Watch: 10 Films That Really Nail Story Structure

If a movie is a journey, then story structure is the roadmap.

Around here, we like to acknowledge the fact that story is the main course of a movie meal. Without a good one, your project will be bland at best—inedible at worst. And though audiences want to connect with complex characters and and be entertained by great dialog, they ultimately want to understand what the hell is going on, which is why story structure is so important.

A great way to learn story structure is to, of course, watch and study films that really get it right. In this video, CineFix explores how 10 films—all with varying structure styles and complexity—do just that.  

The funny thing about this storytelling concept and this list is that even if you couldn't put your finger exactly on what good story structure is, you wouldn't be surprised by the films that were mentioned. This is because audiences have a kind of innate ability to recognize good storytelling. We've grown up listening to stories, we tell stories—I mean if you really think about it, simply living our lives is the purest form of storytelling, is it not?

But it's not as simple when you try to put it on a page. Though some lucky fools have a keen sense of story structure, most of us need to hone our skills by watching a ton of films and reading a ton of books, or even taking an online course. But that's just the beginning. The real learning comes when you finally decide to sit down and write.

That's why this video, in my opinion, is so essential to watch. It not only shows you the classic three-act structure, which is taught on your first day of Screenwriting College (not an actually college, I don't think), but it also gives aspiring screenwriters a list of films that you can watch and learn from, and explanations as to why and how those films really nailed their specific structures. 

Believe me, as you begin to map out your story, you're going to lead people down dead ends and roads that go nowhere, but that's no reason to give up or settle for a less complicated fabula and syuzhet. (I'm definitely guilty of both.) Take some notes on this video, keep doing your homework, and then get to work!     

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Your Comment


Really love this! Brings so much together

August 20, 2016 at 3:26AM

Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director

someone, please, put that narrator out of his misery.

August 25, 2016 at 11:41AM


Inception finds no place or no mention in any of the 10 catogories..

September 28, 2016 at 10:09AM


The three act structure with some flashbacks

January 13, 2017 at 3:26AM


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June 8, 2017 at 5:14PM

paul ryan

I am a self-proclaimed world expert on story structure. I am a so called amateur, but I can explain everything quite easily. I have just self-published - THE SIGN OF 4 free ebook - that teaches a brilliant magic formula - DEEP LITERARY THEME THEORY. Literary agents will reject if they cannot detect any literary themes.

Stories do not have 3 acts, but 4. That is the THROUGHLINE system.
Films - THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD and DISNEYS JUNGLE BOOK are two simple but great examples. For an HEROS JOURNEY - using Blake Snyder style beats - try ON GOLDEN POND.

If you want a film with BOTH systems it will have to be TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Sadly, failure to understand literary themes in this GOLD STANDARD will mean you can never be a professional writer !

January 16, 2020 at 9:29AM, Edited January 16, 10:14AM