Miles.

The Silence of the Lambs

YES. See above. 

Star Wars

YES. Sees Obi Wan die

Sunset Boulevard

YES. when he realizes that he can’t lead Betty on.  

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The Expanded Ultimate Story Checklist: Do the stakes pace and motivation all escalate at this point?

At a certain point, when dealing with a large problem, things slip out of our control and we are overtaken by events. This feels horrible, but it’s ultimately necessary for us to have the motivation and urgency we need to solve the problem. 

Again, it’s tempting to overmotivate the hero in this section. Beware of the tendency to prop up a flagging story by tacking on additional motivation, such as revealing that the villain also killed the hero’s family years ago. If you want to strengthen your hero’s motivation, then simplify it instead of multiplying it.
  • This is frequently where the “double-chase” begins: The hero is both hunter and hunted now. The heroes of Some Like It Hot and Blue Velvet discover that the bad guys now know who and where they are, and they’re coming for them. 
  • This is where the ticking clock sometimes comes in, as in both Alien and Aliens. 
  • Or where a family member is threatened: The baby is kidnapped in Raising Arizona and Mary Jane is kidnapped in Spider-Man. 
  • This is sometimes where events happen that force a decision, such as David’s marriage proposal in An Education.

The 40 Year Old Virgin

To a certain extent.  The third quarter is a little limp, ironically enough.

Alien

YES, they realize they have to blow up the ship.

An Education

YES. He proposes marriage.

The Babadook

YES. Stakes are now life or death, etc.

Blazing Saddles

YES.

Blue Velvet

YES. there are car chases and his world is invaded.

The Bourne Identity

YES. he’s in love now, and realizes that he must find Conklin and “end it” to protect her.

Bridesmaids

NO. Not at this point. The wedding is approaching but she’s not going so it doesn’t matter. It’s only when finds out Lillian needs her and there’s only a day left that this kicks in.

Casablanca

YES. Lazlo is told he can no longer stay in Casablanca.

Chinatown

YES, the cops are closing in on both Jake and Evelyn, he’s falling in love with her, etc.

Donnie Brasco

YES.  he almost gets made, gets caught up in a mob war, loses family

Do the Right Thing

YES. Very much so.  

The Farewell

Sort of.  She confronts her uncle, convinced he’s the ringleader.  

The Fighter

YES. he starts winning fights.

Frozen

YES. she’s now dying, the winter is getting worse, Elsa might be killed, etc.

The Fugitive

YES. Very much so.

Get Out

YES. both for him and also for Rod, who now becomes our second hero.  

Groundhog Day

YES. He realizes that he only has one day (over and over) to save the old man’s life. 

How to Train Your Dragon

YES. His father goes off to the nest. 

In a Lonely Place

YES. His marriage proposal creates a crisis.

Iron Man

YES.

Lady Bird

YES. She has to race to Julie before prom ends, sort of. 

Raising Arizona

YES.

Rushmore

YES.

Selma

YES. His new army increasingly demands action.  Johnson increasingly demands he stand down.

The Shining

YES. Jack cuts off contact with outside world, Wendy knocks him out.

Sideways

YES. He and Maya have sex, possibly fall in love…

The Silence of the Lambs

YES. They’re running out of time, in danger of being fired.

Star Wars

YES. It becomes very thrilling, cross-cutting between four groups in danger.

Sunset Boulevard

Somewhat.  Artie proposes marriage to Betty.  Norma catches him.

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The Ultimate Story Checklist: Does the hero find out who his real friends and enemies are?

Only in a crisis do we discover who we can really count on and who has been sabotaging our efforts all along. 

Warning: The easiest way to drop a huge reversal on your hero is to reveal that his “success” is actually part of the villain’s plan, as seen in movies like Total Recall or Flightplan, but this is never a good idea. It inevitably creates huge plot holes and makes the hero seem way too stupid and predictable. Instead, reversals should come about because of the hero’s blind spots and hubris.
  • A lot of heroes get betrayed at this point. Richard realizes that his best friend ordered his death in The Fugitive. Tony gets his heart ripped out by Stane in Iron Man, only to realize what Pepper really means to him. 
  • Sometimes it can be positive: Bart befriends Mongo and Lili Von Schtupp in Blazing Saddles. Max finally realizes that Helen is a natural ally in Rushmore.

The 40 Year Old Virgin

YES. He realizes that he’s his own worst enemy

Alien

YES, she realizes that the company is not her friend, Ash is evil.

An Education

YES. Eventually, yes. All relationships are turned on their heads, except with the headmistress.

The Babadook

YES. Claire cuts her off and the man stops coming around, but the next door neighbor turns out to be reliable, and Samuel turns out to the one who can save her …by stabbing her, knocking her out and tying her down.

Blazing Saddles

YES. He finds out the nature of Hedly’s schemes, and wins over Mongo and Lili.

Blue Velvet

YES. he finds out that a cop is in on it, and that Sandy is better able to straddle both worlds than Dorothy is. 

The Bourne Identity

YES. he realizes that his fellow killers aren’t really the problem, it’s the boss, and realizes that Marie really loves him.

Bridesmaids

YES. Finds out Helen isn’t so bad, Megan is a good friend. 

Casablanca

YES. he discovers he can trust Renault and Ilsa.

Chinatown

YES. Eventually figures out Evelyn isn’t bad. 

Donnie Brasco

YES.  realizes that he’s in more danger for being a mobster than being a fed.

Do the Right Thing

YES. When Sal spits racist invective at Radio Raheem, Mookie decides that Sal is unacceptably racist after all, and the chasm cannot be crossed.  

The Farewell

YES. Her father switches to her side, but is still outvoted.  She feels betrayed by Nai Nai herself, when Nai-Nai’s sister tells her that Nai Nai lied to her husband about his cancer. 

The Fighter

YES. he realizes that he should trust Charlene more than his family.

Frozen

YES. she realize that Hans is evil and she really loves Kristoff. 

The Fugitive

YES. It takes a long time to figure that out, but he does right before the beginning of the 4th quarter.

Get Out

YES. Very much so. 

Groundhog Day

YES. He realizes that he really loves Rita, and the town.

How to Train Your Dragon

YES. Yes.

In a Lonely Place

YES. finds out cop has stood by him, but Laurel is unwilling to.

Iron Man

YES. Stane tries to kill him, Pepper and Rhodey back him up, Agent Coulson goes from annoyance to ally.

Lady Bird

YES. Both of those relationships are unsatisfactory and she goes back to Julie.

Raising Arizona

YES. The brothers and the brother-in-law turn on Hi.

Rushmore

YES. he feels betrayed when Mr. Blume starts sleeping with Ms. Cross.

Selma

YES. Johnson turns on him and has the FBI send the tape to his wife (though it’s never clear if King blames Johnson for this).  Of the two SNCC leaders, he makes peace with one and breaks permanently with the other.

The Shining

YES. Jack realizes that the spirits want him to kill his wife.  Danny realizes he needs Tony.  Wendy realizes she can’t trust Jack.

Sideways

YES. Realizes he should have been loyal to Maya, not Jack. 

The Silence of the Lambs

YES. She discovers that Chilton is even worse than she thought and Lecter had secret plans. She also learns to trust Crawford, despite his toughness and possible sexism.

Star Wars

Not in this one. Good and bad are readily evident.  Betrayals and redemptions will come in later movies.

Sunset Boulevard

YES. he realizes that Norma is his enemy and Betty is his real salvation.

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The Expanded Ultimate Story Checklist: Does the hero try the hard way from this point on?

As with cleaning your house, things have to get worse before they can get better. Trying the hard way should not be instantly rewarding and shouldn’t yet lead to any better results than the easy way. The advantage of trying the hard way is that it forces us to lose our illusions and leads us to a spiritual crisis, and that crisis becomes the secret of our success. 

It can be tempting to regard the entire third quarter as a string of betrayals, reversals, and assaults, but it’s important to remember that this is all happening now for a good reason: The hero is finally tackling the problem head on.
  • After pretending to be poor in the first half of Sullivan’s Travels, our hero really loses everything. 
  • Max in Rushmore learns to struggle through public school. 
  • The prince in The King’s Speech finally agrees to talk about the troubled childhood that caused his stutter. 
  • The heroes of Fatal Attraction and Silence of the Lambs both admit they lied their way through the first half of the story and try to reestablish trust. 
  • The heroes of Some Like It Hot, Tootsie, and The Talented Mr. Ripley, on the other hand, continue to lie throughout the third quarter but have to deal with the steadily increasing consequences of those lies.

The 40 Year Old Virgin

YES, he pursues a relationship with Trish.

Alien

YES, they try to kill it.

An Education

NO. She ignores evidence of further criminality and becomes more delusional throughout the 3rd quarter.

The Babadook

YES. She brings her husband’s violin back upstairs. 

Blazing Saddles

YES. he decides that he must really save the town to win them over.

Blue Velvet

YES. he admits his secret investigation to Sandy’s father, admits his voyeurism to Sandy.

The Bourne Identity

YES. It’s somewhat reversed in this movie, as he spends the second quarter solving the mystery and the third quarter on the run from his investigation, but he’s definitely more grim and resolved in the second half.

Bridesmaids

Barely. She mostly quits and cocoons, except a half-hearted attempt to bake for the cop.

Casablanca

YES. he takes control of the situation.

Chinatown

YES. He looks past the surface of things, demands the truth out of Evelyn and others. 

Donnie Brasco

YES.  goes full mobster, freezes out wife. 

Do the Right Thing

YES. Somewhat.  He actually visits his son and Tina, he confronts Pino more directly, etc.

The Farewell

YES. She confronts Grandma’s doctor and tries to convince the family to tell her, but the doctor and her family talk her out of it.  

The Fighter

YES. He finally tries to make it without Dicky.

Frozen

NO. No, Anna becomes passive, than she tries another easy way (kissing Hans)

The Fugitive

YES. he determines to find the one-armed man himself.

Get Out

YES. Well, he can try, but he’s pretty powerless. 

Groundhog Day

YES.  First suicide, then honesty with Rita. 

How to Train Your Dragon

NO. Not really. He was really trying the hard way (doing it all himself) before, and now he’s trying the easier (and better) way, working with his classmates.

In a Lonely Place

NO. He remains in denial until almost the end.

Iron Man

YES. Goes and disarms the guys himself, then comes to deal with Stane, but it’s too late.

Lady Bird

YES. but this is the sort of movie where “the hard way” is also “the bad way” She drops theater and her best friend Julie, pursues a bad friend and bad boy, through subterfuge.   

Raising Arizona

YES. They take off to get their baby back.

Rushmore

Yes and no.  He’s still pretty delusional, but he starts working harder. 

Selma

YES. He puts out the call for activists from around the country, though he knows he’s putting them in deadly danger.

The Shining

YES. everybody takes everything more seriously from this point on.

Sideways

YES. Eventually. He finally goes to the restaurant to ask about her, but misses her, but she reaches out to him the next day.

The Silence of the Lambs

YES. She tells Lecter everything about her past

Star Wars

YES. Infiltrates the Death Star

Sunset Boulevard

Not at first, he becomes an aimless gigolo, but then he reconnects with Betty and begins to sneak out to see her at night. 

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Check out my appearance on the Creative Penn podcast!

Hey guys, I’m a guest on today’s episode of the “Creative Penn” podcast, where Joanna Penn interviews writers. Joanna has a ton of great stuff on her site, including a lot more blog posts and podcasts than I will ever produce (this is episode #624 of the podcast!), all of which is super-helpful to writers. I really enjoyed talking to her about my new book and all sorts of other good stuff. You can check out the podcast and a transcript here.
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The Expanded Ultimate Story Checklist: Does the easy way lead to a big crash around the midpoint, resulting in the loss of a safe space and/or sheltering relationship?

In real life, we will stick with the easy way, stay in our safe space, cling to sheltering relationships, and refuse to examine our motives for as long as possible. It takes a huge, hubris-fueled failure, in which we lose that safe space, to force us to try the hard way and consider the possibility that we’re our own worst enemies. 

Don’t go easy on your hero. Bigger is usually better. The further they fall, the more inspiring their rise back up will be. And beware of the false crash. Remember the Mission: Impossible rule: At the second-act break (the midpoint) the team’s plan has to genuinely fall apart, and the team has to improvise. At this point, your hero should throw away the map.
  • Often the loss of safe space is literal: Rick’s bar is trashed by the Nazis in Casablanca, Bruce’s house is burned down in Batman Begins, and Tony’s house is blown up in Iron Man 3. 
  • Sometimes it’s figurative: Sheriff Brody gets slapped in Jaws, Michael gets slapped in Tootsie. 
  • Some stories prefer to pile on multiple big crashes. Bridesmaids has several huge disasters in a row as the heroine loses her job, her apartment, her potential boyfriend, her lover, her car, her role in the wedding, and her best friend in rapid succession. 
  • Likewise, Raiders of the Lost Ark has two crashes. First, Marion seems to die in the bazaar chase, and then, a few scenes later, Indy gets some good news and some bad news: Marion’s still alive, but he’s lost the ark and been sealed into a tomb of snakes with her. 
A few things to keep in mind: In tragedies like American Beauty, we sometimes get the opposite: the midpoint peak, followed by the point when the hero starts heading for a fall. Even nontragedies like How to Train Your Dragon can sometimes do something similar. Hiccup gets everything he’s ever wanted at the midpoint, and it doesn’t fall apart until the third quarter, when his lies finally come crashing down.

Rulebook Casefile: Manufacturing a Bigger Midpoint Disaster in Selma

I’ve talked about how the most common story structure is simply the most common structure for solving problems in real life, so, if that’s true, a true story like Selma should naturally hit our story beats without a lot of fictionalization. And it kind of does, but DuVernay (and it does seem to be DuVernay and not Webb), like most docudrama makers, chooses to magnify that. Is that fair? Let’s see.

The real story does have a natural “Big Crash / Midpoint Disaster / Lowest Point” for both LBJ and MLK: The first bridge crossing, which King misses, leads to horrific violence on national TV, mortifying Johnson. But DuVernay wants more, so she takes an event that only kind of really happened and inserts it here.

The change involves King’s reason for missing the march. The big crash usually happens because of the hero’s flaw, forcing them to confront it for the first time. The real reason King missed the march speaks to one of King’s potential flaws, but DuVernay created a different reason that speaks to another flaw.

In the true story, King felt he had to stay home in Atlanta and preach to his congregation, so he planned to join the marchers later (There are some suspicions that his father, who was his co-preacher, suspected that there would be violence, feigned illness and asked King to make sure be there to preach.)

If DuVernay had kept this reason, would that speak to a flaw of King’s? Well, it’s a controversial thing to say, but sort of. In fact, DuVernay does come close to making this criticism elsewhere. It’s hard not to notice that King keeps missing the violence: He’s not at the night march where Jimmie Lee Jackson gets killed, he misses the first bridge crossing, and he turns back the second bridge crossing when he sees the cops, disappointing everybody. It feels awful to criticize a man who would soon give his life for the movement, but in this campaign, he kind of looks like someone who is willing to put others in danger but not himself.

But DuVernay decides to bring in another of King’s flaws here instead. To do so, she must do some fictionalization, creating an event that didn’t really happen …but basically happened. In the movie, King is stuck at home dealing with a marital crisis.
It’s true that J. Edgar Hoover was an employee of Johnson’s, and while working “under” Johnson recorded King having affairs and mailed those tapes to Coretta who then confronted her husband. That really happened. But Hoover didn’t really do it at this point in history, and Johnson probably never knew he was going to do it. Hoover was totally rogue by this point, and historians believe that Johnson only kept him on because Hoover was blackmailing him. Certainly, whenever it happened, it was not Johnson’s attempt to stop events in Selma.

This is obviously a big point in favor of the case that DuVernay is unfair to Johnson, but is it really? Johnson should have known this was happening and should have stopped it. It’s only fair to show that the Johnson administration, in the person of an employee Johnson refused to rein in, was viciously attacking King’s marriage, so it’s fair to include that in a movie about King’s relationship with Johnson, even if history has to be rearranged and Johnson’s sin of omission turned into a sin of commission.

And it certainly works in terms of creating an effective lowest point for both protagonists. Johnson hits a moral low point, making his eventual moral redemption more powerful. King suffers greatly, is forced to admit his worst behavior, and feels even guiltier when the problems results in his missing the violent march. (But it is awkward that King’s adultery is neither set up beforehand nor paid off afterwards: We never see him commit adultery beforehand nor refuse to do it afterwards.)

Basically, the best reason to insert this moment is to include King’s biggest flaw and one of Johnson’s biggest flaws into this story, so that the portrait of each man will be more complete and complicated, even if these two flaws didn’t actually play a big part in this particular event. DuVernay is being true to history on a broader scale even if it means fictionalizing this event. I can accept that.

Rulebook Casefile: The Big Crash in Frozen

In my notes service, this is a note I give all the time. The heroes begin “Act 2” with a goal, and then they reach that goal far too many pages later, just in time to begin the climax in “Act 3”. But one reason I’ve never been a fan of the “Three-Act Structure” is that it ignores the real turning point, which should usually be the midpoint.

If your heroes commit to a big goal at the ¼ point of your story, they should reach that goal at the midway point, fully assuming that their challenge is now over, only to find that the easy way has culminated in a disaster. Either they fail spectacularly, or they find that achieving their goal has only made things worse.

In Frozen, Anna, Kristoff and Olaf reach Elsa’s palace, only to get kicked out and mortally injured, which sends them off on another quest, temporarily forgetting their quest to get Elsa to shut down eternal winter. Here’s that Scriptnotes podcast again:
  • John August: So, one of the most surprising things that happens next is Anna gets to Elsa, which you sort of think of the quest of the movie, well eventually they’re going to get there and it will all be resolved by then. But at the midpoint of the movie —
  • Jennifer Lee: That’s a good point, yeah.
  • John: They actually get there and they have the conservation and The First Time in Forever and then like things seem like they’re going to be okay.
  • Aline Brosh-McKenna: God, another great tip for writers which is you can just go and do it.
  • John: Don’t delay it. Actually just start it. And it surprises you because you’re not expecting, you know, you establish a journey. So, like, oh, the journey is to get there. And like, oh, but we’re here. And so what else can happen? Well, she can shot in the heart with it and Elsa can refuse to change and shut them out and build an abominable snowman and sort of become more monstrous herself.
This can be a painful note to get, because it forces you to restructure your whole story, compressing your “Act 2” down to half as many pages, then adding a midpoint disaster and a second, harder quest before the climax is reached, but audiences demand this. They don’t want you to park it in cruise control for the middle of the story. They know how long your story is, but they don’t want your characters to know it. Your characters should be shocked to discover that their story is only half over after the big crash.

Rulebook Casefile: Big Decisions and the Midpoint Disaster

Every story should have six painful decisions, spaced out fairly evenly throughout the story. A commenter once asked about how these painful decisions mapped onto the midpoint disasters that most stories have. (Of the 17 checklist movies we’ve done, only two, Do the Right Thing and How to Train Your Dragon, don’t really have midpoint disasters) The answer is that it varies. Usually the disaster is not the result of a poor decision, and even when it is, it tends to be a decision that the hero did not see as painful when he or she made it.

In many, the disaster is the consequence of a correct-but-poorly-executed decision:
  • Alien: The captain is killed while trying to kill the alien.
  • Casablanca: Rick’s club is trashed because he helped Victor
  • In Raising Arizona, the disaster comes after one of Hi’s only right decisions: the rejection of his brother-in-law’s wife-swapping plan.
  • The Shining: Danny and then Jack investigate Room 237
  • Donnie Brasco: Donnie’s wife changes her number because he’s too far in to call her.
  • Sunset Boulevard: Joe arrives home from going out with Betty to find that Norma has attempted suicide.
  • Star Wars: The Millennium Falcon gets sucked into the Death Star while trying to reach Alderaan.
In some, it’s the consequence of a weak decision that was casually made, rather than painfully fretted over:
  • Iron Man: Tony finds out he was wrong to blindly trust Stane
  • Bridesmaids: Annie’s attempts to please everybody lead to a series of personal disasters.
In some it takes the form of an early-but-unheeded spiritual crisis:
  • An Education: Jenny finds out that they’re all crooks, but accepts that.
  • Blue Velvet: Jeffrey hits Dorothy.
  • Another from Donnie Brasco: Donny beats up the maître/d.
In one, it’s an external betrayal:
  • Silence of the Lambs: Clarice and her boss are taken off the case because Chilton tells Lecter that she’s been lying to him.
In another, a wrong track comes to its bitter end:
  • Groundhog Day: Phil’s attempts to seduce Rita fail over and over.
In another, a hero wisely abandons an unsafe space:
  • The Bourne Identity: Jason decides to abandon his investigation and leave Paris with Marie in.
Only Sideways has what I would consider to be a clear case of a hero who faces a painful dilemma (Move on from his wife or close the deal with Maya), clearly chooses wrong, and finds out that the results are even more disastrous than he had counted on.

The 40 Year Old Virgin

YES.  It’s a very weak midpoint disaster, they set him up with a transsexual prostitute, and he decides to give up on their advice altogether.

Alien

YES, the captain dies, and they realize the whole ship is not safe.

An Education

YES. Sort of. When she realizes they’re crooks, she tries briefly to flee.

The Babadook

YES. The babadook enters her. Her house and only relationship (with her son) are no longer safe.

Blazing Saddles

YES. A medium-sized crash: A little old lady says “Up yours, N—“ and upsets him for the first time. He realizes that, for the first time, he wants more than his charm can get for him.  Even when he was on the gallows, his confidence wasn’t hurt, but now it is: he wants the respect of whites for the first time, and that means leaving his safe space of sarcasm.

Blue Velvet

NO. The crises are in an unusual order.  At first it seems like he has an early physical disaster, but he enjoys being raped at knife-point, so it’s not a problem, but then she gets him to hit her at the halfway point, which makes for an early spiritual disaster, and at the ¾ point he finally has a real physical disaster, getting beaten up and almost killed. The closet is no longer safe, and then his house isn’t either, because Dorothy shows up there.

The Bourne Identity

Somewhat: the new name leads to a dead end, and he finds that they’ve found his hotel room, so he decides to flee.  At this point, he loses his relationship for only a moment until he wins Marie back over.

Bridesmaids

YES. The most epic lowest point ever: Gets everyone kicked off the flight to Vegas, gets the bachelorette party cancelled, gets fired as maid of honor, screws things up with the nice guy, gets fired from job, gets kicked out of her apartment, disinvited from wedding, car is wrecked, and loses handsome lover!

Casablanca

YES. Ilsa rejects him, and he finds out Ugarte has been killed. The Germans have figured out from Ugarte that he has the letters, so they trash his place, and eventually close his café.

Chinatown

Yes and no.  There are two disasters  (He gets his nose cut, gets knocked out by the farmers a few scenes later) but neither of them feels like a monumentous disillusioning midpoint crash.

Donnie Brasco

Sort of.  He helps beat up the Japanese maitre’d, his wife decides to divorce him.

Do the Right Thing

NO. There are two, but Mookie misses both, because he’s in the shower (This is an odd structure!)  In Buggin’ Out’s arc, he reaches a lowest point in the montage where everybody contemptuously refuses to join his boycott, then he takes it to Sal by himself and only humiliates himself.  Sal then has a midpoint disaster of his own when Pino sits him down and says he doesn’t to inherit the business, then yells at Smiley in the street, in view of everyone while Sal shakes his head in misery. This is probably the key moment that leads to the riot (though it was improvised and wasn’t in the script!) Mookie then sort of loses a safe space when Jade comes to the pizzeria and drives a wedge between Mookie and Sal.

The Farewell

YES. Grandma gets sicker and goes to the hospital. 

The Fighter

YES. Dicky gets arrested outside, Micky goes to help, gets hand busted.

Frozen

YES. Elsa kicks them out and freezes her heart.

The Fugitive

NO. The biggest crash actually happens quite a bit before the midpoint: he has to jump off the dam (42 minutes) At this point, he’s already lost everything, but now he goes to an even less safe place: Chicago.

Get Out

YES. To put it mildly!  

Groundhog Day

YES. She slaps him on eight consecutive days. He gives up and goes back to hating her, the town, and himself.

How to Train Your Dragon

NO. It happens very late, more like ¾of the way in, when his relationship with Toothless is exposed. At that point his father condemns him and takes his beloved pet dragon away At the midpoint, he actually reaches a kind of peak, which is closer to the structure of a tragedy.  

In a Lonely Place

YES. at the beach picnic, Dix realizes that his girl and his friend are conspiring against him.  As a result, he almost murders another driver. Neither relationship is ever the same.

Iron Man

YES. He finds out that his weapons have been used again, Stane comes out against him. Then Stane takes his company, invades his house.

Lady Bird

YES. Danny turns out to be gay, she can’t enjoy the play anymore. 

Raising Arizona

YES. Several: The in-laws come over. They have lots of questions about Jr. Hi punches out his boss for suggesting wife swapping. Hi steals some Huggies and some money, which leads to lots of complications with cops, dogs, and an armed clerk. The in-law confronts Hi and demands the baby, the brothers take the baby. Hi loses his job and his baby and his house gets trashed.

Rushmore

YES. There’s a big crash, but it happens 20 minutes early: Max’s aquarium is shut down and he gets kicked out, also losing the friendship of Ms. Cross at the time.  It was really shocking when rewatching this movie to realize how early this happens: Most of the movie isn’t set at Rushmore. 

Selma

YES. King is sidelined by the adultery tape and the other activists are beaten at the march he misses while he’s dealing with it. 

The Shining

YES. for both: Danny enters the room and becomes injured, Wendy blames Jack.  Jack’s wife no longer trusts him, Danny becomes catatonic. 

Sideways

YES. A mild one: He responds too late when she makes a pass, and convinces himself that he’s blown it. Worse, Jack and Steph hit it off, seeming to ruin the rest of the trip. Jack disappears, the motel room and restaurant are miserable alone.

The Silence of the Lambs

YES. Her lies are revealed and she’s taken off the case. Lecter is moved from safe cell to unsecure location.

Star Wars

YES. In this case, bigger disasters happen at the ¼ and ¾ points, (the deaths of Luke’s parent-figures and mentor) but there is a midpoint disaster, as they realize that the planet that they’re heading towards has been destroyed, and their ship is seized.

Sunset Boulevard

YES. he finds out that Norma has attempted suicide.  This lures him back into his lair, and cuts off his access to Betty.

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The Expanded Ultimate Story Checklist: Does the hero have some fun and get excited about the possibility of success?

We are more likely to tackle a huge challenge if we think we might have some fun doing it. Of course, we only have fun when we’re doing it the easy way, and we’re not going to make real progress until we stop having fun and get down to real work. 

In this area, there’s a huge difference between horror and almost every other genre. Some call this step “fun and games,” and that’s true for every genre except horror, where our heroes have no fun at all in this section. Nevertheless, the audience has fun, because they experience the creeping dread that sends a tingle up their spines. In most genres, they totally identify with the hero’s ups and downs, but in horror, they identify only partially with the heroes, because they also want to see the heroes punished for their sins. As a result, they are able to enjoy both the characters' triumphs and suffering.

As Blake Snyder points out in Save the Cat, this section tends to provide the big moments that make it onto the booker cover or the movie poster. It’s where the hero does the thing the audience has come to see him do, and has fun doing it, right before the disaster hits and things get serious.
  • Picture the posters: The parents and their baby sunbathe together in Raising Arizona; the lovers have steamy sex in Body Heat. 
  • Think of the trailer: The Millennium Falcon jumps into light speed in Star Wars; the therapist and the prince practice rapid nonsense sounds in The King’s Speech. 
  • It’s not just in horror movies, such as The Shining and Alien, that we’re having more fun than the heroes are; it’s also true of some especially tense thrillers. The big trailer moment in The Fugitive happens when he leaps into the waterfall to save his life. Presumably, that’s a lot more fun to watch than it is to do.
Straying from the Party Line (Except for the Deleted Scenes): Chris Never Gets His Hopes Up in “Get Out”
As I watch movies for this blog, I find that most movies meet most steps of the structure I expect them to have. Sometimes, when they don’t, I find that they actually did at the script stage, and even in the shooting stage, but the scene got deleted from the final edit. Think of how Star Wars once started from Luke’s point of view, or The Terminator once had a shift to the proactive.

One beat that Get Out doesn’t have in its final version is the one I would expect to find right before the midpoint disaster: “the hero has a little fun and gets excited about the possibility of success.”

But if you look at the deleted scenes on the DVD you’ll see that such a scene did once happen in that spot. There is still a scene at that spot in the movie where Chris meets Jim the blind art dealer, who apologizes for the racism of the other guests and praises Chris’s photography. But originally the scene went further: As Rose’s brother Jeremy tried to call Chris away for badminton, Jim went so far as to offer Chris a show in his gallery in the coming weeks. Chris is very happy to hear that:

  • Jeremy: Yo Chris, can we borrow you? I need to kick someone’s ass in badminton.
  • Chris to Jim: Nice to meet you man
  • Jim: Stop by the gallery, it’s about time you had a solo show.
  • Chris: Really?
  • Jim: Mm-Hm
  • Chris: Wow, okay, that’d be…that’d be a gamechanger!
  • Jim: We’ll get together sometime.

Emotionally, for the audience, this is just the right beat: We want to go on an emotional rollercoaster with the hero. We want his efforts in “the easy way” to seemingly be rewarded. We want to get our hopes up, right along with him, and then share his agony when it all comes crashing down at the midpoint (more like the 2/3 point in this movie)

So why was this cut? In his commentary on the deleted scenes, Peele doesn’t address this dialogue exchange, because he’s already talking about how the unnecessary badminton sequence had to go. I got the impression that the only reason this exchange was cut was because it overlapped with that sequence.

But it can go. After all, why would Jim say this to Chris? Whether or not Jim wins the auction, he knows Chris isn’t going to live through the weekend. Possibly he would say it just to keep Chris happy until the auction is over and he can be seized, but that’s a bit of a stretch.

Ultimately, this beat just existed to increase the emotional gutpunch of the midpoint disaster for the audience, but once the movie was firing on cylinders, it wasn’t necessary. The movie was impactful enough without it. But it’s telling that Peele did feel it was necessary to hit this expected beat in the script stage, before he knew his movie wouldn’t need it.

The 40 Year Old Virgin

YES.  To a certain extent. He finds that it’s easy and fun to hit on Elizabeth Banks.

Alien

NO. we in the audience enjoy the gory deaths, the creeping dread and final reveal of the creature, so we’re having fun, but she isn’t.  This is typical for horror movies. 

An Education

YES.  Very much so. They have delightful trips to Oxford and Paris.

The Babadook

YES. Not fun so much, but she loves the sedatives, feels better briefly.

Blazing Saddles

YES. He enjoys bamboozling them, and makes a friend in the Waco Kid. He confidently predicts success: “Once you establish yourself, they got to accept you.”   “Good morning ma’am, and isn’t it a lovely morning.”

Blue Velvet

YES. he enjoys his voyeurism, and even gets to have sex with his target. He smiles big when he tells Sandy about some of it.

The Bourne Identity

YES. he discovers what a badass fighter and driver he is. He’s excited to discover his other name and thinks that will solve the mystery.

Bridesmaids

YES. Bridesmaids bond somewhat, she tries to get excited about Vegas trip.

Casablanca

YES. Not Rick, who’s miserable, but we do get a long flashback to happier times here, so the audience gets some relief from Rick’s misery. He does get excited about the possibility of success when he thinks he’s won her back.

Chinatown

YES. He’s certainly overcondient, and he enjoys running circles around the cops such as when he uses Yelburton’s card 

Donnie Brasco

YES.  Has a lot of amusing conversations, bonds with Lefty, feeds the lion. He tells his wife he’ll be out soon.

Do the Right Thing

YES. he has fun with Vito, Senor Love Daddy, etc. He starts to anticipate the money, and promises to buy a picture from Smiley at the end of the day when he gets paid, etc.

The Farewell

NO. Not really. She tries to relax at a spa, but without much success. 

The Fighter

YES. They have a strong relationship. They have a family dinner to celebrate an upcoming fight.

Frozen

YES. they meet Olaf and the three of them develop a fun rapport.

The Fugitive

Just a little tiny bit, when he jokes with the cop in the first hospital “Every time I look in the mirror, pal”. When he’s in the ambulance, he seems to have gotten away clean.

Get Out

YES. Only in the deleted scenes, where Jim offers Chris a gallery show.   I think it was only cut because it overlapped with a long badmitton scene that wasn’t needed. 

Groundhog Day

YES. He gets in car chases, steals money, seduces his boss. He thinks he’s about to close the deal with her.

How to Train Your Dragon

YES. Loves first flight with the dragon. It looks like he’ll tame toothless and become the hero of the village.

In a Lonely Place

YES. he thinks he’s solved all of his personal problems and cleared his name.

Iron Man

YES. He loves flying around with the armor. He goes to the party, hits on Pepper, starts to boast again.

Lady Bird

YES. She’s in love, loving theater. 

Raising Arizona

NO. They love having the kid, but they never get excited about the possibility of success.  They’re pretty worried the whole time. 

Rushmore

YES. He has a lot of fun.  He thinks that the aquarium will win Miss Cross over.

Selma

NO. King doesn’t really, no, but some of the other activists do.  

The Shining

YES. In horror movies, it’s usually the villain who has fun at this point (which the audience enjoys and the heroes hate) but this is more like a standard movie: Jack seems to do well here, (but we later find out he was faking it all).  Danny definitely has fun here, big wheeling around and going through maze is fun for both he and Wendy. Jack seems to get excited about the possibility of success, and so does Wendy but Danny doesn’t: he’s getting scared.

Sideways

YES. Not at this point, but it happens in the first and third quarter, with lots of beautiful driving and drinking montages. 

The Silence of the Lambs

YES. She flirts with moth guys, shows some people up, seems to get good value out of Lecter, brags to roommate that it’s going well.

Star Wars

YES. Fun lightspeed effect, actual fun and games with chess game, lightsaber practice. They all think they’re about to arrive in Alderaan and have it made.

Sunset Boulevard

YES. he gets away and finds that the reader, Betty, now wants to work with him.  He thinks he can have it both ways.  

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The Expanded Ultimate Story Checklist: Does the hero try the easy way throughout the second quarter?

Even when we’ve accepted that we have to solve a large problem, and even after we’ve run into unexpected conflict, we are absolutely hardwired to try the easy way first and stick to it until it ends in disaster. The easy way can take many different forms, but what they all have in common is an insistence on treating the problem as an external obstacle rather than an internal dilemma. 

Audiences quickly get bored with a story in which the hero has five tasks to complete and then dutifully knocks them out one by one until arriving at the end of the story. The hero should be trying and expecting to solve the entire problem in almost every scene. The second and third quarters will usually consist of two different attempts to solve the same problem, not two halves of one attempt.
  • Some heroes spend this section juggling different lies, assuming that the targets of their lies will never compare notes, such as in Some Like It Hot, Tootsie, and How to Train Your Dragon. 
  • Some heroes spend this time escaping from the danger, without realizing that they’ll eventually have to face it head-on, such as in Witness and Die Hard. 
  • Some use this time to unsuccessfully seek allies, such as in High Noon. 
  • Others devote this time to elaborate schemes, such as in Double Indemnity, The Producers, and Body Heat.
Straying From the Party Line: The Easy Second Quarter in Iron Man
Just one real problem I see, but it was potentially disastrous...
  • Deviation: The scene we looked at (from the 2nd quarter)  didn’t really flow from the previous scene or into the next scene, indicating a lack of momentum.
  • The Potential Problem: This signals a much bigger problem. The hero takes it very easy in the 2nd quarter. He spends the whole time making the armor while his enemies move against him without his knowledge. But wait, if he’s unaware of the threat, then why is he making the armor? The implication is that he intends to use it to retrieve his errant weaponry, but he seems to think he’s already taken care of the problem, because he’s shocked at the midpoint to discover that the terrorists still have his weapons, and his bosses are still selling them. When he uses the armor, he’s reacting to new information, not a pre-established plan. (In fact, there are implications that he decides to weaponize the armor against his better judgment at this point.)
  • Does the Movie Get Away With It? Remarkably, yes ...more or less. I suspect most viewers don’t really spot this massive motivation hole until subsequent viewings. Why? Partially because the process scenes are so much fun. We’re focused on the step-by-step how-to of building the armor, so we never step back and ask why.
Still, this problem could have been eased if we had something like, “next time I find out that people are dying because of me, I’ll be ready”. Also, it would good to add a scene that made it clear that Tony didn’t trust the US Army to find and/or confront terrorists using his weapons. Superhero movies should always have an element of “It’s up to me now”.

The 40 Year Old Virgin

YES. He avoids calling Trish, takes all of the guys’ advice, even though it’s contradictory.

Alien

YES, at first they try to keep the creature alive.

An Education

YES. Almost for the entire story.

The Babadook

YES. She relies on the sedatives.

Blazing Saddles

YES. He tries to win them over through zaniness and charm.

Blue Velvet

YES. he tries to hide and spy without being seen, but he’s caught first by Dorothy, then by Frank.

The Bourne Identity

YES. he tries to go back to his old life, old apartment, tries to ditch girl.  

Bridesmaids

YES. Takes them to a cheap restaurant, insist on cheap dresses.

Casablanca

YES. he gets drunk, then sobers up and makes a friendly pass at Ilsa, assuming that she’s having a fling with Lazlo.

Chinatown

YES. He thinks he can find Hollis and clear this up.  After Hollis is dead, it’s unclear what his goal is, but he still seems confident in his abilities before he gets cut. 

Donnie Brasco

YES.  he tries to avoid hurting anybody, tries to get home enough to keep his family happy.

Do the Right Thing

YES. He assumes that he’s shut down Buggin’ Out and he can go on about his day.  He encourages Vito to stand up to Pino instead of confronting Pino directly.

The Farewell

YES. She puts on a fake smile and tries to keep quiet. 

The Fighter

YES. He keeps them apart, tries to stick with Dicky despite her advice. 

Frozen

YES. she’s just trying to find her sister and ask her to stop it. 

The Fugitive

YES. he just tries to get away (but not quite throughout the 2nd quarter: he switches to proactive at around the 48 minute mark)

Get Out

YES. He tries to fit in at the party.  

Groundhog Day

YES. Yes, he tries to use this power for his advantage.

How to Train Your Dragon

YES. Uses what he learns from the captive dragon to excel in dragon-fighting class.

In a Lonely Place

YES. he blows off the murder accusation and his early relationship is idyllic.

Iron Man

YES. He lets Stane play interference with the company, waits for Pepper and Rhodey to come around. 

Lady Bird

Sort of: She applies to college amibitiously despite not attempting to better her grades.  She accepts Danny without suspicion. 

Raising Arizona

YES. They lie to the brothers.

Rushmore

YES. This movie’s “second quarter” is very short, and its “third quarter” is very long.  To a certain extent, Max continues to try “the easy way” until the ¾ point, but his big crash happens much at 34 minutes in.

Selma

YES. He doesn’t provoke very much at first.  He tries to keep everybody happy, including Johnson and SNCC. 

The Shining

YES. Jack: Very briefly.  Tries to write and tries to get along with family only for a very short time, then quits trying and becomes the villain. Danny: Yes, he chases them through the halls, but won’t enter the room.

Sideways

YES. He gets blind-drunk for most of the date.

The Silence of the Lambs

YES. She lies to Lecter to get him to talk, doesn’t reveal much about herself.

Star Wars

YES. Hires it done, lies to Han about cargo.

Sunset Boulevard

YES. he tries to finish the script as quickly as possible. 


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    The Expanded Ultimate Story Checklist: Does the hero’s pursuit of the opportunity quickly lead to an unforeseen conflict with another person?

    As any artist considering a follow-up project will tell you, it’s much easier to commit to a big undertaking if you don’t know what you’re getting into. Just because you know an opportunity is intimidating doesn’t mean you comprehend how much trouble pursuing that opportunity will cause. 

    It’s best if your heroes are not fully aware of the scope of the problem before they commit. Audiences prefer heroes with a limited perspective, who quickly get in over their head. Given how bad things are going to get, it’s hard to sympathize with anyone who would intentionally put himself at risk.

    This is a dangerous moment where the story can lose its momentum. You’ve finally arranged all the pieces on the playing board, so it’s tempting to take it easy for a few pages, but you need to wallop the hero right away to keep the reader from putting down your manuscript.
    • The couple in The Awful Truth has just one problem with their divorce: Who gets the dog? 
    • The hero of Speed has accepted the danger of leaping on the bomb-rigged bus, but he doesn’t know that a passenger will freak out and accidentally shoot the driver, instantly making the entire task a lot tougher. 
    • In Goldfinger, The French Connection, and Silence of the Lambs, the hero realizes the villain is a lot smarter than anybody thought. 
    • Almost always, the unexpected conflict should come from an actual person, as opposed to an animal, the weather, a physical obstruction, or a faceless bureaucracy. Sheriff Brody in Jaws isn’t just opposed by the shark or “the townspeople.” He’s specifically opposed by the mayor, who refuses to protect his own town.

    The 40 Year Old Virgin

    YES.  The first girl he meets is drunk, endangers him, and throws up on him.

    Alien

    YES. Ash opposes her throughout.

    An Education

    NO. Her parents put up feeble, half-hearted resistance. The true antagonist in this movie is the general notion of propriety, which nobody really stands up for (except her teacher when it’s too late) but which turns out to be well worth heeding.

    The Babadook

    YES. The doctor is dubious of her plan, child services is suspicious, Claire cuts her out entirely.

    Blazing Saddles

    YES. The townspeople want to kill him.

    Blue Velvet

    YES. Dorothy, then Frank.

    The Bourne Identity

    YES. he’s almost arrested, then Cooper finds out he’s alive, sends assassins after him. 

    Bridesmaids

    YES. It turns out that there’s a rival for the position: Helen.

    Casablanca

    YES. Lazlo, it turns out that Ilsa is married. Also, Strasser has guess he has the letters.

    Chinatown

    YES. Lots of people: thugs, farmers, etc.

    Donnie Brasco

    YES.  He winds up caught between Lefty and Sonny Black.  His wife turns against him.

    Do the Right Thing

    NO. It’s nor really unforeseen. Buggin’ Out continues his boycott attempts despite Mookie, and Pino’s racism is also escalating. 

    The Farewell

    YES. Well, it’s not really unforeseen, but her grandma immediately asks her what’s wrong.  Her grandma tries to teach her a Chinese exercise routine but she resists.  

    The Fighter

    YES. His family doesn’t approve of her.

    Frozen

    YES. She meets Kristoff, and tries to get him to help her, but he refuses, then pushes back after agreeing. 

    The Fugitive

    YES. it turns out that the world’s best marshal in on his trail.

    Get Out

    YES. He regrets it the next morning.  Georgina and Walter just keep acting more threatening to him.  So does Jeremy.

    Groundhog Day

    YES. The police, then Rita. 

    How to Train Your Dragon

    NO. Not yet. The dragon is hard to train, but not as much as he thought it would be. Astrid finds out what he’s doing, but that’s later. 

    In a Lonely Place

    YES. Laurel’s masseuse is opposed to the relationship, his cop buddy’s boss and wife both distrust Dix.

    Iron Man

    YES. Stane isn’t happy about his new direction. For that matter, neither are Pepper or Rhodey.

    Lady Bird

    YES. Her mom fights her at every turn, and she get pushback from her brother too. 

    Raising Arizona

    YES. The brothers escape prison.

    Rushmore

    YES. Many. She’s not interested and Dr. Guggenheim is opposed to all of Max’s tricks.

    Selma

    YES. SNCC is pissed that he’s taking over their campaign.

    The Shining

    YES. Both: Not with another person at first, but with the demons of the hotel.  Eventually with each other and both will clash with Wendy.

    Sideways

    YES. Jack, who wants him to drink Merlot, and insists he be fun, but tells him right beforehand that his ex got remarried

    The Silence of the Lambs

    YES. with Chilton and others.

    Star Wars

    YES. Mos Eisley turns out to be a hive of scum and villainy. Their pilot turns out to have a price on his head.

    Sunset Boulevard

    YES. Norma won’t let him write a good script. 

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    The Expanded Ultimate Story Checklist: Does the hero commit to pursuing the opportunity by the end of the first quarter?

    It’s easy to overemphasize the commitment scene. It’s okay for heroes to be knee-deep before they realize they’re committed. Bruce Willis spends the entire first half of Die Hard just trying to call the cops, not realizing that as soon as he stole those detonators, he had pretty much committed himself to taking down the bad guys alone. 

    Sometimes it’s possible to skip over the actual commitment scene, jump-cutting right from hesitation to a conflict that arises after committing. In Some Like It Hot, the guys are still having a heated debate about whether they should dress up as women when we suddenly cut to the two of them wobbling down the train platform in heels.

    The 40 Year Old Virgin

    YES. He agrees to go out with them.

    Alien

    Only slightly, she gingerly starts to assert herself, but waits until after the midpoint disaster to assert herself.

    An Education

    YES. Beforehand really. This movie has a very long 2nd act: she’s committed by ten minutes in.

    The Babadook

    YES. It’s late, but by a third of the way through, (32 minutes) she has a plan: Use sedatives until tests come back and a state-appointed psychiatrist can come. 

    Blazing Saddles

    YES. Well, he commits right away, but because the movie takes time setting up its premise, it’s more than a third over by the time he rides into town. 

    Blue Velvet

    YES. sooner.

    The Bourne Identity

    YES. he decides he won’t let himself be taken and takes a gun from someone else.  

    Bridesmaids

    YES.

    Casablanca

    NO. he drags it out, paralyzed with indecision, and lashes out at her when she tries to explain.

    Chinatown

    YES. Yes.

    Donnie Brasco

    YES.  Lefty introduces him to Sonny Black as “a friend of ours”, the first step to getting made.

    Do the Right Thing

    YES. When Buggin’ Out announces his boycott, Mookie promises Sal that he’ll shut it down, which is his interpretation of “Do the right thing” at this point.  

    The Farewell

    YES. She buys her own ticket and surprises everybody. 

    The Fighter

    YES. She pursues him and they hook up.

    Frozen

    NO. Sort of.  Elsa runs away and Anna goes after her.  Will this help her solve her own problem, or is it just selfless?  Presumably, with Elsa simply missing, Anna will be in no position to become queen herself and marry whom she wants, so it’s sort of solving her own problem.  

    The Fugitive

    YES. he’s cutting his hair and going on the run.  

    Get Out

    YES. He sort of agrees to let Missy hypnotize him, putting himself in their power. 

    Groundhog Day

    YES. After two repetitions, he decides that this could be fun.

    How to Train Your Dragon

    YES. Goes back to the dragon.

    In a Lonely Place

    YES. Indirectly: He commits to pursuing the girl, and she commits to solving his problems for him.

    Iron Man

    YES. He builds the armor and escapes. 

    Lady Bird

    YES. She’s applying to schools, doing theater, and pursuing Danny.

    Raising Arizona

    YES. They take the kid.

    Rushmore

    YES. Earlier.

    Selma

    YES. He mobilizes his army. 

    The Shining

    YES. Jack: Yes, he begins the job.  Danny: yes, he starts pursuing the ghosts.

    Sideways

    YES. …but just barely. At minutes 32 of a 127 minute movie, he reluctantly accepts an arranged date with Maya.

    The Silence of the Lambs

    YES. Follows up on Lecter’s clues.

    Star Wars

    YES. He commits late, at 38 minutes in: “I want to come with you to Alderan, there’s nothing here for me now. I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father.” 

    Sunset Boulevard

    YES. In a relatively passive way: he accepts that they’ve brought his bags over.  

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