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10 Classic Reversal Scenes

You’ve seen it about a thousand times: the “reversal of expectations scene.” A character enters a scene expecting a certain, very clear outcome. However, another character surprises him. This surprise influences the first character to reverse his intention and do something else - usually the opposite of what he planned to do.

Yes, reversal scenes are in just about every movie... and for good reason, too. The reversal scene allows for a character to change his motivation or goal. For this reason, these scenes usually happen in real time (lasting about three to four minutes), allowing the audience to experience the full change or realization with the character.

But reversal scenes are not only about character growth. They can also be about thickening the plot with twists and turns that keep the audience guessing, often revealing even deeper, darker secrets. For this reason, many of the greatest reversal scenes happen during the third act, often referred to as the “Third-Act Twist.”

Below is compilation of 10 Classic Reversal Scenes. No matter what type of film you are writing, you should become familiar with the reversal of expectations scene. After all, some of the greatest moments in film are reversal scenes. Think Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot. Jerry (Lemmon) reveals that he is actually a man, and his beau responds with “Well... nobody is perfect.” It’s a classic comedy moment that catches the character (and the audience) off guard.

Whether you ‘re writing a comedy, a drama, a rom-com, or a horror flick, one thing is certain; the reversal of expectation scene is an opportunity to make a moment that you’re audience will remember. And remembering is the key. We don’t remember entire movie plots; we remember scenes. And the Reversal of Expectation Scene is one of the best and most memorable types of scenes in film.

And, in case you couldn't guess: SPOILER ALERT!